Guest blog by Harmony Family Center.
When you hear the word “adoption,” what comes to mind? You might be surprised that adoption in the United States and here in Tennessee often doesn’t look like what you imagine — a baby brought home from the hospital by their forever family or adoption from another country. In fact, most adoptions are from foster care — more than 45% of US adoptions in 2018. Newborn and international adoptions make up the smallest percent of children adopted each year, followed by step-parent adoption and children adopted by someone else in their extended family.
No matter what type, adoption is complicated because at the heart of each child being adopted and each family finding their child is loss. Sitting with this, and embracing the nature of adoption as one of duality, is central to understanding adoption in any form.
APPROACHING ADOPTION FROM ALL SIDES
At Harmony Family Center, we work to approach adoption from all sides: facilitating private adoptions, assisting with home studies, providing cutting-edge clinical and therapeutic services for adoptive families, and helping children in foster care find the family they need.
In Tennessee, more than 400 children need adoptive families at any given time, and hundreds more families adopt through foster care each year. Adoptions from foster care are challenging, rewarding, and life-changing, just like other types of adoption, and Harmony provides support from start to finish.
Children in foster care are often seen as “damaged goods.” They’ve experienced, at the very least, the heartbreak of being removed from their homes and living with families they do not call their own. Most have also lived through unspeakable trauma, and many find themselves uprooted time after time. In spite of what we know about childhood resilience, early trauma impacts brain development and many children in foster care need help from caring families and professionals.
We also know this: children who’ve experienced trauma will thrive with the support of families who choose this path. Harmony Family Center is a leader, creator, and provider of therapeutic programs and innovative services. Harmony is helping change systems and communities by providing trauma-responsive, evidence-based trainings, and offers specialized therapeutic and clinical programs like:
- Adoption Support and Preservation/ Guardianship Support and Preservation (ASAP/ GSAP):
Through a seamless, statewide system of intensive in-home services, diverse educational offerings, and supportive enrichment activities, ASAP/GSAP services are available to any family who has adopted or assumed guardianship through the public child welfare system in Tennessee. Additionally, families who have adopted through the public child welfare system in another state and subsequently moved to Tennessee are eligible for ASAP or GSAP services. Families who have adopted through private, domestic, or intercountry channels are eligible for ASAP/GSAP services on a sliding scale fee basis.
- Families United Supported Engaged (FUSE):
FUSE groups support and educate guardianship, adoptive, pre-adoptive, and foster parents as they navigate the challenges and notable experiences of the parenting journey. FUSE groups focus on one key psycho-educational or adoption/guardianship specific topic each month and provide an opportunity for learning and group discussion.
- Finding Our Children Unconditional Support (FOCUS):
FOCUS is a collaboration among the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Harmony Family Center, and provider agencies across the state to encourage the adoption of children in the Tennessee foster care system. FOCUS serves children in full guardianship in the statewide foster care system who need a forever family. These children are often more challenging to place because of their length of time in custody, history of multiple home or residential placements, and their emotional and behavioral needs. FOCUS works to build a team of support around each child.
- Therapeutic Services:
Harmony offers therapeutic services in Knox and Blount counties, providing a unique experience of therapy. The Neurosequential Model guides our clinical staff to choose the therapeutic approach that best fits the child’s developmental history and the family’s needs. Because one therapeutic approach does not fit all situations, our staff utilize a variety of evidence-based and evidence informed-models. Harmony uses a range of modalities to serve adults, families, children, and adolescents through individual, family, and group therapy, including animal-assisted therapy.
- Adoption Services:
Harmony has been licensed as a private, child placing agency since 1996. Adoption services were the first provided by Harmony. As Tennessee’s premier adoption agency, Harmony provides services for families interested in adopting a child as well as those who are looking to provide legal permanency for a child that is already in their home. Additionally, Harmony works with expectant parents who are considering making an adoption plan for their child.
Harmony provides training on trauma responsive care in our local and regional communities, throughout Tennessee, and across the nation. In addition to providing training for thousands of foster and adoptive parents in Tennessee each year, Harmony trains educational, healthcare, law enforcement, and social services professionals. As part of the Neurosequential Network, Harmony is at the cutting edge of training and therapeutic practices for children and families who have experienced trauma. The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics integrates core principles of neurodevelopment and traumatology to inform work with children, families and the communities in which they live.
“WHO BELONGS TO THIS CHILD?”
Like most things worth fighting for, adoption from foster care is hard. With Harmony’s support, there’s no question that families can navigate these challenges together. Adoptive families who successfully parent children from the foster care system are all very different. No two families are the same. However, there is one key defining characteristic: flexibility, or a willingness to travel down a path different than what they originally imagined.
Renowned adoption expert and author Jim Gritter once said, “We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child.” Could you belong to a child who needs a family? If you’re interested in learning more about adopting from foster care, email Tina Graves (firstname.lastname@example.org) and visit www.parentachild.org to learn about children in foster care in Tennessee.