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Refuge Summer 2018 Newsletter

September 1, 2018

Newsletter Header 2018 SummerPhoto of Joel and his son at the top of a mountainAlone & Afraid

Joel Longshore

I think probably one of the biggest fears that I have for my children is that they feel alone. I mean, these kids come from a life of abandonment, a life of loneliness. Tonight, as I get ready for bed, this thought hit me hard and my heart truly started breaking for my children.

My youngest is a junior in high school. He’s been in several schools since being in he U.S. and finally, this year, he’s felt like he’s belonged. The teachers and staff have been incredible. The curriculum is ideal for him. And the kids there have been awesome. In fact, he’s met some good friends there. Unfortunately, those friends just happened to all be seniors. And unfortunately, those seniors finished this past Friday, leaving my son with yet another incredible sense of loss in his life.
I hate that for him. Thinking about this tonight has cause tears to well up in my eyes. I know he feels lonely and isolated. And it’s incredibly hard for him to feel as though he’s able to connect with people. Fear, mainly, I predict stands in his way. Fear of being shut down; rejected.

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How do I, as his parent, shield him from this? How do I, as his father, take away those feelings that come from this next round of deep loss? I feel helpless.

Personally, I too can relate on many levels. And, I know we all can. I don’t pretend to understand the kinds of loss our children have endured. Loss that stems from death of parents. Abuse. Abandonment. To name a few. But I do know loss. I do know loneliness. I do know hurt.

Over the last several years, I too have blocked important relationships in my life. I have refused to allow myself to trust a lot of people because my trust that I have had in others in the past has been so badly damaged that I’ve decided I wouldn’t allow that kind of relationship in again. I have even pulled away from the church...and I am not ashamed to admit it. It’s too painful. Maybe you have been there.

What I am starting to realize, and what God may be teaching me, is my children likely understand and feel this on a level that I can’t even begin to compare. All this “loss” that occurred in their lives, did so at of the most crucial point: childhood. After all, isn’t childhood the greatest period of development? Isn’t childhood the time in our lives that we get to explore life and live almost carelessly, but in the back of our minds, we know we have someone to catch us? At least, that is what is suppose to happen. Yet my children, and probably your children, got robbed of this safety net, this support, this...family.

What is my point? I suppose a couple things. First, reminders like what I experienced tonight help me to understand my child more wholly. When I sit and think things like, “why doesn’t he like to connect with me, or his mother?”, or, “why won’t he make friends?”, puts in perspective that he is merely trying to keep himself from another episode of the feelings that derive from any sense of loss. Of course our children from traumatic backgrounds are going to act out: because they have a major deficiency. Connecting with us is too great a risk. Why take it?

My other point I am attempting to make is this: as parents of these kids, we too have experienced great loss from adopting them. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! What is this you’re saying, Joel?!” Let’s be real. Many of us are saddened because we do not have the romanticized bond with our child we dreamed we would have while still in the adoption process. Many of us have also experienced loss in relationships with friends, family, and unfortunately, the church! People on the “outside” do not understand the challenges many of us deal with. You can’t apply typical parenting approaches to adopted and foster children. Still, people tend to run away from what they don’t understand. And where does that leave us? Often alone, rejected, abandoned.

So, now what?…

Keep reading with Traci’s article!

UnafraidFear Not

Traci Heim

365.

What does this number mean to you?

Well, it’s how many days are in a year.

Easy, right?

Actually, I ask this looking for another answer.

It is also the number of times in the Bible that God tells us to “fear not.”

Truly I think this is no small coincidence. Fear is a constant companion for most people. I often joke that along with all our other children, we somehow adopted a set of bonus twins; Idon’t-know and Wasn’t-me. If they are the invisible twins, Fear is the invisible companion that no one likes to admit has lingered beyond childhood.

Joel openly expressed a fear he has for his children. I believe it is a fear that all parents can relate to. Which brings me back to just how many times God has told us that we don’t have to be afraid. He tells us once a day because fear is a huge issue. It’s Satan’s playground. Stir up all the things to be
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.
Psalm 28:7 fearful of and suddenly a strong man or woman of faith is paralyzed. There goes another Christ-follower, out of commission. Because it starts with fear, but it is quickly followed with his very first trick, convincing us that we should be God.

How so in this example?

Joel expressed his frustration and dismay that he cannot shield his children from the inevitable pains of life. Being a shield is not our job. It’s God’s job! Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and shield; in HIM my heart trusts…” We cannot shield our children from anything, but daily we can and should live out our lives directing them to THE ONE who is our strength and shield. But we all know that they don’t learn that lesson the first time. Or the second time, or the 100th time. How do I know? Because we still haven’t learned this truth, evidenced by the fact that we are even writing about it. Evidenced by the fact that God himself keeps telling us not to be afraid 365 times in his love letter to us. Which brings us right back to Satan’s playground. He has daily opportunities to stoke our fears and convince us that we are failing because we can never be God, but if I were a good enough parent, I could heal my child. I could assuage his fear, I could place within her heart the knowledge that just by existing she has intrinsic value.

Here’s the truth. Our children have experienced tremendous tragedy and pain that has left them broken and hurting and fearful. As long as they are alive, they will continue to experience tragedy and pain of one sort or another, and there is little we can do to stop it. If we try to take on God’s job as our own, we can add our own trauma and dismay to the pile, because we will fail. However, there is good news. 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and a sound mind.” Every good and perfect gift that comes from The Father can be passed on to our children. This is where we exercise our faith. When we trust that God’s promises are true, when we believe that our children will be healed, even as we watch them reject God’s love and our love over and over and over. Dare I say we sometimes watch them reject this truth 365 days a year. But we can stand firm in the knowledge that we should “FEAR NOT” every one of those days until His promises come to fruition.

Getting to Normal

David LaRocque

I recently received a question from a friend, and would like to share:

Question

We have a fifteen year old grand daughter that has some serious mental issues. She is a bundle of anger looking to explode at any time. She regularly leaves the house in anger and is gone sometimes for a few hours. She sometimes harms herself and has threatened her mother multiple times. I believe she has threatened suicide more than once. She most recently refused to do a school project which caused her to fail the class and is now attending summer school to recover. She was  adopted as a newborn from Guatemala and they got her when she was one year old.  I think the problem stems from her mother drinking during pregnancy and may have included drugs as well. Her dad, our son-in-law, has been taking her to a doctor of some sort for psychiatric help. I am concerned the doctor is more interested in charging for extensive analysis than suggesting some plan of something, someone or somewhere where she can get some help. As you might expect they, as a family, which includes our daughter, our son-in-law and her younger(13) brother essentially have no "normal" life. We were wondering if you had any suggestions where or what kind of help they might pursue to get her some help to control her anger before a major tragedy occurs?

Answer

Basic Premise

First of all, God is able and faithful, as you know! He has our best interest in mind, and desires His Name to be glorified and for us to bear Him fruit. I’ve learned (slowly) over the years that doesn’t come easily. I have often longed for a “normal” life with such things as cooperative children, financial security, and peace and joy.

You know better than I do that following Christ isn’t an easy task, and is often uncomfortable!

The Issue at Hand

With that said, we have extensive experience personally and learning from other families with children from trauma (like mothers with substance abuse and childhood disruption). Different kids cope with this in different ways and with varying degrees of success, but they all face significant challenges. Alcohol use during pregnancy is no joke, and children suffer from real, 5-10 year delays in reasoning and other critical cognitive processes that they don’t catch up with until well into their 20’s. Unfortunately, by then often they’ve made life-altering decisions and never get a chance at that “normal” life.

I agree with you on the perils of psychiatric help. Pharmaceuticals are often over-used to simply address symptoms, and talking through issues is painstakingly slow, expensive, and guarantees very little. We also found that many therapists don’t understand the underlying issues. However, there is huge value in finding others who can patiently, methodically teach and encourage your child in concert with your own efforts.

Paths Forward

Faith, Hope, & Love: Despite the challenges, heartbreak, struggles, and difficulty, we’re committed to working through for the sake of doing this “for the least of these” and therefore to Jesus Christ Himself. When it gets ugly, reminding ourselves of the beauty of the Lord, and all He has suffered because of our sin, makes this transient pain more bearable. This is incredibly important to anything else that follows. Without a certainty that this is worthwhile eternally, all this becomes unbearable.

Safety: Regardless of all the love of Christ we show, children sometimes become dangerous to themselves or to others. At this point, we have a great system around us that is able and willing to help. Particularly with threats or acts with suicidal directions, there are options available. Your state runs critical care behavioral treatment facilities, where a young person can spend a week under constant strict supervision. Likely, police and medical services will be involved in interacting with the child to make this call. Don’t be afraid to call them for help. Getting an appropriate track record of incidents provides a necessary pressure to get help. The critical care is like an ER, providing help for only a few days, before releasing upon determination the child is stabilized.

Residential Treatment: The child will sometimes not come around with critical care, police warnings, and continue dangerous patterns. This is a difficult stage, because things can get very expensive very quickly. Here are a few we think are worthwhile checking into. Also, check with your medical insurance to see what options they will pay for.

  • Teen Challenge and other faith-based ministries. These can be very strict, and typically expect some amount of cooperation from the young person in order to work.
  • Long term behavioral treatment.  This is essentially a low-security prison with around-the-clock supervision and very structured (but often boring) schedules, that can last for weeks to months. The children will learn coping techniques and engage in lots of discussions.
  • Boarding school for challenging children. These facilities are setup for a specific set of needs, and cannot accommodate children outside those parameters. What they can offer is a way through these difficult years, and give the child another chance at getting it right.

Also, some books we have found useful have been

  • The Explosive Child by Ross Greene
  • No Drama Discipline (and much else by Daniel Siegel)
  • Some of what Dr Karen Purvis writes/ teaches is helpful, but finding something specific to FASD and getting help from NoFAS.org is also helpful.

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