Understanding Children from Hard Places through an Adoption

Posted by Heather Sewell on October 26, 2016  /   Posted in Adoption, Advocacy, Events, Family Support

By: Joajoanmillern Miller, Director of Clinical Counseling at The Provision School and Family Counseling Center, Lexington, KY

A sign in my office reads: “Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful”- Rev. Keith C. Griffith

At first when you read that, it throws you off. I think the knee jerk response is: “how can we think of adoption and trauma in the same sentence?” But when we consider more about how the child might be experiencing adoption, it begins to make sense.

img_8331Bringing that baby or child home, we are so expectant and excited about our new family member. Our thoughts are, “what can we do to make things good and ‘normal’ for this child”.

However, though we don’t mean to, we forget that this child has experienced loss from birth mom, and in some cases, a placement from where they were recently removed. These are losses for the child. These losses tend to be negated in our minds because we strive to ‘make up’ for all that should have happened.

It is up to us to remember that the child had to leave things behind, things they used for comfort as well as things that caused them pain. We must gently respect that as we help this child feel safe in the new experience of our home.

For example, lack of prenatal care, traumatic birth, frightening experiences and neglect all interfere with brain development and emotion regulation. A common phrase we use is that these are children from hard places. Children from hard places do not heal with ‘just love.’

Let us give them grace to enter into our families, understanding that they won’t always fit into the ideas and expectations with which we welcome them. Let us be aware of our expectations.

square_h32016For those looking for more help, a great resource is coming on November 5th. It is Orphan Care Alliance’s H3 conference.

This year’s speaker is Debra Jones, who does parent training and interventions. She and her husband, Alan are regular speakers with Empowered to Connect Conferences which feature the Trust-Based Relational Intervention® Model from Texas Christian University. I have heard Debra and her husband, Alan speak several times and always come away with something that helps in my own journey. (did I mention I was an adoptive mom also?).

I promise if you attend, you will come away with a better understanding of your child. You will grow as a parent and be encouraged. I hope to see you there!

Register for the 4th Annual Help, Hope, Heal Conference on November 5. Click Here

Joan Miller, licensed professional clinical counselor and registered play therapist, Director of Clinical Counseling at The Provision School and Family Counseling Center, Lexington, KY.

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