Under the Umbrella: Summer Safety Tips for the Driveway

We asked our friends at Children’s Community Health Plan to share asummer health and safety tip for this week’s Under the Umbrella. Below you’ll find some tips for driveway safety – great information for all parents and kids!

 

Kids love cars, and when they see a parked car, they don’t even think about the possibility of getting hurt or seriously injured. That’s why parents have to be extra careful. Here are a few tips to keep your kids safe in and around cars.

 

Top Safety Tips

  • We know you’re often in a hurry, but before you drive away, take a few seconds to walk all the way around your parked car to check for children.
  • When checking for kids around your vehicle, see if anything that could attract a child, such as a pet, bike or toy, is under or behind your vehicle before getting in and starting the engine.
  • Identify and use safe play areas for children, away from parked or moving vehicles. Teach kids to play in these areas instead of in, around or behind a car.
  • Accompany kids when they get in and out of a vehicle. Hold their hands while walking near moving vehicles or in driveways and parking lots or on sidewalks.
  • Don’t allow children to play unattended in parking lots when cars are present.

Need some more tips about driveway safety? Head over to safekids.org.

Bike Safety for Big Kids

Bicyle HelmetIf they haven’t already, your children are just about to lose those training wheels. Here are a few tips to keep them safe as they soak up the adventure.

Top Safety Tips

Helmets

  • We have a simple saying: “Use your head, wear a helmet.” It is the single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from bicycle crashes.
  • Make sure your child has the right size helmet and wears it every time when riding, skating or scooting.
  • Replace the helmet if a child is in a crash or falls off their bike. Helmets are intended for one “accident.”
  • You’d be surprised how much kids learn from watching you, so it’s extra important for parents to model proper behavior. Wear a helmet, even if you didn’t when you were a kid.
  • Your children’s helmet should meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards. When it’s time to purchase a new helmet, let your children pick out their own; they’ll be more likely to wear it for every ride.

Bikes

  • Ensure proper bike fit by bringing the child along when shopping for a bike. Select one that is the right size for the child, not one he or she will grow into.
  • Actively supervise children until you’re comfortable that they are responsible to ride on their own.
  • Every child is different, but developmentally, it can be hard for kids to judge speed and distance of cars until age 10, so limit riding to sidewalks (although be careful for vehicles in driveways), parks or bike paths until age 10. No matter where you ride, teach your child to stay alert and watch for cars and trucks.
  • Long or loose clothing can get caught in bike chains or wheel spokes. Dress young kids appropriately to ensure a safe ride.
  • Before the ride, make sure the reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly, and tires are tightly secured and properly inflated.
  • Teach your kids to make eye contact with drivers. Bikers should make sure drivers are paying attention and are going to stop before they cross the street.
  • Tell your kids to ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against it. Stay as far to the right as possible. Use appropriate hand signals and respect traffic signals, stopping at all stop signs and stoplights.
  • When riding at dusk, at dawn or in the evening, be bright and use lights – and make sure your bike has reflectors as well. It’s also smart to wear clothes and accessories that have retro-reflective materials to improve biker visibility to motorists.

See more at: http://www.safekids.org/safetytips/field_age/big-kids-5%E2%80%939-years/field_risks/bike#sthash.YN3QDQvX.dpuf

childrensOur thanks to our friends at Children’s Community Health Plan for this blog post!

Guest Post: We do this because . . .

We Do This Because…..
by Jill Norton

ALL OF US GET INTO FOSTER CARE BECAUSE we feel that we have something to offer. We may say to ourselves, ” I have a great marriage, my kids are doing well, and I can offer another child predictability and structure. I can advocate, lovingly discipline, nurture and protect children that have been abused and neglected.” In the back of our mind, we are also thinking, “And what child won’t respond positively to me and the efforts being made on their behalf?” Eventually, if you provide foster care long enough, a child will enter your home, you will work tirelessly, and the child won’t respond positively to your efforts. You become frustrated and begin to wonder what you are doing wrong. You may even feel like you are failing as a foster parent.

I WANT TO REMIND ALL OF US that it is not our job to fix these children. We cannot measure our level of success or 2013-10-12 15.37.42failure based upon how the child responds to our efforts. It is our job to get up every day and be faithful with what we have been entrusted to do. That is: to teach, guide, love, discipline, nurture, protect, advocate for, and provide consistency, structure and predictability.

BEING A FOSTER PARENT WILL BE one of the most rewarding-and-difficult-things you will ever do in your life. There will be times when you’ll feel ignored and undervalued by those in the system. Even children themselves seldom offer thanks. Know how important you are to this child. Know that you are uniquely situated to have the most significant impact on their life.

YOU WILL IMPACT WHO THEY ARE, the relationships that they have with their families and future spouses, their own children, and their future successes. The impact will last forever. Provide them with the tools to be successful. Nothing you do in the life of a child is ever wasted. Nothing. As Neil Postman says in The Disappearance of Childhood (1982), “Children are the living message we send to a time we will not see.”

cover jill nortonA Leap of Faith (Jillnorton.net) 

Jill Norton’s life was not how she envisioned it. Instead of a calm, peaceful life of control, Jill and her husband opened their hearts and home to foster children. Over the course of six years, Tom and Jill gave eight of those children a forever family through the miracle of adoption. Jill looks at how the system works; how to manage birth family connections, and why those connections are vital; critical trips to make foster and adoptive parents’ journeys easier; and how she and her husband discipline. Jill also offers an intimate look at what this spiritual call on their life has cost them, and she answers the question, “Would they do it all over again?”

Guest Post: Overwhelmed by Love and Grace. Adoption Follow-Up

Several months ago, we shared a guest post with you all from Rebecca Eby. She shared her story of trying to start a family and also how she and her husband, Ben, decided to pursue adoption. Today, Becky has very graciously agreed to share two new posts with the Coalition and our readers. Here is the first post. The follow-up is below.

You are all wonderful. Since I posted our adoption story 15 hours ago, we’ve had about two thousand visitors to that blog page.  Wow.  So amazing.  Personally, I take a lot of comfort in knowing that others are hearing our story and reacting so strongly to it.  I can honestly say that I feel that God gave me those words.   I was sitting at home, alone, yesterday and just felt this need to write.  I had to write or burst.  It’s all these things I’ve been feeling, except written so well that I can’t take credit.  Anyway, I just wanted to share a few things that I took away from yesterday’s post.

  1. Many adoptive parents have gone through something similar to what we experienced.  So many. It’s heartbreaking.  We knew this before we decided to adopt but hoped we’d be lucky. And you know what? We are lucky.  We are lucky to be part of this story, to become friends with this amazing woman and her family, to know and love this precious baby boy, and to have the support of such amazing people.  If I had to choose, I’d do it all over again.  Why would I wish away one of the best days of my life? I’d take the bad with the good, any day.
  2. So many people have no idea that this is what adoption means.  It means baring your soul.  It means sharing something of yourself that you can’t get back.  It means you will meet amazing people that will inspire you to do better.  I heard several people mention my strong faith.  Can I just give a little shout out to this sweet new mother?  She has done more to encourage my faith than anyone in these last 13 years since I left home.  From the beginning, she has thought our connection has been “a God thing”, and I think she’s right.
  3. As I said in my post yesterday, adoption is TOUGH.  If you have friends or family suffering from infertility or pregnancy loss, please think before you tell them to “just adopt”.  Obviously it’s not easy, it’s definitely not cheap, and it’s not fast.  We feel it’s right for us, but there is a ton of uninformed people out there making it sound like a quick fix to starting a family.   It is definitely not any of those things.  But it is beautiful, and forged out of love.  So for some people, it’s worth it.  And while we’re on this topic, please don’t tell someone they will get pregnant as soon as they decide to adopt. It’s not funny.  It may happen to some people but for most people, it’s not an option.  Ben and I could easily be pregnant but realistically we’d lose that pregnancy like the last 6 pregnancies.  So we are actually hoping to adopt MORE than we hope to have a biological child.  A biological child is not better than an adopted  child.  Children are the same, and the way you build your family doesn’t matter.   So if someone says they plan on adopting, please wish them well and share their excitement.  They are not choosing a lesser method of building their family.   (Stepping off soapbox.  You know I love you all, right?):)

  

So.  A few things were sent to me in messages or comments and I wanted to share a few of them so you can see why my heart is so full today.  It is because of people like you.  Taking a moment to send a message or comment to a family that is hurting is always an encouraging thing, even if they don’t respond.  Your words have the power to lift up a complete stranger.  So I’d like to share some of your words… both from strangers and friends.
The journey toward becoming a parent and then being a parent is full of so many hardships and heartbreaks. I know someday soon, you are going to begin raising a child of your own, and miraculously, all of the pain and hardships will become part of your story. They won’t be forgotten, but love always wins, it’s the love that keeps us going. Thank you for sharing your heart and faith … I’m so, so, so sorry you have to go through this. You already are an amazing mother.  -Katie

I hope one day this is just a footnote in what is an amazing journey for your family. – Molly

Although you are grieving now, what a blessing to that mother that if nothing else, she has found true friendship in you. A support system… God has a plan. It isn’t for us to try to figure out or understand. There was a reason you were chosen. There is a reason He gave you those moments of being a mama and then taking it away. Perhaps so that you don’t give up hope? We may never know but your undying faith will keep you strong and your blog is helping others; not just those who are are in the process of adoption either! Do trust me, I see that if you can still trust in God’s plan even during this time, that my problems are minor. I won’t say I’m sorry that you had to go through this because although this child isn’t your son on paper, he was your son in your arms for a moment and I’m sure in your heart for a lifetime! God bless and prayers to you and your husband as well as to the newborn and his family! -Jennifer

I am so very sorry. I am praying for all of you tonight. You are so brave and such a blessing for so many people like me. I can never thank you enough for being my voice. Your strength gives me strength. Please know there are so many people out there tonight grieving with you. Blessings and peace be with you.  -Morgan

Our first adoption experience had us with a brand new baby in our arms for 5 days. And then the birth parents changed their minds. The depth of grief I experienced was only matched by the grace I kept unearthing in order to find my way through. There is beauty everywhere. I worked through & learned so much in those weeks. …  And that first story had to happen in order for us to find our way to our daughter, and for her to find her way to us. The road to adoption is never straight. And we have our own labour pains. And, in the end, we get our children, no matter how they come – birth, adoption, relationship. … Even floating in grace, grief is a deep ocean to swim across. Much love from here, to you there.   – Jennifer

There are absolutely NO WORDS. Miscarriage… society expects you to grieve… adoptions disrupted….very few people gave me the time to grieve a child that was alive with a different mom…. Praying for you and your family.  -Cindy

I’ll stop sharing quotes now, but these are just a few of the encouraging words that have been shared with us.  There were literally hundreds of people sending prayers, love, hugs, and well wishes.  With this kind of support, how can I help but be thankful?  And knowing that our story has helped several people reading it makes my heart happy.  

Thank you, God, for using this experience and our pain for your glory. You are so, SO good.

And finally, this is the only photo I will be sharing of me with Baby Boy.  I want to protect his privacy.  But I figured this one was okay. It was our first photo together and he was five minutes old.  I treasure this image. :)

Guest Post: Adoption is Tough. Let Me Tell You . . .

Several months ago, we shared a guest post with you all from Rebecca Eby. She shared her story of trying to start a family and also how she and her husband, Ben, decided to pursue adoption. Today, Becky has very graciously agreed to share two new posts with the Coalition and our readers. Below is the first.

ADOPTION IS TOUGH. LET ME TELL YOU…

This post is much different than what I anticipated posting today. In fact, I had a beautiful post written on Tuesday morning and waited to hit “publish”. I guess this is the post I was meant to share with you instead.

We’ve been very open with our adoption journey but have held back some things these past few months because of privacy or out of respect for certain people involved.  Today, I want to share a little bit more about our adoption journey. It’s painful but I find a lot of comfort in writing our story out, as well as sharing with you.  I know, without a doubt, that this story will help someone reading it.  So if that is you, I’m sending you hugs and an open invitation to get in touch if you want to chat.  Grief is tough to deal with but I find it so much easier to know I’m not alone.

As many of you following our adoption Facebook page already know, we have been speaking with an expectant mother since October.  Here is a short synopsis of our timeline.  This is done from memory so I might be slightly “off” on my calendar, but you get the idea:

  • October: First contact by the expectant mother.  We get to know her and she has been talking to two families, trying to figure out which one she wants to place her child with.  She chose us.:)  She chose us, over anyone else, and we fell in love with HER as much as her child.  The father was uncertain of his plans to agree to adoption at that point.
  • In November, the expectant father agreed to adoption.  We continue to get to know the mother, and in her we find a wonderful friendship, fantastic communication, and hope for an amazing future with the child we’d been waiting for since we started trying for a family in 2009.
  • In January we announced to the world that we were expecting to adopt that baby in mid March.
  • Two weeks later, the expectant father changed his mind and said he absolutely wouldn’t choose adoption or sign the papers.
  • February we reached out to him.  We said we understood and respected his decision, but we were still interested if he changed his mind.
  • Mid-February he said that he was considering it again.  He continued to talk to us over the next few weeks.
  • March 17 – we got the call from him saying he would choose adoption.
  • March 18 – we got the call saying the mother was heading to the hospital and I joined her there.  I was in the room for the birth.  It was emotional and I fell in love with that baby within seconds of meeting him.  In the room when he entered this world was the mother’s mom, her best friend, and myself.  There was so much love and support. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.  So beautiful.  The first thing the mother said to me after Baby arrived was, “You have a son!” then she grabbed my hand and we wept together.  I’ve had some powerful moments in my life, but this was probably the MOST amazing moment that I will always remember as being one of the best.  I thank her for sharing this experience with me.  The rest of this day and all night was spent at the hospital.  We all cuddled the baby, learned some baby care things from the nurses, and I even spent the night with the mother, in her big hospital bed with the baby in the bassinet at our feet.  We were up talking late, and at one point a nurse told us that she was told about our adoption situation when coming on shift.  She thought it was going to be a bit weird but all the other nurses told her, “Oh no, it’s like the adoptive and birth moms are best friends!  It’s an amazing thing to go into that recovery room.”  And she agreed that this was a special relationship.  Watching my husband hold that tiny baby, and hearing how strongly it impacted him was so incredibly sweet for me.  I also watched the baby’s father hold that baby.  I kept telling myself that worry wouldn’t change anything; if the baby was meant to be ours, it would work out.
  • March 19 – the father changed his mind again.  He said he couldn’t sign the adoption papers. My mom and sister also came to visit, and they were there when the whole thing fell apart.  My husband’s family was going to come today (the 19th) to visit, but given the situation, they did not come.
  • Today is March 20th. I’m sitting at home, with no baby in my arms.I am ready for a baby. Clothes are washed, the nursery is done, and my arms are open. Last night I cried myself to sleep.  Miscarriage is hard. Failed adoptions are hard.  But failed adoptions when you have held that baby, made decisions for him, stayed up with him for hours at night when no one else is awake, and stared at him enough to memorize his face is enough to break your heart into millions of tiny pieces.I hurt today, friends.  I hurt so much.  I hurt like there is this big piece of me missing, a piece that I was aware of but didn’t know how big it was until two days ago.  I hurt for this new mother that will now be raising a baby that she loves so very dearly.  She loves this baby so much that she wanted more for him… she wanted him to be raised by two loving parents in a stable home where his life would be blissfully simple and happy.  Where his mommy would be able to stay home with him every day and his daddy would take him fishing.  Where he wouldn’t have to think about custody and splitting Christmases with different families and where our values are so in line with what she believes is important.  With that said, she is and will continue to be an amazing mother. I have no doubt she will do whatever she needs to in order to raise this baby to be an amazing child.There is still a chance things will change with the father.  It’s not likely, but he’s done it before.  We know God is good and no one can imagine the plans He has for us.  If this baby is meant to be ours, it will happen.  We aren’t giving up completely on this adoption but we are recognizing that this family has some serious things going on and they need to figure out what to do next.With the friendship we have built over the last few months with this new mother (and on a much smaller level, we’ve built a relationship with the father as well), and we don’t anticipate that changing.  She will always be important to us, and she made me a mother in a way that my miscarriages never allowed, even if I had a son only in my mind for a few short hours.  Those moments were some of the sweetest I have ever known.

    Today, I’m doing okay.  I’m still pretty weepy and sad, and if I’m honest, I’m grieving a little.  I still want to be a mom and more than anything, I want to see my husband be a dad.  He will be amazing at it. I don’t think he realizes exactly how much he will love it but he got a taste of it yesterday.  This has impacted him more than he expected.

    But this morning I realized that God answers prayer when things go the way I want, and he answers prayer even when things are going horribly wrong.  I still have HOPE, even though things looked so very bleak last night.  Now we just want to support this new mother who is so dear to us.  We want the best for this baby, as does his mother, and all of us will work to make sure that happens.  This amazing, beautiful little man has the most incredible list of people who love him.  For that, he is so very blessed.   And our family has grown to include the family of this new mother… so while we didn’t gain a son like we hoped, we did gain some amazing friends who are very much like family. Watching the new mother’s mom hand my own mom the baby… these “grandmas” hugged and stared at this child, and wow.  I cry just thinking about that moment.

    Adoption is tough. It’s heart-wrenching on many levels for so many involved.  But it is so, so beautiful. Thinking about the moments I’ve witnessed in the last few days is humbling.  The adoption hasn’t worked out (though we still hope for a miracle over this next month) but the love will continue.  I know this without a doubt. As I said before, this journey toward adoption has strengthened my faith in so many ways.  Without my faith, I think I’d be an angry, heartbroken mess today when I think about the roller coaster of emotions we’ve had.  But instead, I’m a little heartbroken and a lot hopeful.  I’m sad but at peace. Does that make sense? If we are ever blessed to become parents, it will all come together and everything will be right.  If we are not meant to be parents, I will still have my amazing marriage and life, full of happiness and blessed by a God that knows what I need more than I do.

     Three final parting thoughts:
    1. Please pray for us and for this new baby and his family. If he is meant to be ours, it will work out.  If not, they still need prayer.
    2. God is good and has a plan.  This is clearer to me now than ever.  We could have brought the baby home from the hospital today but strongly feel He wants us to step back while everything is figured out.  We hope this baby will be ours but accept the situation either way.
    3. In case this is the first time you’ve read any of our adoption/infertility posts, you can read about it on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/beckyandbenadopt, or on our adoption site, www.beckyandbenadopt.blogspot.com.  I also have some blog posts on this blog HEREHERE, and HERE.As always, thanks for your prayers, encouragement, and support.We are so thankful for the 900+ people on following our journey on Facebook, as well as those who we know in real life that are on our team.:)  You all have made our time of waiting so much sweeter.

The Healing Effects of Alumni in the Lives of Children in Foster Care

In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is sharing some guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

By Helen Ramaglia, former youth in foster care

I had just returned from a conference in Orlando where I trained and empowered approximately 150 Florida foster/adoptive youth. As I sat back and digested the events that unexpectedly unfolded, I realized, it is I who learned the greatest lesson of all.

I was asking the children to give me their pain and they did, but it came with a very high price tag . . . my pain.

I’ve always felt a very strong need to return to help my brothers and sisters in care. The need was so strong that it would occasionally drive slight waves of depression. The task seemed so overwhelming that it merely became a far-fetched dream, or so I thought. However, this past year, I’ve come to believe in miracles and the vast impact of “someone who’s been there” on the lives of children in foster care.

There I was, setting up for day one of the conference with a colorful PowerPoint and a copy of “My Foster Success Journal” at the seat of every participant. I had them start with a chant – “I – Will – Succeed” – and the kids seem engaged, but in a ‘keep your distance’ sort of way. Regardless, they were having fun so far.

We continued to dissect the journal and the steps to success, but the further I went, the more I lost them. There was one point when I had to hush chatter at one table, and I starting to feel a little anxious.

I knew I had lost that moment of first impression, and was feeling a little beaten down. I was thankful when we got to the part where I was going to talk about my personal story. As I talked, I noticed the kids got quieter and quieter. They were finally listening to me again.

The kids were completely engaged, and as I spoke I saw tears well up in one girl’s eyes. I softened the blow, and that’s when the kids started questioning me.

I shared the part where I married three weeks before I aged out. One of the older guys piped up and said, “Oh, so you used him?”

I quickly responded with, “No, I was facing homelessness. In my eyes, it was either marriage, or homelessness.”

He replied back: “That doesn’t matter, you were still using him.” Of course I denied it and tried to redirect the path we were on by getting the kids to share their goals instead.

Only, they weren’t biting.

I hadn’t earned their trust, I hadn’t proven myself worthy yet, and they weren’t opening up no matter what I tried. Instead, they spent 20 minutes drilling me about my past. It felt as if I had just wandered into the middle of a cactus bush.

A foster child was holding me accountable for my actions, and I found myself offended and feeling a little attacked. Even though I could tell I had let the kids down, they proceeded to applaud loudly after I finished my session.

Afterwards, in the hallways, the kids didn’t even notice I was there. I was invisible to most of them.

I started asking the kids what they thought I could have done better. They seemed surprised that I asked their opinion, and I was surprised by what they had to say. I heard the same message over and over in several different ways.

But, the overall consensus was: Why share their pain with me if I wasn’t willing to share my pain with them? They said I had to earn their trust, their respect. They used the word “raw” and I started to get a little scared.

They were demanding I deliver the goods. They needed to know that I was going to be able to ‘understand’ their pain before they shared. Then, I remembered how I felt as a child in care. I could tell them all day how I felt, but I knew even if I did, they could never truly understand and I would just feel let down, again, and even more depressed because they wouldn’t be able to relate.

Then I would become afraid that if I did share, would I be able to add yet another piece of pain to my already heavy heart, or would that be the “one more” that might render me angry and dark for the rest of my life?

They had to know that sharing would be a healing moment and not just one more piece of devastation in their already traumatic lives.

So, the next day, the large conference room was split into two rooms and the youth were able to decide which session they wanted to participate in.

Their choices: more with Ms. Holding Back Helen, or Ms. Perky Merky with a fun cutesy title. Needless to say, most of the youth chose to go into Ms. Perky Merky’s classroom. I only had a handful in my class, but I was determined to deliver the goods and earn their respect and trust.

They had called me on the carpet and I was determined to give them everything I had. I asked them to huddle up, because we were going to get up close and personal.

I can tell you that I bled all over that room. I gave them all I had. We laughed together and we cried together. I watched as their eyes widened with horror as they looked at each other with open mouths. I even heard a few gasps off and on. At one point I opened my heart and they reached inside and took whatever they needed to to keep going. We danced the dance of pain together that day.

I noticed that the longer I talked, the bigger my class got. One left and I thought, oh great. But then he returned with another. This happened a few more times and my class got bigger and bigger. As the room filled, I felt stronger and stronger. I took their advice and I got real. I got raw and I shared everything I could in the time that we had.

When I finished there was no clap. What happened next will be forever ingrained in my heart. Every one of these wonderful, amazing kids came up and gave me a hug. I heard,

  • “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
  • “Thank you for sharing, now I know I can be someone special.”
  • “Thank you for getting real, I want to be you someday.”
  • “I needed that.”
  • “I promise you I will be that leader someday.”
  • “You give me hope.”

And the list goes on and on.

For the rest of the day I couldn’t walk down a hall without seeing the kids beaming and hearing “Hi Ms. Helen;” and they made sure I heard them.

They were full of pain, they knew it, and now they knew they need to get it out. They wanted to get it out. But they weren’t willing to share that pain with just anyone. How could they share their pain with me, if they didn’t think I could truly understand the depth of it?

Helen Ramaglia is a foster alumni who became a foster/adoptive parent. She is the founder and Director of Fostering Superstars, a Congressional Award Winner for her work with foster children and is the author of “From Foster to Fabulous,” She is a popular speaker, trainer, and advocate for foster children. www.fromfostertofabulous.com

 

Home is a Place in Your Heart

In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is sharing some guest posts by people with widely varying experiences. 

By Patricia P.

When my daughter, Amara, was seven, she helped me understand what home meant to a child. She said “home is the place you most want to be in the whole world. It’s a place in your heart.”

Wow! For a seven-year-old that statement might seem pretty impressive, but, you see, Amara’s mom makes her living talking to people around the country. And, for most of her life, Amara has traveled with me and is usually in the audience. I am also an advocate of emotional literacy; therefore, we often talk about feelings in our house. Amara also happens to be quite bright! I’m sure I’m biased, but her explanation was a blessing to me in so many ways.

As a professional who facilitates adult learning, it gave me language to share with other professionals who seek to heal and empower families. Children don’t often have a voice when a family is having problems. It is their behavior that draws all the attention. Professionals sometimes mistakenly believe that if the parents land on their feet after a family disruption, the children will be fine just because their acting-out behavior ceases. But, about six months later, the storm that was brewing inside their hearts comes forth! Children often lack the language to express their insecurities, their sense of loss and confusion. They just feel and act out or act in. Amara’s explanation helped share with my professional audience to care for a child’s heart when their family is having problems; there is pain that words can’t express.

As an adult who cares for and loves children, it gave me insight into the world of a child. They are so dependent on us adults for all the important things in life. Not just food, shelter and clothing, but peace. What we call peace of mind. A blessed assurance that someone who cares for me is looking out for me, is thinking about me, loving me. That is something you feel, not just do. We adults are so focused on meeting our responsibilities, doing what is expected, providing for our families. We might forget to feel them and feel for them. That really does make us vulnerable and dependent on someone else’s emotions. We don’t like that so much, we adults. But that is the world that children live in. They live on the edge of their adult’s emotions. Whether it’s their parents, a caregiver, teacher, coach, pastor, or relative, they grope for adult emotions to communicate their security, their sense of connection and identity. Children need to feel at home as well as be at home.

As an adoptive parent, it gave me a goal to aim for in Amara’s life. I always wanted to share my life with my own child. Since I was a social worker and a minister, I felt prepared to share my life with a child who was in need of a home. So I decided to adopt. And I wanted a girl child so I could show her how to be a strong woman. Making a home for a child, I discovered, is more than providing a place in space. It is more than providing food and clothing, kisses and a cool hand for a little fever. It is being there – when she needs me to be and how she needs me to be. Parenting Amara has made me a better person. She has taught me that parenting means giving her a part of me, not just my life. I no longer want to provide a home for Amara; I want to be home for her.

As her parent, it gave me love. Amara has asked several times over the years we’ve been together to see and spend time with her biological parents. Although I adopted her as an infant, I agreed to have ongoing contact with her biological parents and siblings. I knew before I adopted her that knowing her biological roots would be very important to her one day so I facilitated an ongoing relationship with her biological mother. We have had some great times together. Especially significant was when we spent an afternoon with her biological father for the first time. The look of joy on Amara’s face was worth all the effort it took to find him. He was wonderful, too. He hugged and thanked me for taking such good care of her. Having this open arrangement has worked well so far for us. It has been worth working through all my feelings of insecurities and her biological parents’ feelings of guilt and regret. And at the end of every visit, Amara has wanted to come back home with me.

As Amara explained to me, that place she calls home is her place inside my heart.