Tuesday, September 16, 2014

5 Semesters Later and Still Loving Gladney

I started interning as a volunteer with the Colombian Adoption department, which was an amazing experience. I switched to The Birth Parent Services Department in the Fall 2013 semester for some more client interaction and hands-on experience. Working in the Birth Parent Services Department, there is literally never a dull moment!

Another great privilege of interning for multiple semesters was I got to shadow a case with a birth mom named Julie* from the very beginning all the way to post placement. Contact with birth mothers can often end abruptly if birth moms come to Gladney late in their pregnancy, cut off contact with us immediately after they relinquish their parental rights, or sometimes just don't keep us in the loop. With Julie's case, I was there from the initial meeting all the way to her placement. I shadowed Julie's weekly meetings and even led a few myself :) Julie lived in Gladney's Guest House, so I frequently transported her to various appointments and outings. I am so grateful for those conversations while driving. These casual moments with Julie allowed me great practice into communicating with clients appropriately while still demonstrating empathy. During one drive, Julie revealed to me that she had been having dreams about her unborn son. This comment was so personal that initially it made me very nervous. However, I remained cool, calm, and collected. The conversation ended with Julie acknowledging that she loves her son so much and all she wants is the absolute best life for him. Julie delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy in early June. I was fortunate enough to hold him in the hospital and be there to help discharge Julie and drive her home. I also witnessed Julie's placement where she lovingly handed her son to his adoptive parents. "Take good care of my baby," I remember her saying. It was an emotional, tenderhearted moment that I am so happy I got to witness. It’s birth mom's like Julie who have made me fall in love with the nature of adoption.

I could go on and on talking about all the hilarious, crazy, and heart-wrenching stories that happened during my internship. I encountered wonderful birth parents who genuinely appreciate all the services Gladney offers, and I met birth parents who take advantage of Gladney and the Birth Parent Caseworkers. Nevertheless, day after day these amazing caseworkers continue to work to better the lives of their clients. Adoption definitely has its heartaches, but it also truly demonstrates how despair can be transformed into hope.

What's next for me? Well, I graduated with my Bachelor of Social Work degree from The University of Texas at Arlington this past August! Yay! Thankfully, Gladney has not gotten sick of me just yet. I'll be staying another semester as a volunteer/intern as I prepare to go to graduate school to pursue my Master of Social Work. The Gladney Center for Adoption helped me recognize a career field where I could satisfy an innate passion for serving children and families. I am truly thankful for all my experiences here; not to mention I am so grateful to every staff member who has encouraged and taught me so much that will help me in the future. Maybe one day I'll be back as a caseworker myself, but until then I will cherish all the special memories I've had.

Me and Rachel Cotto, a former Birth Parent Caseworker and now an Adoptive Parent Caseworker.
Rachel was my Field Instructor and also happens to share the same AMAZING birthday as me.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Oh, how my time at Gladney has been sweet!

Oh, how my time at Gladney has been sweet! As an intern in Marketing, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew of Gladney’s wonderful reputation and of their high standards and values, but was unsure of what the day to day operations of the office would look like. My internship at Gladney has afforded more learning opportunities than I could have ever expected. Everything that Gladney does in the internship program is focused on you getting out of the internship what you want. Each morning I arrived eager to start the day! I have spent most of my time with my co-workers in Marketing, making AP profiles online and helping out with social media campaigns. I am grateful for the loving and encouraging environment for which I get to walk in to each day. Some mornings I attended meetings: legal, international, development- whatever interested me I was encouraged to attend! The whole experience was geared towards me getting what I wanted out of the experience. The whole Gladney staff works to treat interns as real workers and enables them to take part in projects and on cases that real employees partake in. They are all about hands-on experience! I was overjoyed at the things I was able to participate in- Domestic Orientation and bi-weekly legal meetings being two my favorites.

But nothing compares to the excitement of what began as a typical day in mid-June. I started off the morning at my desk working on online profiles when Courtney, a birthparent caseworker, came and asked me if I wanted to accompany her to a small town in Texas to pick up a baby! I had told Heidi that I was interested in witnessing birthparents transfer parental rights and she had graciously passed the word along to Courtney. With next to no hesitation, I hopped into the car with Courtney (whom I had just met for the first time!) and we began our 3- hour journey. I am sure Courtney was sick of me by the time we reached the hospital in Paris, as I had asked her a million questions on the car ride there. She told me all of the details about the case and I found out that I was able to be present in the hospital room as the  birthmother and birthfather transferred their parental rights. We arrived at the hospital and I was so impressed by Courtney’s professional attitude, compassion, and support that she showed for the birthparents. After discussing the situation a little and talking about what the process looked like moving forward, Courtney and I grabbed a second witness from the hospital waiting room and began the paperwork process. Courtney made it as smooth as possible for the birthparents and they left the room shortly after, with Courtney already having plans for a follow-up conversation and selecting the AP’s. Being in the hospital room during this was surreal. Being in the room as all of this happened is something that the baby will never remember. He will be told of the selfless decision and love that his birthparents had for him. That they desired a loving, forever home for him. How special to be able to witness that moment! I will never forget the excitement I felt holding the baby and feeding him on the 3- hour car ride home. I was hardly able to believe that within a week-this baby that I was holding- would be going home to a new family who was going to be over the moon excited for him to have finally arrived! Just getting to play a small part in the adoption story of this child was an honor. That day I was so strongly reminded of God’s abounding grace and great love for us. God’s love is eternal and everlasting- and just like the new adoptive parents this baby now has-he can’t wait to welcome us into his open arms!

Elizabeth Shannon


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pathways training

A couple weeks ago, I attended the Pathways training that is required for all international adoptions. It was outstanding!

Sitting in the room with all the families, I could feel the love radiating. It was beyond measure. Mothers crying, telling about the child they had been matched with and how they had been praying for their child for so long. Several families had children in the same orphanage. They chatted, cried, and bonded over the struggle of patience, excitement and fear.
"He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Any whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.'" -- Matthew 18:2-5
Beyond the love, came the reality.

I cannot begin to explain how eye-opening the conversations were and how very little I knew about how trauma effects these poor children. Paula, a previous employee of Gladney and now a contracted worker for Pathways training, discussed very candidly with the AP father's. She told them that they cannot pull back from their child once their child may show slight sexual arousal, because the child most likely has been sexually abused. The child is innocent during this arousal, because the reaction would only be brought on because of previous trauma and is NOT a "come-on" moment to their father. This arousal may occur while he is bathing her, changing her diaper, etc.

My heart strings were tugged for the fathers in the room, knowing that each of them were probably scared in that moment about what their future child must have been through. They must be angry, feel helpless and infuriated with reality of the situation. How can people hurt such innocent children.
"If anyone causes one of these little ones -- those who believe in me -- to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." -- Matthew 18:6
I applaud these families that take in such children, and thank this organization for saving these children from such extreme situations.

-- FS Intern, Stephanie Moran