The Help Adoptive Families Need, But Can’t Quite Explain

Seventeen years ago we were pregnant with our first child as Jeremy and I walked into a stuffy church classroom to attend our first of many childbirth classes with several other couples. We enjoyed the company of the other attendees as we sat through the viewing of posters explaining where your stomach actually goes when your uterus also grows (hello, heartburn), but there would be one couple we’d stay connected to for life. Enter Vince and Shannon Guerra. We were friendly in class but didn’t yet hang out or anything outside of class. Several months later, unbeknownst to us, we gave birth to our firstborn sons just hours apart in hospitals across town on a brisk November day. 

We reconnected when our babies were over half a year old at a childbirth class reunion, and since then we’ve walked through the welcoming of several more children by birth, the arrival of children through adoption, and then one more each by birth. We were living parallel lives side-by-side, walking and praying each other through. They are good people, those Guerras. And I count Shannon as one of my absolute dearest in all the world. Here’s a picture of us together right before we moved. 

Shannon is not only a dear friend, she is also a gifted writer and thinker. She devours classic books like a civilized person while I prefer my classics to be in board book or movie form. She’s brilliant and passionate and is also a staunch supporter of seeing her kids thrive. Especially the ones from hard places. You see, we both parent children from hard places, so we get each other in a really special way. Shannon has created a beautiful resource for parents, friends, family, and fellow community members of these kiddos who struggle with attachment to their new families as a result of the trauma from their earlier years. Upside Down: Understanding and Supporting Attachment in Adoptive Families is a resource we all need. Most of us have interaction with adoptive and foster families who need our help. Shannon helps us learn how to do just that. 

So today, help us welcome Shannon Guerra to The Masterpiece Mom and make sure to read all the way down to the end to enter the giveaway!

A child is screaming in my front yard, temper tantrum in full display. And I think, This is why we need to move. This is why we need more acreage. This is why we can’t have a homeowner’s association…or neighborhood meetings. Or neighbors.

 But honestly, our neighbors are great. Which is a good thing because a few of our kids have special needs that go beyond temper tantrums, and sometimes their behavior is loud, disruptive, and eyebrow-raising, for sure.

I don’t just mean the frustrations that all parents deal with. I mean, refusing to eat meals, sabotaging holidays, and secondary trauma that affects everyone in the family.

Adoptive and foster moms, are you with me?

Yes. Thank you. I see those eyebrows.

Two of our kiddos were adopted almost five years ago. And it was hard – not just because their behaviors were so difficult, but also because (beyond a handful of friends who stood by us in the mayhem) we needed support from our community that didn’t transpire for quite a while.

We expected support because we had friends, family, doctors, and a church that vocally supported adoption – but that only gets you so far, if anywhere. We needed more than an occasional thumbs-up and pat on the back.

We needed boots on the ground, dinners at the ready, and backup available for parents and siblings. We needed a team who understood what was happening behind closed doors.

We needed people to understand that our lives turned upside down and our home was falling apart. We needed them to not contribute to the problem by being affectionate and friendly with our adopted children, who misinterpreted those interactions and violently regressed every time they occurred.

We needed people to understand how to support families working through attachment issues so they could intentionally be part of the solution, instead of unintentionally being part of the problem.

I started writing shockingly transparent blog posts about what we were dealing with. I wrote about what was happening at home, what was happening at the doctor’s office, and what was happening in my heart as a mama. I wrote about how we needed our loved ones to support us – how to step in, where to step back, and what we needed more than anything else.

And then people started writing back to me.

Every day I got emails, Facebook messages, and comments from adoptive families who thought they were alone and crazy. For years, they had felt misunderstood and judged. Some of them had left church. Some had been left by their spouse. Some had to cut ties with relationships that were toxic to their family.

These families are in our neighborhoods and churches, on the front lines of the mission to reduce the orphan crisis. They need their communities to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Without that support, they live in isolation.

The overwhelming theme from the people who wrote to me was, “This is what I’ve wanted to tell people for so long. I wish everyone who knows our family could read this.”

We turned those posts into a little book called Upside Down: Understanding and Supporting Attachment in Adoptive Families. It is a fast, relatable – dare I say, funny? –  read that is perfect for extended family members and community members who need to know as soon as possible (like yesterday) how to help adoptive and foster families. Churches are also starting to use Upside Down as a training manual so ministers and childcare workers can care for families without unintentionally causing harm.

We can intentionally be part of the solution. Upside Down is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and WestBow Press. In less than a hundred pages it provides tools, information, and insight that transforms an outsider’s assumptions into an insider’s powerful perspective.

We want adoptive and foster families to progress steadily toward healing and wholeness. They should be able to go about their days without the constant fear of well-meaning interactions that send their child (and family) spiraling for days or weeks afterward.  They should feel free to go to church, medical appointments, and neighborhood meetings with as little screaming afterward as possible – even if they (gasp!) have a homeowner’s association.

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Would you like to win a copy of Upside Down for yourself or someone you know?
Leave us a comment and you’ll be entered into a drawing held Thursday, 5/25, at 12PM EST. Get yourself entered to win!

 

** CONGRATULATIONS to Sunny!! You’ve won a copy of Upside Down. Check your inbox, you have an email waiting! Thanks to all who entered!**

 

 

 

 

 

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Amanda Bacon
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Amanda Bacon

Amanda is the mother of eight kids through birth and adoption and has been married for eighteen years to the most helpful man on the planet. She is an encouraging voice for moms everywhere through the written and spoken word. In addition to The Masterpiece Mom blog and podcast, she also writes at AmandaBacon.com and is over the top in love with Instagram (@amanda_baconbits). Come over and say hi!
Amanda Bacon
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About Amanda Bacon

Amanda is the mother of eight kids through birth and adoption and has been married for eighteen years to the most helpful man on the planet. She is an encouraging voice for moms everywhere through the written and spoken word. In addition to The Masterpiece Mom blog and podcast, she also writes at AmandaBacon.com and is over the top in love with Instagram (@amanda_baconbits). Come over and say hi!

Comments

  1. I’d love to win this for a friend who is in the process of adopting a child and is facing some of these challenges that you wrote about! And I’d love to learn better ways to actually be helpful to her and her family, too!

  2. Ahhh, friend, thank you so much! And, wow…we met seventeen years ago. Egad, I’m still trying to come to grips with that math. 🙂 I love you to the moon and back.

  3. I have and love this book! Made us feel as if we are not alone on this adoption journey. I would love to win a copy for a friend that will soon join our ranks. Thank you Shannon you give us hope!

  4. Sounds interesting. I’d love to win a copy. If not, I’ll be adding it to my Amazon wish list.

  5. There are so many around me that would benefit from this. As an adopted woman that adopted …. I fully realize the value of your words. Good luck to all…

  6. I’d love to read! And 100 pages or less? Fabulous. ? I think about when I was a teacher and would meet with foster parents because of behaviors we saw in school… I’m thinking this would be great insight for educators to. It is way too easy to sit in my classroom or my office and “judge” without meaning to be judgmental…
    ❤️Laura

  7. I’d love to win! As a mom of an adopted teenage age boy with attachment issues, I’ve certainly felt alone and isolated.

  8. Yes, please! Two and a half adopted, 30-something fostered. I love finding others who get it.

  9. Love this! I am an adoptive mom of two and houseparent to 9 more!!! Thanks for informing the masses!

  10. Would love this! We actually have our home for sale, and one big reason is because we really need to be out of town, where screaming fits won’t be so embarrassing. Sometimes our adopted children scream, too, haha! Will check this out, sounds good.

  11. Me, please! We’ve got a house full of attachment issues. I can use all the support I can get!

  12. I too would love to win this book. I know about the raised eye brows. I think this book probably should be on my shelf.

  13. I would love to win this! We just recently adopted a 4.5 year old boy the week before Christmas this past year and at times I feel like I am going crazy. 🙂

  14. Wow, I’d love to read this book and winning it would be great! We have adopted 3 brothers from Latvia and our lives have been forever changed. Parenting our new sons is not the same as we parented our 3 biological children. Hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it.

  15. I need to get this book! I would love to give it to my children’s teacher at school to read each year before school starts!!

  16. We just adopted for the second time. Our first adoption was from China 10 years ago. We just brought home two kids from Haiti 3 months ago. We now have 4 children. Our oldest being our only biological child alive.
    I’d love to read this book.

  17. So glad people are talking about this. This book would be great for our family, friends and community! Thanks!

  18. So glad I stumbled across this site, couldn’t sleep, did something very difficult today, I had to tell my 20 year old adopted son that he had til August to find somewhere else to live. I am just at my wits end, we have tried everything. I hope we did the right thing. Lord please touch and help my son.

  19. I’d love to read this! My family is getting ready to move home from overseas with our adopted child that many of our extended family has not yet met. Thank you for being venerable and open to help the rest of us feel less alone….

  20. As new adoptive parents to our eight year old son, my husband and I could use this book to receive the right support from our friends and family.

  21. I could so relate to your post. Sometimes it’s such a long walk it’s so nice when some one sees you and wants to walk with you on the path. I am thankful we were blessed with great neighbor that not only sees and walks with us but loves our kids and welcomes them to their world.

  22. I have 4 adopted children, 9, 7, 7, and 3. I have one with SN. I would love to win this! Thanks so much!

  23. Hi Amanda,

    As you know, I was adopted at 10 months myself from Korea. My best friend from childhood who is three years younger than me was also adopted, but strait at birth. I wish my folks and my extended family and friends had more resources when I came into the family. I sometimes wonder now, if my extended family hindered the process of me bonding with my immediate family. I had some issues with attachment myself growing up. Mom said mine weren’t quite as much as other cases she knows, but mine were bad nonetheless. Some friends of my folks whom they knew before my time, adopted a boy from Vietnam when he was about a year. The boy never bonded with them, and they had to basically ask him to leave their home. My best friend’s family adopted another little girl when my best friend was about 9, and there again, really baaaaaaaaad attachment issues. There again, things got to be such that the State of California came to get the girl when the girl was about 10 years old. I also wish my friend’s Mom could have had something like that during that time in their lives. My best friend is an absolute sweetie. She has a heart of gold, is now married with a little one of her own on the way very soon. I work with kids at our school during the school year. There again, some of these kids I work with every week are in the foster system. I see quite a few behavior issues with them. Deep down, I know these behavior things aren’t their fault, but it does get challenging after awhile week after week, but I know they have more on them than I realize. It is by the grace of God that I did not go the way my best friend’s sister has gone or the boy of our family friends who was adopted from Vietnam.

    Sunny, if you are reading this, you aren’t the only one who had to ask your son to leave by August. I am so sorry that you had to do that. I will be praying that beauty will rise from the ashes.

    In Christ,
    Bethany

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