The Science of the Heart

By Jon Smith, professional counselor and adoptive dad

As a professional counselor in private practice, a behavior specialist for a large school district, and a father of an adopted daughter and two biological children, I have spent the past twenty-some years searching for solutions to all kinds of behavioral, social, and mental health challenges my own and other people’s children have exhibited. Every year scientists and researchers discover more about the brain, and every year I learn of some new intervention, strategy, medication, nutritional supplement, curriculum, theoretical approach, and so on. With the sheer volume of knowledge out there, I find myself easily entrapped by a perpetual quest for the optimum answer to every child’s problems. If I just say the perfect thing, if I can identify the precise diagnosis, if I can figure out just the right behavior program, if I can find the best specialist or the right medication, then certainly this child will steer back on course and develop into a healthy, productive adult. While many children, because of significant trauma histories and mental health challenges, do in fact need evidence-based interventions and highly trained professional support, I was recently reminded by a researcher named Stephen Porges that all of us possess in the foundations of our very own neurology the ability to provide the one thing that every child must have in order to thrive, despite any other supports or services they may need; that is, a safe, trusting neurological connection with others—human-to-human, soul-to-soul.

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Preventing and Healing From Child Abuse

By Lindsay Kaeding , UT Director of Development

Karen was once a vibrant, active five-year-old. She loved to play outside and run around with her friends. Because of physical abuse in her birth home by her biological mother, Karen ended up in the hospital unable to walk, talk, or communicate. She spent many years alone in a hospital room, unsure of what her future held for her. After being registered with The Adoption Exchange, a prospective adoptive family was matched with Karen. On their first visit to see her, the family asked if Karen would want to go home with them. After not speaking for several years and many doctors saying that she would never speak, Karen whispered the word “HOME.”

Since being in her adoptive home, Karen has learned to communicate in many different ways, including sign language. She attends school, plays with her brothers and sisters, and continues to improve day after day. Karen just recently celebrated her 16th birthday and is enjoying a life that at one point seemed  impossibly out of reach.

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“Strong” Enough

By Jill Crewes, Family Support Services Senior Director

As an adoptive mom, I stand bolstered by the mantra that I am “strong enough”:

Strong enough to meet my children’s daily needs;
Strong enough to know what questions to ask and to whom;
Strong enough to teach my children the life skills and tools they need to navigate this world;
Strong enough to nurture strong connections and healthy, secure attachment for my children;
Strong enough to help my son understand, process, and heal from the trauma he has endured;
Strong enough to create an environment that will meet my children’s challenging sensory needs;
Strong enough to advocate tirelessly on my children’s behalves for the educational, social, behavioral, and emotional support they need at school;
Strong enough to help my son heal from the deep sense of abandonment he feels; Strong enough to constantly secure the therapies, services, supports, and resources my family needs;
Strong enough to empower my son to navigate a world filled with challenges he will face because his skin is brown;
Strong enough to weather the many passing storms that bring big behaviors, intense emotions, and judgement from others;
Strong enough to allow myself to be human and make mistakes, big and small, and hopefully learn from them;
Strong enough to mirror back to my children how incredibly precious and amazing they are, even when I am struggling;
Strong enough to take care of myself;
Strong enough….

While this mantra of strength has carried me through many challenges, sometimes I am not actually strong enough on my own.  This is when I must be strong enough to ask for help.  Continue reading

Guest Blog Post: You truly are making a difference in families’ lives

By Amy H., Adoptive Mom

Four months ago, after starting the TBRI classes and being “awakened” to what my children really needed from me, I was crying to my therapist that I didn’t know why God would send children to me who I frankly didn’t have the skill set to give them what they needed.  I wrote in my journal, “I know my kids need a more nurturing mom, and I seriously question if I am that kind of mom.”  I was crushed to think that I couldn’t give my kids what they needed.  Seriously, what could be more heartbreaking? Because I really love them!  I remember one therapy appointment when I said to her, “Rex is just so mad at me all the time!”  She said to me, “Well, you’re really mad at him all the time.”  Whoa.  I had never thought of that before.  I really was at rock bottom as a mom.  I determined to make things better.  Over time, through the techniques I am learning in the classes, I have completely turned things around for our family.  It hasn’t been easy.  Sometimes I wondered if anything I was doing was making any difference.  Rex seemed more angry at me for several weeks, but I have since seen Rex blossom into a completely different kid.  He looks at me with that sparkle in his eyes again.  He is not afraid of me anymore. I want to be with him and close to him.  I want to listen to him and meet his needs. I want to help heal his wounded heart.

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Four Boys Stick Together to Find Their Family

By Chelsey Winegar, WWK Recruiter

Isaiah, Calvin, Giovanni, and Nevon entered the foster care system in 2015. These siblings were incredibly close and had survived a lot of trauma together. Because of their strong bond, it was clear that they needed to remain together. Shortly after they came into foster care, it became apparent they were not going to be able to return home.  In July 2016, this sibling group was registered with The Adoption Exchange and connected with a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) recruiter who began searching for the right adoptive family for these boys.

In September, Ken and Inez, whose biggest desire was to adopt a large sibling group, inquired on Isaiah, Calvin, Giovanni, and Nevon. The WWK recruiter could tell from the beginning that this family would be an incredible fit for these kids. After months of paperwork, the family was approved to be an adoptive family. They got to visit the kids in March 2017. The visit went really well, but several logistical barriers arose. However, the caseworker and recruiter continued to help the family to overcome each hurdle, and worked with the kids and the family on building a strong relationship. Continue reading

The Adoption Exchange is Changing the Future for Children in Foster Care

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At The Adoption Exchange, we believe that finding a loving, supportive, and permanent adoptive family for a vulnerable at-risk child is one of the most important and urgent needs in our community right now. Every child should have a family.

At The Adoption Exchange, we know that through intensive, child-focused recruitment and evidence-informed family support services, we can break the cycle of abuse and neglect and change a child from a statistic to a success story.

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JB’s Story

There are a few mantras The Adoption Exchange recites often. Two of those sayings – “unadoptable is unacceptable” and “no child is too old for a family” – are exemplified through JB’s story.

JB entered the Utah foster care system at age nine and was initially placed together with his older brother. Unfortunately, the first placement decided not to adopt the boys and they were eventually separated. This meant another move and another loss for JB. He continued enduring hardship as he experienced many more moves and a total of eight different placements. JB lived in homes with multiple families who stated they would adopt him, but never followed through.    Continue reading