Facebook reminded me that 11 years ago today we finalized the adoption of our older two kids. Our youngest’s adoption was finalized five months earlier and we had stopped taking new foster care placements by then too. This day marked the end of the longest, most emotionally taxing, and rewarding journey of my life. Adoption was the hardest thing I had done. Ever. Or so I thought.

We were so naive — finalization was anything but the final step. Yes, we were now legally the family we had been for almost two years, but as I would learn over the next few years adoption can be an ongoing roller coaster. While adoption is amazing and I am so thankful for my children, adoption isn’t possible without loss. My kids didn’t understand it at the time but their adoptions wouldn’t have been possible if their biological parents hadn’t first lost their parental rights. You can pretty it up by saying “But look what the kids gained!” but the fact is that it all started because of that loss. And that’s traumatic whether it’s a newborn or a toddler or a teenager.

It wasn’t long before the behavioral issues started. At first we thought it was normal toddler behavior. Then we were told it was pediatric bipolar disorder (thankfully this was a misdiagnosis) or maybe ADHD (also wrong) and then autism (wrong again). At some point five or six years in we learned about developmental trauma and attachment disorder. Bingo! We weren’t the only ones who had been naive. Social workers and professionals who told us how great it was that our kids were so young when we adopted because they wouldn’t remember the neglect were wrong. In fairness, they didn’t know either. We know now that trauma literally rewires the brain. The experience at this age isn’t part of your memory in a way that you can talk about it, but your body and your brain remember.

We are fortunate that we’ve been able to demand appropriate and effective treatment for our kids. I’m thankful that I have been a successful advocate for our kids. I’m grateful that I can share our experiences and help other adoptive parents learn how to successfully advocate for their kids.

If you’re still reading you’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with my running for County Commissioner. A lot. Poverty is a form of trauma which impacts physical health, mental health, and how children learn. Poverty is one of the biggest issues facing Pasco County. If we want Pasco County to be a “premier” place to live we must address poverty and income inequality in Pasco County. We need jobs that pay a living wage, provide paid time off and offer opportunities for career advancement. It’s also time for Pasco County to fund Human Services so that real services (not just referrals to non-profit agencies, although that is a critical service too) can be provided. It’s time we bring compassion and service to the Board of County Commissioners.