life as we know it

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Empowered to Connect

Nick and I spent Friday and Saturday in Denver (south Denver, really) at a conference called Empowered to Connect led by Dr. Karyn Purvis along with Michael and Amy Monroe. If you're in the adoption community, it's likely you've heard of Karyn's work and her book, The Connected Child. Gladney introduced me to Karyn prior to my first trip to Ethiopia to learn about some of her theories and beliefs regarding the child development of "children from the hard places." Often times, arguably all times, children who are in foster care and adopted fall into the category of "children from hard places." She changed my mentality regarding children who are adopted at birth, explaining that a birth-mother who is under stress during pregnancy can literally change the neurochemistry of the child's brain in utero. I would find it hard to believe that mother's who are trying to make the decision of whether or not they want to place their child up for adoption aren't under an increased amount of stress. Often, these babies (domestically or internationally) have been exposed to different or increased amounts of certain neurotransmitters and toxins in utero and/or the mothers did not have access to proper prenatal care. 

We come from medical backgrounds so when Dr. Purvis spoke about her work being completely research based we certainly felt like we could grab a hold of  the theories with more confidence. She has been working with high need kids for something like 40 years now, but she has been doing research in the field at TCU for 12 years. She comes to conclusions through her research and makes the joke (In a great Texas accent), "it's all just stuff your grandmother could have told ya." Grandma, however, couldn't have told me what happens in the brain of a kiddo from a "hard place" by watching it on PET scans, CT scans, MRI's and by monitoring hormone levels throughout different behaviors and activities. For us, those kinds of tests and scientific conclusions in concert with the obvious results we could see in videos and from stories of parents using her techniques is enough to let us trust that we will be able to help our child by using this style.

Although Nick and I don't have any children yet, we are feeling so encouraged by Karyn Purvis's theories and having the education at this point in our process. We've heard so many stories about how parents wished they had heard Karyn talk or been exposed to these strategies prior to adopting. We absolutely know this is going to be a hard journey. We understand the healing process our child, no matter how old, will take time and we are looking forward to going on that journey with our child. Michael Monroe said it like this, "The most meaningful connections we have made with our children have been when we take them by the hand and run side by side toward their hard past."

Coincidentally, the Welcome Child Ministry, which is related to adoption and foster care at our church, is doing the book study called Empowered to Connect that relates to The Connected Child. We reviewed chapters 3 and 4 today and although we are unable to relate personal anecdotes related to our own child, we have had experiences in the orphanages in Ethiopia and have a lot more knowledge from the course this weekend that we were able to contribute to the conversation. I would highly, highly recommend checking Karyn Purvis out; especially if you have a kiddo from a "hard place". She is doing some amazing things to help aid healing in children who have experienced losses and trauma in their lives.

We can promise you this: we likely won't be raising our adopted child like most children are raised. We don't believe that means we'll let our child "run wild," but it does mean we will do everything in our power, move heaven and earth, to help our child heal, process, connect and trust. We don't have all the answers, obviously, but we are getting the education we need to make what we believe will be the best choices for our child. If you have any questions we invite you to read The Connected Child for yourself to try and catch a glimpse of where we are coming from. We won't mind answering questions related to our parenting style, but we sure hope you won't judge us when our tactics may differ from the norm. Apparently your grandmother can tell you it's going to work!


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