Adoptive parenting is hard. It’s a far more difficult road than those who haven’t experienced it can possibly know. A child’s trauma can lead to severe behaviours many families aren’t prepared for, and often the trail of shattered dreams and painful reality leaves parents isolated and alone. As upsetting behaviours continue (or escalate), some parents give up in order to preserve their own lives and children are returned to foster care. Statistics show as many as 60% of older or special needs foster children are returned to care. This is hard for the parents, but earth shattering for the children who thought they’d at last found a family.
When Christen Shepherd adopted a sibling set of four children from foster care, she learned first-hand that the adoption often depicted in media is not reality. Traumatized children don’t tap dance on tables or settle in with a book of Tennyson’s poetry tucked under their arm. Sometimes they rage, they destroy rooms, they threaten, they attack, they run away, they hurt themselves. But they are not bad children—they are wounded children—and they deserve adults to step up and offer healing and love.
As her world fell apart, Christen enlisted the help of Lisa Highfield, a Child and Youth Counsellor. Lisa made sense of the children’s drastic behaviours, offered practical advice, stressed the importance of subconscious messages, and reassured Christen that true healing arises when parents can hold the space for their children instead of reacting to difficult behaviour.
The parents who take on the monumental task of therapeutically parenting traumatized children deserve all the encouragement, understanding, and hope possible. Christen and Lisa decided to write The Promise so that all adoptive parents can have the support Christen received. Part memoir and part manual, parents will relate to Christen’s struggles and triumphs as an adoptive mother, and gain insight and guidance from Lisa’s experience as a counsellor. Covering topics central to adoption, such as anger, loss, and grief, and delving into topics such as the healing impact of animals, messaging, family dynamics, and conscious parenting, the book is an ally adoptive families deserve.
The Promise is a must read for aspiring foster families, those currently fostering, and the professionals involved. It acknowledges the positives and triumphs, as well as the challenges. It offers useful advice from both an adoptive parent and an experienced professional. Christen speaks from the heart, recognizing that no parent is perfect and surprises happen along the way. Lisa is her reality-based navigator, encouraging self-reflection and understanding. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter and the top ten lists at the end of the book are very fitting and helpful. The Promise is an excellent example of the importance of knowing limits, reconsidering expectations, and not viewing outcomes in a positive or negative manner or as a reflection of ones parenting abilities. An excellent resource for all persons interested in adoption; easy to read and thought provoking.
Social Worker/Adoption Practitioner
As Christen and Lisa say in their introduction – “Together, our aim is to assure struggling parents that they are not alone, to provide support, practical information, and the strength to carry on – no matter how hard- to uplift parents as they provide a bright future for a child who has already been denied too much.” This book accomplishes this goal and more.
Adoption Council of Ontario
This book was incredibly insightful, inspiring and honest! We are going through an adoption process and found this information to be invaluable. The combination of the mom’s experience and insight along with the youth counsellor provided such a great wealth of wisdom. The overall message though is one of hope and healing which is woven throughout the book and left us feeling positive and hopeful. I highly recommend this book.
Workshops and Training
Lisa and Christen offer training sessions and workshops to support groups, agencies, and schools.
If you are interested in booking them for your next educational opportunity, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are a list of topics they have presented in the past: