Archives for September 2010

Adoption Support and Training in the Church

(Michael and Amy Monroe)

Knowledge and understanding is key. We need to dig deep, become learners. Remember, compassion for our children shouldn’t have a shelf life. “They’ve been home 3 years” is not an excuse for losing our compassion for a hurting child.  Default strategies are often not helpful. What worked to successfully parent other kids may not work with a child who’s had major trauma.

Some people shut down when they hear ‘compassion’. They’re afraid it involves letting a kid run roughshod over your life. No. When you see Purvis working with kids, she is ruthlessly consistent in rule-setting. But kids are being engaged in a totally different way. And it works.

We need to come to kids with double vision. Look at it from their perspective AND ours. With that compassion, all new strategies take on a new life. When dealing with these kids we need to avoid minimizing their history. But we also need to avoid maximizing it. We need to find a balance, and deal with the child holistically. We are aiming for trust-based intervention.

Empowering and connecting principals:

• Meet kids physiological needs: nourishment, sensory integration, etc
• Use healthy connecting principals. Their history puts them at risk for relationship-based issues. Kids don’t feel safe in relationships. Connect to meet those needs.
• Use good behavioral tools: ideal response (more on that tomorrow), choices, consequences, shared power (sends chills up and down some people’s spines “I can’t survive if I’m not in control”) But the key is to balance between structure and nurture. Christian parenting models that we get from church often tend to be: high structure, low nurture. Our kids actually need high structure and HIGH nurture. We must BUILD relationship first.

We need to think honestly about our own motivations.  There are all sorts of reasons to adopt. Some unhealthy ones that adopted kids have verbalized about their parents:

• Mission project
• Souvenir
• Badge of honor
• Cool Christian thing
• Impulse
• Void-filler
• Distraction
• Adopting out of need and not want
The best reason to adopt? Because you want to give to a child, and are willing to sacrificially love that child. Real love is wanting what is best for another and being committed to pursue it no matter what.

What expectations do we as parents bring to adoption? If you could do nothing other than to get parents to really see their own expectations, that would be a worthwhile goal in mentoring parents. Recommended book: Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families – worth purchasing for Chapter 2 alone.

Often when we heard information, we filter it in the way that we want to believe, which creates unrealistic expectations. For example, many people believe that babies adopted as newborns won’t have issues. When our flawed expectations are not met, we feel like a failure. Often parents who have parented successfully before feel like adoption is NOT what they bargained for.

Hints for families
• Have mentors who are real families, willing to share their failure AND success with you.
• Expect to be frustrated by parenting.
• Keep communication going between husband and wife, even in regard to unmet expectations. Share. Be on the same page.
• Connect while correcting your child. If (when!) you mess up, be willing to apologize.
• Balance nurture and structure. Unlearning is harder than being a blank slate and is often one of the hardests tasks an experienced parent faces. Giving up old ways of parenting, even if it is for more effective tools, is hard.  But look hard at what you’re doing:  is it working?  If not, then you need to do something different.  Remember, these kids are behind– they need way more nurture than you might think, regardless of their age.

Parents on a Healing Journey

This session was co-led by Michael and Amy Monroe, who have a church ministry that encourages adoptive families.  They also have four children, two of whom were adopted.

Michael reminded us that parents are the agents of healing for adopted children.  To do that effectively, you have to be healthy yourself.  There’s nothing that can point out your own weaknesses as a parent than a child who has issues.
We as adoptive parents often approach adoption with false notions.

Love is enough. Nope, at least not the way we as humans love.  Only God can love perfectly.

It’s all about the child. Actually parents bring baggage too.  And your own past can be a formidable barrier between you and your child.  Remember, the goal is connection, not behavior management.   Always, you address behavior, hold kids accountable.  But the main goal should be connection, because only in connection is there real healing.  And examining your own baggage goes way beyond what the average homestudy offers.
Amy said that parents often don’t understand their past plays a role in ALL their relationships:  with their kids, with their spouse, with God.  We talk about attachment as a feeling.  Really it is more like a dance, a relationship.  Kids are waiting for us to ASK them to dance.  We need to learn to be in sync. We need to be fully present to allow our kids to attach.

Families often don’t realize that 85% of adopted kids arrive with a disorganized attachment style.  This applies to ALL adopted kids, not just older kids.  Yup, even newborns.  Grief and loss also comes with adoption.  If we don’t heal our own past, we can’t help our kids heal.  You can’t lead a child someplace you haven’t been.   Parents’ attachment style plays a huge role.   It can’t be ‘the family’ vs. the child.   It has to be parent and child together vs. the child’s past. Secure attachment is where trust is built.

As adoptive families in the middle of challenges, we are sometimes afraid of sharing the truth about how challenging it can be.   Don’t be.  We need prepared parents, parents who have gone into adoption with eyes wide open.  Preparation is hugely important.  We want people to adopt and be successful.  We also need to be brave enough to face our own pasts to be successful adoptive parents.

It’s not about perfect parenting.  Remember:  families in the Bible didn’t have it all together either.  We are broken people in a broken world.   The unexamined life can create great risk in an adoptive family.  We need to prepare families early in the adoption journey for the challenges that lie ahead.   We’ve been shown the way of the suffering servant, Jesus.

Recommended books:
Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt

The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

Karyn Purvis: Real Hope and Help for Healing

(Today I am live-blogging conference sessions at the Together For Adoption Pre-Conference.)


The speaker is Karyn Purvis, author of the book The Connected Child. More resources including videos are on the Empowered To Connect website.

Adopting a child is not the same as bringing home a child by birth.  New adoptive parents ask: “Thanks a lot- you’ve got me into this—now what do I do?”

Purvis says: “I tell parents, I have a word of knowledge. Parents who are living with the child are the experts.”

In her work she sees many families who’ve lost joy in their journey. She wants to equip parents ahead of time, so that parents can respond appropriately when they see behavior. There is a point of impact in an adoption.  From the point of impact a spiral begins, up or down. If we do a better job preparing parents to respond appropriately, ahead of time, the family can have a positive spiral towards healing.

When you’re riding horse and want to stop, you pull the reins back. If you pull too hard, the horse backs up or bucks. The same thing happens with children. Parents get so eager to extinguish problem behaviors that they overdo correction. Purvis has seen children literally being driven into psychosis by too much over-control attempted by parents. The good thing is that children are forgiving when we get back on track.

If we truly want to be supporters of adoption, we must call people to foster and adopt with INTEGRITY. Prepare them. We can’t smooth over the difficulty. Adopted children have hurts that nobody should have.

And yet there is hope.  What we know from science can inform families. Purvis says she “loves it when science gives us a little glimpse of God.”

Purvis says she has “never seen a child who could not come to dramatic levels of healing.” Kids yearn to connect. However, the most tender-hearted kids, when not able to connect, become most aggressive and are worst behaved.

Karyn Purvis did a camp for kids that turned into an international project. In a week of high nurture activities, kids made unprecedented advances in behavior. After a week at camp one mother reported: “My child, home 3 years, trusted me enough to fall asleep in my arms for the first time ever.”

There is hope.

And there is great need.  Embattled mothers are at high risk for auto-immune disease. Women were made for nurturing relationships. When mothers are rebuffed, they break down. The church needs to be a safe place for struggling families.

How could trust occur in a week at these Purvis summer camps? It is because an environment was created that MET unmet needs. “recovery of function recapitulates development of function”. Recreate optimal environment—think of a good mother nurturing her infant, responding when he cries, meeting his needs  –and brain turns back on.  Components of a nurturing environment:

• Sensory rich

• Eye contact

• Food every 2 hours

• Touch

Do activities with deep connection. And remember that parents have 12 words that kids hear. After that, they just sound like the adults in Peanuts cartoons.  Ask your kids for eye contact: “Let me see those great eyes.”  Get kids to work with you, while respecting their space. Be willing to compromise, but keeping asking for connection.  Once kids feel safe, they will start talking a blue streak. The “attachment” part of the brain is connected to the communication part of the brain. The brain will activate with proper stimulation.

If sensory processing channels don’t mature, child can’t mature emotionally. Sensory is part of connection and relationship. But most important is relationship. Tools alone don’t bring healing.

All development proceeds in this order: cephalocaudal, then proximal, then distal.  (basically: brain, core, extremities.) You’ve gotta deal with brain first. If needs were not met inside the brain of the child, they can’t model positive behavior on the outside.  It is not about sanctioning bad behavior—Purvis believes in having zero tolerance for disrespect and disobedience. But connection is the only way to reach the child and definitively deal with bad behavior.

Your goal should be: Help heal this baby (whether an infant or a teen).  We shouldn’t give the child the message: “you’ve gotta look better, you’ve gotta do better, you’ve gotta be better.”

The parenting modeled by an adoptive family can’t look like everyone else’s. A child with good healthy attachment can be parented successfully in a wide range of ways.   The more hurt a child is,  the narrower the range of  parenting that will be effective.

People see kids of a certain age and expect a certain behavior—but it won’t necessarily look that way in an adoptive family. Keep in mind that even very young kids can mask fear. Parents need insight that builds compassion, so they won’t just attack behavior. We need to understand what is driving behavior or we will never create a healing home.

Children’s art has been found to be very indicative of their emotional status, and their feelings about their family.  It can be admitted into court hearings as evidence. For example, if a child draws himself in a box, he thinks he has to protect himself from danger—that is always a sign of trauma and fear.  Long necks in drawings indicate a deep need for each other.  Figures that are floating without feet on the ground is a sign of no sense of foundation. A figure that has no hands and feet means the child feels powerless.

Challenging children take a toll on the whole family. Bio kids in a home with struggling kids will actually draw more distorted family pictures than the foster or adopted kids. Kids know they are loved by time, attention and value on a daily basis.  And often time and attention is being pulled away from the healthy kids to deal with the less healthy ones.  Well-attached kids do have more more resources to deal with this.  But that doesn’t mean they are immune to the effects.

Kids have to have a voice. Parents have to have a voice. Shared power is important in the attachment relationship. Everyone needs to feel safe.  Parents need training to make it work for everyone. We can help any child come to dramatic healing. But it won’t happen in a vacuum.  We need to minister to families with integrity. We need to teach people to be proactive about behaviors, while still ministering to children with great compassion.


I rouse myself at 8 AM for a run with 3 of my boys.  I head for the shower afterward, and my two little girls beg to keep me company.  Usually I have the shower to myself, but thinking of the next four days I say yes.  They grin in delight.  We know goodbyes are coming and we want to be together now.  At breakfast I look at the faces around me with extra intensity.  I love going places, but I hate leaving my people behind.

Now it’s 10:30.   Four hours til we leave for the airport.  A few odds and ends of things to do, and then I’ll hug everyone goodbye and take off on a plane.  First to Denver and then to Austin.   I’ll make it to my hotel in the wee hours of Thursday morning.  Here’s where I’ll be on Thursday.  I’ll be blogging about each session that I attend, so stay tuned.  And keep my family in your thoughts and prayers while I am away from them.  They’ve got some fun things planned to do with dad, but we’ll all be missing each other.

Book Review: The Homesteader’s Kitchen

I love it when people send me cookbooks to review, especially ones like this!  As you might guess, The Homesteader’s Kitchen (Robin Burnside) emphasizes beautiful fresh produce.  Recipes include tempeh and chard enchiladas,  cucumber yogurt mint salad, and butternut squash pie with maple whipped cream.

You can also learn to make vegetable smoothies, whole grain crackers, and yogurt cheese. The recipe I think I’ll try first is Bali Toast, a twist on french toast that involves yogurt and ripe bananas.  Yum!

Though there aren’t pictures with every recipe, the pictures scattered throughout the book make this one a pleasure to page through.  One in particular gave me a hankering for open shelving in my kitchen.   (My husband quickly brought that little fantasy back to earth by reminding me that our version of open shelving would look something like the kitchen department at Goodwill.  Ah, well…)

If you like cookbooks that feature fresh produce and simple healthy ingredients, this would be an excellent addition to your cookbook library.

Sriracha Barbecued Chicken

Here’s the chicken we had for Sunday dinner, along with homemade mac and cheese baked with a crumb topping, fresh tomatoes, and apple pie. I was too hungry to fiddle around getting the perfect picture, sorry!   But it was yummy– I doubt if anybody’d  complain about a  repeat of that meal!


I got in 4 walk/runs this week for a total of 6.3 miles. I haven’t been following the C25K routine minute by minute.   Instead, being a country girl, I’ve been regulating my running by telephone poles.  The first week I’d walk the distance between 2 telephone poles, then run between the next two poles, and repeat. It ended up being surprisingly close to the actual C25K timing.

The second week I ran 1-2, then walked one.  This last week I was running 2-3 poles and walking 1-2.  Once I even made it 5 whole telephone poles without stopping –0.3 miles, a feat which then forced me to walk, panting, for the next 5 minutes straight, I was so tuckered out.  Ah well.

Bottom line:  making progress, getting stronger, liking the Asics, still looking forward to exercising.  And loving hanging out with my 15 year old son who is being a really good sport about keeping me company as I toodle along at a turtle’s pace.

New blogs

The winner of the Science Spa kit is Dawn F!


I was happy to discover last week that it is practically painless to switch from (defunct-this-week) Bloglines to Google Reader. And glory be, it turns out I actually like the Google reader better!  I read over 100 blogs a week, so I really appreciate the way the google reader just lets you scroll through every blog in a one-click way.  My wildly eclectic list includes faith to fashion to photography to frugality to just plain funny.

Here are a few I just added:

Fish in My Hair hilarious, irreverent homeschooler

Pleasant View Schoolhouse gentle, inspiring homeschooler

Centsational Design– awesome and frugal home decor projects

My Life in Projects – my very own sister Rachel’s house-projects blog!

Happy Monday!  I am off to do a zillion things.  I leave Wednesday for the TOGETHER FOR ADOPTION conference! I’m sooooo excited!!!


When I look into the painted sky
I see so many colors
They’re all a part of your design
It’s such a brilliant display

I love the way the stars shine for you
And every single mountain bows down
I love the way the universe is singing your song
So I’ll try to sing along

Looking up into the dark blue night
I’m in awe of your power
The way the moon pulls the ocean’s tide
You are never contained

I love the way the stars shine for you
And every single mountain bows down
I love the way the universe is singing your song
So I’ll try to sing along

All the world is singing your song
I raise my voice and sing along

I love the way the stars shine…for you
I love the way the stars shine…for you

I love the way the stars shine for you
And every single mountain bows down
I love the way the universe is singing your song
So I’ll try to sing along

out of sight…

It is getting near the end of the month, and as I sat down to pay bills this afternoon, I peeked into my wallet to count exactly how much grocery money I had left for the month.  $48 with a week left, and tons of food still in the house.   No problem.

As I was tucking the money back into the wallet, I folded it wide open, and was surprised to find a $50 bill.  From last month, I immediately realized.   I remember sticking it there, but apparently it slipped my mind after that.  So last month when the visible money was gone, I’d quit buying.  And so instead of going $2 over like I thought I had, I was actually $48 under budget for August.

Sweet.   I think I like this envelope system.