Building Adoptions That Work
Maris H. Blechner, M Ed, LCSW
FAMILY FOCUS ADOPTION SERVICES
Little Neck, New York
• Who are you and who am I?
• What we want to accomplish
• Handouts? - Questions?
What is “transition” anyway
…..and why is it so important?
• a specific time-frame
• lots of danger/minefields
• many variables involved
What are some variables
• local versus distant placements
• moving from a foster home versus
moving from an institution
• moving to a stranger versus kin
• the “team” surrounding a child
Let’s step back a step, and look
at some adoption realities…
1. Are there different types of adoptive families that
impact upon successful adoptive placement?
2. Given the reality of approved families, and the histories
of the children moving to adoption, are there minimum
requirements necessary for any protective adoptive
3. What are some ways to minimize disruptions?
(1) The “Committed”
(2) The “Well-intentioned”
(3) The “Entitled”
The “Committed” Families
• People who grow……and learn.
• People who follow through and hold
on……claiming the child as their own.
• (What is adoption anyway - if not a
What Adoption is not:
athe day in court (that’s the finalization!!)
athe paperwork (that’s following the rules)
aa getting-together of equals, like marriage
What is Adoption?
aA decision made by an adult
aIn a discrete moment in time
aPermanent, irrevocable, and
unconditional (like all parenthood)
aAn emotional claiming
aA true life-cycle event, like birth
Committed families finalize their
adoptions - because they have claimed
Note: Sometimes there are those who
find themselves unable to “connect” to a
particular child (the “mismatched”), but go
on to successfully adopt a different child.
The “Well-intentioned” Families
• The “Fantasizers”
• The “Under-estimators”
• The “Life-stylers”
• The “Eccentrics”
The “Entitled” Families
• They are the center of their universe……and not open
• “I am owed” is their mantra.
• They are “blamers.”
• They cannot tolerate a transition process.
• They will always disrupt.
• The only cases where the children will end transition.*
*(except the “Deceivers”)
The Children Being Placed
• The multiply rejected:
A) by their birth family,
B) by one, and often more than one, foster home.
• A small minority of the children who were available
for adoption. They require special planning, beyond
the typical ways children are moved into adoption.
Above all, these children need to be protected from
disruption and its consequences.
• The protocol used to move children from their
foster placements into adoptive homes.
• It is, above all, a protected period of time for
a child and a family to do the work each
needs to do in order to enter an adoption that
all of us - child, family, and agency - can trust
will be permanent, unconditional, and
Empowered Transition : The structure
for that protected period of time.
Top 3 Goals of
Empowered Transition TM
* Protection for the child
* Protection for the family (and
sometimes from the family)
* Protection for the referring agency
How does the Empowered Transition
accomplish these goals of protection?
By correcting the imbalance of power
intrinsic within any adult-child relationship.
(Adoption, always a relationship between
adult parent and child, is built upon that
imbalance of power.)
The balancing of power occurs with the
empowerment of the child which, paradoxically,
equally empowers the family.
• The idea of “maybe” is the most important
concept we can give to children and to
families. Nothing we can do will protect the
children more. It is the truth: maybe the
family will adopt the child, or maybe they
• “Maybe” is the foundation of empowerment.
• Time: Commit to open-ended time frame: no deadlines.
• Transition Teams: One worker for the child; one for the
• Control: We insist that the child make a conscious
decision about whether to be adopted by the family.
• Establish a structure of clearly defined measures of
progress in meeting the challenges of transition. We call
that structure: the Steps of Empowered TransitionTM.
How To Construct An Adoption Ceremony
• The formal recognition of the claim, the “discrete
moment in time.”
• The place to sign special individualized papers.
• The creation of an adoption “Rite of Passage.”
• Pictures, refreshments, and celebration are all
part of the ceremony.
The Adoption Covenant:
A Tool for Defining Responsibility
• Covenants are “agreements” or “contracts of
• These are initiated by the adoptive parent(s)
and responded to by the child.
• They are read at the ceremony and signed by
the parties involved.
Major Points to Remember:
* Approved families fall into three general categories.
* All of the children have been multiply rejected and are
* The goal of any transition process is to protect from
disruption and its consequences.
* Empowered Transition corrects for the inherent
imbalance of power between the children and families.
* The concept of “maybe-families” is the best possible
protection for the children, the families, and the
Still more worry about:
• Who has prepared the new family?
• Things are not always what they seem.
• How long does it take for a child to heal?
• Who has warned the new family about
interference and lack of understanding by
friend and neighbors, and relatives?
Workshop Wrap Up
• Questions, please!
• Technical support; where to get
• Thank you!