Every Child
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Bethany Christian Services

“Bethany Christian Services is a recognized global leader as a nonprofit adoption and child welfare agency working with hurting families and finding children the sustainable support and essential love they need.”

Posted 12/4/15 at 1:17 PM | Bethany Christian Services

Podcast: Jennifer Winkelmann - Lessons in Gratitude

Although adoptive families complete many hours of required education and training, Jennifer Winkelmann has noticed a trend among those adopting a child who has experienced trauma.

“So many families I work with don’t feel equipped to parent the child in their care,” she said.

Winkelmann, a family therapist who specializes in adoption and foster care, has a theory. Although adoption training provides a lot of the information parents need about potential attachment challenges, it’s difficult for parents to fully grasp until they find themselves in a difficult place—they may feel tired, discouraged, frustrated, or even frightened before they realize they need help.

But families don’t need to face attachment challenges alone.

The key, from Winkelmann’s perspective, may be rethinking the variety of factors at play. In cases of both international and domestic adoption, Winkelmann has seen many children who process sensory information differently or are simply not able to receive certain sensory input. Too much eye contact can feel overwhelming, for example. A hug can feel painful. Children who have experienced trauma—including a difficult pregnancy or a difficult birth—may be missing the very building blocks they need to engage in activities that lead to attachment. FULL POST

Posted 12/1/15 at 4:09 PM | Bethany Christian Services

10 Ways To Simplify Your Foster Family Christmas

The following originally appeared in Lifelines, Bethany Christian Services' quarterly magazine.

Parenting foster children through the holidays may bring additional challenges for your family. For example, the structure the children need and thrive in, is not as consistent this time of year. Interrupted routines and overfull schedules affect parents, too. Extra family visits, the school break, and additional expenses are only some of the additional strains of the holiday season.

And like Brian, many foster children feel conflicted during the holidays. Keep in mind, the holidays can be difficult and stressful for children in foster care—some have been in a different home every Christmas, many are emotionally broken, and most are going to miss their birthfamilies. Some may be able to express their feelings; many will not.

How can foster parents plan ahead to make the holiday season go more smoothly?

Take care of yourself

More than any other time of the year, self-care is imperative to making it through the holiday season. Grab a spontaneous lunch with friends, go to the spa, or have someone watch your children so you can go Christmas shopping alone. Also make an effort to get a good night’s sleep. Keep a notebook by your bed to help you get your growing “to-do” list out of your head. FULL POST

Posted 11/30/15 at 10:10 AM | Bethany Christian Services

The Shadow in our Midst

In 2010, Jeralyn; her husband, Jim; and their three children welcomed into their family a sibling group of four young sisters from Ethiopia. Just like that, they became a family of nine. Jeralyn shared more about their adoption story in the summer 2014 issue of LifeLines. In her guest post today, she writes about the complexity of emotions that linger—both for children who have experienced profound loss, and for adoptive parents who long to comfort them in their grief.

When we brought the four sisters home from Ethiopia, it became apparent that a shadow had accompanied the girls and was dwelling among us. There was no explanation for this visitor, the shadow that loomed and seemed to grow daily in our midst.

Unsettling, yes.
Scary, kind of.
Unexpected, absolutely.

Her name is Eyaya.

Her tenderness was evidenced in the tearstains left on my shoulder, in the whispering anguish for arms not mine. The darker hues cast by her shadow echoed the pain of her leaving this life too soon. She left her precious fingerprints on four tiny hearts. FULL POST

Posted 11/24/15 at 4:04 PM | Bethany Christian Services

Life After Adoption: Lessons in Gratitude

The following was written by Jennifer Winkelmann, Founder and Clinical Director of Inward Bound, LLC, and originally appeared in Lifelines, Bethany Christian Services' quarterly magazine.

Children adopted at older ages frequently have more difficulty with building and maintaining relationships, even with people who should feel “safe” to them, like their adoptive parents. For parents who have adopted older children,* many would agree that there can be unique and unexpected challenges. During consultation with such families, I have often heard parents say:

“This isn’t what we signed up for, so what are we going to do? We can’t live like this!”

“After everything we went through to make this adoption happen, how can it turn out like this? Our family is falling apart!”

“Our child came from abuse/poverty/neglect…. Our home is a better and safer place for her to grow up. Why can’t she just appreciate it?”

“I have given so much love to our son. Things are better for him now: He has a new room and clothing, food to eat, a good school. How could he not be grateful?” FULL POST

Posted 11/23/15 at 9:35 AM | Bethany Christian Services

5 Steps Toward Embracing Your Multicultural Family

The following was written by Sarah Horton Bobo, Director of Post-Adoption Support and Education for Bethany Christian Services, and originally appeared in Lifelines, the organization's quarterly magazine.

Parents adopting transracially or transculturally once commonly believed it was better not to address racial or cultural differences within their families. We now know that including the topics of race, ethnicity, and culture in family discussions creates an atmosphere of honesty and acceptance that empowers children. We also recognize that when a child, of a different racial background from his family, is adopted, the whole adoptive family becomes multicultural, adding a new dimension to family life. Consider the following suggestions and resources to prepare for a smooth transition.

1. Diversify Your Home

Have items in your home that represent your family’s diversity, such as:

  • music
  • movies
  • children’s books
  • toys, dolls, games
  • artwork
  • clothing

There are many different ways to find items that would be most suited to your family, including sites like Pinterest, which has a wide-range of pages focused on multicultural families and transracial adoption. FULL POST

Posted 11/19/15 at 11:23 AM | Bethany Christian Services

Leap of Faith: When are you too old to adopt

The following was written by Paul Osburn, adoptive dad, and originally appeared in Lifelines, Bethany Christian Services' quarterly magazine.

Throughout my life, I thought that someday I’d adopt, but I resisted the idea because, in our culture, you raise your family, you work hard, and then you retire. Our three sons were grown, and my wife, Barb, and I were right on track for following the American Dream. Barb and I had raised our family, and I thought: Now we’re done!

I hid my thoughts about adopting from my wife, but she was vocal about her desire to adopt. I knew that if I said anything out loud, then Barb would make it happen, so I stayed on the fence for a long time. However, through prayer, the Lord made it clear to me that I was to discuss adoption with Barb. I was about 50 years old when we had our first serious talk about adoption.

When I finally told Barb that I thought we should adopt, her face lit up! As it turned out, she had already been exploring it. She said that she could contact some people to find out more, and I thought: Go ahead, make your calls, and when the agency finds out how old we are, they’ll kick us out of the office! Why would they want old people adopting kids? Privately, I figured: Surely our interest would be blocked by something, and then I wouldn’t have to do it! FULL POST

Posted 11/13/15 at 5:17 PM | Bethany Christian Services

Podast: Deborah Gray, Attaching with Love, Hugs, and Play

In Bethany’s pre-adoption training, parents hear a lot about attachment—what it is and why it’s important for you and your child. It takes time and consistency to build an open, trusting relationship, especially with children who have experienced profound loss and trauma.

Deborah Gray, founder of Nurturing Attachments, is a clinical social worker specializing in the areas of attachment, grief, and trauma. She encourages parents to keep trying to establish a connection, even when children don’t immediately respond to you the way you hope they will.

A variety of factors may contribute to a child’s reluctance to attach to adoptive parents. From experience, they may have found that attachments aren’t permanent. If they’ve been hurt in the past, they may not want to try again. If they are grieving previous attachments (biological parents or other caregivers), they simply may not be ready to attach to someone new.

“It’s not their fault,” Gray said, “but it is their history.”

Kris Faasse, Bethany’s senior vice president of clinical services, spoke with Gray about how adoptive parents can walk with their children through the grieving process and, in doing so, lay a foundation for secure attachment. Listen here. FULL POST

Posted 11/11/15 at 2:29 PM | Bethany Christian Services

God Worked it Out

Steve, David and Stacy (from left to right)

The following blog was written by Stacy, an adoptive mother, in celebration of National Adoption Month.

It all happened so fast.

For 22 years, it was just the two of us. Then, in a matter of 48 hours, my husband, Steve, and I were parenting David, a 6-year-old boy we had met only twice. But we knew with all certainty God had chosen him to be our son.

We had just started all of the paperwork to adopt an older child when the call came from our pastor. He had been contacted by a family at our church whose hearts were moved to find parents for David. His grandmother had been caring for him since he was 2 years old. She was tired, overwhelmed, and could no longer meet his needs. Asked if he could think of a couple who might want to adopt an older boy, amazingly—without even knowing we were heading in that direction— our pastor thought of us. God was working it out.

We’ll never forget the day we met David. We were expecting to look at photos of children and read their stories, but instead we stepped out of our car and into the life of a beautiful, playful boy—a boy who wanted more than anything to be loved by a mom and dad. After our first meeting, we engaged our Bethany adoption specialists to let them know what was transpiring by God’s grace. They urged us to meet with his grandmother to truly understand if this was what she wanted. FULL POST

Posted 11/9/15 at 9:25 AM | Bethany Christian Services

Why Adopted Children Need to Know Their Stories

The following was written by Angie Johnston, adult adoptee and mother, and originally appeared in Lifelines, Bethany Christian Services' quarterly magazine.

Good information about how and when to talk with your children about their adoptions is available, and I highly encourage you to read it. But before you do that, let’s grapple with the issue of why talking with them is important.

The purpose of open, age-appropriate dialogue about adoption is to connect our children with their existence so they can freely become themselves. To become secretive, afraid, or even passive about adoption dishonors a child’s very being and creates more doubts about the significance of his or her existence.

All children need to know they matter. They need experiential knowledge that their existence on this earth is real and that it is good. From that internal sense and knowledge, a child can form the virtue of self-acceptance and develop the all-important ability to give and receive love. For our adopted children, that internal sense about their existence is harder to find. What does all that mean? Let’s break it down. FULL POST

Posted 11/5/15 at 11:54 AM | Bethany Christian Services

Podcast: Debra Fileta, True Love Dates

Debra Fileta is convinced that a developed sense of identity is key to forming healthy dating and marriage relationships. “If you don’t know who you are,” she said, “you won’t know the kind of person who will fit into your life and story.”

Fileta is a licensed professional counselor who has walked with couples through strained marriages that were headed for divorce. Through her practice, she found a common thread—many people enter into this union unprepared, and the marriage relationship seems to magnify each partner’s unresolved identity issues.

She wrote True Love Dates to help people address identity issues so they can maintain strong, healthy relationships throughout their lives.

Although her target audience was singles in their 20s and 30s, she has found the principles to be helpful for people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who have experienced marriage and divorce. She also recommends the book to parents of young teens.

“Parents will read about dating concepts and principles, but they’ll find it useful for helping their children understand their identity before they’re even to an age of dating,” she said, “particularly how a child’s family of origin and adoptive family influence identity. Parents who understand these issues can help their sons and daughters prepare for a lifelong, covenant marriage.” FULL POST

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