National Adoption Month: New Study Examines Communication Trends in Open Adoptions

November is National Adoption Month – an initiative with the goal of increasing national awareness and bringing attention to the need for permanent families for children in the U.S. foster care system.

For most of the 20th century, adoptions were largely “closed,” meaning birth parents placed their child with an adoption agency and had no further contact unless the child sought them out later in life. However, statistics show that a shift occurred in the 1990s when agencies started to recognize the benefits of “open” adoptions, or adoptions in which adoptive families have ongoing interactions with the birth family.

University of Missouri communication researchers are studying the benefits and challenges of open adoptions and the ways in which adoptive and biological parents navigate the complex relationships that can result from these new arrangements. Their recent study shows that open adoption relationships in which communication is encouraged, can benefit the child and their adoptive parents.

“Most research on open adoptions has examined the outcomes, but we haven’t – as a research community – studied how adoptive families manage the ongoing relationships with the biological families,” said Haley Horstman, an assistant professor of interpersonal and family communication at MU.

“It truly is a ‘brave new world,’” Colleen Colaner, an MU assistant professor of communication adds. “Families are now navigating new communication tools, like social media or texting. There are many factors that adoptive and biological parents have to consider to put the child at the center of this triangular relationship.”

“These social pioneers are forging their ways into new communication territory and we’re very interested in analyzing how these relationships are affected,” said Alexie Hays, first author on the study.

Last week, the team presented their work at the National Communication Association annual conference in Philadelphia, PA.

Walk for the Waiting is tomorrow morning (rain or shine)

Walk for the Waiting is tomorrow morning (rain or shine).

There are now 4, website like this 800+ kids in Arkansas’s foster system, human enhancement 600+ of which need an adoptive family today. Over 200 foster youth will age out this year because they were not adopted or did not find a permanent family.

The funds from Walk for the Waiting will go to The CALL, viagra Project Zero and Immerse Arkansas who are working hard to make sure each of these children get the family and care they deserve.

If you’ve already signed up to walk or give – THANK YOU!

If you haven’t participated yet, can you help to make sure every kid in Arkansas has a family? You can give at https://www.walkforthewaiting.org/staceyvalley

Here are my two precious girls that were in the Arkansas foster system, but are now part of a forever family — my family. They are my treasures, and I thank God that I get to be their mommy. meandmygirls

One Year Ago Today My World Crumbled

September 8, viagra dosage 2014: I was home with Anthony getting the house ready for Baby Girl. She was born the Friday before, and at the request of Elle* (birth mom), I was there for her delivery. See Elle and I had history. I adopted her first child back in 2010 after fostering her for almost a year. During that time, unbreakable bonds were formed with Elle, her mom, and the rest of their family. So when she found out that she was pregnant again, she asked me if I would adopt this child too. I was uncertain if I wanted another child. Anthony and I already had three daughters. But we decided to get open as a foster home, and if this child ended up in foster care, we would foster the baby as “fictive kin.” Fictive kin is defined as people not related by birth or marriage who have an emotionally-significant relationship with an individual. And since we had the biological sibling, our DCFS resource worker said we would qualify.

On deliver day, Elle was scared and asked me to be with her in the delivery room. The nurse placed a chair for me near Elle’s head. She was draped with hospital blue cloth and prepped for a c-section. I reassured her that it would be okay. (I was reassuring myself at the same time.) I was so fidgety, about to explode with anticipation. I asked Elle if she minded if I moved from behind the blue draping to watch the actual delivery. She didn’t mind, so I got permission from the nurse. The nurse agreed after I told her that I’m also a nurse and that the sight of blood didn’t bother me. I had seen a c-section in nursing school, but this one was different. With each cut of the blade, with every move of the surgical team, I felt my child coming into this world. It was like I was on that table and having an out-of-body experience watching myself give birth. The doctor exclaimed “It’s a girl!” as I witnessed Baby Girl take her first breath outside the womb. IMG_1232She was big. She had a strong cry. Someone asked me if I wanted to cut the cord, and I did. It was all a big blur, like a surreal made-for-TV movie. I was taken back to another room where they cleaned up Baby Girl, inked her feet for precious footprints on her birth record, and then I got to hold her for the first time. She was very pink — not the dark brown that I was expecting. She had big, bow-shaped lips. I was overjoyed and so nervous.  IMG_1230Sometime later I joined Elle in the recovery room. She was given two armbands for access to the NICU. She gave me one of them, so I was able to stay in the room with Baby Girl. Elle came down to visit periodically and a few times a day she would request that I go up to visit her in the postpartum unit. Every time I would see her, she begged me to raise Baby Girl — to fight to keep her — to not let DCFS place her with anyone else. I said I would. Elle told me that she wanted her daughters to grow up together. I liked that thought too.  IMG_1250Then Sunday came. Around noon or so, Elle came down to the NICU to visit Baby Girl. A DCFS caseworker was with Elle. They asked that I wait outside the room so they could visit. Anthony arrived shortly after that and met me in near the nurse’s station. I just knew that Elle was in there telling the caseworker about our plan — about how Anthony and I became foster parents just so we could foster this baby as fictive kin, and if the case led to termination of parental rights, we would be open to adoption since we already had her sister. Then the nurse on duty came out and said that we were being asked to leave and for me to tell her what things in the room were mine. I couldn’t even enter the room to get my things — the nurse had to gather them for me — and then Anthony and I were escorted out of the hospital. No explanation was given. I was in shock.

The caseworker called me later and told me not to worry. That was reassuring. The plan would work out. I waited all day Monday for the call. Finally mid-afternoon we got the call that Baby Girl was being released into DCFS care and that we would hear from another caseworker about placing her with us. Whew — what a relief. Then about an hour later we got another call that the caseworker was buying a few things for the baby, but we’d get an ETA call soon. Then a third phone call:

She’s being placed with another family.

My heart dropped. What? Surely there’s been some mistake. I called my resource worker and was told that Elle said that I was trying to take her baby from her, and therefore it was assumed we would not be a good foster placement because we wouldn’t work toward reunification. I tried to explain that wasn’t the case. I wrote emails to the resource worker to reconsider. I wrote the area director. Over the next two days, I wrote and called everyone that I thought could help, finally talking to the director of DCFS for the entire state of Arkansas. She basically told me to back off and let the system work.

It was out of my hands. For the next week, I was a mess. I cried and laid on the couch in a crumbly, depressed pile of brokenness. Those were dark and uncertain times. My faith was tested, and I didn’t take it too well.

Finally a meeting was set for September 19. Anthony and I went before the area director and a bunch of other DCFS staff to be questioned. And fortunately, our pure motives came to light. A few hours after the meeting, a caseworker brought Baby Girl to our house. She was two weeks old at this point, and I wondered what I’d missed in those 11 days apart. And I knew she wasn’t mine forever yet — or if she ever would be. The following months were fairly easy as far as foster care cases go. Soon we knew that reunification wasn’t the goal, and we would probably get to adopt her. We were cautiously optimistic.  IMG_1252Almost a year passed until we adopted Baby Girl, now called Quinn, on July 29, 2015. Over that year, God taught me several important lessons. The first and most important one is that HE WILL DELIVERY ON HIS PROMISES IN HIS TIME. I have to remind myself of that daily. I have to relinquish control, open my clinched fists and release my right now to Him. That’s not easy for this control freak, this planner of all things. But I’m learning, one hard lesson at a time.

* name changed

 

Adoption Day!

After waiting for what seemed forever, nurse Anthony and I adopted Baby Girl last week! It was a glorious day surrounded by friends and family. Our older girls, Kennedy, Madison and Maya were all smiles too. adoption2Judge Warren is the same judge that did Maya’s adoption back in 2010, so it was really special that she was our judge this time too.

So without further ado, World, meet Quinn Aria Valley… IMG_1058Special thanks go to my mom and dad, Gran Gran, Kristen and Carol for coming to be a part of our big day. adoption1adoption4It’s hard to explain how I feel now that the adoption is final. Relief mainly — no chance that Quinn will be taken away from us. She has been a part of our family since her beginning. Even before she was born, we loved her. I was in the delivery room when she entered the world — I even got to cut the cord! helloShe has been smiling and laughing and bringing us joy since her days in the NICU. I mean really — look at those lips!

I can’t wait to watch her grow up and to see her personality blossom and her talents emerge. She is already trying to stand up unassisted, so I think walking is in the near future. She loves music and is very curious and busy. She’s a sensitive soul and can get her feelings hurt easily, but she easy going and happy most of the time. Honestly, she is just perfect, and I’m so proud to be her mom. Quinn8.2.15

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Termination

I’ve held on to this piece since February — just too raw and personal to post. But I’m ready now.

Termination. It’s such an ugly word. It usually doesn’t come with good news. Termination of a job. Termination of a pregnancy. Termination of parental rights.

My husband and I recently sat in on the termination of parental rights (TPR) hearing for our foster baby. Unlike most foster parents, clinic I know this birth mom, Elle*. I went through it all before with her first baby who I fostered and then later adopted. I love Elle. Without her, I wouldn’t have my sweet Maya. Elle has become like family to me — although we rarely have any contact. I keep up with her through her mom who we now lovingly refer to as Gran Gran.

Sitting down in the courtroom, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill the space, to reign over the proceeding. Elle walked in wearing shackles and a correctional unit jumpsuit. Still I’d never seen her look better. Her hair was combed and neatly styled. She was clean and well fed. She was not high. Jail is a good place to be when you’re dealt a bad hand like Elle.

She sat down not too far in front of me, so I said hi. She squinted (due to a blinding eye condition) and said, “Miss Stacey, is that you? Is the baby with you!?!?” I told her it was me and that indeed Baby Girl had been placed with me. She beamed with joy! She started asking me question after question about Baby Girl and how she ended up with me, and I answered as best I could. Then…

ALL RISE. The judge entered and the proceedings started. The attorney for child services began reading aloud a long list of every reason why Elle is an unfit mother. And even though they were all true, it broke my heart. Elle sat there with her head in her hands listening to every horrible decision she made over the past several months. She had to hear that she failed as a mother. I cried big sloppy tears. I hurt for Elle. But I also thought about how often I fail as a mother and how it must feel to have that become part of a court record.

After the attorneys were done, Elle asked to address the court. She sat on the witness stand and her anguish gushed out. She sobbed uncontrollably. My husband held me close. Once Elle gathered herself, she expressed in the most beautiful way what I’m sure every mother feels at times. She told the judge that she loved her baby very much, but that she knows that she can’t be a good mother to her. She owned up to her mistakes and shortcomings. Then in an unexpected twist, she pleaded for the judge to let me adopt the baby.

To top it off, the judge gave Elle a precious gift — she validated her. She told her that she is not a bad person; that she is a good person who just made mistakes. She said that we all have struggles, but that doesn’t make us bad people. It was truly beautiful.

And I thanked the Holy Spirit for answering my prayer.

*Name changed to protect her privacy.

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New Year. New beginnings.

 

New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday. I think it’s because I love fresh starts. It’s like a new notebook the first day of school full of blank pages, page endless possibilities, and ideas yet to be thought. halfwaythere2014 was a pretty good year for my family. Anthony and I celebrated our first anniversary in April and started foster parenting classes with The CALL. On Mother’s Day, I was honored to be featured in Listen To Your Mother at The Rep. In June, Anthony and I visited England, Belgium, France and Kenya for 16 days. In September, I was in the delivery room when our baby girl that we’re currently fostering was born — I even cut the cord! All our children are healthy and happy and drive us crazy (as they should). We are definitely blessed.

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But yet, there’s something magical and mysterious about a new year. It’s not like a do-over — I don’t want to erase the events of 2014. It’s more of the anticipation — how is God gonna top this one kind of thing. I know He has great plans for us in 2015.

Of course I have the usual new year’s resolutions: cut back on my sugar intake, get back into daily walks, and build my Le-Vel Thrive business. But mostly I’m looking forward to possibly adding another child to our family legally and permanently, and spending more quality time with my kids and husband.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

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Sleep when baby sleeps… and other fairy tales

The FTC requires me to tell you that I am compensated as a Brand Ambassador for Arkansas Better Beginnings. As a Brand Ambassador I do receive payment for being part of their program, what is ed but most of all, I receive the information I need as a “new again mother” to give our little angel the best chance to get her on her way to being all she was created to be.

We are fostering a newborn in our house now. It’s exciting and rewarding and totallphoto 1(48)y exhausting. Complete strangers now feel the need to share their words of baby wisdom with me in the middle of Kroger. This weekend, a lady told me that pure vanilla extract can be used in place of Orajel. She stated that she has a slew of grandchildren, so according to her, she is an expert.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”

That’s a popular piece of advice, and it sounds very logical. But I’ve got stuff to do! I’ve got laundry and dishes and a high-maintenance five-year-old to contend with. I’d love to napping right now (Baby is asleep in my arms as I type this), but Momma’s gotta make a living! Luckily, I have some really good health supplements and a supportive husband, so I’m surviving.

Baby experts are EVERYWHERE. I appreciate their interest, really, but I prefer to get my advice from a trusted, evidence-based source like Arkansas Better Beginnings website.

betterbeginningsTheir website has valuable information for parents such as “Your Child at Birth”, “Your Child at 2 Months”, “Your Child at 2 Years”, etc. that highlight what’s happening at each stage of your child’s development. Each downloadable sheet outlines what to expect at the well-child visit for that age, as well as information about age-appropriate nutrition, sleep, behavior and safety. And information is provided in English and Spanish.

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I was relieved to read on the “Your Child at Birth” sheet, “For the first 6 weeks, your baby will not know day from night. So her sleep will not have a schedule.” So Babywise moms, back off! Let me just enjoy this cuddle time and maybe I’ll sneak in a quick nap later.

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High quality child care and early childhood education sets the stage for how well our children learn, how they think of themselves and how they interact with their world. We as parents, child care providers, educators and citizens have a responsibility to make sure all of our children have the very best experiences they can. Better Beginnings, Arkansas’s Quality Rating Improvement System, has been developed to do just that. – See more at: http://www.arbetterbeginnings.com

Better Beginnings: Preparing for Motherhood (again)

The FTC requires me to tell you that Better Beginnings has compensated me as a Brand Ambassador. As a Brand Ambassador I do receive payment for being part of their program, gastritis but most of all, pills I receive the information I need as a “new again mother” to give our little angel the best chance to get her on her way to being all she was created to be.

It’s been over five years since I had a newborn placed in my arms on a rainy February night. And now as I prepare to welcome another baby into our home through the foster care system, psychotherapist I suddenly feel ill equipped. The crib is set up. The little blue plastic bathtub and the Ikea high chair that I loved so much last time are waiting patiently in the garage. I have a closet full of 0-3 month little onsies and pink outfits (sure hope it’s a girl!). But yet, I’m nervous. What if I’ve forgotten everything about being a mom to a tiny little human — one who is helpless and totally dependent on me for all her needs.babyfeetLuckily I was recently introduced to a program by the Arkansas Department of Human Services called Better Beginnings. Better Beginnings is a quality rating improvement system for Arkansas child care providers. But they also offer a huge array of resources for parents too including:
* how to choose child care
* information on child development by age
* keeping my child healthy
* and a resource library with helpful downloads

Here’s a video that Better Beginnings created to explain the program:

So needless to say, their website is going to be a huge help in refreshing me on Baby 101.

They are offering a free breastfeeding class on August 23rd in the morning at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock. Participants do need to register by going to www.surveymonkey.com/s/breastfeed2014 or calling (501) 661-2990.ar breastfeeding slide
mindinthemakingLast week, I got to attend an early childhood conference at the invitation of Better Beginnings. One of my favorite sessions was on a book called Mind in the Making. It’s about looking at your child’s development in new ways. I’ve got the book coming and will tell you more about it in the coming months.

I hope you will follow me on this journey into new, old motherhood. Baby is due in 4 weeks. Eek!!!