Attach Families has become my life. Opening this nonprofit organization was not a choice but truly a calling. A calling to help Families as a whole where the organizations that are receiving tax dollars to do what we are trying to accomplish are and have been failing for decades. This is our WHY! This is what your donations help us try to fix! These Families and children should be given our respect and support ALWAYS. 💚💚💚
An Open Letter from one of my Families- to those individuals and organizations that may deal with behaviorally challenged children
I want to talk for a minute to teachers, foster agencies, Juvenile and Family Courts, police departments, crisis teams, child psychologists, psychiatrists, behavioral specialists, the Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services, Child and Family Services, or any other department name the government goes by when dealing with children in the system. I don’t want to talk about the kids. I think most people and agencies can imagine that most of these children have been traumatized to some extent. I think people and agencies can agree that these are vulnerable children who need help. I want to talk about the parents trying to raise these kids and how you can help them.
What you think you understand, but actually don’t, is that these children are in crisis. The families and parents that you place these children with, are being put into a crisis situation. These parents are living lives very similar to emergency response teams. They are sometimes dealing with emergency situations every day, for weeks, months, and years. This may seem like I am overreacting or exaggerating. Yet, some of these children threaten and try to kill their parents or siblings. They threaten to or try to kill themselves. They threaten or try to kill or hurt animals. They lie, manipulate, and steal. They physically and/or sexually assault younger siblings. They destroy property and entire homes. They set fires. They urinate and defecate in their rooms until the rooms are destroyed. They scream for hours and can’t be comforted. They have eating disorders and will eat nonstop. They have health conditions and require numerous appointments and medications. They have learning disabilities and need extra help and support. Some of these kids do all of these things. Some are less extreme. Regardless, these parents are living this life and trying to meet the needs of these children every single day. Can you imagine what that life is like?
Society expects these parents to be able to cope with these issues because they’ve volunteered and signed up for it. But let me tell you what I have learned about emotional resilience during crisis and trauma.
Having purpose for what you are doing can help you get through extremely difficult moments. Being able to see a larger picture and the goal for the future helps you to continue and manage even through impossible moments. These families adopted children because they desperately wanted a family and the lifestyle that it entailed; to raise children, give them a happy life, and see their grandchildren. Or they adopted them because they felt a calling to help children in need, the most vulnerable children that need help and guidance. These families came to this position with the biggest purpose and most meaningful act there is, to love and heal hurt children. Most of these families thought love was enough to overcome trauma, but unfortunately, it isn’t. When they start to see this, they lose sight of their goal. When the child they are now unsure of how to help, starts to traumatize the very family that brought them in, they lose sight of their purpose and can’t see a positive future. When they can’t see their purpose or a positive future, they can’t handle the daily trauma and crisis moments that occur in their lives.
Being well trained, educated, and prepared tremendously helps people deal with stressful moments. If you are unprepared and uneducated on a subject and have to take an important test, your emotional resilience is going to suffer and you will likely be stressed out and panicky. If you are educated, prepared, and understand exactly how to handle a situation, you can manage those crisis moments that occur effectively and calmly. Most of these families have not been educated, trained, and are definitely not prepared to handle some of the behaviors that these children exhibit. In addition to that, when they seek out help, they are often met with providers that judge and blame their parenting skills, rather than offer much needed advice and help. Unfortunately, this is often due to the fact that many professionals are uneducated and unprepared to deal with some of the behaviors that these children exhibit. When parents realize this, they often become overwhelmed and feel a sense of despair. When their children have meltdowns and go into crisis, or are exhibiting dangerous behaviors, the parents doubt their own capability to handle those behaviors and they cannot respond effectively.
We all know that self care is important and can help us manage our emotions and responses much better. Exercise and a good diet can help us think clearly and make accurate assessments. Unfortunately, the chronic stress that these parents and families are under can alter chemicals in the brain that lead to impaired mental functioning and emotional distress. When you are parenting children that require 24 hour supervision due to extreme behaviors, it is unlikely that these parents are capable of finding the time necessary in creating a healthy lifestyle. This not only contributes to increased stress and ineffective decision making for parents, but also increases the stress and poor decision making of the child, who is also not living a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, the biggest influencer in emotional resiliency is social support. Having people willing to talk to you and listen helps you keep a positive perspective and provides encouragement and hope. Unfortunately, parents who have children with behavior issues are usually blamed for their children’s problems. If the behaviors only happen at home, the parents are often not believed and people think they are just exaggerating or don’t know how to handle their children. If children have extreme behaviors in public, most people tend to look at the parents and instead of offering support, they offer judgment. Teachers, police officers, psychologists not educated on these behaviors, social workers, and other professionals often create an environment of blame, hostility and fear instead of support and services. Family and friends don’t understand the situation and offer little support or hope. These families end up isolated and the individuals lose their ability to stay healthy and emotionally resilient. They burn out. They are diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress disorder. They become depressed and lose hope, not only for their child, but for their entire family.
We NEED support from our community. We need to be educated and trained on how to be therapeutic parents to these children. We need the professionals trained so that they can respond appropriately to the children AND to their families. We need programs that provide respite so that these families can get some much needed self care. There is a purpose, and there is a meaning, and there is hope for the future. We can’t get there though without your help.
A loving, concerned, and exhausted parent who adopted a child who experienced early childhood trauma