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Live and learn!

Photos of five families
Clockwise, from top left: Kim Stevens, Karen Sauer, Jessica Busch, Staci Dennis, Melanie Evans

We’re fortunate to talk with many families about their adoption journey and the lessons they learned along the way. In this post, we share a few pieces of parenting advice they’ve shared with us. 

Keep children connected to their culture.

Kim Stevens and her husband, Buddy, are a Caucasian couple who adopted three African American children.

“When we decided to adopt children of another race, we committed to surrounding them with people who share their culture and could help us be better parents. We opened our doors—literally and figuratively—to people of our children’s race who could be role models to them and teachers to us. And we made sure our children saw leaders, parents, and others who looked like them, so they knew they could achieve.”

Find a supportive community.

Karen Sauer adopted two teens who had been in a total of 16 foster homes before finding a forever family with her. So when they came to Karen’s house, it took time for them to believe that they were there to stay. When she runs into issues that feel overwhelming, Karen has found advice and support through Facebook groups and a foster parent support group she founded.

“It helps people to realize that they are not alone. Every single person has hit that spot of ‘I can’t do this’ at some point, but once parents realize they are not alone, that allows them to hang in a little longer, take it one step at a time, and appreciate every small success.”

Children can defy their diagnoses.

Jessica Busch is a single mom who adopted two girls with ongoing medical needs. She credits much of her daughters’ success so far to the therapy they receive and to the family’s work with animals. Both girls participate in therapeutic horseback riding once a week, and together they care for dogs they are fostering or have adopted.

“Forming attachments with our dogs made the girls more open to attaching with people. And while I was afraid that fostering dogs might be traumatic, it helped the girls understand early on that while foster placements are temporary, adoption is permanent—and that they are never going anywhere.”

Turn to the training manual!

Staci Dennis says that the first six months after they adopted their teenage daughter were the hardest. She and her husband, Eric, got through it by having twice-daily strategy sessions, staying focused on their commitment, and going back to the book!

“When we were in training, I thought some of the things they told us were just ridiculous! I would sit there thinking, ‘There’s no way that a teenager would do that!’ But they were right. And I went back to the training manual for guidance,” Staci said.

Get help—and, when necessary, get away!

Melanie Evans and her husband, Mike, are raising five children with ongoing medical needs—including cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. They get help from two full-time certified nursing assistants, two case managers, and Melanie’s mother. Which means they have a lot of company!

“Every four months we start to go a little crazy. It’s not the kids, it’s all the bodies in our house! With two full-time nurses, check-ins from our foster son’s workers, and frequent visits from family members, we never have 100 percent privacy. We can’t ever let our guard completely down,” Melanie said.

When they feel the tension rising, Melanie and Mike call family members and book a trip to a one of their favorite destinations nearby. A few days later, Melanie says they return refreshed and ready to do it all over again.