A need to belong is imprinted in the heart of every human beingâ¦ a deep desire to be seen and heard, to know safely that you are loved and accepted as you are. We see it at the beginning of time with the story of God’s creation, and for those of us who belong to Christ, we know it more fully when we are united with Him by faith.
For far too many children, this missing sense of belonging is real, complex and traumatic. And so, moved by our family’s adoption journey, we came out with faith and asked God to use us to help bring that sense of belonging to the children who had been orphaned.
It is not uncommon for children affected by adoption and foster care to have been exposed to adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, trauma, loss and / or neglect. When these children come into our families and our stories merge with theirs, tensions can surface. We must therefore ask ourselves: How do we effectively communicate the truth of the gospel to our children who may bear attachment wounds and associate belonging and connection with fear?
What science shows us
As scientific research has shown, our understanding of the human brain is only beginning to grasp the fullness and intricacies of God’s purpose. And as only God could conceive, the human brain is flexible and can be rewired. Developmental psychologist and child advocate Dr. Karyn Purvis once said, âOur children have been hurt in their relationships and they will experience healing through nurturing relationships. When we enter the journey of caring for children who have suffered trauma and early loss, an incredible invitation is extended. We have the opportunity to help rewrite the story, to help lead our children to places of emotional, physical and neurological healing by being the hands and feet of Christ.
The reality is that the adoption journey does not end the day a child is welcomed home. And this journey is not meant to be taken alone. For many families affected by adoption and / or foster care, the local church is an integral entity of necessary encouragement and support – a beacon of hope and help for seasons of hardship. and celebration.
How we can help build trust and connection
Families impacted by adoption and / or foster care can benefit from Trust-Based Relational InterventionÂ® (TBRIÂ®) methods, developed by Drs. Karyn Purvis and David Cross from the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU. TBRI “is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children.” Basically, TBRI works to promote trust and connection between caregivers and children by meeting physical and emotional needs while disarming fear-based behaviors.
While TBRI can be viewed as clinical in nature because it involves the complexities of science, for us we believe that at its core, TBRI is an expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In âCreated to Connect: A Christian Guide for the Connected Child,â Dr. Purvis, along with Michael and Amy Monroe, wrote, âThe desire of the human heart is to connect and belong. We aspire to connect with our Creator, in whose image we were created, and by the grace of God such connection is possible. As relational beings, we also have a deep need and desire to connect with those around us. One of the most important and significant human conditions is undoubtedly between a parent and a child.
Another practical step in serving and equipping families and caregivers is to initiate a support or small group for individuals and parents affected by adoption and / or foster care within your church or community. denominational. Perhaps you can begin to meet weekly or monthly in prayer, study, and conversation. A great resource to browse together is âCreated to Connectâ. This study guide highlights and deepens the biblical principles that serve as the foundation for the philosophy and intervention detailed in âThe Connected Childâ by Drs. Purvis and Croix.
Another idea could include a “Podcast Club”. Similar to a book club, groups can come together to listen to the Empowered to Connect podcast and dissect episodes and topics in the community. Empowered to Connect (ETC) is a “strong attachment, community-driven program that exists to support, educate and provide resources to caregivers.” Among other useful content and tools, its podcast series is available with several weeks of episodes.
As part of this support network, recruit volunteers who can be on call to help meet the day-to-day needs of adoptive and / or foster families. It can be as simple as setting up a meal train for busy, busy seasons of life or offering childcare for parents to spend an evening to reconnect. The adoption and / or foster care journey is not meant to be traveled alone, and as a local church we have the opportunity to rub shoulders with children and families in service and support .
Hope for the trip
As previously stated, our understanding of the needs of orphaned children has grown in recent years. Research related to early childhood trauma and its impact on attachment continues to grow, and from there a number of useful and practical resources and organizations are now available to support parents and families with informed support and care.
As Founders and Executive Director of Show Hope, a globally recognized voice in adoption advocacy and orphan support, we have had the privilege of leading our annual Hope for the Journey conference. The conference includes training in TBRI, an educational component designed to link gospel truth to the science of TBRI, and perspectives from adoptive families as well as adult adoptees and foster alumni. The conference targets parents and caregivers meeting the daily needs of children affected by adoption and / or foster care and remains a resource for churches, agencies and organizations that support and equip families, caregivers and the communities they serve. From staff members to Sunday School teachers and volunteers, this is a great opportunity to educate about the needs of children and families affected by adoption and / or foster care.
As a Church, we have the extraordinary privilege of helping bring hope and healing to children and families. It’s not always a âone-size-fits-allâ model and can be messy and messy, but it’s a good job nonetheless. So, will you join us in showing yourself and showing hope?
Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman married in October 1984 and have six children â three biological children: Emily Chapman Richards (married to Tanner and mother of three daughters â Eiley, Della and Verity); Caleb Chapman (married to Julia and father of son Noble and daughter Olive); and Will Franklin Chapman (married to freelance singer-songwriter Jillian Edwards and father of Willow Faye); and three adopted daughters from China: Shaohannah Hope (Shaoey), Stevey Joy and Maria Sue, who is now with Jesus. The Chapmans live in Franklin, Tennessee.
Emily Chapman Richards is the Executive Director of Show Hope, a faith-based, nonprofit organization that cares for orphans by engaging the Church and reducing barriers to adoption. She is originally from Nashville, Tennessee and happily married to Tanner Richards.