U.P. KIDS encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a better place for children and families. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help promote children's social and emotional well-being and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities.
Research shows that when parents possess six protective factors, the risk for neglect and abuse diminish and optimal outcomes for children, youth, and families are promoted. The six protective factors are:
Nurturing and attachment
Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
Concrete supports for parents
Social and emotional developmental well-being
This is not only true for biological families, but is even more important for adoptive families. The U.P. KIDS Post Adoption Resource Center (PARC program) is there to support adoptive families after the adoption, after the agency that facilitated the adoption is gone, after the "honeymoon" is over and the tough part of being a family starts.
In an informal poll among post adoption workers in the U.P., the most prevalent presenting issues appear to be: need for support/a listening ear/advocacy for parents and for children; dealing with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; dealing with Reactive Attachment Disorder; dealing with legal woes/juvenile justice system, obtaining financial assistance (from SSI to medical subsidy/from youth special needs to funeral expenses); independent living preparation/supports (college, job, and career info and planning); need for respite; improving communication/coordination among providers and/or advocacy for families with other agencies and schools; need for accurate and complete information on children who have been adopted; and need for training.
U.P. KIDS - PARC has been hard at work with families who have adopted from the Child Welfare system. There are common themes in all situations we see.
There is a lack of awareness: U.P. KIDS wants to help families align services for whatever needs they have. There are services available throughout the U.P. for families who have adopted children. PARC either knows where they are, or will help find them.
There is a lack of understanding: U.P. KIDS wants to help parents understand what their child needs and what they can do to help themselves. Often times parents perceive their children are misbehaving, when in fact, they are physically unable to comply. Often times adopted children have fears parents know nothing about. This can cause great distress if the child reacts in an inappropriate manner. Sometimes it helps to teach the child to identify their feelings and recognize triggers. Oddly enough, they may not recognize these signals. Parents may need to monitor them for a while and help them with this. When it is more than a parent can do or has knowledge to do, it may be time to contact a professional for help. Trauma training for foster/adoptive parents is offered throughout the U.P. and is an important step in understanding how a past trauma may still be affecting the child in the present.
Certain diagnoses affect the abilities of children to foresee, be patient, or understand the effect or consequence of their actions and behaviors. These things not only frustrate parents, but children as well. It is not necessarily their desire to upset situations, but their inability to calmly comply.
There is growing coordination throughout agencies, to "wrap around" families PARC serves and create lasting change. This process is not always an easy thing to accomplish. Family systems are complex. It takes time to adjust treatment plans in order to find one that works. It takes patience and understanding.
There is often a grey area of service, when it comes to juvenile offenders who have mental health services. The courts may believe it to be the job of the mental health provider; the mental health provider may believe it is beyond them and more of a court responsibility. In the "wrap" process, providers meet face to face with the family and other providers to identify what services can be offered to the family to keep it intact.
Solutions may not be immediate, but PARC will support families every step of the way U.P. wide. Children adopted or in Guardianship from the Child Welfare system have the same needs as biological children and because of their sometimes known, and sometimes unknown history, they have special needs; physically, emotionally, and socially. U.P. KIDS PARC helps families get their needs met so they may continue to be healthy, happy families.
Linda Sanchez is placement services program director for U.P. KIDS of Houghton