The good news is, with a careful combination of love, nurturing, rock solid boundaries, relentless honesty, commitment, compassion, patience, and parental self control, most kids are able to overcome the trauma of their past and grow to be healthy, functioning people. Oh...there's more. In order for these families to be successful, they also need a tremendous amount of support from a team of experienced, dedicated people.
- Open-minded pediatricians who understand the effects of neglect, abuse, and other traumas on the development of a child's brain
- Medical specialists who are able to address the child's physical health needs, which are often overwhelming due to years of neglect (my daughters came into foster care having never received any sort of medical care other than emergency care for a broken arm and emergency care for scarlet fever)
- Dentists who are able to soothe the irrational fears that often control a child from a trauma background
- Therapists of all sorts: family therapists (adoption competency certified, with experience in working with trauma-related disorders such as PTSD); occupational therapists (skilled in working with all sorts of developmental delays); speech therapists (experienced in addressing the needs of older children who may be embarrassed to be in speech therapy); physical therapists
- Educators who are willing to work with parents to address the many educational needs of the child. This includes principal and other administrative staff, office personnel, teachers, exceptional student ed team, classroom aides, tutors
- Coaches who are willing to learn how to take a different approach to coaching (because these kids are often sensitive to unusual things and may react strongly to coaching methods that don't bother most kids)
- Friends who are willing to be supportive and faithful, even when they don't understand the "why" behind how you are parenting
- Friends who are willing and ready to step up and meet practical needs when times get tough
- Friends and family who stick with you, even though it might seem you are absent for long time periods
- Family members who love and accept the child, regardless of behavior issues
- People who are willing to believe that you are being truthful, regardless of how outlandish some of your tales may seem. On the outside, our girls do not look like anything is wrong. They're physically healthy, beautiful, and they appear to be happy and well-adjusted. They can usually hold it together when we're in public places. No one sees what life is like when we're at home, and some people have a hard time believing it. Families like ours need to be surrounded by people who will simply say, "I believe you."
WOW! That is a lot of support. But it's reality. That's what it takes. Parenting a hurt child is hard, hard work. It can be done without all the support, but I don't know how anyone can do it.
We're blessed in every single one of those areas. I shake my head in amazement each time one of those incredible members of our team bends over backward to meet our family's needs. But even with all the support, life is still often a struggle for Matt and me. Granted, we adopted three kids at once last year, and we already had two "organic" kids, and we're 6 months pregnant with a surprise baby. But still...meeting everyone's needs is exhausting and consumes all of our resources--physical, financial, emotional, and otherwise. Even with all the support we have, we find ourselves needing more help.
- Financial assistance with one child's overwhelming educational needs
- Additional counseling for one child who continues to struggle with the effects of the trauma she experienced
- Psychological testing for a child who struggles so fiercely with the (fear-based) need to be in control that her defiance is destroying relationships right and left
- Psycho-educational testing for a child who has attained the highest level possible with her high degree of learning disabilities. Proper testing will open new interventions to her and help her begin to make forward progress again.
- Family counseling for the other kids who need to learn a specialized skill set in order to live in harmony with an extremely disharmonious sister
- An educational advocate to help Matt and me in our interactions with our school as we seek intensive interventions for two of our girls (interventions that will definitely be a resource drain for the school...interventions that will not be conceded without somewhat of a battle, I think).
- Somebody to help us in our interactions with the state from which we adopted as we seek additional funding to help meet our girls' extensive, complex needs. It's a complicated mess of paperwork and dealing with all sorts of people who do not know us and our girls. Having an insider is very helpful.
This is A. LOT. OF. NEEDS. Last week I contacted post-adoption support at the state agency we worked with during our adoption. They jumped all over it and on Friday afternoon they promised to assign us a targeted case manager (TCM) to help us navigate all these needs that consume so much extra time, energy, and money. I was super excited about that idea, but expected that like everything else in the adoption world, it would take some time to accomplish. For once I was wrong in my expectation! I got the phone call today from the intake team leader. She got all the information on my girls and documented everything we need help with. She validated me and encouraged me. She took me seriously. She spent almost an hour on the phone with me. She took careful notes, and said she'll be assigning an awesome TCM to our family.
I feel as if someone has just thrown me a lifeline.