My Story : An Adoption Journey: Helping My Kids Overcome Childhood Trauma
From Russia with Love… Or Maybe Not?
Thursday, May 12, 2016. It was just after noon and my life was about to change forever. Here I was, standing in a cold and lifeless courtroom at Juvenile Court with a judge about to take custody of my 10-year old son – the son I had adopted, along with his sister, 6 years earlier from an even more cold and lifeless Baby Home in Russia. I knew his behavior was out of control – but was it possible I could actually lose custody of my child because of it? The judge’s peering eyes were like daggers to my heart, challenging my beliefs and my faith. This couldn’t be what God intended for my life. No, it wasn’t. I would find a better way.
It’s not enough to say Moscow is cold in February. It is freezing. A bone chilling cold that seeps through every fiber of your being. Snow covered our knees most of the month we spent in that grand city back in 2010, finalizing the adoption of our two children.
Finally, after what seemed like endless paperwork and administration, we were united with our 2-year old daughter and 3-year old son. The 18 months they had spent in that gray, cold and worn place were over. The spiritual journey and emotional rollercoaster of the last several years had finally culminated in a union of parent and children. My wife and I were overjoyed.
We knew our kids were delayed in every way – physically, mentally, most definitely emotionally. Even their Russian language skills were poor, and our little girl could barely walk and suffered severe issues with her eyesight. But, like many parents who undertake this adoption journey, we felt our faith and belief in unconditional love would solve any issue that arose.
Childhood Trauma — What’s that?
Of course, we had never heard of childhood trauma and thought PTSD was something that affected soldiers returning from war. We certainly didn’t think innocent little kids who had done nothing to deserve their position in life could suffer from it!
The preparation classes the agency had provided were helpful in preparing for some of the more common problems that such children face – like eating food off the floor or hiding and hoarding food and toys. Or more wild behaviors as children suffered the opposite effects of neediness and rejection at the same time.
But we were unprepared for the more serious behaviors including the
seemingly unsolvable learning disabilities
and more of the significant issues that make it hard to reach a child.
In retrospect, we were not adequately prepared for or counseled in the ways of childhood trauma that are sadly more typical than we would care to believe. Although we learned that schools have support (and funding) for children on the “autism spectrum,” this ultimately results in many children NOT on the spectrum being treated as if they were.
And, as we came to discover firsthand, that just makes things worse .
My breakthrough came when the judge looked at me on that day back in May of 2016, and asked, “Is this really what you want for your son? What will you do to fight for him?”
In that moment I decided to do whatever he needed and opened myself up to a new understanding and a way forward.
It’s not been an easy journey and included his stays at:
TFC (Therapeutic Foster Home)
RTF (Residential Treatment Center)
And lots of counseling!
I researched and connected with experts in neuroscience, adoption support, professional support organizations, school district special education specialists, Life coaching, and Christian counseling. I learned that all these areas are critical for my kids’ development, but they also tend to be separate silos of information and not looked at as a total solution
I learned what trauma was from both from a brain functioning perspective as well as the methodologies for parenting a child with this diagnosis. With this knowledge, and support, all my fears, worries and self-doubt began to melt away.
The results have been striking with the improvement in all areas for our kids. What I also learned is that the way forward is out there if parents are provided the resources, support and information they need in order to make good decisions for their kids. I am dedicated to offer this information for those parents who are on a similar journey because all children have the right to live lives of purpose and significance as God intended.
The 7 pillars of success:
Many parents have pursued adoption because they very much want children and believe their Christian faith calls them to care for love those less fortunate and in need. They joyfully welcome them as part of their families and receive exponentially more blessings from the union than they ever give! However, many of us were not told or were unaware of childhood trauma and its serious effects that often comes with this new family bond. We are told only later that our kids are “overactive” or “bad” or on the “Spectrum” or have “learning disabilities” and can’t make friends…. And, that it’s our fault!
I know, I experienced this dilemma and it was very depressing because I knew God had chosen me for this role and I loved my kids and was certain that there had to be a better way!
I want you to know there is hope and there is a way forward!I invite you to join a community of fellow travelers where we can support, encourage and empathize with each other as we journey together!