By Stacey Carmany
Parenting can be challenging under any circumstance, but perhaps even more so for adoptive and foster parents and the parents of children with special needs.
For local parents navigating the challenging but rewarding work of raising special children, understanding and encouragement can be found in a faith-based peer support group administered through the Dover Campus of the NewPointe Community Church. “It’s basically, a great safe place where you can come talk to other people who understand what you’re going through,” said Elaine Beach, who founded the Parents of Foster/Adoptive/Special Needs Kids Support Group about seven years ago after experiencing firsthand the challenges that come with raising an adoptive child.
In 2008, Beach and her husband welcomed into their family 8-month-old Chloe, who they adopted from an orphanage in China. With her young age, the couple thought Chloe would have no problem acclimating to her new family environment, however, they quickly realized that was not going to be the case. “She ended up having an attachment disorder because she had never learned to attach to anyone as a result of being in an orphanage,” Beach shared. “We really didn’t know much about attachment disorders. We thought because we adopted her at a young age that there wouldn’t be any problem with any of that, and we would just bring her home and she wouldn’t remember anything. That’s really not the case. We’ve learned a lot more since then.”
After many years of specialized therapy, Chloe has made a complete turnaround, but Beach noted that those years were also extremely challenging for the family. “She’s come through an amazing journey. She is connected in our family, and the transformation, in her eyes, has been really incredible, but there were some difficult years for us and our family,” she said.
During the journey, Beach began to share about the family’s setbacks and successes on an online forum and quickly realized that other local families were experiencing similar challenges. “As a result of what I had been learning, I was posting on a blog about our family and our experience, and people were reaching out to me and saying, ‘Oh my goodness! Finally, someone who understands,” because they were going through similar things and didn’t have anybody to talk to about it,” she said.
Beach noted many of the challenges facing parents raising special kids aren’t always obvious to outside observers. “I think, so often, how foster and adoptive kids act at home is in sharp contrast to how they act in a public setting. There’s a very, very different child behind closed doors at home than what there is in school or in church or even at a relative’s house or something like that,” she explained. “Oftentimes, it’s a very lonely place to be as a parent of these kids because other people just really can’t relate, and there’s a level of not being believed.”
Wanting to help other area families walking a similar journey, Beach and her husband decided to form a peer support group where parents could talk about their experiences and share advice and prayers in a safe and open environment. “We just decided to go out and get a group of parents together to support one another so that everyone could understand and find resources and what works for other people and what didn’t work, connecting so they knew that there was someone else out there who could just sympathize with what they were experiencing, the struggles and successes they were having.”
In addition to adoptive and foster parents, the couple also opened up the group to the parents of children with special needs. “We have a lot of similar needs within the special needs community of parents who just struggle on a daily basis to deal with the medicine issues, the emotional issues that go with having special needs kids,” Beach said. “There’s a real need to connect those families also. We’ve found a lot in common with them.” The group operated independently for the first five years before coming under the NewPointe umbrella two years ago. “Myself and some members of the group attend NewPointe, and it fit really well into the Care Network that NewPointe provides.”
During the group’s monthly meetings, which typically take place in the home of one of the group’s members, participants start out by taking part in a short devotional praising God for the opportunity to care for their special children. “He created them, and He loves them more than we do, and we definitely acknowledge how much He can help us as parents to take care of our kids,” Beach explained.
Afterward, participants are invited to talk about what has been going in with their families over the past month. “We just share what’s been happening, and we make an attempt to give each other advice,” Beach explained. “It may be something just as simple as, ‘This is a great neurologist that I worked with, and they were great. They were helpful to me.’ It may be some other resource. It may be about how to get funding for a medical necessity that is not available or not covered by their insurance.” To close out each meeting, participants take turns sharing prayer requests. “We pray a lot for each other,” Beach shared. “Really, God has allowed us to be the parents of these special kids, and by involving Him in our care for them, then it allows us to do the best as we can as parents to take care of them.”
In between meetings, members of the group share their stories and support one another through the private Facebook group NewPointe Parents of FASN Kids. “We meet once a month but we connect outside of that with prayer requests and [share] struggles and successes through that Facebook page,” Beach shared. For more information about the support group or to find out the location for the group’s next meeting, contact the Dover Campus of the NewPointe Community Church at 330-602-3040 or email Elaine Beach at firstname.lastname@example.org. Membership is open to all area parents in need of support, and participants do not need to reside in Tuscarawas County or be members of NewPointe in order to join the group.
This story originally appeared in the August 8, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.