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Adoption Techniques for Treating Adoptive Parent Issues
Adoptive Parent  continuing education social worker CEUs

Section 32
Appendix: Client Reproducible Worksheets

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| Adoption
Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

Technique for Social Work CEUs, Psychology CEUs, Psychologist CEUs,
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Track 1 Motives for Adoption
Technique: Feelings About Adoption
The "Feelings About Adoption" Technique is designed to help parents identify some of their reasons for wanting to adopt.  First, during a minimum of two weeks, take an index card with you every day.  Note any feelings about adoption that come up during your day.  Note the time and circumstances under which these feelings occur.

Second, you can keep a journal and refer to these cards during your journal writing.  Are there any patterns?  Are there moments of fear, doubt, joy, excitement, or sadness?  What triggers these emotions?  Spend fifteen minutes or more writing about this exercise in your journal.  As you catalog these feelings, note any patterns that emerge.  Does having contact with particular people or being in certain situations trigger fears about adoption?  Why?  Are there other people or situations that make you feel confident about adopting?

Track 4 Surviving the Wait
#1 Technique: Eight Things to Tell Your Family
The "Eight Things to Tell Your Family" Technique is designed to help you deal with negative reactions from family and friends.  Eight things to keep in mind include first, to be sure of what you want before you tell your family and be ready to explain why you have made this decision.  Second, you might bring up some of your own concerns about adoption, how you addressed those concerns, and your conclusionsThird, acknowledge the risks involved in adopting an older child and what you plan to do in case of severe emotional or behavioral problems.  Fourth, if your child has known disabilities, explain the problem and your child’s limitations openly and honestly.  Fifth, answer any questions they have if they present those questions in a calm, rational way.  Sixth, explain how you think the adoption will affect your other kids, and what you’re doing to prepare and protect them.  Seventh, remind them that this is your decision, that you made it carefully, and that you would appreciate their supportEighth and last, offer to give your parents names and numbers of other grandparents or extended families for support or to sign them up for a grandparents group if your agency offers one.

#2 Technique: Farewell
How do parents cope with the loss of a referral?  I suggest the Farewell Technique, which is having a kind of "funeral" ritual to say good-bye to the child.  You might do a ritual in which you shred all the referral paperwork and say goodbye to your child.  It can be important to say goodbye to a child after he or she had occupied your heart for months.

Track 5 Techniques for Breaking the News
#1 Technique: The Chair Dialogue
First, let’s discuss the "Chair Dialogue" Technique.  Place two chairs facing one another.  Label one for the person from whom you anticipate a negative or skeptical response and one for yourself.  Sit in the other person’s chair and tell the chair labeled with your name why you don’t think adoption is a good idea.  Then sit in your chair and imagine responding to that person. 

Try to listen to the objections that are raised.  Do they remind you of any criticism that you have received in the past?  Imagine how you will respond.  Try to respond non-defensively.  Continue this dialogue for several rounds.  If you want, you can ask a friend to sit in the chair and play the other part.

This exercise can be helpful because even though you are only imagining the other person’s presence, sometimes doing so can help you to understand and feel what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes.  If, for example, the other person is angry or critical, you might be surprised to realize that some of his or her anger might stem from a fear of losing you or having to share you.  Would knowing this help you to respond to that person differently?

As you continue the exercise, write down which negative response you anticipate and from whom.  Now begin to develop a strategy for dealing with each response.  Your strategy may be something as simple as stating clearly what kind of response you would like and what types of responses would not be helpful, or it may involve writing a letter to the person.  You may want to talk to a counselor or trusted person before you talk to the friend or family member from whom you anticipate a difficult response.  You may want to record your responses to this exercise in a journal.

#2 Technique: Write a Letter
Second, let’s discuss the "Write a Letter" Technique.  Draft a letter to someone whom you feel you would have difficulty telling.  You may choose to send the person the letter or you may not.  In the letter, tell him or her of your plans to adopt and what, if anything, you would like from him or her.  Writing a letter, like writing in your journal, can give you the opportunity to express your feelings.  Writing a letter, which you may decide not to send, can help you clarify your thinking and prepare to discuss your plans about adoption.  Even in cases that are not so fraught with difficulty, writing a letter can be helpful because it gives you a chance to state things clearly.

#3 Technique: Reflection
Third, in addition to the "Chair Dialogue" Technique and the "Write a Letter" Technique, let’s discuss the Reflection Technique.  Think of an important decision you had to make in the past.  Who among your friends and family did you tell about it?  What made you choose to confide in that particular person?  What was his or her reaction?  Again, you may want to record your thoughts in a journal.

#4 Technique: Rating
Fourth, let’s discuss the Rating Technique.  Make a list of the important people in your life and rate, from most to least, the amount of support you feel you can expect from them.  Take some time to write in a journal and describe a hoped-for or ideal response from a family member or friend to your sharing the news about adoption.  You may end up being surprised by their responses.

Track 6 Preparing Siblings
Technique: Role-play
One way to prepare a child for a new sibling is to role-play possible scenarios.  I have found this to be especially helpful with children under the age of seven.  You might pretend to be the new sibling and create a disturbance.  You might say something like, "I don’t like you and you’re not my brother and if you tell Mom I said this I’m going to beat you up tonight when she’s asleep!"  How does your child handle it?  Then you can demonstrate to your child how to confront his or her new sibling, or when to tell you about his or her behavior.

Track 7 Preparing the New Child
Technique: Photo Album
The ‘photo album’ technique entails sending a photo album or book to your child before placement.  Your child can use these photos to familiarize him- or herself with the new family and the new home.  Photos can also help assure your child that his or her family are the right people when you come to pick him or her up.  You can check with your agency about what to put in the album, but generally, it might contain photos of all your family members engaged in everyday activities.  You might include pictures of the house, yard, pets, and rooms of the house, especially the child’s room.

Track 9 Seeing as the Child Sees
I have found that these three techniques can help parents imagine what it would be like if suddenly they were moved to a new home with little or no preparation.

#1 Technique: Dealing with Adoption Issues
The "dealing with adoption issues" technique involves taking a sheet of paper and making two columns.  On one side write down some core issues that an adopted child might deal with, such as grief, loss, rejection, guilt, shame, issues of identity, intimacy or control.  On the other side, record your thoughts on each issue.  Which of these core issues would you feel comfortable dealing with?  Which might give you difficultyWhy do you feel these particular problems would be more difficult to deal with?  Do any of these issues tap into your own unresolved feelings?  What can you do about this?  You might also gather information through books or adoptive parent groups that discuss some of the needs of adopted children.  Also, you can talk to other adoptive parents about how they deal with these difficulties.

#2 Technique: Imagining Gains and Losses
Imagine that you are a child and a stranger knocks on your door and takes you to a new home.  The home you were living in before may have had many problems, but it was the only home you’d ever known, and it was yours.  The stranger introduces you to your new family.  They greet you warmly and try to make you feel at home.  But the sounds, smells, and feel of things are very different.  The new people caring for you seem nice, but strange and unfamiliar.  Their voices sound strange to you.  They may even speak a different language.  Imagine how it would feel to sleep in an unfamiliar bed.  To eat strange food.  Imagine what it would feel like if suddenly all your old friends were gone.

Write down the losses a child might experience in being placed in a new home.  Try to see it from the child’s point of view.  Now take another sheet of paper and list all the ways you could help a child deal with these losses.  What are the positive things you could offer to a child?

#3 Technique: Family Story Book
Family story books can be wonderful ways to record how your family came into being.  The story book can be added to over time.  Some examples of things you might put in your story book include the date and time of your birth, your parents, their ages when you were born, and some brief descriptions.  You might include names of your brothers and sisters.  You might include a brief funny baby story as well as a "proud moment" story and a brief mischievous story.  You might include your education and career choice.  You might also write briefly about your decision to adoptFirst, you might include your desire to have a family."

If infertility was an issue, the story book could help to introduce the subject.  An example might be writing something in the story book like, "Mommy wanted a baby, but she didn’t get pregnant.  She was sad."  Second, you might write about how you learned about adoption and made your decision.  You can end by describing your joy at learning you could adopt.

Each of your children can have a chapter, in the order in which he or she came into the family.  In your new adopted child’s case, you might include a description of your preparation, and how you felt waiting for him or her to arrive.  If you can, describe the first time you met your child.  What had you been told about him or her?  You might include what you know about your child’s birth parents in the story book, including their names and why the birth parents chose to give up their parental rights.  If you don’t know the reasons, you can use ‘maybe’ statements, such as, "Maybe your parents were too young and couldn’t take care of a baby."  You might also describe any arrangements that you made to ensure openness between themselves and your child’s birth parents.  Try to create a realistic picture of your child’s birth parents as real people.

You might include your child’s age, weight, what he looked like, and a "first day" story.  Then describe your child today.  You might list favorite colors, toys, things to do, as well as information about friends and school.  Try to include one "great moment" story.  You may want to include information about the places where your child lived before he or she was adopted.

At the end of the book, you might create a chapter about your family.  This might include family traditions and records of family vacations.  Include a funny family story and other stories that are important to your family.

Track 10 Trans-religious Adoption
#1 Technique: Four Helpful Actions
Four helpful actions you can take as an adoptive parent, to be sensitive to your child’s religious background include first, studying and learning about your child’s religion, and being respectful of his or her religion at all times.  Second, you can be willing to attend services at a mosque, synagogue or church that serves members of your child’s faith.  You might find a mentor of that faith who is willing to take your child to worship services.  Third, talk to your child’s social worker about what your child wants to do regarding religion.  Fourth, if your child wants to convert to your religion at any point, try to be sensitive to the transition and be careful to show respect for the faith that your child will be leaving.  Also, be prepared in case your child changes his or her mind later.  Yours may become a two-religion family, or your child may want to practice a hybrid of the two religions.

#2 Technique: Questions to Journal
The "questions to journal" technique entails debating some questions and writing them in a journal.  Be honest with yourself when you consider how you want to parent your child.  It can be important to identify with your child and try to see the world from his or her perspective.  Four sets of questions to journal about include:

  1. How do you think your family will react if you adopt a child of another religion?  Imagine how your child will feel if her entire family and social network is of the dominant culture.
  2. How do you think you will feel when you are in public with your child?  How will you handle probing and insensitive questions about your religious differences?
  3. How would you extend the notion of your family to include the cultural background from which your child came?  How can you contribute to the well-being of that community?  Would you be willing to become involved in activities in that community in order to provide your child with a sense of connectedness to that community and with positive role models?

Would you expect your child to convert to your faith?  What if she chose to practice his or her own faith?  Would you feel threatened?  Disappointed?  How do you think you would handle these feelings?

Track 13 Toileting Problems
Technique: Training

If you feel that your child is unaware of his or her body sensations and also experiences daytime bedwetting, you might try the Training Technique.  Your child might need to be cued to recognize feelings of fullness or pain, or the need to go to the bathroom.  You might try using a toilet training program similar to one you would use with a toddlerFirst, teach your child to go at set intervals, so that he or she can learn what it feels like to have an empty bladder.  With time, your child should be able to recognize when he or she has to go.  Remember that toilet training can take a year or longer with toddlers, and it may take time with your child, too.  Bedwetting problems that subside may crop up again later, especially during emotional crises.
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