the adopted and foster child’s ability to adapt

the adopted child's ability to adapt
Adaptation. It can take a long time for humans and animals to adapt to a new situation or new lifestyle. However, many adopted and foster children who come from traumatic backgrounds adapt very quickly to new surroundings. This is also true for some children who are adopted when they’re infants.

Even after healing took place with our daughter, we noticed when she was under different influences, she acted disparately. If Payton was with a teacher who allowed her to speak out when she wanted and didn’t have boundaries, we noticed her negative behaviors increase at home. If she spent more time than usual with grandparents who gave her beyond what she gets in her normal, every day life, or ones that don’t have the ability to say “No,” we noticed unfavorable behaviors arise at home.

It seemed that no matter what rules or life we led at home, if she spent enough time with people who didn’t have these same expectations, we were in a battle. A BIG battle.

I’ve talked about this before, there are behaviors and personality traits that will stick with our children even after healing takes place, you can read more about this in What’s Next? A Look at Life After Bonding Takes Place.

Even after an adopted or foster child has bonded, they will still have residual effects from being neglected and abused.

Neglect and abuse transforms a child’s brain, trauma rewires their brain to protect them. They may dissociate, they may fight. We can help them rewire their brain, through love, consistency, rocking and rhythmic movement, and all the other ways I’ve talked about here on Lovin’ Adoptin’, but there will still be something left of that life, that life that formed who they are.

Many of their behaviors and personality traits can be guided toward positive avenues, I encourage you to check out what these are and how to help your child channel these for good. However, some of these behaviors and traits can be difficult to deal with, even if they can serve the positively in the future.

One of the behaviors that’s hard to deal with is our children’s ability to adapt and how it changes how they act so quickly, because they’re adapting quickly. When our children are the center of attention, it’s a great thing, but when we come back to reality, and life happens, a parent is sick, a sibling needs attention, there are appointments and commitments, and life, it can be really difficult because our child is stuck in being the center of attention and they think it should continue. Why not?

If a child can manipulate situations, and persuade adults to do their bidding (because many of our kids are intelligent, and this is a good quality when used in the right way), we then see it happening at home.

This behavior doesn’t just stop because we tell them to or because we hand out a consequence. It takes a while for them to adapt back to the expectations we have at home, like, “I said no, and I mean no.” Ugh.

So begin by looking at where your child spends the most time. Is it school? Daycare? If you know you have expectations at home, and you don’t allow your child to talk back, be sassy, or be rude to others, yet they still are (although some of this will take place no matter what because they are kids and they’re strong-willed) take a look at what’s happening in these other venues. Spend time there, see what’s happening for yourself. (You will also be able to tell if there are lower expectations because of how your child acts when they come home from these places.) If you see that your child is allowed to act unacceptable, have a kind face-to-face talk with your child’s teacher or daycare provider. Lay out how you do things at home, and try to encourage them to implement similar expectations so everything is cohesive for your child.

We don’t want to squash our children, so remember that sometimes when in these other settings, behaviors may arise in our kids because they require extra attention.

This is not a problem, but it’s going to be a work in progress to find ways a teacher or daycare provider can give your child that attention they’re seeking – if they don’t receive it, they’ll look for it in unacceptable ways; negative attention is still attention.

There is no cut and dry solution here. Your child is depending on you and your spouse to continue having the same expectations at home, and you communicating with those your child spends time with. I feel strongly and have seen that when everyone works together with the same goals, our children do so much better.

I also believe that having an understanding of why our child behaves this way helps us handle it better.

Last year, my parents took our daughter, Payton, for a long weekend. It was the first time they’d done this, and it was the longest she’d been away from us. Like many grandparents, they spoiled her, a ton. It’s all good, I’m extremely thankful they did this, and we did it again this summer. However, following that first weekend she spent with them, I talked to my parents about Payton’s behavior afterwards, it was horrible. The whole universe spiraled around her and her only, she wanted it all her way, and couldn’t handle being told to do anything. Our home was a raging river for a couple weeks after.

Although I’d told them before they took her to have expectations for her, I’m not sure it happened. Okay, it didn’t really, but heck they’re grandparents, and it’s all about FUN! Thankfully though, they recognized what ensued after their time with her last summer and had more expectations this summer when she spent a week with them. It was better when she returned home this time, but there were still residual effects, she was the center of attention and she was able to do almost anything she wanted. She had a blast and I’m so glad, but now I have to be even stronger in sticking to what I say.

Do you see this happening with your child? I know this is so hard, our children have to go to school and we can’t always switch classrooms because a teacher doesn’t work out. We have to send our children to daycare if we work or need some down-time, and sometimes we need babysitters to step in. Sadly we can’t control every situation, unless we homeschool and never send our child out of the home, and for some of us that isn’t realistic. But what we can do is communicate what our child needs. We can stick to our expectations. You CAN do this!

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this may need to be done on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

our special needs adoption: how God showed up at every turn

Special needs adoption - God
For National Adoption Month, I asked my friend, Christy, to write their story for Lovin’ Adoptin’. Enjoy!

On July 17, 2013, I received a text from my sister that would completely alter what our family looked like. She texted to let me know a friend of hers was working with an adoption agency that was trying to a place an almost one-year-old boy who had Down Syndrome.

My heart skipped a beat and my mind started racing.

From the time I was a teenage girl, God had given me a special love for people and kids with special needs, specifically Down Syndrome. While in high school, I surrendered my life to full-time service for God however He chose to use me. One calling on my life was to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. It was different than just wanting too. I began telling people as a high school student that one day I was going to be a mother to a child with Down Syndrome. People would nod as if to say, “That’s neat”, but not truly believing it would come to fruition. God gave me this desire.  He provided it deep in my being. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” The Lord was the provider of the desire. God provides.

I made a phone call to the agency and explained why I was calling. The agency director answered the phone and told me about a baby boy with Down Syndrome who was almost one. They were trying to find a family to commit to adopt him to keep him from being moved to an institution. “Institution?” I asked. “Where is this baby?” She answered, “Ethiopia.” Minor detail that I failed to think through before I called.

International adoption had never been on my radar. She asked if we had a home study already. Another minor detail…we hadn’t completed (or even started for that matter) a home study.  Oh and one more thing…we didn’t have any money either. Kindly, the agency director basically told me there was no possible way to get everything done for us quick enough to keep this boy from going to the institution. I hung up the phone and started preparing to present my case to my husband, Matt, when he came home for lunch.
Sellers collage

Matt came home from lunch and he was not expecting what I laid out on the table! I told him about my phone call and about this little boy sleeping on the other side of the world. Of course, he immediately had questions of how, when, where, how much? We prayed and he said, “Make some phone calls and we’ll talk about it more later.” I called the agency and told them we’d like to pray about it through the weekend and we’d call them back on Monday.

I didn’t want to pressure Matt into making a decision. I would say “Yes” in a heartbeat to this little boy, but I wanted him to lead in this decision. I began again surrendering this to God and asking that God would lead my husband in the way we should go. God provided Matt with an answer. With tears in his eyes, Matt tells me on Saturday morning that through the night he couldn’t sleep and began praying. Then he said, “God told me that Endale is our son.” God provides.

That weekend, I also got a phone call from a lady who I’d found locally to do a home study. She tells me that she needs to get the home study done quickly because she is also a teacher and school was about to begin. Our home study was complete in a little more than two-weeks. God provides.

Now was the question of where we were going to come up with $34,000. We had saved up $500 in a drawer hoping to eventually take our kids to Disneyland someday. When it came time to pay for our home study, the lady said she needed half the payment to begin. The total was $1000, so we handed over our $500 having no idea where the rest would come from. Five months into the process, we were fully funded for the adoption through grants, fundraisers and penny pinching in every way possible. God provides.
Sellers kids

Fast forward to our time to travel to meet our sweet boy face to face.  I have in the past struggled with a fear of flying. For the most part, I felt like I had overcome it, but a twelve-hour flight from the USA to Africa was daunting. I was on my hands and knees begging God to give me His overwhelming peace about flying when I found out that Matt would be staying in Ethiopia and I would be traveling back alone. Perfect peace as only He can give on all my flights. Again, God provides. 

I could give you story after story about the way God worked out the timing while Matt was in Ethiopia with Endale. I personally know another mother from our agency that has been in Ethiopia for five-months waiting to come home. Matt came home from Ethiopia two-weeks after our court date. God provides.

Then, God provided plane tickets through long-time friends so that I could meet and join Endale and Matt as soon as they were back in the US. God provides.

It’s easy to see Endale’s viewpoint, God has provided for him a family forever to love him unconditionally. I’m certain each family member in our house would tell you that God has blessed us with unending smiles, a new sense of contentment and renewed joy for everyday life thanks to having Endale in our lives. God provides.

I don’t know what our future will look like after the adoption of our child with Down Syndrome. I know for now it means a lot of doctor’s appointments, therapy several times a week, patience in teaching concepts and learning new things about Down Syndrome every day. I know it means we may have to sacrifice things in the future. I can testify that God has been faithful to our family, Endale included, over and over again. He will provide the tools and insight to nurture our family and our son. He will give us the strength to give our son the best possible care we can for him. He will fill us when we’re empty.  He will meet our needs. God provides.

Jehovah Jireh: One of many names of God that means, “The Lord will provide.”

Many thanks to Christy and her family for sharing their story! May you all find something to celebrate during National Adoption Month.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

setting up for success: preparing your family for adoption & foster care

Setting Up For Success
You can listen to a recording of this post. Just scroll down to the bottom of the article and don some ear buds. Don’t forget to share if you find it helpful. Thanks!

Cheating on Desperate Housewives, taking a foray from Downton Abbey, skipping a golf game? We wouldn’t even think about it, or would we? Can we take time away from these activities for a short season until our newly adopted infant sleeps through the night? While our child takes time to make healthy attachments, because that will only take a couple of weeks, or a couple of months at the most, right?

Preparing for adoption begins long before our child comes home. We may think the first steps to adopting begin when we file our first mound of paperwork, or when we sit through those first classes that bombard us with information, but in reality our preparation should begin long before that. We must assess our life, family roles, and our hobbies.

where is your focus?

When we decide to adopt, I don’t believe we sign a dotted line that says, “We promise this will be easy.” Our kids are going to need our focus, all of us, especially during their first years with us. If our children need our intense focus, we will need to assess our lifestyle to see what works and what doesn’t.

What are your hobbies and interests? Weekly four-hour golf games? Two-hour workout sessions? Triathlon? Weekend social gatherings? Before our daughter came to us through foster care, my husband and I went to they gym three days a week. Dropping her off at the gym daycare meant leaving her with people she didn’t know, in yet another unfamiliar place. I quickly realized that’s not what I wanted for her. 

Take a look at what’s important to you, what can you delay doing for a while so your child can get the best start possible. I’m not saying every family has to stop going to the gym, or avoid social outings, each family is individual, but you will need to make priorities, and that first consideration is the precious child you’re bringing into your home.

Instead of feeling like you have to put off some of your hobbies, try including the whole family, with everyone’s interests in mind. Think of activities your family can do together. If you’re considering exercise, involve everyone. Go on family bike rides, or walks, dance together with a Wii game. If it’s cooking, have the kids help with measuring and mixing. If it’s scrapbooking, have the kids make their own books. If you’re a fan of sports, get the whole family dressed up and cheering.

At the same time, you don’t want to ignore your own needs, find out what fills you up emotionally and spiritually, and try to make time to do these. Your new kids will need you to be emotionally invested, so you want to be sure your filling that area of your life, not only depleting it.

the family unit reconsidered

A family is a whole unit, not just mom or dad juggling everything on their own. (Unless you’re single, and in that case you can look for some outside support.) A family with only biological kids has a lot on their hands; cleaning, cooking, school, work, after-school activities, homework, yard work, shopping, and social activities. Then add in an adoptive child and their needs.

Because of these busier schedules, gone are the days when mom did the cooking and dad watched football every evening, or at least for a larger percentage of Americans, those days are gone. We don’t have such defined roles anymore, which is good when it comes to the family dynamic when you adopt. We all need to step out of our comfort zones. When dad is involved with the kids, they do better, so don’t be afraid to shift roles. If mom is at home with the kids all day, dad can give her an evening to do what she wants, give her a day on the weekend to relax and be without the kids. Support each other, and don’t be defined by societies rules for roles.

I don’t feel like my husband is defined by specific roles. He’s really involved with our kids, and I believe a large part of their progress is due to him, not only because he’s interactive with them, but because he supports me. When I feel relaxed and happier, I’m a better mom, which results in a better environment for our children. He’ll make dinner, take the kids grocery shopping (yes, I said that), and have our daughter help him when he’s doing a project around the house. When both of our kids had special needs, this helped me get more done and I didn’t feel the weight of their “needs” being completely on my shoulders.

getting on the same page, or at least in the same book

I have no idea how some parents do it. Those who have different child rearing beliefs. One believes in spanking, one doesn’t. One wants to use consequences, one only wants to give the child choices. Being two polar opposites in our ideas of how a child should be raised can cause division, not only between spouses, but also with the kids. Our children know when we aren’t on the same page. We’ve had some really big blow-ups come from our daughter when we weren’t in agreement on something that had to do with her.

Yet, I’m not a fool to believe parents are always of one accord. My husband and I don’t agree on everything, he’s usually a lot more lenient than I am, but we balance each other out. Sure, I become unsettled when he lets the kids get away with something I’ve been working on corralling for weeks, but when I look at the overall picture, it’s good that we aren’t exactly the same. If we didn’t have slightly differing views, we might be a rigid household without much grace, or we would be too free and not have the consistency our kids require.

A little difference can be good, but too much can confuse our children and put rifts between us parents. It’s really important to talk about your parenting styles before you adopt or foster. What are your expectations, how do each of you plan on handling situations that arise?

Before you write those down in permanent marker, be aware that if your adopted child has experienced any trauma (even an infant being removed from his birth mother can cause trauma), they will not respond as a biological child would. This means that no matter what experience you have with kids who have not been traumatized, neglected, or abused, raising your child may look very different from what you imagined.

It’s extremely important to receive adequate pre-adoption training, and to continue learning after you adopt.

If a business requires its employees to continue trainings, and educators and professionals continue their education to better their career, then it shouldn’t be a whole lot different with us and how we raise our adopted kids, because they are more important than a business.

Keep open communication with each other. As you sit through trainings, read articles, books, and blogs, and watch videos, discuss what you agree with and what you don’t. Run it through your heart filter. Intuition plays a big role here. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Just because a nationally known therapist tells you to do something, it doesn’t mean they’re right.

Adoptive parents often place priorities on where they want to adopt from, what agency they want to work with, whether they would like a boy or girl, and what age. Understandably, all that’s very important, but the preparation is priceless. The more you can prepare your family for your new addition, the better it will go. I’m not promising smooth sailing, but at least your boat will be waterproof.

*This article first appeared in Adoption Today magazine’s January 2014 issue.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

6 tips on where to start in the adoption process

6 tips on where to start in the adoption processYou can listen to a recording of this post, just scroll to the bottom.

Since November 2nd was Orphan Sunday, and the month of November is National Adoption Month, you might be searching for answers on adoption or know someone who is. Well, today I hope to give you some direction.

Today you have the option of listening to a recording of this post. Too busy to read it, can you plug-in some ear buds and go about your business? Listen in.

  1. Where do I adopt from?
    The foster care system, Kazakstan, domestically, Namibia, Korea, Hungary, Latvia, there are dozens of options. I recommend going with where your heartis pulled, but you will also need to consider how you will feel raising a child of another nationality. You may also want to look into the country you’re interested to see whether they allow US citizens to adopt, (Russia is not allowing US citizens to adopt at this time).Ask yourself how this child will fit in your extended family. Will there be racism, how will your community accept the child?

    Read about foster care, you can read Our Story, and go to my Contents page and scroll way down under Foster Care and read about our experiences adopting from foster care.

    If you feel pulled toward another country, but you don’t know which one, start researching like you’re in middle school. Does one country stand out more than another?

    Consider going on a trip to the country you feel your heart is leaning toward. Volunteer at an orphanage, and try really hard not to bring a child home with you. 😉

    There are over 101,000 children available for adoption from the U.S. foster care system.

    What most people don’t know is that adoption from foster care is usually FREE. Even if there is a fee for the lawyers services, you can often be reimbursed by your state. You can visit for photo listings of children who are available in the U.S.

    And don’t forget special needs. You can visit for a list of children available all over the world.

  2. What age, boy or girl?
    More girls are adopted than boys, so maybe this will affect your decision. Do you have children? Some people like to adopt in birth order, and others have adopted out of birth order, it’s up to each individual. If you adopt an older child, but have younger ones at home, how available are you going to be to your children?
  3. What agency do I use?
    If you know others who’ve adopted, ask them who they used and if they’d recommend them. We know families who’ve used Hope’s Promise, Bethany, andCCAI Adoption Services and been very happy with their experiences. Some agencies will have their own agenda and push their opinions on you, if you have a country you wish to adopt from or an age of child in mind, don’t let them pressure you to change your mind.If you want to adopt from foster care or do foster care, contact your local Department of Human Services (DHS or CPS), (different counties have different names for their foster care services). I would suggest if you go this route to not use a contracted agency, specifically if you’re doing foster care and will be doing reunification visits with bio parents. I’ve seen this get really sticky, as an outside agency won’t have the contact and communication that’s necessary to caring for a child who has reunification visits, court dates, and multiple social workers on their case.
    November National Adoption Month
  4. How far and how much are you able or willing to travel?
    Some countries require you to make two or more trips to see the child you intend to adopt and to process paperwork, some require only one.
    Some (not many) countries want to see that you’ve bonded with the child you want to adopt before you sign the dotted line. (This may simply be for political purposes only.)
    Some countries require a stay of a few days, some require a stay of a few weeks. How much can you travel? Would one of you be able to go alone? Both parents will need to be in country for paperwork finalization.
  5. How do I learn about adoption?
    Go to my Contents page and look through past posts. It’s important to educate yourself before your child comes home. I often hear parents saying, “I didn’t know…”
  6. What about the birth parents? I’ve heard so many stories about what we should and shouldn’t do.
    Consider what you want your relationship with the birth family to look like. Each family is unique, and we can’t expect every birth family relationship to look the same. A great example of this is our relationship with our daughter’s bio family, you can read about that in my post, Our Semi-Open Adoption.
    You will hear a plethora of advice about relationships with birth families when you look into adoption, but remember that every story is different, every family unique, I don’t think there’s one set paradigm to follow. Stay true to how you feel about openness, while taking in the opinions of other adoptees and adoptive parents.

I would encourage you to also read my article, Setting Up For Success, which was originally published in Adoption Today magazine. The questions above are important, but even more important is getting your family ready for adoption. Eventually you’ll decide where you want to adopt from and what agency you’ll use, but getting your family ready will be of utmost importance if you want life to be smoother after your child joins your family.

Don’t forget to share this with others who might benefit.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

the nitty gritty: if you DON’T want your foster or adopted child to thrive, DON’T read this

the nitty gritty- if you DON'T want your foster or adopted child to thrive DON'T read this
I don’t suggest reading this if you don’t want your family to change. This will ruffle feathers, they’ll go flying, but this is so important if you want your family to do well, if you want your child to heal and your family thrive. I’ve avoided writing this because I don’t want people to get mad and run, but if I don’t write it, families may falter, and that’s not my desire. All of the time I spend on Lovin’ Adoptin’ and speaking is with a goal to help families. I’ve tackled dozens of other topics on adoption and foster care, on how to help traumatized children do well, but this one topic I’ve avoided because it’s not popular, and frankly, I don’t think families want to hear it.

Why don’t they want to hear it? Because it requires hard work, it requires change, it requires selflessness. What is it that I’m talking about? Being with your family, being present whenever you’re needed. I’m talking about putting your desires aside and focusing on those of your family,

specifically the needs of your traumatized child.

I know there are many parents out there who feel they aren’t taking care of themselves, and the focus in adoption groups and adoption and foster care related articles is to take time for yourself. While it’s important to take time for yourself, there needs to be balance. I’ve written about that, however, today my focus is on both parents.

One family sticks out in my mind when I think of this topic. This family, I’ll call them Sweney, ranted about how their daughter, Adia, who they adopted from another country (where she was deeply traumatized multiple times), wasn’t bonding with them. They couldn’t understand it, they felt like they’d done all they could to meet her needs, yet she was unhappy. Problem number one, they blamed her. I’ll talk about blaming more in depth another time, but this family placed all responsibility on this girls shoulders, they expected far too much of her and didn’t go the distance on their end.

How is it that they didn’t go the distance on their end? Her actions, none of them violent or defiling by the way, were screaming that she wanted attention and time. The little attention and time they gave her wasn’t rewarded, so they did less. They wondered why she wasn’t happy, wasn’t obedient, wasn’t appreciative. What was her problem?

It wasn’t her problem, it’s not something she needed to fix. We shouldn’t say, she isn’t bonding. Does she really have a mental choice? I don’t think so. Sure older children can make the choice at some point, sometimes, to be kind to their adoptive or foster parents, however, can they make the choice to bond? Ponder this question for a bit if you will.
hurting children can't heal themselves

First, for young Adia, not nearly enough time was given for her to overcome her grief and pain. Second, what was the family doing to help her heal? Were they giving her opportunities in America? Yes. Were they providing a nice room, toys, clothes, and good food? Yes. But, is that enough? You can read more about the question that circles adoption and foster communities about love being enough here.

While you can follow all the advice I’ve written here on this website, if you don’t have a key piece, you’ll have a really hard time bonding with your child.

That key piece is being a unit, one that’s dedicated to your child who’s been neglected, abused, disappointed, abandoned. That’s what this family was missing.

Here’s what their family was like. Dad golfed any chance he got; weekends, holidays, afternoons. When football, hokey, soccer, or leaf picking was on, he was watching. When he was asked to watch the children, he sat in his recliner watching…you guessed it, sports. Is watching sports wrong? No! Is watching sports and ignoring your family okay? No. Is it okay to miss a game or two? Probably not for some. Could they incorporate their children into watching the sports, make it a family event? Maybe.

Now to Mrs. Sweney, she was a runner. She ran every morning for a couple hours, and she was involved in the activities she was interested in. I can give her some slack here, as this was all she did. She took care of the kids, she cooked, cleaned, and even did the yard work. She was the responsible parent. I don’t mean to knock on the husband of this family, but he really needed to step up and do something.

Although Mrs. Sweney did everything, she wasn’t an affectionate mother, and she lacked consistency and expectations. But then, I don’t blame her so much when I think of all she was carrying, her husband acted like one of her children.

The Sweney’s decided to send Adia to a group home because she wasn’t bonding. Wonder why. The day they were to drop her off, mom drove her, and Dad had something “more important to do.” At the end of Adia’s stay, Mom and Dad were invited to join her for a week. While there, Dad went hunting. The last thing Dad needed was time away.

Sending Adia off wasn’t what they needed to do. They needed to make their family a priority, especially their adopted daughter. Mom and Dad need to be a team and invest in their child. Their time needed to be spent together.

There’s a period of time after adopting or after a foster child joins your family when families need to put complete focus on that child.

It requires parents to put aside their hobbies and interests and converge on what the traumatized child needs. It’s not easy, but it’s so rewarding when you see what pain a child’s been through and the light on the other side.

I can’t tell you the joy I’ve felt when my daughter healed and wanted to dress like me, wear jewelry that looked like mine, wanted ME to walk her to class, while she held her head high, proud of ME, her mom. Or when she wants me to hug her and hold her when she’s sad, when she’s upset at me but can turn it around quickly and talk about what’s going on. The joy when she wants me to volunteer in her class and doesn’t yell that she wants me to go away. Joy, pure joy, but it takes work to get there. You can also see an article I wrote about how our children were tore down quickly, but it takes time to build them back up.

*Sports isn’t the addiction for everyone, I encourage you to look at your life and see what might be taking the focus away from your kids. Is it yard work, cooking, pinterest, volunteering outside the home, work?

*I’m not saying anything the Sweney family did was wrong on its own, but when it’s combined it can be detrimental to the family, especially to the traumatized child.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

what emotion is my adopted/foster child dealing with?

what emotion is my child dealing withRuby is acting out in class, her teacher says she doesn’t follow the rules, she gets up from her chair to talk to other kids, is downright disrespectful to her, and has even been physically aggressive toward other kids. She’s a big handful.

At home, Conner’s hitting his siblings and parents, hiding under the bed, sneaking food, and a host of his other behaviors baffle his parents.

What’s going on??? It can make a foster or adoptive parent go crazy trying to question in cloudsnail down what exactly the issue really is. More discipline? Less discipline? More rewards? Less time playing? More time playing? You’ve done this right? You’ve gone through the solutions, and you’re still running into a big question mark.

In my dozens (more than 200) of articles on this website, and in my published work, I’ve talked about what you can do to help your foster or adopted child. I’ve talked about how to overcome sleep issues, anger, the lies our children believe, how to have better school days, why consequences and rewards don’t work for a hurting child, and the feelings an adopted or foster child has. However, there’s still such a large part that falls on the parents shoulder (well, everything does land there, I’m just here to help guide you through it).

One of the parenting obstacles you’re going to face is:

What emotion is my child dealing with? 

I once heard an adoptive parent say they realized they’d been combating the wrong emotion, fear, when their child was actually dealing with shame. The thing is, if you consider yourself, or anyone you know who hasn’t been through a traumatic life, it’s probable that many times you’re dealing with several emotions at once. We aren’t simplistic beings who only feel fear, loneliness, shame, gratitude, anger, resentment, etc. at a given time. Sure this would be true if we were in the middle of a car accident and our car was careening off the highway, but most of the time that’s not the case. Many emotions can be felt all at once (for some of us anyway).

Now think of your child and what they’ve been through. You might not know, but if they’re from an orphanage, then a foster family in another country, or from the U.S. and sent to foster care, you can bet they faced FAR more than they were ever meant to. What emotions do you think they’re dealing with? Oh, the list would be extensive: loss, fear, uncertainty, anger, hate, disappointment, apathy, and the list goes on.

We need to take an all-inclusive look at what our child might be weighted with. We might take a certain emotion and deal with it one moment, but we might swing around and deal with another just minutes later.  And the truth is, many times we don’t know what specifically is bothering our child, so we love them.

We make sure we’re there for them any time they need us. 

We put down our phone, we put our spatula on the spoon rest, we walk away from the yard work, and we’re there. We let them talk if they want, we sit quietly if they want, we shoot hoops if they want (even if we only get air balls). We try to identify what they’re feeling, but they may not know, and we may not know either. That doesn’t make us bad parents, it reminds us that we need to wholly be there for our child.
your child needs you to be present

I’ve written a few articles that will help you identify what your child is feeling by helping them open up to you:
Emotional Balance Begins with Us (Feelings Part 1)
Name Those Feelings (Feelings Part 2)
Be Available (Feelings Part 3)
Just Deal with It (Feelings Part 4)

This isn’t easy. It’s a road that has rich beauty and a lot of cracks. Why? Because hurting children were in a train wreck, and recovery takes time. Many emotions transpire when you’ve lived more lifetimes than any adult before you’re a year old. We can’t expect to deal with one and have the show be over.

Something you can do: If you believe in God, pray. Pray and ask Him what to do. I can’t tell you how many times a situation has been made clearer, or how many times I’ve been overwhelmed by my child’s behavior or a mountain we were facing, and God put it all in perspective. He’s showed me what to do, how to handle behaviors, and that sometimes I’m making a mountain out of that stinkin’ mole hill.

Don’t forget to go back and look at the links I provided on helping your child with their feelings.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.


can a hurting child make choices? (adoption & foster care)

can a hurting child make choices
Decisions, decisions, decisions. When a child comes from a traumatic past, they consistently need decisions made for them. Even months and years after their adoption or placement in foster care, a hurting child will need others to help guide them more than a typical child would. But sometimes too much control is taken away from them, and they feel like they can’t make any decisions in their life.

The child who has attachment issues isn’t capable of making difficult choices, yet, they need to be given the chance to make choices occasionally so they don’t feel so out of control. Plus, when a child makes choices, they naturally learn about consequences, either positive or negative.

If you have a child who has recently joined your family, it’s good to give them choices in small increments, and as they do, you will be able to identify when they’re ready to have more responsibility.

I came across this great video on the Autism Site. Below, Rob from Autism Spectrum Therapies, talks about ways in which you can give a child more choices. The video is less than four minutes long, and gives some excellent tips on allowing your child to make decisions in their everyday life. Although Rob is talking about Autism, it relates just as much to your adopted or foster child.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.


therapeutic parents need breaks, but balance is key (adoption & foster care)

therapeutic parents need breaks - balance is key
Being a therapeutic parent is hard. It’s wearing. It’s tiring. It’s work. All. The. Time.  It’s benefits in the end are rewarding beyond compare, but when you’re in the day to day it can be draining.

Although my husband and I have come out of the most difficult parts of therapeutic parenting with our daughter, we still have to parent in a different way than a person would with a typical child. We also have an Autistic child, and that takes constant therapeutic parenting and I struggle with health issues, so I’m tired, and you probably are too.

Speaking of being tired, my husband, Justin, and I have been staying up way too late this summer. It’s usually midnight or later by the time we get in bed, and we don’t function well when we turn in this late. Often the culprit of our late nights is something needing accomplished around the house, but sometimes it’s simply staying up, just because.

Yesterday I was exhausted, pretty normal for me, but it was excessive. I’d been awake most of the previous night with shooting knee pains. Justin made a comment about me being tired and added, “We’re staying up too late every night.” My reply? “You know why I stay up so late? I like the peace and quiet. I’m trying to soak in the time when nothing’s going on.” He said, “I know, so am I.”

We LOVE our kids! They’re our life. (No I don’t know what we’ll do when they grow up! But heck, since my son has nonverbal Autism he may be living with us forever, so I don’t have to worry.) But there is so much going on, there’s a lot of stress in our life and Autism only plays a small part, and when everything’s done at the end of the day, we enjoy sitting down together and reading or watching HGTV or Last Comic Standing on the iPad. Yes, we are boring! Boring is good, boring is relaxing.

When I dove into the foster care and adoption world I saw parents who spent so much time away from their hurting kids. Parents who spent a couple hours exercising every morning, took their kids to school, and filled up their afternoons and evenings with events. I knew dads who, when asked to watch the kids, only sat in front of the t.v. watching sports, and on weekends when the family could be together, they went golfing or spent time with the guys.

I was furious. Yes, I judged, and maybe part of me still does. When a child is battling with their past, fighting to survive on the inside, they need family. They need attention, they need one-on-one time, and they need considerable amounts of it, so much that it can’t be measured. I hurt for these kids. Children who wouldn’t conform to a families routines (jogging, biking, sports, t.v. time, golf time) were sent off to group homes where they were supposed to be “fixed”.

I’m not trying to get into a discussion about whether sending a child to a group home is appropriate, my focus is what parents are pouring themselves into, selfish desires, or their hurting children.

I’ve always been reticent to tell parents they need to have “me” time, time for themselves, doing something that fills them up instead of taking away. I’m hesitant to say this because people can take it overboard and do as many parents I’ve witnessed, they can dive into themselves to avoid what’s really going on with their hurting child.

special children need special parenting

They can spend so much time filling themselves that they avoid the needs of their children, not the physical needs, but the emotional connectedness that a traumatized child yearns so desperately for.

As a therapeutic parent, you do need to fill your “bucket,” because what you do every day, every moment is wearing. But balance is key, and it’s not so easy to find.

I try to find my solace, usually reading a book outside. It’s something I can even enjoy at times when the kids are around. I also love writing, so working on Lovin’ Adoptin’ works in aiding in my “refresh” time, I really don’t consider it work. Justin and I have also focused on having more date nights, it’s hard to do when your life is busy. There used to be so many nights when we would cancel on our babysitter (who we ended up paying for the night just because we felt bad), because of our daughter’s behaviors or I was too exhausted from the day. Those days are fading, especially because Payton’s behavior has improved tremendously, and we have a date night about twice a month.

I’ve been there, where I’m so exhausted, not just from health issues, or from working with an Autistic child, but from pouring out love and getting nothing in return. Therapeutic parenting is all-inclusive, it invades every moment of your life, and to be able to fill your child, you need to help yourself.

What can you do for yourself that you enjoy? Is there something that would make you feel better? Is it having coffee with a friend who you can talk to openly? Is it working out at the gym or riding your bike? Is it taking an occasional weekend away? Is it simply reading in a favorite spot?

Do you find it hard to treat yourself? Do you find that there isn’t enough time? What do you do that doesn’t take away too much time, but fills you up? Maybe some other parents reading here would benefit from your ideas.

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.


lies are like flies and multiplying quickly: why adopted and foster children lie

the lies are like flies and multiplying quickly- why adopted and foster children lie
“Caitlyn did it, not me.” “This kid ran past me, grabbed my backpack and…” “The car in front of me slammed on their brakes…” “The teacher never told me the assignment was due.”

It seems like every adoptive, foster, and even biological family deals with lying. In fact,

lying is the biggest struggle for many parents.

I think the reason many moms and dads are so disgusted by lying is because of their past experiences with lying. Whether it be their parents came down hard on them if they lied, or they were constantly accused of lying when they weren’t, or they’ve faced lying boyfriends, girlfriends, and spouses. It can put a harsh taste in someone’s mouth when so much shame, guilt, and negativity surround an issue, in this case it’s lying.

Janna’s* previous dealings with lying were mostly in her home growing up. Her mother despised lying and made Janna feel so humiliated when she said something misleading. Yet, if Janna had told the truth in the few instances she was caught telling falsehoods, she would have been in trouble anyway. There wasn’t much leniency for bad behavior in her home growing up, but with lying the big hammer came crashing down. Her parents made her feel despicable if she did lie, and even when she told the truth, they often didn’t believe her. Now Janna’s a foster mom, and

she sees herself reacting in the same manner her parents did.

What’s a person to do? They can deal with it, both the feeling they have toward their parents and those they feel about themselves. But, most of the time it’s passed on and they do the same with their children if they aren’t particularly careful to avoid those emotions of shame, guilt, and being unworthy.

Once we acknowledge that we may have issues with lying that are being transferred to our children, or simply making the issues bigger than they are, we can move forward to understand and help our kids.

I first heard this concept from Bryan Post, and that is, there are two basic human feelings, love and fear. Lying doesn’t come from a place of love, so it stems from fear. Bryan Post says, “…there is the fear of rejection, they fear of being caught, the fear of abandonment, the fear of abuse, etc…The sooner you can grasp this concept, the quicker you will see your child’s behaviors begin to transform.” Post also says, “In fact, brain researcher, Joseph LeDoux, tells us that in times of stress, our thinking becomes confused and distracted and our short-term memory does not work effectively.” (OH, that’s my problem!)
lying based in fear

  • Think through the situations when your child has lied. Can you connect it in any way to fear? Remembering what Post said about fear of rejection, fear of being caught, fear of abandonment, the fear of abuse.

Remember too, our children had another life before they came to us. We don’t know how honesty was treated in their previous home or how lying was dealt with.

Pam Parish touches on this in her soon to be released book, Ready or Not**, a book for prospective and current adoptive and foster families. I am privileged to have received an early release copy and I can tell you, you’ve got to get one! In Ready or Not, Pam says,

“At it’s core lying is a survival tactic…The risk a child who has been abused and abandoned takes when telling the truth and admitting that they’ve done something wrong is that they will be abused, abandoned, shamed, or rejected.”

You may not have a story similar to Janna’s, but you probably feel frustrations rise when your child repeatedly lies. Bryan Post says, “Just as your child’s lying is driven by his stress and fear, the actual lie itself triggers stress and fear within you, thus driving your own negative behavior.”

It can be tempting to come down harder on a child who won’t fall in line, which in turn makes the lying worse.

If there are issues with lying, it can be helpful to focus on less consequences (or none) when your child tells the TRUTH.

I encourage parent to tell their child, “If you tell me the truth, you won’t get in trouble,” if it’s a minor infraction (e.g. lost homework, a broken toy, a missing book). Or, if it’s a lie on a larger scale (e.g. something happened to the car, they’re in trouble with the law, they didn’t come home until 2am), I suggest saying, “You won’t be in nearly as much trouble if you tell me the truth.”

Younger children may not always have a fear base for telling a lie, they’re simply testing boundaries and rules. They’ve discovered this idea of trying to fool the adults and they’ll test it to see if it works.

I hope you can see how your child doesn’t lie because they don’t like you or they’re a horrible kid. Your child lies because of fear, and young kids sometimes do because they’re testing life. No fun, but it makes it much easier to deal with.

If you can stay calm and without much reaction to the lie, they can learn to trust you.

What do you think about the relation between lying and fear? Have you dealt with lying in an unconventional way? What did you do and how did it work?

*Names changed to protect privacy
**Pam Parish’s book, Ready or Not, is out and available. It’s a pivotal book that I highly recommend foster and adoptive parents read.

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

6 reasons to hug

6 reasons to hug
Have you ever received a hug from someone and felt better afterwards? Have you ever been one to dole out a hug and feel the hugee relax in your arms? There’s something about a hug that changes our chemistry.

In the movie Temple Grandin, Temple creates a machine that basically hugs her, she says something like this about the device, “Getting a hug connects something in the brain, you can feel it, and when I’m in my squeeze machine, I feel better.”

Whether your child is biological, adopted, foster, or has Autism, hugs are beneficial for everyone. Here’s why:

  1. Hugs calm us. If you’ve ever felt stressed when you were embraced by someone, it’s possible that anxiety lessened. This is especially true if you have a connection with the person giving the hug. There are times when I’ve been hugged during a tumultuous time and that hug made everything that was overwhelming me seem less important.
  2. Hugs create feelings of acceptance. When you embrace someone it usually means you like them. (Okay, there are exceptions, but it’s generally the rule.) Our hurting children deal with intense feelings of rejection. Even when they join a family who loves them dearly, they wonder constantly if they’ll be accepted. Do they like who I am? Do they think I’m dirty, because my last foster home didn’t let me wear deodorant? I look different than them, they can’t possibly love me like their other children. The questions continue and expand. When we hug our children (begin appropriately, because you don’t know your child’s complete history), we are showing them we accept who they are and love them. We hold nothing back when we hug someone. It’s complete acceptance.
  3. Hugs make us feel safe. When you put your arms around your child they feel safe. They may not recognize it at first, but eventually they will recognize that you’ll keep them out of harms way. When we went to our only counseling session with Payton, the therapist saw how she hugged me and she made a declaration, “See how she’s hugging you. She’s placing her arms above yours (I was sitting, Payton was standing), which means she thinks she’s in control of the relationship.” When you hug someone next time, notice where their arms are. I wouldn’t say what this therapist said is true 100% of the time, but often it is. When we place our arms around a child (usually above their arms), it communicates that we are taking care of them. When we hug a friend, it’s kind of like a figure eight, 50/50, one arm above, one arm below. If a husband is hugging a wife, his arms are usually on top, not in a controlling way (or I hope not), but in a protective way. We want our children to feel safe, so we hug them, showing them we will protect them.
    For children with Autism, their world may be spinning because of sensory issues, a hug may center them and make them feel safe. If they’re in a new environment they may feel more secure with you close by. Just because a child with Autism doesn’t seem like they care about your proximity, they do.
    Of course, there are some Autistic kids who don’t want to be hugged. In that case you can put your arm around their shoulder, try different approaches to see what works. Never stop trying. One month your child may hate hugs, the next they may accept them and want more.
    the simple act of hugging
  4. Hugs encourage. Even the strongest individual, whether it be a hurting child or mature adult, when confronted with daunting circumstances, can be greatly encourage by the simple gesture of an arm around the shoulders. It communicates on a neurological and emotional level, it truly is going to be okay, and even if it isn’t, they’re going to be okay. A hug makes us feel like we can do it.
  5. Hugs heal our children. For the child who’s come from trauma, it’s especially important to give out hugs regularly. If you wonder how important hugs are, consider what Dr. Mercola says, “…consider that children who aren’t hugged have delays in walking, talking, and reading.”
  6. Hugs help us grow. Family therapist Virginia Satir said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

Have you ever felt better after a hug? When you’ve hugged your child have you ever seen it make a difference in their demeanor?

Hug your children today. Hug your spouse today. Hug a friend today.

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Have a great day!