Posted by Deb Shrier
The summer is the one time we all seem to feel that time flies. During childhood, it was fun to write up the summer's adventures in a school report. It's been quite some time since I've written that type of report, but as I thought about the summer of 2012, I realized there was a theme to my summer experience: my work in post adoption.
In June I participated in a Forever Families Weekend, sponsored by JFS Greenwich at the New Jersey Y Camps. It was a weekend camp experience for Jewish families brought together by adoption. Along with sleeping in a bunk, singing Jewish songs during the day, Havdalah services by the lake, and having s'mores at the camp fire, I facilitated a group discussion on Jewish identity and adoption. Most of the teens in my group had been attending the camp for several years and were eager to share their thoughts about being Jewish. We watched a powerful YouTube video entitled "I Am Jewish," featuring and written by a young man who talked about his own Jewish identity. It reflected on contemporary issues concerning young Jewish teens today – a blending of Jewish history and modern day thought. The group developed their own "spoken word" presentation highlighting their feelings regarding their own connection to Judaism.
In July I traveled to Russia for two weeks with The TIES Program for a Homeland Tour with 20 adoptive families from the United States. Each family had children who were adopted from Russia and were traveling back to their child's birth country to explore their Russian heritage. These trips have become important to families who have adopted children internationally. It is a way of exploring the child's birth heritage and the family's connection to that country. The families made strong connections with one another and the children developed close friendships. My role was to facilitate groups for the children and to be available for families to process their experiences, which included preparing for visits back to orphanages or meeting extended family in country. It was an amazing experience to travel with each one of these families and participate in their continued self discovery.
In August I was asked to present a workshop in Newton for the public schools: Inclusiveness in the Classroom. The focus of my presentation was to help teachers and education professionals understand and respond to issues that come up for children due to diverse family structure. Participants gain insight into a child's understanding of adoption from different developmental stages. Included are vignettes, feedback from children and parents about their classroom experiences, suggested reading lists, and alternative options for classroom projects like the dreaded "family tree." I was truly encouraged to see that school administration recognizes the need to provide support for teachers and staff as well as the students/families in their schools.
This work outside an office setting always gives me a sense of "recharging" but certainly doesn't replace the days spent at the beach with friends and family!
Deb Shrier, LICSW, is director of Post-Adoption Services at Jewish Family & Children's Service. Actively involved in the field of adoption both professionally and personally over the last 20 years, Deb's clinical interests include domestic/international adoption, transracial adoption, parenting issues, and search/reunion with birth parents and adopted persons. She has also provided clinical support to adoptive families on birth country tours that include the Philippines, Romania, Guatemala, and Russia. Deb enjoys writing and has contributed to various adoption related publications as well as the JF&CS blog.