Posts for foster adoption

How 2 Moms Celebrate Father’s Day

Forever Family - Allison Kenny - June 18, 2017

We celebrate the Uncles

who take her to Crab Cove, to ice cream, to bowling

who send her postcards from their travels and buy her dresses for Christmas


We celebrate

The 2 Dad Families in our lives

who remind her that our family is not so different

that she has good friends a lot like her

that men can be loving and nurturing and funny and smart and strong

and make the best french toast


We celebrate

Mr. Corey who made her believe she could do math

Helped her through missing Mamas at school

And spent extra time with her 4 days every week for 2 years


We celebrate her birth dad

who she doesn’t see

but gave her life

who she doesn’t know

but is very real

who kids ask about and she has answers ready

because we practice


We celebrate the men who help her feel seen






On Father’s Day

We Celebrate

Our Villiage







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25 Things I Learned as a Special Needs Mom

Forever Family, Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - April 12, 2017

  1. Every milestone is worth celebrating. It doesn’t matter how small.
  2. Perfect is not real.
  3. Sometimes, my self-care is THE most important thing.
  4. Take the long view. Big picture is everything.
  5. This, too, shall pass. It always does.
  6. Humor goes a long way.
  7. Be responsible for the energy I bring into a room.
  8. Be gentle.
  9. Notice what my face is doing.
  10. I get to be human. I get to be human. I get to be human.
  11. Forgive myself.
  12. Forgive my kid.
  13. Other kids and families might do things differently not better, not “normal” just different.
  14. Advocate for my kid with persistence, patience, and love.
  15. Saying no is really important.
  16. Saying yes is really important.
  17. Get on the floor and play.
  18. I’m not in control of, well…barely anything.
  19. People act out when they are afraid.
  20. I act out when I am afraid.
  21. People stare. Smile back.
  22. I am a superhero.
  23. My kid is working as hard as I am.
  24. Hold onto joy every time it shows up.
  25. Get help.
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I can’t take my kid with special needs to the Women’s March. Here’s what I Can Do…

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - January 20, 2017

A month ago, my best friend called me and we sobbed. We both felt despair that the man running for President of our country admitted to groping women without their consent.

Today, he moved into the White House and 600 groups of women all over the world are marching in protest. My friend and I were determined to take action in some way. But marching with our young daughters (mine with special needs), felt like more than we could take on. My daughter is highly sensitive to crowds, to yelling, to cold, to other people’s emotions. Participating in the Women’s March would likely trigger a trauma response and days of violent fits. But this is a moment in history we don’t want to miss. I want to look back on this time and know for sure that I was intentional and conscious. I want to model a balance between self-care and activism for my little girl.

My friend and I knew that if we got our families together, we could come up with something meaningful to do even if we had to stay home. So, my BFF packed up her little girl and is making her trek to my house in Oakland right this minute. I think we came up with a pretty great plan for our Go Girls!

Read more about it on the Spotlight: Girls blog….


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6 Ways to Welcome an Adopted Child into Your Extended Family

Forever Family, Foster/Adoption, Parenting - Allison Kenny - June 7, 2016

So, last week we packed up our little Squirrel and hit the road. By now, we were old pro’s at traveling together and navigating the potential stress of hectic airports. She had her stuffy. Lollypop in her mouth. Mama Lynn’s hand. Special snacks in tow. We were ready. What I was not ready for was how beautifully, generously, and authentically my AZ family would embrace her when we arrived. Here are 6 things they did to make my girl feel like their girl…even if they aren’t related by blood. Continue Reading

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Caramel Corn or, What Scares You

Go Girl! - Allison Kenny - May 23, 2016

“Do one thing everyday that scares you,” Eleanor Roosevelt said.

Some days, for me, that means adopting an older child, or publishing our journey on this blog, or advocating for her special needs. Other days, it’s making caramel corn.

unnamed-6That’s right. I’ve been mustering the courage to make this recipe in my favorite cookbook for, like, a year. What makes caramel so scary? The way it bubbles? The fact that it can burn and stink up your house or worse, ruin your saucepan? Squirrel wanted to make it with me but her energy is too frenetic for me to include her this first time around. So I waited until the hour before she came home from school, buttered the biggest bowl I could find (and then a second one when that still wasn’t big enough) and got poppin’.

I have to tell you that I felt the joy of a little kid doing their first science experiment. Watching butter and maple syrup and raw sugar melt together is fun as it is. But when you add baking soda and almond extract (I was out of vanilla) then BAM!


It spits and fizzes and swirls. It makes your home smell like heaven. Even if you spill half of it on the floor as you try stirring the gooey treat and your dogs get more of it than you do, you can still feel proud. Even though your kitchen might be trashed and you’re way to tired to deal with it anytime soon, you still deserve to celebrate.

Your kid and wife will walk through the door and smile in surprise at the scent of sugar in the air. “What is that!?” they’ll ask, beaming. You get to be smug and satisfied. You did something that scared you. You turned a regular afternoon into a memory. You made…caramel corn. Enjoy!

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A Squirrel-Sized Breakthrough

Go Girl!, Self-care - Allison Kenny - May 13, 2016

Maybe it’s the scent of summer in the air: talk of Go Girls! Camp, family vacations, and lots of time in the pool. Sometimes with trauma, a season change is enough to snap us out of fight or flight.

Maybe it was Mothers’ Day. We created an altar to celebrate and integrate the idea that 4 different mothers all belong to our little Squirrel. Maybe this ritual healed some part of her.

Maybe it was meeting her sweet doppleganger—a 6 year old boy that our best friends are adopting. She got to feel competent—like, “I went through that,”—and access her big sister self. She got to feel part of a club of kids with gay parents; kids who have past lives no one really understands. “I think maybe he’s my new brother, Mommy,” she said.

Maybe it’s the neurofeedback sessions we started. When crazy levels reached an all time high, we decided extra nervous system support was the way to go. Twice a week we go together, getting side by side treatments in hopes that our bodies can find some sense of peace.

Maybe it’s taking a forced break from a friend who she’s been fighting with at school. Their dynamic went from intense to a little toxic and the school has been supporting them beautifully to take space. We navigated conversations with the other girl’s parents with respect and a mutual concern for their emotional safety.

Maybe it’s that Lynn & I didn’t give up. We cried and tried every single thing we could think of to help this little girl feel loved. Maybe after months of testing us, we finally convinced her that she is safe here. That we are not going anywhere. (Even though we fantasized about it…Mexico anyone?)

I have no idea which of these interventions helped shift the tide of panic in her little system. Maybe all of them wove together like the blankets my Mom made each of us when we were little.

All I know is that this morning there was laughing instead of screaming. Last night, there were kisses instead of thrown objects. All week was filled with love songs and imagined mermaid dance-offs. Pet names and giggling. Piggyback rides and birthday parties for her bunny. We have our daughter back. I don’t know how long we have before trauma steps in again and steals her away from us but my plan is to soak up every precious moment we get.

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Weekend Update: This is Halloween!

Love Wins - Allison Kenny - November 2, 2015

Squirrel hung these herself—a BIG accomplishment since her fine motor is a bit delayed.

Last year on Halloween, Squirrel called us “Mom” for the first time. We had a mini-carnival in our house with cider, made homemade decorations, and went trick-or-treating on our block. Squirrel had been with us less than a month and was in total shock from the transition. I remember knocking on people’s doors and Squirrel trying to wander right in. She had no concept of strangers. After all, we were complete strangers to her and now she was living in our home and calling us “Mom.” It was like we were all in a dream, wandering down 63rd street getting candy as if all our lives hadn’t just been turned completely upside down.

A year later things feel very, very different. Here’s a peek at the difference a year can make!

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8Even though Squirrel was too shy to become the Spy Kitty of her dreams, she loved dressing us up to see her idea come to life. The keys around our necks were very important, although I’m not clear why. We crept through the streets of Oakland, “spying” on each house we passed. Her “I’m just a plain cat, Mom! costume came to life more than once as she got her spy on. There is nothing plain about her.


For more information about creating alternative altars for adopted children, click here!

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Adoption Boobs…

Forever Family, Go Girl!, Love Wins - Allison Kenny - October 29, 2015

…How Adoption Day turned into Mardi Gras at the Maxi Pad

CHP_2694-LWe were told in foster parent training that the kids we are placed with may have been sexually abused. So, it’s important to have privacy when anyone in the family is changing clothes or using the bathroom. This protects everybody and strong boundaries should be in place until your child is legally adopted.

“What if we’re at a street fair and I have to use a port-a-potty? I won’t leave my child outside,” I protested.

“Bring them inside and have them turn around,” I was told.

And we did. All year, a closed door has meant “knock please.” Morning routines have included “please wait” as we cover ourselves out of the shower and have Squirrel turn around when we pee. Cumbersome. Weird. Especially as someone who believes in raising a body positive girl. But I also believe in safety no matter what. And until trust was fully built, I did not want to risk triggering our new daughter or breaking the rules of being a foster parent.

I knew we’d reached a higher level of trust when Squirrel began begging to see us naked.

“Please, Mama! Just let me see your boobs!” she’d whine in the mornings. We didn’t get to breastfeed her or hold her on our chests in the moments after delivery. I took her boob obsession as a great sign. We explained the limitation and how once we were all officially a legal family, it would be fine to change clothes in front of one another if we all wanted to.

After a fairly intense 2 weeks leading up to Adoption Day, I knew we could all use some lightness. A good laugh.

CHP_2767-LSo when Squirrel stumbled into our bedroom groggy-eyed on the morning of October 16th, I pulled off my tank top and stood there topless in front of her.

“Happy Adoption Day, Boo-Boo!” I cheered, striking a triumphant pose. She screamed with joy. Danced in circle. And fell to the floor.

“Mommy, look at your CUTE BOOBS!” She was thrilled. She ran to find Mama Lynn.

“Now YOU!” she demanded. Lynn complied with a little grumbling. Squirrel was delighted to be in a room getting dressed with her Mommies. What a perfectly normal thing for a family to do. But for us, it was our first time and it was special. It turned our Adoption Day into Mardi Gras…a tradition I’m sure we’ll keep up each year.

Once dressed herself in the special dress we’d been saving, Squirrel spun in a circle on our bedroom floor.

“Look at my Adoption dress, Mommies!” Then she pulled the dress up over her head. “And look at my little Adoption BOOBS!”

I have maybe never laughed so hard.

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Happy Adoption Day…Part 2

Forever Family, Love Wins - Allison Kenny - October 26, 2015

Click here to check out part 1 of this post!

CHP_2518-LFriday, October 16th

We woke up early and snuggled up with Squirrel in her bed. “Happy Gotcha Day!” we cheered, covered her face with kisses while she squealed. She opened the card with the kitty holding a heart (her two favorite things right now) and really took in the words we wrote—how we’ll love her forever, how she can’t get rid of us now, how we’re so happy to have her in our family. She opened the heart necklace on a gold chain and put it on immediately.

We moved into the living room where I’d set up three tiny candles. They were inside robin eggs, forming a nest. When my dear friend gave them to us on the day Squirrel came a year ago, I knew I’d wait and light them on Adoption Day. We each took an egg candle and lit them one at time before adding them back into the nest. This simple, quiet ritual was my favorite part of the whole day.

We put on the special outfits that we’d modeled for each other in a fashion show the week before. Fuchsia and gold, blues and purples. We ate egg pie with broccoli, curled our hair. None of us had ever gotten ready for an Adoption Day before. It was a weird and mystical holiday that we’ll celebrate every year from now on. We were “nervouscited” as my daughter would say.

We parked by beautiful Lake Merritt. We walked up to the Alameda Superior Courthouse and were intercepted by an expressive arts therapist with a purple ribbon wand. Our superhero friend, Phil performed an interpretative dance right there on the street in downtown Oakland. We all cheered and felt the love. We went through security. We took the elevator to the 7th floor where we met up with our social worker and began the 45 minutes of waiting our turn. There were three other adoptions that morning and it was first come, first served.CHP_2567-L

As we sat in the heat of the echoey building, I noticed our daughter started to leave her body. Her eyes glazed over. She winced every time her photo got taken by the photographer we’d hired. The amazing community we had with us—a Go Girl teaching artist, two grandmas, and dear friends with their adopted toddler—rallied and gave Squirrel snacks, toys to play with, hugs, presents and chances to run around and burn off steam.

When our turn came, I gave Squirrel a chance to ride piggyback into the huge courtroom. I could see she was terrified. “Mama, this is hard,” she whispered in my ear. We raised our right hands and promised to tell the truth. Then, our judge came to get us—a sweet, older man in a long black robe. He led us all into his cozy office. He was an absolute dear. When Squirrel wanted a chance to sign all the paperwork, he let her. He waited patiently as she drew pictures of Christmas trees all around her name. He told jokes about how adopted kids are just like all other kids- they still have to clean their rooms. Then, he asked if Lynn and I promised to be her forever parents and take care of all her needs. We did. We do. We will. Always.

imageAnd that was it. Just like that. An official family was born. Our circle of love cheered.

We went to feed the ducks at the lake while Mama Lynn paid the final court fees and signed more paperwork downstairs. She walked up to a window under the “Adoption” sign. It was positioned directly next to a window under the “Restraining Orders” sign. Not everyone in court was there to celebrate.

We ate lunch on the dock and Squirrel came back into herself, flirting with the waiter and pretending to take all our orders by scribbling in a Hello Kitty notebook. We opened the beautiful gifts from my mom—a silver jewelry box with Baby Girl’s new official name and the adoption date.  And a silver frame engraved with our new family name. The Johnson-Kenny’s.

imageThe rest of the day was a blur of naps and wine and dancing and hugging as many friends stopped by to love on us. We read Squirrel cards and texts from cousins, Aunties, Grandparents. She smiled again and again as she repeatedly got welcomed into the family. She stayed up past her bedtime, ate too much sugar and ended the evening in tears…evidence that Adoption Day truly is a holiday.

We gave birth. The labor pains were worse than I could have imagined but I already forgot them. It’s a girl. A beautiful, strong, creative, hilarious, fierce little girl. And she is really, truly ours. For better or worse.


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Happy Adoption Day…Part 1

Forever Family - Allison Kenny - October 22, 2015

imageI’d dreamt about this day for  years. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it would feel big. “Forever Family” kind of says it all. BAM! Tied for life. We’d been told by our social workers, friends who had adopted and family therapist that the lead up to the actual adoption could be a hard one.

“You might doubt your decision,” we were told.

“Your child will really start to act out,” we were warned.

“Mostly you won’t remember why you wanted to do this in the first place,” we heard again and again.

Wow. Good times. Can’t wait. And yet, here we are on the other side. Lynn brought our adoption certificate to our daughter’s school this morning and officially changed her name. We’re REALLY a family now. So how’d we get from there to here? Here’s a timeline…

Monday, Oct. 5th

Got an e-mail from our social worker that after fostering Squirrel for one year and 2 days, a court date had been set to finalize the adoption. It would be Oct. 16th. We had less than 2 weeks. Tears of relief, joy, excitement. No more weekly social worker visits. No more reports about us. No more writing for permission to travel, cut her hair or give her medicine when she’s sick. We were free! We invited all our family and friends who had adopted. We hugged a lot. We felt like badasses.

Monday, Oct. 12th

The Squirrel’s best friend asked me, “Are you really her mom?” I stayed calm and asked a few questions. I learned Squirrel had been telling kids on the playground about her birth family and making them promise not to tell. She started feeling different because she has two moms…and is being adopted…and misses where she’s from. Sigh. I hoped we’d have a little more time before the identity angst really started in.image

I HATE being questioned about whether my mothering is real. When you tried getting pregnant for eight years before taking two more to adopt, this question is very loaded…even if the one who asked it is a 6-year-old girl. I put my feelings aside and talked it through with the girls. Then I put my daughter to bed and cried my eyes out. Who knows if I’ll ever feel like a “real” mom.

Tuesday, Oct. 13th

We learned that despite their best efforts, two weeks notice was (of course!) not enough time for most of our family members to fly in from out of state to be at the adoption. I felt deeply sad and afraid. This would be a long road with this kid. Will we get the help we need? Will we ever really feel like a family? It feels like we’ve established a strong attachment, but will her loss and grief ultimately be too much? Fear started eating me alive. I cried most of the day until I picked her up from school. Then we went to family therapy. Help! Help! Help!

Wednesday, Oct. 14th

I met Squirrel at school before the end of the day to help her with “sharing day.” I’d arranged with her teacher to be there and help her present photos of her birth family to the class. She told them all about her past mother, siblings, cousins, grandma, and Aunties. Her energy was focused and confident—she needed her new friends at school to know all this about her. She fielded their questions with the answers we’d rehearsed in therapy. “I used to have a dad.” “I live in Oakland now because there were some problems.” “I don’t want to talk about that part.” She asked for my help only once.

I stayed silent as she spoke her truth even though it was painful to me. Wouldn’t it be amazing if she wanted to tell all her friends about her fabulous new moms and that she’d be getting adopted Friday? WOO-HOO!!!!

I also felt proud of her. And moved by how hard this week must be for her. I’ve never gone through what she has.

It was getting very, very real. I think we were all terrified.

Thursday, Oct. 15th

imageA dear friend of many years gave me some great perspective. “Of course you are panicking and crying uncontrollably and exhausted and feeling alone and slightly desperate. You are giving birth tomorrow…right? Any other mother pregnant with a 7-year-old would feel all those things. Give yourself a break. You’ll feel better once it’s done.” YES.

My mom and her partner arrived that afternoon after driving for two days to get to us. They brought a truckload of gifts. They hugged us and kissed us and made us feel loved. My mom gushed about how great we were doing and how far Squirrel has come over the year.

That night at bedtime, I asked Squirrel if anything was bothering her or worrying her about the adoption.

She asked what would happen in court.

She asked what it meant to officially be a family.

She asked why we picked her.

She asked what happened to all the kids in the group home where we got her from…”Are they still there waiting Mama?”

“Yes, Baby. Many kids are in foster care all over the country. They are hoping for an adoption day just like you are going to have in the morning. They want a forever family who can keep them safe and love them all their lives. I’m so, so happy we get to be your parents now. I love you more than mermaids love to swim.”

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