During National Adoption Awareness Month, I will introduce you to numerous guest bloggers, highlighting many parts of the adoption journey. I got to know JoAnn after connecting with one of her business partners through social media, who made the connection, with both of us being in Chicago. Since that time, I’m proud to call JoAnn a partner and friend, as we continue to learn from each other.

By Joann DiStefano

The Walt Disney movies portray dreams or fantasies that every little boy or girl desires. But what happens when that little boy or girl has to “grow up” and realize that the dream may not come true. And what about the adults who are told that they cannot become parents in what society has for so long considered the “normal way.” Does this mean that these individuals may not get their “happily ever after…”?

As many adults have come to realize, there are other ways to make the dream of becoming parents and having a family come true. Adoption is one of those ways. However, having the dream is only one part of the equation. Walt Disney, the ultimate dreamer, understood this. When I was getting my certification in NLP (Neuro-linguistic Processing), we studied a “creativity” strategy that was designed by Mr. Disney for his employees.

Dream BigThe first step in The Disney Process is having the dream. Disney wanted dreamers to dream “big,” as if there was no limitation, doing everything they could to make the dream come true. However, to make the dream a reality, he knew that they would need step two, a strategy or roadmap of how to get from point A (the dream) to Point B (the happy ending). In the realm of adoption, an adoption consultant can be that strategist, helping to navigate the steps toward a successful and ethical adoption.

Step three of the process is the one that most individuals find the hardest to incorporate, yet is a necessary step if one truly wants that “happy ever after.” Step three is what Disney would call the constructive critic or evaluating the dream. The constructive critic or evaluator helps the dreamer implement the “quality control measures” necessary for a successful outcome. This person assists in identifying and navigating the strengths and weaknesses within the plan.

A certified performance coach, can assist with step three. Yes, there will be great joy but there will also be blind alleys and dead ends. An adoption coach can help you stay on course, navigating around any stumbling blocks and climbing out of any shadows.

Oftentimes, people aren’t sure how an adoption coach or counselor can be helpful or even what to say when they first reach out. Here are some of the ways they can lend support:

  • Determining whether you and your partner are on the “same page”
  • Discerning the support you will receive from extended family members
  • Discovering your attachment style(s)
  • Resolving issues regarding your losses
  • Navigating through any concerns regarding religious preferences/conflicts
  • Considering any and all issues that might arise within the community
  • Weighing your feelings regarding the openness of the adoption
  • Looking at ways to incorporate the child’s culture/heritage into your family
  • Understanding any & all pre-birth and post-birth issues regarding the adopted child
  • Facing any fears regarding how you “must-be-seen” by society standards
  • Knowing how to set and maintain boundaries around adoption privacy issues
  • Becoming knowledgeable of the challenges an adoptive child may face, traumatic or otherwise
  • Learning the importance of becoming an adoption-attuned family
  • Recognizing any other fears concerning your security that may be relevant to the adoption.

An adoption coach can be your partner, not only through the adoption process but also after it is complete. Adoption is a life-long process and issues will emerge throughout the years that a knowledgeable adoption coach can help you navigate. Establishing a solid partnership with an adoption coach from the beginning will provide you with a trusted ally when (not if) the need arises. Here are some of the ways:

  • Understand your child’s emotional needs
  • Recognize when difficulties arise from the adoption and when it’s something else
  • Vet adoption literature
  • Answer age-appropriate questions regarding the adoption and loss and grief
  • Practice trauma-informed parenting strategies
  • Guide your child when distinguishing between privacy and shame
  • Survive adoptee anger
  • Engage the school, religious organization and community in adoption-related matters
  • Handle adoption conversations within the family and beyond
  • Practice Adoption-attuned Intelligence (AQ) and become an Adoption-attuned family
  • Build a solid relationship with your adopted child

Following these three steps within The Disney Process will help you come full circle. You will be able to “live the dream” of being a successful parent and of growing intentionally, a family connected through love and support. Having the right team by your side will help you reach your “happily ever after.”

Joann DiSefanoGIFT-logoJoann DiStefano, B.A., J.D., MLS, CPC, MCNL.P. has over 30 years of experience in the family area primarily in abuse and neglect. A lawyer, certified coach, neuro¬-linguistic practitioner, and adoptive parent, she assists families in trauma and attachment issues. Her own family experience brought her to focus on unconscious patterns that shape family dynamics. Joann is also a co-founder of GIFT Family Services.


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