Dancing with a Porcupine

Dancing with a Porcupine

Dancing with a Porcupine


Dancing with a Porcupine by Jennie Owens.  “Parenting is hard. So what do you do when you’re parenting a child who has experienced trauma or has extra challenges? You often feel alone and inadequate. You want so much to help your child, but you are at the end of your own rope. You feel guilty that sometimes you want to just quit.What can you do — how can you make it through the day — how can you help your child while also taking care of yourself?

Maybe someone you love is parenting a traumatized child. Or perhaps you are a social worker, counselor, or other professional who sees families like these every day. You want to know how to better help them.

In Dancing with a Porcupine, Jennie Owens shares with humor and raw honesty the compelling story of her struggle to save her own life while caring for three children she and her husband adopted from foster care. How could she stay loving, giving, and forgiving in the midst of a daily battle with children acting out the rage, resentment, and pain of their own traumatic pasts?

When faith, endurance, and creativity are not enough, what’s next?”

This Book, as a Whole

I cried when I read this.  Then, I had to read it again to absorb more truths.  The system is *so* flawed.  Maybe it is better, now, but 16 years ago it sucked.  Once a child is adopted, there really isn’t anything or anyone out there to help.  If you don’t have a great support system and people who “get it” then you will drown.

I found myself drowning.  I didn’t have a great support system, in the beginning.  Bart was not even in my circle of help.  He did what he could but he checked out.  He can admit that and he struggles with decisions he has made.  I can’t speak for him and I won’t speak for him.  It was just hard.

Loss of Myself

I lost my hair, my eyebrows, eyelashes, yet my weight piled on substantially.  Recently, I have been breaking out in hives.  Giant body consuming hives.  It’s fun.  My support system is better but I pick and choose who I talk to.  I realized quickly that those “friends” I thought I could trust were most definitely wolves in sheeps clothing pretending to be Christians.

At my lowest, I had a dear friend take one of my children for a month or so.  I could trust her because she is currently living the life with her children.  She gets it and then some.  I will forever be indebted to her and her husband for stepping in the gap and literally saving my life.

Is it Me?

When I read this through…there was a statement that was something to the affect of her (the mom) being crazy and she was making everything up.  Then, the dad stepped in and took some time with the kids and he realized what she was going through.  Therapists, family, people started seeing things.  Do you have any idea how comforting it is to read another person’s story and know that it is your story as well.  I’m not crazy.

I wish beyond wishing that there was available, AFFORDABLE trauma therapist for these kids (and the parents and other siblings).  We sought therapist after therapist and they just don’t understand the magnitude of the darkness these kids came out of and what they deal with.  No idea.

Their answer, most of the time, is to medicate.  Well, news flash, you can’t medicate trauma.  If my kids had had the therapist, if social workers were more involved AFTER adoption, if there were support groups where you could just be heard and cry, things may have been different.  Sadly, that is rarely the case.

Social Workers

They are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed.  It is as simple as that.  They have restraints on them just like foster/adoptive parents do.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some AMAZING workers and then there are suckfest workers who don’t give a shit. Luckily, we only met 2 of the latter.

I have many regrets, as does Jennie Owens (the author of the book) but overall, I did the best I could with the tools I had.  My love for my kids will never waiver.  I wish things were different and that we could have just “loved” them out of the darkness. Let me reiterate for those in the back…cause I feel like there is a HUGE misconception about adopting.


When you adopt a child (from the hospital, foster care, infant, toddler, older, international, intrafamily, guardianship, whatever the case my be), you are eager to get that placement or referral.  You want to grow your family and this is where the Lord has called you.

Good for you.  Congratulations.


In your eagerness to grow your family, you are quite literally waiting for another mom and dad to fail, die, or something else to cause them to go into care.  Your GREATEST JOY comes from the GREATEST SORROW of this child’s life.  You think they will be “unscathed” because they were an infant adoption or young toddler and they won’t remember.


They remember. Ever heard of the Amygdala?  Primitive brain.  That baby knows its biological mothers voice, her emotions, her sounds, her food preferences, her heartbeat, her smell.  They will grieve.  Respect that.  Allow that.  It has nothing to do with you…it has to do with tremendous loss that they have experienced and you can’t love them out of that grief.

What you can do is allow, encourage, write, let them write, talk about their bio families.  Let them know that they made the choice they did so they could give this child a life they couldn’t give them for one reason or another.  Don’t take their grief personally.  I did that for years, then I embraced it and laid the roadwork for them to have a relationship with their safe bio family when they were ready to contact them (usually after 18).

Also, I told them their complete birthstory at around the age of 12…before puberty.  I told them the good, bad, and ugly.  They need to hear that truth before hormones get involved.


Foster parents are needed.

Adoptive parents are needed.

Take the classes.

Get your OWN support group going.

Use your voice.

Don’t be afraid of those “wolves”.

Respect the darkness and trauma.

Read.  Learn.  Educate yourself and others.

These kids are worth it.

You ARE NOT crazy.

Trauma is a bitch.

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