We have been matched with and are currently visiting once a week a 2 1/2 year old. Our agency only requires 4 visits prior to placement (gasp) but we've opted to do a graduated visitation plan starting with one visit per week for several weeks, then two visits per week for another several weeks (including "day visits"), then overnights, and finally (hopefully) a transition in the new year.
Our little one was raised from birth by the foster parent and I already anticipate that this is going to be tough (on everyone). I've read the highly acclaimed Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft and am incorporating techniques I've learned there. However, I'd love to hear advice from those who have been through a similar situation.
Thanks, in advance, for your candid advice or thoughts.
I don't really have any advice. Our little one was 23 months when she moved in. We had done respite 5 times for 2-4 nights each time, so we had a relationship already.
That said, this has been the hardest thing I have ever done. She has been with us for 4 months and I still feel like I am the baby-sitter.
This is what I HAVE learned.
1. Post adoption depression does exist and is a real thing. If you feel any signs of depression, get help! I thought I could kick the blues on my own. (And I thought since I did not get it with my first 2 adoptions, I would not this time.) After several weeks on meds with a couple adjustments, I finally feel like me again!
2. Expect things to get worse before they get better. Expect the limits to be tested. I thought everything was going great. Then we hit the 2 month mark and we had major issues... Just when things seem to improve, something sets us back.
3. Don't be alarmed if you don't feel like mom right away. From others I have talked to that adopted toddlers, it is completely normal for it to take 6 months before you actually feel like the mom and not the sitter.
Hope that helps. If you need to talk, send me a PM!
Hey there,
We picked our son up at age three and one thing we weren't prepared for is that he wouldn't start attaching to us until after we left the orphanage. We at first planned to stay right at the orphanage for two weeks to slowly transition him, but the longer we stayed the more distressed he got, until finely he stopped speaking altogether. We decided to take him to the beach for a few days, and with a few hours he was talking, laughing and interacting. I think he couldn't make sense of why we were at the orphanage, not sure when/if he was leaving, scared we would stay, scared we would go. Once we "ripped the band-aid off" so to speak, he could begin adjusting.
Once home we had a honeymoon of about 4-6 months and then we had lots of behaviour issues to sort through. Anyways, I know your situation is different, but just wanted to let you know he may find it hard if he is tron between loyalty to foster parents and knowing he is leaving.
And I loved Toddler Adoption (-: But also really liked "Born in our Hearts" and "Becoming a Family" for attachment books...the website attach China is also great - most of the kids home from there are 14 months plus, so lots of good attachment activities etc for a toddler.
Good luck!
Thanks so much everyone--this is really enlightening. Given what you've all said, do you think we would be wiser to transition sooner rather than later? The agency is leaving it up to us (so long as we meet their minimum of 4 visits (2 for a few hours, 1 day visit and 1 weekend). I'm starting to wonder if prolonging the inevitable will do him more harm than good???
Is it possible for your weekend visitation to roll right into your placement -- in other words the child would not need to leave your house once they arrive for the visit for the weekend?
Thinking back to when I was in a group home (age 7) and transitioning to my adoptive family -- my first overnight was when I moved in with them. I had day time visits prior to that. I probably would have thrown a fit if they had returned me to the group home after an overnight. And I know it would have caused some major trust issues (always questioning if they would return me again).
Really great suggestion, Samantha! Thanks! Given we're doing four times the required visits--and given we're driving 2 hours away for such visits-- I'm sure they'd let us go ahead and move him in instead of doing an interim weekend visit. Again, great suggestion and something to discuss with the caseworker to get our ducks in a row ASAP.
I have been following this thread with interest. I'm not sure hnow much help my 2 cents is :) but as a foster parent I have ddealt with many different ideas on transition. One experience is when a child is placed with me and there is no transition as they (usually) have been removed from an unsafe home and placed in my home. It IS amazing how resilient kids are, how quickly they adjust. However, there are no longitudenal (I know that is spelled wrong!) studies showing what, if any, ill effects there are on the child (just talking about foster care here!) coming into a home in that manner. I had a 4 month old placed with me who had a really hard time in the beginning, I believe. So many others thought that she "was only a baby" and wouldn't know any difference :eyebrows: She had inconsolable crying jags where there was nothing I could do but sit with her or hold her until she cried herself to exhaustion. This went on for a few months and then she was "fine". What was really heartwretching was when, almost 2.5 years later, we began transitioning her back to her bio family. At first it was fun for her, like a little vacation, 'cause (of course) they just doted on her for the shorter visits, not a lot of discipline, structure, etc., like a vacation for her :) as the visits got longer (and this was over a period of months), overnights, then weekends, then, at the end she was with them 6 days a week and back home with us just one day. It got so hard! She would cling to me and turn her head away from bio mom when she would come to pick her up and just cry! :( Baby Girl was so confused since we were her family, the only family she had known for over 2 years. These other people (her bio family) were some fun people that she visited with for a couple of hours, a couple of times a week. At 2.5 y.o. I think she was at a terrible age: young enough to not be able to have it explained to her what was going on but old enough to realize this was a big change.
Sooo, from all of that experience, my advice would probably be along the lines of the PP "tearing the bandaid off". A short transition and just get the little one in their new, permanent home to start their life.
Just my experiences and my opinion :) Good luck and I hope it all works out!
JJ - I see you addressing the number of visits, but not what you're doing in those visits. Remember that for a toddler adoption, one of your main focus points during a visit should be learning what the child needs from you, and learning how to provide it.
That means learning his favorite foods and how to prepare them, learning his routines and how to do them, learning the names of all the things he emotionally needs to be comfortable (blanket, stuffed animal, etc), etc.
Routines and knowing what to expect are very important for a child this age. If his foster mom makes Kraft mac and cheese, you can't use the generic and expect the same response. If foster mom uses bubble bath with a particular scent, you can't change the scent and expect the bath to calm him the same way. If she starts brushing his teeth on the right and then moves to the left, you need to know that. And so on.
It may have been Toddler Adoption, or it may have been somewhere else, but I've read a very good plan for transitioning a toddler in a few visits. The first visit is just a visit - you watch and learn. The second time the foster mom "needs" to do something important near the end of the child's routine for something - and she asks you to step in. She stays nearby, maybe even in the room, while you finish the child's routine. The third time she just barely begins the routine, and asks you to take over, and she leaves. The fourth time you do everything, while she's completely gone.
Those times can be close together, or far apart. That part is often dictated by how far you have to travel for visits. In fact, sometimes more than one step can be accomplished in one visit - if you learn breakfast and the lunch routine is the same, you could do the end of lunch. If you watch naptime and the nighttime routine is the same, you can finish the night routine. Etc.
If the child reacts badly to one step, you call a halt immediately, back up to the step before, and then add in some baby steps between that comfortable step and the one the child had trouble with.
Once you've done all those steps with each of the child's major routines (bed, bath, food, transition, etc), the child visits your home for a few hours to play and do at least one routine (eating is usually the easiest). Then a bit later the child returns and spends the night. After the overnight the child returns to the foster family for one short visit, and then moves to your home permanently. (The reason for visiting the foster home one more time after the first overnight is so that he does not associate sleeping overnight with a permanent move. If you skip this step you can easily wind up with a child who freaks if you try to have him sleep anywhere but at home, and who freaks if anyone but you puts him to bed. So that would mean no evening activites leaving him with a babysitter, no family visits to relatives homes, etc. The visit back to the foster home can be as short as a handful of hours, but it is important.)
Then, if at all possible, the foster family waits a couple weeks, then comes to your home for a visit. They stay positive and upbeat, bring no presents, spend no time alone with him, but can play with him and the family, and hug him and kiss him and wish him well.
I hope this helps!
Thanks so much, everyone. All of your posts are so helpful. Dianne, I really appreciated the detail you went into and, you're right, I do really need to learn and participate in all of these things. Thanks so much for that insight. I'm still feeling the foster parent out. She seems very experienced (13 years fostering) and willing to help us transition but, at the same time, I have noted some behaivor that was counterproductive (like physically showing us how jealous the little boy gets and how he says, "No, that's MY mommy" when she hugs her older daughter. I realize she thought it was funny but...sigh...I hope that was a one-time thing as I know she'll need to help him perhaps more than we can to feel comfortable going with us. Anyway, one thing that's clear is that we have a lot to do, learn and prepare for!
I also think, which hasnt been mentioned, that ALOT Of the transition happens IN the foster home while you are not present. I would provide foster mom a photo book of your family that she can read to him, and talk with him about the move - going over it daily if at all possible. I would also provide a video that shows your house, pets, his bedroom etc that can be shown to him daily.
foster mom, if you can get her onside, will be your greatest resource and the biggest influence as to whether or not the transition goes well. It is HARD on the kiddo, no doubt, but having that positive relationship is really, really important.
I hated that book.
We are working on "transitioning" a 4yo to relatives out of state. We call them once a week, we view pictures every day, we started out calling them by their names, now they are Mommy Name and Daddy Name and eventually they will be Your Mommy and Daddy. He also sees a baby foster sibling going to visits with her bio parents, so he has some concept that she has other parents, not just us. He is understanding that about himself which is important because he's been with us for 2 years.
Our foster son loves to carry photos of his new room, his new swingset and his new dogs. He shows them to everyone. But all that is work *I* am doing, they are clear across the country. But given the circumstances, it's the best we can do. And I believe he's going to be okay more quickly that not having any photos, phone calls, etc.
As a foster/adopt parent, none of our kids have transitioned into our home. If you can transition, it's best for the child and I am envious! It's so much more than any of my kids have ever gotten.
Good luck!!
Thanks everyone! Yes, we've already made a pretty elaborate album with pictures of us (me, husband, daughter), rooms of our house, our cars, our dog...we even built a bear with our voices on it...and are working on a DVD.
Unfortunately, my friend talked me out of taking it because she said it was over the top and would scare the foster mom into adopting the child herself....(?) which I know is not unheard of but I don't think is applicable in my case. I don't know why I let her give me cold feet--I'll definitely bring it next time.
Thanks, everyone for your input. This is extremely helpful to me and I appreciate your time and experience very much.
Reality is that IF foster mom CAN adopt - she should. She is his primary attachment and this separation is going to cause huge life long trauma in this little boy's life. He is losing his MOM - that enormous. That's just the reality of older child adoption.
Saying that, you providing a book or dvd or not is NEVER going to make any difference to her decision to adopt or not. :) and if she is NOT going to adopt him, it will HELP him with the transition. I would also hope that she would make the same for him, so that he will know how much he was loved these first two years of his life, and that people who love him just dont disappear or give him away.
Thanks so much Jen for your candidness. I totally agree with everything you said and will stop shying away from moving things along. His foster mom has had a year since he was cleared for adoption to consider adopting herself (NJ moves very slow) so I think I need to stop over-thinking and, as many of you have suggested, start really focusing on providing for this little boy's needs.
Having raised a foster baby from birth and then never seeing or hearing of him again after reunification (NJ used to prohibit foster parent/bio contact and despite my attempt to break the rules the mother didn't opt to keep in touch) I understand at least a little bit how painful it is to lose someone cold turkey. I hope with all of these techniques, including continued contact with his foster mom, this little boy won't suffer as badly as he would if he was removed suddenly.
We're fortunate in that we have the flexibility/time/resources/geographical closeness to foster home to facilitate an ideal transition so I just hope we do so in a way that is best for him. Like you said, the ultimate best would be for him to stay with the mother who raised him...but since that's not an option, I hope we do the best we can to help him with this forthcoming loss and nurture a new bond.
Jennifer :) 10 years ago I was in your shoes. My sons were home 10 years in September, and had been with their foster mom for 3 years.
On our first night with our 4 year old son, I held him in my arms as he sobbed and sobbed for his mommy. Promising to be good, promising to do anything if I would just bring him back to his mommy (foster). He also announced when overhearing me explain that we were in the process of adopting him that HIS mommy would NEVER have given him away and I was STEALING him!
His foster mom is a wonderful woman, and a good friend today. She had prepared them both wonderfully ... but it was still so so hard on them. I tried to CONVINCE her to adopt them before they were transitioned to us, but she had her reasons for not adopting, and they were important to her. One of our greatest resources AFTER adoption was being able to have her support. She was only a phone call away when our 3 year old was convinced she wanted him back. We could call, she could reassure him she loved him and wanted him to be happy with his mommy and daddy. She was amazing --- but the trauma to our kids is deep. Its better to simply realize that than pretend tehy are as happy about this adoption business as we are :) EVEN if its the BEST thing in the world for them in the long run..
Today, my kids are happy, attached and well adjusted amazing young men - but that damage can never completely be erased. It has formed who they are and their perspective of the world.
A social worker told me once to expect "transition" to last as long as they were away from your home. So for a 3 year old 3 years, etc. And you know, that was pretty on target. And it gave me hope during some of those hard days of transition when the honeymoon wore off and the grief and stress kicked in.
I did find Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft to be helpful...but mostly after Ds came home. The chapter on grief was good to review. Came back to add that I don't know that all the info is what I would do now, after having done it before. But the grief info was good.
We did do a graduated transition with our first adopted child, who was 26 months old at the time. Later I found out that he felt abandoned after our visits when we left him at his foster home. :( (At age 3.5 he and I were talking and he started sobbing and telling me how sad he was that we'd left...upon further discussion I found out he was talking about the transition time. He remembered the transition visits; he has memories from when he was 2 years old!! :eek:) If I had it to do over again we would probably visit in the foster home and go with the foster family to the park or something, but I'm not sure we'd do an overnight and then take him back. Live and learn. We were TRYING to be careful and thoughtful of the child. Sigh.
One thing that has helped is to have a blanket or something that has the foster home's smell on it. This has actually been beneficial. It was difficult to not wash the blanket for awhile. I asked the foster moms what detergent and softener they used so that we could approximate the same smells and textures on the kids' clothes, at least for a time.
We've adopted 4 children, all toddlers at the time of transition. One was long, some have been in 24 hours. The only one that I can say for sure was a traumatic memory to the kids was the one we took the longest to do. :( The others (from 24 hours to about 3 days) were relatively fine. It is a trauma, and it will be difficult, but with some attention to rocking, cuddling, baby-wearing (even at their toddler age!) and even going back to a bottle or sippy and rocking while they drink, you can get through to the other side where the child is happily attached to you as mom. (And I second whole-heartedly the advice that YOU be the one to comfort and meet all his needs so that he comes to know you as 'Mom'.)