Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Realistic Expectations - Part II

This is "Part II" of my earlier post this morning. One of my questions as I wait for travel approval is what parts of his old life Joseph will be able to bring with him. He has lived in foster care for approximately 7 years and at some point before we get him, he'll be moved back to the orphanage - Beijing Children's Welfare Institute - BCWI for short. Above is a photo of the orphanage. We don't know if he's been moved yet.

Here's the experience of a mom who adopted an older girl from BCWI:

My daughter had the following things with her the day we met her:
*A new outfit, appropriate for the weather that day, and it matched the outfit the other older girl had on, that was with us on adoption day
*Hair clips and hair bands in her hair...beautifully done by her ayi.
*A new Pooh backpack (school type backpack)
*A well used doll that we had previously sent on her birthday
*A camera filled with pictures they took of her in the lobby, shortly before we arrived
*A necklace her best friend's parents brought to her when they adopted her best friend (but she had never seen the necklace before that day)
*Two different booklets about BCWI
*A list of questions we sent in advance, that had been briefly answered
*A tiny, and I mean TINY little toy (less than an inch long) that she was allowed to pick out of a box...and the other older girl with us had one, as well

That was change of clothes and no personal items...nothing else. We had sent other things in advance, and they were not with her. We had sent a notebook for her friends to sign and draw pictures for her, etc. She received it, and her friends did draw pictures and sign it, but she was not allowed to bring it.

The only things she had from BCWI were the new clothes on her back, the backpack, and that tiny toy. Oh...and her badge with 3 red stripes. It was pinned to her shirt sleeve when we met her. The BCWI staff explained very intensely the significance of the badge (it was a leadership award from her school). They were quite excited about it, and said no other orphan from BCWI had earned 3 stripes before at school. They told me (through our guide of course) to make SURE we save that badge forever, and how important it is, etc.

On a side note, I guess that tells you something about the importance of education to the BCWI staff. While we were in China, they had no problem NOT supplying a single picture of my daughter which we asked for many, many times, including foster family pictures, etc. But that goodness....they were SO proud of that badge. They went on and on about it for quite some time, and reminded us again, right before we left, to never lose it. :)

One more thing we received, after asking several times and our guide returning to BCWI to keep asking....her school workbooks! You might want to ask, and keep asking, for your son's books. I can't tell you how helpful they were for us. We were able to see her level of reading (she read to my guide out of the book for 30 minutes and our guide was able to tell us her approximate reading level, etc.) We were able to see her beautiful Chinese writing skills. We were able to determine her level in Math (WAY above grade level here). We were able to see she had learned NO English, although she had an English workbook from school. (She was pitiful in English class in China...every answer was marked wrong. She said her teacher did not know English, and was trying to learn with the class. :) We were able to quickly determine she is very bright, which would have taken us months (or longer) to determine without the books, since she did not speak
English, and we do not speak Chinese. Anyway, those books were very helpful. But another family I know begged for theirs, and received books that had other children's names on them. :( It is still worth a try.

My daughter had nothing from her foster family life...she was with them for 6 years, and like your son, was back at BCWI for about a year, before we met her. She said she left her foster family with the clothes on her back, some fruit her foster sister shoved in her hands during a painful goodbye, and with many tears. :( Her foster family visted her often at BCWI, and brought her food, treats, etc. It all immediately became "community property" as soon as their visit ended each time. I do have to say I understand this concept. It would be too hard for the other children to not get something my daughter had, etc. And in fact, in hindsight, which is 20/20 of course, I would not send anything in a care package that was meant only for my child. I regret doing that. There are too many children "left behind" and it just breaks my heart for them to feel "invisible" when a child receives something and they don't, etc. If I was sending a
care package now, I would send cameras, questions to be answered, and plenty of candy and treats for everyone. I would not send anything personal for my child. (Just my opinion...there are mixed views on this, of course. And I know it is easy for me to say now, when that is not what I actually did then....but I regret that decison a lot.)

And to answer your question about if your son "owns" things at BCWI....
For my daughter, the answer was no. Nothing. She shared everything including clothes, toys, linens, school supplies, even the hairbrushes and toothbrushes!
Again...I guess I understand...can you imagine trying to keep things "separate" with all of those children housed together? And the arguments it would create, etc.?
The only thing she personally had, were her schoolbooks. All the writing in her books, was her writing, and her name was on each book. She said her books were kept in her school backpack, but she did not get to keep that backpack. She was given a brand new one. She treasures her school books, and I am very thankful the staff let her have them. It was definitely worth asking many times, and the extra trip to BCWI to get them.

I know, at first, this all seems a bit tough to hear. But I do want to tell you that my daughter had lots of things available to her at BCWI, including things I did not ever think she would computers, MP3 players, handheld video games, etc. She had everything she needed and wanted (material things) just did not belong directly to her. She had plenty to eat, plenty of showers, a good education, etc. Life is not perfect for any child in an institution. Obviously, China knows that, and therefore allows adoption! But my daughter did have everything she needed at BCWI...except the thing she needed most... a family. The only exception to that is dental care...oh don't get me started on that one. Ugh. TWENTY cavities, some so large that my dentist could not save the teeth (he had to remove 5 teeth, three of which had holes literally all the way through them.) I hope the dental plan at BCWI will get better soon. My guide
told us that is very common in China. She said dental care just is not important to most people there...yet (unless they are in pain)! She said that is slowly changing, which is good news!

Bottom line...BCWI does a good job caring for the older children, in my opinion. And they supply every material thing they need...the children just don't directly own anything.

That is all I can remember right now! If you have more questions, please feel free to email me directly. My daughter still remembers every detail of her transition to the orphanage, and her life there. She remembers much of her foster family life, as well. So if you have questions, please ask.

Realistic Expectations - Part I

You may have read the recent news story about the adoptive mom who put her newly adopted son on a plane "back to Russia." While I think she made a terrible choice, I empathize with the fact that she may have felt totally overwhelmed by the difficult and dangerous situation in which she found herself. As I read her story, I couldn't help but think, "What are we getting ourseles into?" We are adopting and "older child." He is not a baby. This probably won't be easy.

Yesterday, I got a long rambling e-mail from our agency about what to expect with "older child adoption." I'm sharing it here in hopes it will help you know how to pray for our family in the coming months. (Please excuse grammar and punctuation. This e-mail was more of a collection of notes and I just don't have time this morning to edit it properly.)

Older Child Adoption
Parents will be exhausted arriving home from the trip. Children hit the ground running. Be prepared to be very tired the first few months. It will be difficult for you to manage your normal routine. You will have to develop a new routine. This is true even for parents with children already home. Your family will have to blend. This takes time. It can take many months before you feel your family is beginning to feel like a family.

Attachment concerns:
Parents need to be the primary caregivers for first 3 months
Bedtime routine: rock your child; even older children can use a bottle
Limit visitors
Keep your world small. Stay home with your child. Children are often afraid when left home. Take as much leave from work as possible. Save welcome home party until later, consider it when you have been home for 3 months

Sleep issues:
Ok not to let them sleep alone, they will be afraid. They can have a hard time falling asleep. They make wake frequently during the night. It is ok to let them sleep in your room, or you can sleep in their bedroom.

Behavior concerns:
Clingy behavior, constantly wanting to be held, needy, difficult for parents to accomplish household activities, may cry when you leave the room, may follow you everywhere

May kick, bite, scratch, spit. They will have orphanage behaviors, children have to learn a new way. When children arrive home, they are very active. They touch the light switches, open cabinets, go through your personal belongings


Older children may have a “bad attitude”

Control. A child learns to trust in his first year of life. He has parents who meet his basic needs over and over. This builds trust. For many of you your child did not have a relationship that encouraged trust. You should parent your child as a much younger child. By parenting him this way, he will learn that you can control him. This will help your child learn to trust you. He will feel safe with you. He will not feel that he has to control everything that happens at home.

It is always good to remember: Choose your battles wisely.

High Structure High Nurture

Children do not make progress in a straight line. You will see days or weeks of good progress. Then your child will regress. This is normal. It is frustrating because you have seen so much progress. Your child will not regress for as long a period of time. This will happen over and over as they transition to their new home.

Overly friendly behavior
You will want to limit family and friends holding your child. Parents should be responding to their child’s needs. Children are looking for that “safe” person. We want them to know mom and dad are safe. They don’t need to continue their search.

Grief affects behavior.
Feelings may be intense at times. Older children may say, “America is no good.” China, Russia, Ethiopia was better. Tantrums may occur several times a day. Tantrums can be intense at times. Tantrums can last for long periods of time, 45 minutes to an hour.

Family Life vs Orphanage Life
Talk about the differences Children learn how parents are able to help them. Tell your children, “Good mothers take care of their children.” They will have to learn what a family is.

Bath time may be difficult. They may have never taken a bath, may scream, and may not like to have hair washed

Meeting your child for the first time - your child may be unhappy, she may cry. She may continue to cry through the night. She is grieving the loss of her world as she once knew it.

Maturity level will be emotionally younger than age
This is difficult for families adopting a child that is older. They look at the child as a 7 year old. The child is behaving as a 2 or 3 year old. It is hard for them to parent the child as a 3 year old.

Baby sign language is a good way to help children communicate with their family.

Many times families are expecting a quiet, meek child to come into their home from an orphanage. Families are surprised to have a loud, bossy child. This child tries to take control of the family right away. This child has the ability to bring a quiet, calm house to a state of chaos.

Social concerns:
Poor table manners
Will need to learn how to play games; will not be an instant playmate for siblings. Socialization takes time

May hit, bite, scratch, or kick

May hoard food and toys. May not know how to care for toys and books. Limit toys and books in the beginning.

Will not understand what it means to share. Siblings will share their toys with newly adopted child. The adopted child will not understand why they have to give the toy back to their sibling.

Surprisingly, older children can be materialistic. They may tell you they want a new bike, shoes, or clothes. It is difficult for parents when a child from a Third World Country asks for so many new items. They are expecting their child to be grateful for what they have and for bringing them home.

Jealousy - the adopted child may feel parents are favoring bio children. It can be a difficult transition. Help sibs prepare. Role play what may happen. It can be a shock to your bio children when their new sibling arrives home. Find time to spend with your bio children. Schedule time with them, go to lunch, ride bikes, etc. Prepare them for the time you will need to spend with newly adopted child. You will spend a lot of time with the adopted child the first several months.

Prepare your children for their new sibling’s needs. The new child will require a lot of mom’s attention the first few months. Try to find ways to spend time with each child. If it is 15 minutes one on one a day, it is a way to help each child feel loved and appreciated.

Food issues:Older children may not like American food, try to transition them to our food, whether with formula or food

Sensory Integration Disorder
Consider having your child evaluated as they may have never walked on grass, may have difficulty chewing, and may not like to be touched.

Discuss feelings. This child may have never been asked what they were feeling, talk about the 4 basic feelings: happy, sad, mad, and scared.

Ok to consider not placing child in age appropriate grade.
May need a tutor. Ok to delay entry to school. They may appear “lazy”and not interested.

Translators are helpful. Language barrier creates temper tantrums and frustrated behavior.

It helps to know a few words in your child’s language. For some countries this is difficult so you may want to use sign language or cards with pictures drawn on them to help you the first few weeks. You will need to explain everything in the beginning. It will take a lot of your time. You are going to need to explain simple things like how to put the dishes in the sink or where is the laundry room and what is a laundry room. This can be exhausting to parents the first few months. It can take older children longer to comprehend what is being said to them. For an older child it may take 6 months to one year until he has a good understanding of English.

Sexual Abuse
is difficult to talk about but does happen to some children. Children that have lived in an orphanage, foster care, or with birth families may have been sexually abused.

Post Adoption Depression
You may question yourself. "Why did I want to do this?" It takes time for families to blend. You will grieve the loss of your family as you once knew it. This is normal. It helps to talk to someone.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

We are Logged In

I just received word that our dossier was logged in with the China Center for Adoption Affairs yesterday, April 6! One step closer.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Joseph is Coming to a Sweet Family!

It's Spring Break for us this week. Tonight Little Miss remembered that today, April 5, is her friend Gracie's birthday. Since she won't be seeing Gracie this week she asked to send her an e-mail.

Little Miss dictated as I typed. Here goes:

Dear Gracie,

Happy Birthday, Gracie! I hope you had a good birthday today. I hope you got good presents. This is the day that God sent you to the earth! I really like you. You are a special gift of God.

Little Miss

What an amazingly sweet birthday message, if I do say so myself.