Foster and/or adopted children often suffer from emotional trauma. Even babies taken at birth may grieve the loss of their biological mother for the rest of their lives. Those who have passed through several foster homes suffer additional scarring. Those who parent these children may deal with behaviors that other parents can’t even imagine.
According to Jennie Owens, M.Ed., “In an effort to protect themselves, [these children]especially push away the primary caregiver, and he or she becomes the target for their anger. They try to prove they don’t deserve love or anything good, because they believe this about themselves.” Often therapists and counselors are not trained to help children who have experienced this kind of trauma; traditional behavioral management and parenting techniques frequently do not work for them. Parents can end up feeling abandoned and alone. No one seems to understand.
Owens and her husband, Lynn, are adoptive parents of four children, three of whom had been in foster care for over six years. They run Forever Homes, which supports foster and adoptive families. In Dancing with a Porcupine: Parenting wounded children without losing yourself, she shares her story of being an adoptive parent with raw honesty. Her goal in sharing this painful story is not to garner pity, but rather to help foster and adoptive mothers to care for themselves while they are busy caring for everyone else. She also wants to give others who know those who are parenting wounded children some understanding of what their friends / relatives might be experiencing.
Owens wants to offer those who are parenting wounded children support and hope. Her children agreed to allow her to share their story in the hopes of helping other children and families struggling with similar situations. In many ways, this is a difficult story to read. She shares not only the challenging behaviors that she had to deal with, but also the sense of fear, hopelessness, and desperation she felt. She even felt abandoned by God. Ultimately, her doctor told her she was going to die if she didn’t start caring for herself. Self-care in a time of crisis can seem impossible, but Owens emphasizes to struggling parents that they need to care for themselves if they are going to be able to care for everyone else.
Dancing with a Porcupine is valuable reading for any foster/adoptive parent who is struggling in their vocation. It can be so helpful simply to know that you are not alone. It is also valuable for those who care for and about foster/adoptive families so that they can have a greater appreciation for the challenges these families may be facing.
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Copyright 2019 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
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