A few years ago, a group of adoption professionals, seeing the need, decided to create a program to support adoptive parents. They wanted to make it available to all adoptive families, not just those who had adopted through the state, but also privately, internationally, and within their existing family structure. They wanted to provide services to the entire family, including biological children with adopted siblings. They wanted to tackle tough issues like grief and loss. Difficult behavior. Race and culture. Mental health. Fiesta was the result. FIESTA is an acronym for Family Activities, Information, Education, Support, and Training.
In the five regions throughout the state, there are “Family Contacts,” who are adoptive parents that organize at least four opportunities for families to get together each quarter. These events are sometimes called, “Coffee and Chat,” or “Snack and Chat” or may be something like attending a community event together, meeting at a park or having a family game night. During a typical “Coffee and Chat,” child care is provided free of charge for all of the children in the family, adopted or not (because of liability, we are not allowed to provide this service to kids in treatment care). Our child care staff has strict guidelines like never being alone with a child, never putting a child in “time out,” keeping confidentiality, and most importantly, facilitating a planned schedule of activities so that each child has fun. The plan includes a short lesson or theme, a small motor activity like a craft, a large motor activity like a relay race, and plenty of time to socialize. Staff is prepared to engage with babies to teens. While the kids are busy, the adults can get to know one another, exchange stories and contact information to support each other through the month. Other family activities allow the families to enjoy and participate in a shared experience. Many long-lasting friendships have been formed through these activities. This is the “F” in FIESTA.
The “I” stands for information. Fiesta has a huge lending library of books and videos for parents, children and professionals who serve adoptive families. We’ll even pay for the shipping back and forth if you live outside of Albuquerque. You can find the list of resources on our website, nmfiestaproject.org
“E” is for education. We have workshops in every region once a month. Topics include attachment and trauma, discipline and nurture, understanding behavior, and self-care. Workshops that have been helpful in the past few months have touched on topics such as internet safety, IEPs, helping extended families to understand adoption issues, the challenges of FASD, and respite. Our respite co-op is a group of families who have attended this training and learned ways to be an effective “sending parent” as well as a “receiving parent.” After this required training, families are entered into a co-op where they can arrange respite among themselves. All of our trainings count as required hours for CYFD families.
The “S” stands for support. Besides the monthly networking events, Family Contacts are available by phone to help parents find answers to questions about everything from challenging behavior strategies to homework struggles. These fellow adoptive parents don’t have all of the answers, but can help guide you to professional help when needed or supply a listening ear. They can attend school meetings as an advocate and note-taker, sit beside you in difficult meetings, and sometimes even go to your home to brain-storm with you about situations you may be facing. Other supports that families rely on are our face book group and blog.
T is for Training. Once a year we provide a training in each region for professionals who work with adoptive families. Free CEUs are offered.
The “A” means that all families are welcome- singles, kinship, LGBT, Spanish-speaking, and the people who support them. We have a family contact that is designated to support families who have members with disabilities. Pre-adoptive parents are always welcome.
New Mexico Fiesta Project exists with only one purpose- to support, encourage, and equip adoptive families in this state. Everything that we offer is free of charge and the project is fully staffed by adoptive parents. Please browse our site and borrow a book, plan to attend an event or training, or check us out on face book. We’d love to meet you!