Are you raising adopted children who survived trauma?

We are organizing a new support network for metro Atlanta to:

befriend and support each other,

enjoy each other’s company,

affirm each other’s experiences,

find ways to help our children,

back each other up,

have each other to depend upon

in emergencies,

and for everyday help.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Being Traumatized Ourselves

There are several reasons we all decided to adopt.  Perhaps you have had a calling since childhood, your sister became addicted to drugs and DFCS asked you to step up, you struggled with infertility, or maybe you saw an ad that stirred something in you.  Why isn't important.  I'm sure nearly every one of us had some fantasy that included loving moments with your new adorable child.  Who wouldn't allow themselves to daydream about vacations by the beach or dinners out with friends as a family?  For most adoptive parents, that dream was realized when their child settled in to their new home and new loving family.

Our families don't fit that mold.  Our children were traumatized in the homes of their first families.  Some of them were starved, left unattended for hours and even days, beaten, and even sexually abused by the very people that were supposed to love and protect them.  When our children's needs were ignored, they began to learn that no one could be trusted.  They became anxious, never knowing who or if anyone would ever help them.  Over time, it became anger.  Eventually, they landed in our homes with new parents ready to snuggle and love all their boo boos away.  Some of them showed their anger and mistrust by destroying their nice new things, spitting on us, kicking, hitting, acting out sexually, and some even tried to harm themselves or others to prove they weren't worthy of being loved.  Our love was foreign to them. 

We stood there and watched all the hoopla thinking we must be crazy.  How could this adorable child be so charming and sweet to the check out lady and kick us in the head all the way home in the van?  How could you tell your friends and family and make them believe?  If you were brave enough, they probably explained how you must be doing something wrong, or it is all typical kids behavior.  You began to think it must be you.  You questioned your behavior, your motives, your parenting, everything.  You searched out parenting books and advice from your doctor.  Nothing worked.  As your child got worse and became a danger to you or your other children, you began to wonder what you have done to your family.  You didn't know what else there was to do.  Disruption thoughts began to slip in your thoughts and depression set in.

You are not alone.  There are families out there struggling to parent traumatized children and being traumatized ourselves during this process.  I can't say this group will fix your problems or save your family.  I can say finding a support group that will not judge you can save your sanity and give you the strength to go on when you feel you are at the end of your rope.  We can help each other find new ways that will help you help your child learn to trust you. We can support each other when the smell of pee sends you into a sobfest, provide respite for each other when we need some down time, and even help you explain to the school why this isn't your fault and teach them how to help you instead of getting sucked into your child's lies or manipulations.

Tell me what you need.  What are you struggling with?  What behaviors push your buttons the fastest and are the hardest to deal with?  What resources are you having a hard time finding?  Are you confused about where to begin to look for help?  What can we do for you? 



  1. I don't need. But I can say that we are a very traumatized family for those exact reasons. We have two adopted sons who have managed to molest all three of our girls (one by both boys.) I have been assaulted by my sons, threated to be killed by a son while he was holding a knife to my throat, watched helplessly as one child hit another, afraid to step in because they both out-weighed me by 100 pounds... etc. The police know us by name. Social services knows us by name. What started out as a positive, good thing with social workers saying things like "I wish we could clone you. We need more families like you." This has turned into my worst nightmare.
    Mental health issues are rampant and only the worst mental health providers are available for medicaid. We've lost family (I lost my husband but he returned), friends, church support, everything because of the kids we take. At one point I would have said, "Join me in making a difference in our world," but now I caution anyone thinking of fostering or adopting away from this nightmare.
    And I am one of the good ones. They tell me what has happened was beyond anyone's control. That we were not responsible for the nightmare, that we had done everything reasonably possible.

    But I'm in therapy with nightmares, afraid I will be killed by one of the kids. I am no longer functioning like a normal mother - I overwhelm so very easily and shut down. I forget things so easily now. I'm frightened, I feel my world is out of control. And it just takes one little event to make me question why in the world I'm still alive.

    Yes, I'm in therapy. Yes my husband and I are in therapy. Yes, every single child left at home is in therapy. Does that help? Maybe.

    I read other people's comments - like Cindy Bodies - but it just drives me further down. There are no ideas on how to make things better. Hasn't anybody gotten through this without losing their selves?

    1. I hear rave reviews about EMDR from moms just like you, suffering from secondary PTSD due to their children's violent behaviors. Is your therapist certified in that? I am in grad school to be a counselor and do not have personal knowledge but the families we serve ... and the school books and teachers at my (Christian, reputable) school ... absolutely celebrate it as the best treatment for PTSD.

  2. I am a two mom family with a biological son from each of us, ages 2 and 4 (Dad is part of our family now too and visits at least once a week). We want to expand our family through older child adoption but everything I read scares me. We have one 9 year old foster son right now and previously had three foster siblings ages 2, 3 and 4. The sibling group was too much because they were the same age as our biological children and five kids under five with extra needs and both of us working did not make for a peaceful house. The 9 year old is much more manageable. He is a great kid, especially given his circumstances, but sometimes I don't know how to deal with his push backs, lack of manners, demands. Things I am just not used to. I would like to hear from people who have adopted a child over the age of five and it has been a positive addition to their lives. Sometimes when things get tough I ask myself, "Why are we really doing this?" Is it to make ourselves feel better about something, it is so that people thing we are "cool," is to help a child? Originally I knew I wanted to have at least four kids and I thought it would be selfish to have more than two biological kids when there are so many kids who need/want homes. But I don't want to adopt kids and if they are going to ruin the family. I also would like tips on how to form attachments to an older child.

    1. Dr. Randy Stinson hits on this topic in a very straightforward way (the parent's motivation to adopt). I recommend you find what you can by him. He is an adoptive dad of two RAD children living in the trenches with you and us; happens also to be the dean of the Southern Baptist Seminary. He speaks bluntly but if you can relate to any of the scenarios he puts forth, you might avoid a "frivolous disruption" (he explains it).

  3. Iadopted a 6 year old and a 8 1/2 year old. Here is my advice to you. 9 year old foster children walk with a lot of problems. Unless you really want to traumatize your younger too children until they too are a mess - if you want them molested, learning how to drink, do drugs, be out of control - you will readjust your goals and wait until your birth children are older - a lot olders. My 8.5 year old molested 3 of my girls (including one who was 2) and those girls couldn't report until years later. The 6 year old molested the same youngest one twice and is now in jail (she can talk) and she's a wreck. My third adopted son (adopted at birth) has assaulted me and his father multiple times until he is in jail, and our youngest daughter thinks that is what people do: yell and hit to get their way.
    Is this what you want your birth children to grow up thinking is normal? They internalize and rewrite everything that happens in your home.
    It is very difficult to attach a 9 yearold. If it hasn't happened during fostering, don't plan on it happening.

  4. Nancy Thomas (When Love Is Not Enough) is coming to do a seminar in Georgia on March 1st and 2nd. PLU credits for teachers are offered by the Georgia Board of Education; CE credits for psychologists, social workers, therapists and counselors are also available to residents of multiple states. Nancy will also conduct a week-long intensive program from March 12th through the 19th with an attachment therapist. They will work one-on-one with each family, upwards of 3 hours per day per family every day for a solid week! Note: there is only ONE family opening for that intensive program left). See for more information.

  5. We have two adopted sons and three bio kids. One son came ot us at almost three years old and has physical special needs. The other son came to us at 4 years old from a disruption. We knew (or thought we knew) all of his issues before accepting him. Who could have told me that a tiny 28 pound child could wreak havoc on an entire family? Now, 2 years later he is a mostly attached, mostly regulated boy. He does well in school for the most part and I am finally thinking we might actually survive this. There are still days I have my doubts, but I look back and see how far we have come and I have hope.

  6. And to think that I was the only parent that ever had to deal with such things. We adopted 3 sibling brothers 5.5 years ago and we are currently separated because of sexual deviant behavior. When will this ever stop?