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The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting: Book Review

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From the Cover of The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting: Strategies and Solutions by Sarah Naish:

“Therapeutic parenting is a deeply nurturing parenting style, and is especially effective for children with attachment difficulties, or those who have experienced trauma. This book provides everything you need to know in order to effectively therapeutically parent.

The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting gives parents and caregivers an easy to follow step-by-step process to use when responding to common behaviors and challenges presented by traumatized children. Topics range from acting aggressively to difficulties with sleep, and include advice on what might trigger these issues, and how to respond to them therapeutically, in order to start to resolve these challenges.

Easy to navigate and written in a quick reference, straightforward style, this book is a ‘must-have’ for all therapeutic parents.”


Grade:

5 hoots out of 5

Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 5 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]


What Our Family Thought:

The target audience for this book are parents who are facing parenting challenges, especially those whose children have endured trauma. Sarah Naish is a foster/adoptive mom and writes as both a professional and an experienced therapeutic parent. This is one of those books that I so wish I had in my hands as we were beginning the foster care and adoption journey a decade ago. It would have been a game changer for our home in terms of understanding and responding to children in our home.

Sarah neatly divides the book into two parts for readers.

“Part 1: The Basics” covers the foundations and models of therapeutic parenting and explains why children who have experiences trauma behave the way they do. It covers responses and strategies to avoid, as well as compassion fatigue and the importance of caregivers caring for themselves along with ways to build in that self-care. Brimming with useful, pictorial analogies to help caregivers in their understanding, encouragement for the journey, and practical solutions, this section lays the groundwork for the second part of the book.

“Part 2: A-Z of Behaviours and Challenges with Solutions” contains an alphabetical listing of behaviors and challenges that parents face when parenting foster and adoptive children. When writing the book, Ms. Naish thought she would address about twenty-five topics, but after thinking about what questions she is frequently asked and consulting therapeutic parents about what topics they would like to see addressed, the count reached over sixty. Each topic entry begins with a definition of the behavior or challenge followed by what it looks like in a child, why it might happen, and strategies, often including preventative strategies and strategies for during and after the behavior. Some of the topics also include a “reality check,” which offers “some quick and helpful facts as an overview.” This section of the book provides a quick reference that can be used when needed most.

Overall, this book is an extremely useful resource for foster and adoptive parents. Sarah Naish’s series of therapeutic books for children would make a great companion to help children understand their own behavior and challenges and find empowerment to overcome obstacles.


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It’s Your Turn:

  1. What analogy did you find most helpful in understanding your child(ren)? (trauma lake, child driver)
  2. Which of the topics listed do you find most challenging?
  3. What new strategies will you implement in your parenting as a result of reading this book?

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4 Tips for Recognizing Positive Changes in Foster & Adoptive Kids

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I spend very little time on Facebook because I find myself distracted and losing time because of interesting and inspiring videos and posts. One such post was a video about a little squirrel who had been rescued. Her arms had been caught in a trap, and she ended up needing to have them amputated. The man in Turkey who took her in named her Karamel. The YouTube video entitled “Rescue Squirrel Without Arms Makes Her Dad So Proud” follows her recovery, from her rescuers not knowing whether she would survive all the way to having a prosthetic that allows her to run and play outside.


Here are some quotes from Karamel’s “dad” in the video:

“But she really wanted to survive.”
“She’s a strong willed squirrel.”
“Our daughter with wings of hearts instead of arms.”
“Who said she can’t get better and move around like this? Who said you can’t run again? Who said I should put her to sleep? People told me I should have her put down, but how could I? She wants to live.”


This little squirrel clearly had a will to survive. While many doubted her, she showed strength and determination. She overcame great obstacles, and everyone who sees her can see it! We can see her arms are missing. We can see her running around, strong and beautiful.


The Great Battle Unseen in Foster/Adoptive Kids

Karamel’s story is inspiring, but the reality is that often in life, obstacles and the conquering of them are not always so visible, which leads to little appreciation of an individual’s will and efforts. This is especially true in the lives of foster and adopted children. The casual observer has no clue how their bodies have been damaged by the trauma they have endured. Because it’s not visible to the naked eye, people do not appreciate the fight they have to have to simply make it through a day. People view their behaviors as disobedience, defiance, and just downright brattiness without understanding the ways trauma has damaged their brain and neurological functioning.

[**Shared with Jasmine’s permission]
At the end of this past school year, I asked my daughter, Jasmine, if she would be going to the good behavior party and then tickled her knee and asked if she was invited to go. She exclaimed that she hadn’t even had a single “minor’s log” in all three years of middle school. I know she had never been in trouble in middle school because I didn’t even know that’s what whatever their behavioral infractions were called. She then said she was scared about high school. I teased and asked if she was scared she was going to all of a sudden become a bad girl. (I know…we don’t really use that terminology…I was just teasing, and she knows that.) We quit joking and went on to talk about her real concerns, and I told her she has come a long way. Her teachers would think I needed psychiatric help if I told them what a typical school day was like her first three years of elementary school.

At my son, Matthew’s graduation party, a family friend made the comment that Jasmine had grown up so much and that she could not fit in a backpack anymore. Huh?? What? I thought it was a weird comment until the individual gave the context of picking Jasmine up from school (probably 1st grade) after getting a call that she needed to be picked up because of her behavior, and neither Darren nor I could go get her. When this family friend entered the classroom, Jasmine was trying to hide under a desk inside her backpack.

Even though I know all the science behind how trauma has compromised our kids’ biology, brains, and behavior, I often fail to recognize their vast improvements and achievements. Improvement takes tons of time, consistency, unconditional love, therapies, interventions…It is easy to forget how a typical day went 3…5…8…10 years ago. And it’s even worse with the general public when they weren’t around to see how far kids have come, they minimize the obstacles, or they fail to understand what they are up against. They fail to think about how they would respond if their entire worlds were ripped out from under them, even as adults with rational and logical thought. They make flippant, ignorant, and damaging comments like:

“They have a stable home and family. They just need love.”
“They should be grateful.”
“They look fine.”


So what needs to be done:

  1. As caregivers, we need to find ways to REMIND OURSELVES of our children’s progress, whether it be through journals, photo journals, or something! When days are rough, or we are aggravated by an ongoing issue, we can look back and gain some perspective.
  2. We need to PRACTICE SELF-CARE. Compassion fatigue, where one is continually in the fight with a person and gets worn out and starts to lose their sense of empathy for the person’s experiences, is very real. Once we have compassion fatigue, we lose perspective on the why’s of a child’s struggles and just become angry and aggravated with the child and not the situation. We lose sight of the why’s of our journey and our goal to help and come alongside the child as a member of their team.
  3. We need to educate ourselves on how our children have been impacted by their past, ACKNOWLEDGE it, and be willing to be life-long LEARNers, ADAPTing to new ways of parenting and guiding our children.
  4. Finally, we have to ADVOCATE for our children. We have to continually EDUCATE those in our child’s lives about the impact of trauma, the fight our kids have to have to survive, and just how amazing they are!

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Transfiguring Adoption Changes: Honoring Beginnings

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Today, August 1, 2018, marks new beginnings for Transfiguring Adoption. When Darren and I began Transfiguring Adoption a few years ago, we initially planned to begin the process of becoming a federally-recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit. But Melanie Nordstrom, whom we had been working with in various capacities since 2000, recommended that we, Transfiguring Adoption, set up as a branch of Community Life Concepts (CLC) of Southern Illinois, NPC, a nonprofit for which she was the executive director. This made perfect sense as Darren and I had a history of running programming under CLC and also securing and managing grant funding under CLC.

Melanie has served not just as a “boss” to us in many ways over the last two decades, but she has been a friend and a mentor. Much of what we know about leadership, nonprofit management, and loving those in need we have gleaned from Melanie. Yesterday Melanie officially resigned as executive director of CLC and recommended me, Margie Fink, to the board as the new executive director. (Of course, this has been in the works in the background for a couple of months now.)


What’s Changing?

The CLC board has voted on several changes. Most of them will not necessarily be noticeable to those served through Transfiguring Adoption, but all are designed to have a positive impact on all that we do.

  • Margie Fink is the new executive director of the organization.
  • The legal name of the nonprofit is changing to Transfiguring Adoption.
  • We have a new board.
  • The current focus of the organization will be zeroing in on programs that relate to foster care and adoption.
  • We have also secured the services of Redbird Strategic Resources for strategic planning and fundraising help.

What’s Staying the Same?

For most people served through TA and for most of our volunteers, little will be noticeably different. First, here is a little background on CLC from the website:

“CLC has a history of founding programs that fill in gaps in services. These have included low cost food programs for families, coordinating emergency relief efforts for natural disasters, youth leadership training programs, volunteer mobilization, and organizing scholarships for low income children to attend private schools, to name a few. Additionally, CLC has provided infrastructural support to branches, such as Community Kids and Transfiguring Adoption, including office and meeting space in a state of the art facility, book keeping, office equipment and supplies, and a proven ability to market new programs effectively. Community Life Concepts (CLC) was founded as an outreach of Christ Community Church in Murphysboro, IL. Our mission is to develop programs that provide practical ways to bring hope and healing to those we serve. We work with faith-based and secular groups in a variety of settings. CLC was incorporated in 2006 and has its own federal nonprofit status. While CLC finds strength in its history, we strive to find new methods to respond to the needs of our world.”

These aspects will stay the same:

  • Dedication to improving and increasing services
  • Darren Fink as Program Director
  • Margie Fink’s duties stay the same with more added.

Current Programs

You may not be aware that there are already two other programs—Community Kids and Compassion Closet—that have been operating under CLC/Transfiguring Adoption. Moving forward, there will be opportunity to add more programming that supports and resources children and their caregivers.

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Compassion Closet

The Compassion Closet’s mission is to show the love of Christ by providing quality clothing and tangible items to foster children and their families.  We also desire to serve birth families, aging out youth, kinship placements, and domestic/international adoptive families as God allows and needs arise. The Compassion Closet is located in Knoxville, TN, and serves the greater Knoxville area.

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Community Kids

Community Kids (CK) is a support network for foster, kinship, and adoptive families that was conceptualized in the fall of 2009 and began programming in the spring of 2010. The purpose of CK is to provide foster and adoptive families supportive services that are not currently available through the state or other non profits. The first step was to initiate a monthly support group. Free child care from approved care givers is offered during the meetings. In the past, the group offered a free store to aid families in equipping new placements and also offered a summer camp for foster and adoptive children with the aid of a respite grant from AdoptUSKids. While its cofounders, Darren and Margaret Fink, currently reside in Florida and no longer provide programming, a support group continues to operate on a monthly basis in Southern Illinois from the group they began.


Thanks!

As we begin this new leg of the journey, I am grateful for the many opportunities Melanie has given us to grow, learn, do what we love, and become more of who and what we long to be. I am thankful for all who have been a part of our journey, and I look forward to the days, months and years to come and the people we will meet and serve along the way!

Let’s do this!!


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