Summer’s here… but Kindergarten’s near!
Going off to kindergarten and starting a new school can be stressful for any child, but for your adopted child, there may be even more resistance and anxiety surrounding new experiences, change, and adjustment. While the change may be many months away, you should start talking about it now as it can take kids a long time to get excited about such a big transition!
According to studies cited in Raising Adopted Children [Quill, 2002], the pressures of transitioning to a new school might emphasize your child’s core adoption issues such as feelings of rejection and loss. As a result, he or she may feel some anger or mistrust towards you or the other important people in their lives, as well as question the permanency of your family. Sometimes adopted children are able to talk about these fears, but more often than not, they are unable to articulate what is really bothering them.
Although it is common for adoption issues to arise during school transitions, not all adopted kids experience anxiety or challenges in the same way. By being self-aware, sensitive, and helping to build confidence, you can ensure that your child has the solid foundation he or she needs to have a positive school experience! To help support your child, you can:
- Talk to him or her about expectations and reaffirm the concept of your family’s permanency despite new changes that may be occurring.
- Emphasize what is going to remain the same and help to establish consistent routines like taking the bus each day, having an afternoon snack, or doing homework together after dinner.
- Talk to your child about handling unwelcome questions about adoption or being different from their peers. If you are unsure how to help your child respond, join us for our How to Talk to Young Children about Adoption workshop. (LINK)
- Have Spence-Chapin connect with your child’s school to ensure their teaching environment accepts and values the way all families are created, especially those formed through adoption. Schools should be sensitive to all cultures and languages in the classroom, especially for children adopted internationally and transracially. If your child’s school could benefit from increased adoption sensitivity, we are happy assist! Our “Adoption in Schools” workshop is available to your school at no cost.
For more insight about this topic, tune in for our FREE upcoming webinar, “Off to Kindergarten” on Tuesday, August 12th, from 6:30p.m. – 7:30p.m.
Didn’t get a chance to make it to our Modern Family Center’s Grand Opening event? Stella Gilgur-Cook, Director of the Modern Family Center, shared these welcoming remarks with guests to outline our vision and services offered to the community.
The Modern Family Center is here to serve the changing landscape of today’s families. We are on the frontier of how family is defined in the American experience. Adoptive families, birth/first families, multi-racial families, donor-conceived families, single parents, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents are no longer on the sidelines, but right here working with us. We are participating in a nationwide conversation of what it means to be a family, what values and traditions we uphold, and how to best raise our children.
Adoption is our expertise, and after 100 years of adoption service, we know better than anyone that it can be a double-edged sword; there is no disputing that every child deserves a family, but there’s also no disputing that adoption can create heartache. That’s why we will always have a commitment to life-long post-adoption services for every family, at every life stage.
But, adoption is not all we do. At the root of it, we know about families – families who stand out, families who are hard to define, and families who are proud to exist, but wish things could be just a little easier. Today, half of all remarriages form blended families. In the United States, nearly 6 million children have same-sex parents, while a full quarter of the children living in this country are being raised by a single parent. That’s a lot of people trying to work out having a new kind of family.
Being a modern family certainly doesn’t define who you are, but it does shape who you are. It informs where you choose to live, where you send your kids to school, who you make new friends with, and it should inform where you find the best emotional care for your family. When it comes to issues of identity, belonging, culture, or the melding of two families into one and the separation of one family into two, you want the person helping you to see past the obvious and appreciate the bigger picture. In our counseling services, groups, and kids programming, we offer a relational approach that accepts, celebrates, and most of all, understands how to help complex families grow, heal, and build the lives they want.
You want a community where there’s no need to explain or defend your family. You want competent clinicians who understand the unique aspects of your family, free of judgment. You want to know how to explain complicated stuff to your kids by saying the right thing at the right time. We’re offering all of that, and more.
Perhaps I should say what a special time this is in our society, that today’s modern families are all so special. Well, I’m not going to. Maybe somewhere else your family is special or different, but when you’re at the Modern Family Center, you are simply one of us.
I hope you’ll join us for one of our many upcoming events, like us on Facebook, or call us to find out more about what we’re doing and how we can help you family!
Associate Director of International Programs Ben Sommers recently had the opportunity to visit Bogota, Colombia to meet with our Colombian representatives and visit institutions. Here, he shares his perspective on the changing landscape of adoption in the country.
To those individuals and entities working within child welfare, “changing landscape” is an oft-repeated refrain referring to a generalized way to understand the broad shifts that have taken place in the field over the last several decades. In more specific terms, one of the most significant developments is the ballooning number of older children, children with special needs, and sibling groups who are living in institutionalized care. For Spence-Chapin, our own organizational shift is focused around taking a proactive approach to addressing the realities of this new landscape.
Colombia offers a compelling illustration of what the new landscape looks like. I recently had the privilege of traveling to Bogota to visit with our Colombian representatives and see firsthand how the rhetoric of changing landscape translated into reality. Bogota is Colombia’s most populous city, being home to approximately eight million people. Similar to any child welfare system in any nation on the spectrum of economic and social development, stories of children coming into the protection system due to poverty, violence, neglect, and substance abuse are commonplace.
The Colombian central authority on child welfare, Instituto Colombiano de Bienstar Familiar (ICBF) has approximately eleven thousand children under its protection in the Bogota region. Of these eleven thousand children, approximately eight thousand have a legal status that allows for international adoption. The vast majority of this population of eight thousand children is made up of older children, children with special needs, and sibling groups. While international and domestic policies prioritize domestic options, the children in protection institutes grow older, explaining the growing population number. Colombia’s domestic policies are admirable in their focus on family preservation and domestic options for these children but as these long processes unfold, or when they fail to yield legitimate options, the children get older.
What I saw during my visits to four protection institutions clearly illustrated this reality: the former nurseries converted to dormitory-style housing, large outside play areas with soccer fields and basketball courts, varied facilities and extracurricular programming, and large staffs of child psychologists focused on the mental well-being of the growing number of children in each institution. It should be noted that the four institutions I visited are exceptional in terms of the resources available enabling them to turn into well-run, holistic facilities. Nonetheless, despite their summer camp-esque exteriors, the children in their care almost exclusively come from difficult backgrounds where abuse, transition, and disappointment have been present. Hence, the clinical focus on mental health and the socializing focus on creating structure, routine, and normalcy.
Again, the protection institutions I visited had the resources that allowed them to create these safe and structured environments. The institutions in rural, lower income areas that are home to thousands of children are not as fortunate. Also not as fortunate is the population of children with special needs who are living within the protection system. I heard numerous stories from child welfare professionals of misdiagnoses combined with bureaucratic indifference that has led to hundreds of children being placed in institutions that are inappropriate for their specific needs. Sadly, these children lack the advocates to help them find a more appropriate environment.
Ultimately, the children I saw are being productive. They take art classes, sing Disney songs, and idolize Lionel Messi. But for them, the notions of “permanent family” and a life free of foreseeable transition are still painted in somewhat vague colors. Many of the children are able to express the agency they feel over their futures by vocalizing either directly or indirectly their desire to be a part of a permanent family. There are challenges that exist for our adoptive families who hope to adopt these children, and these children will face challenges as they navigate the most significant transition of their lives. The limited snapshot of the Colombian child welfare system I was able to glimpse shows that the “changing landscape” rhetoric is grounded in the reality of individual anecdotes and that while the specific institutions I visited have constructed environments where children are able to progress, the key element of permanency is still missing.
We are thrilled to announce that Yekaterina (Kate) Trambitskaya, Esq., Spence-Chapin General Counsel, was recently accepted into the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys is a national association of approximately 340 attorneys who practice, or have otherwise distinguished themselves, in the field of adoption law. The Academy’s work includes promoting the reform of adoption laws and disseminating information on ethical adoption practices.
Kate has been an attorney practicing law in the fields of child welfare and adoption since 2006. Kate has advocated for children for nearly seven years in her work in the litigation unit of the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases. In her one year here at Spence-Chapin, Kate has worked on the many complex issues of today’s adoption landscape: birth father rights, Post Adoption Contract Agreements (PACA’s) for domestic adoptions, Hague requirements for international adoptions and adult adoptee rights to access unsealed records.
Around the office, our running joke is that on paper Kate is a lawyer, but in her heart she is a social worker like the rest of us! The passion, determination, and commitment that Kate has displayed toward every birth family, adoptive family, and child who passes through our doors is a testament to the very notion that every child deserves a family, and every family deserves the right to make the best decisions for their child.
When asked why it was important to her that she be accepted into the Academy, Kate told us, “The most useful legal and ethical feedback, advice, and guidance has always come from the AAAA member attorneys. They have always been eager to teach and always available to assist me in our work. I am hoping to further expand my knowledge and understanding of our field, learn from the most experienced adoption attorneys in this country, and help Spence-Chapin contribute to the next generation of adoption reforms and ethical practice.”
Please join us in congratulating Kate on this terrific achievement. We look forward to working even closer with our friends in the Academy, and continuing to provide Academy members’ clients with thorough, high quality adoption services to support every member of the adoption triad. From birth parent counseling, adoptive parent preparation, training and home studies, to post-placement services that include adult adoptee counseling, support groups and search & reunion guidance, we are poised to serve our adoption community better, together.