A non-profit adoptive family support center
Serving families, professionals and educators since 1998

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The Center for Adoption Support & Education
March E-Newsletter


On Tuesday, March 15, C.A.S.E. will present an important, thought-provoking webinar on one of our most requested topics: Transracial Adoption. In "Building Self-Esteem and Racial Identity in Transracially Adopted Youth," presenters Dr. Leigh Leslie of the University of Maryland's Department of Family Science will join CASE CEO, Debbie Riley, M.S. to address what parents should know about the relevance of race in their children's lives and how they can help their children develop healthy racial identity. This presentation is based on an ongoing national study of transracial adoptive families conducted by the University of Maryland, Department of Family Science in partnership with C.A.S.E. This webinar is a follow-up to Ms. Riley's webinar, Love is Not Enough: Parenting in Transracial Adoption.

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Leslie and Ms. Riley as they prepare for this presentation. As the lead investigator in this national, cutting-edge research project, Dr. Leslie, a Licensed Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, author, and Associate Professor has focused her career on race and gender issues in human service delivery, interracial families, and racial identity development in biracial individuals. Ms. Riley, author of Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens, has over 30 years of experience working with transracially adopted youth and their families.

Ellen: What is the focus of this project?

Dr. Leslie: There are two main aspects of the study. First, we wanted to learn more about the forces that influence parental attitudes about race. We know that there is a vast range of how (Caucasian) parents view the fact that the child they are raising is of a different race. Many parents embrace what we might term "color blind attitudes" in feeling that their parenting role is not much different than it would be if they were a same-race adoptive family. Other parents embrace a more "multi-cultural" experience related to their families. In other words, parents that embrace the importance of racial differences are more likely to want to understand how their child experiences life as a minority and are more likely to provide their child with "racial socialization." Second, we wanted to understand the role of this racial socialization in a child's adjustment and racial identity and whether this varied by the race of the child. These findings have significant implications for strategies parents may want to utilize in raising their racial minority children.

Ellen: What exactly is "racial socialization"?

Debbie: We use the definition of Diane Hughes - it is the transmission of a parent's world views about race and ethnicity to children by way of subtle, overt, deliberate and unintended mechanisms. It involves emphasizing messages of ethnic pride, heritage, and tradition, as well as preparing children for discrimination.

Ellen: How did this project differ from other research projects on transracial adoption?

Debbie: Previous research** - (see below) - demonstrated that overall, transracially adopted youth were faring well in terms of overall adjustment. However, the research also showed that there was a correlation between the experience of discrimination and adjustment difficulties. The research did not address the specifics of how racial socialization impacts racial identity or the experience of dealing with discrimination. We hope the findings of this study will underscore the importance of helping parents see the need for dialogue with their children about race, racism and foster the promotion of positive racial socialization. We need to do more to help transracial adoptive families. We must also acknowledge that they need to reach out to the larger community to learn from their adult peers/colleagues of color about how to help their children. They cannot do this alone.

Ellen: Why have you partnered with the University of Maryland for this research?

Debbie: At C.A.S.E., we began to see a large population of adopted teens struggling with painful challenges related to being a person of color and being raised in Caucasian families. They discussed their feelings associated with being different from their parents, wanting to embrace their racial identity and feeling conflicted. They spoke of situations where they described their parent shying away from this discussion. Race remained "the elephant in the room." Parents mean well. I had one parent say, "I love him, he's my son - I don't even think of him as being of a different race." Her son said to her very clearly, "Mom I am black and you are white. We are different and that is ok! But I need help in coping with the challenges that being a person of color brings to my world, a world you are clueless about."

Other parents know that race is important, but they don't know how to talk about it with their children. They worry a great deal about making their child feel excluded by highlighting differences.

Dr. Leslie: That is why we are so excited about this study. It isn't enough to say, OK, race is important. It isn't easy to change one's attitudes - understanding what gets in their way and understanding exactly what to do and what the impact will be is critical. Parents who want to support their child's sense of self-esteem know they have to be positive and supportive. They have learned by example - models - hopefully their own parents. But parents of transracially adopted youth have no such models - how do they learn what they need to do and what gets in their way? That is our hope for this project.

Ellen: Were there other ways that this study differed from previous research?

Debbie: Yes, most other studies are based on reports by parents and young adults. In this study, in addition to parental responses, we asked the teens themselves to tell us about their experiences. We asked them to assess their overall well-being, self-esteem, and racial identity

Ellen: What do you hope parents will come away with from your webinar?

Debbie: We know that parents can feel really overwhelmed and anxious when it comes to discussion of what they need to pay attention to with regard to fostering positive racial identity. We hope that parents will feel less afraid and better equipped to approach their parenting tasks with greater comfort and confidence.

We are excited about this study and want to thank so many of our readers and colleagues in the field for helping to promote the research. While we are still collecting data and analyzing the results, we thought it would be productive to have this webinar to begin an ongoing open dialogue over the next year to promote forward thinking on this very important topic in adoption.

Dr. Leslie: Yes, we want parents to know that this study is still ongoing! Our findings are preliminary. We have about 70 pairs of teens and parents and we very much would like to have a larger sample. We welcome more families to participate in the study. If anyone is interested, please contact me at 301-405-4011 or e-mail me at lleslie@umd.edu. Thank you!


Feigelman, W. "Adjustments of Transracially and Inracially Adopted Young Adults", Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 17 (3), 2000.

Simon, R. J. & Alstein, H., Adoption, Race and Identity: From Infancy to Young Adulthood, 2002

McGinnis, H., Livingston Smith, S. Ryan, S.D. & Howard, J.A. (2009). Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption. New York: Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

WEBINAR: Building Self-Esteem and Racial Identity in Transracially Adopted Youth Tuesday
March 15
9:00-10:30 p.m. EST

Register Now

Dr. Leigh Leslie, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies specializing in race and gender issues, University of Maryland, Department of Family Science and Debbie Riley, C.A.S.E. C.E.O. will host this webinar. What do transracially adopted youth need for healthy racial identity development? What influences their ability to develop cohesive racial identity and positive sense of well-being? How can parents equip their children to cope with racial discrimination? The University of Maryland and C.A.S.E. have partnered to conduct cutting-edge research to address these important questions. In addition to exploring these answers, this webinar will include a review of preliminary research findings to help guide parents as they support their child's racial identity. Fee: $10 (partially funded by the Debra Steigerwaldt Waller Foundation for Adoption, Ltd.)

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PLEASE SEE OUR COMMUNITY EDUCATION: 2011 WINTER/SPRING PROGRAM CALENDAR. http://www.adoptionsupport.org/cal/index.php

C.A.S.E. is pleased to announce support from the Debra Steigerwaldt Waller Foundation for Adoption, Ltd, Chairman and C.E.O. of Jockey International, Inc. With the leadership of Debra Waller, Jockey through its corporate citizenship initiative, Jockey Being Family ® has helped raise awareness and availability of post-adoption services. Funding has been received to reduce the fee of three webinars expanding our reach to adoptive families both nationally and internationally. Don't miss out on this opportunity to access these dynamic educational forums. Please note that there have been CHANGES made to the schedule since first posted.

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Dear Ellen,

My wife and I have been in infertility treatment for several years without success. Our doctor feels it is time to consider trying in vitro fertilization with donor egg. While I feel comfortable with this, my wife prefers that we move on to adoption. I am fine with adopting, but I can't understand my wife's feelings on this matter.

Alternative family building options have grown steadily over the years with the advances in medical technology. Those of us in the adoption field embrace families formed with third party assistance as "cousins" because of the similarities they share with adoptive families. Whether its donor egg, donor sperm, or surrogacy, the child conceived has a biological tie to an adult or adults who are not his parents. The child conceived through the assistance of a gestational carrier was not born to his parents. Of course, there are also many differences between these families and it is the similarities and differences that prospective parents must consider when trying to decide which family building option is right for them.

What is important to note is that this is a very personal decision that is often complicated by well-meaning but intrusive opinions from outsiders. Society in general is still is not as accepting of reproductive technology as they are of adoption, but still considers adoption "second best." Family and friends may encourage their infertile friends to try everything to get pregnant, while others will be appalled that their infertile friends aren't "moving on" to adoption.

 Given the personal soul searching that comes with this important decision, it is no surprise that couples may not be on the same page. Many factors come into play - Who is the infertile partner? What does the infertility mean to that person - e.g. how does it impact their self-esteem, their sense of their femininity/masculinity? Does one partner have children from a previous marriage? Where is each partner in the process of grief (angry?, depressed?, moving toward acceptance?) and what specific aspects of loss are the most troubling? -- Loss of pregnancy experience? Loss of genetic tie? Loss of control?

As couples explore their feelings to these and other important questions, it is important that they educate themselves about both the joys and challenges of each family building option. Alternative family building options each have unique, complex factors to consider - e.g. If I choose adoption, what type of adoption will it be? Will it be an open or closed adoption? If I choose third party assistance, will I choose a known or unknown donor? Will I share how my child was conceived with family/friends? Education includes learning about the experiences of these families, especially how children make sense of their story and cope with their feelings of loss and grief. (Please note: Whatever family building method is chosen, ALL children must be told about how they joined their family.)

Counseling should always be considered to assist in education, explore feelings and concerns, and process loss and grief. Through education and exploration, couples can make decisions that are right for them. It is also important to note that many families with more than one child are formed through both adoption and third party assistance.

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WEBINAR: The Next Step?? Making the Decision to Adopt vs. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) with Third Party Assistance
Thursday, April 7th
9:00-10:30 p.m. EST

Register Now

Infertility treatment is challenging, both physically and emotionally. When it fails, in the midst of coping with disappointment and grief, couples are faced with the difficult decision of which alternative family building option to pursue next. Allison Stearns, LCPC, C.A.S.E. Deputy Director, mother by adoption and through IVF with third party assistance will join Ellen Singer, LCSW-C (mother by adoption and by birth) to discuss what you need to know in order to decide which "next" step is right for you. Fee: $25

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A huge thank you to Bowlmor Lanes in Bethesda for the reduction in cost that made it possible for all 22 of our LEAP participants to enjoy a fun-filled time bowling and eating a delicious lunch. The kids had a wonderful time!! We so appreciate your support and generosity.

Bowlmor Lanes
5353 Westbard Ave
Bethesda, MD 20816
(301) 652-0955

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Dear Adoptive Families:

This letter contains important, time sensitive, information regarding filing for the Federal Adoption Tax Credit.

DID YOU KNOW? The federal adoption tax credit was made refundable for the first time! Meaning you can claim it for a refund even if you owe no taxes. Families who adopted a child with special needs from foster care can claim the credit without needing to incur or document expenses. The credit per-child is now $13,170 for adoptions finalized in 2010. Now that the credit is refundable many more families will benefit; even families who adopted earlier than 2010, but didn't have enough tax liability to access the credit in previous years. Families that finalized adoptions in 2005-2009 can carry forward unused tax credit to their 2010 return and claim it as a refundable credit.

 To claim the credit you must file IRS form 8839. The IRS recently released the final instructions that accompany Form 8839. The instructions indicate that parents who adopted a child (or children) with special needs, do not need to document expenses. Please be aware that tax preparers themselves often misinterpret this, because there are different rules for other adoptions, such as international adoptions, etc. If you are working with a tax consultant, you may have to educate them.

Please note that if you receive an adoption subsidy/adoption assistance payment than your state has likely determined your child as special needs.

Additionally, please note, for adoption of children with special needs, the 2010 instructions report that parents claiming the credit must provide documentation to accompany the Form 8839. Required documentation includes the following: a copy of the adoption order or decree (including a copy showing the official seal) AND a copy of the state determination of special needs (this would likely be a copy of the adoption assistance or subsidy agreement).

We suggest making a copy of the decree front and back to show the official seal and a copy of every page of the adoption assistance agreement.

To access the IRS form 8839 visit: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8839.pdf

To access the instructions for 2010 visit: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8839.pdf

Help us spread the word to other adoptive families, download VFA's helpful "Did You Know?" post-card at: http://www.voice-for-adoption.org/downloads/VFA_AdoptionTaxCredit_postcard_2010.pdf

If you have any questions please contact us. voiceforadoption@gmail.com www.voice-for-adoption.org

VFA has long advocated for the adoption tax credit to be refundable for families that adopt children from foster care. The future of this credit is uncertain; however, we will continue to have this as an item on our advocacy agenda.

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Message from CEO: Calling All Adoptive Parents and Adopted Persons: Please take our survey on what does "Adoption Competency" mean?

Dear Readers,

According to adoptive parents, one of the greatest post-adoption support needs is mental health services provided by someone who knows adoption. The Center for Adoption Support and Education is looking for adoptive parents to help define, in their terms, what adoption competency means-to better assess the term consistently reported by adoptive parents and professionals alike. In 2008, we began an important project funded by the Freddie Mac Foundation, The Dave Thomas Foundation , Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Services, Center for Effective Child Welfare Practice and the Kellogg Foundation to 1) define what "adoption competency" in mental health services really means, 2) to identify the specific adoption competencies that therapists should have if they are going to provide support services to adoptive families, and 3) to develop a post graduate training curriculum for therapists based on the competencies, and to train mental health professionals to be adoption competent in their clinical practices. With the expertise of a National Advisory Board and key adoption researchers and practitioners, we have achieved the aforementioned goals and now are ready to replicate the project nationally.

In the early development of this work, we were fortunate to have the input of adoptive parents. At this time, we would really appreciate your feedback. Over the years, I have been honored to travel across the country to train professionals and parents. I heard the desperate need for qualified adoption competent providers and the wish that C.A.S.E could come into your communities. One day, maybe we will have the resources to do that, but for now, we must find a way to build the capacity of the mental health providers to have the requisite knowledge to support you and your children. I would be deeply grateful if you would kindly take a few minutes to complete this survey, and also pass it on to other adoptive families you may know. Your input is essential to the success of this initiative. Your feedback can impact the allocation of resources and direct policy, as well help to ensure that everyone who needs adoption competent services has access to them. To complete this survey, please visit: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/98NLFDP.

Thank you so much for your help!

Debbie Riley, CEO, The Center for Adoption Support and Education.

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Life as an adoptive family is joyful, rewarding, and at times challenging. We often say that adoption is like a marathon, where after beginning the journey, one must remain confident, consistent and focused to complete the race. Marathon runners know that they must maintain their strength to reach the finish line. To do that, they need a little help along the way -- support from those on the sidelines who provide water, medical care and cheer them on.

Adoptive families need help from professionals who understand adoption; professionals who have the special skills, adoption competence to support them through their lifelong journey. C.A.S.E can equip a child to cope with difficult questions others ask about adoption, educate school personnel about a child's special needs, or help a teen who is struggling with questions related to identity.

For the past 12 years, The Center for Adoption Support and has provided hope, support and understanding to thousands of children, teens, adults and families. When we opened our doors, we were honored to have the opportunity to empower families to build the love, trust and relationships that would help them to succeed. Years later, as we strive to continue the goal of meeting the complex needs of the foster care/adoption community, we find ourselves in a wonderful but challenging position that requires your help.

Thanks to a significant $50,000 match gift, from the Debra Steigerwaldt Waller Foundation for Adoption Ltd., ("Foundation"), C.A.S.E has created the Waller-Jockey Foundation Scholarship Fund. With the leadership of Debra S. Waller, Chairman and CEO of Jockey International, Inc. ("Jockey"), Jockey through its corporate citizenship initiative, Jockey Being Family®, has helped raise awareness and availability of post-adoption services in support of adoptive families. We have accepted her challenge as part of our annual campaign, confident that our friends and supporters will help us to succeed.

Every dollar raised for this scholarship will benefit the children and families we serve. Consider the following:

  • $25 (Becomes $50) which will pay for a 90 minute Kids Adoption Network Group
  • $55 (Becomes $110) which will pay for 50 minutes of individual and family therapy
  • $125 (Becomes $250) which will pay for an initial assessment/evaluation
  • $83 (Becomes $166) which will pay for a 90 minute consultation

These are just examples of how your generous contribution can ensure that adoptive parents and their children receive the critical assistance that they need. This is an opportunity to see your gift doubled! Please help us make a significant impact on a child's future.

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Adoptive Parents: Please Help Us Learn About Counseling for Adoptive Families

Are you an adoptive parent who is about to begin or is interested in receiving counseling for your family or your adopted child?

If yes, you could be part of an exciting research project that could lead to improved services and resources for families like yours.

Participation would involve a total of 2 hours of your family’s time:

  • one hour for you and your child to answer questionnaires prior to beginning counseling,
  • and one hour for you and your child after completing counseling.

Participating families who complete the study will receive a total of $20 in gift certificates to Target.

Please consider helping the University of Maryland, Department of Psychology with this important study. For more information, contact Maria Wydra, M.A., at (443) 742-1041 or mwydra@psyc.umd.edu.

  Updated 1 March, 2011                 top See Our Privacy Statement | Contact Us  
1 March, 2011