Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Adoption Help

My friend Courtney over at Adoption Connect and Storing Up Treasures In Heaven has put out a call for help for those families who have chosen to grow their families by adoption. I want to be a small voice answering that call for help so I decided to tell everyone who I am and how I am connected to adoption, adoption issues, and parenting.

My name is Amy and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). I received my Bachelor's of Social Work from Monmouth University (Long Branch, NJ) and continued my education to receive my Master's of Social Work from Fordham University (Manhattan, NY). After several years of training I became a LCSW.

Describing some of my experiences or some of my life will help describe how I might be of some help to others who are struggling. Here it goes:

  • I have two bio daughters ages 15 and 9. They are both multi-ethnic, both African-American and Caucasian. I have 15 years of experience as a white mother doing my black daughters hair. I have learned how to corn row, braid, straighten, and twist my daughters hair. I have faced ridicule, comments, and sometimes even compliments on how I do their hair.
  • Having children of a different race than myself I have faced stares, questions, and well racism. I have created a household that celebrates differences and multi-ethnicity. I use toys, dolls, and books to celebrate diversity. I have educated my relatives, calmly and not so calmly fought for justice, and have taught and continue to teach my girls how to be proud of their race and culture.
  • My youngest daughter Autumn is my heart. She has been gifted with many diagnosis' which include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) which is on the Autism Spectrum. We are also trying to figure out if she as an Auditory Processing Disorder. You can read about her story here.
  • Autumn has tremendous behavior problems. Here are a few of the therapies and techniques I have used: individual therapy (age 4), group therapy (age 4- social and coping skills), occupational therapy (age 7-present - sensory issues), medication (age 5 - present -Adderall prescribed by her Psychiatrist), therapeutic horseback riding (age 8-present- sensory issues, social skills, self-esteem), art therapy (age 6-7), weighted blankets (sensory issues), massage (sensory issues), diet modification, behavior plans, reward charts, brushing (sensory issues), and PRAYER are a few of the things I have used.
  • My primary job is in the disabilities field. I currently am the Residential Coordinator a non-profit organization. I supervise 3 group homes and 13 apartments for individuals with multiple disabilities. I started here in 2000 as a school social worker for children ages 3-21 with multiple disabilities, mainly physical. I now work primarily with adults. Our clients and students have major medical and physical difficulties.
  • My secondary job is as an adoption caseworker. I work for a private New Jersey adoption agency. I have been doing this for over 8 years. I love my job. I primarily work with the adoptive families, not the birth families. I conduct home studies, and perform post placement supervisions. I prepare court documentation as well as post placement reports. I have experience with both domestic and foreign adoption (China, Russia, Korea etc).
  • I am an advocate for special education. Because Autumn struggles so much I am constantly fighting with the Child Study Teams and school staff. I am finding my way through the system and am willing to help others do the same.
  • I am currently helping a mother reunite with her children who are in the custody of the State (DYFS). I am doing this on a voluntary basis and have been giving counseling to both the children and the parent. I have helped the mother organize and clean her home and have guided her in learning new parenting techniques. I enjoy this type of work and thrive in a crisis situation. I have no problem getting my hands dirty to help someone in need.
  • My family has been touched by surrogacy. My older sister was the gestational carrier for her best friend and his wife. This couple had trouble conceiving coupled with the mother's battle with cancer led my sister to agree to carry their biological child. Their son was born 5 years ago and I had the privilege of being in the delivery room with my sister and the couple. It was a beautiful event and we all became family that day.
  • I have a deep desire to become a foster parent. Someday I know I will be however I am a single mother raising 2 children with my sister who is also a single mother of 3 children. Together we are raising our children together.
  • I have experience with raising two daughters who feel like they have more differences than similarities. Their differences range from skin color, to fathers, to intellect, to emotional self-expression. They have both grown up with out a father figure and have both experienced feelings of abandonment however they have dealt with these experiences in very different ways and I have had to parent both of them in very different ways. My youngest had and has huge abandonment issues. My oldest does not.
I believe every child deserves a chance. I'm learning more and more that the way we parent can determine how our children thrive and grow into who they are as adults. If I think about it too much it becomes overwhelming. So I don't think about it :) I just do it. I do the best I can everyday. I am not the perfect mother but I'm the best I can be on any given day.

So this is who I am and who I am to the adoption world. I will pray that I can help whoever needs me and that I can be used for the Lord's perfect plan.


HouseOfSmooches said...

Hi, I saw your post on Adoption Connect. Our family is also a multi-racial multi-cultural family, but I had a special question about celebrating my daughter's unique history. She is biracial like your daughters, but we do not know where her African family line comes from. How do you celebrate or incorporate African/American culture into your family life? For our boys it’s much simpler because they were born in Guatemala, so finding traditions and ways to celebrate their ethnicity easy.


Trouwbottom said...

Finding the African line (that is back to Africa) is very difficult, especially if you do not have the names of relatives. My oldest daughter has just shown an interest in finding out what African country she is from so we will try to do our homework!

The way we celebrate their African-American side is simply by exposing them to as much African-American culture we possible can. We are fortunate to live in a VERY diverse neighborhood. Their school is very diverse and the numbers of African-American kids out weight the Caucasian kids, and the bi-racial kids seem like they're taking over!

I would say look for festivals, events, plays, that celebrate the African-American culture. Go to everything you can get your hands on. The more you surround your children with different cultures the better. I live with my sister and her 3 white children and it is so great that all the kids do not see color or racism, they simply do not get why people would discriminate because of color. If anything my nieces and nephews are a lot of times the minority.

Hope this helps and I will blog about this in length!