Transfiguring Adoption Changes: Honoring Beginnings

transfiguring-adoption-changes-honoring-beginnings-rectangle

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.

compassion-closet

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.

compassioncloset.com

Community-Kids-logo

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!!


transfiguring-adoption-changes-honoring-beginnings-square

When Children Are Property

when-children-are-property-rectangle

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.


when-children-are-property-square

Ellie Jelly and the Massive Mum Meltdown – Book Review

ellie-jelly-mum-meltdown-sarah-naish-rectangle

From the Cover of Ellie Jelly and the Massive Mum Meltdown by Sarah Naish:

“Ellie Jelly wakes up hungry and ready for breakfast but Mum is busy with her little sister; Grace. Ellie tries to get Mum’s attention: she bangs the table, she makes loud singing noises, but it’s no good. Finally, she decides to make her own breakfast, picking up the heavy milk carton and – OH NO – spilling the milk over the table and the floor.

Mum gets really angry and shouts at Ellie. Ellie feels wobbly and her chest is banging – will Ellie Jelly and Mum ever be friends again?”

Grade:

transfiguring-adoption-four-hoot-book-review

Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

What Our Family Thought:

The target audience of this book appears to be the general public with the topic of how a family navigates times when a caregiver might have a meltdown. Transfiguring Adoption believes that this book is still very relevant for foster/adoptive families as many caregivers find themselves in more heightened stressful situations which could easily cause them to have a meltdown with children. This book seems like it would work well for children from ages 4 – 9 years old and possibly a couple of years older depending on the child.

The illustrations appeared to be drawn in a colorful cartoon style through the use of mixed drawing media. The images do a good job of bringing the reader into the world of Ellie Jelly. The figures convey clear emotions help to engage a child so that a family can easily progress through the story.

The tale centers around a little girl named, Ellie Jelly, who is not to happy about her baby sister, Grace, demanding so much attention of Mum. Ellie begins the day by doing various actions to get Mum’s attention. When Mum must leave the room, Ellie decides to take on the task of making breakfast on her own which ends in one mistake snowballing to larger mistakes. The result is Mum having a meltdown in front of the girls.

Transfiguring Adoption appreciates that this story seems to be a true-to-life tale to which families will be able to relate. The family itself speaks to many groups, such as single parents, traditional birth families, foster families, and adoptive families as it is vague how this family was formed. Transfiguring Adoption appreciates the author’s care for addressing the feelings a child might have when a caregiver has meltdown as well as taking the readers through a journey for healthy resolution after a meltdown occurs.

Sarah Naish has written several other books for children. While all of her books have been found to be very useful for foster and adoptive families, Transfiguring Adoption finds that her work is continuing to grow and become even richer. The only reason this book did not earn a perfect score was merely due to our guidelines requiring a 5 HOOT score to be given to media directly relating to foster or adoptive families.
Overall, this book is a MUST for caregivers to have on their shelves to help reconnect and have a healthy conversation with children after (or possibly before) their next meltdown.


Buy From Our Links and Support Transfiguring Adoption:


It’s Your Turn:

  1. Why doesn’t Ellie like being busy?
  2. How do you think Ellie felt when mom was yelling and banging things around?
  3. Why did grandma come visit?
  4. Did Mum mean to hurt Ellie with her words?
  5. Does Mum still love Ellie? How do you know?
  6. Have you ever felt like Ellie? How?
  7. How do you know your mom or dad loves you?
  8. Is it okay for people to get mad at times?
  9. What do kids AND adults need to do when they hurt someone with their words?

ellie-jelly-mum-meltdown-sarah-naish-square