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1-29-13 Time keeps moving on. The Pacific Northwest Caregivers Conference was really nice. Many kudos to Connie Kerbs, Amy Gardner and folks like Ingrid French, Christin Kundert, Nikki Favela, Regina Forward, Chris forward, Lynn Urvina, Mary McGauhey, Dianne Dorey, Celeste Carey, Ramsey Graham, Bob Partlow and all the caregivers that were so flexible when the need was there.
Special thanks and appreciation go to the trainers who wowed their trainees with their expertise and wonderfully supportive information. We had some really terrific vendors too! The feedback was terrific and as many suggested, we are working to move the days back to be Saturday Sunday Monday.
I want to give a special shout out to Gitit Banai’s mom who sat or more likely stood at the FPAWS Walk Me Home table and sold Vests, Tee-shirts and Sweatshirts. She saved me!
I want to give a big thank you to Treehouse for all the backpacks and playing cards. Your ongoing support is invaluable.
Many thanks go to Ed Troyer who came through once again with the wonderful toys and books. These toys are always a highlight. Ed and his family load and drive the toys down from Tacoma.
Alexis, Amber, Brook, Brain and the rest of the Great Wolf staff really made this conference move smoothly, even when we had an extra 67 people show up for pizza, bringing the total to 317 pizza eaters!
Night of 1000 Dreams was a lot of fun and it is always great to see Rob and Marilyn McKenna hand out Star Certificates to the amazing social workers and community groups that work so hard for kids in care. We really appreciate Rob and Marilyn for giving their time to the cause. We commit to dedicating ourselves to making this event even bigger in the years to come. The folks that were honored by caregivers truly represent the stars in the foster, kinship and adoptive system. I will post the winners in their own story. I hope you get a chance to send them your best wishes.
I am sure I am forgetting somebody, for which I am sorry and will edit them in as soon I remember! Now we will focus on the Mini-Conferences, and first up is Yakima on March 16th.
November 5, 2012: A lot has happened in the last couple months. FPAWS and its partners have been working diligently on the Pacific Northwest Caregivers Conference. FPAWS supported the Mini Conference in Spokane in September. There was a great turnout. We set up a booth at Kitsap Foster Care Association’s Ghost Train event October 27th and the rain didn’t slow the traffic at all. They sold out their train ride tickets. The Bremerton Mini is just days away and we are getting a lot of support from Kitsap Private Agencies. It is amazing what a group of people can accomplish when they set their minds to the task. FPAWS and its partners have been working diligently on the Pacific Northwest Caregivers Conference. We have tons of toys and Beanie Babies and at least 200 backpacks all set to give to families at Great Wolf Lodge this January.
9-26-12 The summer months saw no let up for FPAWS Board Members. We conducted two Walk Me Home events, one in Bremerton and one in Tacoma. After our Conference in January we will start planning walks for next year. The Conference Planning Committee has been very busy. We have been waiting for new software to launch the registration phase, and that should happen within the week. Beth and I have met with our attorneys at Perkins-Coie for the lawsuit. It is all progressing slowly but each phase feels like we are stepping closer to a win. The Spokane Mini-Conference was a great success. The collaboration with Foster Parent Association of Spokane was once again terrific. Our next Mini-Conference is in Bremerton on November 10 at the Harborside Conference Center www.kitsapconferencecenter.com . Beth and I have the pleasure of representing foster parents on the Supreme Court Commission on Youth in Foster Care. The Commission sponsors the annual Foster Care Alumni Summit. You can use our Resources to link to the Center for Children and Youth Justice to see the results.We hope you can join us at Great Wolf Lodge in January.
7-10-12 It has again been a while since I have added to this blog of sorts. We have been busy, our 2013 Conference Committee is gearing up to get the Mini-Conferences organized and we will be getting a schedule up soon. The Pacific Northwest Caregivers Conference date is set for January 21st and 22nd. We are building Walk Me Home events in Bremerton and Tacoma, please support these walks. I came across a discussion on Linkedin I would like to share. This seems like a good place to do it. Hope you find it helpful.
I continue to be amazed that after 7+ years of parenting our foster/adopt kids, that their manners, choices, hygiene, etc. are worse than ever. It's like we haven't taught them anything.
Kathleen Benckendorf, PE • What they might really be saying with those behaviors... "Will they still love us if we're dirty/messy/rude?" (fear of loss/abandonment) "Maybe they'll stay away from us, not touch us if we're dirty/messy." (fear of abuse) "Being dirty/messy/rude makes my outside match my inside." (shame)
Robert Hafetz MS • The fear of loss abandonment and many other adoption created reactions are coming from limbic memory as opposed to cognitive memory. This is what makes creating new attachment so difficult. Parents must learn how to communicate with the child’s right brain. Adoptees can feel the opposite of what they know or are told. Telling the child he belongs does not change the feeling that he does not belong or that he will not be abandoned. In order to change the hard wiring of love means I cant trust you adoptees need a different kind of communication.
Robert Hafetz MS • Adopted and foster children are uniquely different then children one has given birth to. The primal separation and multiple placements, creates preverbal memories of ambiguous loss, alters normal development, and creates a disconnection between thoughts and emotions. Adopted children can have different motivations or goals for behaviors that can appear the same as other children. They have to be handled very differently. They are predisposed to fear attachment, will react counter intuitively to love, engage in attachment regulating behavior, have highly developed survival skills yet may be behind in social skills and emotional regulation. When one sees their misbehavior not as the problem but as the child’s solution to a problem one can begin to deal with the motivations that drive these children. Healing must begun at the most primitive brain systems first and only then progress to more complex levels of thinking. The grief created by the loss of the birth mother needs resolution before social behaviors can be addressed. Otherwise you get a kid stuck in the grief process who will fight or disassociate when confronted by any barrier. Parents need to go into the child’s right brain and communicate on an emotional level to make any real progress. This is not easy stuff but with training it can be done.
Robert Hafetz MS • First the awareness that adopted children have a predisposition to avoid attachment, love, and trust on an emotional level. There are more but lets focus on these. These schemas are hardwired into the right brain by the child’s life experience. Life experience, not therapy, is the solution to change the wiring and create a secure attachment. What I am asking parents to do is recreate the way a mother communicates with her infant. That’s what adoptees will understand even in later years. Non verbal’s speak louder than words. Words actually have no effect on changing feelings. You can tell the child I love you and I will never leave you but he will still feel unloved and be ready to be abandoned on an emotional level. You have to reach that level. So then when adoption/separation memories are triggered you see problem behavior, power struggles attention seeking, withdrawal, acting out etc. This is the best time to produce change in the brain. When children are at their worst you must be at your best. So then using eye contact, touch, calm body language, vocal tones, connect the feelings to the moment by asking, Do you feel alone, are you afraid, are you thinking about being adopted? Whatever the answer validate the emotions. Your facial expression is crucial don’t send a mixed message. Adoptees are hyper vigilant and will notice every wrinkle on your face. Touch the child if he allows it. Then you can address the cortex and talk about devotion trust a belonging the family is forever etc. You’re connecting on 2 levels now the cortex and the limbic system. Both brain systems are activated at the same time about the same thing. End by encouraging his effort no matter how weak it is and tell the child I believe in you. Misbehavior is not the problem its the child’s solution to the problem. The problem is the inability to feel connected capable have courage or feel he counts. One or more of these C words. Determine which one the child’s is after then help him get there. Most of the time it is connection and if you miss the message he will engage you in a power struggle to feel he counts. If you’re annoyed its attention seeking if you feel angry you’re in a power struggle. I teach a more complete version of this approach in my workshops but this is the crux of it.
Imran "Raz" Razvi • We agree whole heartedly! We strongly believe in "Give Them Three Years". This is of vital importance to an adopted child no matter the age for healthy development. Robert Hafetz MS • I don’t follow the three years idea. Rewiring a brain can take as long as 7 years(based on Gander Mountain experience) in extreme cases or never if the parents don’t understand the process.
Imran "Raz" Razvi • You are right. We have found that it takes at least 3 years to establish a foundation. We recommend treating the child, no matter how old, with the attention you would give a new born infant. All the stages a healthy infant goes thru such as being cradled and rocked, crawling and playing on the floor, your full attention at the expense of your priorities, etc. Need to be experienced with the new parent. These stages of development in an adopted child may not take as long as it takes an actual infant but they need to be experienced until the adopted child is ready for the next stage. My wife and I wrote a book titled "Give Them Three Years" which many adoptive parents have found helpful.
Robert Hafetz MS • Interesting but I don’t know how that can be measured before the age of 6. At 6-8 years of age you begin to see the behaviors that will indicate the child’s level of attachment and adjustment to the adoptive family. Compliant children are even more difficult since they are dissociative and will mask their difficulties by being good and avoiding confronting them. Its good parents not expect an instant attachment or that it occurs naturally. Adoption isn’t natural or normal. The stages of development, I assume you mean Erikson, there are many, don’t have to be acquired sequentially. The adoption process disrupts normal development so its common to see adoptees struggling with autonomy a 3 year old stage when they are into their teens. Even a secure attachment isn’t the end of the problems. We still have identity and grief resolution which are not healed by a secure attachment but it really helps.
Linda Forsyth • Unfortunately, many of our children had early brain development that impacted the development of their brains. If those issues have not been addressed, it may not actually be possible for them to incorporate the social skills training that you are trying to provide. My adopted children came to me at ages 8 and 9. Neither child had learned to hold utensils properly. it took me a while to realize this is why they had not been able to learn to eat properly for years. My son had proprioceptive difficulties and had simply been identified as being clumsy. He had to have extensive OT and lots of work to overcome the early damage. It was not detected by his prior foster parents. (He had been in care since age 4.) My daughter, who is 17, has lots of hygiene issues and is very messy. Much of the issue is related to small motor skill difficulties associated with fetal alcohol exposure. Again, not identified prior to my adopting her. There are models of treatment that work on brain functioning, but they are usually considered avant guard and are not typically available to children in foster care. Trauma takes a tremendous tole on development and may keep a child from being able to learn many of the skills we would like to teach them.... great patience, creativity, love and persistence may be required for years before progress is achieved.
Robert Hafetz MS • All prematurely separated children will have altered brain systems. Let’s not call it damage. The brain adapts to survive and early experiences are converted into survival responses. We call those, wrongly, attachment disorders, fetal alcohol disorders, and many others that place the child in the damaged broken sick deficit category. It doesn’t have to be this way. We do know how to rewire their brains and change them. It involves experiences and implicit memories. Simply put when the child is in his worst moments of behavior he is responding to an implicit memory of loss, grief, anxiety, involving attachment connection self-worth etc. In that moment you the parent must create an experience that opposes and contradicts the memory. That prevents the memory from consolidating back into the brain as attachment related fear. A new memory is written in the brain that has a positive experience of attachment. After enough experiences the new replaces the old
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