- A Vermont couple adopted their son from foster care when he was three.
- As first-time parents, they found a support network and took every opportunity to learn about trauma.
- Their now 13-year-old son is their greatest joy and inspires songs written by his mother.
Lissa Schneckenburger smiles as she recalls how she and her husband, Corey DiMario, took the deep dive into being foster parents ten years ago.
“We were first-time parents in our early 30s,” she explains. “We’d never done any parenting before, and we were just thrown into everything—working with the child welfare system and working with a child with high needs and who was a victim of trauma.”
The last ten years of raising their son have been filled with immense joy. The family has also grown from challenges. During these years, the Vermont State couple has addressed their child’s personal, emotional, and physical needs. They’ve also dealt with issues brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In an interview from her home in Vermont, Lissa talks candidly about raising a child who is a survivor of significant trauma. She also shares how the experience has impacted her work as a musician.
Inspired to adopt from foster care, from the start
“We were inspired by a number of family members to adopt,” Lissa explains. “And that was always our plan. We were most interested in foster care. There’s such a huge need for foster parents and we were getting calls for placements almost immediately.”
Lissa and Corey were also aware of the commitment needed to raise a child with special needs. (In foster care, special needs simply refers to children who qualify for adoption assistance due to specific factors or conditions, including being an older child, having a medical condition, being in a sibling group, or having a disability. Learn more about this on our site.)
Lissa recalled how quickly they were thrust into a new reality. But fortunately, the young child soon began to thrive in his new home environment. “He started talking a mile a minute, started running everywhere. He was growing so much. But we were also dealing with the psychological effects of developmental trauma, which are significant.”
Learning, learning, and more learning!
For Lissa and Corey, this has been a crash course in parenting.
“We were thrown into the deep end. We spent several years really just learning how to be parents and we had to educate ourselves about developmental trauma and how the brain works.”
Something that helped the couple was attending a lot of training sessions and workshops. They also found help in books.
“My son is my greatest inspiration. But that said, the trauma is still going to affect him for his whole life. So, how we deal with it is really important.”
Forming a network of support
Lissa and Corey have learned how to take care of their well-being. In turn, they can handle the emotional toll and occasional isolation that comes with raising a child affected by trauma.
“I tell everybody considering adoption to get your team sorted out now. Get your own therapist and a babysitter. It’s good to have a community that’s going to be there for childcare in emergencies. Also, figure out who the children’s therapists are in the area.”
Finding what works best for the child
Lissa emphasizes that structure and expectations have been important.
“Have really clear rules, and be explicit about them. There are things that we are more explicit about that other families might just take for granted,” Lissa says.
Sharing their family’s experience through music
Lissa created music from this adoption experience. It started when she and her son’s therapist paired up to talk about trauma.
“I started writing songs with a group of therapists in Vermont who work with children and families. They deal with developmental trauma and attachment. They gave me so many ideas for new songs. And all of a sudden, I had a whole album.”
On her website, Lissa shares, “In my attempts to be a better adoptive parent I found plenty of invaluable books and workshops that got that point across, but no songs! I set out to write songs that would resonate with other parents like myself.”
One of her songs, titled “Since the day we met,” is devoted to her son and her unconditional love for him.
The greatest inspiration
When asked about how her son is doing today, this proud mom cannot contain her emotions.
“He really is my greatest inspiration. He’s so strong, has worked hard, and has grown significantly. We had big questions at the beginning. But today, he’s doing extremely well and has had significant triumphs. And, yeah, I’m super, super proud of him.”