These children are challenging!
Normal parenting techniques are ineffective, at best. They are likely to produce more negative behaviors. Nurturing a child who reacts to love instead of responding is confusing. Many parents care for a child for years without understanding “why” he behaves (reacts) the way he does. Our desire is to explain the “whys” and “hows” for healing.
Trauma from neglect, abuse, and abandonment:
Foster and adoptive children lose their first and most important relationship-their primary caregiver-usually mom. They may be removed at birth or years later. Additionally, they may experience neglect and/or abuse, or abandonment. These children must face lose, grief, shock, anger, fear, sadness, and a move to a foreign environment. This new environment consists of different parents, siblings, customs, language, food, orders, and values. These children may be questioned by social workers, police, judges, teachers, and the new family. They may be encouraged to betray their family, watch their parents being arrested, view their siblings being moved to different homes, and be overwhelmed with worry and fear. They may endure years of visits with their birth family and then never say goodbye. Controlling adults cause their family pain. These children may feel as if silence about their family’s problems were preferred to this horror.
Trauma derails development:
The child’s healthy development is derailed with each trauma. Developmental milestones cannot be reached when a child is living in stress and fear and/or when a child does not have an emotionally responsive and attuned caregiver. Imagine the developmental holes a child may have from multiple moves with changes in caregivers and experiences that include abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Trauma impairs attachment, biology, affect regulation, dissociation, behavioral regulation, cognition, and self-concept” (Cook et al., p. 392). Explore free online courses at www.childtraumaacademy.com.
Honeymoon is quickly over:
Children with a history of early trauma and attachment disruptions may not respond to normal parenting..
When a foster/adoptive child enters a new placement, the family may desire and expect a reciprocal relationship with this child. The child is limited by his internal beliefs about himself, others, and the world developed via experiences. Negative beliefs are a natural outcropping of traumatic experiences. Why should this child view himself as lovable? trust others? or see the world as a safe place to live in? He brings his survival skills to this new family which were needed in previous environments to be safe but may now be unhealthy, dangerous, illegal, and/or dysfunctional. The child identifies these behaviors as “normal.” Relationships and life styles in this new home may be unfamiliar, causing the child to experience overwhelming fear.
Quest for answers:
Parents begin the quest to find the answers in how to parent this child. Many times they are told to add more structure or to be more lenient. The parents may be given sticker charts to aid in compliance, told to give the child more rewards, or make more rules that must be enforced. Parents do not know where to turn for the answers. They tire in this quest and may watch their child’s behavior further disintegrate. Professionals may offer behavior plans without acknowledging the mental health needs of the child.
Families need signposts to assure them they are traveling in the right direction (Brooks, Allen, & Barth, 2002)
Need for direction:
Brooks, Allen, & Barth (2002) referenced adoption as embarking on a journey into the unknown, a feeling of uncertainty, particular with children who have prenatal drug or alcohol exposure and histories of abuse and neglect. Researchers recommend signposts for families to assure them that they are traveling in the right direction. This lifelong journey requires knowledge, skill, commitment, and dedication due to the special needs of most foster and adoptive children.