A network of adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals which exists to improve the lives of children and others touched by adoption through support and education. UFA is actively engaged in community outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of adoption as a loving option.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Postcard from the Heart

Day wrote this for me one morning before I woke up <3 (a few months post-adoption), 7 years old.
- Jennifer Watkins

Do you have an adoption photo you'd like to share? Send it to us.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Suddenly I see. Suddenly it starts When two anxious hearts Beat as one.
Yesterday I was alone. Today you walk beside me.
Something still unclear, Something not yet here Has begun.
Suddenly the world Seems a different place, Somehow full of grace And delight.
How was I to know That so much love Was held inside me?
Something fresh and young Something still unsung Fills the night.
How was I to know at last That happiness can come so fast?
Trusting me the way you do I’m so afraid of failing you
Just a child who cannot know That danger follows where I go.
There are shadows everywhere And memories I cannot share.
Nevermore alone, Nevermore apart. You have warmed my heart Like the sun.
You have brought the gift of life And love so long denied me.
Suddenly I see What I could not see Something suddenly Has begun.

- Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Help NCFA Help Orphans Worldwide

Dear Friend of Adoption,

Yesterday's news that President Vladimir Putin signed a bill banning all adoptions from Russia to the United Stateswas nothing short of a heartbreak for the parents hoping to adopt a Russian orphan, adoption advocates, and most importantly - the orphans of Russia who long for a loving, permanent family.

Along with my brother, I was adopted as an infant by my parents. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like had I not been adopted, but I remain eternally grateful to have grown up in a warm, safe, and loving family that gave me hope for a bright future. As an adult, I now work hard to ensure that orphans all around the world have that same bright future only a family can give to a child.

Although Russian adoptions will end for now, our work at NCFA does not. We will work tirelessly to ensure that Russian orphans, and those children all around the world who don't have families, are granted their most basic human right to grow up safe, love, and cared for. We will press on despite this defeat. We will not give up.

NCFA is viewed globally as the world's authority on adoption. We are the leading voice for children who need families. As the world watched the sad news of the ban on Russian adoptions unfold, the media turned to NCFA to be the voice for these innocent lives. NBC's The Today Show and Nightly News, PBS NewsHour, CBS San Francisco, NBC4 Washington, Fox5 Washington, TIME, International Business Times, Reuters, NPR's All Things Considered, The Voice of Russia Radio, Fox News Live and FoxNews.com, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty are just some of the news outlets that looked to NCFA.

Our work advocating for adoption is more important now than ever. Will you please join me in making a year-end, tax-deductible gift to NCFA in honor of all children around the world longing for a family?

On behalf of orphans everywhere, I thank you for your support.

Warm wishes for a Happy New Year,
Lauren Koch
Director of Development and Communications

P.S. Your year-end gift is 100% tax-deductible and will help us fight for a child's most basic human right - a loving, permanent family.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Perspectives On A Grafted Tree

By Patricia Irwin Johnston
A well-known figure in adoption and infertility circles, Ms. Johnston compiled over eighty poems by and for those who have been touched by adoption in Perspectives on a Grafted Tree: Thoughts for Those Touched by Adoption. As a volume that is now coming up on it's 30th anniversary, a few of the poems will be familiar and oft-repeated but many are not. They are separated into sections according to subject, such as "Beginnings and Endings," "Attachment,"and "Identities." Any adoptive parent, birth parent, or adoptee will find poetry they identify with in this book. A few were so inspiring I was compelled to copy them into my children’s memory books. The final poem is a reminder of the weighty responsibility of all parents:
The heart of a child is a scroll,
A page that is lovely and white;
And to it as fleeting years roll,
Come hands with a story to write. 
Be ever so careful, O hand;
Write thou with a sanctified pen;
Thy story shall live in the land
For years, in the doings of men. 
It shall echo in circles of light,
Or lead to the death of a soul.
Give here but a message right,
For the heart of a child is a scroll.
Author Unknown
If you've not had the opportunity to read this collection, it is worth the time. But it has been out long enough that we think the adoption community is due for a second edition.  New voices and modern experiences deserve to be heard.

Would you like to review a book? Contact us.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Promise In The Garden

A Story of Adoption and Redemption
by Linda Hyde (birth grandmother)

This is the story of a girl named Promise.
She was a child of promise,
As all children are.
She came into life as
A delicate flower.
She grew and she blossomed
...And then she was bruised.
No one knows how it happened,
What went wrong -
How does one ever know -
It was never intended that it should happen:
Before she was hardly
Out of her youth,
She found herself with child.
How happy she was, in so many ways,
For she longed to give life,
To cause to bloom
...And yet how sad.
She was alone.
She felt she had no one,
No one who cared.
She dreamed a dream:
She walked in a mountain meadow,
The grass living silk beneath her feet.
She mused, she breathed, she felt the sun at her face.
At length, as she drew close to the top,
She saw that a garden wall graced the summit.
image by dbrooker1
A garden!
An expectant crowd of green-and-silver leaves
Overhung the top of the wall.
A glimpse of blossoms,
A fragrance - a glorious feast of fragrance-
Graced her senses.
This was a garden to live in and to be nurtured all your days!
She wanted to go there,
She longed to be there.
She ran!
The going became arduous,
The way rocky.
She grew weary,
So weary.
Voices whispered in her ears:
A subtle hiss,
An intoxicating hint.
They led her where she did not want to go,
She went because she was bruised,
Bruised and broken.
She stumbled.
How very thirsty she was!
How she hungered!
How she longed for relief.
Someone dragged her to the garden gates
And left her there to mock her
(Knowing she could not get in).
"I will find a way!" she thought fiercely,
"I will go in!"
And she found a way,
Because she had the will.
She did not go in by the gate,
She did not come in as a guest.
She came in as a thief,
Clawing her way over the wall,
Dropping to the velvet turf
With a furtive crouch.
The scent!
The wild, happy aroma!
The air was awash with it,
Like water to swim in.
She floated on it till she was wafted
To a Tree, bursting with Fruit:
White, robust, lucid,
And so fragrant.
"I must have it!" she cried.
She jumped, she leaped,
She grasped,
And came down
With the fruit in her hand.
Joy! Joy! Joy!
"It is all I have ever wished for,
It is all I want;
I will eat it and never hunger,
I will drink it and never thirst!"
Up the fruit rose in her hand,
Her lips parted wide,
Her teeth making ready,
Her tongue anticipating…
Then came a sound,
Such a sound to make one's
Heart come alive.
Two sat weeping
Beside the tree.
Her hand froze,
The fruit stayed suspended,
Like a diadem.
Their weeping was loss, sorrow,
Longing, longing, longing!
Down by her side, tucked within the folds of her skirt,
Went the fruit, gripped yet more tightly.
But she must know...
Her heart breaking for them,
She ran and fell at their feet -
"What can it be?
What is this weeping?"
A gasp within her -
What was this?
Desire to aid,
Desire to save
From this unknown tragedy?
What had she to give?
Their story brought an icy wind
To chill her heart.
Their lot in this garden was to tend,
But not to pick, the fruit.
They had entered in at the gate,
The had come up by the way,
They were entitled to the fruit,
But they could not pluck it.
If they were to have it, it was to be given them
Only by someone else.

The fruit in her hand was a living fire;
Her hand burned with it.
She must give it to them:
It was theirs;
But the choice was hers.

There was no choice to be made!
The fire melted the ice,
Her hand reached out,
The fruit was offered.

How happy they were!
How sad she was.
She must die with sadness.
She must be buried in the dirt,
She must sink into the soil,
She must cease to be.

Suddenly cleaved by the Light.
Warmth revived the fainting seed.
She was lifted up.
Like a blossom in the palm,
She lay resting.

A Voice whispered in her ear,
One she knew from Everlasting.
Like a seedling rising to the Sun,
She turned to it.
Her heart listened.
She opened her eyes to see Him.

"You have done for them
What they could not do for themselves,"
He told her, his gratitude like lightning,
His words like living water.
"You are mine."

Gently out of the hollow of His hand,
She came to rest again in the meadow,
The green living silk cushioning
Like a comforter.

Promise, with child, awoke,
Knowing what she would do.
Then, she would climb,
And not alone.
As she had cared for them,
Others cared for her.
She would go in by the gate.
She would find her friends.

There is a garden in her heart;
From it He whispers his promise:
"I will do for you what
You cannot do for yourself."

Unpublished work Copyright 2007

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

While Mary Sleeps

“For a few moments, Mary -- mother of Jesus, daughter of God -- rest. I will lay aside my preparations for the day and comfort the son of God. For a while longer in the early beauty of the day we will enjoy our time together, the Babe of Bethlehem and me. For a while, Mary, sleep.”

This painting, “While Mary Sleeps – Morning”, was created to honor women in their roles as mothers, but especially to honor and encourage fathers to partake of the joys of fatherhood. Joseph was not the father of Jesus but he was honored to take on the role and he dedicated himself to being the best adoptive father he could. He knew intimately the value of family and the challenges of raising such a son better than any of us today, even giving up his homeland to protect him. He was simple, humble, of princely heritage but lowly circumstances, and Mary must have adored him. The man who stood in those shoes must have been a dedicated father indeed.

- Lester Yocum, artist

We'd like to see  YOUR artwork. If you've created something that speaks to adoption, please send it in.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

There is a Way

image by real00
"The most important thing I have learned about adoption is there is a vast number of children available all over the world. And although the paperwork is lengthy and the financial aspects somewhat overwhelming, there is always a way through adoption to build forever families."

 - Lisa and Carl Yard, adoptive parents

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Sea Chest

By Toni Buzzeo
I hold my Auntie Maita’s papery hand. Together we stare at the shiny photo in her lap, touched so often with hope, the edges curl. My heartbeat rushes in an impatient waltz as we watch for the stranger to arrive.

While we wait, Auntie Maita remembers her childhood on a rocky Maine island eighty years ago and more....
So begins this fictional story based on a Maine legend. A lighthouse keeper and his daughter, Maita, find a sea chest from a sunken ship washed up on the shore of their little island after a disastrous storm. In it, they discover a baby girl. The family takes the baby in and raises her as their own. The following pages describe their life together, beautifully illustrating that it’s not merely biology that creates a loving family. It isn’t until the final page that we learn the story has come full circle.
Auntie Maita grows silent, and now I pause to remember my great-grandmother’s whispery voice, sharing her stories of two island girls.

But my dancing heart can’t be still for long. Tripping wildly, it beats out a waiting rhythm. Behind me, Great-Grandmother Seaborne’s oldest possession, a cracked and worn sea chest, lined with an eiderdown quilt, waits open on the table, for the tiny stranger my mama and papa have gone to fetch from so far across the wide Atlantic.

To be my sister.
The author uses rich, vivid language pieced together in a poetic cadence that make this book a pleasure both to read and to hear. Artist Mary GrandPré, famed for her Harry Potter illustrations, perfectly captures the different moods of the book. Her brilliant use of light and color creates evocative pictures that make the reader want to crawl right into them. This is a book that is engaging for all ages from preschoolers to adults.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Heartache and Hope

by Ken Y., adoptive grandfather

It was December, 1999, and something I never thought would happen in my lifetime would soon happen.  There would be a dedicated LDS temple in Minnesota.  As the time approached for the dedication, our high priests group was assigned the responsibility of watching over the temple on New Year’s Eve.  There had been threats made and opposition stirred up by clergy of other denominations.  We didn’t want the temple defaced at all, much less just prior to its dedication.  President Hinckley would dedicate the temple on January 9, 2000.  I volunteered, among others, to stand watch through that night.
image by Ren, day by day
In this same holiday season there were both joys and serious concerns within our own family.  We had just learned that our oldest son and his wife were expecting their first child.  They had been married for a few years.  On the heels of that announcement, we received a call from our younger son announcing that he and his wife were also expecting their first child.  They had just been married that summer.  Normally, these announcements would be a source of unbridled joy and excitement.  And while this was happy news, my wife and I experienced concern and empathy, worrying about our oldest daughter and how this news would impact her. 

Angie had been married the longest of our children, and had been unsuccessful in her attempts to start a family despite intensive medical procedures. This was a huge blow.  She had grown up tending her younger siblings, loved being in a large family, and always planned on having a large family of her own. She was in pain, and there was nothing we could do about it.  She was hurt and angry, and would ask questions that we couldn't answer to her satisfaction.  Why didn’t God love her?  Why was she not worthy or trustworthy in God’s eyes to raise His children?  What had she done to merit this punishment, being banned from motherhood?  What possible wisdom was there in this?  How could she trust her Heavenly Father, when this was so unfair?  Her pain was spiritually grave, and ours was an empathic ache. 

I conversed with my wife about the impact these baby announcements would have on our daughter, and we too wondered why our daughter was having this ongoing trial.  This was the challenge that occupied my thoughts on the evening I went to guard the temple. 

image by rlanvin
Minnesota’s weather was cold that night.  As I recall, it was well below zero.  The arrangements were that we would take turns walking around the temple.  There were walkways and tents set up to accommodate the temple open house. However, in order to better see and protect the temple, the walk-arounds were made outside those tents around the grounds.  Meanwhile, others were to watch various parts of the interior of the temple.  Due to the cold, assignments were rotated so we could each keep warm. 

At about 3:00 A.M. it was my turn to go inside the temple.  During those walk-around hours of watching the temple my thoughts had been on my daughter.  I had spiritually wrestled with this challenge for hours.  Once inside the temple, I made my way to the Celestial room.  There was a seat in the middle of the room.  I sat and began to pray as earnestly as a person can.  I had no expectations.  I talked as an earthly father to my daughter’s Heavenly Father.  I expressed my concerns about her well-being and, while acknowledging that His wisdom vastly exceeded mine, I voiced my desires for her fulfillment and joy.  I loved her and she was hurt.  I acknowledged that there was nothing I could do to help her.  She needed His help.  I was her advocate and her voice to God that night.  I don’t know how long I prayed, but God knew the sincerity of my pleadings.  After some time, I heard - but not with my ears - these words: “Let not your heart be troubled.  Fear not, for even as your sons' babies are being formed in their mothers’ wombs, even so, Angella’s baby will be formed in its mother’s womb.”  My perception of these words was accompanied by the lifting of this burden from my mind.  I felt joy. Elation.  God heard my petition. He loved Angie.  Her blessing was coming.  While I did not know the gender of the baby, it was clear to me that the baby was coming through someone other than my daughter.  But the Lord made it clear that it was her baby. 

The remainder of that night took forever.  Finally, at about seven in the morning we were able to go home.  I arrived home around seven thirty.  I wanted to call Angie immediately.  I told my wife about my experience.  She advised me to wait until a little later, as they were an hour earlier than us.  Finally, I called at about 8:30 my time and related to a sleepy daughter the events of the prior night.  Remember, I still felt the exhilaration of the experience.  While I couldn’t solve her problem, it felt wonderful to be able to deliver the news from the One who would.  I failed to account for the fact that Angie wasn’t there and had not heard the words I heard.  It was as though I had told her to dip in the river Jordan seven times and she would have a baby.  I failed to account for how difficult it must have been to hear those words from me.  I was disappointed with the experience and concerned, still, that the blessing could be lost.  I knew what I had experienced was real.  So, I determined I would periodically and painfully prod and pry and monitor whether Angie would make the effort required of her to realize her blessing.  I did and she did.  It was some ten months later that all of us realized our special blessing as Tommy became part of our family. 
Tommy, center, with his brother and sister
outside the St. Paul Temple, July 2012.

Tommy’s journey into our lives is a story comprised of miracles, revelations, courage of a beautiful birth mother and a caring birth father, and joy.  There is a photograph of Angie receiving Tommy at placement, three days after his birth.  It captures the essence of a joy so large it cannot be contained.  I cannot see this picture without thinking of the redeeming joy of the Atonement.  That moment, receiving Tommy, was a type of the at-one-ment.  God bless that birth mother as He blessed Angie.

I once read a quote, whose author I have forgotten.  It read something like this, “When the world needs a miracle, God sends a baby.” 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Word Art

This word art was created by Charlie, age 10, as a computer class assignment. His teacher explained that the students were to write words representing things they were thankful for, and that the font size should signal the importance of each item. The bigger the word, the more meaningful it is to the student. When Charlie brought the completed assignment home, he pointed out to his mother how big he made the word "adoption." He got a hug as big as that font. 

Have you created something you'd like to share? Send it to us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

If I Could Have My Childhood Back...

Take just a few minutes to watch this video of former foster youth. Though we can't turn back time to help them, it's not too late to help the children in care now. You can be the person who helps a child feel love and worth. Yours can be the home where a child feels safe and comfortable.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Brother Love

First Glimpse
First Snuggle
These photos was taken when two little boys met their new sister for the first time at the hospital, the day before placement. Adoration ensued.

Thanks Jon R. from Utah for this photo submission. Do you have an adoption photo you'd like to share? Send it to us.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Let Yourself Be Happy

So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness: a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial.

The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness.

We do matter. We determine our happiness.

You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness.
image by Worldizen
Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey. Doesn’t it seem foolish to spoil sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?

Do we listen to beautiful music waiting for the final note to fade before we allow ourselves to truly enjoy it? No. We listen and connect to the variations of melody, rhythm, and harmony throughout the composition.

Do we say our prayers with only the “amen” or the end in mind? Of course not. We pray to be close to our Heavenly Father, to receive His Spirit and feel His love.

We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available—all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect. “This is the day which the Lord hath made … ,” the Psalmist wrote. “Rejoice and be glad in it.”

No matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.

We are commanded “to give thanks in all things.” So isn’t it better to see with our eyes and hearts even the small things we can be thankful for, rather than magnifying the negative in our current condition?

The Lord has promised, “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold.”

Let us resolve to be happy, regardless of our circumstances.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Friday, December 14, 2012

David's Father

by Robert Munsch
Popular storyteller (and adoptive father) Robert Munsch knows how to spin a yarn using silly string, and this tale is no exception.

Julie meets David when he moves into the neighborhood and soon learns that because David was adopted, he is very different from his father. It’s not their skin color or features that set them apart. It’s the fact that David’s father is a giant. While David and Julie share cheeseburgers and milk shakes when she is invited over for dinner, David’s father enjoys heaping plates of snails, fried octopuses, and bricks covered in chocolate sauce.

If you are already familiar with Munsch's stories, you know that they are perfect as read-alouds. In fact, he doesn't write them until he's told them numerous times, finding just the right words for maximum entertainment value. The colorful illustrations by Michael Martchenko are fun and add to the humor. 

Children love the absurdity in the story. Reading passages like this to my preschooler brought on fits of giggles:
They came to a road and they couldn’t get across. The cars would not stop for David. The cars would not stop for Julie. The father walked into the middle of the road, looked at the cars and yelled, "STOP." 
The cars all jumped up into the air, ran around in a circle three times and went back up the street so fast they forgot their tires.
In comparison to a difference as big as the one in the book, real-life differences in many adoptive families can seem much more manageable.

Do you have a book review? Send it to us so we can share it here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Adopting Prematurely

By Christine Anderson

Looking forward to my adoption experience, I didn’t imagine part of it would include a premature baby. We knew and understood the adoption side of the experience, having adopted previously. But we did not know what to expect from the hospital now that we were suddenly in the role of parents of a preemie. I also wasn’t prepared for how the experience would teach me about the human spirit and resiliency. Though each adoption is unique, perhaps your adoption may involve an infant born prematurely. Maybe our experience will prepare you for your journey.

I will never forget the first time I heard my little boy’s squeaky cry and saw how tiny he was. I knew he couldn’t be more than a few pounds. He was born at 33 weeks and weighed just under 4 pounds. He was quickly passed through a window to a caring NICU nurse who started to check his weight, take his measurements, and assess his overall health.

Feeling like a surgeon prepping for the operating room, I scrubbed my hands, fingers, fingernails, and arms in a large basin in the NICU reception area in order to meet my new baby. Not knowing what to expect, I was led to his room.  There lay a tiny little creature with skinny arms and legs. He seemed birdlike opening his mouth, and had tubes and wires connected to him. There were several machines monitoring him. He looked so tiny in his bed (that actually looked more like a table than a bed). I wasn’t sure how to respond. Could he hear my voice? Would he know who I am? Could I hold him?

The birth of a baby is often called the most joyful and difficult experience. For parents with a premature infant it is a completely different experience. It is one of shock, hope, fear, and uncertainty.

I sincerely hope others do not have to experience the NICU but there are some ways to cope with the experience.
  • Take a deep breath – breathe. 
  • If you have questions or are unsure have the courage to ask questions. 
  • Let your nurse know what you are feeling. Maybe you're scared, hopeful, excited.
  • Say hello to other parents when you are scrubbing at the basin.
  • Find ways to involve yourself in your baby’s care, whether that be attending medical provider discussions about your baby’s care, helping with diaper changes, temperature checks, or helping to prepare feeding fluids. 
  • Decorate your child’s hospital space (crib, bassinette, isolette) with pictures of other family members, posters, etc. This is your child’s nursery. It will help you feel a part of the process and feel a sense of ownership about the space. 
  • Find ways to bond. You may not be able to hold your baby but there are ways to bond using other senses. Express your thoughts or emotions. Sing to your child, read poetry, create a scrapbook page, etc. 
  • Celebrate and cry with other families. You are not alone in this experience. Celebrate successes like weight gain or transition from an isolette to a basinett. Don’t be afraid to share set backs such as delayed discharge with others. 
image by cw
What if it isn't you but someone in your circle of friends and family who is going through the preemie experience? How you can support parents with a preemie in the NICU?
  • Recognize that even though the baby arrived early, it is a child, lovingly hoped for and adored. 
  • Offer support. You may not know what to say, but just acknowledging, “I don’t know what to say but I am hear to listen,” can help parents feel supported.
  • Although adoptive parents aren’t recovering from a birth experience, they are caring for a baby, have had some sleepless nights, and have been through an emotional experience. Offer to bring a meal and assist the new family. 
  • Sometimes families are so focused on their little one they forget to take care of themselves. Offer to bring a meal, invite them out for a short visit at a coffee shop. 
  • Volunteer to help with household duties or errands so that the family can focus on time at the hospital or time with other siblings. 
  • Make a donation to the NICU. There is always a need for cards, scrapbooking supplies, baby items, gift cards for restaurants, or monetary contributions that can be used to support a family. 
  • Make a care package – Notebook to write thoughts, experiences or questions for the medical staff, water bottle, some change for vending machines, nutritious snacks (protein bars, fruit bars), lotion to soothe oft-scrubbed hands, and a note letting them know how you love and support them during the experience. 
A premature birth can be a difficult emotional time but with compassion and support the family can begin to understand the implications of premature birth and how to cope.

Stories from the heart are shared each Thursday. Submit yours here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Owls Adopt a Toucan

Today is the day. Our online adoption art exhibit begins.

Tiffany Cunliffe uses creative talents as a way to merge her background in art education with her love of adoption.

"These illustrations were inspired by adoption. The
Owls Adopt a Toucan was the first piece I created in response to a call for art for a national adoption conference. Since then I have created several more, including custom designs for individual families. I love adoption and I have really enjoyed creating these. I am an art teacher turned stay-at-home mom, so it is always fun to have art projects going!

"The pieces are each original mixed media collage on 16" x 20" canvas; created using acrylic paint and decorative papers. The backgounds are created with various patterned papers. It has subtle textures, patterns, and colors that shine through the acrylic paint."

Keep watching this art exhibit to see more of Tiffany's work. If you'd like a print of Owls Adopt a Toucan, visit her Etsy shop.

Would you like to submit something you've created to our weekly art exhibit? Send it in.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Holidays and Foster Children

The Holiday season is upon us. Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, Kwanzaa; these are times that can be extremely difficult for many foster children. During this time of holiday cheer, many foster children are faced with the realization that they will not be “home for the holidays,” so to speak, with their biological family members. Along with this, foster children also struggle with trying to remain loyal to their birth parents while enjoying the holiday season with their foster family. Indeed, this can be a very emotionally stressful time for all involved.

image by imagerymajestic

As one who has fostered many children during the holiday time, I have found that it is important to address these issues beforehand. To begin with, foster parents can best help their foster child by spending some time talking about the holiday. Let the foster child know how your family celebrates the holiday, what traditions your family enjoys, and include the child in it. Ask your foster child about some of the traditions that his family had, and try to include some of them into your own home during the holiday.

It is important to keep in mind that many foster children may come from a home where they did not celebrate a particular season, nor have any traditions in their own home. What might be common in your own home may be completely new and even strange to your foster child. This often includes religious meanings for the holiday you celebrate. Again, take time to discuss the meaning about your beliefs to your foster child beforehand.

More than likely, your foster child will have feelings of sadness and grief, as he is separated from his own family during this time of family celebration. You can help him by allowing him to talk about his feelings during the holidays. Ask him how he is doing, and recognize that he may not be happy, nor enjoy this special time. Allow him space to privately grieve, if he needs to, and be prepared if he reverts back to some behavior difficulties he had when he first arrived in your home. You may find that he becomes upset, rebellious, or complains a lot. Along with this, he may simply act younger than he is during this time. After all, he is trying to cope with not being with his own family during this time when families get together. You can also help your foster child by helping him send some cards and/or small gifts and presents to his parents and birth family members.

image by Danilo Rizzuti

If you have family members visit your home, prepare your foster child for this beforehand. Let him know that the normal routine in your home may become a little “crazy” during this time, that it may become loud, and describe some of the “characters” from your own family that may be coming over to visit. Remind him of the importance of using good behavior and manners throughout this period. Along with this, remind your own family members that your foster child is a member of your family, and should be treated as such. This includes gift giving. If your own children should be receiving gifts from some of your family members, your foster child should, as well. Otherwise, your foster child is going to feel left out, and his sadness and grief will only increase.

With a little preparation beforehand from you, this season of joy can be a wonderful time for your foster child, one that may last in his memory for a life time.

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 30 children come through their home.  Dr. DeGarmo wrote his dissertation on fostering, entitled Responding to the Needs of Foster Children in Rural Schools.  He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic, and informative presentations.  Dr. DeGarmo is the author of the highly inspirational and bestselling book FosteringLove: One Foster Parent’s Story.  He also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both here in the United States, and overseas.  Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted via email, his Facebook page, or at his website.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy Adoption Day

Knight, Daymien, and Jennifer

Daymien was my kindergarten student and had been in state custody for almost 18 months. My fianc√© & I decided to get licensed to foster him until DCF found a permanent placement for him because he had already been in 4 different homes just in kindergarten. Long story less long, we fostered him for 6 months & you can obviously see the outcome :) He has two other half-siblings and some friends of ours adopted his little brother. They see each other weekly. 

Daymien was six on adoption day and he is now eight.  Everyone always says how lucky he is that we did something that we had never planned on doing, but Knight and I are the lucky ones.

Do you have a photo that captures adoption in some way? Send it to us! We'd love to share it here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Trials of Faith

image by Mike_tn
"These fiery trials are designed to make you stronger, but they have the potential to diminish or even destroy your trust in the Son of God and to weaken your resolve to keep your promises to Him. These trials are often camouflaged, making them difficult to identify. They take root in our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our sensitivities, or in those things that matter most to us. A real but manageable test for one can be a fiery trial for another.

"How do you remain 'steadfast and immovable' during a trial of faith? You immerse yourself in the very things that helped build your core of faith: you exercise faith in Christ, you pray, you ponder the scriptures, you repent, you keep the commandments, and you serve others."

Elder Neil L. Anderson

Saturday, December 8, 2012

FREE Upcoming Webinars

Register now for two FREE expert webinars taking place next week.

with board-certified dermatologist Brooke Jackson, M.D.
December 12, 2012 @ 1 pm ET

When you adopt transracially, your child's skin and hair will probably require different care than your own. Join Brooke Jackson, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and author of Child of Mine: Caring for the Skin and Hair of Your Adopted Child, to ask questions about keeping your child's skin and hair healthy. The Caring for Your Child's Skin and Hair webinar will take place on December 12, 2012 from 1pm to 2pm ET(12pm-1pm CT; 11am-12pm MT; 10am-11am PT).

To participate, you'll need to:
1. Register
2. Check your inbox for the confirmation email with your webinar link.
3. Don't want to forget your question? Submit it in advance here.

with feeding specialist Katja Rowell, M.D.
December 13, 2012 @ 1 pm ET

Since bringing your child home, have you encountered behaviors like hoarding, food obsession, picky eating, overeating, or everyday power struggles around the dinner table? Join Katja Rowell, M.D., aka "The Feeding Doctor," to ask questions about the challenges you've faced at meal or snack times. The Establishing a Healthy Feeding Relationshipwebinar will take place on December 13, 2012 from 1pm to 2pm ET 
(12pm-1pm CT; 11am-12pm MT; 10am-11am PT).

To participate, you'll need to:
1. Register
2. Check your inbox for the confirmation email with your webinar link.
3. Don't want to forget your question? Submit it in advance here.


Friday, December 7, 2012

A Mother for Choco

by Keiko Kasza

This is a sweet story about a little bird named Choco searching for his mother. With simple text and bright, colorful illustrations it makes the perfect read-it-again-please book for toddlers and preschoolers. Each animal Choco asks gives a reason why she can’t be his mother, and all have something to do with their physical differences.
"Oh, Mrs. Giraffe!" he cried. "You are yellow just like me! Are you my mother?" 
I’m sorry," sighed Mrs. Giraffe. "But I don’t have wings like you." 
Finally he meets Mrs. Bear, who comes running when she hears Choco crying. 
As she listened to Choco’s story, she sighed. "Oh, dear. If you had a mommy, what would she do?" 
"Oh, I’m sure she would hold me," sobbed Choco. 
"Like this?" asked Mrs. Bear. And she held Choco very tight.
Mrs. Bear invites Choco to join her at home with her other children who turn out to be a little hippo, a pig, and an alligator.

I have to admit, I was prepared to dislike this book. Normally I’m not enthusiastic about books that ignore birthparents and leave the burden of finding parents up to the child. However, this book is not about the adoption process. 

A Mother for Choco has joined my list of favorites because of the message it conveys: A mother is as a mother does. It’s not what a mother looks like that makes her a mother, despite what others may mistakenly believe. Whether you adopted transracially or whether the child you adopted looks exactly like you, you will connect with this book because of the message that being a parent is about, above all else, love.

Your turn: Do you have this book? What do you and your children think of it? Leave your comments here.

Do you have a favorite adoption book? Send us a review and we'll share it here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Adoption Changes Things

by Brenda Horrocks 

When Brad and I got married years ago we never dreamed the journey we would take to bring children to our family. We thought we would do what everyone does: get pregnant and give birth. When our expectations weren’t what we wanted them to be we started to question life. I especially had a hard time with the diagnosis of infertility. It felt like a death sentence. At some point during treatments we came to the realization that being parents was more important than being pregnant. It was during this time our hearts turned to adoption and we started to realize we weren’t like “everyone.” We had a special journey to make to become parents.

Our oldest daughter, Brenley, was born July14, 2000. Thirty six hours after her birth her Birth Grandmother placed her in our arms. It was an incredible feeling to hold her for the first time. We already loved her and from that moment forward the love just grew. On October 31, 2002 our second daughter, Haley, was born and then two days later placed in our arms by her incredible Birth Parents. Just when we thought we couldn’t love more….the love multiplied again and we wondered how we lived without these two sweet daughters.

After returning to fertility treatments again and developing a life threatening complication we were happy to say goodbye to treatment forever and felt incredible peace as we tried to adopt a 3rd time. After an internet scam and a failed placement Camden was placed in our arms by his sweet Birth Mother…not as a newborn…rather an 8 month old baby boy. Camden’s Birth Mother searched for a family to place her baby with while pregnant. She contacted us and we felt an instant connection and developed a friendship…. but after considering and reconsidering her decision she decided to parent. We continued our friendship and to our surprise she called us and told us she felt Camden belonged with us. A few days later on December 17, 2006 Camden joined our family and was welcomed by two big sisters who couldn’t have been happier. After his Birth Mother placed him in our arms she followed us home where we celebrated Camden together in a special placement dinner in her honor. We love having openness with her and our other Birth Mothers and we can see how we all benefit from these friendships.

It was during our journey to a third child that our eyes were opened to being foster parents. After taking classes and getting approved we became licensed and in 2007 we had our first placement. After a couple of weeks these children left our home. A few months later we welcomed a newborn named Ashanti. Ashanti changed our lives forever.  She was a special gift to our family for eight months. Saying goodbye to her was the hardest thing we have ever done but the memory of caring for her and having her part of our family is something we will always treasure. We ended up saying goodbye to eight children. All were incredible and we still feel love for each of them.  We miss them, especially the two babies we had for a longer period of time.

We were still hoping there would come a day we would get to adopt again but we had developed a love for fostering so we were moving forward. Early in August of 2009 we received the call of our dreams. A young woman who had been in foster care herself wanted to give her baby a Mom and a Dad and a happy life.  Something she stated that she never had. In August of 2009 our youngest child was placed with us at the hospital while he was in the NICU. Our joy was full. Our entire family rejoiced as we welcomed this little tiny boy into our family. Here we are a year later enjoying the blessing of being together and enjoying our little 13-month-old as he learns new things! After seeing children come into our home and hearts and then feeling sad as they leave, we feel like the luckiest family in the world to have our little guy with us to stay!

Once we became foster parents I started browsing the internet to learn about children who were waiting to be adopted. I was heartsick by what I saw - so many children who needed a home. I looked through sites from every state and the realization of the need that is out there touched me deeply. As I tried to sleep at night the face of these beautiful children haunted me and I wondered what I could do. Out of desperation to try and help even in the smallest way I put links to a few children on my blog. Over time this turned into what I have named “Matching Mondays.”  Each Monday I feature a few waiting children on my blog hoping someone’s heart will be touched and changed and people’s eyes will be opened to these children and the need that exists. I thought only broken teens were the ones available for adoption but what I found was incredible children of all ages who were hoping for a family of their own and for people who will help them become what they dream. I quickly saw that while some of these children have been through a great deal there are no broken children, only broken promises.

Adoption has changed our lives forever. It has brought us a beautiful family. Adoption opened the door to becoming foster parents. Fostering children has also changed us. We are no longer blind to the needs of children around us. We have witnessed families struggling, drug abuse and neglect. But we have also witnessed the miracle of a fresh start and hard work that brings lasting change and touches a family in a way that leaves them better than before. We have also come to realize that just as we dreamed of a family all our own we know there are children with the same dream. We realize had we been able to build our family “like everyone else” then we would have missed out on so much learning and so much joy! Our journey to parenthood has been a rollercoaster with huge ups and downs but we are better people because of the ride!

(originally written for and published in Utah's Adoption Connection Newsletter Nov. 2010)

Stories from the heart are shared each Thursday. Submit yours here.

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