The Shaw family personally experienced the great need for appropriate and specific supports for families who were raising a child with a history of trauma, neglect, and abuse. In 2001 they adopted their 9-month-old daughter from a Siberian orphanage. They knew there would be challenges ahead, yet expected that the most severe challenges would be by-passed due to the young age of their daughter. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Even at nine months of age, she had already experienced abuse and neglect, leaving her in a state of fright, fight, and flight. They experienced what many families like theirs do, and struggled to get through each day. Many days the goal was merely to survive, living in a household where everyone had to be on high-alert. After spending more than a decade trying to understand why they had such significant challenges, they traveled to Tufts Medical Center in Boston where Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. John Sargent informed them about Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was during this meeting they had their first glimmer of hope, as he told them that, while they had a long road ahead, the families that had the best chance of the child becoming stable, were those who could slow down life for their child. So while children like theirs typically need intensive therapies, requiring significant travel, they returned from Boston with a new plan to turn their 15 acres of land into a place that could provide more of what she needed, and reduce the extra stimulation traveling created. They knew that because her behavioral challenges were significant, their response had to be equally dramatic. At this point in time, they knew their “path” would be different than what they originally thought it would be, and realized they needed to determine how they would define success. They realized at the end of their lives if they could look back and know that in spite of the extreme stress, their family stayed intact…that would be what mattered most. From that point forward, decisions went through their questioning process, “Will this work towards our family staying intact or against it?” This was a turning point for their family.
Although at that time, they did not have any pets (reasoning, “Who in their right minds would add an animal to this equation?!”), they started to research the benefits children experience from farm work. This led to them boarding two miniature horses, providing their daughter with regular work in cleaning and preparing the stalls. Within 4 months, their daughter started to recognize her own behaviors, by watching how the horses responded to her. After seeing the positive response she experienced with the work load and animals, their thoughts turned to other families who also had such significant needs. They extended an invitation to other families to come to their land during February school vacation, to work with miniature horses. The response to “JOIN US FOR A ‘MINI’ VACATION!” far exceeded anything they could have anticipated. It showed the tremendous need for unique and specific supports!
ABR was formed in 11/2012 in response to this need.
Sometimes we come to life’s crossroads, and view what we think is the end.
But God has a much wider vision, He knows that it’s only a bend-
The road will go on and get smoother, and after we’ve stopped for a rest,
The path that lies hidden beyond us is often the path that is best.
So rest and relax and grow stronger, Let go and let God share your load.
Have faith in a brighter tomorrow – you’ve just come to a bend in the road.
Helen Steiner Rice
Used with Permission of Helen Steiner Rice Foundation Fund,LLC
The Need Is Great
We all want to believe, “Love heals all wounds”. While love is critically important, in and of itself, love is not enough to help these children heal from their abusive histories. We celebrate with families as they await the arrival of their soon to be adopted child, and want to believe that once the adoption journey is over they lived “happily ever after”. Removing a child from neglect and abuse by placing them with a loving family does not “fix” them. We tend to forget that adoption takes place as a result of multiple losses in the child’s life, and while adoption is beautiful, it is also incredibly painful. Tragically, after the adoption has taken place, there are rarely supports available to assist families as they learn the language unique to raising a child from “hard places”.
In 2014, the State Child Welfare Policy Database on Foster Care in Maine stated the number of children in foster care was 1,864. We know this number has grown since then, and sadly will continue to climb as we see the great increase in babies being born to drug-addicted mothers. Maine families have also adopted internationally, and face challenges similar to children from foster care. Additionally, these families experience language barriers, cultural differences, and as with all of our adopted children, fight invisible battles not seen due to the lack of information regarding the child’s history.
These children and their families require specific supports that address the unique needs represented in raising a child with a history of neglect and abuse. Sexually abused children often sexually abuse other children. Children who were tormented and abused often torment and abuse others. Many families can’t sleep at night due to safety concerns, many require alarms and cameras to ensure they can keep other siblings safe at night. We have committed families giving more than what they possess emotionally, physically, and financially as they strive to help their wounded children find healing.
We cannot turn away, thinking all is well because a child was removed from neglect and abuse and is now part of a family. We can’t change the facts involved in these children’s histories. The reality of what adults can do to children can seem too horrific to consider. In order to protect ourselves, we often shield our hearts and eyes, but please consider the needs of these children and families. We think of Edward Hale’s quote, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
We implore you, don’t look away! Please consider what the “one thing” is that you can do to help bring healing to these children and their families!