My wife Debbie and I were blessed to adopt our son, Dane, in 1991 from a Romanian orphanage. At the time though, we had no idea of how difficult raising Dane would be. We believed that if we gave this little fellow enough love, any problems of him being underdeveloped would be overcome.
After all, love conquers all, doesn’t it?
Dane’s problems were much deeper than we could know at the time. Fetal alcohol syndrome caused significant developmental delays. By the age of two, he was raging, by the age of four, he tried to throw himself out of a moving vehicle on the highway. Debbie and I could not understand the fear and pain that were being manifested in this little boy that we loved so.
These maladaptive behaviors went on for years, despite our attempts to look to every professional we possibly could to find answers.
At the age of eleven, Dane went to a specialized camp, Hope Connection, at Texas Christian University. The director of the Institute, Dr. Karyn Purvis, initiated a home program for Dane as a last resort to keep Dane out of residential placement. The parenting model that was shown us has become known as Trust Based Relational Intervention, or TBRI®. Using this model, we helped Dane make significant improvement in his behavior. Before this intervention, Dane was dysregulated about ninety percent of the time. Within four months, he was dysregulated about ten percent of the time. Our family unit had been saved!
This story is about me though. I came from a very dysfunctional family. My father had left the home before I was born, and I had been raised by a loving aunt and uncle. Yet, it was a topsy-turvy family where I was left to make my own rules growing up. These issues were brought into the relationship when Debbie and I married. I had difficulty connecting emotionally, and typically used a very authoritarian parenting style with our children. I had learned the strategies of TBRI®, had a great head knowledge of them, but found it very difficult to employ them consistently on a daily basis.
Debbie and I had learned a great deal about infant and adult attachment through TBRI®. Through counseling, I learned also that my own fear and pain from my own attachment issues were triggered by Dane’s fear and pain. To the dads out there, let me say that what I did changed my world forever for the better. I owned my own attachment history, made sense of it, gave forgiveness where it was needed, and freed myself from old shackles. For a great DVD on attachment check out, Attachment: Why It Matters from the TCU Institute of Child Development. I was able to become the trust-based daddy and husband that my family so deserved. Won’t you dads do the same?
There is a scripture that means so much to Debbie and me in this journey. It is from Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” I pray this for my family and yours as well.
By Alan Jones
Husband of Debra, Dad of one biological daughter, one adopted son
1 Corinthians 13 Team Member
Parenting Adoptees Can Trust (PACT)