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Are you an adoptive or foster family looking for parenting insight? Join us for a special two-day event designed to offer tools and help specifically for you!

The Empowered to Connect Conference on Febraury 13 & 14 at Calvery Chapel Costa Mesa is designed for foster and adoptive families, ministry leaders and professionals who want to deepen their understanding of how to connect with at-risk youth and children from hard places. 

Using trust-based parenting and proven techniques developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis, the conference will equip, empower and encourage you with tips, tools, and knowledge.

Early bird registration ends Friday – so sign up soon at showhope.org/connect! And be sure to use code FOCUSGUEST for 50% off!  


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Humans are built with a natural longing for interaction. A couple shares about their individual days at work, a teenage girl cries about a breakup as her friend comforts her, and a group of men share about their recent shots in a golf game. In the same way, children are in dire need of response from the moment they are born. But what happens when this need is not met? What occurs in the brain when expression is met with empty stares and immobile response? Although it is easy to overlook the problem of neglect, it is important to be aware of the gravity of children who are not receiving sufficient attention, because the foundation of healthy societies is built upon the proper development of interaction between children and caregivers. In  recent research from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, psychologists study the cause and effects of this issue.

The problem of severe neglect is associated with abnormalities in the structure and functioning of the developing brain. This can start as early as infancy. During the first stages of childhood, there is a refining of the brain’s neural circuits that are being formed. While in this stage of life, the process of “serve and return” is essential. This is the concept that children naturally interact through facial expressions, cooing, and gestures, then the caretaker responds with similar expressions and gestures. If a caretaker fails to respond, the formation of the child’s brain may be interrupted, which can cause future damage in learning, conduct, and health.

Even more disheartening is the growing population of children inhabiting institutional settings. These often crowded children’s homes foster a sort of “assembly-line” system of caretaking. Children are looked after by shifts of caregivers, never being able to establish reliable connections, and only participating in minimal serve and return interaction. Even though they may be receiving sufficient basic living needs (such as food, shelter, and health care), they are robbed of the basic psychosocial communication that encourages healthy brain stimulation.

In tests of electrical activity in the brain, children from institutional homes, along with those with histories of neglect, show a lack of ability to react properly to stimulation, such as recognizing different facial emotions. Not only is the area of the brain that identifies emotion stunted, but the prefrontal cortex, which regulates roles such as planning, observation, problem solving, and behavior, has been noted to function on a lower level than those without a history of neglect.

Furthermore, the systems in a person that assist in handling stress and anxiety may be severely damaged as well. For example, in a typical healthy child, the stress hormone, cortisol, shows high levels of activation in the morning, acting as a boost for the body to function during the day. As night approaches, it gradually decreases. But in neglected or institutionalized children, this hormone displays low levels in the morning and continues a flat pattern throughout the day. In the long run, this lack of cortisol regulation has been seen to permanently damage the construction of the brain, causing hearth rhythm inconsistencies, depression, and anxiety.

So how can this problem be alleviated? Ultimately, a nurturing family system where relational connection can happen is imperative. Every child’s recovery depends upon the severity of the negligence and timing of rescue. The immediate shift of moving a child from a negligent home to an encouraging one is important, but the process of healing requires long-term and consistent relational support. Even after being removed from an unhealthy situation, a child is still prone to lack of recovery if they are not surrounded by relationships where they can build attachment.

The Orphan Care Initiative seeks to help every child remain in family, reunite with family or regain a family of their own, by equipping the local church to act as a key support. In Rwanda, we are mobilizing churches to get children out of orphanages and into families, as the country works towards the goal of zero children living in orphanages.

Read some of the incredible stories of how  children in Rwanda are leaving the orphanages for families of their own. Learn how you can sponsor a family in Rwanda to have the extra boost needed to adopt a child out of the orphanage  here.

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This fall, brush up on new relational skills and grow healthier connections with your children and loved ones with one of our series of classes and support groups designed just for you! Whether you are an adoptive or foster parent, a relative caregiver, or just someone looking to learn skills to work with children who come from hard places, there’s a place for you to learn in this community:

 

Caring for Children Impacted by Trauma and Grief

Are you a parent, teacher, childcare worker, mentor, or just have a passion for helping children? Join us for this cutting edge 7 week/14 hour workshop on how to recognize the signs of grief and trauma in children and how to intervene to get them back on the path of healing and connection.

Wednesday nights from 6:30pm-8:30pm

Class dates:

Sept. 24, Oct. 1, Oct. 15, Oct. 22, Oct. 29, Nov. 12, Nov. 19

Register here: http://saddleback.com/event/13169657801/Caring-for-Children-Impacted-by-Trauma

 

Trauma Informed Parenting Classes

This 7 week training, perfect for relative caregivers as well as foster and adoptive families, will help you and your family understand the effects of trauma on your child. Learn to understand your child’s experience with attachment and acquire practical techniques for promoting trust and creating a safe environment for your child. Join a community of families as we come together to be equipped with skills to create a tighter bond with your child and a healthier relationship.

Wednesday nights from 6:30pm-8:30pm

Class dates: Sept. 24, Oct. 1, Oct. 15, Oct. 22, Oct. 29, Nov. 12, Nov. 19

Portable room 301/303 Saddleback Church Lake Forest Campus

Register here: http://saddleback.com/event/13192012665/Trauma-Informed-Parenting-Classes

 

Adoption & Foster Care Support Group

Join other adoptive and foster parents for 13 weeks of support and encouragement as we learn how to better relate to our children.

The Connection: Where Hearts Meet is an interactive small group study designed to help you and your child build lasting, loving connection. You will be encouraged and equipped with practical help based on Biblical truths and research-based interventions specifically developed for adoptive or foster care families.

The support group meets Tuesdays from 11am to 1pm.

Support Group will meet on the following Tuesdays: Sept. 30, Oct. 14, Oct. 21, Oct. 28, Nov. 11, Nov. 18, Nov. 25, Dec. 2, Dec. 16, Jan. 6, Jan. 13, Jan. 27, Feb. 3

Location: Upstairs classroom of the Refinery building on the Lake Forest campus of Saddleback Church.

Register: http://saddleback.com/event/13173240517/Adoption-Foster-Care-Support-Group

 

Questions? Email us at orphans@saddleback.com or call the Orphan Care Initiative at 949-609-8555.

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This blog has been adapted from a post on Dr. Karyn Purvis’ site Empowered to Connect. For more helpful trust-based parenting tips, visit their resources page. To order The Connection, a 13 week small group study for adoptive and foster parents written by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Elizabeth Styffeclick here.

 


When people hear our kids ask, “May I have a compromise?” they tend to look at us a bit funny. They seem completely confused when we respond to our kids as if their request for a compromise is normal. But at our house it is normal. In fact, it’s a request we hear no less than a dozen times each day.

We began teaching our kids to ask for compromises when our now five-year old daughter was only two. We figured that she was old enough to have a conversation with us, so she was old enough to begin learning how to compromise.

One thing we’ve noticed over the years among kids who are adopted or in foster care is that they tend to have control issues — sometimes really BIG control issues. Many kids (and parents) struggle with control issues, but this especially true for adopted and foster kids that come from homes or situations where most, if not all, of their world was out of control.  Sometimes these kids had to raise younger siblings, or had to fend for themselves to find their next meal. Sometimes these kids had to use control and manipulation to stay safe, both physically and emotionally.  And some of these kids resorted to control as an attempt to mask their lack of trust and feed their desire to avoid being hurt, neglected, or abandoned ever again. Control is often an “all or nothing” proposition for these kids, and when they come to our homes they aren’t willing to easily give up the control they’ve worked so hard to get.

In our home we’ve decided we are going to help our kids deal with their control issues not by taking control away from them, but by sharing control with them. Share control with our kids?  Sounds crazy. After all, we are the parents so we need to show our kids that we are in control, right? The thinking goes that they need to respect our authority or everything will devolve into chaos. We followed this way of thinking for a while, but showing our kids that we were in control was NOT working. As we tried to suddenly take all the control away from them what we got in return were power struggles and the very chaos we were trying to avoid. What worked, however, was a very simple solution…compromise.

The insight that helped us grasp this approach was actually something that Dr. Karyn Purvis said – “If you as a parent share power with your children, you have proven that it’s your power to share.”  This helped me understand that I get to decide when and how much power to share when I offer my kids a compromise.  And offering compromises doesn’t mean that I lose control or give my kids all of the control.  It means that I teach them how to share power and control appropriately and by doing so, I teach them an essential skill for healthy relationships.

 

Here’s how a compromise works at our house:

 

Me: Son, please go clean your room.

Son: (who is playing a videogame) Sure mom. May I have a compromise?

Me: What’s your compromise?

Son: May I finish this level on my game and then go do it?

 

Since that is an acceptable middle ground I will typically say sure and let him finish the level before going to clean his room. Of course this is an ideal conversation. Often times it goes more like this:

 

Me: Son, please go get your room cleaned up.?

Son: (who is playing a video game) Ugh!! Can’t I just finish this level first?

Me: Whoa! I don’t like that tone. Are you asking for a compromise??

Son: Yes.?Me: I’m listening.?

Son: May I have a compromise?

Me: What’s your compromise?

Son: May I finish this level on my game and then go do it?

Me: Sure! That’s a good job asking for a compromise!

 

Learning compromises takes practice for both kids and parents.  As they learn this skill, it’s important to praise your kids when they ask for a compromise correctly (even if you have to prompt them). Still the risk remains that your child might not hold up his end of the deal.  So, as you start using compromises it’s important to remind your kids that if they don’t hold up their end of the compromise, then you won’t be able to offer as many compromises in the future.  Contrary to what I thought would happen, my kids have always held up their end of the compromise.  As a result, we have had far fewer control battles.

By using compromises our kids have learned that they have a voice. They know that I can’t always give them or agree to a compromise, but they also know that I will as often as I can.  And the funny thing is that they now are able to accept ‘no’ much better than in the past.

Remember – compromising is NOT about allowing our kids to argue or debate with us, nor is it about losing our control or giving them all of the control. It is about sharing power – our power.  Compromises give our kids a voice and allow them to RESPECTFULLY ask for what they want and need.  And compromises give us as parents the opportunity to teach our kids an important way of relating that builds trust and connection.

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This article, written by Elizabeth Styffe, Global Director of the Orphan Care Initiative, originally appeared in Ministry Today Magazine.


God’s adoption plan provides the church with the perfect ministry model

 

At the heart of orphan care at Saddleback Church is the desire to end the orphan crisis. We believe every child deserves a loving, lasting, legal, lifelong family of their own—and we believe this is doable. If every church empowered their members to care for orphans in ways that helped and didn’t hurt, the orphan crisis could be over.

 

Unfortunately, though there are still more than 163 million orphans and vulnerable children in the world today, little has been done yet to help orphans stop being orphans. As a culture, we’ve spent years trying to put Band-Aids on the orphanage institution. But children need more than food, shelter, clothing and education. We don’t want children to just survive, but to thrive—and children thrive in family.

 

At Saddleback, we began asking ourselves, “How can we end the orphan crisis, and is there something every church can do?” Here are what we believe are the answers to those questions.

 

God’s Solution

Orphans stop being orphans when they become sons and daughters. At Saddleback, we’ve been challenged to change everything about how we care for orphans and how we engage members to care. We have two goals: (1) to end the orphan crisis; and (2) to get every member on mission, caring for orphans locally and globally by helping them find a family of their own.

 

Family is God’s remedy for orphanhood. The church doing for orphans what God has done for us is His solution. Because of this, we believe that if more Christians would do physically for orphans what God has done spiritually for us, the orphan crisis would be solved.

 

When we were orphans, God adopted us. Scripture teaches that the reason God made the world was so He could adopt (see Eph. 1:4-6). Our triune God, who needed nothing but wanted a family of His own, allows us through the blood of His Son to share in the rich communion as His sons and daughters (see Eph. 1). When God adopted us, He made us part of His permanent family, so we would no longer be orphans. Even though we were not His bloodline, He grafted us in through adoption, giving us permanent security and a family, and meeting our need to belong. His adoption of us is a legal process that cost Him everything. It gives us an inheritance and the right to call Him Abba, or “Father” (see Gal. 4, Rom. 8). As a result, at Saddleback we are in the work of reconciling people to God through adoption (spiritual adoption), and helping children stay in their families, be reunited with their families or find a new family through adoption (physical adoption).

 

Church and Family

There are 163 million children at risk in the world today but 2.4 billion people who claim the name of Jesus. This means the solution for every child is a church where all the members are caring about orphans. Churches can help orphans find a new family through adoption. They can help them remain in their current family if it is safe. Or they can help them reunite with their families if they are separated (since most children in orphanages have families in the communities but need the church to help the family become safe, healthy, and financially and emotionally ready to care).

 

The Orphan Care Initiative at Saddleback empowers ordinary believers to help orphans and vulnerable children locally and globally, and it also focuses on helping children find families. On the local level, this could mean doing several things: volunteering to serve children recently removed from their home, helping with sessions for people thinking about adoption, giving financially to someone who is adopting, or caring for newly adopted children while their families gain support. Even if you can’t adopt (and not everyone should), you can help someone who is adopting.

 

This has changed what Saddleback does cross-culturally. We send teams to help churches start orphan ministries that provide permanent, legal, lifelong families for children. We don’t invest in group homes or orphanages or other often harmful substitutes for families.

We help local churches and governments find and equip families for adoption. The emphasis is on solving the orphan crisis through adoption. We’re not talking about Americans adopting (although the very small and declining number of adoptions last year in the U.S. is evidence that more people should). Instead, this is about helping churches all over the world legally adopt children, doing what’s best for a child and ending the orphan crisis.

 

Six Things Every Church Can Do

So what can you do to help eradicate such a global problem? Here are six things every church (including yours!) can use to launch an orphan-care ministry:

Open your heart to God’s heart for the orphan.

Recognize your responsibility to find permanent families.

Prevent children from being orphaned.

Help orphans in ways that move them out of orphanhood.

Affirm loving, legal and lasting families by preservation, reunification, or adoption.

Never forget the local church is key.

 

Thinking Differently

The church’s approach to orphan care has changed dramatically from what it once was. Let’s continue moving closer to God’s heart for adoption, as found in His Word. He’s given us the perfect ministry model, so let’s embrace it. By working together, churches can end the current worldwide orphan crisis.

(Article originally printed in Ministry Today Magazine)

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