By Laura Pitts, Foster Care Adoption Program Manager
Today, I am thankful for you. For you ordinary and yet superhuman beings who are walking this path of adoption and trauma alongside your child or children.
I’m not going to lie. Trauma is a serious challenge for our young people, their families, and the people who care about them. Adoption into a safe, loving, permanent family is wonderful, but it doesn’t negate the long road to healing for our exceptionally brave kids, and for every member of their family.
Trauma is a sneaky enemy. It distracts parents by trying to look like manipulation, disrespect, defiance, rejection, rage, aggression, and deceit. Some days it makes you mad and annoyed and resentful towards your kid, right when they need your love the most. When you try to understand it from afar, it seems manageable, maybe even “fixable” if you just follow the right academic approach. But it’s deceptive. It tries to hide beneath the surface, and sometimes things get better for a while. It goes into hibernation, sometimes for years, while your incredibly resilient son or daughter navigates current day to day stresses. Sometimes it rears its ugly head in your child – your beloved child – disrupting their spirits, their sense of self-worth, their relationships, and their mental health. Sometimes it sends its ugliness into you too.
So why adopt a foster child, when the trauma runs so deep, when it has the potential to impact you in less than wonderful ways?
Because you can push back against the trauma. You can turn the tide. Ask 17-year-old Maya, whose wish is to never be alone again. Who always wants someone in her corner. She may not be able to show it. She may not return your love in the way you want. She may run away and make poor choices. She may drive you absolutely crazy with worry. But at least she’d have you to worry about her. In her heart of hearts, maybe she’d start to believe that she is worthy of love.
Because flowers can bloom when planted. Ask 14-year-old Ray, who has often felt invisible, like his life was untethered and without meaning. He recalls the day he moved to his adoptive home and realized that he would have his own place at the dinner table. He felt overwhelmingly rooted to something for the first time. On his toughest days, he still thinks about hurting himself, maybe permanently. And yet he’s blooming into a person of character and strength. His pieces of self that are wonderful and creative and kind are there to be found right alongside his trauma.
Because you may surprise yourself. Your ability to love unconditionally and with 100% selflessness is within you. Maybe not every day. But some days. You may never know how deeply you can care and how far you can climb until this journey asks it of you. You may never know the depth of character you possess, or the ferocity with which you can fight for your child. You can find strength day after day. You are capable of great compassion.
Because children are the future. We have to do better. We have to be telling the truth when we say that foster care and adoption are safe, healing processes that lead to healthier youth and adults. We are responsible for ensuring that trauma does not go unaddressed. That children do not grow up “unloved.” That there is reason to hope. They deserve to find their voice, their power, and their preciousness.
Today, I am thankful for you. The ones who step into the unknown and keep on stepping every day. Thank you.