Thursday, January 28, 2021

CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY

When I was a kid my parents took my sister and me on a lot of excursions. There were daily and weekend activities, road trips, vacations and more. I recall the day my parents took us to see a “man-eating fish”. My sister refused to get out of the car. Who needed to see a man dining on some smelly fish?

When my kids were little, we read Amelia Bedelia books. Amelia (a maid) was given directions by the woman of the house. “Draw the curtains” or “dress the chicken” were ones I particularly remember. Amelia obliged and sketched the curtains and found a pretty little outfit to clothe the poultry. I smiled as I explained to my girls that “drawing the curtains” meant to open or close them and “dressing a chicken” meant to season and prepare it for cooking. Words may have different meanings and understanding is important.

Sesame Street presents different messages and meaning simultaneously for children and parents. That’s why it was so easy to watch together and so hard to stop watching when my girls outgrew the show.

In 2021, the words mother and father have taken on new meaning. There’s the traditional family, single moms, single dads, two moms or two dads, “foster” parents, “adoptive” parents, those who prefer not to be associated with a gender, and many other male and female family members and role models that perform the role of mom or dad and never seem to earn the title.

As parents, it is our job to help our children understand the world, including language. Most of you reading this blog, start when they are young, explaining they are being raised by another adult rather than the woman who gave birth to them. As they grow, we may need to explain more complicated arrangements, including donors, surrogates and missing second parents. The important thing is to start the conversation early, keep it going, and confirm that your child understands what you are telling them. Encourage them to ask questions. Use photos, drawings, or other creative play activities to assist you. Have them repeat the story using their own words.

Whether joining your family as an infant, a toddler or an older child, this challenge and responsibility to help your child understand how they came to live with you is important for both of you. It should be an ongoing conversation, which can be raised when television, movies or books include a theme of adoption, blended families or loss of a parent. Watch for school activities or assignments around family or genetics. Encourage your child to ask questions and share their feelings, especially around events like Mothers or Fathers Day or birthdays. Their curiosity does not diminish their relationship with you. Curiosity is natural.

If you need guidance in how to keep the conversation going, how to answer a question or any other “next steps”, please feel free to reach out to me or find a local adoption group for help. You are not alone.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently on the Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

WHAT I'VE LEARNED

Days  lingered, weeks  passed, months  disappeared.  What a year it was. It would be all too easy  to  dwell  on the sadness, division and turmoil of this past year.  Instead, I will focus on some of the positive things I have experienced.

On a personal note, I have learned to sleep later in the morning. Of course, that means staying up later at night, so I have found new late night TV shows.  And I must admit I watched far too many Hallmark Channel programs and I discovered Danielle Steele novels which were sent to me by a dear friend.  I appreciated the diversion from the grim daily news with the lighter, loving nature of these movies and books – there was always a happy ending.

I heard friends and family talk about the “freshman 15”, that weight gain during the first year of college and dorm life, now the “Quarantine 15” as they returned to staying home and cooking more or noshing more throughout the day. I was determined not to let that happen to me and, not being tempted by foods from outside my home or eating out with friends, I actually lost 30 pounds.

I spent every day with my dog, who has been mentioned in past blogs. He was my best companion throughout the year.  Everyone else was a zoom or facetime call, often daily, and I had more texts than ever. I doubt I am alone as I wonder how many pets (and humans) will have separation anxiety when their lives return to normal, with previous schedules and working outside the home.

On a professional note, I am in awe of the singles and couples who pursued adoptions. whose dreams and hopes of parenting never wavered. Who asked a lot of questions, developed plans, traveled safely and understood changes in hospital policies to protect patients (and themselves.) It was not easy, but many who persevered were rewarded with bundles of joy.

It was a real adjustment for me to see families through video chats and not having that personal connection that I try to develop as I do homestudies and ensure them I am there for the long run of the adoption process. It was also difficult to meet children that way and not “feel” the joy in the room as adoption journeys and adjustments to parenting were discussed. And yet, phone calls and video chats preserved the partnership and community for each family.

I also appreciate the attorneys, agencies, courts and multitude of colleagues who continued to work diligently, whether from home or with periodic trips to the office. You are all essential workers for our families and the children, and you are the heroes in my book. Without you, adoption would have come to a stand-still.

As I look forward to 2021, I am hopeful that before long, we shall all be able to meet with one another again. That I will soon be welcomed into your homes and local support groups will resume in-person meetings. Until that time, know that I will continue to provide all the information and support you may need via texts, emails, phone calls and video chats.

Wishing all a healthy and safe new year. Onward to 2021.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently on the Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

National Adoption Month - NAVIGATING ADOPTION & ADOPTIVE PARENTING

Whether you are looking to build your family through adoption, are in the middle of the adoption process or living as part of an adoptive family, there is always something more to learn.

For anyone who doesn’t know I adopted twice and as I raised my girls, there were days when I was parenting just like everyone else and adoption didn't come up. On other days, I found adoption ever present: from my kids asking questions, to figuring out how to do a school assignment (like a family tree or genogram), to answering questions or to deciding what information to share with others.

I was fortunate in that I not only knew other adoptive parents, but through my work, I was connected to colleagues and resources regarding adoption. Over the years, my professional and personal experiences familiarized me with a variety of situations. Clients still call me for all sorts of advice and recommendations for local resources.  I always recommend that they contact the Adoptive Parents Committee. This group of relentless and energetic parents, at all stages of the adoption process, have historically held monthly meetings in several locations in the NY Metropolitan area as well as an annual all-day conference. I have loved providing expertise to them when needed and with meeting families at their meetings. Even COVID could not slow them down.

On the weekend before Thanksgiving this year due to the pandemic, the conference will be held on November 21 & 22 through ZOOM. There will be sessions for those beginning to explore adoption, in the process of adopting or living as adoptive parents and families.

You do not have to attend the full conference, as once signed-up, you will have 2-day live access, as well as, recorded sessions of all the events. REGISTER.  For the full schedule go to: WORKSHOPS

I hope to see some of you at my Workshop on Homestudy for New York and New Jersey. For those of you who are past that stage, and already starting the actual process, know I am here if you need me.

So, whether you are taking the plunge of building your family through adoption or experiencing the challenges and joys of parenting, it is always helpful to hear of other people’s experiences on their journey and to learn something new.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently on the Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly.






Monday, September 21, 2020

BACK TO SCHOOL 2020

This is the time of year that I would be buying school supplies and new school clothes for my girls. We'd be stocking up on portable snacks and beverages for lunch boxes and anxiously awaiting the arrival of their new class lists and assigned teachers. And, while I have not done this in many years, I am glad I don't have to make any decisions about school for this  2020 academic year

I live in New York City. The COVID rate has dropped dramatically and they keep pushing back  date for schools to open. Yet most people I know are still cocooning in their own homes, venturing out only when necessary  - not  ready to risk close contact situations.

I have not physically seen any friends or family since March. Facetime and Zoom, although frequent, are starting to feel insufficient. I understand the importance of social interactions, especially for children, and so, the pull of  in-person school classes is palpable. But is it worth possible exposure of the virus not only to the child, but to their household members as well?

The decision to send your child to school or to teach remotely or a combination of both is a personal one. You need to decide what is best for you, your child, and your family. As your child's social interactions increase, there is not only a risk to being exposed to COVID, but of hearing about sick or dying people.

I was asked recently -- "How would I explain the death of a peer’s parent by COVID to an adopted child?" The answer is simple, yet complicated. The death of any parent is traumatic and devastating  With an adopted child, relating to the birth mother, it is the loss of yet another parent. That makes it a more complicated loss and requires some special attention.  First, reassure them you are healthy, and your home life is stable. You will need to solidify the story of how your child came to live with you. That it was a purposeful decision and in their best interest. That you plan to go nowhere, but IF at any time they could not live with you, tell them who would care for them. And, if you have not already made a plan, do so now.

Adoption leads to many complexities in everyday life. Discussions that you might have with any child, have an added layer related to how they joined the family and the family they left behind. Don't be afraid to answer questions or even start these talks. And remember, I am here to help, if you need me.


Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently on the Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

CREATING YOUR ADOPTION PROFILE

Most likely, you will spend multiple hours sorting through photos and writing and rewriting the narrative.

This is your introduction to the woman who is considering making an adoption plan.  While you will have other opportunities to share information, this is your initial chance to show her what type of family you will provide and what type of lifestyle her child will have.

Profiles may also be read by attorneys or adoption agencies who decide which families to present. Also, family members might review them as they help a pregnant woman with her decision.

Many women look at the pics first and then read the text, if they are interested in knowing more so your pics should visually depict the type of life a child would have in your home.

Be honest about yourself: Always wanted a child. Struggles to get pregnant. Truly believe parenting is most important. Love an adopted child the same as a birth child.

Empathize with her situation. Think of how you came to the decision to adopt. It most likely was not an easy one. To make an adoption plan, the expectant mother (and father) needs to grapple with their situation and decide what is best for the baby.

Your extended family and social network should be included, with their permission, in your profile. Pics of who they are and the sort of activities you do together, i.e. dinners, holiday celebrations, day trips, vacations, etc.

Show not only what you normally do or vacations you take, but what is available to children in your area - parks - playgrounds - beach – cultural assets, etc.

Include your favorite things (foods, colors, sports, movies, places, etc.) and tell her which holidays you celebrate and how.

Say that you want to know about her and her life that she would like me to share with the child and that you would like to include some of her culture or traditions in your family and lifestyle.

If you are seeking openness in the relationship during the pregnancy and/or afterwards, state what you hope for but that you will respect their wishes, if this is the case.

Add that you want to help her feel comfortable about choosing adoption and you look forward to learning more about how you can do that.

All prospective adoptive parents are different. The profile is the first introduction to a birth parent and while you want to project your best image, you need to be yourself. Do not include anything that stretches the truth, or you think it is something a birth parent might like. If there is a matter you think needs more explanation, you might want to leave it for a future conversation.

Expectant parents are also unique. They come to this decision for different reasons and have their own hopes for their child. Families I have worked with have been chosen because a birthparent liked the description of their lifestyle and/or family, or that they lived in an urban, or suburban or a rural community, or that there was lots of extended family, or just a sibling, or that there were no other children, or that their life looked like fun, or that there was a picture of a pet or particular activity. Remember expectant parents are also often worried you will not pick the

You will have many opportunities to share your hopes dream and plans for parenting. When the time is right, you will be chosen.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly. 



Thursday, June 25, 2020

THE DAY YOU WERE BORN


"The two most important days of your life are the 
day you are born and the day you find out why."
                                                       ~Mark Twain

Most people find their calling or why they are here on earth as an adult. They have had the opportunity for many academic, recreational and social experiences. They have had time to identify their talents, develop interests and pursue those that suit them. They have heard stories of their ancestors, compared whom they resemble and what characteristics they have inherited. But this is very different for someone who has been adopted.

When young, adopted children are told how they joined a family and are given some details about their birth family. As they grow, they get more information about being born to one family but being raised by another. As they discover "why" they are where they are and grapple with decisions out of their control, you can help.

First, do some soul searching on your road to becoming a family and how you express this story to your child. Practice the words you will use so that by the time your child understands what you are saying, your body language and voice are calm. Remember your child's history is private (not secret), so it should be conveyed to the child first and they should decide who to tell what and when. Also, come to an agreement with spouses, close family members and friends who will interact with your child on how they should handle any questions from your child on overheard comments. This will probably include advising them on the language you want them to use.

Next, decide how you will share the child's story with them. I recommend people make the adoption story one of family building. Who is in your family and how the family grew. Perhaps you are a single parent whose "family" has been built by biology and social relationships. If you are a couple, start with how you met and then add the child into the picture. This does not diminish the adoption component of the narrative but adds a sense of normalization. Keep communication open.  Answer questions to the best of your ability based on your child's readiness to understand the information. If your child doesn't mention adoption, you should raise the subject occasionally. With a very young child, add an adoption book to their options. With an older child, comment on something you saw on television and ask if they have a reaction.

There will be more opportunities for discussion and education for you, your child and others as your child grows. Maybe through a school assignment, interaction with peers or an overheard comment. You can tell a teacher your child was adopted without sharing any further details. You want them to let you know if your child mentioned adoption or if an upcoming in-class, homework or book assignment dovetails on adoption or family building (i.e., family trees, genetics, sexual education, etc.).

Your child (and you) will have many opportunities to discuss the day they were born and the day they found out why.



Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

HOW IS EVERYONE DOING?

After 9/11, there were many questions about the well-being of adoptive parents and children living in New York City. Birth parents were reaching out directly and through attorneys and agencies to find out if everyone was okay. They were not asking for more contact than they had previously. Just to be reassured that their child and the family was well.

COVID-19 and the recent protests bring about similar concerns, only this time, it includes people not just in New York City, but all over our country. Are birth and adoptive parents well? Are the children safe? How has life changed?

For those who are in touch with one another, either through text, email, phone calls or in-person meetings, this offers another opportunity to check-in and reassure one another. For those who never had “after placement” contact or who may have lost touch over the years, this poses a different issue.

There is an inherent understanding in adoptions that the arrangement was in the best interest of all (the child, the birth family and the adoptive family). So, knowing how the people  who made this decision fared during this crisis  will help in telling the child's story, whether now or in the future

You are all one extended family, who may not see one another or even communicate with one another, but are connected through the child. Thinking about one another and wondering how everyone is doing occurs throughout the year, especially around holidays, birthdays, and placement days. Some of you reach out to one another.  Others of you do not even have that option.

Will reaching out now change the pattern of contact? Will finding out everyone is okay relieve your anxiety? What do you do if you get some troubling news

These are not normal times. Do what your heart tells you to do and just know that I and others are here to help.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly.