Ask Liz Archambault what adoptive and foster care parents need most, and the answer, at first glance, may be surprising: Grace.
“There’s that desperate desire as a parent to want to do right by your child, but it’s important also to be able to have grace for your kid and for yourself,” Liz said. “There’s no way to make each interaction perfect. We can’t train for every situation. And so we need fellow Christians to have grace for our children and for us, as parents.”
Liz and her husband, Josh, are parents to Sophia and Jason. Sophia was born into their family seven years ago, and Jason was welcomed into their family at 8 weeks old through foster care. After more than two years, Jason joined the Archambaults permanently through adoption.
“We wanted adoption to be part of our story, early on in our relationship,” Josh explained. “After Sophia was born, we decided to grow our family again. We’re both researchers by nature, so we went to one agency to learn about domestic adoption and to another about intercountry adoption. As part of that process, we also had conversations with people about foster care and decided to go to an information session. We walked out of there, looked at each other, and both felt like, This is it; this is what we are supposed to be doing.”
Their son, Jason, was the Archambaults’ first foster care placement. In five years, Liz and Josh have loved and cared for 12 other children as well as family members of some of those children. Jason’s mother is lovingly known as “Mama Maria” in the Archambault home.
Three years ago, Liz and Josh were introduced to Show Hope after a friend, in neighboring Maine, hosted a simulcast of the Empowered to Connect Conference—launching this April as the Hope for the Journey Conference. At that time, the Archambaults were relatively new foster parents and knew they needed more “training … and tools in our toolbox,” Josh said.
“I had my masters in social work, so there were six years of school … where you’re learning how to holistically look at family systems and dynamics,” Liz explained. “But when it comes down to the nitty gritty as a parent, when you don’t get a manual, What do you do when this happens? None of that—social work education and experience in the field—prepared me for what does this mean when it’s your own child.”
After that first experience with Show Hope’s Empowered to Connect Conference, the Archbambaults were convinced it was needed in their Southeast Massachusetts region, an area where the conference’s practical concepts and teachings had yet to be fully realized and known.
“Before we left Maine, we had purchased the [next year’s] simulcast, knowing how much it was needed in our area and how much we wanted to bring it to our area,” Liz said. “It’s become a passion for Josh and I, especially in a part of the country where there tends to be less [trauma-competent training and education], certainly from a faith perspective.”
Josh and Liz’s faith has been guiding them since the first steps in their adoption and foster care journeys. In fact, as Josh said, foster care and adoption have provided them a “front-row seat to redemption, reconciliation, and grace—foundational, fundamental pieces of the gospel.”
“We began this journey because of our faith. It is and continues to be the primary driver, especially with all the bumps, bruises, and frustrations. It’s been instrumental to us,” the Archambaults explained. “When we read scripture, we see James 1:27 sprinkled throughout the Bible. It is not a suggestion; it is a command to care for the vulnerable—we have our marching orders.”
“This is where we are getting our direction. Christ is the one saying, ‘I want you to go,’” Liz continued. “And, then, it is Show Hope and the Empowered to Connect Conference that are equipping us for that journey. And we’re so thankful for that because there’s no question of whether we’re going. If God tells you to go, you go.”
For the past two years, the Archambaults have hosted the simulcast with 60 attendees the first year, and 120 registrants this year, watching virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Our area is very academic, generally speaking. And so, it’s been a really nice mix of science and the practical,” the Archambaults explained. “We’ve been intentional about reaching out to parents, church networks, and also reaching out to social workers and agency workers. We know that if they see it and fall in love with it, those agency workers sometimes have a broader reach.”
For the past several years, Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) has been included in Show Hope’s Empowered to Connect Conference and will be a part of the new Hope for the Journey Conference this spring. Developed by Drs. Karyn Purvis and David Cross from the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU (KPICD), TBRI is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the often complex needs of children impacted by adoption and foster care. At its core, TBRI works to promote trust, attachment, and connection between parents and caregivers and children by addressing physical and emotional needs while also disarming fear-based behaviors.
“In a lot of child welfare [settings], probably one of the least practiced [actions] is the way you think about behaviors and the motivations of a child—why they’re doing something. Willful behavior versus just expressing a need is terribly misunderstood in our experience, in our area at least,” Josh explained. “And that extends into the church. With foster parents and adoptive parents feeling unwelcomed because the childcare workers aren’t equipped to deal with certain behaviors.
“So for us, we’ve really tried to embrace the training in our area. We see people say they understand it and know it’s important, but then they don’t actually practice it,” Josh continued. “So that is, in my mind, one of the biggest needs in our area. [The conference] is not only teaching and giving the tools, but it’s reminding, over and over again, This is why our child could be doing this. Become an investigator; try to understand the need.”
While the Archambaults’ journey has been full of “bumps, bruises, and frustrations” with learning new lessons all along the way, the joys, if you ask them, continue to outweigh the hard.
“We have had the most abundant life. It’s not just that these kids have benefited; we have had a much richer, more abundant life than we ever would have if we hadn’t said yes to this,” Liz said. “I am experiencing the gospel in my own life in saying, ‘Yes, Lord, I will follow you with my whole life, not just on Sunday morning.’ The return will, of course, be realized in heaven, but truly, here on earth, we have had a much more richer, abundant life than we ever would have if we had sat this one out.”
Along with other parents, caregivers, professionals, and church leaders, the Archambaults’ insight and wisdom helped to shape Show Hope’s upcoming Hope for the Journey Conference.
The 2021 Hope for the Journey Conference will have a renewed focus on parents and caregivers who are meeting the everyday needs of children impacted by adoption and foster care. In light of that renewed focus, the conference will move from two days to one day, making it more accessible, and will be modular in nature, so simulcast hosts choose how to best utilize sessions.
Structurally, the Hope for the Journey Conference will include five high-level learning modules based on the foundational principles of TBRI along with a new teaching component, TBRI and the Gospel. Embedded within each learning module will be a “Going Deeper” teaching video on a select topic, and also included will be two encouraging “Practical Perspectives” videos featuring the voices of adult adoptees and adoptive and foster families.
SEEing a tangible need to go deeper with parents and caregivers, the 2021 Hope for the Journey Conference will also include application guides with thoughts, questions, and reflections as well as action steps and activities. These guides will reinforce concepts and teachings shared during the conference along with ideas for incorporating conference insights into the day-to-day.
To learn more or to register today for Show Hope’s Hope for the Journey Conference, visit showhope.org/hope-for-the-journey.