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Adoption Tell All

Dec 6, 2018

Adrienne Elliott has worked in all aspects of the child welfare system including intake, child protection, permanency, and adoption. She is now the Executive Director of Adoption Options.

In this episode, April Fallon sits down with Adrienne to ask YOUR questions about adoption.

Questions like: What do you need to start the adoption process? Should a family adopt an older child and bump birth order? How do you talk to your child about their adoption story? Also, April shares funny stories of parenting moments she wished she had done better and how Adrienne has helped her. 

To start the interview, host April Fallon asks Adrienne about her beginnings as a social worker.

Adrienne says she started working for social services in Indiana as soon as she got her Bachelor’s degree. Soon she would move to Colorado and get her Master’s in Social Work. Adrienne then worked in Jefferson County, which is one of the largest metro counties in Denver.

April comments that because Adrienne has such extensive experience in social services and the child welfare system, she must have seen some pretty difficult things in her career. April asks Adrienne how she handled the more difficult aspects of the job. Adrienne says that with experience, you gradually learn to deal with the traumatic experiences.

Among other important questions, April asks Adrienne if she could share her advice for parents who are in the midst of communicating with their children about their adoption. 

Adrienne says that it depends on when the family is adopting. If your child is still an infant, she highly recommends practicing the story with the baby. This is more for the parent than the child at this point in the child’s life, but it’s practicing how you’ll eventually communicate that is so vital. Once it comes time to tell your child that they’re adopted, it won’t be as overwhelming or nerve-wracking for you.

April says that it’s so hard to know when to tell your child: At what age is best? And if it’s a traumatic story, what do parents do then? 

Adrienne responds and says that if your child’s adoption story is traumatic, to wait until developmentally appropriate for them to process the information safely.

“You can start talking to them a little bit about it, but they are going to dictate what they want to hear.”

April confirms that Adrienne is a firm believer in telling the whole story to the child, no matter the severity of the details. She stresses that it is not the right of the adoptive parents to take their story away from them. That the moment a parent withholds truth or reshapes their narrative, is the moment the child loses a little trust in the parent.

Adrienne also shares a story about a mother who made a life book for her daughters. Two of them had been taken in from foster care and had been placed for adoption because their mother was addicted to drugs while she was pregnant. The life book provided context for their struggles in school and gave a complete story for her daughters. 

April admits though that fully understands the challenges of communicating about tough topics with her children. She tells a story about a particular night she and son AJ were watching the TV show The Voice. During the episode, a story was told about how a daughter had her mother taken away because of drugs, and this story hit her son AJ hard. When asked what drugs were, AJ put April on the spot. She blurted out “it’s something that people put in their nose.”

Although the story is comical, April points out that despite being out of practice, she forced herself to sit down and have conversations with her children on a regular basis.

April says that shortly after talking to Adrienne about the importance of these conversations, she sat down her kids and discussed their adoption with each. A day later she reconvened with AJ. When she asked him what he thought about the discussion they had, this is what happened:

“He puts his hand on my arm and says, Mom, I’m OK that I was adopted...I am happy here and I love my Mom and Dad.”

Later in the episode, Adrienne answers some of the questions that you provided! The first question that April poses is about home studies and what parents should have in place before they are undergone.

Adrienne says that a lot of research should be done--that is, you shouldn’t pick the first adoption agency you find. Knowing how to budget your money and communicating that to a caseworker is essential. Making sure your house is void of dangerous objects and is completely child-proof is high on the list. And having enough space for a child (a separate bedroom) is key. It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment or not!

April asks Adrienne the most important advice for adoption newbies. She says that education is without a doubt the most important facet of the whole process. 

“Take advantage of your education classes because I do believe it helps with some of the fears around what adoption is going to look like.”

Adrienne also talks about birth order in adoption, the hardest part about being a social worker, and her favorite adoption experience. You don’t want to miss this episode that is so chock-full of wisdom and insight from Adrienne Elliot.