By Jen Winkelmann, MA, LPC, NCC
Children adopted at older ages frequently have more difficulty building and maintaining relationships, even with people who should feel “safe” to them, like their adoptive parents. Many adoptive families would agree that there can be unique and unexpected challenges with parenting children who were adopted at older ages (Note: For the purposes of this article, “older” refers to any child out of infancy and beginning to acquire verbal skills). During consultation with these families, I have often heard parents lament:
- “This isn’t what we signed up for, so what are we going to do? We can’t live like this!”
- “After everything we went through to make this adoption happen, how can it turn out like this? Our family is falling apart!”
- “Our child came from abuse/poverty/neglect…Our home is a better and safer place for her to grow up. Why can’t she just appreciate it?”
- “I have given so much love to our son, and things are so much better for him with us. How could he not be grateful? He has everything…a new room, clothes, food to eat, a good school…”
When most of us hear the word “family,” we think of holiday dinners spent around the table, summer vacations, and childhood memories. But to the thousands of children waiting in foster care, the word “family” can feel foreign and hopeless. Each year 23,000 children age out of the U.S. foster care system having never experienced what it truly means to be part of a loving, stable family.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. All it takes is one caring adult to completely change the future for a child in foster care.
By Alba Cabrera, Intensive Recruiter at The Adoption Exchange
When I was asked to write this blog to share a story of my experience as an intensive recruiter, one of the youth on my caseload popped into my head instantly: Alexander* (Alex*). The reason Alex came to mind was because he has been on my caseload for almost three years, and I’m finally seeing some movement on his case! Also, he’s been in foster care longer than any other youth I work with – Pretty much his entire life. What’s impressed me the most about Alexander is that even though he has had difficult circumstances and not the life any child would wish for, he has such a positive attitude and is simply a joy to be around. Although Alex has had a rough life so far, he is hopeful for the future and I know he will accomplish so much!
By Ellie, youth adopted from foster care in 2018
My name is Elizabeth. For the first 16 years of my life, I bounced around different homes within my biological family and had many different caregivers. I was in residential placements, I was made promises by different people–only for them to not follow through with those promises. I was abused, I was bullied in school and at home, and I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere I went. At 16, I entered the foster care system where I gained a professional support system, many of whom seemed to really care about me, but I still endured many treating me as if I was not worth being loved. Even people who were supposed to make me feel safe bullied me and didn’t accept me for who I am. When I came into custody, I continued to struggle with the trauma that I have faced. I struggled in school. I struggled with relationships because I truly believed I didn’t deserve to be happy. Continue reading
By Tracy Dee Whitt
During my husband’s and my premarital counseling nineteen years ago, the pastor told me I was a rose waiting to bloom.
I was a little oﬀended, I guess I had a ways to go in my development as a person. Sometimes twenty-year-olds think they’ve arrived, or at least think they’re farther along than a little bud.
I’ve thought about those words countless times over the years. I used to wonder what he meant, I wondered if I’d “bloomed” yet. Then one day I looked back and realized I had unfurled. Oh, I’m far from being that beautiful spread of petals, I have many flaws and a lot to learn. I won’t ever truly arrive at the pinnacle. However, I now see what the pastor meant, or at least what it means for me.
By Brooks Kaskela
We all have needs that are both similar and unique to others.
Our children do, too.
But we can also have needs that started out as simple and similar to other humans on the planet until life gets in the way and they become unique in many aspects. For example, everyone needs water to survive and thrive. For children from hard places, that hydration need can throw them off balance easier and faster than it may someone else. This is especially true for nutrition needs. Protein snacks every couple of hours are important for anyone. If you have a history of going without proper nutrition, protein snacks can be absolutely crucial. Hunger has a special ability to make an impact on the brain and behaviors because of its link to survival. When I get hungry, I may just get cranky as a result while I wait for my chance to eat. But for someone with a history of malnutrition, it will feel like a life or death situation to even feel the first pangs of hunger, and we will see the effects of this struggle through behaviors and interactions with them. Continue reading
By Brooks Kaskela, TBRI® Program Director for The Adoption Exchange
What comes to mind for you when I say the word “adolescence”? Does it cause an involuntary shudder? Does it conjure a memory of a silly escapade? Does it take you back a decade, or more, to a particular story or feeling? We’ve all been there, come through that stage of life, and are left with our own impressions, memories, and lessons. Adolescence is a formative stage of development for all of us in many ways. Early childhood is an ego-centric phase, centered around understanding who you are and the accumulation of facts about the world around you. The next phase, adolescence, is related to understanding who you are in relation to the world and who you are as an individual with unique characteristics within that world.
Dr. Daniel Siegel describes adolescence as having “ESSENCE”. In this acronym, he is referring to the Emotional Spark, Social Engagement, Novelty seeking, and Creative Exploration of this stage. He goes so far as to say that if one can manage to keep some aspects of these attributes alive beyond adolescence, then one is truly living one’s best life. We need this difficult stage to evolve, not just as a person, but as a society as a whole. Without the innovation and energy of adolescence, circumstances and solutions can become stagnant. Continue reading