The Importance of Sleep to Your Child’s Learning and Growth

By Ellie Porter We all need sleep. There’s no arguing that. For children, sleep plays a vital role in their proper physical and mental growth and development. However, many foster and adoptive children have trouble falling and staying asleep. In their experience, nighttime has often been a scary time that’s full of unknowns. With sleep as a priority, you’ll be setting your child up for better long-term health and happiness. Proper Growth Your child does most of his growing while he sleeps. The body goes through five sleep stages throughout the night, and it’s during the first of the deep sleep stages that the body releases human growth hormone. It’s released regularly throughout the night to stimulate bone, muscle, and organ growth. When your child doesn’t get enough sleep, he’s also getting less growth hormone, which, over a long period of time, can interfere with normal growth. Successful Social Relationships The ability to successfully interact with adults and other children often starts with a good night’s rest. Anxiety, stress, and irritability are common when children don’t get enough sleep because of the changes that take place in the brain. Lack of sleep causes the part of the brain that processes emotions to become over sensitive to any negative thoughts, emotions, or events. At the same time, the region of the brain responsible for applying logic to those emotions becomes less active. Children’s brains are less developed than adults so their emotional responses are less logical than an adult’s anyway, but it’s even harder when they’re tired. Irritability and emotional outbursts due to sleep deprivation can make it difficult for children to maintain successful relationships with their friends and adults. School Performance The measure of a happy child is not based on their school performance. However, how your child performs in school can affect how he feels about himself. In studies, sleep deprivation doesn’t affect all subject areas equally. Subjects like language and math tend to suffer more than arts and science. The performance differences show up in children who aren’t getting enough sleep and those who have poor sleep efficiency. Sleep efficiency is how many hours are slept versus how many hours the child spends in bed. Adequate sleep gives a child the opportunity to reach their full academic potential. Physical Health Sleep, or lack thereof, can also affect the immune system. During the night, the immune system gets to work fighting off illness and recharging itself. Without enough sleep, children are more likely to get sick and stay sick longer. Appetite can also be affected as sleep helps regulate the release of hunger and satiety hormones. Lack of sleep increases cravings and the rewards the brain receives from high fat, sugary foods. Now, children aren’t capable of fully regulating themselves when it comes to sugar intake, but a lack of sleep can make it harder for them to exercise self-control. Patience and Consistency Sleep isn’t always easy for children who haven’t lived an ideal life. As a parent, patience and consistency are your greatest allies, especially when it comes to bedtime and a bedtime routine. Some children may need extra helps like weighted blankets, nighttime snacks, or a white noise machine to make bedtime a success. The important thing is that you make sleep a priority and have patience as your child works to build new habits that can last the rest of their lifetime.

Shop to Support Adoption and Foster Care

We all have the power to help children in foster care and families hoping to adopt, and it starts with our wallets. Giving back to foster care and adoption-related causes can be extra rewarding when you do so by shopping at these small businesses:

Feather Refuge

When you purchase a shirt from this adoptive parent’s shop, you can help fund the building of an orphanage and foster care and adoption services at Beech Acres parenting center

Natalie Brenner Shop

Adoptive mom Natalie Brenner’s shirts and prints support A Family for Every Child, Together We Rise, and Embrace Oregon. She has also funded some of her own adoptions with her shop sales.

Just Really Joseph

When she couldn’t find a relatable story about international adoption, Kayla Craig took matters into her own hands and turned her son Joseph’s adoption journey into a children’s book. Every penny of the proceeds from Just Really Joseph goes to helping families through Katelyn’s Fund Orphan Ministry.

Gobena Coffee

Your cup of Joe can do more than just transform you into a functioning human being. Gobena Coffee was started by adoptive parents Steve and Danae, who were inspired to help orphaned children after adopting their daughter Eva from Ethiopia. Families looking for ways to raise money for their own adoptions can use Gobena’s fundraising program and earn 50% of the profits.

Swell Forever

When you shop at Swell Forever, you help provide funding for grants for foster parents and parents looking to adopt from foster care. The Foster Swell Fund for Kids in Care helps foster parents pay for extracurricular activities, and the Swell Forever Adoption Grant helps parents pay for their foster care adoptions. Swell Forever carries everything from blankets and nursery decor to jewelry and skin care.   Next time you’re out of coffee or need a gift for someone, consider making a purchase with purpose!

The 7 Best Books for Parents Considering Adoption

The best way to make the adoption process go smoothly is to do your homework! Read everything you can and seek out answers to all of your burning questions.  To get you started, here are some recommended books for parents considering adoption:

1. 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew

In 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, an adoptee offers insight into the unique emotional challenges adopted children face by sharing case studies.

 2. Adopting the Hurt Child: Hope for Families with Special-Needs Kids – A Guide for Parents and Professionals

Through this book, you can learn from other parents who have helped their adopted children heal from emotional trauma.

3. Confessions of an Adoptive Parent: Hope and Help from the Trenches of Foster Care and Adoption 

Mike Berry has fostered and adopted children of his own and offers his insider’s perspective in this faith-based parenting guide.

4. You Can Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption

Learn tried-and-true budgeting, fundraising, and grant application strategies from a mom who has been there and done that. For more on paying for adoption, check out our guide.

5. In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption

Transracial adoption is common when adopting from foster care, and while the differences between you and your adopted child won’t affect your relationship, it is important not to gloss over them. This series of interviews coupled with the author’s perspective on the issue highlights the importance of recognizing your child’s unique racial identity.

6. Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way

Country music star Jimmy Wayne advocated for foster children by walking halfway across America, because he used to be one of them. Walk to Beautiful is the story of how Jimmy turned heartbreak into hope.

7. The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family

This parenting handbook encompasses a range of circumstances, from international adoption to special needs.

Never underestimate the power of stories.  Don’t see a book here that matches what you’re looking for? Check out our full suggested reading list here.

Bedtime tricks for your new children

As a foster and adoptive mother, we are no strangers to bedtime and the art of navigating it with new placements. Here are a few tips and tricks we have learned over the years that make bedtime with your new family member just a little bit easier. #1 Lower your expectations This may seem like common sense, but I’m amazed at how many people expect their new children to be able to fall right into a bedtime routine. If your child is coming straight from a home where they may have experienced neglect or trauma, they may have never even gone through a bedtime routine before. When our youngest son came to us as a toddler, the first few days the bedtime process took 3+ hours a night. I would just be prepared to spend a lot of time at the beginning investing into your new child and building trust and trying to let the little things go. #2 Night lights When a new child comes to us, we make sure their  room is very well lit, and that the hallway to the bathroom is as well. We keep nightlight throughout our house so they don’t get nervous in the middle of the night. #3 Food and Water If your child has food insecurity issues (which the majority of kids in care have to some extent) a really easy way to calm their nerves is by placing a basket of food by their bed the first couple weeks they’re with you. Our oldest son still keeps a few granola bars in his room, years later, but never eats them. He just likes knowing they’re there. #4 Audio books With kids of all ages, I ask if they want to listen to an audio book while they fall asleep. Many kids who come into foster care previously lived in homes where it could be really noisy at night (people coming and going, grownups yelling, etc.) It can feel unnerving to them to go from that to a completely silent house. I’ve found that audiobooks with an hour long timer on them can really help lull them to sleep. #5 Sensory objects I give younger kids a few bedtime sensory objects to play with while they listen to the audiobook in bed. Our youngest son loves those sequin pillows that you can draw designs in, and he also likes to play with a squeezey toy. This allows him to use his muscles and focus on something other than thrashing around in bed and can be very calming. #6 Weighted Blankets If you’re still fostering, you need to check your licensing rules before introducing weighted blankets. But for adoptive families, these can be life savers for sensory seeking kids at bedtime. I would highly recommend investing in one if you have a child who can be restless in the evenings. #7 Keep checking in With new children, after they’re in bed and all set up with their audiobook, I tell them I will come back and check in on them in two minutes. Then I do. Then I tell them I’ll come back and check on them in 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, etc. I do this until they fall asleep. It’s an easy way to build attachment and trust with your new child. Hope these tips were helpful to some of you! Thanks for reading!! -Sara

Seven Great Adoption Books For Kids

7 Great Adoption Books for Kids Hi there! My name is Sara. I’m a foster mother to many and an adoptive mother to my two sons, ages 6 and 13. Throughout the years we have found that one of the easiest ways to explain foster care and adoption to the kids who come through our home is through reading bedtime stories. Here are 7 of my favorite kids books that explain adoption.   A Mother for Choco By Keiko Kasza We LOVE Choco in our house. This is a great story that explains that mothers aren’t mothers based on if they look similar to their children, but instead what role they play in their child’s life. Choco’s mother and siblings look nothing like him, but they are family. This book is a very fun twist on the classic “Are you my Mother?” storybook. Great book that shows adoption as a simple, easy to understand concept.   Forever Fingerprints By Sherrie Eldridge “Forever Fingerprints”  was written by an adoptee who does a great job of addressing the common questions adopted children regularly ask. The main character, a little girl named Lucy, has many feelings about her birth mother. Lucy’s adoptive parents do a great job of reinforcing Lucy’s feelings and honoring her past, all while building connection with her.   The Mermaid Who Couldn’t By Ali Redford This book is about a little mermaid named Mariana who was abandoned by her mother in the ocean. It’s easy to see that she is lacking confidence and has many doubts about herself. After meeting a turtle (who could be seen as a foster/adoptive mom) who comes and finds her, you see Mariana start to blossom. This book shows Mariana experiencing a wide range of emotions and shows her tame them with the help of the turtle. The emotions Mariana faces in this book are so relatable to foster/adoptive youth and this book helps opens up the dialogue and encourages communication.   A Family is a Family is a Family By Sara O’Leary “A Family is a Family us a Family” celebrates almost every kind of family imaginable. This book celebrates all sorts of different families- same sex families, single parent families, grandparents as guardians, separated families who are co-parenting, families by adoption etc. This book is so positive and celebrates diversity in families and is a fun read for kids of all ages.   I don’t have your eyes By Carrie A. Kitze This is a positive, uplifting book that talks about the physical difference between adoptive parents and their children, and then follows with all the ways they are the same. This is especially great for transracial and interracial families. I love this book because it talks about how differences can be a thing to celebrate- they are valued and appreciated.   Yes, I’m adopted! By Sharlie Zinniger This book celebrates adoption from a child’s point of view. There is a rhyming nature throughout the book which keeps children’s attention. The illustrations are also beautiful. It is important to note that this book is based on a private infant adoption, so it may not be suitable for older children who were adopted out of foster care.   My New Mom & Me By Renata Galindo This is my all-time favorite kids book that relates to adoption! It’s geared towards older kids (3+) who are adopted and go meet their adoptive parents for the first time. The illustrations are amazing and it empathizes team work and celebrating our differences. This book is amazing and so relatable for adoptees as well as adoptive parents.

Why you should consider teen adoption.

When my husband and I started fostering 3 years ago, I was 23 and he was 27. We were so excited to have a cute toddler or baby come stay with us for an extended period of time. During our licensing process, we bought car seats and cribs and onesies and strollers- the list goes on and on. Throughout the last 3 years, we have fostered a fair amount of babies and toddlers. And it has been wonderful. But last week, at 26 years old, I had the privilege of adopting my 13 year old son. This was not in our plan. There is only a 13 year age difference between us. We had no experience with teenagers. How would we know what to do? The thing is we don’t. But it really doesn’t matter. Every day we’re trying our best. And to say our son is amazing is the worlds biggest understatement. He is the most incredible person I’ve ever met in my life. Everywhere we go he makes friends and spreads love and empathy. He is easy going, funny, and just the biggest joy to be around. He works so hard in school, kills it on his dance team, and dreams of being a social worker when he grows up. I can’t imagine a life without him. He falls effortlessly into place in our family. Attachment came so naturally between us and he has proven every stereotype about teen adoption untrue. I know that this isn’t always the case, but I feel like it’s so important to share these success stories. He’s lived with us for two years now, and I’m amazed at all he’s accomplished and how far he’s come. He has made it his goal to catch up in school, spending extra time every day doing extra reading and math. He’s been on the school basketball team, he’s crushed black diamonds snowboarding, he’s started learning how to play the drums, and he shows us so much love and grace every day. My husband and I are trying to figure out this parenting thing, but honestly, it hasn’t been that hard with him. He makes it easy. If someone told me a few years back, I would be adopting a teenager- I would have thought they were crazy. Now I can’t imagine a life without him. If you’re considering adoption, please don’t write off teens. They’re a population who desperately needs awesome parents to step up and give them a chance. Our son had so much untapped potential that poured out of him once he was given a place to grow. Watching him blossom over the last two years has been the most amazing period of my life. Adopting teens isn’t always easy, but it is so, so worth it.   -Sara

Adoption Advocate Influencers You Should Be Following on Instagram

Instagram can be a wonderful place to find an adoption community and individuals whose stories resonate with you. It’s easy to get lost while scrolling through the endless stream of cute baby photos, but your scrolling doesn’t have to be mindless- it can help you find the advice and support you need from parents who have been in your shoes! Here are the adoption advocates who keep it real and warm our hearts on the ‘gram:

@theluckyfewofficial

Follow Heather (mom to Macey, Truly, and August) as she advocates for adoption and shares the joys and struggles of parenting children with Down Syndrome. Heather knows firsthand that parenthood isn’t all giggles and playtime- her Instagram is a relatable mix of tantrums and her kids’ hilarious shenanigans.  

@fromanothamotha

Adoption coordinator and birth mother Kelsey, who is a part of an open adoption, stands up for those who are often forgotten in the adoption process, the birth mothers, by sending Mother’s Day cards, using her blog as a platform where birth mothers can share their experiences, and hosting annual Birth Mom Celebrations.

@mraechris

Meah is an adoptee herself who adopted her daughter Maven from birth. Get ready for cuteness overload when you visit her feed.

@kindredand.co

Kindred and Co. is an adoption community that features blogs from adoptive moms and dads and offers advice and support for parents in all stages of the adoption process. Their feed is a place where you can read a variety of different perspectives and get your toughest adoption questions answered.

@kirabug 

  Kira is an adoptee who has since reunited with her birth family and adopted children of her own. She shares her parenting journey and the joy she has found in her unique situation with two sets of parents. Hers is a great story to follow if you have an open adoption and want your children to have a relationship with their birth family.

@bigtoughgirl

Ashley, a birth mother who is also part of an open adoption,  hosts The Adoption Chat talk show and helps support birth moms post-placement through Lifetime Healing, LLC.

@tateylove

Jordan is an author and adoptive mother to Shep. She shares her experience with infant loss and transracial adoption with honesty and grace on her Instagram.   No matter what your adoption situation, you can find a virtual support system and real-life stories that speak to you.

My Success Story – by Claire Stamley

“My name is Claire Stamey. I live in N.C, and I got pregnant by one of my best friends in 2007 at the age of 38.  I am white and he is black.  This was my 3rd baby.  The birth father and I decided to look for biracial couples to adopt her.  We ended up finding what turned out to be the perfect couple, Chris and Ruth Traylor in California.  The adoptive Dad and I have similar interests and talents.  We all decided on an open adoption Zoe was born 3 weeks or so premature.  She is nothing short of a miracle.  Chris and Ruth often sent me pics, and we all kept in touch on Facebook and the phone. Sadly, Ruth passed away-in December,2016 from complications of Lupus.  Chris is now a single Dad raising Zoe himself and doing a wonderful job.  Chris and Zoe keep in touch with me via phone and Facebook on almost a daily basis.  Chris also keeps in touch with my 25 year old daughter, as well as the birth father and his family. It is now July 2018 and here is the rest of my story. Chris decided that it’s now time for him and Zoe to come to NC and visit me, my 25 year old daughter, and the birth father and his family.  They came to visit for the first time in 10 years and it exceeded all’s expectations. Attached are both a pic of Chris, Ruth, and Zoe as a baby, and Chris and Zoe’s visit this month.” Corey, Zoe, Ava, me and family Ruth, Chris and Zoe Chris, Zoe and me   Thank you Claire for sharing your story with us.  We are so happy for you and your family! If you have a success story that you would like to share, please contact Aurora at aurora@afamilyforeverychild.org!

Why I Volunteer for AFFEC

This week, my internship as the blog coordinator for AFFEC will come to a close.  Although I only just discovered AFFEC a few weeks before my internship began,  the past twelve weeks have been several years in the making. When I was around six years old, a neighborhood boy of about eight or nine began visiting every day after school. He was my sister’s age and frankly, I remember being more annoyed by his constant presence than anything. He was always eager to join in whatever game my best friend from across the street and I were playing. He would come over for snacks, help with homework, swimming, and Jamba Juice outings. I never quite knew why he was always around; it wasn’t as if my sister was best friends with him.  For some reason,  trips to Jamba Juice are what stand out the most. Overall, my memories of him are quite blurry- when I think back,  I see freckles and dark hair, those drives to Jamba Juice, his bicycle on my best friend’s driveway (Was it dark blue?), and maybe, just maybe, my nose remembers the scent of his laundry detergent. I can’t say the memory of him as a person left a lasting impact on me, because that would require me projecting some dramatic narrative on him. I don’t have enough memories to piece a story together at all. It’s not what he said or what games we played all those afternoons at my house. What really has stayed with me is why he was there in the first place. A few years after that time in my childhood (I really couldn’t tell you whether it was months or a year), my mother told me the reason why. When the boy from down the street was eight years old, he came home from school one day and witnessed his father’s suicide in the family garage.  He was one of several children to a mother who was living with mental illness. She struggled to care for the many kids, so the boy sought refuge at our home. Eventually, the children were separated and placed in foster care. Terrified and lonely, the boy called the first person who came to mind when he arrived- my mother. From there, my mother tried to adopt him, but our in-ground pool would not fly when our home was evaluated. After that, my mother said they lost touch for a while, but she did hear from him, years later. I have held onto this story ever since. From a young age, I decided adoption would be my only route to parenthood, should I ever seek one. I have carried a longing to help foster care children in some way. I told myself that maybe, in another life, I could pursue social work. But my interests vary far too much to allow me to commit to something so specific, so for a long time, I felt that there wasn’t a way for me to support the cause.  Until it came time to find an internship. I suddenly saw my chance to finally do something about the story I had tucked away in the back of my mind. I found AFFEC and applied. Through this internship, I have been able to advocate for foster care children and adoption in a way that makes sense for me. I am too young to be a parent and it is not financially feasible for me to donate regularly to foster care causes and adoption funds, but I have been able to help make a difference just by spreading awareness. No matter who you are or what your circumstances, you can create change in the lives of foster care children. And while the story of my neighbor and my mother’s kindness is what drives me, you don’t need a reason why or a personal connection.  Show up and volunteer in whatever capacity you can, simply because you care. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss