Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Transparency. We all want it, but struggle to give it. Transparency in adoption is even more rare.  There are two kinds of adoptive parents out there. There are those that pretend that adoption is all sunshine and rainbows, and there are those who are an open book. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle.  I’ll admit, when we were adopting our now 2 year old (he was 6 months old when he came home) all I read or remembered was rainbows and unicorns. I often thought, “I’m adopting a baby not a teenager.  This can’t be too hard.”   It was hard, but for different reasons.

I’ve struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. When I was pregnant with our 5 year old son I was terrified I would end up with post-partum depression or that my medication would negatively affect him. Neither of those things happened. He is a bright, happy, and energized boy.  I had a great psychiatrist who spelled things out for me.  His education and assurance was wonderful. There was no depression, just a cranky sleep deprived mommy. So when we decided to adopt I had no thought of becoming depressed.  It came from nowhere and hit me hard. Our son was and still is the happiest child I’ve ever seen. Since coming home he awakens singing and babbling. But at six months old and in a foreign place that’s all he wanted to do. Sing. Poop. Cuddle. Eat. Eat. Poop. Laugh. Poop. Cuddle.  Notice something missing??? Sleep!!!! He didn’t sleep for us when we were in Ethiopia either. And he didn’t sleep much at home.  If you were holding him he was happy. But put him in bed?? He’d cry for eternity.  I couldn’t handle the crying. This poor child had been through so much already.  I needed him to attach to us. He needed to feel loved. Cry it out parenting was not an option (and it wasn’t with our bio son either).  The problem here was that my husband worked third shift. Guess who was up with him??? This mom.  My mom moved in to help for a while, but I had the night shift.  Nine months of 2-3 hours of sleep got the best of me.  On the weekends all I did was sleep. My migraines came back with a vengeance. I was cranky. I didn’t go to church much. Didn’t read my Bible.  I had no motivation. I hated going to work although I loved my job. I cried all the time. I was snippy.  People would always ask about our family and I’d crack a smile and spit out sunshine and rainbows.  Uggh.. It was mostly lies. “Things are perfect.  Yada, Yada, Yada. Finally I went to my doctor. Did you know there’s something called post-adoption depression??? Google it. It’s real.  My doctor explained that although my hormones weren’t raging like post-partum, the situation was still the same.  That, along with my anger that I didn’t have sunshine and rainbows kept me down.  I also longed for Ethiopia. I connected with the people and culture there in ways I never expected. I was depressed, but with the help of medicine and begging my husband to take time off of work things turned around.

When we began our adoption of V, I knew the truth this time around.  There was no question as to whether this would be difficult.  Horrific trauma. Horrific. Loss.  No permanency. I work in mental health so I knew how this would play out. I began to share way too much information with family in an attempt to prepare them of what to expect and how to respond. Bad idea. Older kids have a story; usually a difficult story with unfathomable acts. Their story is tough. It’s usually not pretty, and it’s theirs to tell. Many people can’t handle knowing what these kids lived through. My attempt to not gloss things over resulted in me over-sharing information that jaded people’s thoughts. That is one of my biggest regrets.  We have a small group of people that get the “unfiltered” version of life parenting a child from a hard place. And we have others that get the truth, just a little more broad. No person should expect a child who has lived this life to come home and be grateful, but there are people out there who think that.  The truth is that children with a history of abuse or neglect learned different ways to protect themselves from their oppressive situation. The techniques they learned almost always fall into a category of control, manipulation, triangulation, aggression, or violence. While these were once the methods that kept them alive and safe, they are usually not necessary or productive in safe homes. I will tell you that my husband and I have encountered most of those techniques. We are blessed to have family and friends who support us and pray us through the hard times.  It’s hard. It’s exhausting. But it’s worth it.  And I mean that. Redemption is beautiful, but it comes at a cost.

”Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.” – Rick Warren

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November is National Adoption Month

Did you know November is national adoption month? The first Sunday is November is also celebrated as Orphan Sunday. I plan to spend November blogging to advocate for the fatherless and hopefully debunk some of the myths about adopting. First I wanted to start out with some statistics. I'm a numbers person. I love to crunch numbers and collect data. So here's the low down on orphans, both abroad and state side. 

 The Global Orphan Crisis
·        It is estimated that 153 million children worldwide, ranging from infants to teenagers, have lost one or both parents (UNICEF).
·        HIV/AIDS has orphaned 17.9 million children, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia 
·        Over 7 million children are in institutional care worldwide  
·        One in five children living in developing countries is severely underweight  
·        Over 1 billion children suffer from at least one form of severe deprivation of basic needs such as water, food, and sanitation 
·        19,000 children under the age of five died every day in 2011 
·        22 million children are refugees or internally displaced, forced to flee their homes due to violence or natural disaster  
·        Over 1 billion children live in countries affected by armed conflict  
·        67 million children of primary school age do not go to school  
·        Children suffer from domestic violence everywhere. On every continent, households report domestic violence against children at rates ranging from 20 to 60%
·        There are over 120,000 orphans in America, while another 400,000 live without a permanent family.
 America at a Glance
·        There are roughly 400,000 children in the US foster care system. Of that number, approximately 120,000 are waiting to be adopted. Every child is created in the image of God and deserves to belong to a loving family! Starting in your own community, research ways that you can help meet the needs of children in foster care
·        Of the children waiting in foster care, 30,000 age out every year, without families.
·        One of the greatest needs for the children who age out of foster care is to connect with a loving mentor who will guide them through important decisions. If you have a small business that can provide vocational training or if you have experience with college applications and scholarships, this may be the perfect way for you to care for those who are aging out of the system! Contact your local Department of Human Services for more information about becoming a mentor.
·        It is common for children in foster care to age out, leaving them with little financial or emotional support.
·        Almost 25% of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma or GED (University of Chicago)
·        Infants comprised almost one-fourth (18,078) of unrelated domestic adoptions
·        Children with special needs comprised two-fifths (32,402) of unrelated domestic adoptions.

·        Over the past decade, 179,719 children from around the world were welcomed into families in the U.S. through inter-country adoption.
·        Top 5 Sending countries in 2010 were: China, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea and Ukraine.
·        Inter-country Adoption has decreased 59% from its high in 2004 due primarily to restrictions by sending countries. It's important to note that UNICEF is not an advocate of adoption and encourages these restrictions in countries. While they claim they are trying to "help" parents and children are still living in poverty and orphanages are over flowing. 
 Africa at a Glance
·        In Sub-Saharan Africa 1 out of 9 children die before the age of five
·        Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest risk of first-day-death for infants, and is the region showing the least progress towards ending infant mortality 
·        Malaria is a leading killer of children under five in Africa, leading to over 600,000 deaths in 2010 
·        About 1 in 6 Ethiopian children die before their 5th birthday.
·        Ethiopia has one of the largest orphan populations in the world, with approximately 4.3 Million.
·        Americans claiming to be doing a good deed are known to "start" orphanages in countries like Uganda. More orphanages is not the answer. Helping keep families together and teaching them how to provide for their families is what is needed. 
 Latin America at a Glance
·        Women and children are especially vulnerable in Latin America; underage minors represent 50% of people living in extreme poverty 
·        7.5 million girls are married before age 18 in Latin America and the Caribbean 
·        There are 10.2 million orphaned children in Latin America, 5% of all children in the region
  Asia At a Glance
·        Asia is home to the largest number of orphaned children in the world; 60 million, at last count
·        30 million children in East Asia suffer from at least one severe deprivation 
·        In the Russian Federation alone, 140,000 children with disabilities live in institutional care
·        Under-five deaths are increasingly concentrated in Southern Asia  India and China are two of the countries with the highest rates of early childhood mortality 
·        Almost 30% of neonatal deaths occur in India.

The Fear Factor

  One of the primary barriers to adoption is fear.
  How will adopted kids turn out?  How would adoption affect our family?
   These are vital questions to grapple with.  Any family considering adoption should know that most every non-infant child in need of adoption has faced great difficulty.  This is especially true for children who’ve spent significant time living in an institution.  Overcoming wrongs a child has experienced in the past may take great effort and sacrifice from adoptive parents.

  But ultimately, studies show definitively that adopted children consistently thrive in loving homes.  There may be great challenges, but most often—as with all parenting—even greater joys.  Adopted children and their futures vary as much as biological children do.  Most of the time, their outcomes are just about the same as other children, sometimes even better:

   An expansive 1994 study by the Search Institute comparing adopted teens to other teens found that:
  Adopted teens scored higher on indicators of well-being such as school performance, friendships, volunteerism, self-esteem and optimism.
  Adopted teens scored lower on indicators of high-risk behavior such as depression, alcohol use, vandalism, and police trouble.
  Compared to their non-adopted siblings, adopted teens showed no significant difference in their perception of similarities between themselves and adoptive parents in terms of interests.
  Children adopted transracially showed no differences in terms of identity formation and self-esteem, attachment to parents, or psychological health.
  Many other studies have reached similar findings.  These include:
 There is no difference in the self-esteem of adopted and non-adopted peers.  This equality in confidence and emotional well-being extends also to comparisons of transracial and same-race adoptees
  Adopted children are well-integrated into their families and schools and show good psychological outcomes.  There are few differences between children who have been adopted and their non-adopted peers (Palacios and Sanchez-Sandoval, 2005)
  Long-term outcomes are positive for adopted children, and generally show little or no difference compared to non-adopted children (Benson, 2004).

  The vast majority of adopted children show behavior patterns and emotional and academic adjustment very similar to those of non-adopted children (Palacios and Sanchez-Sandoval, 2005, Vrand and Brinich, 1999, Brodzinsky, 1987).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween and the traumatized child

Halloween. It's my 5 year old son's favorite holiday. He loves seeing the scary masks and trying them on at the store. He likes to watch kid-appropriate scary movies and is huge Harry Potter fan. I never really considered what Halloween for a child with trauma and PTSD might be like until we brought home V. The closer Halloween has come the more anxious she has gotten. Shadows in her room have become more scary. We aren't sleeping well. Even the villains in Disney movies we've watched over and over are more scary. See, my sweet V has seen evil in the flesh. She has lived a nightmare.  And seeing the dark and scary is a trigger for her. Her hyper-vigilance became worse after a scary movie was shown at school. The nightmares started. Flashbacks of despicable acts.  The idea of strangers knocking on her door or people being disguised is beyond scary for her. This is going to be our first Halloween with a child exposed to trauma.

So, how do we plan to do this? One thing we plan on doing is focusing on "grounding." Grounding techniques keep the person in the here and now. Sensory Stimulation is a great way to do this. Having a stress ball handy, keeping a roller bottle of essential oils, hugs, and tapping exercises are just a few grounding exercises we plan to use.   We also plan on spending our Halloween in a "safe place."  Many churches have Trunk or Treat or other festivities. Many children feel safe at church and the costumes tend to be not as scary or gory.

Many outsiders have no idea our V has experienced trauma. And when you are at that costume party or neighborhood block party you might have trauma victims in your presence. Please try to be mindful of this. Don't sneak up on someone. Address them by name if you know who it is. Re-think that costume if you are going to be in the presence of children. And it's not always the scary or gory costumes that bother children. So many costumes for females and even little girls are sexual in nature. This is a trigger for our daughter. And might be a trigger to a victim of sexual abuse. We made our own costumes this year because so many that fit her were inappropriate.  Upon searching google for tween girl costumes here were a few that were displayed:

When I was a witch at this age my costume that was purchased consisted of a black dress like get up with a green face and black hat. And Minnie Mouse?? I never knew she wore a corset.  My point to this is that our sexualized culture makes life for a child of abuse even more difficult.  Feel free to comment below if you're a Veteran Trauma Mamma and you have advice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's Been a While

To those who stumble upon this blog via google searches, or maybe even social media I'm sure you've noticed something. I stink at being a blogger. It's been months since I've written. Since I've been able to write. So much has happened. God has broken me and put me back together again. I've been given a new perspective. I have a day off today. I'm enjoying the beautiful fall colors, the crisp air, sound of rain drops, and the calm, quiet sound of a house without children :)

I originally started this blog for people to keep up with our adoption from Ethiopia. I had no plans on expanding our family any time soon. But God wrecked those plans. We have been given the privilege of being parents to a beautiful, broken 8 year old girl. Trauma. Multiple placements. Behavior. Attachment disorder. Institutionalized. And some would say too far gone to be in a family. Here's what we see: Trauma. Beauty. Redemption. A soul worth saving. A child worth loving. A NEED to belong.  It's been 6 months since her placement and to say it has been hard would be an enormous understatement. We've been in the trenches. And that's what trauma parents do.

 My eyes have been opened to a world I knew nothing about. As a mental health professional I thought I got it. I could pat the trauma mamma's on the back and offer support and advice. But I had NO idea what they were feeling. I had no idea that in Southern Indiana such few resources are available to children of trauma. Support services for parents are minimal.  And our mental health facilities for adults are meanwhile being overwhelmed by an influx of adults who never got the services they needed as children. I've spent time being angry. Angry at the system. Angry at her previous parents. Angry at her residential facility. Angry at God for asking us to do this. I felt like my joy was robbed and this burden was too much to bear.  After months of feeling this way I now have peace and joy. I have a purpose. My job on this earth is to love my children. To mold them into children of God. And to be an advocate. A section of this blog is going to be dedicated to our story of healing and redemption. Her story. Well, parts of her story. It's hers to tell. And I know God will use her.

"Be still, and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Things I wish someone had told me

I'm writing this for prospective adoptive parents or maybe it's for those who just brought their child home. There has been so much that I have learned the past two years with the adoption of our youngest (2) and our oldest, most recent (8).  I feel like as adoptive parents we are supposed to only share the rainbow moments so that we keep this facade of a perfect life. Well friends, this isn't one of those blogs. Sometimes things are hard. And these are the things I wish I was prepared for.

1. Don't expect others to understand your journey. It's not theirs.
    Adoption for our family was not a second choice. It's something we feel that God called our family to do. This is somewhat of a foreign concept. Many people who claim to be believers don't think God still talks to us, and those who don't believe think we're crazy. And that's ok. People don't have to understand you. But they should respect you.

2. The people you expect to love and support you might be the first to bail. And those who are strangers might be your saving grace.      
  This is especially true if you adopt an older child or one with special needs. It's easy to love on and support a sweet baby. But those kids who come from hard places, sometimes they do things that make it tough to love them. And that's when families need the support from loved ones. When we adopted our oldest child we were pretty much attacked. Our motives were questioned as was our love for our other children.  Our family turned to an online adoption support group and found love. I am so thankful for these women whom I have never met. They too have been in the trenches and knew what it was like. I will forever be grateful for them.

3. Adoption Changes everything
When we brought our youngest son home I expected things to be smooth. Besides, he was only six months old. Piece of cake! Ha! Our sweet boy hated sleep and had a difficult time transitioning. My husband worked nights at the time and I did not sleep. Ever. I slipped into a depression. All I wanted to do was sleep. And to top it off our bio son was having a hard time sharing the spotlight. He regressed. And it was hard. Now they are so tight it's adorable. I often wake up to see Rylan has hopped in Isaiah's crib to keep him company until we wake up. We expected the worst when we brought home V a few months ago. I was so happy to see that this adoption had the opposite effect on Rylan. He has totally come out of his shell. He used to be socially awkward. Kind of rude to new people or those we rarely saw. Now he smiles and talks to new people. He loves to meet new kids at the park. He does better at daycare. And he actually wants to learn new things.

4. God is in the details
Sometimes the wait is long and lonely. The loss of relationships cuts you to the core. The trauma that your kids may have went through brings out your own trauma. And the attachment can be hard. But God is in the details. He has knit together every stitch of this beautiful quilt called life. And even when it feels like nothing is going right, He never fails. Redemption is costly but worth it.

So to the adoptive mommies and daddies out there who are feeling  shell shock and lonely, there is solidarity here.