Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Wounded Children Healing Homes

Bird's nest in Snow
I recently wrote a post about setting aside time to spend with healthier (or birth) kids. In it I mentioned my new favorite book on parenting special needs children who have experienced early trauma, Wounded Children Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Homes,  by Schooler, Smalley, and Callahan.
The first two paragraphs of the Forward drew me right in and there was no turning back.
This book is a gift to adoptive families and children today. Since I entered the field of adoption in 1963, there has been a 180-degree shift: first, in the needs of the children who require permanency; and second, in how services are thought about and delivered. The children being placed for adoption today arrive with multiple traumas, developmental delays, and challenging behaviors that may stretch their new family, sometimes to the breaking point.
     Addressing the needs of the traumatized child requires hard work for both professionals and for the familes who parent these children. Everyone must dedicate time in their already busy lives to address these needs. The therapists and social workers supporting these families must use many creative tools during the first few years to help them through the rough times, after placement, and after the adoptions are finalized. The parents must adapt rapidly, do all the initial adapting, and commit to a child they don't yet love, and may not even like, for awhile. This is what has become "professional" parenting.                             p.7 (Italics mine)
There is always room for another book educating people on the impact that traumatized children can have on a healthy family.

Healthy Kids
As I alluded to in The 100 LEGO Tower, there is a powerful chapter discussing the effects on birth kids of bringing special needs children into a family. I know several adoptive families with birth children who have much to say. Our family does not include any birth children. We do, however, have a "healthier" one. I have alway tried to attend to his needs regarding the adoption of his brother and sister, and thought I was doing a pretty decent job. This book has opened my eyes to the ways we sometimes discount our children's viewpoint without realizing it. I must say, my Lovebug has blossomed as I attempt to address his needs more fully in light of the information shared by Elizabeth A. Tracy MSW, LICSW, (and birthchild who was raised in a family doing foster care!)  the author of this essential chapter.

Preparing and Equipping Families
Through our years of parenting special needs adopted children I have found that I have a passion for families embarking on the journey. I am deeply concerned for the hopeful adoptive parents and children, as well as for the foster or adopted child(ren) who may be coming into unprepared families.
I know from our own situation, and from what I have observed in the lives of others, that there is a sprinkling a liberal dose of , "We can do it better.", that is compounded by a smidgeon of, "You can't really know 'til you know.", in all of us. Still, I have often wished for a resource that had some hope of bridging that gap. I believe that some of  the anecdotes related in Traumatized Children Healing Homes make it specifically targeted to help as much as any pre-foster / adoption book can. Consider.

During our six months of work in Kyrgzystan in 2008, I met several American families who were there adopting children - infants, a few toddlers, and older children. 
     One afternoon, I sat across from a family and a six year old boy they were adopting. When I looked at him, I took note of his eyes. He is a beautiful boy, but his eyes spoke of immense pain, trauma and loss. He was found underground in the sewer system just a year earlier. He had lived with older children on the streets and then in an orphanage. He had no family history. In our brief time together, the adoptive parents assured me that all this young boy would need was love. I tactfully tried to share the potential impact of his trauma. But I think in the excitement of adding this child to the family, they didn't want to hear me. They basically said, "He will do fine with the love we will give him, thank you very much." I said no more, but grieved at what may be ahead for these unprepared and unrealistic parents. p.15
Tip of the Iceberg

There is so much more in this great resource. I had one more thing I wanted to talk about, but I think I will save it for another day. This is a rich resource for the library of any family raising children affected by early trauma. I will be purchasing several in the near future. I never know when I will meet someone on the cusp, who has no idea of the ride they are in for. Families need as much information as they can absorb in preparation for the journey of a lifetime.

Traumatized kids deserve families that are prepared to meet the challenges!

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