My Talking Points for National Adoption Day 2020

We were “nominated” (for lack of a better word) by one of our kids’ former case managers to be this year’s “Feature Family” for King County, WA’s 19th Annual National Adoption Day ceremony, held yesterday via Zoom. Before accepting the opportunity, I spoke with all of my kids and asked them if this was something they wanted to do. Four of our five kids wanted to do it, and the one who didn’t was fine with us doing it and talking about him—he just didn’t want to be on camera. So we said “yes” and prepared for the event.

Ahead of time, one of the planners asked me to respond to two questions. I wrote out my thoughts but failed to ask how long they wanted us to present, and when the time came, after some family banter and silliness, I only got through two of my bullet points! Since this is something I think about a lot, I thought I’d go ahead and share everything I had planned to say here.

Q. What made you decide in adopting from foster care?  Why are you adopting today?

A. When we became aware of the thousands of children in foster care, we decided to be foster parents instead of starting a family the more traditional way. We have always gone about foster parenting as supporting reunification, but being open to adoption if/when reunification was not an option. We have had children who were reunified, children who went on to other foster homes where they were either reunified or adopted, and we have adopted our five. (We finalized our last two adoptions in March and April of this year.)

Q. What have you learned from the experience of opening your home to a child for adoption?

A. We have learned… 

  • that every child has incredible potential to thrive once their world becomes less chaotic and more predictable and consistent. 
  • that trauma affects every child who is in foster care, from the tiniest baby to the teen ready to age out. 
  • that you have to be patient and committed for the long haul. Healing takes time—years—and you can’t rush it. You have to keep showing up for your kids, meeting them where they’re at, getting them the resources they need (like counselors, therapy, etc.) and being there for them through thick and thin.
  • that every child needs to know their story and have access to their birth parents, even if just through pictures or stories. No matter how young they are when they are adopted, they will be curious about where and who they came from. We need to give them total freedom and permission to talk about their birth family, ask questions, and even express their desire to be back with them. We cannot badmouth or feel threatened by them. We have to understand that it is perfectly reasonable that a child would miss their mom and wish they could be with her.
  • that foster parents need to do their homework and learn about how trauma affects children. Read books, follow podcasts and blogs by adult adoptees. Don’t be ignorant to how this affects your kids. Don’t expect them to “just get over it.”
  • that the stresses of foster parenting can be hard on a marriage. Make sure you have good “marriage self care” and open communication. It only works if both spouses are 100% on board. 
  • that you need other foster parent friends. You need to have friends who understand the particular trials and triumphs of foster parenting. A support group or just a few other foster parents need to be part of your community.
  • that, if you are a transracial foster or adoptive parent, you need to make sure that you have other people of color in your life so that your foster child is not the only person of color in your life. If you are a transracial foster or adoptive parent, you need to understand that being the only child of color in a white house (which is how transracial adoption usually looks, though not always) is it’s own unique trauma. Get educated and do the hard work to address the fact that it’s very hard for children of color to be raised in white homes, from elementary school on.
  • that the children are the heroes of foster care—not foster or adoptive parents. They are incredible and deserve the very best in life. We have the unique opportunity to step into their lives and offer unconditional love and support and a nurturing environment to help them thrive. They did not ask to be in foster care. They did not ask to be placed with us. We need to show a lot of grace to them and reiterate their worth to them over and over. We need to make sure they know that they are more than “a foster kid” or, once they are adopted, more than their foster care story. They are smart, fun, talented, competent people who have infinite value and a bright and beautiful future.

My husband tried to chime in as well, but we got cut off before he was able to say his piece. So I’ll share it here: we also want to acknowledge the social workers who labored tirelessly on behalf of our kids throughout their cases. We have had wonderful case managers who went many extra miles in order to ensure our kids (their kids!) had the best possible shot at a good life, despite all odds. They advocated, championed, and supported the kids at every turn, and we are so grateful for their hard work.

# # #

You may have seen this on Instagram already, but it bears repeating:

The main thing I hoped to communicate is that every child has incredible potential to thrive once their world becomes less chaotic and more predictable and consistent, and that adoption is always a combination of gratitude & grief. Sometimes you’ll feel more of one than the other, but, even in the best of adoption stories, both emotions are present in some measure.

Adoption is fundamentally a thing that exists because of tragedy. There is not a single adoption story that does not start with grief. Children should not have to be separated from their parents. It’s not how things are supposed to be.

But sometimes, it’s necessary. Parents have addiction and mental illness that makes it impossible for them to raise their children. Parents sometimes, tragically, abuse their children (or allow them to be abused by others) and can’t reform. Parents sometimes die.

And when that happens, and children need someplace solid to land, adoption is a means for them to find the love, stability, consistency, and safety every child needs in order to thrive.

Adoption Day is a happy day for many—primarily adoptive parents—but, for children, at its best, it is happy-with-an-ache. Happy-and-sad. Happy, but…

And our kids need to know that it is OK—no, more that OK, that is right and good and healthy—that they can hold both emotions at once. They need to be able to talk about their story. They need to know that they can talk about the sad parts (if they want to, and some don’t) even as they celebrate the happy parts.

So, Happy* Adoption Day!

*with an ache

Circling the Wagons

It’s been a little while since you’ve seen me here.

If you followed A Fostered Life on Facebook, you may have noticed that it’s not there anymore. And if you follow A Fostered Life on YouTube, you may have noticed that most of my content was gone for a while.

I thought I’d jump on here and give a bit of an explanation!

Back in August, I announced that I was making some changes. Here’s what I wrote at that time:

Heads up, folks! I’m in the process of making some changes here, as my focus nowadays is going beyond foster parenting. While I will always have a heart for equipping, supporting, and encouraging new and prospective foster parents, now that all of our children are adopted and we have moved to a new state, we are no longer currently involved in foster care. I expect we will be involved again in the future, but for now, we are circling the wagons around the five incredible children who are part of our permanent family and doing all we can to give them a rich and beautiful life.

The post went on, but that was the main point.

That was in August.

By early October, I was feeling a deep need to circle the wagons even more and create space in my life. Homeschooling four of my children and supporting my eldest child with her senior year online in a brand new school meant that I needed to cancel most of my other “outputs.” I let the members of The Flourishing Foster Parent know I would need to suspend our live coaching calls, and I closed my Patreon account. Because I could not keep up with YouTube comments (and trolls), I created a page on my web site for my YouTube video library to live on and removed them from YouTube while I took a break (they’re back now). I also decided to take a break from social media; I deactivated my Facebook account and deleted my Twitter account. I kept Instagram, but took a break from posting.

The break has been so good.

So, so, so, so good.

I have been more present to my kids. I’ve been able to focus on my own spiritual and emotional wellness. My stress level has gone down. As much as I loved my Flourishing Foster Parent community, I simply could not maintain it with my kids home 24/7. Hosting Coaching Calls, producing the audio and video resources, and writing for the blog required more than I had to give with everything else that was going on. And don’t even get me started on how the state of politics in my country affected me! I needed to not see people’s political posts for a little while (and I’m sure some of them wanted to stop seeing mine!)

All of this said, I am still passionate about supporting foster parents. I want these resources to be widely available. But how can I continue to offer support and encouragement, while recognizing my own limitations in this season?

Here’s what I’ve come up: instead of being an active blog, this web site has been reconfigured to be a static resource for foster parents. There are links to my YouTube channel videos and Season One of my podcast, as well as access to a library of Coaching Call recordings (for a small fee). There is a growing list of books on my Recommended Resources page. And I am still a champion for Positive Parenting Solutions, which remains my model of empowering, connecting, and equipping parenting (and FYI this is an affiliate link).

Also, and this is a little awkward to get into, but I have heard from a number of agencies who have been using my content for foster parent training, so I have created a way for them to license my copyrighted content to download legally. (Did you know it’s illegal to download content from YouTube to use offline? Yup. If you are a foster parent licensing agency or otherwise using my content to train foster parents, you either have to stream my content directly from YouTube every time you show it or pay the licensing fee here on my web site to download the content. It is illegal to download my videos and incorporate them into your training materials without paying the licensing fee.) I didn’t make this rule—but I’m grateful for it. YouTube creators put a lot of time and effort into the resources we create, and the advertising revenue YouTube and its creators receive for the content we create is why we can continue to create content!

So, if you were looking for me on Facebook or wondering where the YouTube videos had gone, that’s the scoop. I have been very conflicted about how to continue making this content available without making myself so available. I long for privacy for my family, while simultaneously feeling driven to support foster parents. I have increasingly wrestled with the fact that, while I signed up to be a foster parent, my children did not sign up to be in foster care. I am comfortable sharing my foster parenting journey—but I want them to have a choice about whether or not/how much to share their foster care (and adoption) journeys.

To that end, I plan to continue writing for this blog, as time permits. I also plan to continue offering private foster parenting coaching in the future. For now, though, the wagons are circled around my family. I hope that you will still find helpful resources here, and if you know someone who is just starting the foster parenting journey, that you’ll direct them to this site.

All my best to you as you seek to find a way to flourish in the midst of what is surely the most stressful time any of us has lived through. We are doing well—and I aim to do my part to keep it that way.

When Your Teen Runs Away (Webinar for Foster Parents)

LIVE PANEL DISCUSSION VIA GOOGLE MEET

Saturday, August 1, 2020 | 9:00 AM (PST) / 12:00 PM (EST)

It’s every foster parent of a teenager’s biggest nightmare: what do you do if your foster teen runs away?

Listen in on a panel discussion featuring three women—including a trauma therapist and foster parent trainer—who are all experienced foster parents of teens. Host Christy Tennant Krispin will ask practical questions like, “What do you do in the first 24 hours?” as well as probe the harder aspects of this experience, like “Why do teens run? How do we repair the relationship? How do I manage my own emotions and reactions?”

The cost for this webinar is $5 for non-members of The Flourishing Foster Parent (FFP members automatically get access). Live access will be via Google Meet, and the cost includes access to the recording of the call after the fact.

To join, click here to be redirected to Paypal. Include your email address where it says “add a note.” If you have questions, or prefer to register by mail, please contact me.

Photo by Jesús Rodríguez on Unsplash