is love enough? (adoption/foster)

Is love enough?
Pam Parish, a woman who writes insightful words over at,  asked for input on the “love is not enough” idea in a Facebook adoption group. I had quite a lot to say about the subject since I’d heard Nancy Thomas speak on “Love is Not Enough.” I had disagreed with Nancy to a point, and I constantly hear other parents use those words, “Love is not enough.”

Here’s what I shared with Pam (with a few additions), which she posted on her blog: I think it all depends on what a persons definition of LOVE is. Is love putting a roof over a child’s head, providing clothing, toys, entertainment, taking them on vacation, being there for them when they need it?

Or, is it much more than that?

Is it providing consequences to teach them how to live life? Is it holding them when all they’ve done is push you away? Is it living through the ugly and dirty moments when we feel such hate being slung our way? Is it moving on with each day even though we don’t have strength to even look at the dirty dishes in the sink?

I feel it’s all of the above and more.

This is HARD because our children came from HARD. I believe the knowledge of this begins with the original training foster and adoptive parents receive before a child is placed with them. Although we never truly understand what it takes to raise a hurting child until we are living with them day to day, I feel I had a better starting place than many. Because of our training, I was able to empathize with my children and I knew it was going to be HARD.

My love has been enough, but then my definition is probably different than most.

I see where some adoptive parents are coming from, we hear others say, “I would love to adopt, children just need love,” and maybe they don’t realize the amount of “love” a hurting child needs. One mom on the Facebook page said, “Those who look at our family think, ‘Look, all they needed was a family to love them.’ ” But, that family knows how much “love” it has taken to heal their child.

original photo by joeymc86 via

Is love enough? Some might say, no. But does your love include educating yourself and learning about trauma? Love should be all inclusive. As I was working on this post, I received an email from my dad. He had listened to my radio interview, and said, “I know you have developed a relationship with Payton and the two of you are very close. One thing to remember is it is a continual learning process.” I think that process entails love, a love that is willing to try to do the best, and be the best for a child. It includes loving through the process and in the process.

Love is a big word. Our children need a big love and we can do it.

I am rewarded daily for the immense amount of love I’ve poured into both my children. When Payton runs to me after school, yelling, “Mommy!!!” and gives me a big hug, my heart is filled. It used to be that I showed up at her school and she wanted me to leave and didn’t want me to help her with her craft. Now, she WANTS me to sit with her on her classroom floor and read with her. Now she gets slightly jealous if I help other kids in her class, whereas before, she couldn’t care less where I was or what I was doing.

Love is a big word. When children come from trauma, they need a big love to carry them through.


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6 thoughts on “is love enough? (adoption/foster)

  1. I agree with you, love is enough if you consider it all inclusive. The question becomes, can you love this child to the point that you are willing to shape your relationship with them to meet their needs? As an example, our son was 16 when we got him. While we had an older son and had experienced 16 already, this one was different. Our approach and even the way we cared for him had to be different. It wasn’t as simple as he’s a 16 year old boy so he must be the same as our older son. We had to love him for who he was and be willing to change ourselves, our usual way of doing things, in order to meet his needs. Even when at our emotional limits, we had to remind ourselves that he has been shaped by his past and his pushing us was part of what he learned in order to survive.

    The overwhelming proof that we have made the best choice when it comes to our son is when we hear from others, who have known him far longer than we have, that they can’t believe how much different he is. Happier. Loving. A completely different kid.

    Love is enough. It has to be a whole hearted, willing to change, seeing the child through their hurt, parental love that you have never experienced before. Yes, that kind of love is enough.

    Thank you for continuing to write. It’s reassuring to know others have the same struggles and joys in adoption as we do.

  2. This is a question that I wrestling with a lot right now. My wife and I accepted a placement in June. A month into the placement, the child was notified that parental rights were going to be separated. The child took it really hard. As it got closer to school starting (where siblings from their previous family go) we began to see a sharp regression in behavior and function. Within three weeks, the child had to be taken to a behavioral health center because the rage and behavior has become uncontrollable. My wife and I want the best for this child. We even hoped to be able to adopt them, but because of the regression and behavior we are asking ourselves if “love is enough”. We do not feel trained, able to provide the 24/7 attention, or emotional/physical resources to care for this child. My question for you is this, “When is loving letting go for the sake of the child’s and parent’s best interests?”

    1. Hi John, thanks for stopping by and for asking the hard questions. I will refer to your child in this response as “Ashley”. It sounds like Ashley is angry, and could be telling herself things that aren’t true. Maybe she thinks that if she misbehaves, you won’t adopt her and she can go back to her parents. Although it would do harm to mention this to her. Anxiety about what’s happening can lead to outbursts. Several other issues are probably circulating in Ashley’s mind. It’s important to make connections with her and you can do this through play/interactions (this post will help begin the process) so she doesn’t feel intimidated. Recognize you may not get any answers.
      I would also looking at the post Time, Time, Time
      Is there an instance that leads you to believe that the beginning of school with these siblings is a marker of negative behaviors? Do you know why this might be?
      Can I ask what behaviors the child has that are uncontrollable? And for you, what does 24/7 care mean?
      I don’t believe anyone has the ability to care for a traumatized child based on training alone, it takes incorporating that training and learning how to do it while “on the job” that makes it possible.
      I am not a proponent of letting go of children, whether they’re in foster care or adopted. I believe it hurts a child tremendously when they know they aren’t wanted or are too difficult to deal with.
      If you would like to converse further, feel free to email me at

  3. I love reading that you consider all the hard work, and continual learning part of that love. For many people, they think hugs will fix it all, and that is so far from the truth, it can take a very long time for a child to want a hug.They have so many different challenges having come from very different backgrounds that we’re constantly reading, researching, learning to provide the best care we can for the children in our home, because, regardless of how long they are in our home, we love them. They are part of our family and will always have a place in our hearts.

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