RESTORE: Foster Care | When Your Adoption Story is Not “The Blind Side”
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When Your Adoption Story is Not “The Blind Side”

When Your Adoption Story is Not “The Blind Side”

 

There is an unfortunate misconception that all adoption stories end up like The Blind Side,

where a loving family takes in a wayward child, provides them a good home with copious opportunities, and everybody feels safe and happy and becomes a professional football player! It’s a really sweet movie, right? However, not everyone knows, especially people who aren’t already embedded in the “adoption world,” that the story looks more like an emotional roller coaster.

At the beginning of adoption is a child in need. A child subconsciously learns how to relate to the world substantially within the first year of his life. They learn either to trust or not trust caregivers based on how their needs are met, even though no one is telling them that this is how the world works. If a child learns from his caregiver that when he cries, no one comes, eventually he’s going to learn that he has to adapt his strategy to get attention.

Now, picture a loving parent who grew up in a warm, yet structured home and has replicated this parenting style with her two biological children; it has worked beautifully. Then, the family decides they would like to continue growing their family through adoption and they adopt an eight-year old little boy through the foster care system. If this little boy is the same boy who learned before he could even speak words that adults won’t meet his needs, why would he trust them? However, he still has needs and he still wants them to be met, but over time and more adverse experiences, he has learned inappropriate and challenging ways to do so.

Put the structured parent together with the hurt boy with maladaptive coping strategies and the result is fireworks…

but not the good kind. This mother is parenting the same way she always has, and the same way that was modeled for her, only it’s not working anymore! This little boy doesn’t trust adults, and therefore the way he relates to his new mom is no different. This complex situation often results in strained relationships, tired parents, and sometimes even turmoil.

When a child is in foster care, there are many people involved to guide and ideally support the family, including case managers, caseworkers, attorneys, guardians ad litem, and more. However, when adoption is finalized, most of those people are no longer in the picture. In the beginning, it can often feel like a relief as the pace of life hopefully slows and there aren’t handfuls of paperwork to fill out every month. However, even after the dust settles, there are still challenges to overcome, which is where Stand Up Eight comes in.

Stand Up Eight seeks to bring connection and healing to families with children in their home whom have experienced trauma. Parenting a child who has come from a hard place is not always intuitive. Before a child can understand concepts like discipline and consequences, they first have to feel safe and loved. Stand Up Eight works with families for approximately six months at a time, and goes into the home every other week to work with the entire family unit. Each family is assigned a Family Coach, and that coach will help the parents understand their children’s needs and behaviors, build a bond between parents, children, and siblings, and teach strategies to help children express their needs in a healthy way. Services are catered specifically to each family’s unique needs.

Stand Up Eight exists to teach confused parents helpful strategies, be an extra set of eyes and ears in a home to identify potential harmful patterns that have formed, and offer a reset or refresher for parents who may have learned the right things to do, but then life happened.To learn more about Stand Up Eight and the people who started it, visit the website or email Jen Reichert at jen@standupeightatx.org!

*This article was authored by Becky Wickes, Stand Up Eight Family Coach.