By Julie Howley
Although November is National Adoption Month, many of us need no reminders because we live it day to day; we are adoptive families. The 2000 census estimates that there are 2.1 million adopted children nationwide. Over the past 10 years in Yolo County alone, more than 600 children have been adopted from foster care after family reunification efforts failed.
Adoption is about children who need a safe and loving place to call home — a forever family. It is also about education and awareness that each child enters adoption having experienced a loss, and for many, it is in combination with early trauma.
Many think that once an adoption is finalized it is the happy ending. However, the story is just unfolding. To really help the children, it is essential that we educate ourselves and others about the issues that surround kids who have been in foster care. They come into care because something very bad has happened — they have been placed at imminent risk. They often have a birth family struggling with issues such as addiction and domestic violence that leads to abuse, neglect or abandonment.
Dealing with loss, grief, developmental and physical challenges, blended families and identity issues requires continuing support far beyond receiving a new birth certificate and a permanent address.
Programs offered by Woodland Community College Foster & Kinship Care Education help families that open their homes to fostering and also to adoption.
For foster infants and their foster or kinship parents, there are classes to build safety, attachment and communication, including BabySigns, Trust Building through Water Safety and Family Movement & Wellness. These opportunities allow parents to build stronger bonds with their children and meet other families traversing a similar path.
For foster and adopted teens, there is Friday evening Teen Circle where youths and their foster/adoptive parents come together for education and support. These workshops allow kids and their foster, kinship or adoptive parents to work together on open communication and toward healing from the early losses and grief experience by being removed from a family and placed into care.
The Foster & Kinship Care Education program, with the support of grants from First 5 Yolo and Yocha Dehe Wintun Community Foundation, coordinates a variety of foster family and foster/adoptive activities that allow foster and adoptive kids and their families’ opportunities to gather and have fun — from a harvest picnic to indoor skating to a Sacramento River Cats game.
Children need to know they are not alone. They are not the only ones who have strong emotions and painful memories. They are not the only ones who have a birth family that is different from their foster/adoptive family. They are not alone.
Educating ourselves is another way to support these children. Classes on attachment, parenting, dependency and the courts, building communication and pregnancy prevention are all part of the Foster & Kinship Care Education program. Each class provides essential education often needed by foster, kinship and adoptive parents, helping them successfully navigate the world that includes raising children not theirs by birth.
Parents learn ways to cope with the myriad issues that these children bring to a family. They meet other parents and share knowledge about what works, or what doesn’t, and services in the area that might be helpful.
Programs like these bring families together, kids together and help support and educate all of us. During November, while we celebrate the miracle of adoption, remember all the children waiting for a home of their own.
To learn more about the Woodland Community College Foster & Kinship Care Education program, visit www.yolofostercare.com or call Cherie Schroeder, instructional specialist, at 530-574-1964.