How To Find Hope When Everything Seems Hopeless.

It’s easy to find yourself at a hopeless point on the foster and adoptive journey. You wonder, “How did I get here?” Soon, that wondering can turn into, “Will I ever find hope?” We believe you can.


It’s late but I’m finally on a flight home after an incredible weekend in New York City. I’ve just spent the day interacting with an amazing adoptive parent community in Brooklyn. I’m inspired as I listen to their stories, hear their hearts, and see their smiles. I can’t help but feel grateful to be a part of this special day. I love this crowd. They’re my crowd. They’re my people. I’ve seen hundreds of faces today, but one I can’t seem to get out of my mind. One mom, who desperately longs for a positive relationship with the child she adopted years ago.

With a longing look, she says words that are still echoing in my mind- “How did I end up here?” She’s parenting a child who is distant and defiant. At the smallest notion, she blows up. It’s exhausting and defeating. I’ve seen the look in this precious mother’s eye more times than I can count. Heck, I’ve seen that look in the mirror staring back at me.

“I feel you sister,” I say to her as she shares her deepest pain. And boy do I. Lord knows, I wear the same scars on my heart, and in my mind, from the battles I’ve been locked in with some of my children over the years. I’ve been pushed farther than I ever thought I could be and lived to tell about it. I’ve survived some of the most desperate moments on the journey. I’ve asked the question, “How did I end up here?” a few (hundred) times. I’ve felt that lost feeling as I’ve taken a step back and surveyed our life. I’ve questioned if I’m a good father, or even a decent human being, when I’ve lost my cool with my kid. And most importantly, I’ve had many moments where I failed to see how any hope could come out of such a hopeless situation.

Feeling Hopeless.

Have you ever been there? Ever felt this way? Ever been in a state of complete hopelessness? Ever felt lost or alone?

Ever wanted to throw in the towel, call the agency, your case manager, or even your kid’s birth parent, and say, “Yeah, I quit?” If so, you’re not alone. Me too. It’s okay, you can be honest here. Say it out loud if you need to. No one’s listening. And even if they are, they have no idea why you’re saying “Yes” to a computer screen, or nodding your head so hard it may come detached from your neck. 😉

Let me repeat myself…me too. Oh….my….goodness friend, me too! In fact, most days, I don’t even know what hope feels like. It’s easy to find yourself in this place on the foster and adoptive journey. I know you love your kids. I do too. I love them more than anything and nothing will change that. But the constant battle can take the life out of you.

How do you find hope in this? How do you lift your head one more time and believe in tomorrow? Here’s how….

  1. Understand that you are not alone. I don’t know what it is about camaraderie but it’s healing. To find other foster and adoptive parents on the journey who have the same wounds as you, the same fears, the same love in their hearts, and the same desperation, is….healing. As I listened to stories from many other adoptive parents (in New York…far from my small borough of Indiana), my problems didn’t go away. The issues my children face are still real. But, I feel hopeful when I meet others who are limping like I am.
  2. Believe that the sun still shines behind the clouds. Behind every dark and gloomy cloud, the sun is still shining. Do you realize that? Even in the middle of a massive storm, the sun is there. It’s just hard to see behind the clouds. But, it’s there. The picture I’ve used in this post is an actual picture I took a few years ago just after my plane took off from Denver International Airport. You can see the wing and engine of my plane in the bottom half of the picture. Just below the cloud line was one of the worst storms I’d ever experienced. It had left us delayed for more than 3 hours. I was frustrated. I felt hopeless. I even uttered words like, “I’m never getting home.” I know, ridiculous right? But once we took off and, moved above the clouds, I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I’d ever seen. I pulled my phone out and took this picture. I was reminded that this sunset was there the entire time I was in the storm below….delayed….frustrated…hopeless. The sun still shines when all you can see are clouds and storms.

There Is Hope.

Friends, this journey is hard. This journey is exhausting. If you’re anything like us, you entered with a full heart, passionate, ready to love children from hard places. But soon you discovered you were in an uphill climb. You weren’t prepared to handle the major attachment issues. You knew nothing about disorders like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, food insecurities, or separation anxiety. You didn’t know about trauma informed care. I get it. That was us. Just a couple of years in, we hit a wall head on. It didn’t change the love we had for our kids, but it did thrust us into a major battle. One that still rages.

We’ve learned that hope exists in the middle of the battle. We’ve learned to see the light in the middle of the darkness. As people of faith, we believe that our Father in Heaven walks into the hell with us and holds us. We believe the sun still shines even when we’re surrounded by storms and dark clouds. Yes, there is hope. It’s found when you realize you’re not alone. It’s discovered when you understand and believe there’s a beautiful sunset just behind the raging storm.

I shared this with my new friend in Brooklyn. And before we parted ways I saw the light return to her. I saw hope. Sometimes you just need to be reminded that you’re not alone and the sun is still shining, even when you’re in a massive storm.

Question: Have you struggled to find hope on this journey? Share your story with us in the comment section below… You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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  • Deb Connors

    Hope? When your child threatens to knock out a parent with a hammer, and calling her an idiot, f&/$ing b?!;(h and you are at work hearing this on the speaker phone. This child is now 11. When he was 8 he lit our bed on fire while my partner was sleeping (with a CPAP mask) shut the door and left the room. He is now in the state hospital being evaluated, it took (all of this and several battles a day) pushing all my buttons to the point I wanted lash out at him! It took me wanting to physically hurt him to wake up and take him to the hospital. We are older parents (57 & 61) so the physical battles to get him out of bed, go to bed, shower, eat food not granola bars, brush his teeth, clean himself up when he has wet his pants (car, couch, seat in school…) shut off the DS, Kindle, Leapster were killing us!
    Hope? Is this same child giving me a loving sweet hug and leaning in for a kiss on the forehead. That gave me a brief glimpse of hope. With the holidays upon us and knowing my child will be away in a physc ward it is hard to have hope, but I do, I have to. He needs me to have hope so he can.

    • Deb, I totally know where you are coming from. You are describing much of our journey with our oldest son. It’s so hard to have hope sometimes. We know this full-well. Hang in there. You are not alone.

    • Susan Thalhofer

      Yes, we have been there too. Our adopted daughter ended up using suicide threats and cutting as a respite from life at home, a break from accountability or homework etc. This continued until she was finally admitted into a mental facility. She hit up every new case worker with her sad victim tales. We had 5 CPS investigations in one year – when she was in the facility! Not even here. I have to admit that there has been no one I have disliked so much as her. She said she’d try to kill us. After an appeal to the Attorney General for help, the answer was, she’s your child.
      She got a free attorney who finally filed an Order of Dependency. They were demanding 3 visits a week, specialized parenting classes for us, and $1260/month for her foster care in the meantime.
      We finally had to say that one child could destroy everything we own. Not just finances, but the bogus accusations of abuse, neglect, and even sexual misconduct. She tried to get my husband fired. We had to push for adoption termination. We were blessed to get it, all things considered. Meanwhile we parent her younger sibling with paranoia. I can’t really attach to a child who might do the same thing or never attach to me. We want to have hope, but sometimes give in to depression.

    • Allisonm

      We, too, have been through the years of serious danger to self, others, and property. I took my youngest to the hospital when he was six after he threatened the other kids with a baseball bat. All of my children are now bigger and stronger than I am. Thankfully, we have more stability and have reduced our children’s stress levels to a range they can tolerate without violence or constant dysregulation. My youngest, now 13, is that child who could lash out like a cornered animal one minute and be loving and kind a while later. He raged most of the time he was awake for years. He now goes to two hours of school each day and is otherwise home with me practicing staying regulated. He went through terrible things as a young child and we ultimately realized that nothing matters more than having him in an environment where he can learn to regulate, which for him started at the primal level of co-regulating with his mom (me). Now, he is regulating himself more and more and has even learned to read. He’s not lacking in intelligence; he was functioning out of his lower brain and didn’t have enough access to his executive functioning or memory to learn and retain things until last January. Now, he can learn as long as he stays regulated. So we do see a lot of reason for hope.

  • Glenda Schreiber

    I so needed to hear this today. Our oldest son pushes everyone and everything around him until there is chaos, someone hurt or something broke. What disturbs me the most is the negative impact he has on our younger children. I’m hoping to see the sun today.

    • We are in the same trench with you Glenda. Just know that you’re not alone. Sometimes hearing that reveals the sun when you’re surrounded by clouds and storms. 😉

    • Kpainter

      I completely understand this Glenda! My daughter does the exact same thing … and it is definitely affecting her younger brother … not only is he starting to mimic her behaviors but now he’s angry with her and the world because of how she treats him and us. Hang in there and know you’re not alone in this situation.

  • Kpainter

    Thank you for this message!! I’m beyond exhausted … all the time. It certainly does help knowing there are others out there experiencing the exact same thing and hearing stories of hope. It’s bittersweet when I read these posts/comments … It’s great knowing I’m not alone, but it’s heartbreaking thinking someone else is going through this chaos that is now my life.

    • You are definitely not alone. I am so glad you found comfort through this post. Hang in there.

      • Kpainter

        Thanks! I’m definitely joining The Resting Place … I desperately NEED to be able to speak with other people that get what I’m saying or going through .. I don’t have anybody in my life that understands and it’s so isolating. I get the snarkiest looks whenever I “vent” to people, so I’ve pretty much just stopped, but a person needs to be able to get it out, or at least I do. You have no idea how much I value your posts and articles.

  • Allisonm

    Adoption of children from hard places is definitely not for the faint of heart. We are in our ninth year with our three children. Most people would think things are pretty difficult for us now, but we are SO much better than where we were only a couple of years ago and light years from where we started when we never got a breath between crises. I can relate completely to the others who have been beyond exhausted for years. Though our younger son has been much more stable for the last few months, I feel like I am so depleted that I’m having a hard time regaining much energy. I’m 56 and don’t bounce as well as I did when I was younger.

    But for my faith in Christ, I don’t know how I would keep going. I need grace and mercy all the time. The other thing that gives me hope is that I have learned that I can change. I’ve changed into a mother who understands trauma and is attuned to my children’s needs. I’ve changed into a woman who is careful about the language I allow my brain to use when thinking about my children and who can see my kids’ behavior as a form of communication, not of their disrespect, but of their fear. I can keep changing to be better and better able to meet my children’s needs.

    This journey has been very lonely. I am oh so weary, yet determined to eke out hope, no matter the odds. One of our children actually loves me and the others might at least a little. That’s huge progress in my world.

  • Jennifer Brown

    Wow! I am so glad I found this website. We live in a very rural community. We feel very isolated and alone (northern North Dakota). We adopted a sibling group of 3 children 3 years ago. The oldest has RAD, ADHD, PTSD and anxiety. The middle child doesn’t exhibit any problems that are troubling. The last child is developmental delayed, separation anxiety and at times exhibits autism type behaviors. We are waiting on results of a genetic test that was done to rule things out. The oldest and youngest one have us exhausted. We have learned through this website that we really need to start reaching out and asking for help. We know of one person we can email, but have not personally, who has gone through this. What we struggle greatly with is finding someone for respite care and who understands what our children can be like. The hardest part is our youngest who really struggles when we are gone longer than a date night. He starts to shut down. He isn’t his normal self. It ways on us. We know we need to get away for our sanity and our marriage, but we struggle with where to turn to get help.

    • We are sure glad you found us. Are you on our email list? If so, you’re going to find out about a brand new online resource we’re close to launching just for foster and adoptive parents who feel isolated and alone. Enter your info in the box to the right of this page and you’ll be all set (plus, you’ll get some freebies for joining too :-))