Parenting Your Adopted Child Deerly

Admin_Magazine_Issue_January 2013_802_1 Deer flee in an instant when frightened. One second they are calmly grazing in the forest or meadow, and the next they are darting in every direction, seeking safety. This happens when there is no real threat, for example a branch falling, and also when there is a very real danger: such as a predator or hunter. Because a deer’s world consists of very real dangers, he is vigilant, constantly on "red alert."

Deer are always wary of their environment.

Traumatized adoptees are similar to deer. They quickly enter states of "freeze", "flight", or "fight", even when there is no visible threat or demand. This phenomenon stems from their early history of abuse, neglect, institutionalization and non-consistent caretakers.

The adoptee with a history of trauma enters into their new family with an overactive stress response system. The traumatic environment is stressful! The child must worry about whether or not he will eat, be fondled, be beaten and so on. The brain is consumed with survival. In this pre-adoptive environment of chaos, the brain over-develops in the areas of fear and anxiety.

The brain is user-dependent; the repetition of experiences strengthens the brain’s pathways. Thus, early experiences have disproportionate impact on how the brain will function for the individual’s lifetime. These adoptees, upon joining their family, will enter states of "flight" or "fight" easily and often when confronted in a manner that the brain perceives as threatening. This phenomenon doesn’t just go away with enough love or time. The brain’s pathways must be re-wired over time, with consistent and long term nurturing parenting.

While chronic abuse can result in the overactivation of the stress response system, neglect can result in other problems. Neglect means that the child’s physical and psychological needs go unmet. In order for the brain and thus, the child, to develop, he needs stimulation and acknowledgement. If these elements are not provided, the basic neural pathways that were ready to grow through experiences with care givers, withers and is less responsive. Overall, the child who isn’t nurtured, may not know how to have reciprocal, affectionate interactions. Again, the brain repeats what it learns. If all it learned is to be alone in a crib, then this is the pattern the formerly neglected son or daughter may re-play.

Certainly, the furthest thing from most adoptive parents’ minds, when accepting a child into their home, is thinking about how their new son or daughter’s brain is going to respond to their caring interactions and their discipline. Yet, today’s adoptive families need to understand some "brain basics." In essence, adoptive mothers and fathers want to learn to "parent deerly." Angry reactions and lengthy time-outs, remind a child’s brain of its abusive and neglectful past.

An adopted child from an institutional setting or fostercare background will respond differently to these "normal" parenting techniques  than does a typically-developing child. For example, the formerly institutionalized child is happy in his room. He seeks to disengage from the family. When stressed, his brain wants to go into "flight."

In another example, Mom asks a simple, "Where is your backpack?" "Did you eat the last yogurt?" "Why did you take your sister’s necklace?" and the child shuts down or begins to yell! In return, Mom escalates, "I’m talking to you!" "Don’t argue with me!" Many parent readers can relate to this scenario. The problem is, your child reacts to simple questions or commands as if they are attacks. A post-institutionalized child is so hyper-vigilant and on-guard that they feel instant panic when a parent’s focus falls upon them. Their brain cannot quickly or calmly respond. This involuntary reaction can appear to a parent as obstinance, anger, ignoring of the question, and disobedience. A child is completely unaware of why he or she responds this way, and unable to correct the behavior on their own.

In order to "parent deerly", moms and dads need to leave the anger and the consequencing mentality behind. Parenting the traumatized child is about parent’s reactions. This is certainly more easily said than done! Yet, calm exchanges are essential to healing the child who experienced complex trauma prior to arrival in the adoptive family. That is, conflict sends the child deeper into flight or fight: more negative behaviors occur in these states.

Calm, cool exchanges (with a gentle voice and gestures) between the parent and child lend to less behavioral difficulties. Under these circumstances, the brain can begin to reorganize itself, and the child heals. The family has a peaceful, emotional climate.

Each parent needs to identify ways to reduce the intensity of their reactions toward their adoptive son or daughter. Tips for accomplishing this seemingly enormous task include:

  • The adopted son or daughter often presents with a lengthy list of behaviors. No one can work on changing more than three at one time. Letting go of various "battles" automatically makes you a calmer parent.
  • Put reminder notes for yourself in conspicuous places, "I am helping my child learn to be more calm." "I am learning to be a more peaceful parent." "I live with a deer."
  • Contrived consequences aren’t all that helpful in changing the traumatized child’s behavior. He doesn’t have cause-and-effect thinking. This skill didn’t develop due to his abuse and neglect. Natural and logical consequences are the best route to forming the necessary logical pathways in your son or daughters’s brain. Natural and logical consequences are "quiet"; they occur with very little effort on the part of the parent. Again, this allows for more peaceful interactions between you and your deer-like child. It may take years (and progress is very, very slow) to see cause-and-effect develop. Be patient, be consistent.
  • "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Nice, nurturing interactions will get more  (i.e., better behavior) than frustration, exasperation and fury! Lack of nurture created the problems in the first place. Providing nurture solves many day-to-day behavioral dilemmas. Are you up for the nurture challenge?
  • Keep in mind, parenting a combination of troubled and typical children translates into "that’s not fair." Reduce the hard feelings on the part of your birth and/or previously adopted children by "starting a habit"and having regular family meetings. Typical kids, kept in the loop, tolerate parenting methods that seem biased toward their adopted brother or sister.
  • Lastly, anger simply isn’t good for you or your children! Chronic anger contributes to heart disease, heart attack, prolonged stress, diabetes, more frequent colds, and a host of other health problems. Again, take care of yourself! Just like you hear on an airplane, "Put the oxygen mask on yourself first!"

Author Bio: Arleta James, MS, PCC, has been an adoption professional for a dozen years. She spent several years as a caseworker for the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption Network placing foster children with adoptive families and then as the statewide Matching Specialist. She now works as a therapist providing services for attachment difficulties, childhood trauma and issues related to adoption. She was the 1999 Pensylvania Adoption Professional of the Year. She is currently on staff at the Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio. Arleta’s website is:

Arleta is the author of: Brothers and Sisters in Adoption: Helping Children Navigate Relationships When New Kids Join the Family


Register Now For a Free Expert Q&A Webinar Taking Place Next Week

8745632e-2 Adoption Expert Q&A Webinar: Love Me, Feed Me
with feeding specialist Katja Rowell, M.D.
February 7, 2013 @ 1 pm EST

Since bringing your child home, have you encountered behaviors like hoarding, food obsession, or overeating? Have you faced sensory challenges that impact feeding? Do you encounter picky eating and power struggles on a regular basis and find that you dread dinnertime?

Join Katja Rowell, M.D., aka "The Feeding Doctor," to ask questions about the challenges you’ve faced. The Adoption Expert Q&A Webinar: Love Me, Feed Me will take place on February 7, 2013 from 1pm to 2pm EST (12pm-1pm CST; 11am-12pm MST; 10am-11am PST).

To participate, you’ll need to:
1. Register
2. Check your inbox for the confirmation e-mail with your webinar link.
3. Can’t attend, or don’t want to forget your question? Submit it in advance here.

Adult Adoptees’ Views of Open Adoption

A report compiled by Heart of the Matter Seminars

293f3dde2203aed4769c089a8447f2ae LEE’S SUMMIT, MISSOURI – 1-28-2013 – Heart of the Matter Seminars announces the release of the data gathered by their survey which captured the voices of 281 adult adoptees.  Because of the amount of interest shown, HOTMS has decided to make the full report public.  

Heart of the Matter Seminars’ conducted a survey of 281 adult adoptees on the topic of open adoption.  Since much of the research previously available focused exclusively on birth parent and adoptive parent interviews and surveys, our report is unique and provides compelling statistics for anyone interested in adoption.

Heart of the Matter provides research based education and practical parenting tools for today’s adoptive parents and professionals. Results from the survey will be used in the upcoming course entitled  . . .

Opening up Open Adoption: What is it and is it right for you?

.  .  . scheduled for release next month


Update on Russian Ban on Intercountry Adoptions to the United States

Dear Friend of CCAI:

Following the January 22, 2013 Russian Supreme Court Letter on Implementation of Federal Law No. 272-FZ , CCAI has continued to work closely with Members of Congress and our partners inside Russia.  In situations like these, CCAI’s priority is to ensure that the U.S. government is aware of all individuals directly impacted and have the information necessary to act on their behalf.  Please go to CCAI’s blog ( ) to learn about the actions that have occurred since our last update. They include:

  • House Resolution 24: Expressing the deep disappointment of the House of Representatives in the enactment by the Russia Government of a law ending inter-country adoptions of Russian children by United States citizens…
  • January 17, 2013 House of Representatives’ Letter to President Putin
  • January 18, 2013 House and Senate Letter to President Putin
  • January 18, 2013 House and Senate Letter to President Obama
  • January 14, 2013 Russian Response Letter to December 21, 2012 Congressional Letter to President Putin

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. 



Elle Hogan
Director of External Relations
Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute | Washington, DC
O: 202.544.8500

FREE Webinar To Discuss Adoption of Children With Special Needs

February 13, 2013, 11:00 AM CST – Webinar with special guest Martha Osborne, founder of We will discuss Rainbow Kids, Special Needs adoptions, Waiting Children, post-adoption resources, international adoption trends and other adoption issues. Martha has long been revered in the adoption community as one of its best and most knowledgeable special needs and waiting child advocates. You will not want to miss this!

Be sure to register and have your questions answered by Martha Osborne and Resources4Adoption founder Cherri Walrod! Space is limited to 100 participants.

Register Now!

Loryn Woodworth ~Administrative and Research Assistant
Office, Social Media and Marketing Manager
:  785-550-8907
Toll Free Fax Number 1-888-309-4836

Join Both Ends Burning in Raising Awareness About International Adoption Issues!

International adoption, as you know, faces ever-growing challenges placing children in loving homes, and Both Ends Burning is devoted to doing something about it.

But Both Ends Burning needs your help.

BEB is a non-profit foundation dedicated to uniting adoption advocates, raising public awareness and taking steps to reform the policies that deny thousands of orphaned and abandoned children the loving families that await them.

STUCK the documentary.

We made a full-length documentary detailing the stories of four kids from different countries around the world and the trials of finalizing their adoptions. It touches people’s hearts and – we hope – spurs them to action. STUCK won the Audience Choice award for a documentary at the Heartland Film Festival, and promises to spread the word to a wide audience about the broken adoption system.

We want everyone to experience this powerful film. So beginning March 1, we are going on the road and premiering STUCK in 60 cities over 78 days. (Click here to learn when we’ll be in your city: )

In each city, we’re planning a full day of activities from media appearances to speaking engagements at universities, service clubs and other groups. In the evening, we’ll have a premiere party and finally, the movie itself, followed by a Q&A with our founder, Craig Juntunen. Our goal is to raise awareness and mobilize people to support reform for international adoption.

To make this work, though, we need a dedicated group of volunteers at each of our 60 locations.

How you can help.

We’re asking for your help in getting the word out. Some things you can do include:

1. Send details to your distribution list. This is our biggest and most important request. We’ve attached a letter you can send to your staff, your families, prospective families and people you know who are passionate about the issue of international adoption. It includes a link to our website where they can sign up to help in advance and on the day of the premiere. We need from 10-20 volunteers in each city.

2. “Like” and “Share” our Facebook page. We need everyone to go to!/STUCKthedocumentary to “like” the page and share it on their own walls 

3. Schedule your own promotional activities to complement our efforts on the day. This will be a day to raise awareness – some adoption agencies are planning open houses; individuals can schedule fundraisers … the opportunities are endless. We are asking for your support and in return we would like to support you.

Right now our biggest challenge is time. We need to set up our team of volunteers as soon as possible for this to be a success.

So please, look at the attached information, share it with your distribution lists and on your social media sites. Feel free to call us with any questions or ideas. We have a team of professionals in our office to partner with your city volunteers to make sure they have the support the need.

And above all, we all want to keep the kids in mind. Every day a child spends in an institution or on the streets is one less day they have growing up in a healthy family setting. We must act, now.

Thanks so much for your help. Please contact us with any questions you may have.

Julie Landman
STUCK Tour Director

STUCK Documentary

20089_243613092437226_1688006332_n STUCK is the award-winning documentary produced by Both Ends Burning sharing stories of kids and parents navigating the international adoption system.

STUCK, produced by Both Ends Burning, a international adoption advocacy non-profit, that uncovers the personal, real-life stories of children and parents navigating a rollercoaster of bureaucracy on their journeys through the international adoption system, each filled with hope, elation – and sometimes heartbreak.

STUCK TOUR — The purpose of the documentary is to help the people understand the issues and create a movement that will ultimately encourage U.S. officials to force a more supportive attitude toward international adoption.

The film will premiere in 60 cities over 80 days as we roll across the country this spring on the STUCK tour bus. While the highlight of each city visit will be the premiere of the film, Our goal is to create an all-day event with media appearances, speeches and discussions in multiple gatherings. The framework for the tour gives us the possibility to make STUCK a phenomenon.

One objective while we are on the road is to gather over 1 million petition signatures asking Congress, global leaders and President Obama to take specific actions to change the landscape of adoption. The petition will be hand-carried to members of Congress in the Step Forward for Orphans March in Washington, D.C., which will coincide with the last day of the bus tour, tentatively scheduled for May 17.

Your active involvement as a member of the tour team will support the most impactful and activity the adoption community has ever engaged in. Your efforts will help drive an increase in adoption and change the lives of countless kids for many years to come.

Learn more by visiting:

Orphans Without Borders – Global Action – NEED YOUR VOICE – Jan 27

Dear Colleagues,

Orphans Without Borders calls January 27th the day of Global Action For Children’s Rights to Have a Family. We invite people all over the world to support the orphans in Russia who became victims of the adoption ban.

Please, post your picture holding a sign that says – Orphans Without Borders (in your native language). Under it you can write – From Mother to Mother, From Parent to Parent, From Brother to Sister, From Father to Father, From Friend to Friend… Ask everyone to support it and "like" the page

If you do not have a Facebook page, please, send your picture to Sasha D’Jamoos (Shulchev)

Together we can help these children be with their families!

Natasha Shaginian-Needham, M.D.
Co-Founder of Orphans Without Borders
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Happy Families International Center,Inc.
Co-Founder of Artist Foundation in Russia
Documentary Producer

[NCFA – Member Agencies] Intercountry Adoption Numbers Continue to Decline


Media Contact:
Chuck Johnson
(301) 751-3750

Intercountry Adoption Numbers Continue to Decline

January 25, 2013 – Alexandria, VA – This week the U.S. Department of State released its FY 2012 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption. According to the report, American families adopted 8,668 foreign-born children in 2012, a decline from the 9,319 that they adopted in 2011 – making 2012 the eighth straight year in which intercountry adoptions have decreased since the peak year of 2004, when close to 23,000 children were adopted from other countries.

Intercountry adoptions by American families began in the 1950s, when Harry and Bertha Holt appealed to Congress to change existing law and allow Americans to adopt children from other countries. Although the numbers were relatively low in those early years, intercountry adoptions to the U.S. began to rise sharply in the 1990s, following the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime in Romania. It was learned that tens of thousands of children had been orphaned or abandoned, and were living in orphanages in Romania. Americans responded by adopting thousands of these orphaned and vulnerable children.

In 2008, the U.S. implemented The Hague Adoption Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (The Hague Convention), an international agreement established to provide universal protections and regulations for the adoption of children and promote cooperation among signatories of the agreement.

Many advocates believed that The Hague Convention would result in increased opportunities for orphaned and abandoned children to find safe, permanent, loving families through intercountry adoption, but that has not occurred. No new countries have opened intercountry adoption programs under The Hague Convention since the treaty was implemented by the U.S., and several countries have closed to address issues within their adoption programs and reorganize under a new Hague Convention-compliant system.

The number of intercountry adoptions will likely continue to decline as adoption programs in both Hague and non-Hague nations slow or shut down. American families adopted nearly 1,000 Russian-born orphans in 2011, but Russia recently banned Americans from adopting Russian orphans as a result of the U.S. passage of the Magnitsky Act in December 2012. Two Countries, Vietnam and Cambodia, have recently announced their succession to the Hague Convention and readiness to resume intercountry adoption with the U.S. but as yet the U.S. has not agreed to work with them on behalf of children in need of a family.

“The decline in the number of intercountry adoptions has occurred at a time when the global orphan population has increased dramatically,” notes Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of National Council For Adoption. “There are millions upon millions of children living outside of permanent family care – and for many, their best chance at securing a loving and permanent family is through intercountry adoption. The continued decline in intercountry adoptions is not good for children, and it is a disgrace and a travesty that more isn’t being done to offer children the hope of a family through intercountry adoption.”

NCFA continues to support The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which requires much stronger oversight and greater transparency in the intercountry adoption process. “The Hague Convention is a foundation for transparent, ethical, and lawful adoption practices, and now that it is in place we must use it,” says Chuck Johnson. “We must do more to expand opportunities for children in need of families to be adopted by those qualified and eager to adopt. We call upon children’s advocates, child welfare officials, and government stakeholders in all nations to work together more effectively on behalf of orphaned and abandoned children, with the sense of compassion and urgency they deserve.”

Adria Anderson
Development and Communications Associate
National Council For Adoption
225 N. Washington Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
T: 703.299.6633 | F: 703.299.6004

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The Hope Challenge: Growing Hearts & Building Families

Russian Supreme Court Letter on Implementation of Federal Law No. 272-FZ

On December 28, 2012, President Vladimir Putin signed into law Federal Law No. 272-FZ. This law went into effect on January 1, 2013. It bans the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens, bars adoption service providers from assisting U.S. citizens in adopting Russian children, and requires termination of the U.S.-Russia Adoption Agreement.

On January 22, the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Supreme Court issued a letter to city and regional courts explaining the implementation of Federal Law No. 272-FZ. The letter states that for adoption cases in which court decisions involv­ing U.S. citizen parents were made before January 1, 2013, (including those that entered into force after January 1, 2013 following the 30-day waiting period), the children should be transferred to the custody of their adoptive parents. [Note: the original letter in Russian can be found at; an unofficial English trans­lation is available at]

We understand that several U.S. families have already obtained final adoption decrees in accordance with this guidance. The Department of State continues to strongly encourage U.S. families, in cooperation with their adoption service provid­ers, to seek confirmation from Russian authorities that their adoptions will be processed to conclusion, prior to traveling to Russia.

The United States continues to urge the Russian government to allow all U.S. families who were in the process of adopt­ing a child from Russia prior to January 1 to complete their adoptions so that these children may join permanent, loving families. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow continue to process Forms I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, and immigrant visa applications for children whose families have obtained all required documents as part of the adoption process.

U.S. families in the process of adopting a child from Russia may continue to contact the Office of Children’s Issues at The Office of Children’s Issues will reach out directly to families as additional information becomes available. Further information regarding intercountry adoption from Russia will also be posted on adop­

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