Support and Resources for Adoptive Parents with Melissa Corkum

S09 | 4 – Support and Resources for Adoptive Parents with Melissa Corkum

Lindsay Recknell Hope, Podcast Leave a Comment

For many hopeful parents, adoption is a goal they hope, work, and dream for, oftentimes rallying the support of their friends and family along the way. But what happens beyond adoption day? If you’re an adoptive parent, you may feel discouraged, ungrateful, or even ashamed sometimes when parenthood isn’t easy, but also isolated because you don’t want to complain to the supporters who helped you through the adoption process.

Today’s guest is here to tell you that it’s okay to feel this way. Just because you chose adoption doesn’t mean it’s easy. As both an adopted adult and an adoptive parent, Melissa Corkum understands the difficulties faced on this journey, and aims to support and educate others who experience similar feelings and don’t know what to do. She provides resources and insight on trauma-informed care, the brain science behind behavior, and other ways parents can expand their skill sets in order to better understand and support their children through their journey together.

In our conversation we also highlight the importance of community, and having a place where adoptive parents can go to feel seen, heard, and understood.

Listen in!

About Melissa Corkum:

As a post-adoption support specialist, co-founder of The Adoption Connection, Safe and Sound Protocol Practitioner, and adult adoptee, Melissa Corkum has helped hundreds of adoptive parents shift to a brain-based view of behaviors so they can laugh more and yell less. She and her husband, Patrick, have six kids by birth and adoption and one granddaughter. They’ve taught her a lot about what creates thriving parent-child relationships…and what doesn’t.

To learn more, find Melissa on Instagram and find post-adoption resources on Instagram.

Mentioned In This Episode:


Lindsay Recknell 0:03 Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Hope motivates action podcast. I am your host, Lindsay Recknell. This week’s guest Melissa Corca is a super fascinating human who has turned her own life experiences into education and support for others, as opposed to adoption Support Specialist co founder of the Adoption Connection, safe and sound protocol practitioner and adult adoptee. Melissa has helped hundreds of adoptive parents shift to a brain based view of behaviors so they can laugh more and yell less. She and her husband Patrick have six kids by birth and adoption, and one granddaughter. They’ve taught her a lot about what creates thriving parent child relationships and what doesn’t. I found Melissa to be so intelligent, articulate and hopeful. And I think you will too. As a reminder, if you’re interested in any of the books, resources and tools I mentioned in this episode, all the links you’ll need can be found in the show notes if your favorite podcast player, or head to the blog and pod page of my website at WWW dot expert in hope calm and you’ll find them all there too. I truly believe that the future will be better than today by taking action over the things we can control. And conversations like this really reinforced that hope. So without any more delay. Let’s get to it. Hello, Melissa. It is so wonderful to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us today. Melissa Corkum 1:19 Well, Hi, Lindsay. I’m really excited to be here. Lindsay Recknell 1:22 I’m very excited to have you share your story of how hope has motivated action in your life, I think you are making a huge impact on those around you. And I’d love for you to share with the audience at who you are, what you do, and and your story of hope. Melissa Corkum 1:37 Yeah, so my name is Melissa corkum. And I am a post adoption support specialists. I’m also an adult adoptee. And we came to this profession, if you will, through our own story. So my husband and I met and married young we had two kids by birth. And he actually always knew he wanted to adopt. And that was like first date conversation. He was like I’m dating to marry. And also I’ve always wanted to adopt. So if like either of those things are good for you then like that can be. And he didn’t know I was an adoptee at the time. And so I think my answer went something like, Well, I’m adopted, and I think I’m okay with it. And so I guess I have to be okay with adopting. And so we had two kids by birth, in pretty short order. And it’s kind of a long, twisty story. But eventually, we kind of thought we would like have a bunch of kids by birth, I think and then like top it off with an adoption, which sounds ridiculous as I say it, but it is what we thought. And we ended up adopting our third child, he came to us from Korea, and he was a toddler. And so that kind of thrust us back into the world of adoption. You know, back when I was adopted in the 80s, there wasn’t a lot of adoption, support and education. And so our parents just kind of stumbled along with the best they knew how. But there was a lot more for us, as parents, as we kind of jumped into this, I naively went in thinking that because I was an adopted person that I could rock, the adopted parent thing. I knew nothing about trauma, or attachment, or all of the things that would become really prominent in our family story. And so our first son by adoption, kind of was an emphasis of us, moving forward into kind of a different way of parenting. Lindsay Recknell 3:41 Phenomenal. I mean, amazing. Also, the courage that your then potential husband had to say, Hey, these are my deal breakers. I’m into you. Let me lay it on the table and see where we go with this. Okay. It’s like, I mean, kudos to him for sure. Melissa Corkum 3:55 I know, right? We, every time we tell that story, like it just it’s hysterical. Because people are like, you didn’t really say that, did you? And I’m like, yeah, and and I don’t know. And somehow I didn’t leave. So here we are multiple children of multiple origins. Lindsay Recknell 4:10 Beautiful. I love it. So Lindsay Recknell 4:12 here you are. You’ve got your brand new family. Could you share with us what was different? Because I imagine that anyone would have thought, well, I’ve had these two kids. I’m a great parent here. adoption, a parenting and adopted child. How much tougher? Could it be? You know, could you talk a little bit about that gap? And maybe how you close that gap? Unknown Speaker 4:33 Yeah, and And the crazy thing is, is we went through this pre adoption training. And but it focused on two things. It focused on children who had been in institutions. And it turns out that our son hadn’t been he had been in multiple foster families, but never in an institution. And then it focused on the trans racial piece, you know what it’s like to parent, a child of a different race in your family. And so, you know, we didn’t have the institution piece and then In the trans racial peace we had a little bit but because I’m also a Korean adoptee, it was a little different in our family because I also have two siblings who are adopted from Korea. So he wasn’t going to be this like Soul lonely Korean child in a completely white family, he was going to have a mother who looks like him, he was going to have siblings who are biracial, and then an uncle who looks like him. And so I kind of like, you know, naively ignored a lot of what they told us about what would be different about adoptive parents, apparently, because I thought, it’s not going to apply to us. And as it turns out, everything that we thought we knew about parenting that had worked with our first two kids. And granted, they were like three and five at the time. So also very naive for us to think that that made us brilliant parents in any sense of the word. But nothing worked on him all the things that we had done that kind of, I think traditional cause and effect, parenting type things like, you know, if you do this, then there’s a timeout or a removal of privileges or things like that just fell on deaf ears actually made him angrier and angrier, and his behavior will kind of spiral and you don’t really have many places to go. When those things don’t work, right, they kind of backed you into a corner. So it was then that we kind of started, you know, I did started the internet research thing that us moms kind of do and we get on Facebook groups and all of the things. I’m actually not even sure if it was Facebook groups, I think it was so long ago, but blogs and all of the things and discovered something called empowered to connect. And that’s an organization that specializes in teaching parents about trauma and how to look at our kids behavior in a different light. And I’m kind of an all in kind of gal. So instead of just reading the book and kind of trying these things out, I found out that there was a training program for parents that would allow them to train other parents, this wasn’t just a parent training program. This was like a training program to become trainers. And so I dragged my husband to Texas in 2012. And we became empowered to connect parent trainers. And that really kind of blew open the that was like the action part right of all these things, I finally I had this idea of hope that there was something better for our family that there was a different way to parent to look at these things. And that kind of blew up in the store, this whole new world that I never understood about neuroscience and behavior and the brain and trauma. And so that was really the beginning of really us completely reframing how we thought about our relationships, not just our kids and their behavior, but our marriage and all the ways that we behave in relationship. And then after that, we went on to adopt three additional children, they were 1113 and 14 at the time, and we brought them home from Ethiopia, they were out of birth order. So they were older than all of our kids that we currently had at home. And that was a whole new level of crazy in our house. But starting to understand the brain science behind behavior was really what helped us close that gap originally. Lindsay Recknell 8:17 Amazing. I mean, you’re speaking my language. Now when you’re talking about brain science, because, you know, this, this show is all about hope and the science of hope, because I imagine similar. You run into people where they think well, there’s options, adoption, parenting, you know, there’s not a whole bunch of science. I mean, there’s some psychology probably around it, but the the neurobiology of, of trauma is, is kind of new, we’re just starting to really understand that. And so it’s very, very cool that even back in 2012, you’re starting down this your journey of neuroscience and is Is this how you’re teaching other adoptive parents now to relate to their new kids? Unknown Speaker 8:57 Yeah, absolutely. So it started, you know, getting this training for trainers and then it it kind of exploded, you know, the rabbit hole exploded into just reading and going to conferences and reading more and webinars and all of the things and so, I am a huge fan of Bruce Perry’s work and his neurosequential model and the work of Bessel Vander Kolk and some of the body work that goes into releasing trauma, Dan Hughes work and dyadic, developmental parenting and psychotherapy, all of these different pieces. Diane Malbin has the neuro behavioral model and all these ways of looking at like those interpersonal relationships, the neuroscience of them, the behavior behind all of it, the attachment piece, the parenting piece, and really just looking it gave us such a broader view of behavior and parenting and relationships. And the beauty of that is it gave us more options. You know, I, I felt like when we were trying to parent or our son from Korea, with all of these kind of traditional parenting methods that very much looked at behavior kind of as a choice, then we ran out of options very, very quickly. And so when we started to look at, it also turns out that he has some other pretty significant neuro divergence is in his brain, when we started to understand that, and understand, you know, what we as parents bring to the table in terms of our own regulation, and, and mirror neurons and all of those things, all of a sudden, our options for how to relate to our kids and how they deal with their behaviors became like, almost endless. And so there was a lot of hope there of knowing that I didn’t have to just have this, you know, tiny little kind of traditional parenting toolbox that I had grown up with. Lindsay Recknell 10:52 So you have taken this sense of hope for the future for you and your family. And I understand that you’ve created a community to help other parents tell us what you’re doing with the Adoption Connection. Unknown Speaker 11:06 Yeah. So you know, we went through a really, really hard time with one of our daughter’s from Ethiopia, she had pretty traditional symptoms of reactive attachment disorder, which just means that basically released her experiences in life had made it so relationship was more scary to her than safe. And so you know, when people are when family would try to get close to her, she would be really reactive, scared, if you think about, like a dog who’s been abused. And when you approach a dog even a friendly way, if they have this history, they are reactive, like you’re going to hurt them, even if you’re a perfectly safe human being. And through that journey, we realized that there were just not enough resources to support adoptive families both in the in the information and helping families understand why some of these things were going on. A lot of it is counterintuitive. It doesn’t make sense. And so I was able to bring my experience as an adoptee and start putting some of the pieces together for my story. To help parents kind of understand their kids a little bit better. I teamed up with another gal named Lisa quals, who is an adoption blogger, you know, 10 years ago, like blogging was the way that we had built community around these things. And we saw a need for more information, more community more support. She Her story is a little bit different in the fact that she was also a first mom or a birth mom. So she was forced to relinquish a son in her early teens. So she understood the birth mom perspective. And she’s also an adoptive mom. So between the two of us, we have all this perspective, we make up all three perspectives of the the adoption triad. And so she also has had a journey with one of her daughters, that was very, very hard, where there wasn’t enough support. And so we started dreaming about what would we, what did we wish we had had when we were going through this. And so the Adoption Connection started as a podcast. And now it’s an organization where we provide pretty intensive support for families in crisis, we also have a community called the village where parents come for support for them, like our tagline is kind of like, parents are pouring so much into their families like who is pouring into them. And so that’s what the village aims to do. We have an amazing adoptive dad who’s joined our team. And so he runs a dads only group inside of that community. And so it’s just been a beautiful space where people can feel seen for you know, if you haven’t lived this journey, you probably wouldn’t even couldn’t even imagine or might not even believe some of the crazy stories that go on behind closed doors attachments, very tricky. It often means that our kids behave differently in public than they do with relationships that are a little bit closer behind closed doors. And so it can be very isolating, to kind of explain to families or to professionals or to the community, what your life is like without feeling like you’re throwing your kid under the bus because often the public isn’t seeing all of the behaviors that you’re seeing. And so, the village has been a really safe place for adoptive parents to be supported. Lindsay Recknell 14:37 sounds incredible. Sounds just incredible. I mean, you’re right, because there’s so often not those deep enough resources, you know, like, it really feels like you guys are getting to the heart of what is important to these families and helping them to understand that you know, that they aren’t not only that they are alone, but also that it’s, it’s not in what I’m trying to say. But like, I imagine that they must have felt like they were banging their head against the wall hitting hitting roadblocks, where people aren’t understanding that we’re professionals aren’t understanding them. It sounds like you’ve just created this really beautiful space where they would feel kind of validated and heard and all of those things. I mean, that’s very, very hopeful. Unknown Speaker 15:24 Yeah, well, I mean, there’s this weird dynamic and adoption, because while it is possible to kind of adopt by accident, we say, most people go into adoption very intentionally. And often, it’s a long road, sometimes it costs a lot of money. And in our case, you know, we did a lot of fundraising, and people supported us, and they prayed for us. And, you know, it was, in some cases, it’s years that these families, you know, bring their community around them all around bringing this child home. And then so to bring a child home that has really big behaviors, our nervous systems aren’t wired to continue to be in relationship with people who are hard. And, and so sometimes parents experience something called blocks care, which is, you know, a subconscious mechanism in our nervous system, where we’re saying, I kind of want to protect myself against this relationship that feels really hard. And, and so it, it’s hard when you’ve gathered this whole village around you to bring your child home a lot of times, when you’re pre adoption, it almost feels like adoptions, the crowning glory of adoption, right? Like you Everything leads up to the adoption, because there’s the home study, and all the waiting and the International paperwork, if you adopt internationally. So all of that leads up to like the adoption, right? And that’s really the beginning, not the end. And when parents go through all of that, and then they struggle, we’re often left thinking, Well, who do we talk to about that, because we have this whole community of people that we begged and pleaded to come help us bring this child home, and we were so excited. And then we bring him home. And maybe I don’t like him very much. And who you can’t say that, you know, it doesn’t feel safe to say that the people who fundraise and listen to you whine about how it was taking so long and and then you have your social worker. And if you ever think you might adopt again, the last thing you want to do is tell your social worker that you’re having trouble bonding with your child. And there’s a lot of fear around you know, your relationship with your social worker, often. And so it just becomes this, you have to put yourself in this place where it feels like where do I turn. And so that’s the dynamic that I think is unique to adoptions because of the intentionality that goes into you know, we want to do this, we feel called to do this. And now we’re in this really tricky place. And how do we say that, you know, without feeling like the whole world is judging us or are going to say, well, you chose that, you know, well, you chose this. Yes, I Lindsay Recknell 17:57 did. But doesn’t mean it’s still not hard. Right, right. Yeah. Do you also do also have support for the other kids in a family? Unknown Speaker 18:06 That’s a great question. We do. Lisa, by co founder in particular has just a huge heart for siblings, really both do because we both have situations where we adopted children that really struggled to know how to integrate into a family where we already had kids in our home. And the kids who were part of a stable family before we brought in a child who kind of de stabilize, everything really took a hit, you know, in in mourning, what used to be in losing a lot of access to us as parents because a lot of times, you know, kind of the squeaky wheel gets the grease, we spend a lot of time and energy going to appointments and assessments and, you know, or just being with because a lot of our kids need what we call co regulators. You know, it’s kind of like think of it as an external conscience, or an external person to kind of help you calm down. And they really need a lot of one on one support. And so that leaves other stable kids kind of to fend for themselves. So we do talk a lot about what it looks like to support siblings and families in this situation. It is a dream for us to have like a sibling support group. We haven’t kind of gotten that off the ground yet. But we are starting to bring other people into the team like we have a an adoptee a teen adoptee support group that runs now. So we have a young adult adoptee who’s kind of heading that up and just as a phenomenal job of, of walking kids through that and helping them navigate their stories. And it’s great because she’s not a parent herself and she’s still young and cool. And so we can provide that space for our kids without having other adults there which I think completely changes the dynamic but you’re right the sibling experience is often overlooked and we need a special parents to be really intentional about thinking about what the experiences for our kids who are stable. And I think as I look back on our journey, that would be one of our biggest regrets, really. And we should have prioritized, you know that those relationships, it just felt like there was always a fire to put out. And we thought those were the most urgent felt like the most important, and I don’t, and I don’t think in hindsight, that was necessarily the case. Lindsay Recknell 20:31 Well, and I can imagine that there’d be a lot of parents have a lot of similar situations that would feel the same. I remember how I had a guest on the show, who has four kids, and three of her kids suffered from mental health and addiction. And her fourth child, who was quote, you know, normal was, was steady and stable and taking care of herself. Looking back now, you sort of wondered, you know, did she feel left out? Did she get left behind? Who would she be had she, you know, had had had the same kind of mental health and addiction challenges to be able to, you know, be that squeaky wheel. But I can only imagine, I mean, you parents are doing the absolute best that you can and Hindsight is 2020. Right. But it’s really cool to hear that you’re supporting siblings, because I imagine that that would be Yeah, it would, it would be urgent, but not as on fire as some of the other stuff that you were dealing with. For sure. It’s cool that you’ve created that space for people. And one of the you know, when you’re talking about trauma informed care, and Dr. Bruce Perry, I’m a huge, also huge fan of his work. And I think that whole trauma informed care piece is something that is kind of in its infancy as well, right, and thinking about behavior from a place of what happened to you, as opposed to, you know, what’s wrong with that person? And is there any, you know, Can you give any thoughts to parents that are listening on where, where they can get more information about, um, about caring for, for their kids who may be previously traumatized? Either little T big T, you know, the whole the whole scope and scale as well comes into it, I imagine. Yeah. So, Unknown Speaker 22:06 you know, adoption itself is traumatic visit the change in primary caregiver. And so we always start with that with parents. And so because of that there’s a lot of trauma in forms, Parent Resources for the adoption community, because we know that that’s a common thread, even if there wasn’t obvious abuse or neglect. In a family story, we know that adoption itself is a relationship trauma. My co founder, wrote a book with Dr. Karen Purvis, who is the creator of Empower to connect, which is the parenting model, and then also a professional model called trust based relational intervention, or tbri. And that book is called The Connected parent. So that’s a great resource. It’s a pretty quick read, it’s full of story, which I think is so helpful and how to implement this. And even though it tbri was kind of created with foster and adoptive parents in mind, all the principles that are talked about in the book in terms of giving our kids voice and, you know, connecting before correcting all of this type things are 100% applicable to all children. And I think, you know, at this point in history, we’re almost two years into a pandemic, I think it’s pretty safe to say that all of us are under some sort of chronic stress, and our kids are feeling that as well. And so I think these principles apply, no matter what, even our kids who are neurodevelopmental, we average, if you will, we use this for everyone now, because it’s just good relationship. We use this and how we interact with coworkers, and spouses and friends and other great resources, Dan Siegel, has phenomenal parenting resources that were written to the general public, but very brain based and how they look at behaviors. So he has written the whole brain child and no drama discipline. Both of those he co authored with Tina Payne Bryson. And those are like must reads for every parent, no matter whether you’re an adoptive parent, or foster parent, or just parenting kids by birth. So I definitely recommend parents start, start with those resources. Lindsay Recknell 24:22 Amazing, we will absolutely link to all of those resources in the show notes so that listeners can find them because I similar to you, I’m a lifelong learner, I need to know all the things all the time, and I can only imagine how helpful these kinds of resources would be. And I like that you mentioned for all kinds of relationships. I’m not a parent, but I can imagine that the lessons that these experts are teaching in those books would apply to relationships beyond just a parent and child relationship. So I’m going to check those out for Unknown Speaker 24:51 sure. Yeah, it’s it’s really great. Like even my husband as he works with coworkers, you know, he’ll he’ll have someone maybe who was struggling and maybe 10 years ago, it would have been like, you know, what’s wrong with you keep up? Why are you doing this? It would have been more like a performance review type conversation, and now is able to say like, Hey, you know, is there anything going on like, starting with this caring perspective and every single time Lindsay every single time there’s something you know, someone going through a divorce that she hasn’t talked about at work, or someone struggling with a child, or a aging parent or something, there’s always something that’s pulling them or chronically started stressing them or impacting their brain’s ability to do the really hard thinking work that we, you know, often need to do at our jobs. And so I think it’s, it’s just made us better humans all around. Lindsay Recknell 25:43 Amazing. And we need better humans, we need to continue to raise collective wellness, so that we can continue to raise better humans. That’s amazing, Melissa, thank you so so much. I end each of these episodes with a one question and that is, Melissa, what gives you hope? Unknown Speaker 25:59 Well, I think with even all of the brain science, oftentimes, I can get stuck there and think that there’s a brain science hack or trick to quote unquote, fix my kids, or my spouse or something. But ultimately, I’m a person of really deep faith. And so I think, ultimately, my hope comes from Jesus and from knowing that there’s just a bigger force going on in this world and something beyond what we can see. And that brings me a lot of hope, because honestly, as much as I would like to be able to, like I’ve all teens and young adults right now, and so they’re all making their own decisions. And I want to think that I can direct them into the right way. So they don’t make you know, some of the same stupid mistakes that I did. But ultimately, knowing that God holds it all, is what brings me I think, the most Lindsay Recknell 26:54 amazing, well, you have brought me a ton of hope, just in this kind of conversation. I know that you’ve shared I mean, your expertise to this concise, simple, hopeful way that you speak, I imagine that people listening, you know, can feel like their future will be better than today that there are actions that they can take stuff that they have control over, that they can really move their families towards a better place. So thank you so, so much for sharing your expertise with us today. It’s been a real pleasure having a conversation with you. Melissa Corkum 27:21 Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s been a joy. Lindsay Recknell 27:24 Take care, and we’ll talk to you again soon. I hope you enjoyed this latest episode of The Hope motivates action podcast. These episodes are a labor of love inspiring conversations with hopeful people make my heart happy. If you also love this episode, it would be amazing if you could go to Apple podcasts and leave a review five stars if you’re into it. It’s these reviews that encouraged Apple to promote this podcast to their network and the more people that listen, the more hope we can spread into the world. Don’t forget to check out the show notes of this episode to find all the links to my guests books and other resources referenced in this episode. You’ll also find the link back to my website where you will find additional support and resources for you, your team and your community. I truly believe that the future will be better than today. By taking action over the things we can control and hearing from these guests on these episodes. I know that even more hopeful future is totally possible. I’m always looking for inspirational guests so if you or anyone you know would like to be a guest on the show please reach out you can find me on the contact form of my website at or by email at When I was a teenager and my sisters were leaving the house to go out for the night, I always made it a point to remind them to call me if they need me. It was my way to tell them that I cared and would always be there for them. I’d love you to know the same so all of you listening out there Call me if you need me. Again, thank you for your love and support of this podcast my work in hope and your intentional focus on making your future better than today. After all, hope without action is just a wish Transcribed by

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