Saturday, July 7, 2012

Money Saving Tips Especially for Adoptive Families

We have two choices concerning money issues. Earn more or spend less. Or both. Many, many families are living paycheck to paycheck or borrowing money they may not know how to pay back. The tips I want to share are ways to help you save money.

Eat out less often. When you do, use coupons or order daily specials when at all possible. If you have young children visit those restaurants that have free kids meals.

Limit the use of convenience foods.

Read the grocery store circular before going shopping.

Buy the loss leader (items that are priced low to get shoppers in the store).

Clip manufacturer and store coupons and combine them with double (or triple) coupon days. Make sure you know the rules for your store.

Don't shop hungry.

Make a list and stick to it, deviating only with extremely good buys.

Investigate a big box store (Costco, Sam's) and decide if the membership price is worth the deals on food and other items.

Yard sales. The absolute best place to buy clothes that are barely used or even new. Usually priced to sell. Examine each item to make sure zippers and buttons work and no stains are present. Prices are often negotiable. When you find a great deal, stock up! If you spend $1 on something that doesn't fit and save yourself $50 by buying other used  merchandise the money saved is $49.

Thrift stores. Find the best stores in your area and stop by as often as you can. Make a list of items and sizes you will need in the future. Some thrift stores have special sale days or racks. These stores also usually have furniture, home decor, toys and videos for sale.

Buying new. If you have to buy new, watch for sales and shop at stores that honor customer loyalty with rewards or discounts. Save gas and order online if you can easily judge sizes and fit.

CVS/Drugstore Rewards
There are blogs devoted to playing the "drugstore game." Customers are rewarded "dollars" for buying certain items, with the "dollars" to be used at a future purchase. 

This past Thanksgiving I went to my CVS store and bought $120 worth of items and received $120 in Extracare Bucks, making my next purchases free! If you pair these sales with manufacturer and drugstore coupons it is possible to even make money!

Ask questions! I had $12 worth of Extracare Bucks that had expired a day earlier and I asked the cashier if I could still use them. She said yes. Most days I would have been too shy to ask.

Here is a tremendous resource to help you buy and sell everything from furniture to cars to services. This includes help wanted listings, apartment and home listings, personals and more.

In today's economy more people are willing to barter in exchange for goods
or services. We have bartered painting services for piano lessons, lawn care, vacation rental and therapy for our kids. You won't know until you ask!

Today we are all blessed to have access to an over abundance of money saving resources through the internet. There are ways to save money in practically every area of our lives. And somewhere on the net is someone dying to tell you how to do it! Read, research and invest some time in learning what works best for your family.

Post sponsored by the Adopt America Network.

Written by Marty Walden

Monday, June 4, 2012

What Parents Need to Know about Pediatric Psych Hospitalization

Psychiatric hospitalizations are stressful and the whole family is in crisis when it happens. It is something that no family makes an active plan for because we don't want to think about the difficulty of a mental health crisis. No one gets up in the morning and says, "I think my child is going to commit suicide today." But it does happen, and every family needs to develop a crisis plan for medical and mental health emergencies alike. It can help the family navigate through a really difficult crisis.

Parenting a child who has challenging behaviors is a really tough thing. Many parents who share this journey will tell you that life is no longer Black and White. Our lives and our challenges get very grey. When a child routinely throws objects, breaks things and threatens, how do you know when it is time to seek a hospitalization for your child? How do you know if the ranting and screaming is psychosis or if it is behavioral?

It's really important to note that psychiatric hospitalization programs are meant to be short term stabilization programs. The staff there does not know your child, and will not create a meaningful plan for your family. It is basically a holding pattern for a child: a safe place where that child will be watched against self harm and harm to others. It's not a solution for your child, it is a safety valve.
Here are some considerations on the decision to seek a hospitalization for your child.

When to GO to the hospital:
The child is a DANGER TO SELF. The child is actively hurting themselves. Does the child have a plan? It is not enough for a child to be threatening suicide. The child who requires hospitalization will have a plan and the ability to follow through on it. You know your child best, and you usually know when it is an emotional threat only.
Child is ENDANGERING OTHERS. A child who is out of control and is actively threatening bodily harm to others may be a candidate for hospitalization. This can look different to each parent, but the behavior has to be truly dangerous to others. (Think "throwing chairs at people" vs "throwing toys that could hurt if struck")
If the child is out of control, call 911 emergency services. Placing a child in a car that is in psychosis can cause an accident. Few parents are calm enough to safely transport a child who is in crisis. The ambulance is the safest place for a child being transported to the hospital. If your County has one, consider calling your County's Crisis Intervention Program to help facilitate a hospitalization.
Considerations before you leave your home:

Insurance: Check out your benefits coverage and requirements for inpatient and outpatient care and providers. Investigate the costs of out of network providers which may be needed. This research needs to be done early and included in the crisis plan.

Know where the providers are located. There are limited numbers of hospitals that have Pediatric Psychiatric Units. This will lessen the numbers of transitions in the hospitalization process.

There is NO GUARANTEE that the child will be admitted, especially if the child is calm and lucid upon arrival. This is extremely frustrating as the decision to attempt hospitalization is difficult for the family.

There is no guarantee of stay at the hospital. 3-5 days is average, but the child may be released earlier or later. This makes planning difficult.

Admission to the hospital may not change the child's situation. It may even make the situation worse in some cases.

Medications may not be modified during the hospital stay. This can be very frustrating if this is the parent's expectation. Alternatively, a medication change or addition may be recommended to the parent's surprise.

Outpatient psychiatrists do not have hospital rights. This means that even if the child's psychiatrist recommends a hospitalization, this does not guarantee the child will be admitted.

Plan to spend hours at admittance. This is a slow process and there is a high chance that there will not be a bed available. Families at minimum will spend 4-5 hours at admittance, and it can take over 24 hours if the child meets the hospitalization criteria and must wait for an opening.

Limited availability of pediatric psychiatric beds translates to fewer intakes. If admitted, your child may be transported to a hospital that has an open bed and may be located hours away.

Hopefully, this will help you understand the complex process of hospitalization. You can find more interesting and helpful articles at

Note: This article was sponsored by the Adopt America Network and was written by Deb Fjeld.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Homeschooling Children with RAD

Trying to sum up 18 years of experience with homeschooling both biological and adopted children is a daunting task but here is my best advice for you mothers homeschooling children with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

What are your goals for your child? What do you want your children to look like/be/do/experience by the time they graduate from high school?

I have an overall plan for my children with goals for their lives at the end of their homeschool education. For every single one of them, I desire that they have healthy relationships with their parents and siblings, show respect to both their elders and peers, and have the necessary skills to plan for their future. This is not the only thing we do in our homeschool but it sets the foundation for what we believe is most important.

Relationship or education?

As much as your RAD child wants to push you away and sabotage it, this is the most important aspect of your child's life. Learning about relationships and living with others is a key skill for adulthood.

For me, this has meant stepping back many (many, many, many) times and asking what is most important for this day. Is it beating those math facts over their heads one more time (and sometimes the answer is yes) or is it about stopping what we're doing to address the heart issues? To try once again to overcome the fear of abandonment, the debilitating shame and anxiety that encompass their hearts. Letting the child know in that moment that he/she has my complete and total attention. Praying over them one more time that they will take to heart the blessing they are to us.

Strive for excellence but accept limitations.

Whether your child is in a public, private or homeschool, the teacher can only pour into your child as much as the child can hold. Realizing that your child may not be capable of higher math or research papers is a part of the process. Just as there are classes for students with special needs in public school your child may have special needs that you are best equipped to address.

I want all my kids to be lifelong learners, to know how to research and experiment and find out where their gifts/interests lie. I want them to be decent, loving people who I still want to experience life with. If my kids accomplish my primary goal I believe they will be all these things.

Don't compare.

No one else is walking in your shoes so do not set yourself up for failure by comparing your homeschool to your neighbor down the street. They may participate in a classical education program, play every sport and at least one instrument while you're just hoping your child will get out of bed without screaming at you. No, I know from personal experience that homeschooling a wounded child is immeasurably different from homeschooling a biological child. It is possible and requires focusing only on your family.

Let go of some of the control battles.

Realize as your child is healing you will have a constant push/pull, especially with homeschooling. Your kids will probably sense how badly you want them to learn so they will make every day a struggle. It's just one more opportunity to show they're not going to do it your way.

How am I supposed to light a fire for learning in my children when I wonder if they'd rather light the house on fire with me in it? It's frustrating, exhausting, disheartening and stressful. I have to ask myself if it's really worth the struggle today over learning the parts of speech and algebraic equations (or in earlier years, writing their name legibly and pronouncing a three letter word correctly). The answer may be that it is because we have to push through. Diligence and perseverance are qualities we value highly. But those qualities apply just as much to diligence at winning my children's hearts and perseverance to love them in spite of their anger and disrespect and manipulative games. If you make every issue a control battle no one wins. Pick your battles wisely.

Teach your children about real life

Being at home allows you to teach your children in ways they learn best. Real life learning is essential for children, but even more so with our RAD kids. Give them the practical skills of taking care of themselves, earning and managing their money and practicing the decision making process. Grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, cleaning and laundry all count as life skills. Every day is an opportunity to teach my kids how to make wise choices and pick themselves up when they fail.

What does this look like for each child? Every child is different. Their learning style is different. Their emotional makeup is different. Their life experience is different. Their strengths and weaknesses are different. My relationship with each of them is different. My hopes/dreams/expectations for each of them is different. Part of homeschooling is learning about your child, modeling and teaching character, and knowing when to push and when to back off. Understanding when they've done their best or played dumb to push away. There is no perfect curriculum, no perfect teacher, no perfect homeschool. By allowing myself to grow and transform with my children I can be molded into a mother that can reach my child's heart while stimulating their natural mind and abilities they have been given.

Note: This article was sponsored by the Adopt America Network. If you'd like to read more about Marty's journey, you can find her blog at

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nutritional interventions for children with FASD

My friend Kari Fletcher, who is very cool, agreed to write this article for the Adopt America Network as we support adoptive families. Adopt America doesn't mind if I share them with you... and I don't think Kari does either.

Note: If you are looking for a really good FASD speaker, Kari is awesome!)

“FASD is more than ‘just’ brain damage. We sometimes forget that prenatal alcohol exposure has damaged not only our children's brains, but their digestive tracts as well.” ~ Diane Black, Ph.D. , adoptive mother of children with FASD.

While much has been written about the damage prenatal exposure to alcohol can cause to a developing fetal brain, recent research has also focused on damage to digestive and immune systems and on promising nutritional interventions.

Children with neurological differences need optimal nutrition in order to function at their best. However, damage to the digestive and immune systems from toxins such as alcohol, repeated infections or antibiotics may cause “leaky gut syndrome” and a typical American diet may not be meeting their nutritional needs.

Sometimes a trial diet eliminating gluten (the protein in wheat, rye and barley) and casein (the protein in milk) is recommended to help heal the digestive and immune systems.

Gluten and casein are difficult proteins to digest and in addition to contributing to the damage to the intestinal walls, causing constipation, diarrhea and poor absorption of nutrients, these proteins are thought to have an effect on behaviors as well.

The theory is that some people do not completely digest gluten and casein and fragments called peptides are left behind. These fragments cross through the permeable intestinal wall (“leaky gut”) and enter the bloodstream, eventually crossing the blood brain barrier and having an opioid effect on the brain. Autism and schizophrenia are two disorders that have been linked to this opioid effect on the brain and therefore, behavior.

A gluten and casein free diet is certainly not a cure for FASD but it may be worth considering for digestive and immune system concerns, and it may even reduce some challenging behaviors! Some families have found that children with FASD who follow a gluten and casein free diet have improved health, better regulated moods, fewer sensory challenges, and improved focus.

An elimination diet can be challenging, especially for adoptive families of children who experienced food deprivation or have strong survival skills toward food (“hoarding” or “stealing” food). Adoptive families should focus on attachment first.

• Consult with a physician, nutritionist, or therapist before making any significant dietary adjustments.

• Put the entire family on the diet, not just the child. Food preparation is easier, and the whole family approach promotes a sense of team and togetherness.

• Strictly avoid gluten and casein for at least 3 to 6 months to see its benefits.

• Milk alternatives, like rice milk, often contain calcium and vitamin D, but supplements may be useful.

• Gluten and casein free does not mean healthy. Pre-made GFCF foods may contain added sugar and fats. Homemade options are less expensive, healthier, and more family friendly.

• Children with FASD may have other food sensitivities, so keep a food diary.

The gluten and casein free (GFCF) diet can be challenging, especially in the beginning, but some families have found the benefits to be well worth the challenge!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Have a Kid With Attachment Issues?

Third in a series of articles sponsored by the Adopt America Network.

Have a Kid with Attachment Issues?

Since the diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder has become so popular for children who have spent some of their lives in foster care or institutions, there are hundreds of resources out there for living with children with these issues. It is important to remember that nearly all children coming from these backgrounds have attachment issues, regardless of weather or not they have an official diagnosis.

Parenting kids with attachment issues is hard work. The reason it is so difficult is that they do not inspire the kinds of responses that they need. Let me explain.

A child or teen with attachment issues has a goal to keep people as far away as possible because they are afraid of emotional intimacy. Their behavior is ugly, nasty, rude and mean. They push people away by disobeying, cursing, or being consistently oppositional. After a while, parents just want to STAY AWAY from their attachment disordered kids.

So when a therapist like Dan Hughes suggests that what parents need to do is to practice playfulness, love, acceptance, curiosity and empathy, our internal response as parents is “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!” After weeks or months or even years of being barraged with negative energy from kids, the idea of being playful and loving seems it will take more emotional energy than we can find within ourselves.

But it’s what they need. Unfortunately, we did not cause them to be this way but in order for us to help them heal, we need to practice very intentional parenting. Here are three tips that will help you be able to give your kids what you need.

1) Make sure you take care of yourself. You’ll need to be in the best emotional shape possible in order to continue to give when not receiving in return. Hang out with people who support you. Get enough sleep. Exercise and eat right. Consider yourself to be in training for a special mission – because this is harder than almost anything else you will ever have to do.

2) Pick your battles wisely. If you are consistently arguing about small things, there won’t be time to engage positively. Arguing with a child who has attachment issues simply gives them what they want. Distract them by changing the subject. Do unexpected things to make them laugh. Don’t let yourself get wrapped up in an argument that has no end in site. It’s not easy to be playful, loving, accepting, curious, or empathetic when they have gotten you to a place of anger and frustration. So be the adult. Don’t let them take you there.

3) Find things that you really like about your son/daughter and focus on them. Bring to mind positive memories you have shared. Focus on them as people, not their behaviors. Challenge yourself to make positive moments in each day that will create memories to look back on tomorrow.

If you have met me in person you know that I seldom get this right, but I do understand the importance of doing it. It’s not an issue of having the right personality or temperament. It’s about reframing the way you see things, and changing your response to your kids – because it is going to take a long time for them to change, if they ever do.

In conclusion, living with a kid with attachment issue requires living by the principles found in the revised serenity prayer, which I repeat to myself and quote often (even though I’ve never seen it attributed to anyone except “anonymous”):

Lord, give me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change;
The courage to change the person I can;
And the wisdom to know it’s me.

YOU CAN DO IT. Believe you can and start making small changes today.

Tired of Waiting?

Another article sponsored by the Adopt America Network. Please check out their website.

Tired of Waiting?

In the adoption process there are several waiting periods, but the two most difficult are:

the time between the completion of training, paperwork, and homestudy and the match of their child, and;

the time between when the match is made and the child or children actually move into the home.

Here are some suggestions for you as you participate in each of those two stages:

From Homestudy Completion to Match:

The temptation before being matched is to spend time thinking about the house and how to prepare it. But the issue before being matched with a specific sibling group or child is preparing yourself as a person and as a parent-to-be. Here are some suggestions:

1. Read, read, read, read, read. Books, magazines, articles, online blogs and websites, anything that you can get your hands on about children in the system. A special focus should be given to attachment disorder and fetal alcohol issues as you will most likely face them.

2. Volunteer to do respite care or be involved with children in some way. A crisis nursery, a headstart program in a low-income neighborhood, a Big-Brother or Big-Sister program, or spending time with teens at a Residential Treatment Center can provide invaluable training and also will make you more matchable.

3. Spend time attending support groups, conferences, and other events where you can meet parents of adopted children. Talk to them about their experiences and get to know their children.

From Match to Placement: When you find out you will be welcoming a child into your home, use the waiting time to prepare for that specific child or sibling group. Ask your questions carefully so you can use your waiting time wisely.

...Again, read, read, read but this time more specifically. Focus on the issues of the children who are coming to your home.
...Decorate a room.
...Plan a schedule.
...Enroll the kids in school.
...Purchase bedding.
...Get insurance information.
...Alert your doctor/dentist.
...Identify their therapist or psychiatrist.
...Calendar their currently scheduled appointments.
...Begin a scrapbook for them.

There are many things that you can do to make the time go fast. It is important to think through how your schedule will change when a new child enters your home. You are not adding a child to your existing life; you are welcoming a child who will change the way you and your family functions. Decide early on what are foundational values and practices of your family’s life together so that you can maintain a sense of stability in the midst of necessary changes.

Kids in care find security in structure, whether they are able to identify this or not (and with some diagnoses “structure” may initially create some challenges). The clearer the structure – and do not mistake clarity for rigidity – the better. Thinking through each day will help not only you, but also your children to get a sense of what to expect each day and each week during their stay with you. This kind of structure alleviates anxiety and provides a more secure sense of calm.

Don’t waste your waiting times. Take full advantage of the extra time because it won’t be long before you feel like you never have a free minute!

Online Support Groups

The following article is sponsored by the Adopt America Network, a non-profit that has been working for nearly 30 years to match waiting children with families.

Online Support: The Perfect Answer for Many Adoptive Parents

Support can come in lots of ways for people who have adopted children who have special needs. Talking to someone who “gets it” is one of the best things that we as adoptive parents can do to normalize our experience and feel like we are not alone. However, some types of support just aren’t possibilities for us during our most trying of days.

Here are some reasons why “real life” as opposed to virtual, online support aren’t possible for adoptive parents:

1) Traditional support groups require us to leave our homes. This requires child care. Many adoption support groups do not provide child care.

2) Traditional support groups that meet in person sometimes offer child care. However, sometimes our children simply cannot function in that setting -- even if it is geared to special needs children.

3) Sometimes we are simply to exhausted to make ourselves look presentable. Even if we want to get out and go to a group, it would require having time for a shower and ttime to find clothes that match and don’t have holes in them, perhaps makeup or perfume... you get the idea. Sometimes we’re just too tired at the end of the day to get there.

4) If we can’t meet in person, phone calls are the next best thing. However, it is quite embarrassing to be talking to someone with the noise of a kid raging in the background or while being called a variety of interesting and colorful names by an angry teenager. After we’ve said, “wait, hold on a second” five or six times it just gets too frustrating to try any longer.

5) Having visitors would be another natural way to connect with others, but I know you can think of 30 reasons why THAT isn’t going to happen. At least I can.

6) Meeting another adoptive parent for coffee or lunch is a great idea IF all the kids are in school and IF the school isn’t calling to interrupt the lunch or coffee time to say that we have to come to the school to intervene, give advice, or bring them home.

So, naturally, those of us who have interesting children at home often can’t find support by going to a “real life” support group. We can’t have people over, go out to meet someone, or talk on the phone. Fortunately, there is the internet and now even those of us in the midst of the battle in the trenches can participate in an online group.

So obviously, after reading the paragraphs above, you should already be able to articulate these reasons why online support has been my favorite type in my fifteen years as a foster and adoptive parent:

I don’t have to get dressed up. In fact I don’t have to get dressed at all. I don’t have to go anywhere. I can do it any time of day or night, it doesn’t matter if everyone is awake, or nobody is. Nobody can hear the noise and chaos in the background. I also find that the ability to write down what I am feeling (which often is required for online support) helps me understand myself more.

So if you are finding a need to “talk” to “someone who gets it” during the next weeks, why not check out online support options? List servs, message boards, blogs, and other avenues of online connections can be just what you are looking for.