Attachment Parenting: Building Safety & Trust With Foster & Adopted Children/Teens by Jeanette Yoffe

Attachment Parenting: Building Safety & Trust With Foster & Adopted Children/Teens by Jeanette Yoffe

This article was published in Fostering Families Today Magazine November/December 2019

I am always thinking of ways “out of the box” and “practical tools” to help families understand the “inner world” of foster and adopted children. Because this inner world is an invisible wound that is hard to put into words for any child, due to the implicit pre-verbal experience of loss and separation. Children don’t have the developmental capacity to express the feelings, thoughts, and sensations. So, I have gone to great lengths via trainings, private psychotherapy, support groups every month, one on one coaching, and showing films to help families so they “get it.”

In 2014, Celia Center spnosored a training for foster and adoptive families in Los Angeles, from a child’s point of view in the first person, Truly, Madly Deeply Understanding Your Foster and Adopted Child. I tapped into my own inner child, as a foster youth and adoptee with the inspiration to help parents “truly, madly, deeply” feel their child’s inner life. Watch a clip HERE.

In this article, I want to share 8 pieces of parenting that I have mended, nurtured, and savored in my practice working with families today that are helpful for parenting a child with attachment trauma where the repair needs to be focused on building relationship and trust.
#1- I need you to maintain a positive affective tone that influences me, rather than letting my negative tone influence you. If you react to my “big hurt feelings”, then I will feel more powerful and want to be in control. By remaining calm… time, time, and time again, I will eventually see you as strong enough to deal with me, and my pain and I will stop testing you. Trust me!
How do you develop a positive affective tone? Rather than asking a question and expecting an answer, have an attitude of curiosity? Your tone of voice, will be higher, lighter, and calm and inviting. I will feel better and I will do better! #askanadoptee #askafosteryouth
#2- Try getting below eye level, in a relaxed posture, have empathy and tell me “I’m right here with you.” The science behind brain and behavior, says this activates an adaptive neural network and builds the executive function of the brain! -Tina Payne Bryson talks about this, she’s the Author of The Whole Brain Child.
#3- Please be aware of your non-verbal cues and how you “look to me” – eye contact, posture, tone of voice, and your timing/intensity of response. And pay attention to mine, because all my behaviors are ways of communicating unmet needs. Even if I am manipulating? That means, I don’t know how to get my needs met in a healthy way. Please show me how, rather than making me feel ashamed about this.
What’s hysterical, is historical!
#4- When you see me “act out” step back (literally take a step back!), assess- look at me and ask yourself “What is he/she trying to tell me?”, then go inside and ask yourself the following acronym, P.A.C.E. first to yourself, and then guide me with them. You do not have to do it this order, they are interchangeable ;0)
An attachment based acronym of “attitudes” “ways of being with” your child when they have big feelings!
P3 – 1. Be Playful with U & Me- Humor is very important to create a quality of lightness an openness. Laughter builds memories of unconditional acceptance of US.
2. Be Present with U & Me. Go inside and see how you are feeling, then see if you can feel what I am feeling and ask me “I’m sensing you are feeling _________. Is that correct?” “How can I help you feel better?”
3. Be Patient with U & Me. This was not meant to be easy, my feelings are messy and the clean up isn’t always neat. It will feel bumpy, at times and then the road will feel smoother. Do this intervention to learn how to Hold Onto My Feelings
A – Have an Acceptance of U & Me, and an understanding of my behavior. My behavior represents my best effort at that time. “I am doing the best that I can.” Please accept, if you don’t this will cause you more suffering. I still need limits for unsafe situations, and direct my behavior by focusing the “teaching on the behavior,” not on me or I’ll develop shame, which won’t help either of us get along better. Trust me.
C – BE Curious. Have a nonjudgmental, “not knowing” stance to inquire about my inner life that led to my behaviors so I feel safe, that my inner life will not be criticized. If I sense your judgment, I will go hide my motives and not be able to modify my behavior. So ask me with open ended questions like …“What do you think about that?” “ “Tell me about that?” “That looks, seems difficult, tell me how does that feel for you?”
E – HAVE Empathy. Empathy must be conveyed both verbally and non verbally. 95% of communication IS NON-VERBAL. I’ve been through a lot, I know! but you don’t have to rescue me from the event or solve the problem for me. Say, “That must be SO hard for you!” “It is really hard, and you’re doing it and struggling with it.” “I’m so sorry you feel so sorry about _________.” And let me cry, I sometimes have a lot to cry about.
It’s not your fault, you are not responsible. #lifelongprocess #sigh
Adapted From the Daniel Hughe’s book, Attachment Focused Parenting
#5- I need your connection, not correction. Lectures are not effective with me because they are actually educating me to comply with “big people” rather than to develop my own meaning about a something.
It’s like giving a prosecuting attorney more information to work with!!!” Please do “storytelling” with me which conveys an “attitude of acceptance of the listener”, rather than evaluation/criticism & encourages a non-reactive response in me. Trust me, I know.” 
#6- I need to know the truth of my story….even if it is hard for you, it will be healing for me… trust me. I need to know you are strong enough to be WITH me in my pain, and still be loved.

Here’s a way to help me look at this intervention, My Family Tree.

#7- Please set expectations, chores, to-do’s based on my developmental emotional age, not chronological age, I will do better and feel better! I heard that children with attachment trauma have at least 2 years delay? So minus 2 years from my age!
#8- I need you to accept responsibility for initiating repair with me when I have my “big feelings”. If you insist I “apologize”, you are communicating that I’m responsible for the continuity of the relationship. I will then think “the relationship is not important to you and it will be highly unlikely that I will have the confidence to take the first step which will lead to a downward spiral of negative distancing and possibly ‘Take FOREVER” or…
…if I do initiate repair, I’m going to experience resentment that I had to be “a good foster kid or good adoptee” and be “sorry first” beforemy parent would welcome me back again into their mind and heart. This will effect my ability to be receptive to love. I need to be taught how to love and forgive.
When I feel love, I learn to feel my loss. When I feel forgiveness, I learn to feel empathy.
#9- I will say “I can’t” alot sometimes for my performance in school, my behaviors, or sports. This can stem from fear, worry, shame or from not knowing how to do it so I may avoid. Please reframe this “I can’t” as “I haven’t learned how yet” or “I haven’t done it yet” or “A part of me is afraid right now, in time I will grow a new part that will learn how to.” The word “scared” is vulnerable” for me, use the word “WORRIED.” “I see you are worried about this…”
#10- Please don’t withhold the following activities for discipline – Family Time, Sports, Hobbies & One-on-One time with Parents…these activities help me feel good about myself, accomplished, successful, and get me out of the “black hole of the primal wound.”
One last thing, I know “MY HURT PART” in my heart is a a part of me that is overdoing its job of protecting me from trusting a new relationship… “it keeps love away from me…”
Please accept and be curious of all of my parts so I can help organize who I am…Provide permission for emoting and externalizing. “Did you want to have your fit now about going to bed to get it out of the way?” Have me punch a pillow, rip up paper, pop bubble wrap.”
More interventions for emoting my big feelings HERE.
Thank you for being there for me. I need you more than you know!
Celia Center Arts Festival

Celia Center Arts Festival

2016 Celia Center Arts Festival Artist Portal

Adopting Resilience, Fostering the Spirit of Creativity: 

The Voices of the Fostered and Adopted ages 13 & up

We welcome submissions from Foster and Adopted Teens/Adults, in the performing, visual, and healing arts!

Welcome, artists!  Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about participating in the Celia Center Arts Festival, slated for Saturday, January 23, 2016, in Los Angeles, California.

Apply now through the end of the day on Monday, November 30th, 2015.  Explore each of our four application categories below!

Categories (see below for description):

  • Performing Arts
  • Creative Arts
  • Music
  • Healing Arts

Artist Display is presented by Yoffe Therapy

For more information and to apply:

Click here for the submission form

For all inquires please email


Exhibit Conditions of the Festival 

  • WHAT: An Art Festival consisting of Theatre, Fine Art, Photography, Music, and Healing Arts Workshops created by Adoptees and those who went through the Foster Care system.
  • WHO: CELIA CENTER -Celia Center addresses the critical needs of the Foster Care / Adoption community by providing awareness, education, and support services to all members of the bio-foster-adoption constellation, including professional social workers, nurses, case managers, and therapists via support groups, events, workshops, and conferences. We utilize our innovative ideas, unique therapeutic interventions, and national network of allies to create a safe and supportive environment to nurture and preserve strong, healthy individuals and families in any orientation or socio-economic status.
  • WHEN: SATURDAY, JANUARY 23rd, 2016.
  • WHERE: The Electric Lodge – 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, CA 90291


  • 1)   PERFORMING ARTIST – Looking for 3-4 theatre pieces written & performed by foster and/or adoptees. Theatre pieces may be any type of live performance: plays, dance, and solo work only. Performance shall be no less than 10 minutes and no longer than 60 minutes. Technical aspects of performance shall be simple with easy load-in/out. The performance will be provided with general lighting and sound capabilities. The performance will also be provided a stage manager to run the show. Celia Center will publicize the event as a whole, but each performance is encouraged to publicize their piece individually. With the application, please also provide a .pdf of the script. If a theatre piece has been performed, please provide any files/links to videos, reviews, or anything you believe would be helpful.
  • 2)   CREATIVE ARTIST – We are looking for paintings, sketches, photographs, sculpture, jewelry, any piece of art created by foster/adoptees “showing the experience”. Artists’ pieces will be on display in the studio exhibit. Artist may sell art to patrons under the stipulation that art remains in display throughout the entire festival; arrangements for art pickup after the festival will be arranged between artist and buyer. Along with the application, please provide a website and/or photos of or links to the piece(s) of art being submitted.
  • 3)   MUSICIAN – We are looking for foster/adoptee musicians. Musicians will be performing throughout the day. Performances may take place in the lobby, in theatres before & after performances/workshops, in the studio (museum), as well as outside by the entrance of the building.
  • 4)   HEALING ARTS WORKSHOPS – Looking for 3-4 creative workshops centering on the theme of foster/adoption that encourage and challenge participants to use their imagination and foster their creativity. Workshops can vary from writing exercises to improvisation to collage/scrapbooking to shadow-puppetry to role-playing. Really the sky’s the limit on creativity, but we are looking for workshops that may first dip into the subconscious of the participants followed by a release. Of course, a safe environment is of the utmost importance! Workshops shall be no longer than 90 minutes. Along with the application, please provide any needs the workshop may have.

Click here for the submission form

For all inquires please email

Thank you for your submission!

Adopt Salon Bellflower

Adopt Salon Bellflower


Pre/Post Foster Care & Adoption Constellation Support Group

A monthly open support group for all members of the Adoption Constellation:
Natural Parents, Adoptees, Former Foster Youth, Foster Parents, Legal Guardians, & Adoptive Parents.

A place for the Adoption & Foster Care community to come together to share stories, thoughts, feelings, ideas, receive psycho-education, process grief/loss, and build strong bonds/connections.

The group is facilitated by Adoption Psychotherapist, Adult Adoptee Hillary Wilson, MFT.

Participants:  Members of the Foster and/or Adoption Constellation are allowed ONLY.

First mothers, First fathers, (pre & post adoption)

Adoptees and/or Foster-Adoptees/Former Foster Youth

Adoptive Parents, (pre & post adoption)

Foster Parents, Legal Guardians, Mentors to Foster Youth
(For adults only; No childcare)

When: SATURDAY, APRIL 28th, 2015.

4th Saturday of Every Month

Where: Olive Crest Agency

 17800 Woodruff Ave., Suite A Bellflower, CA 90706

Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm

Contact: Jennifer Penner

No need to reserve or pre-register!

Adopt Salon was developed and is supported by the CELIA CENTER, a non-profit Adoption and Foster Care Support organization. In partnership with Olive Crest Agency.