The conference is based upon a book co-written by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross titled "The Connected Child". Dr. Purvis is the Director of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. During the past decade, she and her colleagues at the Institute have invested their efforts towards developing research-based interventions for at-risk children. Throughout her life, Dr. Purvis' personal and professional calling has been to create a welcoming, loving environment for children. Foster and adoption issues have always been at the heart of her work, and when her own children were small, she served as foster mother to many children (taken from her bio, found here). Her work is highly esteemed and her book is required reading for most, if not all, parents pursuing adoption. It certainly was for us.
I went into the weekend thinking that we would learn a lot of specifics about what to do, specifically, when you bring your child home and how to transition him/her into your family. As it turns out, the conference was about so much more. It was packed (and I do mean PACKED) with so much great information; some of which was extremely scientific but Dr. Purvis did a great job of "dumbing it down" for people like me. I love the way that she took the extremely scientific and interjected practical ways to incorporate this parenting style into your family. What I love even more is that throughout the event, Dr. Purvis modeled such Christ-like behavior as she spoke often of the children that she "served"and incorporated scripture. Many times during the event, as she spoke of children she has served, she teared up and her sweet spirited voice would crack; a testament, I believe, to the heart that she has for these children from hard places.
Below are just a very few of the thoughts that we walked away with:
- Every child who comes through adoption or the foster system have come from what Dr. Purvis calls "hard places". Even the baby who is adopted at birth.
- One of the things that Dr. Purvis is most passionate about is giving children a voice. During the conference, she shared a picture of newborn orphans in a Russian hospital (2007) whose little mouths had been duct taped so that the nurses didn't have to hear their cries. Some children do not have a voice. Others are simply not heard.
- The human brain develops differently for children/people who have experienced trauma. All the way back to the womb. How it develops matters. You can't just discipline someone whose brain is not properly developed into the behavior that you desire.
- Many children need help identifying their own feelings. Their feelings need to be validated and then they need to be empowered to regulate their own emotions which is terribly difficult for many of these children.
- Dr. Purvis and TCU teach Trust Based Parenting methods which are based upon more than a decade of research with vulnerable children.
- Undoing the past isn't necessarily easy. But it isn't impossible either. It takes patience and dedication.
- Things like voice control and body language make a huge difference and saying "yes" often is critical. (This absolutely doesn't mean that the parent is permissive...quite the opposite).
- These children do not / will not respond well to the same parenting style that we have used on our biological children. And to be honest, now that we have been made aware of something different, we don't want to parent the same. In fact, one of the first things that we did was to apologize to our two boys. : )
- Every child needs to know, OFTEN, how precious they are and what an awesome job God did when He created them.
It was a great weekend and, for me (Kelley), filled some of this wait time with something that felt proactive involving our adoption. An added bonus was that we were able to spend a little time with a fellow Lifeline (our agency) family. It was so great to meet the Burts and look forward to following their journey as well.