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Nov 30, 2015

Although adoptive families complete many hours of required education and training, Jennifer Winkelmann has noticed a trend among those adopting a child who has experienced trauma.

“So many families I work with don’t feel equipped to parent the child in their care,” she said. 

Winkelmann, a family therapist who specializes in adoption and foster care, has a theory. Although adoption training provides a lot of the information parents need about potential attachment challenges, it’s difficult for parents to fully grasp until they find themselves in a difficult place—they may feel tired, discouraged, frustrated, or even frightened before they realize they need help.

But families don’t need to face attachment challenges alone.

The key, from Winkelmann’s perspective, may be rethinking the variety of factors at play. In cases of both international and domestic adoption, Winkelmann has seen many children who process sensory information differently or are simply not able to receive certain sensory input. Too much eye contact can feel overwhelming, for example. A hug can feel painful. Children who have experienced trauma—including a difficult pregnancy or a difficult birth—may be missing the very building blocks they need to engage in activities that lead to attachment. 

In this podcast, Jennifer Winkelmann talks with Kris Faasse, Bethany’s senior vice president for clinical services, about viewing attachment challenges through a new lens. She also shares helpful advice for how friends and family members can show support for parents who are struggling.

Bethany’s Every Child audio podcast engages leading voices from ministries, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and the arts to discuss issues relevant to children and families. Topics often include child welfare, family preservation, social justice, and culturally appropriate social services in developing countries. 

Read Jennifer Winkelmann’s article, “Lessons in Gratitude,” from the winter 2014 LifeLines.


Are you an adoptive parent feeling overwhelmed and discouraged?

Bethany’s Post-Adoption Contact Center can connect you with the resources and support you need. 

bethany.org/pacc