First of all, the AWAA office is beautiful. It's warm, inviting, and we immediately felt more at ease upon entering. I teared up when passing the cubicals (prettiest cubicals I've ever seen) because there were groupings of pictures of adopted children pinned to the wall. I look forward to sending such a picture to our family coordinator in the future.
Our orientation was splits into 3 sessions- home study tips, trans-racial parenting and attachment, and discipline and behavior.
Home Study tips
We learned that our orientation counts as our first of 3 (possibly 4) home study visits, and that our social worker should contact us shortly to set up our appointments since we have handed in all of our paperwork (pray it's soon!). One visit will be both Evan & I together and the 2nd one will be each of us separately. After the visits are done, our social worker will write up the Home Study. This is the big piece that goes in the Dossier and enables us to get necessary paperwork from US immigration.
We also learned about re-adoption. Re-adoption is not mandatory for Ethiopia, but it good to do because: you can legally change your child's name, get a U.S. birth certificate and U.S. passport. In Ethiopia the child is named with their Ethiopian first name, adoptive father's first name and our last name....kind of funny for a girl.
Trans-racial parenting and attachment
This session was very helpful because it walked us through different scenarios and possible comments so that we can think through how we would respond graciously rather than out of defensiveness. This is going to be a toughy for me. For example: After adopting your child, someone asks "When will you have one of your own?" I realize that a person probably means "biological, " but saying "your own" implies that your adopted child is not your child. Can you imagine the little ears hearing that? Another scenario is when a family goes to the costume store for Halloween and their adopted child from China chooses a cowboy outfit and their Caucasian brother chooses a ninja costume. The person ringing them up says to the Chinese son, "Shouldn't you be the ninja?" Wow, I would really have to fight back a smart comment here. The recommendation was "It's Halloween, he can be whatever he wants."
As far as attachment goes, there were some great tips as to how to encourage healthy attachment including limiting visitors upon return. If you think about it, the child is used to a lot of people caring for them and so they need to learn who are the parents.
Scary term- RAD- reactive attachment disorder. While adopted children struggle with attachment to varying degrees, RAD is a very severe diagnosis. They are now starting to look at RAD on a spectrum (like autism) instead of a cut and dry diagnosis.
Discipline and behavior
What I learned and need my friends and family to know: parenting an adopted child is completely different. Tried and true parenting techniques (time outs, etc) often don't work with adopted kids because of living in an institution. Also, we signed an agreement not to use spanking, and will not be using that as method of discipline.
Also, for these children food is a big thing. We build trust and attachment by making sure they are fed on time and enough. A lot of adopted children have great anxiety about food because of their past experiences. The idea of waiting 10 minutes for food, is not the same for an adopted child because there is a lot of fear and trust tied up in it. A simple granola bar in hand can build trust that we will not let them go hungry.
All in all it was a great and informative meeting!!