Love is Enough

Because of our story and our training in trust-based parenting, I am privy to a part of our culture that is going largely unrecognized save for a few sensational news stories like this recent one. People, the stress of healing hurt kids is tearing families apart all over our country every day. Most of these families are silent sufferers until it’s too late and they’ve disrupted their adoption or divorced or both leaving a wake of more trauma. Before you get your panties in a bunch or feel attacked, let me say:

1. I know there are many hurting families outside of the foster / adoptive world. I certainly don’t think we have a corner in that market. I do think we need to wake up to complex relational trauma but that’s a different post…

2. I am in no way attacking families who have disrupted. We probably would have too, save the Grace of God which gave us a phenomenal support system and the tools we need. However, I do think disruptions and other fall outs from foster/adopt situations can be prevented in the future. One way is for more education.

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat |
Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat |

Dear parents perspective foster and adoptive parents,

The reasons that put you in this category are as variant as your numerous personalities. Perhaps you just want a larger family but are either infertile or do not relish the idea of pregnancy and/or childbirth. Perhaps you want to be able to choose gender, age and/or special needs. Perhaps you want to make a difference in the life of a child. Perhaps you persuaded by an emotional plea by a commercial or even your church. Perhaps you feel God has called you to this life.

Some will tell you that love isn’t enough.  I’m here to tell you that it is, but your definition may be incorrect.

You will be bringing a person into your life who has complex relational trauma. It does not matter if you’re walking the path of foster or kinship care, international, domestic, private, older, from birth, or special needs adoption. Your child will be at a deficit of positive/social emotional interactions from the moment he enters your life (even if it’s moments after birth).

Take a moment to think about a person in your life who just rubs you the wrong way or who you can never seem to get along with. Have you ever intentionally disconnected from a person like that because you didn’t feel like dealing with her and were tired of the antics whether it be immaturity, lying, manipulation, etc.?

If you are not willing to learn how to unconditionally have a person like that in your life…living in YOUR home, do NOT commit to foster care or adoption.

The love that is “enough” to heal a broken, hurt, scared soul stays even when the child lies, steals, cheats, reject, manipulates, abuses, hoards, and runs away.

Love means understanding enough brain science and complex trauma issues to understand why your child acts in those ways.

Love means decoding the misbehavior and meeting the child’s needs…even if they throw it back in your face. 

Love means allowing your family’s entire life to revolve around this child until he feels safe. It doesn’t really matter if you know he’s safe. He has to feel it.

Love means humbling yourself enough to recognize what baggage you are carrying around that makes you want to resent the child in your house instead of being willing to make changes so she can feel safe enough to stop lying, stealing, cheating, rejecting, manipulating, abusing, hoarding, and running away AND dealing with your junk so you can stay with your child.

Love means finding the correct, trauma-informed  professionals to help your child even if it means going outside of insurance, doing lots of research and/or travelling really far.

Love means being willing to endure criticism and judgement from outsiders and still go with your gut no matter how counter-intuitive and counter-cultural it seems. 

Love means being able to choose your child over your family and friends and not holding it against your child.

Love means being able to embrace birth parents who may have hurt your child because they really just need more positive social/emotional interactions. It means helping your child love (the kind outlined here) them, too. No matter what.

Now, I know there are some families with stories that have not required such love. You may be hoping for such a story, but the truth is, you don’t know. This kind of love could be required by ANY family with ANY child. There are not less risks if you go to certain countries, use a certain agency, choose a certain age or gender, or even check off the right check boxes.

Agencies are not telling you the whole truth because they also are businesses. They do not want to scare you away. If hearing this stuff from your agency scares you away, they really don’t want your business anyway.

If you are not ready to learn to love in the ways listed above, do the truly loving thing and DO NOT bring a child into your home through foster and adoption. Disruption is not just another trauma in the child’s life but affects YOU too. Disruption will not magically make the problem go away.

There is no judgement if you decide this journey isn’t for you. I actually applaud you for your discernment. Besides, there are SO many ways to help kids in other ways or to help the families that are called to his journey (that’s another post, too) or maybe you’ll be the right kind of ready in the future.


A parent who had to learn the definition of love the hard way

I want to close with a couple other thoughts. First, you can never really know what you’re getting yourself into. However, you can go in with eyes that are pretty wide open and make an educated decision before you make a commitment. Second, I am not advocating for families to be in danger in the name of loveI do think families over react to certain behaviors in order to justify their actions to distance themselves from their child or make the behavior about the child. I also think there are ways to get help for your family in safety situations that continue to build felt safety rather than create more distrust.

1 Comment

  1. KTOctober 4, 2014

    Thank you for your authenticity!! We are trying to read and prepare as much as possible, in the most realistic way possible, to bring two teenagers into our home through adoption. Your website has been so helpful because you are so real!

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