It Takes a Team
Adoption and foster care bring new children into our families and we open our arms to receive them. What we might not expect is the way our circle may enlarge beyond our immediate families. Since adopting our children, our world has expanded to include many others who have become very important in our journey and in our lives. We have learned that parenting children from “hard places” takes more than Russ and I can give on our own; for now, it takes a “team.”
Let me share some of the members of our team in the hope that it may encourage you to think about the support your family needs.
Health Care Providers
Before adoption I was a mom who rarely gave her children Tylenol; today we have a team of four different clinics at Seattle Children’s Hospital that care for our children. We travel there at least once every three months for appointments and sometimes more frequently. We also have an occupational therapist, dentist, optometrist, and the occasional quick care doctor on our team as well. Two of my children take medication twice a day, every day. And after a few false starts, I finally developed a monthly prescription refill schedule to manage the challenge of staying on top of medications.
Before adoption we were a homeschooling family, and we did not anticipate school outside the home would become part of our lives. But after our adoptions we discovered that it was what two of our children needed, so we’ve added teachers, room moms, and classmates to our lives. A couple of our children need some extra help in school, so that leads me to…
Since arriving home our girls have had several wonderful tutors who helped them catch up on language skills. Last spring I hired a “homework helper” who helped us through the end of the school year, including all of those pesky projects like dioramas. The combination of school still being new, English not being their first language, and simply being behind on their education means the girls need extra help, so tutors have become an important part of our team.
We are blessed to have an amazing therapist for our children. We travel regularly for appointments, requiring a significant sacrifice of time and finances, but the benefits for our children and our family continue to be remarkable. Before adoption I never imagined we would need the help of a therapist, but today I cannot imagine our team without this experienced and compassionate member of our team who really understands trauma, attachment, and grief.
We have special friends who are very much part of our team, providing loving, secure care for our children. My dear friend (fondly known as Aunt Michele) and her family are a key part of our daughter’s team. Every Wednesday afternoon, she goes home from school with Aunt Michele and stays until after dinner. Michele and her husband understand our daughter’s needs and how to help her grow and mature in a healthy way. This relationship is a key part of her healing and a great source of help for us as parents.
In addition, a young couple in our church recently began offering respite to us. They love children and have the experience, education, and compassionate hearts to care for our daughter. This is an answer to prayer.
Extended family can also be a critical part of a family’s team, but sadly for us, we don’t have any family that lives near enough to be involved with our children on a regular basis. If you have family near, I encourage you to seek their help and support even as you help them to understand what your children need and how to effectively provide it.
I mentioned that last spring I hired a “Homework Helper” (a high school girl) for two of my daughters. She greatly helped to alleviate much of the “after school pressure” we all were experiencing. This past summer I also had a helper who took the kids to the park, on hikes, and even on a trip to the store to buy flip-flops. I’ve also had a young woman clean my house a few times; a luxury I never allowed myself before.
If you have children who are old enough to babysit, you may not see the need to hire helpers. However, we have learned that there are times when we need to lift the burden off of our older children as well and not rely too heavily on them. In addition, we have one child we generally don’t leave in the care of siblings because it is stressful for everyone.
Hiring helpers is difficult for families whose budgets are already stretched caring for our children. A gift from somebody who loves us has made it possible. We’ve come to understand that it is important for us to “invest” in our children and our family now, so that we don’t “pay later” when the problems are more severe and everyone is completely exhausted.
Church and Youth Ministry
We are very thankful for the blessings we receive from our church and particularly the people committed to loving and teaching the youth. Until recently, we did not attend a church that had a youth group and we saw no need for it. One of the many changes in our lives has been leaving our church of ten years to join a church that fits our family better. Not only do our children from “hard places” benefit from the love our church family shows them, but so do our other children.
Whether you are just beginning to prepare to bring new children into your family or you adopted years ago, I encourage you to take time to think about what your family’s needs might be. Perhaps you have extended family or good friends who can become a more integral part of your team, but you simply need to invite them to join. Maybe you need to seek out a therapist or meet with a teacher to invite them to join your team to help your children heal and grow. Regardless, let me encourage you to lay down any excuses or pride that may be holding you back from seeking help and building a team to provide your child the love and care that he or she needs. Don’t try to tough it out and make it on your own. Create your “team” starting today, and let others hold you up when you are weary. Everyone will benefit more than you can imagine.
Written by: Lisa Qualls