Transfiguring Adoption: Caring for Foster & Adoptive Kids by Giving a HOOT About Their Caregivers

What if foster and adoptive parents were equipped with resources to successfully nurture traumatized children and not disrupt placements?

Photo of Margaret Fink
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Cofounders, Darren and Margaret Fink, were reading the first Harry Potter book to their four children adopted out of foster care when one of the boys began to tear up. This child, who was never previously able to identify or share his emotions or trauma, identified with Harry Potter and shared how and why with his family, beginning a healing and bonding conversation. We awed over the power in media to help broach topics, teach concepts, break through emotional barriers, heal, and connect. Our family soon created a discussion guide for the book for foster and adoptive families as a set of blogs. We would read a chapter, discuss it, write a blog for families which the kids created by stating what they thought foster or adoptive kids could learn from the chapter, and we did the same for the caregivers. As what started as a fun family project gained more and more recognition, we started easy to search lists of different types of media families could enjoy, discuss, and bond over with their foster or adopted children. We began reviewing the media as well and including discussion questions and activities so that caregivers could make informed decisions about books, movies, and songs for their children and connect, bond, and help them heal. Others began to get interested and involved: an adult adoptee blogger, a teacher blogging to bridge the gap between educators and caregivers, grandparent bloggers, and a whole host of guest bloggers, interns, and volunteers.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Tennessee

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Tennessee

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Knoxville, Tennessee, and surrounding cities

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Most caregivers are not prepared to handle specialized behaviors brought on by trauma, sexual abuse, PTSD, malnutrition and other issues present in nearly all foster or adopted children. Consequently, children frequently suffer multiple traumatic moves to new homes due to overwhelmed caregivers. This results in compounded trauma, feelings of rejection and abandonment, academic and developmental losses, financial costs on society, and much more!

Transfiguring Adoption (TA) provides supportive services to foster and adoptive families. Transfiguring Adoption assists caregivers by filling gaps in resources and training so that they can in turn help the children in their care.

TA helps create ways for parents to engage with kids in their care and start healing conversations about difficult situations through media and activities. Books, movies, songs, and other media are a great way for people to relate to one another and understand each other's feelings. Children can discuss a fictional character's trauma and emotions and work through their own feelings without having to discuss them out loud if they are not ready. TA reviews media and creates extensive, searchable lists so that parents are able to find and assess the quality of media that is available to them. TA's book lists are broken into 5 children's book categories: foster care, foster care adoption, international or transracial adoption, infant adoption, and general children's books. The lists provide book title, author, topic, age range, and purchase information. The book list for grownups offers an extensive and broad range of topics and book genres to assist caregivers, educators, family, friends, and professionals in assisting children in foster care or who have been adopted. The program staff also create discussion questions to assist parents in starting healing conversations as they view media with their child.

TA not only uses existing media, but creates powerful media to help parents. TA has developed a unique curriculum based on the Harry Potter books. As an adopted child who faced many unspeakable fears, Harry Potter stories relate well to many foster/adoptive children and the curriculum helps families create discussions about the events occurring in their own households.

Experts and professionals also relay tips, advice and discussion with parents through such areas as our online blogs, ebooks, online discussion panels (which families utilize for foster parent training credit hours), and online interviews to help families cope with the unique aspects of being part of these special families. Volunteers are involved in every aspect of the services provided to empower these families. New initiatives include curriculum development to train educators on how to properly educate traumatized children in their classrooms.

TA creates foster parent kits, referred to as First Foster Placement Survival Kits, that contain tools and resources to empower newly licensed caregivers. These kits include a gift card for dinner so the parents can concentrate on settling children into the home, purchasing needed items, enrolling a child in school or daycare if needed, completing necessary paperwork, and so on without the added worry of cooking dinner. The kit also contains a DVD by experts that effectively explains attachment theory, brain changes caused by trauma, behaviors a child from traumatic beginnings may exhibit, and strategies to help children feel safe and how to deal with problematic behaviors in traumatized children. Items provided to help the children include a flashlight or nightlight to help them feel safe, a wooden fidget toy for stressed or busy hands, a pamphlet describing on children's terms what foster care is and who all the people are, a children's book dealing with foster care, and a gift card for the caregivers to take the child to buy supplies and provide a bonding experience with the new caregivers. Finally, a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone along with the first two chapters of TA's discussion and activity guide to accompany the book is included as well. Transfiguring Adoption coordinates with agencies who place foster children to distribute the first foster placement survival kits, which have historically been funded through donations of individuals, clubs and organizations, and ad and merchandise sales. Local agencies include their support group and mentoring information in the kits as well. While the kits are referred to as “first placement” kits, the majority of the resources will remain in their homes to help them through all future placements, helping hundreds of children in the future.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

"This is a life-saver for me right now!" is a response that Transfiguring Adoption (TA) received from a foster parent who was awarded a free pizza meal through our monthly drawing on our website. The caregiver gets a cook-free night and is introduced to our website resources: books she and her child can relate to, fun bonding activities to bring her closer to her young one, trainings for her, and information about other organizations that can resource her family. She is also able to participate in TA's monthly live online discussion panel of experts where parents get great advice from home. Foster parents in Knoxville, TN, experience our pilot project, Foster Parent Survival Kits, full of tools to equip their home after getting licensed.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

2015 (first year) impacts include: *Website and mobile app developed: *25 First Foster Placement Survival Kits created and distributed *8 full Papa John’s meals donated to foster or adoptive families *2 Door prizes donated to Fostering Hope TN Christmas party *195 blogs published, 25,734 website views, 324 email subscribers *271 app downloads *704 Twitter followers, 453 Facebook likes, 3,404 YouTube views *Presented at 1conference and 1 retreat Future Impact: *Assist in decreasing the number of disruptions that occur within foster or adoptive families - measured by caregivers completing surveys through partnering foster/adoptive agencies. *Increase the number of caregivers who have access to our resources and tools - measured through social media, website, & streaming discussion panel metrics.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $10k - $50k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

TA seeks sustainability through grants; donations; ad sales on our website, YouTube channel, and mobile app; merchandise sales online and also at events such as conferences and conventions; and fundraising events, such as book fairs through both Barnes and Noble and Books a Million. In addition, we will continue to build relationships in search of in-kind donations to place in the kits.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

The mission and projects of TA are unique in that TA’s focus is always on supporting and instill a sense of hope and empowerment in the caregiver so they can in turn see to a child’s needs for the entire duration of the child’s stay in care. Many other organizations seek to give suitcases, toys, or gifts to children in foster care. Consequently, unlike child focused organizations whose product affect only one child, this project will equip parents who will be able to utilize their learning to care for several placements in the future.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Researchers working with children who have experienced trauma have developed best practices for both educators and caregivers to successfully educate and parent traumatized children through "trauma-informed care." As trainings are being developed and policies are beginning to change around the country, there is hope that all adults in the lives of traumatized children can better nurture, empower, and equip them once they themselves have been taught about the effects of trauma on brain development, learning, behavior, and so on.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Word of mouth

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Melanie Gilbert of the "I Am Somebody" foster care awareness campaign

Program Design Clarity

Transfiguring Adoption (TA) primarily benefits foster & adoptive parents. On a daily basis caregivers are able to take advantage of our online resources such as our media lists & reviews, advice articles from experts, playful engagement tools & more. Monthly TA offers caregivers an online discussion panel with experts so caregivers are able to ask their questions in a safe environment. Periodically TA gives agencies physical tools to help parents. Opportunities are also provided to the public for supporting caregivers & kids in various ways to spread the word or help fund tools for caregivers.

Community Leadership

Currently, Transfiguring Adoption (TA) coordinates with several foster agency workers, adoption preservation workers and passionate people who care about caregiver support. Agencies and other professionals regularly discuss the needs of caregivers with our group. Recently, TA is working with a group of volunteers who have approached our program about mobilizing volunteers. We meet with the heads of this group on a monthly basis about leadership.

Age of Children Impacted

  • Pregnancy - 0
  • 0-1.5
  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

Transfiguring Adoption is currently talking with the obvious connections which a nonprofit would seek: businesses, foundations, federal grants, foster and adoptive agencies. Due to the success of our Harry Potter (HP) discussion guide, we have been petitioned by several HP fans to mobilize volunteers. While our program admits this to be a nonconventional approach, we find that this group is an untapped and energetic resource waiting to help.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Transfiguring Adoption provides resources which allow caregivers the tools necessary to begin conversations, connection, and bonding over media. Time spent reading a book or watching a movie is a nonthreatening time in which a caregiver can help a child discover their sense of self, belonging or purpose. Our other resources also equip adults to better understand foster/adoptive kids to help them navigate life situations.

Leadership Story

Through the course of parenting and creating Transfiguring Adoption, both co-founders, Darren & Margaret Fink, continue to believe that trauma-based behaviors need to be addressed in foster & adoptive children. However, we would say that our focus has taken a shift from the children to the caregivers. We can focus resources on a child to change one life. If we properly educate a loving caregiver, we have the ability to positively impact the lives of a multitude of foster or adoptive children. After all, most caregivers desire to care for kids, so let's make them more effective.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Tambra Raye Stevenson

Great job in laying out the issue and how your work can provide the solution! Quite novel and needed. My aunt was a foster care parent who shared the traumatic stories of the children. Every resource can be handy in supporting this community.

Photo of Margaret Fink

Thank you Tambra Raye Stevenson - We welcome any resources that you believe we need to add to our website.

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