Colorado Life Coach: Me Too!

I just returned home from the Refresh Conference for Foster and Adoptive Parents in Redmond, WA.

It was amazing!

Unlike anything I’ve ever seen, this conference tackled the topics needed by parents of kids from hard places.

I don’t have connections to the adoption community in WA, but was contacted by the conference organizer to see if I’d be interested in speaking. The panel I joined was called, “Navigating the rough waters of a failed placement.” It’s not exactly my story, and I wasn’t really sure if I would fit on the panel. After discussing my concerns with the panel leader, we determined I absolutely needed to be there.

Please understand, disruption is not a topic the adoption community, counselors, or the church likes to discuss. It’s ugly. It’s not the happy face of adoption they want to promote. We’d all like to believe that every adoption ends with a healed child, and a happy family. This is just not reality. The reasons are many:

~Children’s histories are often unknown, or withheld from prospective parents, leaving parents unprepared for the challenges (violence, sexual acting out, mental illness, extreme behavior issues)

~Resources and support are lacking

~Finances prevent receiving the level of help needed for children from trauma backgrounds

~Trauma brought into the home (at no fault of the child) ends up traumatizing other family members preventing healing.

~Trauma brings out unresolved and sometimes unknown issues in parents, which are extremely difficult to heal with ongoing trauma in the home.

~Parenting traumatized children requires skills that are totally counter-intuitive to parenting children without trauma. This is not known to the general public. Unless a foster or adoptive parent happens across this information, they could potentially spend years with no improvement connecting to their child. This is not their fault. They don’t know what they don’t know. Many therapists and medical professionals do not understand this issue, so unless parents run across professionals who understand and can lead them in the right direction, parents are left to figure this out on their own.

I arrived at the conference not knowing what to expect. All the attendees were met with amazing compassion, understanding, support, information, and connection with other parents. One theme of the conference was “Me Too!”

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Buckets with buttons saying, “Foster parent,” “Adoptive parent,” “International Adoption,” “Birth Parent,” and others helped connect people to others who could relate.

There were places for pampering…

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and resources: Oh look! That’s MY book in the bookstore 🙂

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My panel was on day 2 of the conference. As I suspected, at the end of the session, many people approached the panelists with the same message: “Me too!” They were so thankful we spoke on this difficult topic. They felt like the failures of the foster/adoption community. The stigma of so many issues was diminished by the general sessions of the conference, but the grief from disruption and relinquishment is still taboo. This was the first time these parents felt they could finally relate.

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I met some amazing parents.

None of them hoped to be in their situation, but it was great to find others and say “Me too!”

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.

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