Film is hard to watch but essential to see

Contributing WriterJune 26, 2013 

As an adoptive parent, I admire Tiffany Sudela-Junker: for her determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable goals; for recognizing her daughter’s need for therapeutic parenting; and for sharing her story in an honest and direct way.

My Name is Faith lets us into the world of parenting traumatized kids, with all its hardness, fleeting joy and gritty resolve. The memories of my own family’s journey — the tantrums, the ignorance, the self-imposed isolation — were still so raw.

I was not alone in this visceral response. The other parents in attendance — foster, domestic, kin-ship and overseas adoptive ones — unanimously agreed.

Equally significant was the reaction that followed the tears – that this film could and should serve as a lightning rod in the world of foster and adoptive children. It is a voice for the voiceless, a ray of hope and a wider window into the world of childhood trauma.

I only wish this window had existed back when we began parenting our youngest daughter, adopted from an overseas orphanage. We thought we were immune from stories like Faith’s. We now know that trauma and its aftermath exists in many forms and environments.

Almost 10 years on, the early years still haunt me. Her vacant stare and stone silence when they handed her to me. How she never cried when hurt. How she didn’t seek out comfort and struggled to sleep, to rest, to just be.

As a toddler with an outgoing personality she was easy to love, but I could not say she loved anyone back. She was too driven to need anyone else, except in superficial ways. She flirted incessantly with strangers, yet I often wondered if she would miss me if I left.

And then there was her grief. On her 4th birthday she sobbed for her “other mother.” By 5, she was dissolving on the floor, screaming, “I just want to die!” She would even slap her sweet face blaming herself for her plight.

During this hellish period, there were moments when I thought we would not make it as a family. Pre-adoption education and post-adoption support had not prepared us for this.

Now five years on from our darkest days I cannot imagine how we would have survived — and finally flourished — had it not been for a network of other parents who were already walking this particular parenting journey. They supported us, listening, giving hope and pointing us in the direction of help.

Indeed, they are why I admire Sudela-Junker. She — on a much louder scale — is like that small circle of parents who guided our family. She is shouting from the rooftops that trauma can have deep scars; that these children do exist; that parents and caregivers need understanding and help; and that it is not OK to lay blame or look the other way.

Kudos to Sudela-Junker and her family for telling this story. And Kudos to CASA of Lexington for seeing the need to share it.

Jane Samuel is a blogger at BlueGrassMoms.com and a member of the board of the Attachment Trauma Network.

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