By Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker
As a parent, how often do you wish you could read your child’s mind? What would you give if you could understand their thoughts and feelings? What would it mean for you to know what they really need from you?
If you are a white adoptive parent to a child of color, it may seem difficult to relate to your child’s needs. If you have not experienced life as an adoptee or a person of color or if you are not trained in the psychology of racial identity development, then as the saying goes: “You can’t know what you don’t know.” Luckily, there is a plethora of resources to learn “what you don’t know” as a transracially adoptive parent, so the narrative can shift to: “When you know better, you can do better” (abbreviated quote from Maya Angelou).
As a psychologist who specializes in transracial adoption, as a transracial adult adoptee, and as a transracially adoptive parent, I’m here to provide you with insight on how you can “do better” for your child. Here are the top five things I believe every transracial adoptee needs from their parents, based on my professional and personal experiences:
By Chelsey Winegar, WWK Recruiter
Isaiah, Calvin, Giovanni, and Nevon entered the foster care system in 2015. These siblings were incredibly close and had survived a lot of trauma together. Because of their strong bond, it was clear that they needed to remain together. Shortly after they came into foster care, it became apparent they were not going to be able to return home. In July 2016, this sibling group was registered with The Adoption Exchange and connected with a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) recruiter who began searching for the right adoptive family for these boys.
In September, Ken and Inez, whose biggest desire was to adopt a large sibling group, inquired on Isaiah, Calvin, Giovanni, and Nevon. The WWK recruiter could tell from the beginning that this family would be an incredible fit for these kids. After months of paperwork, the family was approved to be an adoptive family. They got to visit the kids in March 2017. The visit went really well, but several logistical barriers arose. However, the caseworker and recruiter continued to help the family to overcome each hurdle, and worked with the kids and the family on building a strong relationship. Continue reading
At The Adoption Exchange, we believe that finding a loving, supportive, and permanent adoptive family for a vulnerable at-risk child is one of the most important and urgent needs in our community right now. Every child should have a family.
At The Adoption Exchange, we know that through intensive, child-focused recruitment and evidence-informed family support services, we can break the cycle of abuse and neglect and change a child from a statistic to a success story.
There are a few mantras The Adoption Exchange recites often. Two of those sayings – “unadoptable is unacceptable” and “no child is too old for a family” – are exemplified through JB’s story.
JB entered the Utah foster care system at age nine and was initially placed together with his older brother. Unfortunately, the first placement decided not to adopt the boys and they were eventually separated. This meant another move and another loss for JB. He continued enduring hardship as he experienced many more moves and a total of eight different placements. JB lived in homes with multiple families who stated they would adopt him, but never followed through. Continue reading
By Janine Castillo, Intensive Recruiter
Two years ago, I showed a 12-year-old girl in foster care, Tiana, a picture of her biological father and asked her what questions she had about her birth family. She responded, “What color are my mom’s eyes?” In that moment, I didn’t have an answer and neither did anyone on her team of professionals, who are responsible for ensuring her care, safety, and services in foster care.
When she asked that question, the culmination of our two years together hit me. Her experience without safe and healthy parents is directly linked to her daily interactions. The reason why she soaks up one-on-one time with adults or falls asleep like a baby when a caregiver sings to her is because of her desire for nurturing and affection. Developmental milestones were denied to her at a young age, as she entered the foster care system at three years old and grew up in treatment centers not experiencing a “typical” family structure. How could she talk about a future with a new family when she remembers so little of her own story?
By Katie, adoptive parent
“Five minutes and then we are leaving.”
It seems like a typical conversation between parent and child, but to our family, those words reflect so much more. We are a family formed both through birth and adoption. In 2005, we had two biological children and adopted a little baby boy from Ethiopia. Over the next four years, we added one more son through birth and three more sons and a daughter from Ethiopia. In 2013, we decided to pursue an adoption through foster care.
We were quickly matched with a three-year-old boy and his two-year-old sister. Within three months of learning about them, they were in our home, and then the true work of becoming a family began. Our newest additions were traumatized by their difficult pasts and scared of their future with the group of strangers that were to be their family. As we navigated through the tangible things like doctor’s appointments, school meetings, and food preferences, we also focused on the intangible; safety, comfort, and love. Continue reading
By Denise Rice, LCSW, ACSW, LAC
What are Behaviors?
All behavior meets a need and has a function. Let me say that again, there is a function and a purpose to every behavior! A behavior is an external expression (communication) of our internal emotions. Sometimes, we as adults forget that how we behave is our way of communicating how we feel, just as it is for our kids. It is how we often communicate our emotions, positive or negative. When children experience trauma, their most pressing need is survival. Many behaviors we would label as “bad,” “maladaptive,” or “inappropriate” were necessary at one point for the child’s survival; and let’s be honest, our children and teens are master survivors.
We need to reframe our thinking about behavior. Especially when it comes to understanding trauma. If you want to really practice a trauma sensitive or trauma responsive type of parenting it is critical that you see the behavior of your child or teen through a trauma informed lens. Rather than seeing the behavior as negative and hostile, we need to see it as a highly functional survival skill that kept our kids alive in their previous environments and now that behavior isn’t working as well in the current situation. What parents and caregivers are tasked with is how to decipher the message underneath the child’s behavior. What is your child telling you they need through their behavior?
If hiding, stealing, or stashing food away was the only way your child ate when their parent went on a drug or alcohol bender, that behavior has become a survival skill. However, if the same child is hiding, stealing, and hoarding food under their bed and in their closet in your home that same survival skill is now described as “inappropriate” or “disruptive.” This behavior is getting in the way of this child being successful in a different situation or connecting with you because it drives you crazy and is considered “disrespectful;” but, these behaviors that kept your kids alive before, will not simply disappear after a few days, weeks, or sometimes months or years after being placed in your home.
Keep reminding yourself that often the behavior isn’t about you. It may feel like the behavior is aimed at you, but remember that the child is behaving the only way they know how, and when our brains are stressed, we regress. We regress to previous behaviors that may have disappeared for some time. I know that it is extremely difficult to not take some of the behaviors personally. Especially if you are not taking care of yourself and your own stress is impacting the healing relationship with your child. Continue reading