We snuck in through the back door. My husband and I, with no formal training, stepped into the world of adoption. We parented three biological kids but had zero understanding of childhood trauma or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
In fact, the word adoption wasn’t part of our vocabulary when God placed an eight-year old relative in our home. She needed a family and we said yes. The little girl had not been in foster care, so there were no classes to take. I didn’t know to research or read books on adoption or trauma or attachment.
We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know
We raised our daughter as we did our biological children—with the same opportunities, privileges, expectations, and consequences. But traditional parenting didn’t work. She acted immature, oppositional, and disobedient.
Five years later, the Lord led us to international adoption. We used an out-of-state adoption agency which somehow circumvented the required training many parents receive prior to placement. I read some books about adoption and attachment. And off to Ukraine we flew to adopt a sibling set of three—still not knowing what we didn’t know.
Our Ukrainian trio, ages nine, seven, and three, miraculously clicked into our family. With no speed bumps, we were lulled into thinking the road would remain smooth. Three years later we returned to Ukraine to adopt the youngest sibling of our older three. I remember being confident this trip would be easy—adopting one child instead of three at the same time. Easy peasy.
The second we met our five year-old fireball in the orphanage, Wayne and I realized we were not equipped to parent him. After struggling through the first several months home, we set out on a new course—to learn everything we needed to know to successfully parent all five of our adopted kids.
Now We Know
Our adoption journey began more than twenty years ago. Today, we understand how childhood trauma and FASD impacts brain development. And what we once thought were bad behaviors are actually symptoms of trauma and exposure to alcohol in the womb.
Along the way, we’ve made mistakes, learned what works and what doesn’t. With two decades of lived experience, I’d like to share with you six key connections for adoptive and foster parents.
Six Key Connections:
1. Connect with Christ
In John 15 Jesus tells his disciples to remain in him because a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and we cannot be fruitful unless we remain in him. Fruitfulness is the result of remaining constantly connected to Christ. Apart from him, we can do nothing—nothing of eternal value.
2. Connect with Spouse
Maintaining a marriage, is hard work. Add children and the work load increases, factor in kids with trauma histories and a marriage can break from the stress. Couples must prioritize their relationship and make Christ the center. A three-strand cord is not easily broken.
3. Connect with Kids
God created his children for connection. Playful interactions and focused time with our children are avenues to healing. Family fun helps disarm fear and build trust regardless of age. Whether we’re parenting toddlers or teens, connection is key.
4. Connect with Training
Traditional parenting methods do not work with children who have experienced trauma. Adoptive and foster parents need to be trauma informed. And we must become the expert on our child’s disability. Ask God for wisdom and seek knowledge—read every book, listen to every podcast, attend every training.
5. Connect with Fellow Adoptive and Foster Parents
Adoptive and foster parents can often feel isolated. Our kids’ behaviors—which are really symptoms of their trauma—can make social settings challenging. Reach out to other parents on the same journey. Meet for coffee, attend a support group, make a phone call. Share stories, strategies, and successes and pray for each other.
6. Connect with Yourself
Yes, self-care. We cannot take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. Take a walk, go for a run, do some yoga. Pour a cup of tea or coffee and sit down to drink it. Journal, draw, garden. Take a nap. Eat chocolate. Find something you enjoy and do it for 15 minutes each day to recharge your batteries. We weary parents need rest for our souls.
Over the next six weeks, I will dive deeper into each key connection. Join me next time as I focus on the importance of connecting with Christ. I’m thrilled to have you along for the journey.
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