How To Survive The First Few Years Of The Adoption Journey, by Mike Berry


You got into this because you were passionate about loving children. But you soon found out, the journey is more difficult than you anticipated. How do you survive the first year or 2 of the adoption journey?

It’s the early hours of a Monday morning when I open my laptop to check email. The glowing light of my screen is the only light in my quiet house. The sun hasn’t even begun its ascent over the treeline in our backyard.

After a long weekend, and mostly ignoring email or social media for a few days, I’ve got tons of new mail. I give my inbox a quick scan, selecting a multitude of Spam messages to feed my hungry Trash folder. There at the bottom of New Messages I spot it. A personal email with a Subject that says it all- “I need help!”

Her storyline is one I’ve heard a million times over the past 15 years of personally traveling the adoption journey:

…We decided to adopt.
…And got really, really excited.
…Filled out all of the paperwork.
…Chose foster-to-adopt to save money.
…Jumped in with a full heart.
…Brought home a beautiful baby girl…a sibling group.
…Realized pretty quickly how hard this journey is.
…At the end of my rope. Questioning my choice. Need help!

I get it. I really do. We were just 2 years into our journey when everything started to fall apart on us. We were head over heels in love with our children, but there were many things we weren’t prepared for, didn’t know, or didn’t do when we first began. Our hearts were full, but we quickly became tired. We too needed help.

The journey can be long, uphill, and filled with ups and downs that feel like a punch in the gut. I would love to tell you that all you need to do is focus on loving your child and everything will work out. But, that’s just not reality…for the adoption journey….or the parenting journey in general. You will never be fully prepared, but there are some key steps we’ve learned to help make the first few years of the adoption journey less stressful and more meaningful…

  1. Seek Community. You and I were never meant to travel this road alone. The adoption journey is beautiful, amazing, and adventurous. But it can also become extremely difficult. Most of the world won’t understand the unique trials and tribulations we go through. We need others around us who understand, are in the same trench as us, will never judge us regardless of the situation, and help us grow. When everything falls apart, your child is out of control, or you’re dealing with a foster care system that yanks you around like a bullwhip, a strong support community can get you through it.
  2. Grow in your knowledge of trauma and attachment. Your child has come from trauma, even if they were adopted privately and their birth mother took care of herself. There’s still deep loss. The person who carried them in her womb for 9 months is now gone. But imagine how deeper this loss is when your child has come from the foster care system or an orphanage in another country. This trauma can play out in their behavior, poor choices, refusal to attach themselves to you in a healthy manner, or more. If we could go back, 15 years in the past, and learn one thing, it would be how to parent children from traumatic places. Trauma-informed care and knowledge of attachment issues can be a game-changer in relating to your child, and helping them form healthy bonds with your family.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

Queen’s Birthday Honours List Recognises Child Advocates, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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A couple in  Invercargill New Zealand, who have fostered children with special needs for over 25 years, have been recognised in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, receiving the Queen’s Service Medal.  Talking about their decision to become foster carers, John Mooij says, “Everyone’s lives pan out in different ways. Some want to travel, some want to get their kids off their hands. Not everyone could do this, but it’s something we love.” [Source: The Southland Times].

This is not the first time people have been recognised for services relating to the care of and advocacy for children, but it is wonderful to see that this is becoming increasingly common.  Children’s issues, including the right to a place to be and grow up in are increasingly being seen as important and it is great to see, in this case, the care of children with special needs being acknowledged and supported.

“We don’t need a world full of rocket scientists but we just want our children to be the best they can and to have good life skills and get on and enjoy life, because that’s what it’s there for.”

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Foster Carers Lynda and John Mooij   [Source: Southland Times}

Mrs Mooij said she hoped their honours would draw attention to other children in need of a permanent foster home, particularly those with special needs.

“I get upset by how many placements some children have – especially those with fetal alcohol syndrome – who go from house to house.” [Source: Radio New Zealand News].

Lynda and John Mooij have five biological children between them and have fostered more than 21 children over the years.  They currently have four “forever” foster children.

The couple modestly say they are “…just a couple of foster carers from Invercargill…”, but it is encouraging to see how their important work has been recognised and how it has drawn attention to foster care, in particular for children with special needs.

How To Combat 4 Strong Emotions In Foster Care: A Proven Path To Moving Forward When the Journey Gets Tough, by Mike Berry

Coaster Collage

It’s something you might expect will happen when you begin the foster care journey, but still find yourself unprepared for: Emotion. Strong emotion, in fact. How do you combat the ups and downs, twists and turns, and unending roller coaster ride of foster parenting?

Our first-born daughter was a private adoption and a fairly normal baby, who even began sleeping through the night before she was 3 months old. It wasn’t long before our weariness as new parents began to drift away and we were back to normal, as normal as parenting can be.

Then, 2 years later our first foster placement arrived. A little girl and boy, biological siblings, both cute as can be. Our hearts were full. We were excited. The little girl was quiet, and spent most of the time watching us, trying to figure out what was happening. She was a good sleeper which was a relief to us. Her brother, however, not so much! Not only did he wake up all night long, every night at a year old, he was also the human equivalent of a run-away train. His first move on his first day in our care was to run, not walk, toward the top of our staircase. I quickly reached out and grabbed him before he stepped off the top step. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves in shock. After a month or two, our shock mixed with the endless frustration of being told one thing by our case manager, and then having something completely different happen. By month 4 we were overwhelmed, tired, and defeated on more levels than we could begin to count.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever started the foster care journey, excited, only to wind up stuck, or in a state of shock after a month or two? Maybe you’re frustrated beyond belief and you’ve started to regret your decision to foster in the first place.

If so, you’re not alone. And, frankly, the emotions you’re going through are normal and to be expected. That may catch you by surprise. We know, because we’ve been there. Truth is, there are many emotions on the foster parenting journey, and undoubtedly you will face many, some you never thought possible. But for the sake of time and length I’ve narrowed it down to the top 4. They are:

  1. Excitement
  2. Shock
  3. Frustration
  4. Regret

As you ponder these 4 emotions, here’s a deeper explanation of how they play out in our life and our decision to become foster parents…

(Read more by following the link below…)


“Foster Hope” and the “Pyjama Drive”: A Great Practical Way to Support Kiwi Kids in Foster Care, by Brenda Harwood

Foster Hope Collage

Giving comfort to children in need is the aim of a ‘‘pyjama drive’’ being run by the newly established Dunedin branch of the charity Foster Hope.   Local Foster Hope co-ordinator Juanita Willems is keen to gather as many pairs of new pyjamas as possible, as well as other items, to include in backpack kits which are given to children and young people as they go into foster care. At present there are 115 children, ranging from birth to 16 years, in care in Dunedin.   ‘‘The first 48 hours are critical for a child in care — they often arrive at their foster home with only what they are wearing,’’ Mrs Willems said.  

Foster Hope works closely with Child Youth and Family across New Zealand to provide practical support for its work with children in care through its ‘‘Kits2Kids’’ programme.   Being able to give children a back pack containing useful items, ranging from nappies and bibs for babies through to deodorants and books for older children, could really help with the transition, Mrs Willems said.   Adding toys and a new pair of pyjamas also helped the children to feel cared for, and took the pressure off foster carers who could focus on their emotional needs rather than rushing around shopping.   ‘‘We want these children to know that someone out there cares about them, and hopefully receiving a gift like this helps them to feel better in a difficult situation,’’ she said.  

Having herself been taken into foster care as a child, Mrs Willems is passionate about supporting Dunedin children in care.   ‘‘It is very important to me to be able to help children in foster care any way I can — this project has real meaning for me.’’  

People who wish to donate new pyjamas and other items to the Foster Hope Pyjama Drive are invited to do so through The Warehouse in Mosgiel, Mitre 10 in Mosgiel, Moyles Supermarket in Green Island, Les Mills in Dowling St, St Leonard’s School, and at level 2 of the New Zealand Transport Authority building in Moray Pl.

The pyjama drive continues until mid July.   For more information, visit the Foster Hope website or find them on Facebook.


For the kids . . . Dunedin Foster Hope representative Juanita Willems looks over some of the many sets of pyjamas, slippers and other items that have been collected so far in the Foster Hope Pyjama Drive. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD


Originally published as Pyjama drive to help create backpack kits, by Brenda Harwood in The Star, Dunedin, NZ

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4 Responses To A Failed Adoption And How To Find Hope, by Mike Berry

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We were ecstatic when the call came in. The adoption agency we were working with had matched us with a birth mom and the outlook was very good. We were even invited to meet her, along with one of the agency’s social workers, at a local restaurant for lunch. We were nervous, but, we accepted.

In short, our time with her was beyond what we could have imagined or dreamed. We fell in love with her and she walked away from us feeling confident and ready to proceed. That was February. In early April, just a week before the baby was due, she changed her mind and disappeared, leaving us with nothing. If the plans we had made, and the dreams we were dreaming, were a building built with precision and ingenuity, we were watching it crumble floor by floor, right before our eyes, and we were devastated.

The adoption process brings with it the risk of failure. As much as I hate it, and wish I could make it not so, it’s the honest truth. Your birth mother may change her mind, even at the last second. The country you’re adopting from may close their gates and forbid adoptions at the drop of a hat. The child you’ve loved through trauma and pain, and planned to adopt once parental rights were terminated in foster care, may be swooped away and placed with an aunt in another state!

We’ve felt the crushing blow of this and we have many friends who have too. We’ve asked ourselves why? We’ve stood alone in anger and frustration, shaken our fists at the heavens and demanded an answer. We’ve sat with, and grieved with, families who have been rendered helpless by a birth mother’s change of heart, a judge’s ruling, or a country’s closure at the last second. Here’s what we’ve learned to do…

To Read More, follow the link below…

Children Who Experience Early Childhood Trauma Do Not Just ‘Get Over It’, by Jane Evans


Humans are relatively adaptable beings which is why we are thriving and not dying out like other species. Horrendous disasters such as the Philippines typhoon, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the nuclear disaster in Japan, the major wars of our time, and horrific famines see great suffering, but these events also inspires survival through adaptation. It turns out we possess a strong survival mechanism in our brains directly linked to our bodies, fight, flight, freeze, flop and friend (fffff).

In fact, the survival part of our brain, which is primitive yet effective, is the first to develop in utero starting at around 7 weeks. It regulates our breathing, digestive system, heart rate and temperature, along with the ‘fffff’ system which operates to preserve our life.

If we have to dodge a falling object, jump out of the path of a speeding car, keep very still to avoid being seen, run for the hills from a predator, or get someone potentially threatening ‘onside’ we need this to happen fast. If a baby is scared, cold, hungry, lonely, or in any way overwhelmed this triggers their survival system and they cry to bring an adult to them to help them survive.

Read more by following the link below:

10 Things Foster Parents Wish Their Case Managers Knew, by Mike Berry


If you are unfamiliar with how the foster care system works, each child who enters into care is assigned a case manager and that person is the liaison between the state and the foster family the child is placed with. In the decade that we have been foster parents we have had the joy of working with some phenomenal case managers and the frustration of working with some very bad case managers.

Here are 10 things the support group said last night:

1. We know the children the best.

We spend every waking moment with the children you placed in our homes. Some of us have had, and will have, placements for months, even years. They bond to us and that’s a good thing. Please trust us when we tell you things about them and we make observations. We know them really really well because we’re doing life with them. That’s not to say that you don’t know them because we know you do. But when you have the role of first responder to strong emotional outbreaks, meltdowns and fear, it gives unique insight.

2. We actually live by a schedule.

Although it seems like we’re available at the drop of a hat, we are not. Many of us have jobs outside of our home. Please show up on time for visits & follow-ups in our home. We can’t always adjust our schedule because you got out of court later than you thought and now you’re over an hour late. Many of us have other children and they are involved in other activities. Please be respectful of that.

3. This is NOT a job, it’s a way of life. 

It’s our family. We do not get holidays off, there are no financial gains, and no one is rolling out the red carpet for us. In fact, they’re staring at us and they think we’re weird. They don’t get us. We’re okay with that but we need you to understand this. This is our life, 24/7, and sometimes it is so difficult that we don’t know if we can make it another day.

4. Point us toward good resources.

We need support groups, literature, and a listening ear. If there are any good conferences that you know of, don’t let us stumble upon them, give us a call or send us an email and give us the scoop. This helps us know that you are there for us.

To read more follow the link below: