Preparing to Adopt?

There are a few inherent weaknesses in preparations to adopt.Never-Stop-Learning

As we wrestled with the unique difficulties each of our children came into this world with, we learned very quickly that our preparation to be parents to children of trauma (which defines pretty much every child in the state foster and adoptive systems) was extremely inadequate. We really needed A LOT more specific preparation.

Like many prospective parents deep down we were naïve.  We felt that lots of love, structure and consistency would resolve most issues over time.  “Our love and Jesus” will turn these kids around. While not entirely untrue of course, it is MUCH harder than that.  Much harder.

In the 1990s (when we started adopting) they really were still operating in the dark when it came to understanding the effects of trauma and especially alcohol in utero in the development of the brain and research on the issue of attachment was still relatively new.  These issues have become extremely important for adoptive parents to understand. We know so much more now than we did then.  If you would like to learn more, explore our website and be sure to check out some of the resource links.  You will be glad you did!

“I Must Play!”

flowerdanceA comedian once said that a little boy’s Prime Directive was TO PLAY. And that if you wanted to understand boys you  had to keep that in mind, because it will explain their choices and behavior.  Bravo!  But I would add that play is equally important for boys and girls.  In fact, children learn most of what they learn through play.  We even see this in the animal kingdom so it shouldn’t surprise us.

But our modern notions of education are really at odds with this reality.  After 1st or 2nd grade, classrooms increasingly emphasize textbooks and, well, stuff that sure doesn’t seem like play to me.  I remember hearing that children learn something through play 8 times faster than any other method.  Wow!  

Dr. Karyn Purvis (author of The Connected Child) encourages parents to “Give your child the gift of play.”  She goes on to emphasize the extremely important role play and playful interaction have in neurological development of every child starting from day one.  She also speaks of how play actually changes the brain’s chemistry, helping children who are “fear based” become more relaxed and trusting. Play can free them from the chains of trauma and fear.  Wow!

So,  encourage creative and active play!  Play with your children as much as you can.  Enter into their world of play and try to make most of your interactions with them playful in tone.  There are lots of things parents feel they need to teach and train their children to understand. If we go about it in a more playful manner, research seems to tell us they will learn it MUCH better and faster.  Hey, I’m all for that!


The Legacy of Trauma

ftac-logoBecause a child has experienced trauma and loss the child’s brain has “adapted” by wiring itself in such a way as to survive the best way the child knows how.  This “rewiring” can lead to a variety of problems for them.  An inability to trust and attach to their new caregivers sets the stage for tremendous difficulties.  So too, brains that are locked into the “fight, flee or freeze” mode do not always access the higher brain function areas that children so need to get along well with the world around them. 

With so much seemingly working against these children and those who love them, it may be tempting to feel defeated and believe there is little hope.  Many families parenting such children feel this way.  But as daunting as these realities are, there is SO much hope.  Research shows that brains CAN rewire themselves when the child begins to realize he or she is in a safe and loving environment.  When they don’t have to live in constant fear and trauma, their brains slowly begin to adapt to their new environment.  But the process can be agonizingly slow and it takes a heavy toll on the families who are literally giving those precious children a chance for a better life day in and day out.

That is why they need our support.  We all have to be in it for the long haul. There is no quick and easy fix for these children.  But there IS hope! God loves these children.  Their welfare concerns Him greatly.  And we praise God that He made the human mind so pliable.  It is these children’s hope IF they have families who will stand by them and love them.  Coming alongside these families increases their chance of success with these precious but difficult to parent children.   

What is Trauma?

According to current and reliable research, there are six primary risk factors that lead to “children from hard places” (other authors use the term “Children of Trauma”). The presence of any one of these can result in lifelong repercussions (and foster/adoptive children almost always have several of these risk factors). These risk factors are:

  • prenatal stress, difficult or traumatic labor or birth, medical trauma early in life,
  • abuse, neglect, and other forms of trauma and profound loss.

Based on this list, it 01810is clear that the term, “children from hard places,” accurately describes many more children than just those who were institutionalized or adopted later in life. Further, it is well established that children impacted by adoption or foster care have all experienced some degree of loss and, as a result, are more likely to encounter a variety of questions and wrestle with different issues relating to that loss and the grief and pain that flow from it.

Trauma as defined by the DSM – 5 has the following characteristics:

  • An experience which has either the direct threat or perceived threat of death or serious injury and must include the experience of all of the following..
    • Intense fear
    • Helplessness
    • Horror
    • Mental disorganization/agitation
  • Trauma is the reason why so many foster/adoptive  children react/respond the way they do!  It is through NO fault of their own that they come into care…whether they be an infant or an almost aged out teen.



Happy Independence Day!

fireworksHave a wonderful 4th of July everyone!  Sometimes children from hard places can react poorly to the loud noises of fireworks (especially if they have sensory processing issues or autism).  A few tips that might help:

  • Try observing fireworks a little farther away or in the car to help reduce the volume.
  • Perhaps you could have the child wear headphones or use some type of ear plugs to help reduce the sounds.
  • Cuddle up with you child on your lap and try to quietly applaud whenever something is super grand.  Helping them focus on the spectacular can take their mind off of the stuff they don’t like (time for “ooh” and “aaaah”).
  • But, bottom line, if you already know they react very poorly to such noises you would be better off watching them on TV rather than having a melt down somewhere live.
  • I am sure you can probably come up with even better ideas!  Hope it helps.