Monday, September 01, 2008

Ask About ADD/ADHD Live with Dr. Thomas Phelan

Adoption Friends, will be hosting Dr. Thomas Phelan for a live question & answer session on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) on September 17, 2008 from 9-10 pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time. The session will be held free of charge courtesy of Dr. Phelan & ThinkingOfAdopting. com, but you must register prior to the event.

Dr. Thomas Phelan, an internationally recognized expert on parenting and ADD, is a clinical psychologist and parent of a child with ADD. He is the author of the very popular "1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12" as well as "All About Attention Deficit Disorder", both of which can be found in the Parenting Section on our Adoption Books Page.

The session will take place as a moderated, live conference call. Participants can ask their questions regarding ADD/ADHD to Dr. Phelan using their telephone or may email them to the moderator (Robin Bartko) to ask on their behalf.

For more information on this or many other adoption telecourses or webinars, visit the Adoption Telecourses page on or contact me directly at

Robin Bartko

Visit for independent information and inspiration for your international adoption journey, including adoption telecourses and webinars that let you learn from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

New regulations on China's One Child Policy, something of interest to adoptive families

How does China’s One-child policy effect credit reports?

Most adoptive parents know that China has a one-child policy and a societal preference for boys. Therefore, resulting in many little girls available for adoption residing in orphanages. Recently, there was a short article in the September 15, 2007 Examiner newspaper entitled “China Cracks Down on One-Child Violators”. In the article it explains how the Chinese government now puts a red flag on credit reports of Chinese families with more than one child. I found this surprising. This illustrates the seriousness that the Chinese government takes on population control. In the United States, a note on a credit report for this would be unheard of. As we adopt children from other countries it is important to learn and be informed about our cultural differences.

by Robin Bartko

Have you considered adopting a special needs child?

Prior to my adoption, adoption agencies and other adoptive parents asked me if I would consider adopting a special needs child. I quietly, politely smiled and said I would discuss it with my husband. In my mind, I said to myself “No Way! I already have several children at home, why on earth would I consider a special needs child?” After getting very involved in adoption, I have changed my thinking on this. I know of quite a few families who have adopted special needs children. Let me give you some examples, I know of an adoptive mom who is an occupational therapist who adopted a child with an orthopedic foot problem, a hearing impaired couple who adopted a hearing impaired child, a family who have an older biological child with a heart defect who adopted a child with a minor heart defect. The list goes on and on. The majority of these children have done wonderfully and their families are grateful to have adopted them. I recommend that if you are considering adopting a special needs child, to educate yourself about these conditions and determine what you feel comfortable with. Work with several international adoption specialist (go to or see adoption links-medical specialists on Also, note that several of the international medical specialists have adopted special needs children themselves. Be sure to ask about possible related disorders as well. Below is a great special needs checklist to print out for you to look at and consider what special needs conditions you would comfortable with.

Another thing to consider, with special needs children (especially from China and Korea) tend to have much more information with their referral. These children tend to be monitored more. Some families feel they are much more informed with a special needs child prior to their adoption. Also, grants are sometimes available for special needs children to help defray costs.

written by Robin Bartko

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What does Lisa Marie Presley and Elvis got to do with it?

Ok girlfriends, listen up! You are probably wondering, why is she writing this? Well, let me explain. Have you heard the remake of the song just released "In the Ghetto" with Lisa Marie and Elvis Presley? The song and video are on itunes. Isn’t it amazing that Lisa Marie has those same sultry eyes as Elvis? Anyway, I have fond memories of my childhood of watching Elvis movies on lazy Sunday afternoons. As you can tell, I am a big Elvis fan and hope to visit Graceland one day with my children. My next door neighbor growing up was a big fan as well. I remember how we would both run to the TV to watch Elvis movies. Anyway, I heard the song this weekend and it is awesome. I have never heard Lisa Marie sing before, she really has a decent voice. In listening to the lyrics, the song has a lot to do with the road that can lead children to distress and in what we need to do in general for the goodwill for all people. Some of the lyrics say she has "another hungry mouth to feed" and "this child needs a helping hand". Also, the lyrics say "Do we simply turn our heads and look the other way?" Pretty deep stuff from Elvis, don’t you think? After listening to this song many times this weekend, isn’t that what adoption is all about? helping a child in need and not turning away from what needs to be done?

Now I know adoption is not for everyone. It takes a tremendous amount of energy, time and money. However, if you don’t see adoption as an option for you, then help someone else adopt. You could help with a fundraiser. Many families want to adopt, but they just don’t have the resources and there are way more orphans who need homes than families to adopt them. There are so many children who "need a helping hand". Adoption support groups as Shaohannahshope and Healing Hannah do just that.

Now, getting back to Elvis, I commend Lisa Marie for donating the proceeds of the song to her charity, Presley Place . According to her web site, Presley Place is "a program designed to bring homeless families the helping hand, the skills and guidance they need to break the cycle of poverty". Also, as a quick note, the web site is great. There is great stuff for kids like print and color, the Elvis Surfing Game and screensavers. And of course, for us big people, there is the Graceland virtual tour.

Now girlfriends, Lisa Marie is not simply turning her head the other way. She is doing something and making a difference.

Robin Bartko

Visit for independent information and inspiration for your international adoption journey, including adoption telecourses and webinars that let you learn from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

New Adoption Story: "From Birth Mother to Adoptive Mother"

Adoption Friends,

I'm happy to announce that we've added our fourth adoption story to "From Birth Mother to Adoptive Mother" by Mary Beth Wells.

In "From Birth Mother to Adoptive Mother", Mary Beth shares the pain and heartache she experienced when she relinquishing a baby when she was very young, subsequently suffering through infertility, and then the joy of adopting two girls from Guatemala. It's a very honest and heartfelt story, and we're glad that Mary Beth has decided to share it with all of us.

As with our other three adoptive parent stories: "Healing Hannah", "True Blessings" and "His Will", you can listen to Mary Beth tell her story through your computer's speakers or download it to your iPod or MP3 player by going to our "Adoption Telecourses" page. And, it is free of charge. I hope you'll take advantage of this opportunity.

My sincere thanks to Mary Beth for sharing her story!

Robin Bartko

PS: If you're interested in sharing your adoption story, please let me know.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Russia Accredits Seven Adoption Agencies

Adoption Friends:

According to the the web site of the US Embassy in Moscow, Russia, the following seven agencies have been accredited with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation as of June 27, 2007 to resume adoption services in the Russian Federation:
  • Catholic Social Services/Diocese of Charlotte , NC
  • Children’s Home Society & Family Services
  • The Cradle
  • Cradle of Hope
  • Frank Adoption Center
  • Family & Children’s Agency, Inc.
  • International Assistance Group
This is great news for everyone who is hoping to adopt from Russia -- and most especially for the children! My sincere appreciation for everyone in Russia and the United States who has worked to make this happen.

Robin Bartko

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Behavior and the Adopted Child

Adoption Friends,

I was recently at the conference “Raising and Healing the Adopted Child: Effective Strategies for Helping Your Child Reach their Highest Potential” in the Baltimore area. The speakers included Dr. Federici, Dr. Mason, Dr. Gordina and Nadya Molina, M.Ed., BCBA.

Nadya Molina is a behaviorist that works with Dr. Federici as well as having her private practice, Alternative Behaviors in Falls Church, VA. Nadya gave a three hour talk about behavior and the adopted child. It was an excellent talk and the audience was glued to their seat during her session. I wish I would have attended a session like this 13 years ago before I started parenting. I think all of us as adoptive parents agree that life tends to go smoother in our households when our children’s behavior is appropriate.

Nadya talked about how she became a behaviorist. When she was growing up, her best friend had Downs Syndrome so she felt a calling to help people with special needs. Nadya has worked for numerous school systems, has a master’s degree in Severe and Profound Handicaps, and has worked with people with mental retardation, autism, eating disorders as well as with people with unique behaviors that they have not been able to tackle on their own. She recently became board certified in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) which is often used with children with tendencies on the autism spectrum and has also been found effective for other children as well. She has worked with people with deficits since 1986 and is a parent of a special needs biological child. Her office is located in Virginia; however parents and adults call her from all over the country to assist them regardless of the type of behavior they need to change. She has even gone to Iceland to help families. She has helped individuals overcome all sorts of behavior including orphanage behavior like rocking, hoarding food and head banging as well as eating disorders like bulimia. She assists people of all ages including young children and adults.

Nadya shared many of the techniques she uses to assist people to change behavior. She indicated that each post institutionalized child is very unique and no “one size” fits all intervention in behavior modification. Here are some of the pertinent hints in assisting our adopted children.

Tell your child what to do versus what not to do. I think as parents we all want what is best for our children, but it is not uncommon for us to say things like “don’t go in the street”, don’t touch that”, “be good”…instead of directly saying “walk on the sidewalk”, “play with your toy instead of touching that”, or “I like when you play with your truck”.

Find out why the behavior is happening. Is your child craving attention, bored, internal anxiety, on auto pilot or trying to escape. Observe and try to figure a pattern of why and when the behavior is happening.

Use “Time In” versus “Time out”. I think most of us grew up with the “time out” concept. Our parents put us in the corner or sent us to our room to discipline us. Nadya indicated that this is not a good technique for our children coming from orphanages especially when we first bring them home. Orphanage children are already used to little attention and “time out” alienates them more. She suggests you keep your child in close proximity to you, but don’t give them attention or eye contact during this “time in” period.

Use immediate reinforcement for appropriate behavior. Nadya shared the example of potty training. As soon as your child goes pee pee on the potty, give them their candy or sticker. Don’t wait until they wash their hands. Children need to understand that the behavior they just completed is the one being reinforced.

Use short, clear, concise directions and consequences. Avoid giving lectures and talking too much. Tell you child specifics as “brush you teeth” or “put your truck in the toy bin”. “Use clear directions without negotiation.”

Write simple stories about social situations and phrases to explain sequences of events to your child. She recommended books that Carol Gray has written on Social Stories ™ (available on Amazon). In these stories, you break down tasks for your child in simple steps.

The “Drill Phrases” drill the child into a specific task. She used the example of “Stop—Think—Make Good Choices” (sort of like the fire chief saying, “Stop, Drop and Roll”). The use of drilling phrases help children process and retrieve information quicker and effectively; which is a major deficit within post-institutionalized children.

Schedule breaks for your child. Nadya used the example of shopping. Like most working parents, a lot of us try to tackle our shopping on the weekends. She gave the example of shopping for three hours. She said schedule breaks (have a snack, go to the bathroom, etc) periodically through your shopping time. Yes, it may take longer, but this helps prevent meltdowns from your child.

Do not remove the demand or task if your child expresses himself
with unwanted behavior (for example, meltdowns).
Parents get tired both emotionally and physically. It is not uncommon for us to just give in to our child because we just don’t have the energy to deal with the unwanted behavior. Nadya recognizes that this can be very difficult on parents, but do not give in to your child. It is OK to modify or adapt.

Create rules. Nadya said to teach your child rules. For example, “only hug your family”. This type of rule helps your child attach to family members rather than others which can help with behavior challenges. She recommended several books that may be of interest to adoptive parents including “Navigating the Social World” by Jeanette McAfee and “A Work in Progress” by Ron Leaf (both available on Amazon).

Nadya Molina can be reached by calling 703-732-2469 or as well as at 703-548-0721 or If you are interested in the entire recording of Nadya's session at "Raising and Healing the Adopted Child", contact me at either 410-916-1542 or

Robin Bartko

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Russia Curtails US Adoptions

Adoption Friends,

Sad news to report ...

According to an article in this morning's USA Today (4/11/07), Russia effectively curtailed US adoption by allowing the accrediations of the last two agencies to expire. According to the article by Wendy Koch, Tom DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children's Services ( said, "We've never had this situation before, where we have no accredited agencies" and further says he believes the holdup could last a few months.

In my opinion how incredibly sad - most especially for the children whom I pray find forever homes and are not left in the orphanages. And, for all of those longing to bring them home to their forever family. I hope that this is resolved as soon as possible. Keep the faith.

Robin Bartko

Visit for independent information and inspiration for your international adoption journey, including adoption telecourses and webinars that let you learn from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Adoption Conference: "Raising & Healing the Adopted Child" May 19th & 20th

Adoption Friends,

No one loves your adopted child more or knows him better than you. You know better than anyone else if your child is hurting or needs help - if something just isn’t “right”. And all too often the search for the true diagnosis of your child's hurt and for effective strategies to help raise and heal your child can be so frustrating. Filled with false starts and dead ends. And while you search you can feel so alone ...

If you’ve been looking for answers, don't miss this opportunity to learn from nationally recognized experts and adoptive parents at the upcoming adoption conference for parents and professionals, Raising & Healing the Adopted Child: Effective Solutions and Practical Strategies to Help Your Child Reach Their Highest Potential

This adoption conference will take place May 19th and 20th 2007 at the Holiday Inn BWI Airport in Linthicum, MD - just south of Baltimore, MD and minutes from both Interstate 95 and Amtrak's BWI Station - convenient to the entire mid-Atlantic region and beyond.

The conference, sponsored by Project Katherine and, will help you recognize & understand the unique challenges your adopted child may be facing, present you with effective strategies to help heal your child, and teach you how to advocate for your child in order to get them the care of services they need. And very importantly, you'll understand that no matter what challenges you are facing with your adopted child, you don't have to face them alone.

Speakers include nationally recognized experts as well as adoptive parents who have experienced challenges first hand:
  • Dr. Ronald S. Federici, ABPN, FACAAP, Developmental Neuropsychologist & Psychopharmacologist – Clinic Director/ Supervisor, Neuropsychological & Family Therapy Associates, Alexandria, VA. Author of Help for the Hopeless Child: A Guide for Families and father to seven internationally adopted children.
  • Patrick Mason, M.D., Ph.D. – International Adoption Medical Specialist; Founder, Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children’s International Adoption Center, Fairfax, VA.
  • Alla Gordina, M.D., FAAP – International Adoption Medical Specialist; Global Pediatrics and Family Medicine, International Adoptions Medical Support Services, East Brunswick, NJ.
  • Nadya Molina, M.Ed. – Expert in the management and treatment of children with complex developmental disorders such as autism, retardation, multiple learning disabilities, ADHD, and psychiatric disorders.
  • William Houston, J.D. – Education Attorney with Dalton, Dalton and Houston. Mr. Houston is an expert in helping parents navigate the special education maze, and a strong advocate for educational rights and proper services for children with special needs.
  • Bill Delmedico & Cynthia Smith-Federici – Adoptive Parents
I hope that you will be able to take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn from experts who often are regularly called upon to provide answers and treatment recommendations that no one else has been able to provide. For more information (including a printable brochure) or to register on-line, visit:

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at

Robin Bartko

Visit for independent information and inspiration for your international adoption journey, including adoption telecourses and webinars that let you learn from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Attachment Conference April 19th and 20th in Lancaster, PA

Adoption Friends,

Wanted to let you know about an outstanding opportunity to learn about attachment from some of the most respected leaders in the field on April 19th and 20th in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Institute for Children and Families is presenting "The Face of Trauma, the Heart of Healing", a two day conference led by Daniel Hughes, author of Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children and Facilitating Developmental Attachment: the Road to Emotional Recovery and Behavioral Change in Foster and Adopted Children. Also appearing during the conference are Art Becker-Weidman, Janice Goldwater, and Lark Eshleman.

I feel very fortunate to know Dr. Lark Eshleman, Director of the Institute for Children and Families and author of
Becoming a Family: Promoting Healthy Attachments with Your Adopted Child. Helping individuals and their families overcome early childhood trauma, especially trauma that often leads to attachment challenges, is something she is truly passionate about. I've had the pleasure to listen to her first hand as she appeared several times on and as she developed her webinar, Attachment and Adoption: What is it and Why is it so Important?, a great introduction to attachment for pre- or post-adoptive parents. It's so obvious that she puts her heart and soul into her work.

According to Dr. Eshleman, day one of the conference features a full-day, parent focused (and therapist informative) presentation by Dan Hughes on how to facilitate the connection between a resistant (frightened) child and eager but perhaps frustrated parent. Day two features Dr. Eshleman, Art Becker-Weidman, Janice Goldwater and other members of the Board of ATTACh (Association for the Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children), parents and other professionals who will offer presentations directed towards both parents, therapists, school personnel, law enforcement, adoption workers, medical professionals, and others who work with children, adolescents and adults who have experienced disruptions in attachment and other traumas in their early lives. The conference will also feature numerous information-sharing booths, a bookseller, and opportunities to meet others who share your interests.

Dr. Eshleman says, "Children who are in foster care, have lived in orphanages, have been abused,neglected or lived with severe medical issues in their early life, or whose parents may have struggled with their own mental health or high stress issues during the child's early years, show a significantly higher rate of difficulty learning how to trust even caring, safe adults in their lives. And yet, children need to learn to trust adults who are trustworthy; young ones cannot live on their own and clearly need and deserve to learn and live with the freedom to be children, not 'mini adults' who have to always be in control, or fear that life will continue to hand them 'bad luck' situations."

To learn more or to register, go to or, or call 717-290-7040.

My best to Dr. Eshleman for the success of this conference, and my sincere hope that many children and their parents will have stronger, healthier attachments as a result!

Robin Bartko

Visit for independent information and inspiration for your international adoption journey, including adoption telecourses and webinars that let you learn from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

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