My Greatest Fear

Failure.  That’s my greatest fear.  And yet it’s something I embrace every day.  I fail far more than I succeed.  If I said any different, I would be both a liar and a hypocrite.  During one of the first conferences I ever spoke at, I know that I came off as an arrogant, self-reliant woman who thought that she had it all together.  Since that time, God has had me on a continual roller coaster ride culminating in a snowballing of humility and a resolve that any success I enjoy, either in parenting or in personal endeavors, is a direct result of God alone.  My prayers have changed from, “Lord, help me to…” to “Lord, please give me the courage and the boldness to do your will.  Please pour out your Spirit on me and on all those that I love because we can do nothing apart from you.” 

There is something very freeing about letting go of perfectionism, giving yourself permission to be a weak, imperfect vessel, but a vessel none the less – willing to be used by God, willing to love others, willing to make a difference.  The only way to avoid failure is to attempt nothing and in that you are assuming failure before you even begin.  I am convinced that procrastination is one of the tools Satan uses to keep us from God’s best.  Any self-professed Christian would never say “no” to God, so we say “later.”  Oh sure, we’re not that up- front with it.  We use phrases like, “I’m waiting for the right time.”  And there is definitely something to be said for faithfully praying and pursing God’s will before we act, but there are plenty of times when we should simply begin with what we know God has called us to do, give ourselves permission to fail, and take comfort in the fact that theGod of the universe truly does not need our “help.”  He wants our obedience.  How many times in the Bible does it say “If you love me, you will obey my commands?”  How many times to do we replace “yes, Lord” with “later, Lord?” 

One of the most dangerous things that those who foster and adopt can do is compare our families with the neighbors down the block.  I am so guilty of this.  We may be climbing the same mountain, but we, as did our children, began this climb in the mine shaft 500 ft. below ground.  Sometimes simply reaching the point where we can see daylight is a great challenge.  Sometimes a failure is simply a premature success.  We measure growth before it is ready to be birthed and we fail to see progress because we are still trapped in the darkness below the Earth.  I have no Ten Steps to Success or Recipes for Greatness.  I can only say what I have learned - rely on God, stay in His presence and forgive yourself daily.  For in learning to fail, we climb one step higher up that mountain and someday all the skinned knees we endured along the way will be nothing more than battle scars on the road to victory.

Posted on July 15, 2017 .

The One Thing

 Photo by Bina Sveda

Photo by Bina Sveda

I was adopted at ten days old. My own mother was adopted when she was two years old from the very children’s home where we adopted four of our children. If it had not been for the love and dedication that my family had for me as they raised me, I could have been a statistic. (One-fourth of the kids who age out of foster care go to prison within the first two years of leaving the system and one-fifth of them become homeless.)  I want so much for these children to feel what I felt growing up. I didn’t feel as though I was less than anyone. My dad and mom who adopted me made me feel chosen. As parents of foster and adopted children, if we are to be effective, we must help our children to feel chosen as well. They are chosen by God and chosen by us to be someone important in this world.

I decided to foster and adopt because I wanted other children to know what it feels like to be wanted and loved, just like I felt. The difference you make in these kids' lives not only affects this generation but will shape the world in generations to come. If you can help to break the cycle of abuse for one child or empower them to become all they were designed to be, you truly will make a difference in hundreds of lives over future generations. 

My mother passed away in 2008. I was 28 years old and perceived myself as much an orphan as if I had been five. I have never felt so alone, so guilty, feeling as though surely I had failed, or the outcome would have been different — and so unloved. It was as though no one in this world truly loved me — not the way my mother had. My mother thought that the sun rose and set in me alone; I was the smartest, most beautiful child — in her eyes. 

 Photo by abdullah üsame deniz

Photo by abdullah üsame deniz

One day it struck me I that this is how children in foster care feel. They are all alone in this world. We can buy them nice clothes to wear and give them a beautiful home to live in but these things do little to fill the void within them. What they truly need is to be loved. Not in a superficial way by simply saying “I love you” when you leave or tuck them into bed. But loved, loved like my Mom loved me. They need to be the most perfect person in our eyes no matter what they do or say. We must give of our lives for them, to them, and love them because they are the most beautiful, wonderful person in the world - in our eyes.

Posted on October 6, 2014 .

Sexual Abuse: Sexually Acting Out

I cannot express adequately in words how much I dreaded writing this.  Even as I type my stomach hurts and I can feel a growing lump in my throat.  However, it is a blog that I cannot leave out.  For if there is any area, that I have gained any insight this is it.  And if I can protect or prevent one child from sexual abuse or an unsubstantiated outcry, the victory will far surpass the discomfort.

Just yesterday, my fifteen-year-old daughter told me she found out that the young son of some of the house parents at a group home where she used to live had been molested by one the boys they were fostering.  Several of my own children were molested – both by siblings and by my ex-husband.  The first out-cry I didn’t believe…until I later walked in and saw it with my own eyes.  Determined to never allow that to happen again, I immediately called the police when another child made an outcry about an older sibling.  The younger child later recanted.  I have gone left when I should have turned right and right when I should have gone left. I have carefully and honestly tried to be the best parent I know how.  And I have carefully and honestly made mistake after mistake.  Each with its own tragic consequences.  How fragile a child is and how utterly destructive sexual abuse is.  It is difficult to even know where to begin.  So I will start in the middle and ramble on…hoping that my words are of some significance to someone.  Do not be naive.  Each of my children came into my home with “no known history of sexual abuse.” In the years to come, through a series of outcries, I learned that every one of them had been abused in some fashion.  This ranged from literally being prostituted out and raped daily from the time they were toddler to early exposure to pornography and sexual images.  I can almost guarantee you that every child in care has suffered some sort of sexual abuse regardless of what their records state.  Many children in-care come from homes where drug use and alcohol abuse are prevalent – with this comes poor decision making and parties with large numbers of inebriated people.  It is a breeding ground for sexual abuse. So what do you do?  Protect your family (this most certainly includes other foster children) to the best of your ability, create a culture of mutual respect and communication (to the best of your ability) and know your limitations. It is impossible to be everywhere all the time.  Do not tell yourself, “This can’t happen.”  It can and it does. The following is a list of suggestions to help protect your family.  Some may sound extreme but each one comes from my own experience or the experiences of others I have met at foster/adopt conferences.

1.     Do not have more than one child in a bedroom.  If this is absolutely not feasible.  Never have only two.  Three in a room is always better than two.

2.     Replace the typical “interior door” lock with a lock that would be found on an exterior door.  Give each child a key to their own door and keep one key to each door for yourself.  If a child loses their key or if it suddenly goes “missing,” take the lock off the door and take it into a local hardware store to have it re-keyed.  The door handles are really very simple to remove.  Just take out all the screws and pull the door knobs out. There is generally no charge to re-key a lock at a hardware store or at most a few dollars for the new key.

3.     Consider placing alarms on all bedroom doors that are installed and monitored through a separate company such as ADT.  This works MUCH better than the simple alarms you could get at a home-improvement store which can easily be switched on and off by the child without your knowledge.  These alarms are well worth the added expense which truly is not at all substantial.  There is an initial investment of approximately $100 per door alarm but no added monitoring fee if you already have a home burglar alarm system.  If you don’t already have a burglar alarm system, it might be something to consider as well.  There are many coupons and discounts if you shop around. In the past, I have paid around $45/month for the monitoring. If the company is aware you are comparing prices, sometimes they will even waive the initial instillation and/or equipment charges.

4.     Consider motion detectors for the house at night. These could be installed and monitored through an alarm company or could be purchased individually from a walk-in store or via the Internet.  I have spoken to some parents who placed the alarms between children’s beds at night when they had to have more than one child in a room at a time. 

5.     Baby-monitors can be used in conjunction with motion detectors in a child’s room at night.  Just be sure to place the monitor out of reach from the child – if the motion detector is turned on.  That way, it can’t simply be turned off each night and back on in the morning.

6.     There are many sites on the Internet that sell monitoring devices for parents.  Everything is available from spy sticks that will pull up all material, texts and sites EVER accessed from a smart-phone or computer even if previously deleted, to GPS tracking devices, and hidden cameras. 

Be ethical in your use and placement of devices such as cameras. Limit them to hallways and central living areas but do not take lightly your role to protect your children.  You must be alert and aware at all times.

7.     Do not allow blankets and perhaps even stuffed animals to be taken out of the bedroom.  Blankets provide a “portable” setting for sexual abuse to occur and stuffed animals provide a lure for small children.

8.     Seek quality treatment - not merely prevention.  Safety plans are great but do nothing to eliminate the problem.  Sexually acting out is the term used when referring to someone under the age of 17.  This is quickly renamed sexual molestation with one single birthday.  Seek out quality programs to help your children overcome their addictions.  There is financial assistance or complete payment the the treatment often available from post-adopt services and Medicaid.  Another option is to request that CPS agree to “joint temporary managing conservatorship” for that child on a short-term basis.  This would place an adoptive child both in foster care (temporarily on paper only) and in your care at the same time.  Result - the state will pay for their treatment program (which are often too expensive for even a financially stable family to afford without assistance).  Several months after successful completion of the program you select, the child is released from CPS and placed solely in your care. Do not bury your head in the sand and hope it will go away. It won’t. And just seeing Joe the counselor down the street may do little good.  There are quality juvenile sexual offender treatment programs in every state.  Once they turn 18 that treatment program has a new name – prison.

I can assure you I did not begin with such an approach to sexual abuse.  All of this came from necessity and experience.  I am horrified by all my mistakes early in fostering – such as allowing a whole group of kids to fall asleep in front of the TV watching movies on week-end night. Then, leaving them there as not to wake them. Or, allowing girls to shower (with bathing suits on) together after going swimming.  These are things I did as a child that were innocent and caused me no harm.  When I set out to foster and adopt, I wanted to treat the kids “just like my own children” with little comprehension of the fact that I was creating an environment where sexual abuses could easily occur and go undetected for years. That is the tragedy of the mistakes we make as foster/adoptive parents. Our mistakes, innocent as they may be, can have such far-reaching consequences for us and more importantly for those children we hold most dear.

Posted on September 29, 2014 .

Navigating Logistics

 Photo by Peter Alexander Rob

Photo by Peter Alexander Rob

This particular entry is both as glamorous and as necessary as life insurance. These are the topics that no one enjoys discussing.  However, a lack of attention to them can cause far more discomfort than a basic analysis of facts.  You are opening up your heart, your home and your life to individuals who may or may not want to be there.  It’s impossible to open your life to another without giving them some degree of access to your finances and general livelihood.  I say this, as always, from personal experience.

One particular child of mine was loaned a car to travel back and forth to college and work.  After a period of time, they became involved in a relationship, became heavily involved in drug use, took the car, and left town.  Now obviously this was not the original intent when I loaned this child the car.  Undeniably, something went terribly wrong.  At this point, my primary concern was to minimize the extent of the damage that could come from their choices or, at the very least, to minimize the collateral damage.  I sought advice from several trusted sources and financial advisers. From which I quickly learned that should this child be involved in a wreck, I would be held financially liable.  Not only would I be held liable, but in a civil lawsuit a judge could allow someone to latch-on to my paycheck for the rest of my life, take any profits if I were to ever sell my house and even prevent me from filing bankruptcy. Now, these are Texas laws, your state may be different, but I mention this to make you aware of the gravity of the situation not to give you a crash course in civil law.  This was serious. I had to take action quickly. Upon doing a bit of research, I also learned that I could file a “Vehicle Notification Transfer” form with the DMV. This would, in theory, remove me from any liability should she become involved in a motor vehicle accident. Shortly thereafter, I was able to express to her the need to obtain her own insurance as I would soon no longer be able to leave her on my policy due to the potential liability. This scenario brought with it a multitude of questions that I had never previously considered.  Obviously, I feel that it is vital to help a young adult transition into independence.  Otherwise, you are merely setting them up for failure by merely emancipating them into the “real world” at the age of eighteen.  Still, I had not only a responsibility but an obligation, to protect the remainder of my family from emotional and financial turmoil.  You see, the effects of her lifestyle choices went far beyond the car.  I had also co-signed on an apartment for her – of which she walked out on the lease and left the apartment in a state of disarray.  Fortunately, I was able to pay the fees to forfeit the lease, the apartment manager was able to lease the apartment to another individual and approximately $3000 later my credit was salvaged - again, not ideal circumstances.  This also had a definite effect on the remainder of our family as it wiped out all savings we had at that particular time.  Which brings with it the question, how do both support and propel a child into adulthood with minimal risk of financial ruin. For what it is worth, this is my advice.

1.     When a child turns 18 (prior to eighteen, you will be held liable regardless of whose name the car title states), purchase them a car that is entirely in their name.  It does not need to be glamorous or expensive.  Do not allow them to take your car with them when they move away from your home unless you put the title of the car in their name.  Only allow them use of your car if they are drug and alcohol free.  Remember, you can and probably will be held financially liable for any damage they cause while in your vehicle.

2.     Remove your child from your insurance at the age of eighteen.  You could purchase them their own separate policy at this age and I would highly recommend doing so.  This will serve to further limit any personal liability should they have an accident. 

3.     Increase all personal injury and property damage coverage to the the maximum limits offered by your insurance when your kids are between the ages of 16 and 18.  It is better to be cautious and over-insured than pay a much higher price down the road.

4.     Allow you kids to live at home or get them their own place but consider this to be a gift.  Do not place your name on any lease that you could not pay in full if circumstances required such.  This does not mean that they shouldn’t be expected to contribute if working doesn’t interfere with their college studies.  It is simply self-preservation should they not hold up their end of the bargain.  Many junior colleges have excellent rates on dorm rooms that can be paid in whole or payments made.  A junior college approximately an hour from our home offers “apartments” as low as $725 / semester.

5.     Be certain you have a will and adequate life insurance should anything happen to you.  Consider setting up a trust so that children are only given large sums of money for necessary per-determined expenses or at particular rites of passage such as “upon completing a bachelor’s degree or certification program at an accredited college” or “upon turning 25.”  This formatting of the trust could protect and provide for them in the event of your untimely passing without funding detrimental choices.

6.     Do not share bank account passwords or other financial information with your children even if you currently deem them trustworthy.

7.     Enroll in an extensive credit monitoring/protection program.  This will cost a monthly fee but alert you to any changes in your credit - including anyone using your social to apply for an apartment, credit card or loan.  Check this regularly and consider it a form of monthly insurance for your financial future.

8.     Seek wisdom and advice from financial experts.  There are so many avenues to help protect your families’ finances.  Establish a Roth IRA, trust fund, and seek out a competent attorney who is well-versed in both family law and your family circumstances to best advice you in how to  propel and protect your family.

None of this advice is meant to be hurtful or build mistrust in a family. These are steps that should be taken with great care. I was once told by a rather wise person that “hurting people hurt others.” This could not be a more accurate statement. Often times, when you take hurting people into your home, you become the collateral damage. Do your best to act in a wise and rational manor so as to protect yourself and all others in your care.

Posted on September 22, 2014 .

Accepting Reality

  Photo by 2happy

 Photo by 2happy

Children who have been in care have great difficulty bonding. This is not a simple task where Daddy Warbucks swoops down and rescues little orphan Annie. Then, he is met with great affection and gratitude. Subsequently, everyone lives happily ever after. These are children who have truly been damaged by the snares of life, the foster care system, and other people who are equally scarred. A wise man by the name of Mike Walton once told me, that it will take one year in a stable, permanent home for every year a child was in “the system” to see genuine, lasting recovery. Do not be naive. This is not the rosy picture painted by a public service announcement with promises of changing the world or a brightly colored pamphlet plastered with children whose painted on smiling faces are dreaming of a “forever family.” Often these kids are hurt and angry. Being as you are the most approachable and constant adult in their life, I can almost guarantee where that anger will be directed.  It certainly won’t be toward their biological family. Perhaps some anger might deflect toward their caseworker or “the system” in general but typically you are the primary target. Be prepared. Be patient. Be consistent. Be constant. This will not be easy.

When you find emotions elevating, do one of three things.  Remove the child from the situation.  Remove yourself from the situation.  Remove the benefit from the situation.  This is a general idea addressed in Dr. John Townsend’s book Boundaries with Teenagers.  Essentially the idea is this, when approaching a power struggle, heightened emotions, or any other potentially dangerous waters, have the foresight to leave the situation as needed (go to another part of the house, work on something different, et cetera), send the child someplace different (a different room) or remove the benefit (the audience for temper tantrums, the toy, the game).  Do not feel the need to address every misbehavior at that moment.  A simple, “This was not a good choice.  There will be a consequence.” is adequate.  The potential damage to bonding from losing your temper far exceeds any benefit of an immediate consequence.  The consequence should be the punishment, not your anger, elevated voice or emotional distance.  It is extremely important that you maintain the relationship while rejecting the behavior.  It is the behavior that in not acceptable – not the child.  This sounds logical enough but can be extremely difficult.  It brings to mind a time when I momentarily left the family room.  At which point, my youngest took the opportunity to turn off the ceiling fan – by leaping from our recliner and swinging from the small chain attached to the fan.  Talk about difficulty maintaining emotional neutrality.  This brings me to my next point.  Do not go this alone. 

Pray constantly.  Never forget that God can do more than we could ever ask or think.  Our hope is in the Lord.  He is our comfort and our strength, our rock and our salvation, our sword and our shield.  He is our protector and our provider and it is in Him that we find our strength.  This is a supernatural battle and I guarantee you need a supernatural ally.  Do not think for a moment that your own strength is enough for the battle that lies ahead. 

Develop a strong support group.  Be intentional, this will not come naturally.  Kids in care often have counselors, caseworkers, psychologists and psychiatrists.  Please don’t make the mistake that I did for so many years and believe that this is enough.  Don’t tell yourself that you “don’t have time” for friends, support groups, your own counselor, pastor, et cetera.  It is imperative that you have a trusted “safe” support group that you can turn to when you fail, you’re at you wit’s end, you’re certain that you are the worst parent in the world, when you lose your temper and when you lose your mind.  Call me cynical, but I think very few foster parents have the kind of relationship with their child’s caseworker or counselor that they would be comfortable enough sharing these frustrations and shortcomings.  You need your own network of close friends, counselor, and so on.  There must be people you trust who will both hold you accountable and build you up.  Great information on identifying this group can be found in Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Safe People.  With a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate in clinical psychology, he does a beautiful job of integrating the underlying message of the Bible, that we were designed to be in relationship with God and with others, with recent findings in the field of neuroscience indicating that the greatest potential for healing occurs when the elements of grace (unconditional love) is coupled with truth (accountability) in a meaningful relationship.  This is explained in much greater detail in the book Changes that Heal, also by Dr. Henry Cloud and Hiding from Love by Dr. John Townsend.  I would highly recommend all foster/adoptive parents read all three of these books as they will help with not only the children we serve, but with our own struggles and shortcomings as well.

This integration of grace and truth does not end with our needs.  As parents we must take this information and apply it to our relationships with our children.  Bonding, though a significant challenge, is paramount to progress.  Without adequate attachments, children lack the safety to be honest enough about themselves to acknowledge their weaknesses much less address them.  This would be far too painful a process with the ever-present fear of rejection.  The Bible states this beautifully in James 5:16, “Confess your sins to one another that you might be healed.”  If we confess, we acknowledge to another person those areas where we are most vulnerable.  To do this, we must be certain of their unconditional love and acceptance (grace), not of our behaviors but of us as an individual.  Equally important is the element of truth or accountability.  We must be able to pour truth into our children's lives as Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians when he stated, “Dear Children, not everything is good for us.”  It is no more loving to accept inappropriate behaviors than it is to emotionally reject the child with the behavior – both are damaging.  In this framework of grace and truth / acceptance and accountability we are able to grow and to pour into our children's lives those elements necessary for their growth and healing. 

There is one final ingredient that Cloud and Townsend speak of and that is time.  This is the same element that after years of working with troubled youth at Boys Ranch, Mike Walton stressed so adamantly.  These children need time.  Just as too aggressive of treatment to treat a wound could cause further damage, too aggressive an approach to “heal” a child can do the same.  We must be patient.  For unto all things there is a season  (Ecclesiastes 3). Allow time for healing to occur, but be deliberate in the resources and relationships you employ for this process.  Time in and of itself will heal no wounds.  It is only time that is well-spent, in loving and truth-filled relationships, time that includes an adequate understanding of the underlying causes of the behaviors we encounter, which brings healing.

We must never forget the behaviors we frequently observe are merely symptoms of an underlying cause.  Treating the symptoms is an artificial salve that serves to merely medicate but not eliminate the problem.  For example, a child that has difficulty bonding will often display destructive and defiant behaviors as a means to “push away” their caregiver thus eliminating the possibility of them being rejected.  By taking on a more aggressive role they seek to control what they deem is an already an inevitable response by their primary caregiver.  While it is imperative that parents establish clear boundaries, both within their own lives and in their parenting, a system of boundaries and consequences within themselves will not address the core issue of “failure to bond.”  Another more disparaging example is that of a youth who struggles with pornography, promiscuity, homosexuality, bi-sexual and trans-gender issues.  These and other examples of sexually acting out or addiction stem from a far more troubling and deeper hurt within themselves. Common to foster/adoptive youth is the experience of sexual abuse and early exposure to sexual and/or pornographic language and images.  This permanently impacts a child's mind and development.  While it is true that God can heal all things, we must not underestimate the power of sin and the internal damage that it causes for generations.  This will be further addressed in the chapter titled Sexual Abuse: Sexually Acting Out. 

At present, the individual symptoms are not as critical as the understanding of the context in which healing occurs.  Create in your home an environment filled with opportunities for relationships that provide the elements of both grace and truth.  Integrate this concept in both your parenting and personal relationships.  Use time as a catalyst that holds within it a the safety net where a child may risk honesty without fear of rejection.  Remember time is only valuable when it is put to good use.  Spend it wisely. Seek to provide opportunities for both growth and healing within nurturing relationships.  Purpose your energy but do not pressure a response.  In all things there is a season.  Accept your present reality while planting the seeds you hope to reap in the future.

Posted on September 15, 2014 .

Does Your Adopted Child Struggle with Attaching? This Might be the Reason...

Attachment disorder. Few will diagnose this and with good reason. It is a diagnosis with long-lasting consequences and implications. Still, if we were honest with each other most children who have grown up in the foster care system have some degree of attachment disorder. And should, after all this is the bodies way of protecting itself against repeated injury. However, what serves to protect in one environment (abusive home) will hinder under different circumstances (loving, stable home). Therefore, as parents we must be proactive in assisting children in the process of “retraining” their brains and developing more environmentally appropriate ways of relating with others. It’s equally important that we understand some of the more common symptoms of attachment disorder, not to label our children, but instead to better understand and interpret their actions.

 Photo by Shi Yali

Photo by Shi Yali

For years, I have watched in dismay as my children bonded easily to everyone they came in contact with…everyone but me. It was natural to blame myself and determine that I wasn’t loving enough, wasn’t fun enough, wasn’t available enough. Teenagers will very quickly give evidence to any of these conclusions if given opportunity.  And perhaps there was some truth to my conclusions.  Regardless, at best, my conclusions and self-inflicted guilt were incomplete. I spent many years hurt and frustrated because of my own rationalizations of their behavior.  It wasn’t until I really began to study attachment disorders that I saw the root of many of our difficulties.  This gave me peace and the clarity of a sound mind unimpeded by guilt and unhindered by emotional sensitivities. The following is a list of common behaviors exhibited by children who fit diagnoses of severe attachment disorder including but not limited to RAD or Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood RAD.  This list is by no means meant to provide you with resources to diagnose attachment disorder in your children or imply that the presence of these symptoms indicates the presence of a disorder. It is simply to give a window of insight into a dark world your child may be experiencing.

Intense lying, often about obvious things

 Poor response to discipline

Discomfort with making eye contact, except when lying

Physical contact, too much or too little

Lack of mutual enjoyment

Body function impairments, including eating, sleeping, urinating, defecating

Discomfort with increased attachment

Superficial charm, indiscriminate friendliness

Poor communication skills

Difficulty with cause and effect

Lack of empathy

Tendency to see things in extreme

Habitual disassociation or hyper-vigilance

 Desire to tease, hurt other children

 Propensity to act innocent, despite being caught transgressing

Dangerous behavior without awareness of risk

Deliberate intent to break or ruin others’ things

Lack of apparent guilt or remorse

Cruelty to animals

Stealing

Sneaking, hiding, and hoarding food

Seeming inability to learn from experiences

False reports of abuse

Absence of painful feeling when hurt, refusal to let anyone help

Demanding attitude instead of asking

Bossiness with adults and peers alike

Extended tantrums

 Tendency to be accident-prone

Manipulation of others by acting cute and charming

Inappropriate friendliness with strangers

Preoccupation with fires

Preference for violent cartoons, television, movies

Upon reading this list, I instantly felt relief.  I publish this not so that we might all self-diagnose our children, which could be potentially dangerous and detrimental to the child and parent alike, but instead, that we might come the reasonable conclusion that most children in care or who have spent time in care, will struggle to some degree with attachment disorder.  As noted in Wounded Children Healing Homes, from which this list was extracted, “There is a growing concern among clinicians, theorists, and researchers that the current RAD definition in the DSM-IV_TR is too narrow. O’Conner and Zeanah (2003) have suggested the concept of an attachment spectrum.  An attachment spectrum includes RAD at the severe end but also contains a range of other attachment-related impairments along a continuum of severity and type.” In other words, it is not a leap to acknowledge that some of the behaviors foster/adoptive parents face can easily be linked to attachment disorder/trauma.  This is important to note because it removes the emotional veil that so often blinds us from underlying problems, and confines us to treating mere symptoms instead of the deep and foundational issue.

So what is the solution?  What use is all of this knowledge without some sort of “game plan?”  Wounded Children Healing Homes goes on to suggest, “In many ways, parenting a child with attachment trauma is similar to parenting a non-traumatized child but in a more concentrated form.  The key appears to be a willingness to spend lots of time with the child, interacting, playing, and guiding. The more the time spent with the child, the more opportunities there are to reorganize and reactivate the child’s brain.”

So there you have it, “more concentrated” parenting.  Like orange juice without the added water.  I can handle that.  It also brings me comfort when I recall the comments made by people (people who have not raised kids from the foster care system) how much “attention” my children require.  It also brings into perspective many other behaviors I have never understood such as the intense competition I notice among my kids for my attention, their tendency to talk without ceasing and interrupt one another when together while remaining quiet if they are the only child present, and perpetually broken household appliances and furnishings.

While this may not be an instant or an easy solution, I know it takes well-spent time and intentional strategies for healing to occur. I pray for peace. Peace that God will allow me to truly understand that He is bigger than my failures and shortcomings as a parent. Peace that regardless of the outcome, I started down this road so that I might tangibly love God and love others every moment of every day. Peace that would be enough.

Posted on September 8, 2014 .

My Inadequacies

There are two types of parents in this world.  Those that try and those that view parenting a necessary evil, the price we must pay to continue the human race.  Of those who try, I have often thought surely I must be the worst.  Oh, I have tried.  From the word go, I have read the parenting books, watched the videos, prayed, struggled and determined to do my best.  But perpetually, when faced with a crossroads, when given the opportunity to go left or go right, I have undoubtedly chosen the wrong path.  I have overreacted and under-reacted and failed to react at all.  I have lost my temper, lost my confidence and quite frankly lost my sanity.  Then finally, I have resolved to follow some valuable advice.  One morning, I confessed to a friend of mine that surely I was never intended to be a parent at all.  Surely, I had somehow missed my calling and chosen the wrong path from the very beginning.  Motivated by a desire to serve God and to make a difference in His world I began this family from my own longing to impact humanity and failed to consider the reality of this service.  Not to mention the fact that I had no prior experience with children, no brothers or sisters, no baby-sitting, just a warped disillusion that somehow through this crazy endeavor we'll call parenting I would be given the opportunity to serve God every moment of every day and in this I would impact the world for generations to come.  Sounds great…if you’re writing a greeting card, but hardly the formula for a secure, loving, even mildly functional version of family.  As I poured out my heart, he smiled and said knowingly, “You know who you sound like don’t you?” 

“No, who?” I replied, thoroughly confused.

 “Moses,” with certain and definitive calmness.

 “Moses?”

“Filled with excuses for why you can’t do this.”

“Moses.”

I laughed but what he said slowly sunk in.  Moses was filled with excuses.  And God was determined to use him.  Prior to that moment, I had always believed that Moses was filled with those excuses out of a genuine fear of all that God was calling him to do.  From that moment on, I could see Moses’ genuine concern that God’s plan would not come to pass out of his shear incompetence.  Moses and I bonded at that moment.

He went on to say later that morning that I should pray that God would give me peace. No matter the outcome. He also told the parable of the seeds. Some of them fell on rocky ground. Some of them fell on fertile ground.  Some of them would grow and produce much fruit.  Others would not.  Either way, we don’t stop sowing. (Matthew 13: 1-8, Mark 4:1-9 and Luke 8:4-8)  He told me his own story of spending some 30 years out of God’s will.  Growing up a trouble maker.  He also went on to say, he felt like all of this was merely training so that he might do God’s will now.  His past failures allowed him to reach the hearts of more people.  “You don’t know what God’s going to do. You can’t see the end result,” he stressed.

 Photo by Geoffrey Whiteway

Photo by Geoffrey Whiteway

This was a turning point for me.  I began to pray for peace.  I began to pray that God would help me to be a good parent - merely for the sake of being a good parent - regardless of outcome.  I accepted my failures.  And I can promise you there are many.  I believed that God was bigger than me or my failures or my triumphs for that matter.  And that He wanted to use me not because of who I am, but because of who He is.  You know the Bible commends Moses for being the most humble man alive. “Now Moses was very humble – more humble that any other person on Earth.” (Numbers 12:3 NLT)  Perhaps, it is only through an unobstructed view of our failures that we begin to see God clearly.  And perhaps, when we begin to acknowledge that it is only because of the grace of a Holy and Sovereign God that we even exist. In that moment, we become an instrument in the hand of the Master sculpting eternity.

Posted on September 1, 2014 .

What I Learned

James 1: 5-8

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.  He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.  Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

 

What have I learned?  I have learned to trust in God in all things, above all things and through all things.  He is my rock and my salvation.  In Him I shall not want.  Though He leads me through the valley of death, His rod and His staff they comfort me.  (Psalm 23 paraphrased)

What have I learned?  I have learned that I will make mistakes.  I will fail.  I will fall short.  And even on those decisions that I labor over the most.  I, often times, will choose the wrong path, doubt my choices, and sometimes even doubt my sanity.  But out of all that I have learned, what I cling to the most is that God is bigger than my mistakes.  Not only can He work in spite of my failures.  He can work through them.  Of all my failures, and there are many, I mourn my shortcomings as a parent the most.  Every time I lose my temper, I can feel the damage to the foundation of my relationship with my children.  Every time I fail to prioritize, I regret the loss of that moment.  Of all the things that I desire, what I desire most, is a life well-lived, devoted to the service of God and others.  And yet, often times I find myself devoting my time, my life, to those things that I do not most highly regard.  Oh granted, they’re not immoral, or wrong, or even unimportant.  They are the dismal, daily tasks of survival, logistical necessities, but hardly priorities.  Dr. Henry Cloud states in his book, One-life Solution, “Your time is your life.”  It sounds so trite and simplistic but how true.  Our time is our life.  If we will spend our time as faithfully as our money, perhaps we will experience the growth and fulfillment of a life well-invested.  If we will tithe of our time, to the Lord, perhaps He will multiply it.  If we will devote both quality and quantity time to our children, perhaps it will pay dividends for the future. 

In this section, I hope to impart both the practical and the interpersonal.  I hope to give you some insight into those things that have worked well for our family and those tragic mistakes from which I have learned so much.  Please don’t look at this as a text or an instruction manual, but a heart-to-heart talk from a friend who is both tattered and worn from the weathering of life, a friend who is trying to confess her own shortcomings, not out of self-imposed authority but instead from contrite humility, a friend attempting to save others from the dismal misfortune she has thrust upon herself and to point others to the God who held her hand and guided her through.

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Posted on August 25, 2014 .