Our first agency was no-joke with the adoption education. They did an amazing job preparing us for what is to come.
I'm not so naive to think we can be thoroughly prepared, but I believe we can prepare. And we should. As much as possible . . . as should all pre-adoptive parents. I don't want to get all preachy on you, but if your agency simply required you to watch ten hours of videos, it's not enough. I want to encourage you to find the time, find the books, find the resources, buy the videos (Karyn Purvis' especially) and prepare yourself NOW. You owe it to your future children and to your current family. Get ready.
Of the suggestions listed below, 90% of them were required by our agency. Thousands of pages of reading and close to 100 pages of written responses for all the tasks. I felt like I was back in college! But, looking back, we are so thankful. Jason even says he would not change one thing about our journey (including the failed adoption and loss of funds) because of the education we received the first time around. I agree.
1. Agency Traning
Take advantage of whatever training opportunities your agencies provide for you.
The first thing we did was watch a video series in which we were introduced to core adoption issues (loss, rejection, guilt & shame, grief, identity, intimacy & relationships, and control). Other key concepts that were introduced in the video series include: positive adoption vocabulary, your child's story, responding to strangers/friends/neighbors who ask questions, importance of a life book, attachment basics, racism, white privilege, and the importance of keeping a child connected to their country and culture. We also heard interviews with three adult transracial adoptees. That was all jam packed into 12-14 hours of videos. After we viewed, we were required to answer four pages of very specific questions and there were some experiments to participate in (Call your spouse by a new name for one day. How do you feel about it? How does he/she feel about it? Go to a place where you are the only white person. Stay put. What's it like?). The video series was good for us. It gave us a lot to consider and discuss, but I am so very thankful that our education did not end here.
2. Read (and review) The Family of Adoption by Joyce Maguire Pavao
3. Read (and review) Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie
4. Locate and join a local adoption support group.
Transracial Adoption Preparation
5. Read (and review) Inside Transracial Adoption by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall
6. We went to a local seminar by Tara VanderWoude: "Love Is Not Enough: What Transracially Adopted Children Need." Tara included multiple video clips from Adopted the Movie. You can (and should) watch tons of video clips from the documentary on YouTube.
7. Listen to a webinar by Deborah Johnson: "Parenting in Transracial Adoption."
8. Research and read articles on transracial adoption and becoming a multi-cultural family.
10. Join the Transracial Adoption Facebook Group. (This is a group where I have had the opportunity to listen to adult adoptees–their feelings, their struggles, their stories. Sometimes the stories are VERY hard to read and process, but I have found this is a place where I need to be, to simply listen.)
11. Watch and discuss Girl, Adopted. (We did this as a family.)
12. Read (and review) Raising Neustros Ninos by Gloria G. Rodriguez. (Or, if you are adopting from another culture, find another appropriate book.)
13. Research books and online resources about multi-cultural parenting.
14. Discuss what you are reading with each other and with the children, as age appropriate.
15. Interview families who have raised transracially adopted children to adulthood.
16. Research and find local community resources that promote Latin American culture. Begin networking and attend festivals and gatherings prior to your child's homecoming.
17. Locate professionals (such as doctors and dentists) who are of Latino descent and can be adult role models for your child.
18. Network with other transracial adoptive families. Ask questions.
19. Write out a transracial plan that includes activities you will do with your children to promote his/her ethnic identity.
Honoring Your Child's Story, Including First Family and Past Connections
20. Make a plan for honoring your child's past. (Where can important photos be placed? How can the first family be honored, thanked, prayed for within your family rituals? Will you make a lifebook?)
21. Read Before You Were Mine: Discovering Your Adopted Child's Lifestory by Susan TeBos and Carissa Woodwyk
22. View (and discuss) Closure.
23. Watch (and discuss) "Listen" by Carissa Woodwyk (an adoptee).
Prepare Your Current Children for the Adoption
24. Read age appropriate books about adoption to your children.
25. Keep them informed about the adoption process as you journey through it.
26. Answer questions about adoption and having a new sibling.
27. Encourage children to express their thoughts and feelings. Validate their feelings.
28. Prepare children for the upcoming trip (length of stay, etc.).
29. Discuss expectations for new siblings and how expectations may need to adjust over time.
Educate Extended Family and Close Friends on Adoption Issues
30. Discuss positive adoption vocabulary with family and friends. Hand-out copies of this page.
31. Discuss the importance of honoring the child's past connections.
32. Provide family members with books to read about adoption, including Family of Adoption by Joyce Maguire Pavao.
Attachment and Bonding
33. Read (and review) Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray
34. Read The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis
35. Read Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children by Daniel Hughes **DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK**
36. Attend Empowered to Connect with Dr. Karyn Purvis (highly recommend!). If you can't make it to a conference, please buy Trust-Based Parenting (and other videos, if you can) and spend some time viewing and discussing her methods. If you absolutely can't afford to get the DVD (honestly, it'd be worth going without food!), then at least watch these clips by Karyn Purvis.
37. Research and list activities that promote attachment.
38. Create an attachment plan. (What kinds of attachment activities will you intentionally do with your child?)
Learn about the Challenges of Adopting Older Children
note: even toddlers are considered older children
39. Read (and review) Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child by Trish Maskew.
40. Read (and review) Parenting Your Older Adopted Child by Brenda McCreight.
41. Read (and review) Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best.
42. Our agency required us to view six hours of videos about adopting the older child and to write responses for each seminar. You won't have access to these videos, but the topics included: Grief and Loss, The First Meeting, Therapy, Life Books, Brain Development (and how it affects behavior). Find ways to learn more about each of these topics.
43. Network with families who have adopted older children. Discuss the challenges.
44. Have a plan for gaining some basic language proficiency (in your child's language). My favorite is Simple Language for Adoptive Families.
45. Identify resources and professionals in your community who can assist you and your family with adjustment, behavioral/emotional issues, etc.
46. SUPER IMPORTANT: Find an adoption therapist who specializes in attachment, loss/grief, and trauma. Meet at least once before your child comes home to insure this person is a good fit for your family. Plan a follow-up visit once your child comes home. *Note: Any old therapist will not do. Your therapist must understand adoption and it would be best if your therapist specialized in trauma and attachment.
Trauma and Loss Education
47. Read (and review) Nuturing Adoptions: Creating Resilience after Neglect and Trauma by Deborah Gray
48. Encourage family members and close friends to read books on these topics. Discuss topics with them.
49. Share insights about trauma and loss with your current children, as is age appropriate.
50. Read (and review) Brothers and Sisters in Adoption by Arleta James. This is a hard, but necessary read. You will need to be vigilant in making sure that all children in your house are safe.
51. Create a plan in case of emotional/behavioral/mental health issues.
52. Read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog. This book helps you understand how trauma will affect your child's behavior and development. Crucial, crucial book.
Culture and Country Preparation
53. Research books, CDs, DVDs, and internet resources to learn more about your child's birth country.
54. Teach your current children about your child's birth country.
55. Prepare and serve traditional foods.
56. Research typical children's games, songs, and activities. Begin learning them as a family.
57. Learn more about nutritional needs your child may have.
58. Research typical diseases found in your child's birth country. Discuss these possible medical issues with your pediatrician.
59. Create a plan in case of medical issues. Locate resources that will help you.
60. Create or update wills.
61. Contact your health insurance company and find out how/when you will add your new child to your health insurance plan.
62. Find out when the child will be fully covered by health insurance.
63. Research vaccinations needed for travel.
64. Assemble a support team of friends and family members who will be there for you through thick and thin. Make sure these people understand adoption and adoption issues before your child comes home.