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Reaching out for help: When your child needs more than you can give . . .


It is no secret that adopted and foster children have unique challenges and needs that are not always characteristic of kids raised in traditional families. The large majority of foster children in our country receive mental health services, and current data also reveals that adopted children receive both outpatient and inpatient/residential treatment at a higher percentage than children from traditional family setting. This should not surprise us, considering the traumatic and chaotic backgrounds that many foster and adopted children come from. The majority of adoptive parents do their homework to prepare for the unique behavioral and emotional challenges their child may bring with them. However, it can still be a painful struggle for parents who feel like they’ve exhausted their own parenting resources. What to do then? I hope the following suggestions will be of help to you:

  • First of all, please understand clearly that “love will be enough” is a myth. Of course, our children need love, first and foremost. But we all know that raising any child demands more.


  • Don’t be afraid to reach out. Adoptive parents are sometimes hesitant to ask for help for their child and themselves. Their mindset is “We made the decision to adopt, and so we should be able to figure this out for ourselves.” Another myth! On the contrary, you should expect your child to face unique challenges not common to other children. If you are struggling with reaching out for help, you will need to push through this false mindset. Get involved in an adoptive parent support group. Reach out to a veteran adoptive parent if you know of one in your community, church or neighborhood.


  • If you think your child needs a therapist, do your homework. Talk to other adoptive and foster parents whose’ child(ren) has been in counseling. Ask potential therapists if they have experience in working with adopted kids. For those of you from a Christian/faith background, I suggest you go to the website of the American Association of Christian Counselors (www.acc.net). The AACC is a veteran, reputable organization that has a nation-wide network of therapists. You can also inquire if a particular therapist is trained in a treatment approach called Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI, for short). I personally am a TBRI-trained Practitioner and I think it’s one of the most practical and common-sense treatment models I’ve come across in my over thirty years of working with adopted and foster children.


  • As a parent, give yourself grace! There is no shame in admitting that you are out of options and need help. Doing so is actually a sign of strength, and shows that you are aware of your limitations as well as your parenting strengths. Feel free to reach out to me at www.adoptivefamilyresources.org if you’d like to talk. Above all, don’t give up!-- your child’s story is not over yet.

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