Why our social worker should not have approved us for adoption

adoption qualifications

If you had asked me a decade ago what would make an ideal adoptive family, I would’ve responded something about a family who had open hearts and was willing. I thought love was all you needed.

Five years ago, I would’ve told you that you also needed to understand trauma, want Dr. Purvis to live in your home, and have a strong support system.

As I reflect on our family and the other families I chat with, I’ve been thinking more about what agencies should be doing to mitigate post-placement crisis.

One thing that I keep landing on is that they should be waaay more picky about who is allowed to bring a child from a hard place into their home.

Honestly, they shouldn’t have picked us.

We don’t do simple.

We don’t have a couple tomatoes and peppers in pots. We have a 500 square foot garden which doesn’t include the grapes, berries, or fruit trees.

I don’t buy boxed homeschool curriculum. I write it and start communities.

We don’t read books and watch videos. We go half way across the country to become trainers.

None of those things are inherently bad, but they mean that we rarely have margin. We’re always filling it with new escapades and experiments. Think constant motion.

Because we’re adventurers, we suck at routine. We rarely do the same thing week to week or day to day. There’s usually some idea to chase that might get in the way of remembering to do laundry or eat…let alone cook a meal.

Lastly, I’m an intense person. I’m high energy, high strung, and my voice tends more toward army sergeant than caring preschool teacher.

Looking back, we were probably a train wreck waiting to happen.

Kids from hard places need

  1. Calm people. Our kids’ brains are so quick to fight/flight/freeze, that they need external regulators. Because they are in their amygdala, they need non-verbal calmness and aura which can reach that primal brain. Words and logic are useless most of the time. Some people just radiate calmness and peace more than others. Whatever I radiate, freaks my kids out.
  2. Uncluttered spaces. Besides people, our kids also regulate off of their environment. Simple and organized spaces invite calm while clutter invites chaos. We could all probably use less visual clutter, but it’s imperative for kids from hard places. Also, less clutter means less stuff to manage which is also a plus. Of course, just because they need it, doesn’t mean that they will help you get there or help you keep it that way.
  3. Predictability. It takes a lot of mental bandwidth to wonder what’s next all the time…bandwidth kids from hard places don’t have. I can’t even run the same route twice while training for a triathlon let alone do the same things every. single. day.
  4. Margin. Just like they need uncluttered environments with lots of white space, our kids need margin in their schedules. They need time to decompress. If thinking about watching a teen sit and stare at a wall for hours makes you twitchy, you probably shouldn’t adopt older kids. Oh wait, that might just be me.

If you’re parenting kids from hard places, what would you add that you may not have thought of before you were in the trenches.

Posted in Adoption and Orphan Care and tagged , , .


  1. I entirely agree… I thought I was so much calmer this time around (I have a 22 year old and a 4 year old), and also that working with my son who has autism had gotten me used to a routine. But, it didn’t, I’m not. I have so many buttons that are so easy to push! It’s exhausting and I DO wish Dr. Purvis would move into my house, but then I would have to clean it a lot better than I do… sigh

  2. I agree ! The problem is the people who are calm, uncluttered and predictable are not the people who are adopting older children. It is probably because of all the above attributes that you (and I ) sought out adoption in the first place ! Not sure what the solution to that is : /

  3. I’m laughing because I THOUGHT I was calm (with children) before parenting my kids from hard places. Calm went out the window five minutes into our drive home with them.

    I get what you mean though. These are items we should have at least been trained in before adopting- even though I doubt any of us are naturals at all of it. And while questions should have been asked, your willingness to grow and learn to love your family well is encouraging. I’m often learning from you and thankful you share your wisdom.

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