Chapter 16 – Solving the Puzzle of Our Kids – Parent Discussion

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Chapter 16 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is all about breaking the enchantments protecting the sorcerer’s stone. Dangerous spells are guarding the stone from falling into the wrong hands, but Harry and his friends have come to realize that it is going to happen if they don’t do something since none of the adults are listening to them. (That’s another blog in and of itself!) They have to use not only the touted characteristics of Gryffindor—friendship and bravery—but also the more Ravenclaw-esque qualities of book smarts and cleverness, and all their talents down to how to play a good game of chess.

“As a result of trauma, children in foster care, kinship care, institutions, or adoptive homes have become complicated puzzles, a series of enchantments or spells, if you will, needing to be broken.”

Looking at our kids, they look like “typical,” “normal” kids, but not much about their childhood has been very “normal.” As a result of trauma, children in foster care, kinship care, institutions, or adoptive homes have become complicated puzzles, a series of enchantments or spells, if you will, needing to be broken. A child may be chronologically 10 years old, physically 6, academically 5, developmentally 4, emotionally 3, and experientially 25. The goal is to take their lives and create one piece—one age—that is the child, to bring up the areas that are lagging behind their chronological age and to reign in the ones that have gotten too far ahead.

The only way to do this is to look at the whole child, to use all your skills and knowledge and that of every professional you know, to continue researching and learning more, and to apply all that you learn in any way possible to solve the puzzle of the child in your care, to get the help they and you need. You have to become puzzle solvers like Harry, Ron, and Hermione and determine what calms “Fluffy,” how to defeat the “Devil’s Snare;” which key will unlock a door; how to play your way across the chess board; which potion will advance you, which will send you backwards and which will kill you; what to see in the mirror; and how to protect something precious and valuable.

“There is no magical answer here. It’s a daunting and overwhelming task, and it never ends.”

There is no magical answer here. It’s a daunting and overwhelming task, and it never ends. It can take years to find the correct diagnoses, or therapies, or nutrition, or activities, or relationships, or doctors, or medications (…You get the picture) to get a breakthrough in an area. Halting their experiential age often means putting rules into place that “normal” families don’t have. We have had to enforce rules that neighborhood friends think odd and don’t always want to abide by, such as no sharing blankets, no children allowed in Mom and Dad’s room, members of the opposite sex are not allowed in bedrooms, and bedroom doors stay open when anyone else is in them aside from the child who lives in that room.

Catching up a child’s emotional age may involve doing activities with them that they are “too old” for. This is one area of the puzzle we probably struggle with the most. I, in particular, have had a hard time with this, especially after six years of parenting our kiddos and not seeing progress in some areas. I have a hard time looking at a teenager or tween and not expecting age appropriate responses and behaviors. Also, in preparation for foster care and adoption, professionals may tell you to rock a teenager in a rocking chair to help “unlock” developmental progress which may have stalled when a child didn’t receive the physical affection needed at important developmental stages. Taking in an older male child who wants to snuggle into an adult’s chest can be awkward for moms to say the least.

“As difficult as solving these puzzles in our children’s lives can be, it is also one of the most rewarding accomplishments you will EVER experience…”

As difficult as solving these puzzles in our children’s lives can be, it is also one of the most rewarding accomplishments you will EVER experience, and it must be done to achieve healing, to break cycles, and to help these little humans be all they can and fulfill the purpose of their lives.

Your Turn:

  1. Take a moment to reflect on each child in your care. What is their chronological age? Emotional? Physical? Academic? Experiential? Developmental?
  2. Which areas need to catch up and which need to be halted?
  3. What steps will you take to solve the puzzle of your child?
  4. Comment below with ways you have found breakthroughs with your child to help others.

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Parents’ Discussions:

Ch. 01 | Ch. 02 | Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Kids’ Discussions:
Ch. 01
| Ch. 02Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Chapter 17 – Giving Your Child a History – Parent’s Discussion

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We have come to the end of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts. It was far from typical for an 11 year old child. He faced dangers and fears and overcame huge obstacles. He also built relationships, not just with classmates, but also with adults, some of whom had cared for him from afar since his infancy, unbeknownst to Harry.

“… Hagrid gives him a beautiful gift he treasures: a photobook.”

Now he has to return for the summer to the people who don’t care so much for him. But before he leaves, Hagrid gives him a beautiful gift he treasures: a photobook. This photo album for Harry represents his history, a history he hadn’t known until this year. Hagrid had asked all of Harry’s parents’ old friends for photos of them, as Harry didn’t have any. Harry was so taken by the smiling faces of his parents on the pages that he was not able to speak when Hagrid asked if he liked the album.

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For foster and adoptive children, it is important to do whatever is in our power to give them photographic and written evidence of their history. Our two older children each have a few photo albums that they came with. One is a collection of pictures that their biological siblings’ foster mom took of all the children during an overnight sibling visit. Another is an album a former foster mom put together of pictures of the boys during their time at the home. The third is a book of pictures from their last visit with their biological siblings and their bio mom after her rights were terminated.

“They will excitedly show the albums and speak of whatever memories they have of when the photos were taken.”

They are not beautiful leather-bound albums like Hagrid gave Harry, but rather spiral notebooks with the pictures affixed to the pages with explanations of the shots, yet I cannot tell you how much the boys value these albums. They also have an album of photos from our first family vacation and packets of prints from life in another of their foster homes. Any person who walks through our door and talks with them long enough will experience their disappearance and return with picture books in hand. They will excitedly show the albums and speak of whatever memories they have of when the photos were taken. I have to admit, I have been really bad about getting pictures into albums for our kiddos. I’m a scrapbooker who never has time to scrapbook anymore, and Darren is an artist who takes literally up to at least a thousand pictures at any one family event, making it incredibly time consuming to pick pictures to print. I have a list of projects I want to do for our kiddos. I’ve mainly been trying (and failing miserably) to work on our family album. It amazes me how excited the kids get when I have a page done for them to look at.

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As a part of our album, I have started to write out important dates and events, such as when each child entered care, when they moved from one home to the next, when they came to our home, when adoption was finalized, and so on. I also have attempted as much as possible to collect photos and information from biological family members, case files, caseworkers, former foster families…I even tried to get newborn photos from the hospitals. This was disappointing as they would not release the pictures, even though my name is on the birth certificate.

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Another project I started a few years back is a list of any heights and weights I could find with dates so I could create a growth chart for them. I just keep trying to think of ways I can pass on as much of their history as I can to them.

“Equally important as having a history for our kids is remembering that their stories did not begin with us.”

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Equally important as having a history for our kids is remembering that their stories did not begin with us. The adults who made the boys’ picture books are no longer in their lives. While biological children most often have adults who have always been with them and who can tell them over and over again stories of their early days and years until they are sick of hearing them, foster and adoptive children do not! I had never seen a baby photo of our kids for several years. (Now thankfully I do have some.)

“Our family’s adoption story does not start on adoption day, nor does it start on the days we all met. It doesn’t start when Mom and Dad received their foster care license. It starts before Mom and Dad even met or started dating.”

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Whether your children are foster children with you a short time or yours forever, giving them a history to take with them into adulthood will help them along their journeys as they seek to know who they are, where they came from, and where they are going.

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Parents’ Discussions:

Ch. 01 | Ch. 02 | Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Kids’ Discussions:
Ch. 01
| Ch. 02Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Chapter 14 – Are You Being Realistic? – Parent Discussion

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“I’ve decided to call him Norbert,” said Hagrid, looking at the dragon with misty eyes. “He really knows me now, watch. Norbert! Norbert! Where’s Mummy?”

“He’s lost his marbles,” Ron muttered in Harry’s ear.


At the beginning of Chapter 14, Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover that Hagrid has gotten himself a dragon egg. After it hatches, Hagrid names the baby dragon “Norbert,” and chaos ensues as the dragon keeps growing and biting and coughing smoke.

It gets downright dangerous in Hagrid’s hut! The trio of students discovers the bites seem poisonous after Ron gets a bite. Ron describes Norbert as the most horrible animal he’s ever met. However, Hagrid in his longing to have a dragon, still seems to view Norbert as “a fluffy little bunny rabbit” and sings to him and chides Ron for scaring him.

“Sometimes we realize we may have been unrealistic about what we could handle, and our homes become as dangerous and poisonous as Hagrid’s hut.”

So eager to get children, we as foster and adoptive parents often dive headfirst into placements, and often chaos ensues. There’s bound to be chaos because of the trauma and newness everyone is experiencing. Sometimes there’s a honeymoon followed by chaos. Sometimes we realize we may have been unrealistic about what we could handle, and our homes become as dangerous and poisonous as Hagrid’s hut.

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There are many other areas in which we may be unrealistic in our expectations:

  • what our home lives should be like,
  • how our children should behave,
  • how our home should look for caseworkers,
  • what should happen on big days, holidays, vacations, etc.,
  • how others should understand our kiddos,
  • and the list goes on!

Your Turn:

  1. Have you ever taken on a placement and later realized you may have bitten off more than you could chew? What did you do?
  2. In what areas do you find yourself being disappointed by unmet expectations?
  3. How can you better prepare yourself for the future and start setting realistic expectations?
  4. In what ways do you see your children being unrealistic? How do you help them see reality in a healthy way?

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Parents’ Discussions:

Ch. 01 | Ch. 02 | Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17

Kids’ Discussions:
Ch. 01
| Ch. 02Ch. 03 | Ch. 04 | Ch. 05 | Ch. 06 | Ch. 07 | Ch. 08 | Ch. 09 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17