Transfiguring Adoption Changes: Honoring Beginnings

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Today, August 1, 2018, marks new beginnings for Transfiguring Adoption. When Darren and I began Transfiguring Adoption a few years ago, we initially planned to begin the process of becoming a federally-recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit. But Melanie Nordstrom, whom we had been working with in various capacities since 2000, recommended that we, Transfiguring Adoption, set up as a branch of Community Life Concepts (CLC) of Southern Illinois, NPC, a nonprofit for which she was the executive director. This made perfect sense as Darren and I had a history of running programming under CLC and also securing and managing grant funding under CLC.

Melanie has served not just as a “boss” to us in many ways over the last two decades, but she has been a friend and a mentor. Much of what we know about leadership, nonprofit management, and loving those in need we have gleaned from Melanie. Yesterday Melanie officially resigned as executive director of CLC and recommended me, Margie Fink, to the board as the new executive director. (Of course, this has been in the works in the background for a couple of months now.)


What’s Changing?

The CLC board has voted on several changes. Most of them will not necessarily be noticeable to those served through Transfiguring Adoption, but all are designed to have a positive impact on all that we do.

  • Margie Fink is the new executive director of the organization.
  • The legal name of the nonprofit is changing to Transfiguring Adoption.
  • We have a new board.
  • The current focus of the organization will be zeroing in on programs that relate to foster care and adoption.
  • We have also secured the services of Redbird Strategic Resources for strategic planning and fundraising help.

What’s Staying the Same?

For most people served through TA and for most of our volunteers, little will be noticeably different. First, here is a little background on CLC from the website:

“CLC has a history of founding programs that fill in gaps in services. These have included low cost food programs for families, coordinating emergency relief efforts for natural disasters, youth leadership training programs, volunteer mobilization, and organizing scholarships for low income children to attend private schools, to name a few. Additionally, CLC has provided infrastructural support to branches, such as Community Kids and Transfiguring Adoption, including office and meeting space in a state of the art facility, book keeping, office equipment and supplies, and a proven ability to market new programs effectively. Community Life Concepts (CLC) was founded as an outreach of Christ Community Church in Murphysboro, IL. Our mission is to develop programs that provide practical ways to bring hope and healing to those we serve. We work with faith-based and secular groups in a variety of settings. CLC was incorporated in 2006 and has its own federal nonprofit status. While CLC finds strength in its history, we strive to find new methods to respond to the needs of our world.”

These aspects will stay the same:

  • Dedication to improving and increasing services
  • Darren Fink as Program Director
  • Margie Fink’s duties stay the same with more added.

Current Programs

You may not be aware that there are already two other programs—Community Kids and Compassion Closet—that have been operating under CLC/Transfiguring Adoption. Moving forward, there will be opportunity to add more programming that supports and resources children and their caregivers.

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Compassion Closet

The Compassion Closet’s mission is to show the love of Christ by providing quality clothing and tangible items to foster children and their families.  We also desire to serve birth families, aging out youth, kinship placements, and domestic/international adoptive families as God allows and needs arise. The Compassion Closet is located in Knoxville, TN, and serves the greater Knoxville area.

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Community Kids

Community Kids (CK) is a support network for foster, kinship, and adoptive families that was conceptualized in the fall of 2009 and began programming in the spring of 2010. The purpose of CK is to provide foster and adoptive families supportive services that are not currently available through the state or other non profits. The first step was to initiate a monthly support group. Free child care from approved care givers is offered during the meetings. In the past, the group offered a free store to aid families in equipping new placements and also offered a summer camp for foster and adoptive children with the aid of a respite grant from AdoptUSKids. While its cofounders, Darren and Margaret Fink, currently reside in Florida and no longer provide programming, a support group continues to operate on a monthly basis in Southern Illinois from the group they began.


Thanks!

As we begin this new leg of the journey, I am grateful for the many opportunities Melanie has given us to grow, learn, do what we love, and become more of who and what we long to be. I am thankful for all who have been a part of our journey, and I look forward to the days, months and years to come and the people we will meet and serve along the way!

Let’s do this!!


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When Children Are Property

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When birth parents experience the removal of their children by child protective services, they tend to have a few different reactions:

  • Work the Plan – Work Hard
    They do everything in their power to reach the goals the agency has given them in order to be reunited with their children. They come to all scheduled visits and court dates. They work really hard and show a great deal of care towards their children.
  • The Dangling Carrot Feeling 
    Some birth parents work their parenting plans and always show up but seem to not be able to meet the agencie’s demands. They may feel helpless, as if the agency keeps dangling their children as a carrot out in front of them, but they cannot ever do enough, and though they care endlessly for their children and desire them to be back at home, they may eventually give up.
  • Not Present
    Some birth parents, due to addiction or other reasons, do not show much interest in parenting. They do not show up to visits or court dates. They do not work toward their case goals.
  • Competitive Winner
    There is a very small group of birth parents who appear to have a different attitude. These parents fight hard to retain their parental rights, but they seem not to care about how their children are cared for but solely about winning the case. They seem to view the child as property and simply appear to want their “property” back, but they do not act in the child’s best interest or meet the child’s needs.

All parents whose children are removed are being faced with such an invasive and stressful situation, which many people have difficulty understanding. These responses are all valid and have reasons, but the one that seems to be most troublesome is the response that a parent cares only about the child as a piece of property. It is very concerning for all those involved.

BUT, this blog is not really about birth parents. I want to challenge foster and adoptive parents to question whether they are exhibiting a similar response and to consider the potential consequences.


A Challenge to Foster/Adoptive Parents

Foster and adoptive parents can be just as possessive. As with birth parents, their reasons are often valid, BUT the results can be equally harmful. Adoptive parents have often fought so hard to help the children in their home. They may have been directly involved with birth family members during the foster care or adoption process, and it may not have been a pleasant experience. There is often a tendency for foster and adoptive parents to say the child is theirs and theirs alone once the birth parents’ rights have been terminated or adoption has been finalized. As a result, they often do not acknowledge that the child had beginnings apart from them. They may not acknowledge the child’s loss or the loss of the birth family (immediate and extended). They may cut others who love the child (or who would like to know and love the child) out from the child’s life.

These thoughts and actions have the potential to hurt the child by:

  • keeping them from information about their identity which they may need to develop in a healthy way, and
  • keeping them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships with birth family members.

The reality is that research and story after story tell us that openness in adoption is the best for all involved. There are different levels, which is necessitated by each situation and by what is beneficial for everyone involved. It is not always comfortable, and sometimes there has to be a time of healing and little contact after termination of parental rights or adoption finalization for everyone to heal, process, and gain perspective.

There is a beauty that comes from sharing our children with everyone who loves them. There is a quote that occasionally floats around Pinterest and Facebook:

“He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, WE are motherhood.”

I did a little surfing around and found that this quote was made by birth mother and adoption advocate, Desha Wood. When we can acknowledge that a child belongs fully (in different ways) to their birth and adoptive families, we can develop relationships that only serve to make our children happier and healthier. On one of our recent Monday Caregiver Check-Ins, Allison Douglas (foster/adoptive parent of 4 children and professional at Harmony Family Center, Knoxville, TN) shared about a birthday party they recently had for one of their children. There were several birth and adoptive family members there celebrating the child. She shared how natural it was for her child to introduce all these people to friends and introducing both his moms as “Mom” and all other family members simply by relationship, and not necessarily differentiating between birth or adoptive relationships. I loved a similar moment at a party where one of my kids had one arm around me and one around their first mom and leaned over to kiss each of our cheeks and say, “I love you, Mom” to each of us. My kids belong as much to their birth families as they do to our families.

On the other hand, I have seen enormous hurt when an adoptive family claims a child as theirs and theirs alone and needlessly cuts out siblings, or birth parents, or other extended family members. Adoptees and foster children are done a great injustice when the foster or adoptive family acts as if the child’s life began with them and leaves out any part of their personal history before placement.


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5 Questions To Ask Before/After A Disruption: Did We Do All We Could?

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My son got into the car on one of the last days of school with his yearbook in hand. He commented that [our foster child I called “Little Bit”] was in the yearbook. I forgot. Inwardly I twinged. I felt the pangs of guilt…the incessant internal question, “Did we do all we could?” After we got out of the car, we looked through the yearbook (and I found Little Bit’s pictures, including one with her best friend from school/our neighborhood). He then dug out an envelope and started reading goodbye letters his teachers and classmates wrote to him to wish him well in his new middle school in his new state. I laughed and swelled with pride in him at the things they wrote, but I flashed back to the letters written by Little Bit’s teachers and classmates when they found out they just had a couple days left with Little Bit. I remembered how far Little Bit had come. I wondered if I should have fought harder for Little Bit to be able to stay at the school where so much growth and healing had occurred. Should I have volunteered to provide transportation? Would I have been able to provide transportation and still do everything I needed to for my family and other responsibilities?

A few weeks ago someone told me they ran into Little Bit and a sibling who had also lived with us. When Little Bit heard we were moving to Florida, the answer was a disappointed “Aw.” I can hear the sound and see the facial expression in my mind. Six months in our home was long enough for me to know Little Bit’s faces and sounds. In those six months, the disappointed and sad sounds and faces had become fewer, and the happy sounds and faces and joy had increased so much.

The internal conflict continues. Even our kids every now and then say they miss Little Bit and mention that they wish we could have done more. Six months have passed since they moved out. I saw these two precious ones once at a party a couple weeks after they moved out. I fully intended to have more contact. I wanted to pick up Little Bit and go to the holiday program at our elementary school so Little Bit could say goodbye to the best friend who was out of town during Little Bit’s last days at our house. I want to see these two kids we came to love so dearly. I want to talk to them. I want to hug them. They went to Florida with us once for vacation. I remember during that trip they said, “We should all move to Florida!”, and they daydreamed aloud with the other kids about what life here would be like. Crazily enough, we made the decision to move to Florida a few months later…after they had moved out.

We had never disrupted before. We have made the decision not to adopt before, but not for kids who lived in our home as placements, just ones who were needing a home we knew we could not provide. We said no to placements. BUT we never disrupted. WE disrupted. We—the people who strive to keep disruptions from happening and support others as best we can so they do not feel the need to disrupt—disrupted, and people reminded us that we are the people that say disruptions should be kept to a minimum. I know how disruptions affect kids. I remind myself that it was supposed to just be short term—like a few weeks until a suitable placement could be found. We had not promised long term. We stuck through so much hard with them for way longer than we were supposed to have had them in our home. We fought for them and faced their struggles as members of their team. But those professionals working with our family knew it was time and told us so. We were no longer helpful to Little Bit and Little Bit’s sibling, and the kids we had promised forever to were suffering in ways I cannot share. Other people not so close to the situation were angry and did not understand.


As foster parents, there are several questions we have to ask before and after a disruption:

  1. Are there any further steps that can be taken by us or the children’s care team to prevent a disruption?
    It could be instituting a safety plan or obtaining additional services for the child(ren). It could mean hiring someone to help in the home. It could be taking some time out for self-care or getting further training to aid in parenting to the needs of the child(ren).
  2. In the case of disruption, how can we help our families, friends, neighbors, and others who have been involved with a foster child understand, and how do we do that without breaking rules of confidentiality?
  3. How do we minimize trauma for the child(ren)?
    It may mean doing transitional visits with the child’s new placement and easing them into the home. This definitely includes giving the child a life book and/or other items to help them remember their history. It may mean continuing to play an active role in the child’s life in whatever way possible. Let the new caregiver know about routines, behaviors, likes, dislikes, and so on. A good resource is the book Moving to a New Foster Home by Adam Robe. It helps a child process the move on their level and give the new family information children want their new caregivers to know about them.
  4. How do we ensure the child continues to get needed services, does not have to start over with certain testing, etc?
    This means passing as much information on as possible to the new placement. You need to give a detailed list of all past and future appointments with all specialists. You need to make sure you get the new placement information on services received at school, both formal and informal.
  5. How do we get to a place where we have closure and we can stop second-guessing ourselves?
    For our family, the facts that all of the professionals involved with our family told us we needed to disrupt and that damage was being done to everyone in our home has helped us conclude that we made the only decision we could. When we met with the team involved with the children, we were told we had the best explanation for disruption ever given.

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