Adoption Coaching


By Guest Author Sally Ankerfelt

It was two years ago this July that my son and I took the trip-of-a-lifetime to the Philippines, his homeland. For a year prior to our trip, we had talked about going back with our son who was adopted at age 16 months and was now 13 years old.

The decision to make a visit proved to be easy. It was how we were going to travel that was difficult. Would we go alone as a family?

Making a homeland visit has layers of complexity that recreational travel does not. We were not just sight-seers. We were exploring our son’s heritage, digging into his past, and opening ourselves up to experiencing a wide range of feelings that might come with returning “home.”

Because of the delicate nature of this trip, we decided to go with a travel group. We chose The Ties Program because we noticed that they not only would help us with the itinerary and the travel details, but they would assist us with navigating the emotional experiences that could surface.

The Ties Program prepared us for the travel through articles on what to expect, how to prepare our children and ourselves emotionally, and what kinds of foundational work we could do with our children before we stepped onto the soil of their homeland.

While in the Philippines, The Ties Program provided a guide from the United States who not only knew about Filipino culture but also had the skills to touch base with our children about what they were experiencing and to assist us parents with the surprising range of emotions that surfaced throughout the trip.

The concept of coaching is much like the concept of the Ties Program. On the adoption journey, we could go it alone. However, like The Ties Program, coaching recognizes that adoption can be complex, so that a skilled guide- a coach- can be very beneficial.

Like a guide, a coach identifies skills that help address the unique aspects of the adoption journey. The power in coaching is its focus on the strengths of the adoptive family and its belief in a family’s ability to move forward.

In addition to being certified, GIFT Family Services coaches also are adoptive parents. We know the adoption “territory” and have a good sense of the joys and challenges adoptive families face. We are committed to assisting families in moving forward through both joys and difficulties.

In addition, coaching offers flexibility to meet the needs of families. Coaching can meet you on your adoption journey in many ways:

  • It can occur “after hours,” at a time that is mutually agree-upon by the family and coach;
  • It can occur over the telephone. There is no need to come to an office. For those in rural areas, a local adoption-competent professional can be difficult to locate. Driving to an appointment can take more than an hour out of our busy lives.
  • It has the ability to fashion intentional coaching plans around the desired results of the family;
  • It offers the positive encouragement necessary to help families have the strength to get “unstuck.”
  • It offers a non-judgmental approach. (Being adoptive parents ourselves, we’ve most likely “been there!) Being an adoptive parent, I know that our experiences can be difficult and not always understood.

Our children (and our families) face additional layers of identity issues as well as other possible issues such as attachment, loss, and school challenges, to name a few. During the difficulties, it may be helpful to enlist the services of someone who is skilled in navigating the rough waters of adoption and who can guide us to calmer seas.

If you are interested in learning more about coaching or talking to a GIFT Family Services coach, call 1-800-236-7821 or visit our website at

About the Author:Sally Ankerfelt is an adoptive mom to three children: one adopted

Sally Ankerfelt

internationally at 16 months, one adopted at birth through open adoption, and another adopted at age 12 through foster care. She also is a certified coach, co-founding coach of GIFT (Growing Intentional Families Together) Family Services. She holds a Masters of Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul and recently completed a certification program in Trauma Studies from the University of Minnesota. She enjoys speaking at adoption events and assisting individual families on their adoption journey. In her own family, she has dealt with trauma and attachment along with other behavioral issues, including ADHD. These family experiences continue to teach her that in the midst of loss and struggle, there is great joy and hope to be found along the way.

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