Tuesday, September 10, 2013

RESOURCE REVIEW: Nurturing Adoptions

It is believed that breaking the key attachments a child has, both good and bad, is traumatic for the child.  It is also believed that early childhood trauma affects the development of the child’s core understanding of the world.  Is it safe?  Am I valuable?  If we accept these beliefs then we accept that every child who is welcomed into a home for adoption enters as a traumatized child.  This is the unpopular reality that competes with the beautiful dreams of creating a family. 

As an Adoption and Foster Care Specialist, I work to blend the hope and excitement of adoption with the skills and knowledge needed for trauma care.  Deborah Gray’s book, Nurturing Adoptions: Creating Resilience After Neglect and Trauma does this work with expertise and sensitivity.  Deborah is a former therapeutic foster parent and a clinical social worker with over 20 years of experience working with adopted children.  The book itself can be daunting – over 500 pages including sections for resources and exercises – but the information provided is directly relevant and immensely needed for both parents and professionals.

In my professional role I assess families who have chosen to foster-adopt.  I am frequently asked what it is exactly that I am assessing.   What are the key indicators to successful placements and adoptions?  

Deborah’s book touches upon each key aspect – emotional regulation, the ability to seek outside supports, and a capacity for self-reflection.  She describes how and why these characteristics affect healing, attachment, and as a result, behaviors.  The book is hopeful and confident.  There is no glossing over the behaviors or the strain these behaviors can cause in families, but Deborah highlights the reasons behind behaviors and the strategies that promote healing.  This book addresses young children up to teenagers, and encompasses international and domestic adoptions.  It provides insight into the unique needs adopted children have due to their trauma and notes that many existing modalities used in children’s therapies are not designed for children who experience “trauma-contaminated grief” or the ways that trauma, stress, abuse and fear can affect a child’s brain.

It had been argued to me that this isn’t a book for parents – and I agree that this is not a handbook to flip through in the midst of a crisis or in one’s 3 minutes of “me time” while parenting.  But, I absolutely disagree that parents -  the only people on the ground working with, struggling alongside, and desperately loving their children - shouldn’t be, or won’t want to be given the knowledge and tools to help their child.  The chapters in the book are building blocks for understanding your child’s brain and seeing their world through their eyes.  I love the idea of structuring a study group around this book.  I can see it working well this way for waiting parents, or for those who are parenting and are able to devote some time to study.  It can be useful to can share your own examples or hear from others as they recognize their child’s behaviors in the pages of this book.

Nurturing Adoptions is a study guide to build a strong foundation for the family you create.  This curriculum is essential to understanding how to calmly and effectively parent traumatized children.  Deborah Gray is a teacher who lets you know you can do it, absolutely should do it, and gives you the knowledge to do it right. 
Kate Rocke, MSW has worked with children and families in crisis since 2001.  She previously worked in South America in an orphanage for two years.  For the last year she has worked as an Adoption and Foster Care Specialist in Seattle, WA, working with families through the home studies, placements and post-placement phases.  Kate is an aunt to a niece and nephew who joined her family through international adoption. 

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