Thursday, September 28, 2006

Selina Higgins Joins Professional Panel

Selina Higgins is the Director of Family Engagement Programs and Initiatives for the child protective services division of NYC’s public child welfare agency, the Administration for Children’s Services. Ms. Higgins has worked in the field of child and family welfare for 13 years.

She currently administrates three large scale programs focusing on (1) case conferencing (Family Team Conferences), (2) the assessment of children entering foster care (Child Evaluation Specialist Program) and (3) Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS) diversion (Family Assessment Program). Ms. Higgins also coordinates the Babies Can’t Wait Project, which focuses upon the attachment and permanency needs of infants entering foster care, and upon the supportive needs of all infants, at home or in care. The goal of Babies Can’t Wait is (1) to ensure the safety, development, well-being, and permanency of infants by minimizing the trauma experienced by infants due to foster care placements; (2) to help expedite permanency; (3) to provide support to parents and to their infants in foster care; and (4) to provide information on early childhood development to agency staff, parents, foster parents and community supports. In addition, she chairs “The Babies Can't Wait Advisory Committee”, a multi-agency, interdisciplinary forum which focuses on providing support, training, and resources for parents, caregivers, community members and agency staff, and infusing child welfare policy and practice with a heightened awareness of infant mental and physical health, and developmental principles. Ms. Higgins also developed and administrates a citywide group work initiative that offers parenting groups, youth empowerment groups, and staff professional development groups. She has presented on permanency for infants at conferences in many states, and has published on a diversity of subjects, to include co-authoring a best practices chapter in a graduate social work text book.

Ms. Higgins has a Bachelor of Arts in Government, a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology, a Master of Social Work, a post-graduate certificate in Social Work Administration, and is currently enrolled in a clinical post graduate program in Infant-Parent Psychotherapy and Trauma Identification and Treatment. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R).

Adoption Trainer Accreditation

is there a process by which providers of adoption courses can get accredited by a body who accredits in the area of adoption training?

Are there situations where parents need to take adoption related classes from a member of any kind of accredited body?

Does this differ from state to state?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A dilemma in need of solutions

There are many teens who cannot live safely in a family setting. They go in and out of residential placement and yet still need families even if they can never be home for more than a weekend here or there or holidays.

Recruiting families for these kids and asking them to finalize the adoption does not seem feasible because families would be unable to afford for the children to go back into residential if they "try it at home" and family members or the child him/herself is not safe. However, as adults these kids will still need a parent.

What are various states doing to address this issue? How can we recruit families who will provide permanency to kids who cannot live safely for long periods of time in a home setting?

Kary James

Kary James is a Manager of Systems Improvement Methodology Casey Family Programs in their Washington, DC Office where she serves as a Manager for the Breakthrough Series Collaborative. Prior to her work at Casey, Ms. James worked for the Philadelphia Health Care Management Corporation as Coordinator for their Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program, Parenting Program and therapist. Additionally, she worked in the Child Social Work Unit within the Albert Einstein Health Care Network Crisis Response Center and as a social worker with the Portsmouth Department of Social Services Foster Care Unit in Portsmouth, Virginia. Ms. James holds an MSW degree from the Graduate School of Social Work at Norfolk State University, with a concentration in Clinical Social Work.

Susan Badeau

Susan Badeau has been a child welfare professional for twenty-six years. Currently a policy consultant, from 2002 – 2005 Ms. Badeau served as the Deputy Director of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care. She has also worked in direct services at both the casework and supervisory levels in adoption and foster care in both public and private agencies. She has developed curricula on many topics used to prepare professional child welfare staff, adoptive and foster parents, judges, attorneys and youth. She also writes extensively on topics related to children, particularly those with special needs. A lifelong child advocate, she completed a one-year Kennedy Public Policy Fellow in the office of Senator John D (Jay) Rockefeller IV in Washington DC where she had the opportunity to work on policies that impact on the lives of children and families. Sue is also a frequent speaker at state, regional and national conferences.

Sue and her husband, Hector, are the lifetime parents of twenty-two children, two by birth and twenty adopted. They have also served as foster parents for more than 50 children in three states, and as a host family for refugee youth from Sudan, Kosovo and Guatemala. This summer, their 28th grandchild was born. They have won numerous awards for their work, including being recognized by President Clinton with an “Adoption Excellence” award for their work on behalf of adoption and children in foster care in 1997.

Read More.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Amount of Time from TPR to Placement

What are at least three steps that could be taken or changes that need to be made in order to speed up the time it takes for a child to get from the termination of their parental rights to the placement in an adoptive home?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Question for Professionals: Birth Parent Contact

We will most likely be able to adopt our foster children before the year is out. They are two and half and 7mos and have been with us for 7months. We have established a good relationship with the paternal grandparents and plan to keep them in our lives as grandparents. How much, if any, contact and / or sharing of information should we allow with the birth parents post adoption? Actually, we won’t allow any contact at all until or unless the birth parents are making better decisions, but what about sharing photos with them via the grandparents? Since it will not be set up by the court, we’re wondering what the pros and cons are of sharing this type of information. Obviously, we wouldn’t share photos that could help locate the children but what about just in general? We’ll need to set some “ground rules” with the paternal grandparents and we’re looking for help with that – any ideas? If it helps, the grandparents are very supportive of adoption for the kids and want what is best for them – they appear to be “normal”, healthy people.

Question for Professionals

What should we as parents tell our children's teachers?

Deborah Hage's Thoughts on Sibling Separation

When the siblings have a history of unresolved trauma between them it is best that they resolve that trauma in their own family without the trauma of being retraumatized by their close physical relationship to each other.

Read her article Sibling Placement and Attachment and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Splitting Siblings

Under what circumstances, if ever, should siblings be split?  

What are the consequences for the children and adoptive families with either choice?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Brenda McCreight Shares about a New Program

We all have children who do not fit in any kind of trades training and many of us despair of ever helping them get on the road ot empoyment. I have a 15 year old son with multiple diagnoses of fasd, adhd, etc, and he has recently given up on school because there is really nothing for him there. He has always wanted to be a stone mason (weird, but true) so I was looking for anyway to make that happen for him, but of course, not many places take 15 year olds and especially not those who are basically illiterate. However, I found a place! It is the Kootenay Stone Masonry Training School in Salmo BC, Canada . They provide two week courses in landscape stones, in building chimneys, in building retaining walls, and just about anything you can learn to do with stone. The cost is $1400 Canadian for each two week training and includes tuition and room and board. The instructor happens to have worked with mentally handicapped people and so has an understanding of learning differences. The owner is happy to take kids like my son as long as they are not drug or alcohol involved and can be independent for the two weeks as the owners do not provide supervision or parenting. Salmo is a very little town i(population 1000) in the mountains of BC, there is great fishing and hiking in the summer and skiiing in the winter, but not much else. The place is called the Kootenay Stone Masonry Training School and the web site is For youth and young adults who want to learn a trade but can't manage traditional educational routes, this is a great place.

Adoption Photolisting Question and One Answer

A commenter asked Bill, who works as a key player in a state photolisting, to respond to the effectiveness of photolistings.

Here is his response:

Photo listings are the primary method we have to reach potential adoptive families outside our local area. They have been the number one source of families for children placed out-of-state and we often receive numerous inquiries and studies from families within hours of the time a new listing appears.

However, the quality of the photo is the key. Good photos showing happy children attract families to read the descriptive material. A bad photo may cause families to bypass the listing entirely. We've had cases where a child with a poor photo received no response yet when a new quality photo was substituted, inquiries suddenly came in.

But while photos may attract families to read the narrative portion of the photolisting, people still need to read between the lines and ask questions as many of these children have issues that are often not included in the web listings due to confidentiality or personal privacy concerns. Nobody writing listings wants to put any information on line that could embarrass or humiliate a child with his or her peers so emotional and behavioral issues often go unaddressed except in the special needs severity. If a child has severe or moderate issues, families need to learn up front what the reasons for that listing may be. By addressing the issues through e-mail or phone discussion, families and agency workers can decide if the family is a potential match and avoid missing a good possibility because someone is scared away by a term or situation they might misunderstand without discussion. Often, children may carry a diagnosis, but have made great progress in recent months and be ready for adoption by the right parent(s).

As to who is listed, our region lists all children that do not have potential adoptive matches locally, or with families who have already submitted home studies for other youngsters and seem appropriate for new arrivals to the adoptive program. This means the listings will usually be older children, sibling groups and children with medical, emotional or behavioral problems. Most young children have many waiting possibilities locally and usually enter adoption through the foster to adopt route. As to the currency of listings, they vary greatly with some photolistings updating infrequently and others updating daily. Any interested family should start the process by finding out if children of interest are still available. That can usually be done by e-mail to the posting website contact.

The bottom line for our photolistings is that they are very effective. Hundreds of children in loving families today were originally spotted on the Internet.

A question then, for parents and professionals:

Are adoption photolistings effective? How can they be more effective? Do you agree with Bill?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Deborah Hage Response to Question about Attachment Therapies

Almost every parenting intervention advocated by therapists works minimally for some parents, some children, some of the time. The problem is when a parent believes that a suggested parenting interaction works with them and their children all of the time. Parents and therapist need a vast array of tools from which to choose. Beyond Consequences is a tool. There are more parenting tools on my website. My suggestions will also work with some parents, some children, some of the time.

Another problem occurs when parents take general parenting guidelines written by therapists to guide most parents most of the time. Therapists have found that, in general, their suggestions and guidelines work. However, each family is different and so when these general guidelines do not fit the style of the parents or the needs of the child and family then the family must become engaged with a specific therapist who can then brainstorm with the family to come up with specific parenting interactions that will work with this specific child and specific family in this specific situation.

No book or article in the world is a substitute for that therapeutic relationship. So the third problem arises when parents turn to a therapist and puts themselves in the therapist’s hands with no results to show from it. The general rule of thumb is that if a family does not make any movement towards health after three months of therapy with a particular therapist then the parents need to seek elsewhere. I am not saying the child and family need to be “healed”, as sometimes years must be allowed for that. However, there must be some discernible movement in the direction of health. The parents and family must in some way be at least slightly happier…….happy enough for them to keep on the same track with the same therapist. When there is no movement towards happiness then parents must begin searching for another therapist. Unfortunately once a family exhausts their local resources they end up going farther and farther away from home at greater and greater expense. My work in Phoenix attracts people from all over the world who have not been able to find the help they need in their own communities. The double whammy is that by the time the child and family have exhausted local resources and made the commitment to go so far for help the child and relationship pattern in the family has deteriorated even further making healing even more difficult and expensive and time consuming.

A long answer to a short question, “How do parents balance nurturing and accountability?” There are some answers on my website. There would be extensively more answers from me if I entered into a therapeutic relationship with the family as an answer must be found that works for everyone involved….the parents, the child and the other siblings.

Good luck to the family, DEB

Question for Parents and Professionals about Attachment

A question from a parent:

As a fairly new adoptive parent (and parent of several birth children), I have been reading some information about parenting children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. The "love-based approaches" seem to make sense to me, but not consequencing a kiddo for naughty, anger provoking behavior is proving a tough change for me... I feel like I am reinforcing bad behavior.

How does an adoptive parent find a balance between focusing on attachment/loving the child and holding them accountable for their actions?

Has anyone had experience with the therapists at or read their book?

Gene Tweraser Joins Professional Panel

Gene worked for 19 years as an adoption specialist for the state of Arkansas, and is still in contact with many of the families, including the now adult "children", with whom she worked. Her expertise would be in the area of family relationships, developmental issues, and most particularly now, family connections between adopted persons, birth parents and adoptive families, as well as lifebooks. These are the areas in which she has most recently done videos, workshops and articles. She reports, "I don't have a website, and I'm certainly not a nationally-known expert, but I have presented many times at NACAC and have a lot of practical experience.

Past President of Adopt America Network responds to Barriers Question

Bill, former president of the Adopt America Network responds:

1. There's not enough visibility to the problem and its implications
2. There's not enough families
3. There's not enough workers (This is really two problems: (1) Workers are overloaded (2) High turnover leads to inexperience
4. Public and private funding (especially corporate) at all levels

Adoptive Parent of 17 Answers "Barriers to Adoption" question

I just realized that you cannot edit comments, leading me to go with this approach to posting responses from people who email me privately.

Kelly, Adoptive Mom of 17, lists these top three barriers to adoption from foster care:

1. ICPC laws that drag the process out for months and months and months.
I have heard too many stories of parents or older prospective adoptive
children dropping out of the process because of lengthy delays.

2. Scary reports by professionals who give increasing numbers of labels
to children in foster care. While it is always helpful to know the
challenges that your potential child might face, it is not helpful to have
so many diagnoses and labels and that task appears impossible - unless, of
course, it is. Prospective parents need to be educated on the realities
of the diagnoses and labels - including the most effective methods for
coping with them in a family setting, appropriate therapeutic options and
lists of contact information to make it all happen.

3. An uneducated public that doesn't understand how adoption works.
Adoption is permanent. We are not the "step parents" or "foster parents."
We are the real parents who are working hard to raise our children the
best way we know how. And, no matter what their challenges, we love our
children and want them to be happy and successful in life.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Deborah Hage's Response to Barriers to Foster Care Adoption

Deborah Hage responds:

1. Lack of adequate post adoption services! Including grossly inadequate adoption subsidies, poor therapy, poor parent training, inexperienced caseworkers who don’t believe the parents when they describe bizarre behaviors.

2.Poor termination of parental rights policies implemented by judges and lawmakers and workers who invest so much time and energy in the maintenance of the child in the birth home that by the time parental rights are terminated the child is so emotionally and behaviorally disturbed “normal” parents in “normal” families can no longer manage them. Liz Randolph cites a statistic in one of her books that only 15% of the children in a particular study were ever successfully for the long term reunited with their birth parents once the child had been removed from the home. Yet it appears 90% of services are provided to reuniting the child with the mother, giving the mother services, training the mother, etc. Every day that passes before the child is permanently placed marks the passage of another part of the child’s ego dying.

3. Parents are under the misguided belief that children in foreign orphanages are healthier emotionally then those coming through the foster care system. Unfortunately, while it is not always true, it is true often enough that families buy into the belief. Parents also believe that children in foreign orphanages are more permanently separated from their birth parents. There is an underlying, media driven, fear that birth parents are always out there lurking in the bushes to get their child back and the justice system will force the child back into the arms of the birth parents.

Feedback Requested

I keep going back and forth as to how to most effectively monitor this blog.

Do you like each answer in posts or prefer it in the comment section? Comments or emails to the coordinator would be appreciated.

Barriers to Foster Care Adoption

Bill, who works for a state photolisting organization, writes:

1. Foster parents that don't want to help children into adoption, usually for selfish and frequently monetary reasons. They create artificial barriers or provide negative and sometimes false information to prospective families scaring them off.

2. Interstate issues associated with the Interstate Compact which often delay adoptions for months and sometimes even get families to withdraw due to delays.

3. States that promote adoption, but do not provide dedicated adoptive staff or adequate staff and funding to complete adoptive matches and placements in a timely manner, causing many children to linger in care and families to turn their attention elsewhere.

Sarah, a State Licensing Supervisor, Joins Us

(Due to public employment, some people are choosing not to reveal the state in which they work nor their last name).

Sarah has a Master's degree in Social Work with over 30 years experience in the child welfare field. She is currently employed as a Supervisor in a state department of child and family services, overseeing the licensing and monitoring of adoption and foster care child placing agencies. She is also the adoptive parent of a 20 year old daughter.

Faye Hall Joins Think Tank

Faith works with Jeff Merkert. Their company is Connection Resources, LLC. They use their manual to train parents and professionals in the impact of early trauma on a child's development, resulting behaviors, and healing interventions. She is also an adoptive mom and she and Jeff are both family based therapists. Additionally, she see clients in an outpatient office and facilitates support groups.

Sarah Gerstenzang joins the Think Tank

Sarah Gerstenzang works for the Adoption Exchange Association as an Assistant Director of our largest project. Previously, she was a Senior Policy Analyst at Children’s Rights. But maybe most importantly, she and her husband were foster parents in New York City and the youngest of their three children was adopted through the foster care system. She has a book coming out this winter with Vanderbilt University Press entitled, Another Mother: Co-Parenting with the Foster Care System

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What are the three biggest barriers to increasing the number of adoptions of children in the foster care system?

Parents? Professionals?

What are your thoughts.

Question from a Parent to Parents

Do you do daily behavior charts for the kids? If you do would you be willing to share what kind of stuff you put on them? I am looking to set up some kind of chart system for my little ones.

Adoption Exchange Association Executive Director Comes on Board

Barbara Holtan, the Executive Director of the AEA, has agreed to serve on our panels. She states, “I consider my most important credential to be the fact that my husband and I are adoptive parents - 5 kids, 3 by adoption (2 came to us as older kids ages 7 and 8) and 2 by birth. They are all grown now and out on their own.”

Welcome, Barbara!

Author and Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Joins Us

Adam Pertman is the Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national nonprofit that is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. Pertman is also the author of the groundbreaking Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming America, which has been reviewed as “the most important book ever written on the subject.” In addition, he is the author of many chapters and articles on adoption- and family-related issues in books, scholarly journals and mass-market publications.

Pertman was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his writing about adoption in The Boston Globe. His other honors include the 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Adoption Council, the Angel in Adoption award from the U.S. Congress’ adoption caucus; the Special Friend of Children Award from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; the Dave Thomas Center for Adoption Law’s first award for “the nation’s greatest contributor to public understanding about adoption and permanency placement issues;” the Friend of Children Award from the ODS Adoption Community of New England; the Century Foundation’s prestigious Leonard Silk Journalism Award; the President’s Award from the African American Cultural Council of Virginia; the Year 2000 Journalism Award from Holt International Children’s Services; and the American Adoption Congress’ first award for the journalist who most informed the nation on adoption issues and “for his eloquent witnessing of contemporary adoption.”

Pertman’s commentaries on families and children have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, Miami Herald and on National Public Radio, among others. Articles about him and his book have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide, including People. He has been a guest on many radio and television programs, including “Oprah,” the “Today” show and “Nightline.” As a leading expert on adoption and family issues, Pertman is widely quoted in electronic and print media outlets. He has delivered scores of keynote speeches and other presentations in this country and internationally for organizations including the Child Welfare League of America, the American Adoption Congress, the National Academy of Sciences, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, and the National Association of Child Advocates.

Before embarking on his current career, Pertman, 53, was a senior journalist with The Boston Globe for more than two decades. His jobs included foreign editor, Washington news editor, West Coast bureau chief, diplomatic correspondent, national political correspondent, family and children’s issues reporter, and restaurant reviewer. His assignments included the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Philippine revolution, the Gulf War, the Middle East peace process, the O.J. Simpson trials, and several presidential elections. Pertman is a member of the Council on Contemporary Families, the editorial advisory board of Adoptive Families magazine, and the National Adoption Advisory Committee of the Child Welfare League of America. The Adoption Institute’s award-winning website is, and the site for his book is He and his wife, Judy Baumwoll, live in Massachusetts with their two children (both adopted): Zachary, 12, and Emilia, 9.

Deborah Hage Agrees to Join the Adoption Think Tank

I heard Deborah Hage speak for the first times several years ago and it was a turning point for me as an adoptive parent. I came home that year and immediately read every word of her website and purchased her books. Her approach to attachment has made a big difference in our lives.

She has agreed to join the Adoption Think Tank and to respond when she can. She is a lecturer, humanitarian, and author. Her website has answers to many questions that folks ask her about raising adopted children as well as family Christmas letters from 1985 to the present. In the past I have read through them all, and found her long range history and perspective to be very helpful.

You can purchase her books here and a couple are listed with Amazon.

Welcome, Deborah!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another Question from a Parent

Lori writes:

My question is about my 4 yod with FASD. How can I get her to stay asleep at night and not cause mischief at 3 a.m? I tried a door alarm - but she slams the door so hard that it falls down. I bought a laser beam alarm, but haven't been able to install it because our old farm house doesn't have many electrical outlets. I really need her to stay in her bed because she is currently sharing a room with her little brother and he isn't fully able to defend himself yet.... and she really needs the sleep too (o.k. its me- I, I need the sleep). Anybody have any suggestions?

While we are at it - does anyone know how to keep a kid buckled in a car seat? (My mother was killed in a car crash and I am a fanatic about staying buckled)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Helpful Websites

Gina, an adoption worker in TX writes:

Websites for medications and diagnosis. I also belong to a group for people with ADHD, and some of the people have multiple diagnosis like the kids. The people talk about what medications work and don't work for them and why. I found out about another medication that is being used on bipolar people that I haven't seen used on any of my kids, and I also had my concerns about Wellbutrin confirmed.

Since my ADD has gotten worse in my 40s, I will read articles, but not books. I bank off of years of experience, but I also ask a lot of questions and take the time to listen to my kids, foster parents, and therapists. I will say that from the group I belong to that there are books out on ADD that are suppose to be good. One that is getting good reviews from the group is: