Education

Holiday Gifts Showcase Diversity: A Gift Guide

As Santa fills your children’s stockings and places those special gifts under the tree, consider multicultural toys and other fun creations including educational experiences. Understanding and acceptance is always in demand. For those who have children of color, consider items that best represent the child’s heritage so they can see themselves in the world around them.

With categories for everyone, here are some starters that are fun year-round.

Little Dylan, age 3, loves his new doll by Aimee Overstreet. Her shop is called Little Bitty Noggins.

The good news is that toy manufacturers have seen the need and toys are getting more diverse. Mattel recently expanded their popular Barbie doll collection to include a wider variety of skin colors and body shapes, while Lego unveiled a mini-figure in a wheelchair in their “Fun at the Park” building set, the Guardian reported.

Still, other creators are producing toys that encourage children to appreciate the range of diverse physical features that make people unique, as well as see representation that is a more balanced reflection of the world around them. Here’s a look at some of these boundary-crossing toys at Amazon.com. And, Target to the rescue for festive home décor and ornaments including Santa and Mrs. Claus!

We hope your family enjoys the holiday season, fills your home with joy, your heart with love, and your life with laughter.

About Author E. Parker Herring:
Parker Herring has a deep respect and understanding of family law and the adoption process, through which she adopted two of her children. She is the founder and director of A Child’s Hope, a North Carolina licensed adoption agency located in Raleigh that focuses on helping birth mothers and families looking to adopt and answer questions about adoption. A Child’s Hope has placed nearly 400 children since 2000 and is the only North Carolina domestic adoption agency directed by an attorney. Herring is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist who has practiced for 35 years in the Raleigh area. She is a member of the N.C. Bar Association, Wake County Bar Association, and N.C. Collaborative Lawyers.

10 Great Reads to Spark the Holiday Spirit

Reading is one of the great pleasures, especially during the holidays. With kids in holiday jammies, sometimes there’s nothing better than kicking back in your favorite spot at home with a celebrated book in hand. A Child’s Hope has a few names up our sleeves of favorites our families have shared throughout the years, add these to all the traditional titles. We know that representation matters, and love that Santa comes in many different colors. Snuggle up with your favorite books this year, and soak in the holiday spirit with family and friends.

  1. A World of Cookies for Santa
  2. I got the Christmas Spirit
  3. All the Colors of Christmas
  4. Walk this World at Christmastime
  5. Lil’ Rabbits Kwanzaa
  6. Queen is Hanukkah Dosas
  7. ‘Twas Nochebuena
  8. The Night before Christmas
  9. Let’s Celebrate! Special Days Around the World
  10. A Very Noisy Christmas

About Author E. Parker Herring:
Parker Herring has a deep respect and understanding of family law and the adoption process, through which she adopted two of her children. She is the founder and director of A Child’s Hope, a North Carolina licensed adoption agency located in Raleigh that focuses on helping birth mothers and families looking to adopt and answer questions about adoption. A Child’s Hope has placed nearly 400 children since 2000 and is the only North Carolina domestic adoption agency directed by an attorney. Herring is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist who has practiced for 35 years in the Raleigh area. She is a member of the N.C. Bar Association, Wake County Bar Association, and N.C. Collaborative Lawyers.

Talking to Your Children About COVID-19

NCTSN suggests opening an ongoing dialogue with your child.

  • Talk about their feelings and validate them.
  • Help them express their feelings through drawing or other activities.
  • Clarify misinformation or misunderstandings about how the virus is spread and that not every respiratory disease is COVID-19.
  • Provide comfort and a bit of extra patience.
  • Check back in with your children on a regular basis or when the situation changes.

The CDC offers Six General Principles for Talking to Children:

  • Remain calm and reassuring.
  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
  • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
  • Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.
  • Provide information that is honest and accurate.
  • Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.

Why Adoption Wait Times Are Longer For Some Families

By Parker Herring

One question I am always asked is, “how long will it take to adopt?” The answer is always, “it depends.”

A family’s wait time is dependent on how open they are to the seven common factors seen in adoption.

The Race of the Child
The single most significant factor in how long a family has to wait for a baby is their willingness to adopt a child of a different race. While consideration of race is important for many adoptive families, having openness in adopting a minority-race child will dramatically shorten the wait time.

Over the past 20 years directing an adoption agency in North Carolina, I have observed firsthand that the number of minority newborns and children of color available for adoption outnumber Caucasian children three to one.

Specifying Gender
If a family specifies that they only want a boy or a girl, the wait time may increase. While 51% of babies born are male, by specifying a gender – male or female, the adopting family automatically eliminates themselves from consideration as parents to at least 49% of the available children. Moreover, the decision to place a child for adoption is seldom predicated on the child’s gender. So, there may be periods when nearly 100% of the available babies are not a gender match.

Tolerance for Birth Mother Substance Use 
At a Child’s Hope, one in four women considering adoption for their baby admit to consuming alcohol and using other substances. There is a nationwide opioid abuse crisis, and drug use among pregnant women has increased proportionately. It is typical to see alcohol, tobacco and recreational drug use in many of the opportunities. The openness and willingness to evaluate each situation individually will allow prospective parents to say YES to more birth mother situations.

Birth Mother Prenatal Care
A woman with an unplanned pregnancy may not realize she’s expecting until after the second trimester. Several times a year, we have birth mothers who wait until they get to the hospital before they make an adoption plan. In these cases, the birth mother may not have had any prenatal care.

In addition, she may have issues that stand in the way of making all of the recommended doctor visits like transportation, childcare, or work conflicts. A Child’s Hope works hard from the time the birth mothers’ signs with the agency to ensure regular prenatal care going forward. We will even accompany her to appointments. Therefore, acceptance of a less-than-perfect prenatal history opens the door to more available babies.

A Verified Birth Father from the Outset
Situations where the birth father has been identified, provided DNA and signed a parental release only account for roughly 60% of the adoption scenarios. That leaves about

40% of A Child’s Hope placements that have complicated birth father issues. In these cases, the expecting mother may state she doesn’t know who the father is, or name multiple men. Even when the correct name and contact information is provided, he may not be locatable or responsive. Every situation is different; evaluate accordingly.

Family Medical History
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness says 1 in 5 Americans will experience mental illness. The National Health Council reports that chronic disease affects more than 40% of Americans. Insisting on a clean bill of physical and mental health from both birth parents can greatly prolong wait time in adoption situations.

Level of Openness
Generally, there are three types of adoptions available: Closed, which means that neither the adoptive parents nor the birth parents meet, see pictures or stay in touch. Closed adoptions are rare today. Semi-open is when the adoptive parents and birth patents communicate through the agency over the years. Open adoption is where adoptive parents and birth parents exchange contact information, and then set a plan for communication. At A Child’s Hope, approximately 98% of birth parents are looking for an open adoption.

How these decisions may affect wait times:

The wait may be three years or more if:

  1. The child must be a full Caucasian girl; and
  2. The birth mother had prenatal care throughout the pregnancy never consuming nicotine, alcohol or drugs; and
  3. The birth father provided DNA as well as signed a parental release; and
  4. The birth parents are in peak mental and physical condition; and
  5. The adoption must be closed or semi-open

The wait may be less than one year if:

  1. The adoption is open; and
  2. The child can be an African American boy; and or
  3. The adopting parents are flexible on prenatal care, substance usage by the birth mother, as well as the overall health of both birth parents; and or
  4. The adopting parents are willing to work through birth father issues.

No Regrets
The family you are building is YOURS and a lifelong decision. So, it is perfectly okay to be clear on your child’s race, gender, prenatal care and other considerations. So be patient. The right child for you is out there, but it requires patience. He or she may not have been conceived yet.

Great Parenting Books for Waiting Families

By Parker Herring

All expectant parents, including adoptive parents, need to prepare for a new baby. Parenting books come in a variety of styles and formats. One author might not appeal to you, while another author’s style and the layout you may find very readable.

Recommendations from my personal library of parenting books

Touchpointsseries by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton M.D., revised by Dr. Joshua D. Sparrow M.D.
This is a two-book collection – “Birth to Three” and “Three to Six.” Dr. Brazelton was a Harvard medical professor and Director of the Children’s Hospital in Boston. The fully updated second edition by Dr. Sparrow includes informative sections on fathering and co-sleeping as well as general childcare.

When I started parenting 22 years ago a good friend of mine told me to pick up Dr. Brazelton’s Touchpoints. She said the large print and easily marked age sections would make it easy to find just the section I need when I become bleary-eyed from sleep deprivation. She was right. It’s still a great book for new parents and it has been updated and completely revised since its original printing in 1992.

What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff
This bestselling classic was originally published in 1962. Now in its third edition, it recently went through a line-by-line update. While there are many used versions available, I highly recommend purchasing the recent third edition.

Your Baby and Child by Dr. Penelope Leach
This childcare book has sold over two million copies and is very easy to read. Dr. Leach was educated at Cambridge and is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, as well as a founding member of the UK Branch of the World Association for Infant Mental Health. She is a strong advocate of reading to newborns, toddlers and all ages.

Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim G. Ginott
This book has been recently revised by the author’s wife, psychologist Dr. Alice Ginott. It talks about how parenting is a skill that anyone can learn. It offers advice on how to respond properly to your child including how to discipline without making threats, punishment or bribes or sarcasm; how to criticize without being demeaning; and how to acknowledge your child’s feelings.

The No-Cry Sleep Solutionseries by Elizabeth Pantley
This is a three-book collection – “The No-Cry Sleep Solution,” “The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns” and “The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers.” These are must-have books for new parents, as the one thing everyone wants for themselves and their child is sleep, beautiful, wonderful sleep.

On that note, the calming sound of a parent’s voice can often be this the best way to quite a child. Reading “Good Night Moon aloud always put my kids to sleep.

Take it easy and don’t let the reading list overwhelm you. You don’t have to read and memorize the parenting books cover to cover before your child arrives. Nevertheless, you should start by reading the sections on newborn care while waiting to become parents. Leave the remaining chapters as your child grows.

A mother of three children, E. Parker Herring has a deep respect and understanding of family law and the adoption process (for which she’s adopted two children of her own). She is the founder and director of A Child’s Hope, a North Carolina licensed adoption agency located in Raleigh that focuses on helping birth mothers and families looking to adopt and answer questions about adoption. A Child’s Hope has placed nearly 400 children since 2000, and is the only North Carolina domestic adoption agency directed by an attorney. Herring is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist who has practiced family law for nearly 30 years in the Raleigh area. She’s a member of the NC Bar Association, the Wake County Bar Association, and the NC Collaborative Lawyers.

**The links shared in this article are for the convenience of the user to preview the books online. A Child’s Hope is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse any specific retailer.

BACK TO SCHOOL FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN

Just starting school or returning from summer break can be difficult. For many children who are adopted this can be compounded with an awkwardness about family relationships. In some cases, the difference is obvious, such as when a child and their parents are different ethnicities or the parents are of the same gender. While taxing at times, a visual difference can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It often evokes questions or comments early when meeting people and allowing the issue to be addressed head-on.

For other students, skin tone doesn’t tell the story. For them, the awkwardness arises during school assignments. Examples may include: creating a family tree or student timeline, researching genetics, or bringing in baby and family pictures for a bulletin board. Uneasiness can also occur in student-to-student conversations about family and background.

Some parents choose not to address the issue at all, one mother stating:

Just as I don’t go to the school and point out that my children are biracial or fantastic athletes, or that their dad is a doctor, we leave it up to the kids whether to mention adoption. Our children share information about their adoption—and
other information—when it seems right to do so for them. It has worked for us.”

Many adoption experts suggest that parents talk to teachers to explain the adoption connection. They recommend using a simple explanation that includes only the information that the parents and child are comfortable sharing. The conversation starter may go like this:

“Michael was adopted by us as a newborn, and we have an open adoption with his birth mother.”

Or, keep it really simple:

“Michael is adopted and he (does or does not) know his birth family.”

Ultimately, it is up to the parents to decide what is right for their child and family. For parents that choose to be proactive, bringing the topic up with teachers at the start of the school year is often best. The teacher may wish to make a discussion about different family types as part of their lesson plans.

School Resources

For teachers who are not familiar with the world of adoption, offering your own knowledge as a resource may be extremely helpful and very welcome guidance. Handouts like the one by Adoptive Families magazine help both the child and the teacher answer many common questions – Click here to download.

A discussion about positive adoption language and words can also be valuable. Consider sharing with the teacher this link to an article on the Adoptive Families website.

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/talking-about-adoption/positive-adoption-language/.

Books for the School:

Parents may also wish to donate a book or two to the classroom. Here are a few titles for consideration:

The Mulberry Bird by Braff Brodzinsky & Anne Braff

Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis

If the teacher isn’t comfortable with books that speak directly to adoption, some alternatives include

On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

The Family Book by Todd Parr

It’s Ok To Be Different by Todd Parr

Be Who You Are by Todd Parr

How parents communicate with teachers about adoption sets the precedent for how the teacher will likely treat the topic of adoption and address situations that arise among the students. Parents that are concerned about questions or conflicts should consider taking a proactive approach and engage with the teachers.

Reducing the Out-Of-Pocket Cost of Adoption

This article was originally published by Herring & Mills PLLC on www.parkerherringlawgroup.com

By taking advantage of the federal adoption tax credit, US Military benefits and employer advantages, thousands of American families are eligible and receive financial benefits each year for the cost of adoption. Here’s a quick breakdown of those three methods:

Federal Adoption Tax Credit

The federal adoption tax credit (FATC) allows a monetary boost for adopting families whose gross annual income is not over $200,000. For those families which qualify, the federal tax credit provides up to $13,460.00. You can find more information on the FATC here. We’ve written about the federal adoption tax credit on this blog before.

“My wife Priscila and I have adopted twice through A Child’s Hope. Our two boys – one adopted in 2008 and the other in 2013 –  are priceless to us, but the Federal adoption tax credit helped make the fees and expenses affordable for us. We both work in research; I am a medical writer and my wife is a research scientist.”

— Bill Siesser

Employer / employee adoption benefits

Many employers across the country also provide the benefit of financial assistance once a child is placed in the adoptive home of its new parents. Check with your Human Resource department at your company to see what benefits or advantages there might be (if any) which your company provides.

This financial assistance from employers can take the form of a lump sum, or payment of certain fees related to an adoption or partial reimbursement to employees for expenses. Each company that offers financial assistance varies in what the payment is, but the nationwide average is around $4,000, with a range generally from $3,000 to $5000. The application process with businesses and employers tends to be relatively simple and easy.

Why do companies do it? Businesses justify these benefits as an investment in retaining their employees, and that the payment towards adoption increases worker loyalty to the business. They see it as a win-win, since training new employees is almost always more expensive than retaining current staff.

Some companies are now also offering family leave for adoption, which is a benefit that can lower the cost of your adoption if the leave is paid. (Here’s a list of America’s top adoption-friendly workplaces.)

US Military adoption benefits

The United States Military Service is an employer too, and servicemen and women in the armed forces are eligible in many cases to take advantage of adoption credits while serving. The military can be quite adoption friendly.

“The military provided us with $3,000 as financial assistance for our son Joe Joe’s adoption. Overall, the military has been extremely supportive of our adoptions.”

  • Devon Donahue, wife of a U.S. Army Officer

Mommy You’re Peach and I’m Brown

One of our own adoptive parents recently shared with RaleighMomsBlog her experiences of having a family and how she has empowered her 5-yr-old daughter with the skills to be strong, proud and respond when questions and comments by the curious arise. (Original Blog Post by Cindy Stranad, November 26, 2018)

Mommy, you’re peach, and I’m brown,” she said.

I know honey, is that ok?” I asked.

Without hesitation and a smirk running toward the toy box, “Of course mommy, don’t ya know.

In 2012, I adopted my daughter as an infant. I suppose you could say my biological clock didn’t strike midnight until around the age of 40. After much research and sitting on the fence, independent adoption was the right choice to build my family.

A little older than the average mom, it wasn’t uncommon for many questions to pop up from strangers as our twosome toddled around the neighborhood or headed off to the pool or grocery store. What was evident is that I adopted as a single parent by choice and my baby was a different race than myself or that of my family.

The wish I had for my daughter had nothing to do with race. It is what we all want for our kids no matter of their ethnicity or gender – “Be strong in who you are.”

Ever-present in my mind still today – is playing out a strong sense of self for her because we are confronted with it often – I am single, she is adopted, and she looks different than me.

What I did not know in the beginning and equally as important, was the notion of letting the questions come. Not only to listen intently to the question but embrace each one with a smile. (OK, the smile may be a stretch.) Not only fielding this variety of questions from strangers but from friends, family and — between us — as mother and daughter. What I did know was questions would come surrounding our reality, and I had to prepare her to answer them with confidence.

This year, my daughter started Kindergarten. A first for both of us, I had to trust the snapshots of conversations we have had about our transracial family, and our collective response to all those questions over the last five years has prepared her to stand proud, to have the answers for the moment.

Here are three things I did to prepare for the questions:

1. Start the conversation.

Don’t wait. Ask your child a leading question, don’t wait for them to ask you. They may not want you to be uncomfortable or know exactly the question to ask. It may be something like, “Look there are another mom and daughter who looks like our familyWhat do you think about that?” or “Does anyone ever mention that you and I have different color skin?

Open the dialogue. Let them know it’s okay to talk about it.

2. Role-Play

Be careful not to create a defensive posture. Role-Play with your child on how a conversation may go with a friend if they ask about skin color or other personal questions. It’s like practicing a talk for training at work, a lesson plan at church or perhaps a job interview. It’s about anticipating the question, so you have an answer.

3. Plant another family tree

I was taken off-guard during preschool when she brought home the family tree. This child exercise scared me. Will she be compared to other families unfairly? I had to let go of my insecurity, and teach her to make room for different types of trees in the family backyard – birth parents, stepparents and single parents, as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles from each of these family connections. Moreover, there is your village of close friends and godparents. Most of us probably have something that looks more like a sprawling vineyard than a simple tree.

I say all of this because I had to trust myself. And, I am encouraging you to trust yourself. Release the adult definitions of family and wake up to the reality of what your family looks like from your child’s perspective.

As we celebrate gratefulness during November as National Adoption Awareness Month, remember that open and honest talks across the board on adoption, race and family diversity will go a long way in building your child’s self-esteem. You may even be surprised at some of the reactions and aha moments created as we all widen our thinking about the beauty of transracial families.

 

Opioid Addiction and Adoption – What Waiting Parents Need to Know

The Opioid Addiction Crisis

Opioid Addiction babies

ACH counselor Kelly Dunbar with Jaxon

North Carolina, as is the nation, is experiencing an opioid addiction epidemic. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) one infant every 25 minutes was born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in 2012, and the numbers are continuing to rise. NAS occurs when newborn babies experience withdrawal after being exposed to drugs in the womb.

Every new parent wants a child that is happy and healthy, but opioid addiction and other drug use by a birth mother during pregnancy is something that makes many adoptive parents wary, and with good reason. However, the fact is many birth mothers choose adoption because their life situation makes parenting a child impossible or difficult. Often, the life situation can be traced back to drugs and alcohol. In the case of opioids, sometimes the usage starts innocently enough with a doctor’s prescription for medications like Vicodin, Percocet, Hydrocodone, tramadol, and Zanax, and progresses to buying these drugs on the street and using harder drugs such as Heroin.

Regardless of the circumstance leading to opioid addiction, there is currently an increase in the number of unborn babies that have exposure to drugs or alcohol. Adoption by a caring family can make all of the difference in this precious child’s life and help them to thrive as they grow.

Addressing the Opioid Addiction Issue

Jaxon on Placement Day

It’s a sign of the times that hospitals statewide have developed a drug-tittering protocol for weaning babies. In the case of a child that is going to be adopted, adoptive parents are encouraged to be in the hospital during the withdrawal period. Often a prescribed opiate such as Morphine is used to help the baby cope, with the amount prescribed being reduced over time. Adoption counselors with A Child’s Hope may also coordinate birth mother visits during the 7-day revocation period to help the baby by holding him or her.

Fortunately, the effects of opioid withdrawal pass within a matter of weeks and the babies seldom need long-term medication. At A Child’s Hope, we have had babies born testing positive for opioids who spend as little as four days in the hospital. The longest hospital stay with one of our babies has been 10 days.

Statistics indicate that it will take a total of six to eight weeks for all of the symptoms to disappear if a birth mother is on methadone for as little as one month before the delivery. Therefore, intervention as early as possible is essential to help the birth mother transition to medically prescribed opiod such as methadone, suboxone or naloxone. Then when the baby is born withdrawal will be easier and shorter.

To help identify potential drug use issues, our adoption counselors work closely with each birth mother. They ask about alcohol, drug and cigarette use in a nonjudgmental way that expresses our mutual interest in the health of her and the unborn child. In addition, criminal checks, Accurint checks and obtaining medical records can help reveal information that the birth mother may be too afraid or embarrassed to share. In short, we do a great deal to try to discover what, if any, substances a birth mother may be using during pregnancy. Then we try to help her and her baby in getting treatment.

Our policy is to do the best we can to get the birth mother into a substance abuse program. When appropriate, a regulated opioid, such as methadone, suboxone or naloxone, will be prescribed so that her cravings are controlled and the baby’s withdrawals will be more comfortable.

Managing the Opioid Addiction Fear

Jaxon age 3

We connect waiting families who have concerns about adopting a NAS baby with some of our past placed parents who adopted babies who went through opioid withdrawal.

Three-year-old Jaxon is one NAS baby that is thriving now after being born testing positive for opiods. His mom, Shannon, talks about Jaxon’s care after birth:

“It’s hard to believe that its almost three years since Jaxon was born! Jaxon spent ten days in NICU, and I spent every waking minute with him. It was important for me to bond with him and for him to feel that love.

From day one, Jaxon was a happy, healthy baby boy who just loves life. I was never fearful of his drug exposure because I knew he had me in his corner fighting for him. I would get him any help that he needed. Jaxon was on morphine and then was switched to methadone. He spent nine months on methadone. So far we haven’t seen any long-term effects, there have been no developmental delays.

Jaxon is now 3 and so full of life; he always has a smile on his face. Anyone that is thinking of adopting a child with NAS, I beg you to take the risk. The joy that our son Jaxon brings to our life far outweighs the risks.”

To read the full story of Shannon’s adoption Journey, click here. 

A Child’s Hope encourages waiting families to do their research about the effects of opioids on the unborn, speak to your adoption counselor and a healthcare professional.

Resources

She’ll Be President Someday’: Meet the Adopted Little Girl Trump Praised

Taking a Leap of Faith – Why One Family Adopted a “Drug Baby”

Out of love, opioid-addicted women letting babies be adopted

Officer honored for adopting baby from opioid addicted mom

Weaning the Youngest Opioid Patients

Birthmother Hotline: (877) 890-4673

Envia Un Texto: (919) 218-6270

Text: Pregnant to (919) 971-4396