Foster Care and Adoption: 6 Things We Would Have Done Differently

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This November it has been eight years since our first two kiddos were brought to our door and we plunged into the journey of parenting. We have certainly learned a lot in those eight years! We often get asked if we would do life any differently had we known back then what we know now. The answer is a most emphatic yes!

We were once told by a therapist on an adoptive family retreat that we and the other adoptive parents have got to stop “shoulding on” ourselves, that is to say that we must stop saying, “We should have…” or “We should be…” There’s danger in drowning in oceans of regrets, getting stuck, and not moving forward. BUT, there’s power in learning from our mistakes and sharing them with others, hopefully catching them earlier in their journeys. So, in the hope of helping others earlier in their journey…

Here Is What We Would Have Done Differently.

  1. Asked more questions prior to accepting placement
    I’m not sure if we would have gotten anymore information or that it would have been accurate information, but I wish we would have asked more questions before plunging in with rose-colored glasses. At times, we feel we would have done things differently had we known that we were taking on four children with some very intense, long-term needs, one of which is going to need lifelong care (which was not communicated to us). We often feel we would have done a much better job of helping them heal if we had fewer children to concentrate on and weren’t so busy just trying to keep them all safe and their basic needs met.
  2. Put in place better strategies to encourage attachment and bonding
    There are so many strategies we have learned now, several years into our journey, that we didn’t know when our kids first moved in, and implementing them now would not have the same effect. We “should have” kept our family’s world small, creating a cocoon for bonding to take place in, and not introduced the children quickly to so many people and activities. We “should have” limited physical affection, gifts, and feeding to just us for a period of time.
  3. Been more assertive
    Foster-to-adopt parents are limited in the choices they can make and what they can do until adoption is finalized, and we advocated fiercely for our kids in some areas. But, there were areas in which we “should have” fought harder. The biggest example of this relates to school choice for one of our children. A year after placement, the agency’s education liaison—who’d never met the child, us, or the teachers before—looked at me in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting and said, “You’re not [x’s] mom. You can’t make this decision [regarding what school the child would attend].” I cried, mostly because I wanted to slap him and yell, asking “And who’s fault is that? After your agency hasn’t completed the adoption in 15 months!” The school social worker called later to check on me after what she declared the worst IEP meeting she had ever attended. I stopped fighting and later found out I had more rights than I knew. The child, who was thriving and growing in the school we had placed the child in the first year, flatlined at the school the agency chose and really has not progressed much at all in the 6 years since. I “should have” been more assertive.
  4. Pushed for more evaluations
    There are answers to our children’s challenges that we have just had answered in the last year or so, and looking back, I wish I would have asked for more evaluations earlier on so we could have implemented more interventions years ago.
  5. Not used typical parenting strategies
    In the early days of parenting, we used typical, mainstream parenting strategies, such as time-outs, rewards, and punishment. These were so ineffective, and we didn’t learn until at least a couple years into our journey why typical parenting strategies do not work with traumatized children, nor did we know what strategies would work better. Reading The Connected Child by Dr. Purvis, Dr. Cross, and Wendy Sunshine and Adopting the Hurt Child by Keck and Kupecky revolutionized our parenting strategies and changed our family, and I try to revisit them as often as possible to ensure I don’t fall back into old habits.
  6. Not sweat the small stuff, picked our battles, and set the bar low
    So I know that is a string of cliches, but making big deals out of small behaviors, taking on too many problematic behaviors at once, and expecting more age-appropriate behavior out of our children back when we didn’t know better definitely did not help bonding, attachment, and healing. We would have pretty well put aside homework battles, held kids that were “too big,” worked on big problems one by one, and so on had we known then what we know now.

I’m not sure how our family’s life would look had we done these six things differently. I can imagine several different outcomes. I know we can only be responsible for what we know at any given time…I just sure wish I would have known more eight years ago. I hope others can learn these lessons before we did on their journeys.

Now It’s Your Turn:

  1. What would you have done differently early in your foster care or adoption journey had you known then what you know now? Share so others can learn from your experiences.

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Sunburst Dwarves

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Note to Parents: Many kids that have gone through the foster
care system or adopted have had to give up some of their
childhood to survive. Thus, precious time to pretend and enjoy
the magic of make-believe were lost. Transfiguring Adoption's
Magical Creature series is designed for you to read with your 
child(ren) and help them regain some of those moments.

Creature Overview for Parents:

  • Creature helps with child’s fear of thunderstorms
  • Provides bonding activity for parent & child to learn about the stars

 

When you see dwarves on movies or hear about them in stories, what are they usually doing? They’re usually mining for jewels, right?

The Sunburst Dwarves are descendants of Solar the Great and his wife, Beamitrice. The two dwarves were asked to leave their jobs in the mines and given the special knowledge of making Beam Rockets by an ancient and powerful creature whose existence has been long forgotten. Solar and his wife taught their children for centuries how to create Beam Rockets.

Beam Rockets are a magical rocket that contain actual sunlight. The rockets are used to awaken Fleet birds that are falling out of the sky due to weariness given to their long flights. If you have already read about the Fleet then you will know that they unconsciously create and scatter sun dust all over the Earth. Without Sun Dust all magic in this world would vanish and all magical creatures with it. The loud bang of a Beam Rocket sounds like thunder and assists awakening the birds. The sunlight within the rocket feeds the birds when the rocket explodes and appears like lightning in the sky. [Read More about the Feet Birds here]

The Sunburst Dwarves continue to search the skies for falling and weary Fleet birds to this very day. They are highly respected among all the intelligent magical creatures due to the importance of their job.

Physical Appearance:

  • Sunburst Dwarves are human in appearance. They actually appear similar to garden gnome statues.
  • The men are commonly 4 feet tall while the women are about 3 1/2 feet in height.
  • Male Sun Dwarves tend to wear mining clothes like their mining brothers. Their clothing consists of a stocking cap, mining shirt, overall and a pair of thick soled boots. The coloring of the clothing tends to match the earthy colors of their surrounding.
  • Female Sun Dwarves commonly wear their hair tied back with work clothing – work shirt, work pants, and thick soled shoes. The clothing once again matches the earthy tones of their surroundings.

Magical Properties:

sunburst-dwarves-magical-creatures-fantastic-beasts-tranfiguring-adoption-male-dwarfThe Sun Dwarves have two extraordinary abilities:

  1. They are the only dwarves that have the knowledge and wisdom to create Beam Rockets. Beam Rockets appear to be an ordinary and large firecracker rocket. However, Beam Rockets do have a glass compartment in the middle that is filled with actual sunlight. Once the rocket’s fuse is lit, they can travel a good distance into the sky. The rocket explosion causes many things to happen…
    • A monstrous bang is given off to awaken Fleet birds. The noise sounds like thunder to humans.
    • Once the glass compartment is broken, the sunlight inside flashes around in the sky. Fleet birds can quickly eat some of the rays. The light appears to be lightning in the sky to humans.
    • After a Beam Rocket has exploded, it creates many many dark explosion clouds. As humans believe they are hearing thunder and seeing lightning, they also think the clouds are rain clouds.
  2. Sun Dwarves are the only dwarves that have the ability to shrink down from their original height. They were granted this ability from the same ancient creature that gave them their special jobs of protecting the Fleet Birds.

Things You Should Know:

  • Sun Dwarves are friendly to humans BUT they are also very serious about their job. Therefore, they will avoid talking with people or creatures so they can keep an eye on the skies.
  • Sun Dwarves like to have many pockets in their clothing so they can hold tools to help them with their job. One never knows when an extra match, a knife, some rope and more will come in handy while trying to rescue a Fleet bird.
  • The reason the Sun Dwarves were granted the ability to shrink is in order to hide from other people or get in cracks or niches that they need access. It should be noted that while the dwarves can return themselves to their original height, they cannot grow past that height. The dwarves cannot shrink anything that has not been made by dwarves.
  • Just because these dwarves have a job that is above the ground does not mean they enjoy heigh places. Their homes are commonly beautifully decorated dens that are under the ground. The entrances are usually hidden and small.
  • Sun Dwarves are very familiar with all the constellations in the sky. This is due to the fact that most weary Fleet can be seen in the nighttime hours. The dwarves also can easily spot a flock of Fleet in danger when they see them forming a streak of light like a comet across the night sky as they quickly try to fly away from the night to daylight.

[Discover More Creatures Here]


 For Parents’s Eyes Only

Activities:

Discover the Constellations

  • Download a stargazing app for your smartphone such as,
  • If your child can feel safe with you outside at night, find a comfortable area.
    If your child cannot feel safe outside at night, some of the apps allow you to view constellations merely by pointing your phone in a certain direction.
  • Make sure to bring water and snacks (protein is best) while doing this activity to help keep blood sugar leveled out so that kiddos aren’t so antsy.

Sun Dwarves are constantly watching the skies to make sure that Fleet Birds are not in danger of falling out of the sky. For fun we have told our kids that we are going to pretend to watch for Fleet and help the Sun Dwarves around our home. The most important part is to keep looking for a shooting star as this is sometimes a flock of weary Fleet flying so fast toward daylight that they cause a streaking glow across the sky. While you’re looking for this in the sky, it can be quite fun to learn the constellations and find any planets that are visible.

We have found that kids enjoy learning the different pictures in the sky. It also gives them something to watch for in the sky when traveling in the car at night.

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This Too Shall Pass: Hope for Foster/Adoptive Families

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There are certain drives that I make at least once, if not a few times a week, one being to the place our kiddos get OT (occupational therapy), which also happens to be on the way to where they go for EAP (equine assisted psychotherapy). Driving to all of our multiple appointments is exhausting, but there’s one part of this particular drive that I always look forward to. The highway tops a hill, and no matter which direction I’m heading, I see mountains in front of me and mountains in the rear view mirror. It’s gorgeous no matter the season.

I love mountains. Maybe it’s because I grew up in flat Illinois among the corn fields and never really remember seeing a big mountain in person until I studied in Mexico during college. Seeing the mountains always lightens my moods.

Living in the Valley

The reason we see mountains in both directions is because we live in a valley. When nothing’s blocking out the view, we see the high tops of the mountains that surround us. We live in a valley! I was thinking about that the last time I made this drive in relation to our life. We’ve had some high points in the last 7 years, but as foster and adoptive parents, it always seems we are in the middle of some behavioral or medical crisis. We always are trying to solve some puzzle with a child, searching for a diagnosis, looking for progress, seeking healing. Some days of the foster and adoptive journey feel torturous and life sucking. There are days when I feel like I cannot move forward, like we’re stuck in this endless cycle of trying to help our kids heal and reach their potential to no avail… taking three steps back after a step or two forward. There are valleys and sorrows so deep they cannot be shared online. The other day I watched a doctor write PTSD on my chart and circle and underline it. The struggle is real.

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“It’s not over Yet”

Earlier on our foster care journey, I was talking about some struggles we were having, and a friend said, “This too shall pass.” She went on to remind me of some of the previous valleys we’d successfully climbed out of with our kiddos and how much progress we had made. I recalled this conversation last week when I was driving a child to OT, and I thought how true it is. The valleys we are in now are not the same as the ones we’ve been in before.

As the kiddo and I were finishing up our drive to OT and I was lost in these thoughts, a song by For King and Country called “It’s Not Over Yet” began to play on the radio. These words caught my attention:

“[….]you’re bruised and beaten
And you feel defeated

This goes out to the heaviest hearts

Oh, to everyone who’s hit their limit […]
And even when you think you’re finished
It’s not over yet, it’s not over yet
Keep on fighting
Out of the dark, into the light, it’s not over
Hope is rising
Never give in, never give up, it’s not over
Yet [….]”

Living in a valley, we often cannot see the mountains from where we stand. Trees, buildings, hills, darkness, or clouds block them from our sight, but the reality is they are still there. Valleys in life are temporary. Our kids need us to keep fighting to help them out of the shadows of the valley into the light of the mountaintop.

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