602-884-1801 | Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents

The other day my grandson, Max, 4, said, “Nana, when are we going to the Show and Tell House?” We were in the car on the way to Oak Creek Canyon for a change of scenery, beach towels and floaties at the ready.  Max was once enrolled in a preschool class so the reference to Show and Tell didn’t surprise me, but I struggled to comprehend what he meant by a Show and Tell House. I asked him to tell me more about it. He reminded me that it had a pool and we went to sleep there. A quick survey of those details and an effort to free myself of what I know about Show and Tell, let me realize that he was asking me about a hotel. We had traveled to San Diego last year and had to break up the drive both ways with an overnight in hotels. I’d forgotten that this was the first time in his short life to stay in a hotel. He’d had much more exposure to that sequence of vowel sounds in the words Show and Tell so his recall had the sounds right but the words wrong. This is the sort of adorable confusion that once made for great TV shows!

Our training last week explored Auditory Processing Difficulties. The discussion that followed was great. It pointed out how hard it is to know if a challenge is simply about limited exposure to spoken vocabulary, as in Receptive Language Disorders, or structural neurological obstacles as in Auditory Processing Disorder. On top of these seemingly similar challenges to effective communication is the reluctance of so many kids from hard places to even want to communicate with us at all.

We tend to interpret this behavior as oppositional or evidence of an earlier household with too few expectations and too little response to expressed needs. We forget that kids whose early years were marked by chronic trauma and neglect may have simply learned that it is less painful to pretend to need no one than to spend their days without encouragement, with needs almost invisible to those around them. If I don’t need you, I don’t need to hear you, I don’t need to trust you, and I don’t need anything you have to offer.

I think the hardest part is to maintain empathy in the face of this kind of rejection or perceived disrespect. Most of us enter this commitment hoping to make a difference in a child’s life. Each of us needs a support system to fulfill this commitment for a variety of reasons:

  1. Our own mental health requires it.
  2. Other foster, kinship and adoptive parents have a unique perspective on this journey/parenting relationship.
  3. Other friends simply don’t understand our need for support since we “chose” this commitment.
  4. Every child is different; each brings a unique set of strategies for coping with their early life. What effort works for one may not work for the next.
  5. Earning someone’s trust is seldom easy but, with these children, it is even more difficult. Until trust is tentatively in place, other growth can’t happen. Patience is key.
  6. Navigating all the systems that come with each child is an unexpected challenge.

Try not to be another invisible puzzle piece. Get yourself out of the way so you have a chance to figure out what this little person needs from you to become the best possible version of themselves. You will make a difference, but you might have to wait a long time to see the fruits of your labor and what you find might surprise you.


  1. Friday night Happy Hour continues (check your email for the link) and we have added a monthly training session to satisfy your licensure requirements, curiosity or life-long learning goals. Reach out to kristi@azafap.org if interested in membership or either offering.
  2. Certificates of attendance are issued for the training hour (held at 9 pm on the last Tuesday of the month). August 25th will explore SLEEP. Watch your email for the registration opportunity.
  3. This shut down continues for those of us who understand what is at stake. Others seem to struggle to grasp that. Still others, like the teens in your home, have begun to climb the walls. You are in my thoughts. Reach out if you need an ear: cathyt@azafap.org.

Thanks for listening. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.