I received an e-mail from a foster mother who was very distressed. I could feel her desperation and urgency. Amber and her husband John have two foster children, ages three months (Sally) and three years (Rod). Rod will soon be leaving to go back to his biological mother. Amber and John have plans to adopt the three month old, Sally. Without knowing any history of either one of the parents, think about the triggers for fear. Here’s just a few. Grief of Rod leaving. Fear of how his biological mother will treat him. Self doubt that they did mpt do enough for Rod. Being divided between Sally and Rod and how to give both of them what they need. Feeling of failure with Rod because he’s been very dys-regulated due to leaving. Pressure from agencies as to why Rod is struggling. Being criticized because they do not follow “tradition” parenting of time out and consequences. How can we be good enough parents for Sally when we failed with Rod? Emotional distance in the marriage. Will we be trusted with other foster children?
All of these would be normal triggers for the most well adjusted foster family who has done a lot of healing work. This couple is very young in age. They have not been married very long. Both admit that they have unresolved issues of their own. I am encouraged that they are brave enough to take a closer look at themselves. The last line of the e-mail stated that “We are exhausted and want our life back.” How many times have you said that? That thought has crossed my mind and my child is grown and has been on her own for 18 years. I am not writing about this to be judgmental or critical. This couple and all foster/adoptive families face tremendous challenges. They face fear day in and day out. I am writing to raise awareness of these challenges. But most importantly, I am writing to encourage you and others to give these families unconditional support and encouragement. They need our love and non-judgmental support. It would be easy to say, “well, they shouldn’t have adopted if they knew they had issues.” “What’s wrong with them, didn’t they know this would happen when they adopted?” Please don’t go there with anyone who has opened their homes and hearts to a child who needs a family. Love them where they’re at and join them in their journey. To find out more about fear and adoption, review Bryan Post’s book “From Fear to Love” - Parenting Difficult Adopted Children at http://bit.ly/oZ5uIO
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I recently spent a few days visiting my “adoptive kids” Trey and Chenoa. Trey is a “love miracle”, crack cocaine baby. Trey was adopted at birth. When he came home he was greeted by Ella. Ella was a very large, cuddly dog. Trey’s mother, sister, and Ella loved him into health. Ella became a big part of Trey’s emotional safety and regulation. Ella tragically died three years later. This was devastating for the entire family. They are still grieving this loss. While I was there, Trey started talking about Ella. He felt safe and regressed emotionally. He has also done this before with his mother. His mother has struggled as to how to help him. Her immediate response (actually it’s a reaction which I’ll explain later) is to get him another dog. When Trey started talking about Ella and crying, she asked me what to do. I told her breathe, relax, and be present. I pulled Trey onto my lap and held him. I validated his grief feelings and gave him a short narrative about losing Ella. “I told him what it was like for him when he first came into this world. It was a scary place and he was sick. Ella was there to comfort him. His mother and Chenoa were there to comfort him.” Not only is Trey grieving what he remembers, but he is also grieving his pre-verbal trauma. This short narrative gave his left brain words to his right brain’s pre-verbal experience. I explained to his mother that her fear of doing this with Trey caused her to try to fix him by buying him a dog. That’s why I called her response a reaction. Her unconscious fear was that she would need to re-visit that time in Trey’s life on an emotional level. That can be hard for any of us to do when our child’s trauma is part of our trauma. Remember fear says “fix it” and love says “allow it to heal”. Read Trey’s complete story. Go to http://bit.ly/pBwc85 and read “Adoption - Love Affair”.