When my family went through our first adoption, there were no adoption education requirements. We were given a list of books and it was suggested we read one or two. Eager to know all that I could, I did read one of the suggested books, Toddler Adoption: The Weaver’s Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best and it scared me to death! However, I put my fears aside, dismissed the book and let my 15 years of experience parenting guide me. My daughter was only five months old when we brought her home, so I was very comfortable in my new role as adoptive mom.
As with many families that adopt, I could not let go of the fact that there were so many children in need of a loving and forever family… admittedly I was out to change the world! Our first adoption went so well we thought to ourselves “We could easily do this again!” About five years later we brought home biological sisters ages seven and eight. Now with over 20 years of parenting experience, I didn’t feel any training or education was needed. I knew how to be a mom, right?
WRONG! What I did learn is that my previous parenting techniques did not always work. There were many times I simply did not know what to do. Looking back I can see that I made so many mistakes, and that had I simply had better prepared myself with education, I could have avoided many tears and frustrations. Ok probably not all, but some!
Even with some of the difficulties of parenting the last two girls, it was still going pretty well. And in my line of work, there is a job hazard of being exposed to so many children needing families! I used to joke about people that worked in a shoe store having too many shoes…now me with all my children. I’m sure you get the picture. So, once again we dove in and adopted an almost 12 year old boy. There was education available as I was working at MLJ, however with “my” experience I did no more than read a couple of books.
Things were becoming much more difficult at home and left me feeling overwhelmed. I had the opportunity to attend an Empowered to Connect Conference by Karen Purvis, and it was then that I realized just how valuable the education of adoptive families was and how crucial it is to successful parenting. I walked away from that conference crying, about assumptions I had made about my children’s behavior, how I had sometimes handled situations with them, and just how lost I was. It dawned on me that the education was much like insurance. If I am spending thousands of dollars and countless hours on an adoption and my hopes and dreams of giving my family a happily ever after, then isn’t the investment of 10-20 hours of education worth it? Giving me tools to parent children from a difficult past? Helping me to understand my children’s behavior stemmed from trauma and not disobedience? Making sure that I would have a successful adoption and not one ending in lost hope and dissolution?
As a seasoned adoptive parent and as a professional, I really encourage families to look at adoption education with a new perspective. Instead of focusing on the aggravation of having to write essays or read books, dive in! Soak up all that you can! Instead of looking back and thinking “I wish I would have…” you’ll know that you did everything you could to be a great parent. Use the time you wait for your child to come home, to arm yourself with all the tools necessary to do what you can to guarantee a successful adoption. Get involved with other adoptive parents and learn from their experiences. Poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson shared, “There is no knowledge that is not power.” Embrace the power!
Photo Credit: United Nations Photo
For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption education, please click here.