Young Mom, Old Kids

by Sara

When we were in the process of getting our foster care license, we always imagined adopting a sweet little baby. While we were getting ready, I spent hours sifting through second hand stores for adorable onesies and blankets. We got infant car seats and cribs and sleep sacks and formula. We were all set and ready to go. 

It's been 7 months since we got our license in the mail. And, to our surprise, there haven't been any babies in our house.  Instead, we have a 4 year old, a 9 year old, and a 11 year old. We never really anticipated taking in placements that old. It didn't even seem like an option. I was only 23 when we got licensed and it seemed strange to imagine taking in older kids. Our family would be biologically impossible (or at least close to it.)

But now that we have these kids. I couldn't imagine it any other way. 

Older kids are the hardest to place. There is a huge need. When we got our license in December, we started getting the daily email lists of all the kids waiting at the office. It was easy to see that the biggest demographic was teens. It was only two months later that we had the home study guy come out again to check out our new bedroom, and bump up the age on our license to 14. 

We became foster parents because we felt like we're able to provide a safe place for a child to call home, whether temporary or forever. Why only limit that to babies? 

There's only a 13 year difference between me and my oldest foster son. But you know what? He doesn't care. At all. He's happy to have a home and to finally, after almost a year apart, live with his brother again. As foster parents, we don't need to be perfect. We just need to be there. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I'm winging this everyday. I gave my first sex talk the other night and absolutely butchered it. But I'm trying my best, and it's easy to see that these kids really, truly appreciate it. I can ramble on for hours about how amazing my two oldest kids are. They have been through so much in their short lives and their resiliency blows me away. They are so funny, and so helpful. They are caring, and sweet and are a tremendous help with our little one. They tell the most ridiculous knock knock jokes and their spontaneous dance parties keep me laughing every single day.

There are so many benefits of taking older placements. Way less diapers to change and butts to wipe. They sleep through the night, and their bedtime routines are SO much shorter. They're in school during the year, so it's a great fit if your family has working parents. They can communicate their feelings and actually try to sort out their past. It's not easy having to sit and listen to your kid recall what they went through before foster care, but it's also therapeutic for them to sort it all out. And it really provides me insight to what their life was like, and what resources I can try to provide to help them. 

Once our kids cases get sorted out (whatever that may mean)- we're bumping up our license again to 18. We're open to whoever may come our way. Foster Care has been a wild ride. I never knew my heart was capable of feeling this much love. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to have met my older kiddos and I'm so happy things didn't work out as we originally planned. 

Sara is a 24 year old foster-to-adopt mom who lives in Seattle with her husband, Otis the bulldog, and her three foster kiddos (ages 4, 9, 11). She enjoys traveling, running, and connecting with other foster/adoptive  parents. Follow her on Instagram.

"Little Miss"

by Suzanne

Our story starts like many others: a stirring in our hearts to love on orphans. At first we thought that meant international adoption. But through various closed doors, God said no. Next, we looked into domestic adoption. Again, God said no, and this time gently nudged us in a direction we had never considered in our wildest dreams: foster care. 

We didn't know anything about foster care. I had read A Boy Named It at one point for my teaching degree, but otherwise I had NO CLUE what foster care entailed or how big the need was. I had no idea that a normal person like me could be a foster Mom, or that we could change lives just by becoming foster parents.

The process to become foster parents took us two years. The paperwork, home inspections, interviews, classes. For the record, it can take as little as 4-5 months, but we had many life changes in those two years.

In those two years, Theo and I both switched jobs, we moved houses and we had a baby. Yet the entire time we never let go of pursuing foster care. 

In August of 2015, two weeks after our daughter Tera turned 1, we were officially licensed foster parents! We waited for that phone call, dreaming every day of who would be joining our family. We were licensed to care for 0-12 years and we were more than willing to accept sibling sets, so we were preparing ourselves for a huge transition! 13 days later after being officially licensed, we got "the phone call." A beautiful newborn baby girl, still in the NICU. Our girls would be just 13 months apart, but we knew immediately that the answer was YES.

On September 21, I walked into the NICU and her sweet Mama handed her to me to take home. Everyone was sobbing all around. 

The first few weeks at home are a total blur. I have no idea how I kept both girls alive, but I did! We nicknamed her "Little Miss" for online purposes, and cared for her as our own. Tera and "Little Miss" soon became inseparable sisters, and their bond is something I will always treasure in my heart.

We truly had no idea what we were doing, but by Gods good grace, Theo's steady support and encouragement, and constant prayers and support of our community, "Little Miss" flourished in our home. We were told that there may possibly be severe developmental delays, but she has always been leaps and bounds ahead of the other kids her age. She has a vivacity and excitement for life that just could not be tampered with! This did mean that she rarely napped and always, always expressed her opinions, which was certainly a challenge for me!

We had our fair share of ups and downs, and the cast of characters in her life were many. We learned to juggled the meetings, appointments, and opinions and all the while being unsure of her "game plan" (back to Mom or move out of state or live with kin). It seemed like it changed every week, and after months of ups and downs and unknowns, I finally learned to just take it one day at a time.

After 9 months in our home, we got the official news that she would be moving to live with her kin out of state. On June 14, we said goodbye, this time me handing her to a new Mom, but again, everyone was sobbing all around. 

It was difficult, being a foster parent. It was challenging g the entire 9 months. Saying goodbye was (and is still) heartbreaking. But it was worth it. So, so, soooooo worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat. And we will do it again! We have agreed to take a month off after each placement, and after that take it one phone call at a time! We are currently expecting a baby boy due in October, and while we are unsure of the timing of taking another placement, we are confident that God knows.

The passion that God has ignited in our hearts for foster care is like nothing else I have ever felt. It's a broken system, made up of broken people (including us!), but the change to make a difference.

If Only You Knew

by Bailey
originally posted here

I feel your heavy stares as I pull out my government-issued benefits card to pay for the few groceries I have in my cart full of home goods and clothes. I know what you’re thinking. “This is what’s wrong with America!”  We give food stamps and welfare to people who use and abuse the system, just like you assumed I was doing. My cart wasn’t filled with necessities to feed my family, it wasn’t overflowing with diapers, wipes, and formula, so you must have thought that I was working the system, taking the hard earned tax payers’ dollars and using them for my own benefit. If I could afford new clothes and home decor then why couldn’t I afford to pay for the $3 milk and $2 bread that lie in my cart? But there’s so much you just don’t know. There’s so much I want to turn around and explain to you, but I can’t. But if I could this is what I would say to you. I would tell you the $5 I used of tax payers’ money was going to a foster child who has spent almost half his life in a stranger’s home. I would tell you the outfit I just purchased was the first thing I’ve bought for myself in months, a treat of sorts, for making it through the hardest 4 months of my life caring for abandoned and neglected children. I would explain that those adorable bows and bibs aren’t for my own biological daughter but for a sweet 5 month old who never once knew stability or love until she arrived on our doorstep in the middle of the night. But most of all I would tell you I used to be so much like you, casting judgement on the first sign of someone unlike me.

I have made more judgements since being a foster parent than I ever thought I could. I have sat in the County Health Department and wondered how much these people really need these benefits the state is providing when they look as if they can’t even take care of themselves. I have wondered if the biological mothers of my foster children really even deserve to have their children back, despite the full forth effort they are putting in to get better. I have judged them and their circumstances more than I ever care to admit, many times getting angry at them for being able to bear children so easily (something I can’t do), and expecting me to care for them. I have formed opinions about them based solely on the 60+ page court documents that detail every mistake they have ever made as a parent. I have looked down upon them because they got themselves into this situation and now they are expecting me to pick up the pieces of their hurting children.

These judgments are so easy to cast, yet so much more difficult to have put upon you. Until I stood in that Target checkout line I never really understood what it was like to be on the other side. I never knew what it was to be in a situation where my circumstances dictated other’s views on me. I never knew how much it hurt to feel a stranger’s looks on my back as I tried to provide for the needs of my family.

Being a foster parent has made me realize so much about myself and the system than I ever thought possible. My once skewed views on welfare and government assistance have taken a 180 degree turn. I now realize just how difficult getting these programs are. I spend hours on the phone just trying to get an initial appointment only to be told I need document after document just to prove I qualify for the assistance, and that’s just the beginning. Once I’ve finally gotten to the appointment it is over an hour wait before I’m even seen, and of course I’m required to bring the children with me which doesn’t make the waiting any easier. Over an hour and a half later I’m finally walking out of the building with a cranky baby and a 3 months supply of minimal food benefits. I now completely understand why so many people don’t take advantage of the programs that are supposed to help those in need. There’s so much red tape many times it’s not even worth it.

The system isn’t the only thing I’ve had a heart change on. I have found myself coming to the defense of the bio parents more than once when others tell me they deserve to never have their children returned to them. I find myself having compassion for their situations, being reminded that it could be me in their shoes if my life circumstances had been different. I feel hurt for them when I see them take another fall or see the system fighting so hard against them when they are trying so hard to get better. Getting better isn’t easy, but getting better with zero support is an accomplishment I don’t think I am even capable of making.

When one of our children’s bio parents finally engages in visitation and stops cutting every visit short I celebrate. When she brings cold tablets for her daughter because she remembered it helped her when she had her, it reminds me that she does love her daughter, she just doesn’t know how to care for her. For that I celebrate. When I see my foster son’s mom persevering through treatment and not giving up each and every time the courts tell her it will be another month before she even has a chance to get her children back I celebrate. I still have moments of judgement, I still have moments where I want to throw in the towel on these human beings that have put these poor babies in this situation, but even through all of that I am finding compassion, something I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be able to do.

Fostering has opened my mind to so many things. It reminds me when I stare at a beautiful, round, pregnant belly that I shouldn’t look upon that woman with anger and jealousy, because I have no idea how hard she had to work for that child. When I see a panhandler on the side of the road, begging for change, who am I to think they’re only going to use that money for drugs or alcohol? When I see my foster child come home from his visit dirty, in clothes two sizes too big, and a note of complaint from the mother I have to remind myself that she is doing the best she can in the circumstances she’s been given, and she really isn’t trying to do any harm. When a caseworker calls me 2 hours before she wants to make a home visit I have to take a deep breath and tell myself she is overworked, underpaid, and just trying to do the best she can in the chaotic system that is her job.

These are the daily reminders that have helped me change my outlook on this entire process. I have found that when I give compassion instead of judgement I become not only a more positive person but a happier person as well. When I see things through the eyes of others I am not constantly in a state of despair for the future, but hopeful for the things to come. I am reminded that even in the trials and tribulations of our journey through fostering, infertility, and loving and losing there will be times compassion is extended to us, and if we are able to feel the love and compassion of others, then who am I to not do the same towards the least of those?

Grace to Let Go: Disrupting a Pre-Adoptive Placement {Part 1}

 by Taylor

My husband and I became licensed foster-to-adopt parents in April 2015. We had a mission trip planned for that summer, so our agency wanted to hold off on giving us a placement until we returned from out of the country. In the meantime, they wanted us to provide respite for different sets of foster children, to give us some practice. We provided respite three separate times; one of those times was for a set of brothers, ages 6 and 7. The boys have some delays, and when we kept them for that week, we really weren’t able to communicate with them much at all. But by the end of the week – I can’t really explain this – I felt an unbelievably strong urge to mother those boys. I asked our case manager if there was any way the boys could be moved to our home, or if that was even a “thing”; she told me that the boys’ case plan was adoption, but they were not currently in an adoptive home, so yes they could be placed with us! Our agency downgraded the boys from therapeutic foster care to family foster care so we could have them placed in our home in time for school to start that fall. We asked my brother-in-law and his fiancée to be the boys’ godparents in case anything happened to us after an adoption. We asked my cousin and her husband to be our back-up godparents. 

Our honeymoon period lasted only a week. The boys had some severe behaviors, but we still just knew that this was right. Their case was to go back to court in September for a TPR, but the night before court, their social worker called me – bio mom was doing just enough, she said, that they didn’t think they’d get the TPR. Their new plan was to change the boys’ case plan back to reunification, with the thought that in the six months to come, bio mom would fail miserably. Of course I don’t want any human to fail, but I understood what she was saying. Well, bio mom progressively did more and more of what was asked of her. It looked like reunification would happen. 

Let me tell you a little more about some of the characters. Our boys – T and C, now 8 and 7, respectively – have of course PTSD and ADHD, but they also have autism, anxiety disorder, ODD, RAD, and the little one has seizure disorder. The oldest is mildly intellectually/developmentally delayed (he’s more like a 6 or 7 year old), but the youngest is severely delayed. He is about like a 3 year old and likely will remain that way. I get cursed at very frequently, the art on my walls gets thrown down and torn up, my walls get punched and kicked (as do I), and I get slapped, bitten, and spat upon. Regularly. Still, I know that though their actions are their choice, the emotions/history that cause them to act out that way are not their fault. It deeply saddens me. Bio mom is intellectually delayed herself, with lots of the same issues most bio parents in this situation have. And maybe this is also par for the course, but she doesn’t accept that her boys have anything “wrong” with them; she thinks they are completely “normal” and healthy. For two boys who will need lifelong care, this is huge. 

I can’t name one specific thing that brought us to the point of disrupting this placement – it’s more like the combination of everything. In September, when their plan was changed back to reunification, we suddenly had to begin shared parenting. Which had never been done with this bio mom because from the beginning, everyone “knew” it would end with a TPR. Because we are foster-to-adopt, it was never our intention to have a placement whose plan was reunification. This was completely unexpected. Also in September, visits were increased from once a month to every other week. So now, for the boys, not only were they scheduled to see bio mom more, but she was showing up every time. With tons of candy and happy meals and candy and toys and candy. Bio mom told the social worker in December 2015 that she wanted to ask the boys where they wanted to live; she could see a huge improvement in them, she said, and social worker thought for sure that bio mom was thinking about relinquishing her rights. So in a poorly planned set-up, the social worker joined us at a therapy session (neither bio mom nor my husband and I were in the room), and showed the boys a picture of me, and a picture of bio mom, and asked with whom they wanted to live. Both boys said us, then C changed his mind. Social worker later reported the answers to bio mom, and her response: “Oh good, I just wanted to make sure they didn’t freak out at the thought of coming to live with me.” So now the boys, who had been away from bio mom for over 2 years at that point, were introduced to the idea that going back with her was a possibility. Behaviors that had just recently become manageable were soon out of control again – and they’ve remained that way. 

In the meantime, I started getting sick a lot. At first I assumed it’s because I was being exposed to the school germs the boys were bringing home. It quickly became apparent that I was sick abnormally frequently. I started out by getting regular massages to help with my stress level. My massage therapist grunts as she’s working on me and tells me every time how tense I am. I know it, and my reactions to the boys show it. People in our lives began to comment on how bad I look, and I am exhausted all of the time, every day, without fail. 

During this time, my husband and I began to talk. We talked about all of the problems we were dealing with and about what we thought were the best solutions to these problems. be continued

Taylor and her husband Jake Henry live in the foothills of North Carolina with their two foster sons. She is a former ESL teacher turned stay-at-home mom, and loves spending her days savoring the simple moments.

Unbreakable Bond: Bonding with Foster Babes

by Shelby

He would scream when it was time for a bath, he would scream when his bottle was finished; he would scream when we laid him down for bed; he would  scream when we sat him down; when we walked two feet away, when we were in the car, when we sat in church services, when we were in the store. He was hurting, he was scared, and he had trauma. He obviously couldn’t communicate and tell us what he was feeling, why he was scared. At only 10 months old this little boy who should have been shielded and protected from even knowing what fear was had been thrust into a very scary situation that even an adult would struggle with. His world was rocked and he had landed in a house full of strangers. Different smells, different faces, different schedules. Displaced again, and he was expected to completely trust these people who he had never met. 

This is not a scenario that is rare or an extreme case. Many may think that a baby, a child so young, wouldn’t have trauma. They can’t possibly remember what they’ve went through or what they’ve seen-right? I often tell people-that while my children may not remember exact moments, words spoken, or situations that they were in, I have no doubt in my mind that they remember the *feeling." They remember *feeling* afraid, hurt, sad, upset, unsafe. Unfortunately, those feelings stay with them and often times those memories and feelings are not easily discarded. They have to be worked through, you have to prove yourself (yes even to an infant) that you can and will take care of them, that you will protect them, and you are not going to just leave them. That takes a lot of time, effort, persistence, and for me-a lot of tears. 

Sometimes bonding will come natural & with ease and other times it will be more trying and emotionally exhausting. I think it is safe to say that if you are in the foster care world or plan to be for any length of time you will most likely experience both of these to some extent. Regardless of which one of these categories you may fall in at this time, the key for me has always been the mindset. With every time you say ‘yes’ you must have your mind made up that you will love this child with as much love and care as you would if they were born to you. You must make up your mind that you will be their mom--their *real* mom--as long as they need you to be, no matter if it’s just a day, a week, a year, or forever. The mindset is everything.

With all the uncertainty of foster care and the horrendous havoc that the system can cause in the lives of children it’s easy to see why many are afraid to truly bond with foster children. Sometimes we may think about the future and fall into the trap of thinking ‘I need to hold back at least a small piece of my heart-they could leave and then what…’ It’s natural to think about the future, to let our mind go down the ‘what if’ road. But, I must be careful that I don’t let these ‘what if’s’ run my life. The truth is-what happens in the future doesn’t change the fact that my kids need a mom right now. They need all of me all the time. They need my heart, my love, my courage (even when I feel like I have none), they need my kisses, my safety. They need it all and when I said ‘yes’-I agreed to give it to them-and not hold back.  The length of time they are with us means absolutely nothing in relation to the love the and dedication they deserve from us. When we really peal back all the layers and reasons for not wanting to attach to a foster child I think that we’ll see that they are mostly selfish. We sometimes are too concerned with how we will feel if they leave, if we will ever recover from the heartache of losing a child. What about the child? How will they ever grow to have healthy relationships if no one ever had the guts to truly give them their heart? If we don’t give them our all then will anyone?

The day we adopted our daughter was one of the most overwhelmingly happy days of my life. There are so many feelings I remember about that day and so many sweet comments said in congratulations to us. But, the only words that stand out in my mind from that day happen when the judge was talking to me in the court room. “Have you love and cared for this child as if she were your ow?” That's it.  All the emotions and the tears that I had been trying to hold back to keep my composure just rushed up and rolled down my cheeks. Because she was mine, she is mine. I didn’t t love her ‘as if’ she were my own-she always had been and my heart always knew it.

Shelby is a Christian, wife, and mother. She and her husband have been foster parents for going on two years & it has been the most wonderful & difficult experience of their lives. They are passionate about adoption & caring for children in needs. They plan on being apart of the foster care world as long as they are able.

Hear more of Shelby's Story on Episode 14 of the podcast.

Three Children

by Caitlin

Someone asked me the other day how many kids I have, and I almost said three.  Which isn't technically true, but sort of is.  Because we only have two children who are legally ours.  There are two children with our last name who are living in our home right now.  Two daughters who have called me mom for the last 20 months.  Two children.  I have two children.

But what about the third?  She's out there, somewhere.  I haven't met her yet.  I don't know her name.  I don't know how old she is, or what she looks like, or what her likes and dislikes are.  I don't know anything about her, except that she is mine.  She is my child, she just doesn't know it yet.  And neither do random grocery store clerks who ask me how many children I have.

Before I had two children, before I knew their names or had seen their faces, I often got asked a similar question.  Do you have any children?  Sometimes I said yes.  But then I couldn't really answer whether they were sons or daughters or twins or 4 years old or 10 years old.  Most of the time I just shook my head and didn't say anything.

I would see these pregnant women walking around the stores and I wanted to go up to them and ask them all sorts of questions about what they were feeling.  Were they nervous but also excited?  Did they feel ready to be a mom?  Did carrying around a baby bump feel the same as carrying around this weird secret of having children but not having children?

Now I have two children.  I've adopted once before.  I should know how this whole thing is going to play out.  But I still feel like a mother walking around with an invisible child.  It's like I'm pregnant, but without the baby bump to show it.  I'm expecting, but it's not a baby.  It's a hurting child who is alive right this second and not living with me or inside of me.  

So what do I say?  That I have three children?  But what they ask where the other one is?  What do I say then?  Do I explain how adoption works?  Or do I just stay silent from the beginning?

I never know the answer to this question.  The only thing I do know is that I am a mother of three.  I have three children.  Three.  Two daughters who call me mom and one who hasn't met me yet.  There are two children living in our home right now, and one who isn't.  Two children share our last name, and one doesn't.  Not yet.  But she will one day.  Because I'm coming for her.

Caitlin is the founder and creator of Respite Redefined.  She is a wife and mother of two daughters through adoption from foster care.  Caitlin loves to read, to write, and to dream of the places she'll go and the sights she'll see and the new kids she'll one day meet

I Never Set Out to be a Savior

by Rachel

I never set out to be a savior.  Which is probably a good thing, I would make a terrible savior.  I'm far too selfish, lazy and all around human to be any body's savior.

I never set out to be a hero. Also, probably a good thing. I am the last person anyone should claim as a hero.

All I set out to be was a Christ-follower.

I found myself saying, "Take me where you want, Lord, and please, for the love, make me less selfish along the way."

It turns out when you say those kinds of things to the creator of the world, and you actually mean it, He listens.  He begins to extend branches of "Will you do this with me? Will you trust me to get you through it?"  And if you find yourself saying yes, you might just need to grab on for dear life.

At first you find yourself knee deep in poo.  That part is not great. It feels a little like a bait and switch, which can be confusing and terrifying.  The poo in my life is metaphorical.  Though I suppose, perhaps, yours is not, depending on the age of your kids. 

Over time you start to experience only ankle-deep poo.  This feels relieving and surprising, though you know better than to get too excited.  Poo is still poo after all.  

Before you know it, you realize all that poo is actually fertilizing something.  You begin to see flowers emerging from what you thought was only wreckage and waste matter.  Your eyes are opened, and you see that things have been working below the surface when you didn't even realize.  

Suddenly a child who seemed to only hate and spew vile at you, buries himself in your arms seeking comfort.  You're shocked to watch a hardened heart begin to soften.  You begin to see layers that have been present for years, in the name of self protection, begin to peel away.  Someone who could barely receive the words, "I love you" is now saying them first.

It is in these moments you become hooked.  You see redemption and the gospel played out before your very eyes.  

And. You. Want. More.  

More of this refreshing path He has led you down. More beautiful flowers you were a part of fertilizing and growing. More of the healing and love that pokes its head out after all the hard work you pour in.

This people, is exactly how you end up adopting teenager after teenager after teenager.  

Call it idiotic; I know I sometimes do.  Or call it living radically for Jesus.  It's called that too.

I am seeing more and more how Christ is taking me on a personal journey where I have front row seats to watch the gospel unfold daily in my home, in my family.  We experience the offering and receiving of grace, forgiveness, mercy, unconditional love, repentance and acceptance.

And I am blessed to be a part of all that. 

I find myself signing up for more, time and time again.  I can't seem to say no. It's become something I don't even want to say no to.

I am thankful God asked me that very first time, "Will you say yes to this with me?"  What followed has been an insane amount of work, prayer, awe and growth.  Three adopted teens in, and I feel truly blessed to be a part of the radical-gospel-living insanity.

Rachel is a 32 year old mom with 6 kids married to the best man she knows, Joey. Her kids are 2,4,7,16,20, and 21. God keeps bringing them teens and asking them to adopt them. Like crazy people, they keep saying yes. What could seem like the worst possible age to adopt in the world, has become God's beautiful redemption story playing out right before their very eyes. And it is good.

All Kinds of Baggage

by Jen S.

I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who has dreamed of having a special needs child. God may have placed a calling on your heart to be open to a child with needs beyond the norm, but it isn't something people lok forward to with eager anticipation. When we think of becoming parents biologically everyone says, "as long as they are healthy." Well for many that isn't the reality. And when we foster or adopt kids from hard places parental choices or experiences have left those kids with baggage. Some of the baggage is carry on size, while others carry a trunk full. Either way these needs take a lot of extra work and the learning curve is steep.

My kids all have baggage. Some of it is emotional/behavioral while others have medical baggage. When we said yes to each of them we knew the risks but did not fully grasp the realities. We weren't looking through rose colored glasses, but you can't know what life will be until you live it. When case workers and doctors start thowing terms at you like FASD, ARND, RAD, ODD, SPD, PICA, CP, CVI, ADHD, and the numerous other acronyms that we encounter it is overwhelming. It's intimidating.

If you as a foster or adoptive parent have opened your heart to the possibility or reality of a child with special needs, then you my friend have become one of the fiercest of warriors! We learn to fight for our children in a way parents of typical kids don't have to. I usually refer to parenting my children as parenting on steroids: there is no room to let down my guard or take the wait and see approach. We have to charge ahead with full force to ensure our kids have the most support possible, so that they can reach their fullest potential.  

When we have kids with challenges the biggest adaptations come from us. We have to learn a new way to parent. It won't be the picture we saw when we dreamed of having a family. We learn about early intervention, IEP's, 504 plans, PCIT, Theraplay, Brain Balance, EMDR and so much more. As a special needs parent you need to educate yourself. Learn as much as you can from as many sources as you can. I promise you there are tons of therories and schools of thought. Find what is right for you and your child! Don't let someone push you into what they feel is best. It has to be workable for you.  Advocacy becomes a way of life. Special needs parenting can be very isolating, but I have found that when I reach out to the special needs community you can find some of the best encouragers.

So no matter how much baggage your child brings, know that the most important thing to remember is that you don't have to carry the load alone. Reach out. Find your support team and lean on them. Learn from those who have gone before you. And know that God is going to give you the equipment to be exactly what your child needs!

Jennifer is a 40 yr. old wife and stay at home mom. She has been married to Ryan for 18 years. Their 4 children joined their family though international and foster adoption. Together they have fostered for 8 years and welcomed over 70 children into their home. Jennifer has a love for travel, her big crazy family, and tiramisu.