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Heart Times AASK-Adults Adopting Special Kids

Jan-March, 2011 Volume 7, Issue 3

Ambiguous Loss Haunts Foster and Adopted Children (Reprinted with permission from Winter 2009 Adoptalk)

Adapted, with permission, from two articles by Jae Ran Kim (“Understanding Ambiguous Loss” and “Adoption and Loss”) in MN ASAP Family Voices, a publication of Minnesota Adoption Support and Preservation. MN ASAP is a collaboration of the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network and NACAC.

AASK is a collaborative program of Catholic Charities North Dakota and


OUR MISSION AASK commits to building permanency for children from foster care through adoption by stable and nurturing families.

Ambiguous loss - a feeling of grief or distress combined with confusion about the lost person or relationship - is a normal aspect of adoption. Parents who adopt children with special needs may feel ambiguous loss related to what the child could have been had he not been exposed to toxic chemicals in utero or abused and neglected after birth. Birth parents experience loss when a child is removed from their home. For children placed in foster care, this type of loss tends to happen over and over again and is incredibly hard to process. To help children better manage these repeated traumas, foster and adoptive parents, as well as child welfare workers, must be sensitive to the role ambiguous loss plays in foster and adopted children’s behavior. (...continued on Page 3)

Meet our Featured Child ... MAKENZE Do you enjoy the outdoors? Camping, swimming or snowball ghts? If so, you have a lot in common with eleven-year-old Mak! Mak (Makenze) loves to be outside, no matter the weather! He is fascinated with airplanes and trains and has traveled on both. He’d like to be a train engineer or a pilot when he grows up. In the meantime, he settles for making and ying paper airplanes around the house and yard! Mak is an intelligent 5th grader. He is capable of being an excellent student when he applies himself. He does best when his mind is challenged. He’s very creative and inventive. He can often be found just tinkering or building with Legos. Mak responds well to clear and immediate expectations and consequences. He needs a forever family that isn’t always on-the-go and will respect his need for some at-home family time. He’s open to the idea of being adopted by a family with other children in the home but would like to be the youngest, if possible. He’d also greatly benet from an actively involved, strong father gure. But the most important thing to Mak is that he nds a family who is also willing to adopt his best buddy in the world, his cat, Winchester. Mak and Winchester share a very special bond. Both long to be living in the same home again, where they can cuddle and share their good and sad times with one another. This thoughtful and kind-hearted young man, with big brown eyes and a charismatic personality, deserves a family who will provide him with an unconditional love, a forever family who can offer consistency, patience, support and boundless love and acceptance. If this family is yours, please contact Trich Heck today at (701) 775-4916.

AASK Staff Contact Information Catholic Charities North Dakota 5201 Bishops Boulevard - Suite B Fargo, North Dakota 58104 Andrea Donais AASK Worker Corey Ernst AASK Program Supervisor Jennifer Foss AASK Worker/WWK Recruiter Nancy Germain AASK Worker Leanne Johnson AASK Director Sonja McLean AASK Worker Kathy Quaife AASK Worker

Phone: 701-235-4457 Fax: 701-356-7993

Toll Free: 877-551-6054

701-356-8027 701-356-7987 701-356-7985 701-356-8023 701-356-7986 701-356-7981 701-356-8039

Catholic Charities North Dakota 311 S 4th Street - Suite 105 Grand Forks, North Dakota 58201 Tricia Heck AASK Worker Andrea Olson AASK Worker

Phone: 701-775-4196 Fax: 701-775-0129

PATH ND, Inc. 2000 East Burdick Expressway Minot, North Dakota 58701 Andrea Lang AASK Worker Amanda Sem AASK Worker

Phone: 701-839-8887 Fax: 701-839-8990 701-839-8887 701-839-8887

PATH ND, Inc. 1820 East Walnut Street - Suite 5 Devils Lake, North Dakota 58301 Deanne Johnson AASK Worker

Phone: 701-662-4913 Fax: 701-662-4963

Toll Free: 800-766-9389


PATH ND, Inc. 418 East Broadway - Suite 25 Bismarck, North Dakota 58501 Joan Allen AASK Program Supervisor Kathy Watson AASK Worker

Phone: 701-224-9611 Fax: 701-224-9747

Toll Free: 800-766-9279

701-224-9611 701-224-9611

PATH ND, Inc. 135 Sims Street - Suite 204 Dickinson, North Dakota 58601 Linda Gregory AASK Worker

Phone: 701-225-3310 Fax: 701-225-2208

Toll Free: 800-766-9351


PATH ND, Inc. Turtle Mountain PO Box 1970 Belcourt, North Dakota 58316-1970

Phone: 701-477-0525 Fax: 701-477-0527

Toll Free: 800-303-4961

701-775-4196 701-775-4196

Phone: 701-477-0525

Director’s Corner

by Leanne Johnson

Hi everyone! As we anticipate spring, we acknowledge some changes in our AASK staff. We say goodbye to Cleo Keplin from our Turtle Mountain ofce in Belcourt as she leaves the AASK program for full-time social work employment elsewhere. Thank you, Cleo, for all your efforts with the program. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors! We also welcome a new addition to the AASK family. Supervisor Corey Ernst and her husband, Steve, became the proud parents of daughter Ryder on January 27. Our best wishes go out to the happy family! Tax credit reminder: Remember you may be eligible for adoption tax benets going back as far as 2005. Be sure to check with your tax preparer or the NACAC website to nd out all the details. Until next time... hang in there; spring is surely on the way!

Ambiguous Loss Haunts Foster and Adopted Children, continued (... continued from Page 1)

AMBIGUOUS LOSS AND CHILD WELFARE Ambiguous loss occurs in two situations: when a person is physically present but psychologically unavailable or when a person is physically absent but psychologically present. The latter type is most common in foster care and adoption. Children who enter foster care lose contact with their birth parents, physical surroundings and sometimes their siblings and enter an extremely tenuous situation. Will the child be reunited with the birth parent and siblings? Will the parent ght to get the child back? How long will this take? Will the child remain with the same foster family until he goes home or will he move again? What if the child can never go home?! A child who is placed with a family of a different race loses something else. As editors Sheena McCrae and Jane MacLeod point out in Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections, transracial families cannot hide. The anonymity of being in a regular family vanishes when the “conspicuous family” goes on any public outing. School can be another source of unsettling grief. When a child moves among several schools, both social and educational continuity is broken. The child loses chances to develop lasting friendships and keep up with peers academically. If a child has FASD or another learning disability or simply missed a lot of school earlier in life, school is an environment in which the child can feel out of place, cut off from the same-age peers and their activities or even looked down upon. Youth may mourn and be angry that prior circumstances or disabilities now keep them from tting in at school and having a positive school experience. The symptoms of ambiguous loss often mirror those of post-traumatic stress disorder. A child will commonly experience: -

difculty with changes and transitions, even seemingly minor ones trouble making decisions psychic paralysis or the feeling of being overwhelmed when asked to make a choice problems coping with routine childhood or adolescent losses (last day of school, death of a pet, move to a new home, etc.) - a sort of learned helplessness and hopelessness due to sense that he has no control over his life - depression and anxiety - feelings of guilt Even children adopted before age one, who have no conscious memory of their birth parents, may experience symptoms of ambiguous loss as they approach their teens. In Ambiguous Loss: Coming to Terms with Unresolved Grief, author Pauline Boss states, “Although the birth mother is more conscious of the actual separation than is the baby … the birth mother is thought about often and kept psychologically present in the minds of both the adoptive mother and the adopted child.” (... continued on Page 8)

Waiting Children Say hello to John, a happy-go-lucky boy who is almost 10 years old. He loves animals, especially dogs and horses! With our wonderful North Dakota weather, John is enjoying playing inside with his toy animals, playing games on the computer and spending time with his foster family. John is currently in the 3rd grade and doing very well. While he can get overwhelmed easily at times and struggle with understanding certain concepts, John receives help from a one-on-one aide at school, which helps him to succeed. John responds best to patience and consistency and does well when he is given choices. He does an excellent job completing his work on his own and has made great progress in school over the last year! John is a kind and gentle boy who gets along well with others, although he can sometimes have difculty understanding social situations. He has lived with his current foster family for the last two years and has formed a strong attachment to them. It will be benecial for him to continue this relationship as well. John says he would love to live on a farm where he can help take care of animals! He would especially love to have a dog. John will do well with a consistent, loving and patient family who can offer him the attention and support he most needs. Though John is excited to be part of a forever family, the transition will be difcult for him and John will need a family that is prepared to help him through this time. He would thrive in a home with one or two parents, where he could be the only child or have siblings. John is also a member of a Native American tribe, so the tribe’s order of preference will need to be regarded when considering families. To learn more about this sweet young boy, please contact Amanda Sem today at (701) 839-8887. 3

More Waiting Children Hi, I’m Aliyah ! I wanted to write to all of you about me, with hopes of nding my forever family!

Meet Zackery, a fun-loving 5 year old with a lot of energy! He loves blocks, Legos and anything he can build with! He enjoys typical little boy activities, like playing video games and watching cartoons with lots of action. Zack loves playing outside so much that his foster parents struggle getting him to come in the house when playtime is over! Coloring with crayons is soothing for him and can be used as a re-direction tool.

I’m 11 and in the 5th grade. Tae Kwon Do is one of my favorite activities, along with playing the piano. I’ve been playing the piano for a little over six months and I now have one in my bedroom. It helps me feel calm and peaceful when I’m troubled. I also love to sing. Some of my other favorite things to do are playing board and electronic games, like Monopoly, Operation and Wii. I also enjoy taking care of my babies, doing their hair and putting cute outts on them. My favorite restaurant is the Texas Roadhouse; I love their yummy BBQ ribs!

Although Zack will be eligible for kindergarten this fall, his team is recommending an evaluation be completed, as he may do best going to preschool for the year. He goes to daycare, which has been a positive place for him to work on socialization skills and make friends.

I’m involved in various church activities and am very close to my church family. I’ve been in foster care since September, 2009. Every 2 weeks, my foster mom takes me to the salon to have my hair done and I love doing this! I get my nails painted in funky colors, like green, blue and pink! I have been to a couple of Fargo Force hockey games and I hope to go ice skating some day with my adoptive family.

People close to Zack describe his behavior as unpredictable. Medication assists in stabilizing his mood and diagnoses. His foster parents and team are working with his providers to learn techniques of parenting that would benet him. An adoptive family must be willing to implement provider recommendations for day-to-day parenting.

Adoptive families need to support me in my ongoing contact with my foster mother because we’re so close. Hopefully, I can continue to stay in touch with my older sister and other family members through letters and pictures. My counselor helps me to process the changes in my family and I am a little bit scared, nervous and excited for all the new things to be happening for me.

Zack has the support of Occupational Therapy services and a therapist, whom he sees weekly. His adoptive family must be willing to commit to his continued therapy. He would do best in a two-parent home with children older than him. His team recommends a slow transition into an adoptive family’s home to ensure stability for him. Zack has been through a lot in his young life and has a challenging road ahead. To learn more about Zack, please contact Sonja McLean today at (701) 356-7981.

When I meet new people, I’m a bit quieter. Once I warm up to them, I’m more talkative. At times it can be difcult for me to express how I’m feeling and I just need my parents to wait until I’m ready to talk so we can sit together and visit about my feelings. To learn more about me, please get in touch with Jennifer Foss at (701) 356-7985 as soon as possible.

Marcis will tell it like it is! He enjoys snowmobiling, playing with his foster family's cat and dogs and playing

video games. He loves the Air Museum, Space Aliens and browsing at pawn shops. He also has an interest in hunting and football. Marcis, 13, has made great strides in dealing with day-to-day struggles that arise but also knows he has a long way to go. He says that when he’s in a good mood, he has much better control over his emotions. He does well when adults give him choices, as he feels in control of the outcomes. A weekly allowance helps to keep Marcis accountable for his actions and his chores. Marcis receives the support of a therapist every other week. The use of the "Nurtured Heart Approach" will also benet Marcis and his adoptive family. This technique highlights positive things that he has accomplished, while letting the negative things go. His team feels that he’d do best in a family with no more than 2 or 3 other children, as he needs patience and consistent attention from his adoptive parent(s). When asked what he wants in a family, Marcis says that it doesn't matter, he just wants a family! He’s eager to be matched with a family but sometimes fears there isn’t one out there for him. He’s featured in the ND Heart Gallery ( and on the Adopt Us Kids websites ( If your family could offer Marcis consistency and nurturing, please contact Sonja McLean at (701) 356-7981. 4

Meet More Waiting Children Spend just a few minutes with 14-year-old Andy and you will nd a pleasant and personable young man. Andy interacts appropriately with adults and is adept at articulating his needs. He has worked hard to overcome the adversities in his life. Andy is extremely social and has a lot of friends. He mostly enjoys spending time with these friends and participating in activities. He played football this fall and is currently in basketball. He is also a Boy Scout and is participating in Conrmation classes at his church. Andy is in the 8th grade and does not have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) in place. He has been earning good grades but is still having some behavioral struggles at school. He is working to develop the skills to self-regulate his interactions with peers when participating in school and community events. Andy’s foster parents also provide cues and reminders to assist him in maintaining good behavior. Parents who can reinforce these practices will be benecial. He interacts appropriately with other adolescents and younger children when supervised. Andy is in good overall health. He has been diagnosed with asthma which is generally managed without medications; however he uses an inhaler as needed. He has learned to recognize his symptoms and react accordingly. Andy has been in his current foster home for over a year now and his foster parents indicate he is cooperative and always willing to help out. He currently receives letters and phone calls from his maternal grandmother and continuing this contact will be important for him. Contact with other family members is currently determined by his team. Andy has a wonderful sense of humor and his smile lights up a room. Andy would most benet from parents that are structured and can offer him consistency and support. He has indicated “I want to feel as if I belong to a family” and he very much needs the security and love of a permanent, forever home. To learn more about Andy, please contact Deanne Johnson at (701) 662-4913. Meet Garret, an energetic, smiley 14-year-old who is very excited to nd a forever family! This teen has already begun working toward his goal of becoming a famous author by writing a number of chapter books! He loves to write about Greek Mythology and has been inspired by Percy Jackson’s book series. He is a talented artist as well as an aspiring author and spends his time writing, reading, drawing or thinking of different inventions! In his own words, “I’d like everyone to know that I care for those people who care about me. I like looking out for my younger siblings and hanging out with my family. I really like dogs. I’m good at getting good grades. I want a family who is there for me when I need them.” Garret thinks it would be fun to be an only child but he’d also be happy with siblings of any kind, as well. He has enjoyed protecting younger siblings in his past. He also loves dogs and hopes one day to have his very own personal pet. Garret described his ideal family as one that enjoys doing activities with him and hopes one day to have a family game night. He loves to play Monopoly and is one great Scrabble player. He is looking forward to taking a family vacation someday; possibly outside of the US, but he’d be happy going anywhere as a family. He understands that trust is earned and is ready to show that in a family setting. This creative teen has been described as ‘likeable’ by those who know him and he wants people to know that he’s a good kid. He feels he’s outgoing and kind and he would love to have a family who loves him back. He has worked very hard in school and is proud of how well he can do. Garret celebrates his successes but also has a history of becoming fairly frustrated. He needs a family that will be there to encourage him, no matter what! Garret has worked very hard in a highly structured environment to nd strategies to help him control his anger and have a more positive outlook on his situation. He’s very proud of the progress he’s made in this area! He has needed to overcome many obstacles in his past and sees his treatment needs as just one more obstacle to triumph over. He is truly a very determined young man! To learn more about this charismatic, imaginative boy, please contact Andrea Lang today at (701) 839-8887.

To learn more about some of these Waiting Children, please visit the at

More Waiting Children to Meet Anybody up for some snowboarding? Antonio, an energetic and full of life 11-year-old, would love to show you his snowboarding tricks. He’s a winter lover and describes his last snowboarding trip as “so much fun!” He can’t wait to hit the slopes again.

Soft-spoken Dimitry loves a great crime-ghting thriller! This 13-year-old is enthralled with ‘Criminal Minds’ and the ‘CSI’ TV series and loves the challenge of analyzing the plot and probable outcome of each episode.

Antonio is also into any number of other activities. He likes sports, riding bike or just hanging out creating his own adventures. He enjoys indoor activities as well. He likes to play games, especially on the X-Box!

He has an incredibly sharp wit, a dry sense of humor and he loves to horse around and be silly. He enjoys listening to rock or pop music, eating at McDonalds or Wendy’s, playing video games and going to movies. Dimitry prefers solving Word Find and Rubik’s Cube puzzles to sports or physical activity but he does enjoy playing ‘cops’ with other kids. He wants to be a police ofcer someday. He’s very engaging and will tug on your heartstrings, More than anything, Dimitry wants to live with a family who enjoys spending time at home, doing family activities together.

Antonio is a bright young man who likes school. He gets good grades when he focuses on his work. He‘s working on social skills and learning appropriate responses to situations and emotions, thriving on positive reinforcement and affection. Antonio has 2 siblings; a younger brother who continues to reside with their birth father and an older sister. It will be important that Antonio’s forever family be open to continued contact with his sister and her family. Antonio’s sister has been a great support for him throughout his time in care. Although, due to circumstances beyond their control, the children are not placed in the same home, their bond remains strong and healthy.

Dimitry was adopted from Russia at the age of 5 and takes great pride in his Russian heritage. He learned English after moving here and entered the foster care system in April, 2009. Dimitry was legally freed for adoption in October, 2009. He completed a successful placement at a residential treatment facility in November, 2010 and moved to a family foster home , where he is doing very well. He will continue to see a therapist and a child psychiatrist and take medication to assist him with mood and attention issues.

Antonio is a fun loving, active young man with lots of love to offer. If you believe Antonio could be a part of your forever family, please contact Andrea Olson at (701) 775-4196.

Dimitry does well when things are organized for him at home and at school, where he is a 6th grader. To help him feel secure, it’s benecial if he can nd out about out-ofthe-ordinary events or big changes in the schedule, such as planned trips out of town or scheduled days off from school, as much in advance as possible.

Holly is a very active, high energy

and curious 12-year-old. She enjoys being active and likes being outside riding her bike in the summer or playing in the snow in the winter.

Dimitry is physically-healthy but has strabismus in his right eye, so both of his eyes are unable to focus on the same point at the same time. He will need eye surgery in the future to correct the muscles in that eye. He wears a retainer on his teeth and will need follow-up with an orthodontist as well.

Holly lives and gets along well with a foster family with older children. She’s enjoying learning how to have and how to be a good friend, an exciting new adventure for her. She’s very kind and gentle with younger children and enjoys interacting with them.

Dimitry is open to being adopted by a family who has other children, but he would like to be the oldest child, if possible. An adoptive family for Dimitry will need to commit to engaging in attachment therapy with him throughout the adoption transition and for an undetermined time after the adoption is nalized. His ideal adoptive family will be able to support and respect his need for at-home family time. His team would like to nd a forever family for him who is able to assist him with organizational skills and who demonstrates an ability to be consistent, structured and nurturing at the same time. The adoptive family will also need to have access to child psychiatric services to monitor his medications.

Holly is in the 6th grade and has been doing fantastic in school this year, with very little intervention needed. She eats and sleeps well. Holly wears glasses, is anticipating braces very soon and, overall, is in good health. Holly has a high need for nurturing and needs a parent who can spend a great deal of time with her. She requires a very structured and nurturing environment with set rules. A family will also need to be open to accessing services and community supports. To learn more about this fun and active teenager, please contact Jennifer Foss at (701) 356-7985.


Most importantly, Dimitry needs a family who is willing to give him unconditional love and acceptance. If you feel yours is the family for this wonderful young man, please contact Nancy Germain right away at (701) 356-8023.

Another Waiting Child Outdoor adventure is the name of the game! Sawyer, 12, is not letting the winter months and cold weather get him down. He likes to be outside playing in the snow. He likes to build snowmen and forts and even likes to shovel! With his winter gear on, he is up for any outdoor activity and would one day like to learn how to snowboard. Sawyer was disappointed that his favorite team, the Chicago Bears, didn’t make it to the Super Bowl! He proudly wears his Bears hat and likes to watch football on Sunday afternoons, wrapped up in his Bears blanket, one if his most treasured possessions. Academically, Sawyer is doing well. He has a tendency to get off task, but with the aid of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and modications such as sitting at the front of the classroom, he continues to make progress. Sawyer’s team is looking for a family who would be willing to get to know Sawyer in his current setting and help him transition out of residential treatment into their home. Sawyer spent the holiday season with his brother's family. While they are not a long term placement option, that family would like to remain a support for him. The thing Sawyer liked the most about the holidays was spending it with a family. Sawyer is really making great progress when it comes to the idea of adoption. While he continues to love his birth family, he also understands that he deserves a family that will be his forever. Sawyer is featured in this year’s North Dakota Heart Gallery. Be sure to check out Sawyer’s wonderful photos at! To nd out more about Sawyer, please contact Andrea Olson at (701) 775-4196.

Nurtured Heart Approach

There will be a Nurtured Heart Approach class series offered at Head Start in Fargo on Thursdays starting March 3rd. This class is limited to 20 participants, so register early if interested. For more information, contact Diane Langer at (701) 241-5700 or by email at or visit

Out of the Mouths of Babes! A rst grade teacher collected old, well known proverbs. She gave each child in her class the rst half of a proverb and had them come up with the rest. These are great: Better to be safe than... punch a 5th grader. Strike while the... bug is close. It's always darkest before... daylight savings time. You can lead a horse to water but... how? Don't bite the hand that... looks dirty. Where there’s smoke, there’s... pollution. If you lie down with dogs, you'll... stink in the morning. A penny saved is... not much. Two's company, three's... the Musketeers. Don't put off tomorrow what... you put on to go to bed. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and... you have to blow your nose. If at rst you don't succeed... get new batteries. When the blind leadeth the blind... get out of the way! 7

Ambiguous Loss Haunts Foster and Adopted Children, continued (... continued from Page 3)

Children whose adoptive parents rarely discuss the absent birth parents or birth siblings feel the loss more keenly. In a study of young adult adoptees published in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, sociocultural researchers Kimberly Powell and Tamara A correlate heightened ambiguous loss symptoms with children and youth who lack information about their birth parents and have lived with a family who failed to honor the adoptees’ connection with their family or culture of origin. As Pauline Boss suggests, “the greater the ambiguity surrounding one’s loss, the more difcult it is to master and the greater one’s depression, anxiety and family conict.” This holds true for the following reasons: - It is hard to resolve grief when one does not know if the loss is temporary or permanent. Children in foster care, and even some in adoptive families, often feel great ambivalence about accepting a new family when there is even the slightest chance the birth family may still reclaim them. - Uncertainty about losses prevents children from easily reorganizing roles and relationships in their family. Children who served as their younger siblings’ caregiver in the birth family, for instance, can nd it exceedingly hard to relinquish that role in a new family. In fact, separation from the birth family may make a child even more determined to fulll the task of caring for her siblings. - Clear, symbolic rituals do not mark foster care and adoption losses. Society recognizes death through funeral ceremonies but there is no somber equivalent to observe losses caused by separation from the birth family. Knowing that a parent or birth siblings are still somewhere out there can be confusing and anxiety-inducing for foster and adopted children. Will they run into members of their birth family by accident? Will their parents or siblings contact them someday? - The lost relationship is not socially acknowledged or is hidden from others. For adoptive families and their relatives and friends, an adoption is cause for celebration. Children who are adopted, however, may feel confused or guilty about expressing happiness over being legally disconnected from their birth family. Extended family members and members of the community may not fully appreciate that adoption is directly tied to losing one’s birth family. - Others negatively perceive the circumstances that led to the loss. When children are removed from families in which they are neglected or abused and placed with foster or adoptive families, many believe that the children are being rescued. Children, however, even when parents mistreat them, often feel a erce loyalty to their birth families. After all, life with the birth family may be all they know. It is familiar. Social workers and foster/adoptive parents who believe children should be grateful for being placed in better functioning families need to understand how very differently children in foster care may view their situation. HOW TO HELP CHILDREN DEAL WITH LOSS When children - like those in or adopted from foster care - experience multiple losses, the psychological damage may extend well into adulthood. Ambiguous loss can erode trust and adults who cannot trust typically struggle with relationships - sometimes avoiding closeness to forestall loss, sometimes clinging to a bad relationship due to deepseated abandonment issues. The sooner children can address issues raised by ambiguous loss, the more likely it is they will learn better ways to deal with the fallout. Below are some suggestions that can benet children troubled by loss: - Help your child to identify what he has lost. In addition to losing birth parents, he may have lost extended family members and old friends, his home and neighborhood, contact with people who share his heritage or looks, his family surname or even his home country and native language. - Give voice to the ambiguity. Acknowledge and validate your child if she expresses feelings of loss. Show that you understand and sympathize. - Redene the parameters of what constitutes a family. Boss writes, “Acting as if the membership list of an adoptive family is etched in stone may in the end be more stressful than explicitly recognizing that the family has some ambiguous boundaries.” - Create a “loss box.” Debbie Riley, a therapist and author who works with adopted teens, guides clients as they decorate a box into which they can put items that represent things they have lost. By creating the box, youth participate in a ritual that acknowledges their loss and construct a controlled vehicle for revisiting their losses in the future. (...continued on Page 10) 8

This Month’s Featured Family ...

Meet Eric Mattison!

Eric Mattison lives in Fargo and is a newly-approved AASK Waiting Family. He has wanted to be a father for the past ve to ten years. He knows that there are many children that need loving homes and feels he could be a loving, stable father for a child. Since he is single, Eric felt very comfortable pursuing adoption as a way of building his family. He inquired about adoption through AASK in February of 2010 and became foster-licensed through Cass County Social Services in late March, 2010, just after nishing up PRIDE training. Eric grew up in Plummer, Minnesota and still has a strong connection to relatives in northwest Minnesota. He worked at Lutheran Social Services’ Children’s Home with children with disabilities for some time and later earned his Certied Nursing Assistant certication and worked with the geriatric population. Eric has also worked with schizophrenia patients and has his cosmetology license. For the past two years, he has been a property manager with Coldwell Banker , a position that affords exibility in his schedule. He has a home ofce that he can use so that he can be most available to a foster or adoptive child. Eric enjoys spending time with his six nieces and is excited to adopt either a male child or a sibling group of two male children. He is hoping to be matched with a little boy between the ages of one and seven and is open to any race. His many friends and extended family members are very supportive of his decision to adopt and excited to welcome adoptive children to the family, too! We wish Eric all the best as he continues his adoption journey!

Spotlight on Staff:

Deanne Johnson

My name is Deanne Johnson and I have been the AASK worker in the Devils Lake ofce since May 10, 2010. Born and raised in Warroad, Minnesota, my identical twin sister and I are the youngest of twelve children. I rst attended Moorhead State University and received an Associate of Arts Degree in Accounting. Fifteen year later, I obtained my Bachelors Degree in Psychology from the University of North Dakota. I began my career in the child welfare eld in October, 1994 at the Division of Juvenile Services, where I worked for a little more than ten years. At that time, I again returned to the University of North Dakota to obtain my Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Social Work. I worked at Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake for two and a half years as the hospital/ hospice social worker to experience working with a different population. My husband, Les, and I were married on July 7, 1979. We rst lived in Park Rapids and then in Williams, Minnesota. We moved to Devils Lake in 1983, planning to stay about ve years - and we never left! Les and I have three children: Bruce (age 34), Jessica (age 29) and Brady, who died in 2002 at the age of 15, following a car accident. Les is a water well driller and owns his own business in Devils Lake. Bruce and Jessica live close by and we now have three grandchildren: Dailyn (age 14), Chloe (age 7) and Gannon (age 6) to light up our lives. In my free time, I enjoy time with family, reading, spending time at the lake and shing. When I began working with PATH/AASK, I realized how much I had missed working with children and adolescents. I love the work I do with AASK and I also appreciate the support and assistance of my co-workers. 9

Ambiguous Loss Haunts Foster and Adopted Children, continued (...continued from Page 8)

- Include birth parents and other birth family members in pictorial representations of the adoptive family tree. One option would be to depict an orchard where trees grow side by side. The birth family, former foster families or other signicant people in the child’s life can be other trees in the same family orchard. - Be conscious of how certain events - birthdays, holidays, adoption day, etc. - may trigger intense feelings of loss. Add or alter family rituals to respect the child’s feelings. On birthdays, for instance, you could add an extra candle to the cake in memory of the birth family. Or you might make a point of saying something like, “I bet your birth mom and dad are thinking about you today.” - Keep your expectations reasonable. A child’s need to grieve over ambiguous losses will not be fully cured, xed or resolved in any predetermined time frame, if ever. Let your child know that feelings related to these losses will come and go at different times in her life and provide a safe person to whom she can express those feelings. - Model normal, healthy responses to loss. If you or your parenting partner suffers a loss, share your feelings openly. Let your children see you mourn so they can learn how you express sadness and anger about loss. For boys, seeing a grown man cry can be especially instructive. Losses may loom especially large when children approach adolescence. Missing pieces of their history make the task of developing a condent self-identity much more complicated. Some will feel that they are destined to make the same mistakes as their birth parents, so foster and adoptive parents must be especially careful to avoid unattering comparisons between the teen and a birth parent and stress that a large part of an individual’s identity is a matter of personal choice, not some preordained fate. Parents must also recognize that, by parenting a child who has experienced staggering losses, they will realize losses in their lives, too. Support from other parents who are struggling with similar issues is key. Conversations with other foster/adoptive parents may bring to light a new way to approach issues linked to ambiguous loss or just help you to feel less alone. Loss is an inevitable part of adoption; acknowledging the role of ambiguous loss in children’s perceptions and actions is the rst step in the long journey of healing.

What’s Cooking!

Molten Lava Cake

Submitted by Julie Hoffman, State Adoption Administrator

Ingredients - 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for mufn tins - 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for mufn tins - 3 large eggs - 1/3 cup all-purpose our - 1/4 teaspoon salt - 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted - Confectioners’ sugar - Whipped cream Directions Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter six cups of a standard mufn tin. Dust with granulated sugar and tap out excess. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer tted with paddle attachment, cream butter and granulated sugar until uffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, beat in our and salt until just combined. Beat in chocolate until just combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared mufn cups. Place mufn tin on a baking sheet; bake just until tops of the cakes no longer jiggle when the pan is lightly shaken, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes. To serve, turn out cakes and place on serving plates, bottom sides up. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with whipped cream if desired. Serves 6. 10

CONGRATULATIONS! Congratulations to these families who recently celebrated the legal nalization of their adoptions!

Nakeesha with Scott and Joell Kalyn, Kyler and Quinn with Theo and Trisha Diamond, KaeLeigh and Lauriana with Beth Adyson and Bristyn with Patrick and Sherri

Kids’ Corner:

Cardboard Cabinet

Make this recycled cabinet to keep your collections neat and secure! Supplies Needed Masking tape Foam paintbrushes Acrylic paint Ruler Pencil Craft knife (parents only) Scrap cardboard 1/4” hole punch Plastic milk jug caps (2 per box) 2” paper fasteners (1 per box) Clear packing tape Thumbtack Double-sided foam tape Paper and marker Cardboard boxes (must be wider than they are tall) Instructions 1) With masking tape, seal all box seams, inside and out. Use foam brushes to paint the boxes. Allow them to dry. 2) In each box, measure and cut a door that is 1” in from three of the edges, using the fourth edge for a hinge. If you have a long, skinny door, tape a small scrap piece of cardboard to the inside of it to strengthen it. In each door, punch a hole 3/4” in from one edge for the knob. 3) With parents’ help, using the craft knife, make a small slit in the center of the two plastic milk jug caps and a 1 x 2-1/2” piece of scrap cardboard for each knob. 4) Thread a paper fastener through both milk jug caps, through the hole in the door and through the scrap cardboard. Open the fastener arms so they are ush against the scrap cardboard. Use clear packing tape to secure them. 5) Close door; turn knob to latch it. Use the thumbtack to mark the knob with a small dot next to the edge of the door to indicate the latched position. 6) Stack the boxes as you wish. Attach them to each another using double-sided foam tape. Make paper labels for each box to list its contents. Mount labels with loops of packing tape. 11


North Dakota Family Based Services Association 2011 Conference “Take the Lead; Strive to Succeed!” The North Dakota Family Based Services Association 2011 Conference will be held at the Fargo Holiday Inn Tuesday, April 5 through Thursday, April 7, 2011. The Conference is co-sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services and Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Featured speakers at the Conference include Mary Jo Paloranta, Dr. Scott Bennett, Major Grant Wilz, Charley Joyce, Bruce Christopher, Connie Bjerk, Corporal Travis Jacobsen and Dan Sweeney. Family-based services in an approach to the delivery of social services that focuses on entire family systems rather than on identied individuals, with the ultimate goal of preserving families whenever possible. The concept of family–based services is rooted in these beliefs: -

Children need permanency in their family relationships in order to develop into healthy productive individuals.


The family is the best environment for the growth and development of children.


Social service programs should make every effort to support families in their effort to raise their children.


Services to families represent a shared family, professional and community commitment.

Thus, the primary objectives of family–based services are: -

To maintain, strengthen and empower families.


To prevent family dissolution and the need for the placement of children out of their homes, whether in foster, group or institutional care.


To reduce the dependency of families on social services by promoting self-sufciency.


To assure permanent, stable homes for children by promoting the adoption of those for whom intense efforts at prevention and reunication have failed.

Register online at If you have questions, please fee free to contact Janna Tellmann at (701) 328-8887 or Michelle Aamold at (701) 223-5600.

March 2011 Heart Times Newsletter  

A newsletter for the AASK Program

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