ABOUT THE AUTHOR
OhioKAN Navigator, Adopt America Network
Leslie comes to OhioKAN through her role as a Family Support Specialist at Adopt America Network, where she supported adoptive and kinship families and helped families looking to adopt from the foster system through two of the organization’s programs. Leslie was named “Outstanding Caseworker” by AdoptUSKids in September 2020. She’s also served as a youth advocate for young adults in foster care and as a support specialist for those with developmental disabilities. Leslie has lived experience as an adoptive mom — the adoption process for her child was actually facilitated through Adopt America Network, where she later worked — and she has volunteered as a mentor to parents of adopted children who have experienced trauma. Leslie holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Mental Health.
In 2008, our family adopted our youngest son from the foster care system. Prior to adoption, my husband and I dove in headfirst, educating ourselves on what to expect, researching, taking required classes, reading countless books on trauma-informed care, and diligently working to prepare our two birth children for the day we would welcome our new family member. We worked with an adoption agency that specialized in matching children waiting in foster care with families like ours, hoping to adopt a child in need. After a long, exciting, and emotional trip, we were matched with our 6-year-old son.
We quickly discovered it would take a village to raise our son, who has special needs. We began networking with other adoptive families through online support groups and eventually found one where we could meet in person and online. The support group offered us a much-needed outlet and a life preserver during the times when we felt we were drowning. It also gave us a friend group, with whom we felt safe to share our deepest worries, fears, frustrations, and hopes. This has been a common thread to tie us all together.
Over the many years that have passed since his adoption, our family has faced countless challenges. I chose to put my career on hold so I could focus my complete attention on meeting the needs of my entire family. Throughout this roller coaster of emotions, we twisted and turned with excitement at the progress being made, but also plummeted during times of setbacks and heartbreak. Through it all, we held on tight to that common thread that connected us to others and tethered us long enough to put on the brakes and regroup so we could get back on a stable path.
Everyone’s adoption journey will be unique, complicated, and challenging, yet beautiful. Here are a few pieces of advice that helped us to get through the ups and downs:
- Stay connected to those who share your common thread. If you are unable to find someone walking the same path, maintain relationships with the people who are special to you.
- Be honest with your friends and family about your struggles and welcome any offers of support; this is a precious chance to regroup and recharge!
- Stay connected to activities within your community that are meaningful to you.
- Build and contribute to your village.
- Keep a watchful eye for opportunities to celebrate even the smallest of victories and beautiful moments, because that one small moment could be the exact moment of the beginning of great growth and connection for your child and family. As children grow and adapt, their strengths and needs will also change. Be mindful of those changes and never stop learning, growing, researching, and seeking support.
- Empower and educate your children. Knowledge is powerful! Teach them how to advocate for themselves and how to draw from their lived experiences to show empathy when others are struggling.
- Take time for self-care and remember to laugh!
My children are all now young adults and forging their own trails. I am left with an empty nest, yet cherished and valuable experiences. I recently returned to my career, and in my role of helping families, I am thankful for this opportunity to share what I have learned through my travels! If you would care to learn more about my journey, please read my interview with AdoptUsKids.org here.
Wishing you all safe and happy travels, whether your journey is just beginning, or is simply at the next milestone!
Adopt America Network
Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)
Video: Introduction to TBRI
Video: TBRI for Teens
State by State Support Groups
Book: The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind (Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson)
Books: TBRI Children’s Books