Growing Intentional Families Together 

April 2017  |  Volume 4 Issue 1


Welcome to our new subscribers since last time!

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Message from GIFT Adoption Coaches 

Each season offers an opportunity for reflection and change but perhaps more so in Spring. Spring's the time that many of us clean out our closets -- "out with the old and in with the new!" It's a time we begrudgingly set our clocks one hour ahead to lose an hour of sleep yet moving us closer to the warm, carefree days of summer. Trees' leaves and plants' blossoms begin to show. Whether in our nation's capital, the vast deserts of the West, or in places between, Spring is nature's time for renewal. In our mind's eye, we see a plethora of cherry blossoms, wild flowers, and tulip spikes. How beautiful!

Opportunity for renewed growth exists for adoptive and foster families as well. As coaches at Growing Intentional Families Together (GIFT) we routinely ask: What might you do differently? What might you continue doing? Where are the areas of challenge that need more attention for you to grow individually and collectively as a strong, loving family? Though these are questions to be asked throughout the seasons, Spring seems an even more natural time to take action. Perhaps GIFT's Spring Fresh Start Special -- an additional 10% of off coaching services -- is for you?

May the beauty of Spring be yours,
The Coaches at GIFT Family Services, LLC    Gayle Swift, Sally Ankerfelt, Joann DiStefano, & Susan David 

Are you an adult adoptee who would like to share your voice and perspective and help faith communities become more Adoption-attuned*?

As adoptive parents and coaches who want to help faith communities become Adoption-attuned, we are writing a book that uplifts the voices and perspectives of those with the greatest insight: you, adult adoptees. We hope you might be willing to share your personal experiences with us. We’d like your permission to send you a brief survey on this topic.
While adoptees have successfully begun to #FlipTheScript relative to many aspects of adoption, we believe that the church remains an unaddressed yet influential part of the adoptee experience. We want to Adoption-attune* faith communities and their staff as well as parents and lay people and identify how faith communities serve or fail to serve adoptees. We will compile our findings in a book that will include suggestions for how faith communities can better serve them.
To accomplish this, we must base our work on fact instead of inference or guesswork. We believe adult adoptees offer our best source for discovering those facts. Adoption is complex; our kids need and deserve resources tailored to fit their actual needs. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. Please feel free to share this message with anyone who would like to share their experiences with us.

Thanking you in advance,
Sally Ankerfelt and Gayle H. Swift 

We are co-founders of GIFT Family Services providing support to families before, during and after adoption. GIFT does not facilitate adoptions. Sally is a Lutheran pastor. Gayle is author of “ABC, Adoption & Me” and a contributor to “It’s Not About You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion and Open Adoption.” Both Sally and Gayle are adoptive parents and GIFT coaches.

Spring Renewal Brings Change for GIFT 

Spring heralds a new season for nature, so too, for GIFT Family Services. We’d like to thank our colleague and friend, Lynn Cooper, for her dedicated service to GIFT. A talented coach and business woman, Lynn is a tireless advocate for adoptive and foster families and fierce in her belief that knowledge, education, and action could create loving, strong adoptive families. She shared that vision as co-founder and President of GIFT. After a cross country move, Lynn now brings her considerable talents and skills as lead trainer, teacher, and coach, facilitating success for those who bring services to developmentally challenged adults. 
Anyone that knows Lynn knows of her devotion to her family and friends. Now back in her beloved Spokane, she and husband, Gordon, will be spending a lot of time with their two sons and their super cute grandson -- no doubt together watching a variety of sports and of course, rooting for the Seattle Seahawks or the San Francisco Giants!

Thank you, Lynn Cooper! 

Your Paid Advertising Can Go Here ... if you'd like to promote something in our Newsletter, please contact us at

We hope to get this book into the hands of all our adoptive parents.  ~ Susan Ogden,  Executive Director,  Adoptions Together 
Deserves every single one of its many awards and should be a part of every child's library.   ~ Midwest Book Review

Buy Your Copy

From the GIFT Blogs ...

Adoption Matters; Talk About It!

For far too many years adoption was buried under layers of secrecy. People considered it a sensitive subject. Off limits.  Some parents kept adoptees in the dark. Families mentioned it only in whispers. Adoptees absorbed the subtle message that adoption was a subject which should be kept under wraps. Any discussion—when it occurred—should be unflinchingly positive.

This attitude had more to do with shame than privacy. Sealed files hid vital information from adoptees even after they achieved adulthood. A subtle cultural belief underpinned this: that adoption shamed the birth mother and by association, tainted the adoptee.

Read More

Dear Abby, We Need to Talk About Gotcha 

For adoptive parents, the arrival of their children is a miracle beyond conception and an event which they love to celebrate. In a recent letter, Dear Abby extolled the virtues of “Gotcha Day” as a wonderful way to celebrate an important and life transforming event. As Adoption-attuned parents, we understand that adoption is a beautiful way of forming a family. But, the Both/And reality of adoption means it has its roots in loss and grief for each member of the adoption triad. Thus, as an adoption professional and an adoptive parent, I’d like to offer three reasons to rethink “Gotcha Day” and to provide some alternatives.

Please click this link to read my complete essay which appeared on Lori Holden’s blog author of The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption.

For me, Gotcha Day feels a bit like a hair shirt. It’s intended to generate warmth but it itches like crazy and somehow doesn’t accomplish the job.

The Coaches' Check-In Corner

Coaches use a
variety of language shaping 
both a particular session
and the ongoing relationship between coach and client: 

BNNT:   “Between Now & Next Time” -whatever client or coach has agreed to accomplish between sessions

Bottom Line:  The essence of the “story” minus the peripheral details.
Challenge:  Invitation issued by a coach who asks clients to take on a practice, behavior or other action.

The Coaching Partnership Coaching is most effective when there is a free flowing and honest dialogue between clients and coach. While the client is encouraged to take on new strategies, behaviors and practices, it is important that clients feel free to provide honest feedback to
the coach regarding what worked and what did not.

Debrief:  An examination of the factors that supported, enhanced, distracted or interrupted the completion of a declaration or result. The emphasis is on effectiveness NOT guilt or Right/Wrong
Declaration: A statement defining what one is committed to accomplishing within a specific time frame.  Coach serves as witness.
Event versus pattern: Moving from the specific event, and all of its unique details, to a different level or perspective which allows the identification of the underlying habits or beliefs.
Intervention:  Breaking into the conversation to create focus or to move from the event to the pattern
Learning Conversation:  Moving beyond Right/Wrong, faultfinding and guilt to distill the positive and to identify the gift/growth hidden within the experience/challenge.
Observation:  Making a detailed note of how one behaves in certain circumstances.  Focus is on emotions, body language, inner dialogue, intention, context and results.
Practice:  A designed set of behaviors used to identify, reinforce, or interrupt unwanted behaviors or patterns or to introduce new, intentional behaviors and results.
Adapted from Resource Realizations, Inc   





If you or someone you know is seeking

assistance, GIFT Family Services
is just a phone call away

GIFT is a full service coaching firm providing support services to adoption/foster families before, during and after adoption.

Not only are all of us adoptive parents, we are certified coaches as well. Coaching focuses on action steps to move families forward through difficulty. Combining our own adoptive family experiences with our professional training enables us to listen without judgment, empathize, and then strategize effective solutions.   


Check out GIFT's  latest  resource: a bi-weekly podcast featuring Adoption-attuned coaching discussions and practical tips and tools for adoptive families. Podcasts are perfect for listening in "stolen moments" whether commuting to work, exercising, or waiting in the car for the kids to pile in. Adoptive parents will appreciate the practical tidbits, simple strategies, and conversations with adoption experts that focus on Adoption-attuned parenting.  

Join hosts, GIFT coaches, Joann DiStefano and Susan David 
GIFT Coaches Sally Ankerfelt and Gayle Swift will present, "Faith Communities as Sources of Healing and Connection" at the Annual 43rd NACAC Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.


Join us to discover how faith communities can build on their current practices to gain new awareness and skills, creating a safe, enriching environment for families, children and individuals living or working with attachment disturbances. Using the context of interpersonal neurobiology, we’ll discuss not only what works but what doesn’t to support healing and connection. And we’ll create a preliminary plan for designing new faith community practices that specifically support healthy attachment and discuss ways to introduce new strategies to your faith leadership. 

More information and register here 

GIFT Coach and award  winning author of ABC, Adoption & Me, Gayle Swift, shares her thoughts on her son's reunion with his birth mother in the new book,
It's Not About You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion, & Open Adoption 

This book, compiled by Brooke Randolph, LMHC, offers a collection of perspectives -- adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, and therapists – and is written for adoptive and birth parents and their therapists about search and reunion. Gayle’s heartwarming story detailing how the reunion experience affected everyone in their family as well as her son’s new baby is a wonderful addition to this book.  

Read more here about the book's many contributors

It’s Not about You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion, & Open Adoption
An anthology edited by Brooke Randolph, LMHC

“Painful, personal, candid and beautiful, … Always, the child is placed at the heart of the text …. I highly recommend this poignant and sobering book … should be required reading for adoptive parents, prospective adoptive parents or anyone working in the field of adoption or the child welfare system.”
~ Wayne D. Duehn, Ph. D., Professor Emeritus of Social Work, University of Texas at Arlington


GIFT Affiliate News

GIFT continues its affiliation with Partnerships for Permanence (P4P). This year P4P is planning to collaborate with amazing individuals, agencies and funders. The goal is to increase its pool of partners that champion its cause and mission.

Partnerships for Permanence is committed to working together with foster care alumni and adoptees to raise awareness and actively work to improve the child welfare system. P4P strives to involve adults and young people equally in its work, teaching adult professionals how to better advocate for young people through skills-building workshops around communication, advocacy, and shared leadership. 

Learn about the wide variety of online resources as well as innovative programs available to assist you as an adult adoption/foster professional or foster youth.    

More about Partnerships for Permanence (P4P) here
GIFT recently affiliated with Project Bond.
Born as two friends and colleagues shared frustrations about the lack of awareness and knowledge of the unique needs of adopted children and their families, social workers Barbara DiGangi and Meredith Silversmith experienced first-hand the damaging effects of misinformation, misdiagnosis, and improper treatment as well as the potential for success with an attachment-sensitive approach.

Like the coaches at GIFT, Barbara and Meredith know that appropriate resources and support allow children and their families to progress and succeed. Both GIFT and Project Bond has made it their mission to help these families thrive. 

More about Project Bond here

Adoption Resources & Upcoming Events

EARLY-BIRD REGISTRATION RATES are available until June 12.
Keynote Speaker: Heather Forbes, LCSW of Beyond Consequences Institute, LLC

29th Annual ATTACh Conference
October 12th – October 14th, 2017
Denver, Colorado

Keynote Speakers: 
Dr. Peter Levine
Dr. Jaiya John
Dr. Pat Ogden

Adoptive Family Travel

lets you and your family experience your child’s birth country and culture along with your adoption community and adoption professionals  
Read more here

The Donaldson Institute

Learn more about the research, education and advocacy work that The Donaldson Institute does leading to better perceptions, policies and practices that strengthen all families.
Learn about DIL here
Sign up to join Attachment & Trauma Network's FREE summit, May 1-5, 2017.
Listen for Free
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