Let’s Give Every Family the Chance to Be Strong

Family is the foundation of humanity, binding us together, even with the nuances that make our experiences discrete. Family is also the fundamental building block of society. We all, for better or for worse, have people we call family. More than ever before, the landscape of family is changing, and supports are needed as individuals navigate the beautiful, yet complex relationships of today’s modern family. Particularly within the sphere of adoption and foster care, families may struggle at times to make sense of their blended experiences. The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) in partnership with the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York (AFFCNY) is excited to launch “Building Strong Families: Advancing Post-Adoption Services,” a new initiative to provide education and advocacy surrounding the need for post-adoption support.

The research base is clear that families who come together through adoption and foster care adoption thrive when they are able to access quality post-adoption services and support. Yet, research also reveals a lack of adoption-competent options and an overall inaccessibility of appropriate services. Many families, particularly those who adopt from foster care, will benefit from counseling and other services to best meet their children’s needs. This is not because there is something inherently wrong with these families; rather the experiences that lead a child to experience foster care and subsequent adoption often include trauma. Although we may see this more commonly in adoptions from the child welfare system, the reality is all types of adoption require that parents are thoughtfully informed and prepared before an adoption is complete and that they have access to quality post-adoption services long after an adoption is finalized. Adoption is the essence of what is meant by the word “bittersweet”; it is filled with loss for all involved yet can also be filled with joy and healing. This type of experience naturally will require the right supports in order for all members of the extended family of adoption to make sense of their unique family and truly thrive.

When people reach out for help and find that it is difficult to come by, unaffordable or otherwise inaccessible, families are unnecessarily burdened. Although most families in adoption will ultimately manage these difficulties, many may struggle needlessly to overcome challenges that can be balanced when quality supports are in place. For some families though, the lack of support in the face of overwhelming hardship may lead to further disruptions and dangerous decision-making on behalf of children. The worst of these is seen in the case of unregulated child custody transfers, a process termed “rehoming” by the news media to capture instances where parents place children they’ve adopted with new caregivers outside of legal channels and without appropriate oversight. Although it would be unfair to say this behavior is common, even one child “rehomed” is one child too many. Surely, we can do better than this. And we must do better than this if we want to offer adoption as a solution that is in a child’s best interest.

“Building Strong Families” is an initiative with several key components that all serve to strengthen children and families. The “Building Strong Families” website includes information pertaining to relevant news and research in the area of post-adoption services, as well as resources that can help families gain access to existing services. In addition to this practical tool, “Building Strong Families” seeks to advocate for quality and accessible post-adoption services that are streamlined and appropriately funded. We are beginning in New York and hope to expand to other states as well. This advocacy effort will exist in partnership with organizations and individuals with both personal and professional connections to adoption and foster care adoption. It is within the experiences of those who have truly thrived when service provision was consistent with their needs that the strongest case for ensuring effective post-adoption services will be made. The New York advocacy effort will ideally serve as a model for other states to engage in similar efforts on behalf of their families, and regular updates on progress will be posted on the “Building Strong Families” website.

Under the best of circumstances, maintaining healthy family connections is challenging and requires preparedness, thoughtfulness and patience. For everyone in the adoption and foster care adoption communities, navigating this journey can be even more challenging. Access to quality post-adoption services is critical so families can thrive and children have all they need and deserve. To learn more about the “Building Strong Families” initiative, visit www.buildingstrongfamiliesny.org.

Strong families build strong communities and strong communities make a better world for all of us. Join us as we work to give every family the chance to be strong!

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