Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What Every Child Needs

"Yes, Love, what do you need?
"Three hugs."

What are the three things that every child needs?

I recently attended a conference, Empowered to Connect, where we delved into what children from hard places need.

To summarize, all children need to feel safe, listened to, and to know that they are precious. 

One thing I have learned on this fostering journey is that to feel safe takes time. I mean, this is obvious, but it takes more time than I initially thought. Months. Maybe a year. I remember saying "Why won't our Little One sleep at night? Why is this child still panicking–our home is such a safe place!"  Just because I know it's safe, that doesn't mean that they feel it in the depths of their brain.  If there has been neglect or trauma (which is almost always the case if a child is in care) their little brains are functioning in a survival mode. When I'm stuck in traffic and have to be somewhere in ten minutes, I can't think about anything else. Throw in some fighting kids and I'm about to lose my mind! That is how they feel all the time. All. The. Time. How can you sleep when your mind is in that mode? How can you process what you need and express it in a calm manner?

When you have a newborn, they cry and we respond immediately with cuddles, milk, eye contact and words of love. Some children do not get this and it breaks my heart. With little ones in care, we often need to go back to that stage to build a trusting relationship no matter what their age. Our Little One needed to know that we would respond immediately whenever there was a need.  It was exhausting. I can't say that we did it as well as we would have liked, but we gave it our all with the amount of sleep we had (or didn't.) Our Little One now trusts us and loves us and is able to ask for help–with kind words, when needed. To anyone in this situation, I would just encourage them to err on the side of softness and be patient (yes, I'm talking months)...great things will come.

When a child feels safe and secure, their brain is able to process so much more.

They are able to communicate their needs, learn new skills, and just embrace life. They are able to become who they were meant to be and it is amazing. I need to repeat that: They will become who they were meant to be.  I don't know if anything has boggled my mind more in my entire life; the transformation we have seen is incredible. The human brain, and resiliency, is extraordinary.

How do you parent a child from a hard place or even your own biological children? It's a balance of both nurture and structure. You can't have one without the other. Children feel safe with boundaries (like those guard rails on the bridge!) but need them set out and enforced in a loving and calm way.  When you are running on a sleep deficit, it is so hard. But, they need to feel safe. They need to feel heard. They need to know that they are precious. It takes time to deal with the issues that come up but it is better to invest the time early on so that you won't be dealing with the same problem over and over for months and years to come.

Along with the absolute amazement I have over our Little One's progression, I feel afraid. A huge part of me wants to have this child with us forever. Along this path I feel more certainty that needs will be met and our Little One will flourish. However, I know that birth mom loves her child and has the right to try to raise this Little One with new found skills and support. Both paths contain good intentions but it's the uncertainty of the other one that worries me. Ultimately, I am not in control of this and I can only do as much as I can in the time I'm given. It is not the fear of saying goodbye that brings me to tears, it's the fear that my hopes and dreams for this child will not be met. Every single child deserves to feel safe, heard, and to know that they are precious.


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What are the three things that every child needs?

PS As always, I write these posts to let you know not only where we're at but to give you a little nudge.  As Mother Teresa said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."  I cannot think of any time in my life where I have had such a great impact on someone's life.  You can always check out more information here.


  1. Anonymous3:18 PM

    This post really affects my momma heart. This is by far one of your most profound yet simple posts. I feel challenged and inspired by what you have written. Your experience has really impacted me. Our lives are meant to be lived well and and not for our own selves. Thank you for all that you have shared. You describe it in such a humble way. Praying for you. Knowing LO is leaving anytime must be heart wrenching. -Brianne

    1. Thank you, Brianne. My hope is that people's hearts will be touched in regards to the needs of children out there (and in their own homes!)

  2. This is such a beautiful post. It makes me cry. It speaks to my heart. I pray your little one will always feel safe, heard and precious.

  3. Anonymous8:33 PM

    This is such an amazing journey you have been on with your little one! I have a question for you, does MCFD cover the cost of daycare? I work full-time and am single so stating home isn't an option but I do think I could make a difference.

    1. This does happen in some cases. I would contact the MCFD or go to one of their info meetings to find out more! Each child's situation is so unique, some children are already in daycare so that would be a good fit for you!