An Open Letter to Parents of Children From Hard Places

by: Amanda Purvis

Editors Note: At this year’s Empowered to Connect Conference, Amanda Purvis,Training Specialist, shared this letter she wrote to fellow adoptive and foster parents. We’ve published the letter here in hopes that it letter will encourage parents doing some of the very hardest work of caring for children from hard places. 


To my fellow sojourners on the journey to true identity and health:

If you decide to join me and others like us on this journey, you will not regret it, but it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Being part of something that requires all of you means you will have to release many things that have carried you thus far on your journey. You will have to release strategies that have served you well but have now become weights as you attempt to become the truest form of who you were meant to be all along. You will have to release these weights so you can help the ones to which you were called.

By releasing the weights of your history, whether they are weights of anger, pride, resentment, or unforgiveness, you will be forced to touch pain you have deeply hidden. You will be forced to get your hands dirty with what once was in your past. In that mess you will find the freedom of true forgiveness and cleansing, and you will come away, not new, but true. You will come away as the person you’ve always been, but may have hidden or forgotten somewhere along your journey.

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe its about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you. So you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”

This release will leave you feeling naked and exposed to a world from which you’ve learned to protect yourself. Perhaps this is how your children from hard places felt when they showed up at your door: reliant on others’ kindness, grace, and power that is out of your control.

This “unbecoming” will be uncomfortable. Vulnerability usually is. But I promise you this: you were made to do hard things. Remember? You are strong and courageous. And on this journey you will meet many people just like you and me, people trying to become better for those we love most. Because we know we cannot lead a child to a place of healing, if we have not travelled down that road before.

(A quick word to those of you juggling this journey while carrying multiple children alongside of you: I applaud you, and I say, “Me too!” Remember, doing hard things is not impossible, even when it seems that way.)

In the town where I live, there is a place called “the steps.” It is 200 steps that go straight up a little mountain. I know this doesn’t sound like a lot, but come visit and you’ll see it’s a real challenge!

I try to climb the steps at least once a week. There has never been a time when I have been alone as I climbed the steps. Most often I arrive alone, but am quickly befriended by fellow sojourners who are also climbing the steps. We encourage one another, laugh as we take turns passing each other, and warn each other if there is a snake or ice patch up ahead. Sometimes I meet friends there so we can climb together. But no matter how I arrive, I have never walked the steps alone.

Look around. No matter how you arrived today, you are not alone.

Now, on occasion, I will see a Warrior Mama or a Warrior Papa on the steps. You know the type. While the rest of us are using our arms to lift each one of our legs up individually as we near the top, this mom or dad is not just climbing the steps, but they’re climbing while carrying a child, usually in a child-carrying backpack. They have purposely set out to climb the steps with the bonus weight of their child, like a feat of human strength! Their intention is to use their child’s weight as an extra challenge, as a source of growth. I don’t know about you, but I NEVER set out with that intention. Never! So I am not speaking to those parents. And honestly, they’re not here today because they probably don’t have to attend parenting conferences. They’ve superseded us all!

I want to tell you about the other parents I see on the steps. These are my people. They show up haphazardly, hoping their child would give them five minutes of alone time if they climb quickly enough. They hope their kid would play peacefully at the bottom while they complete a quick workout.

What happens to these parents is always the same: they all end up toting a child who runs up uninvited to meet them, and then this child gives up halfway to the top. I watch them make the decision, for we all do the same thing. We look down, “Nope, can’t go back.” It’s too dangerous to walk down these steep steps carrying my child. Then we look up and want to start sobbing. We have to keep going, but it is too much. And so with no other options, the newfound Warrior Mama or Warrior Papa reaches down and heaves said child over their back as they begin to shakily continue their ascent.


One step at a time.

Every single time I see this happen I just want to stop and applaud as the tears fall down my cheeks. I want to scream, “That’s IT!!!”

“That is this whole parenting thing! Right there! You’re DOING IT!”

“GO Girl!”

There he is, Superman in the flesh! Superwoman, there she is!

This is life.

Because most of us didn’t realize when we started the ascent that we’d end up struggling half way up. And none of us thought we’d be heaving the dead weight of a six year old who thought he could handle the climb on his own. But here we are. All of us. Look around. We’re trying to make it while carrying others.

So as you go back home and continue your journey on the steps of life, and you realize you are carrying the weight of your babies as you yourself journey toward health. I want you to know that there are so many of us with you, cheering you on. Tears are streaming down our faces because we get it. And you’re doing it! You were made for this! You committed, it’s too late to turn back. The only way is up, and you will make it.

Because you cannot lead a child to a place of healing if you do not know the way yourself.

With all the Love,



Amanda Purvis is a Training Specialist with the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development (KP ICD) at TCU. As training specialist, Amanda’s main focus is instructing professionals working with children who have experienced trauma, in Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®). She spent many years working in Child Protective Services in a variety of capacities and joined the Purvis Institute in December 2017. Amanda lives in Castle Rock, CO with her husband and five children, and their dog, Scout.







13 Responses to “An Open Letter to Parents of Children From Hard Places”

  1. Nicole

    As an adoption Mom and also a professional working in the field for 20 years, this is the best thing I have ever read.

    Thank you.

  2. Judy

    Thank you! I’d love to see the simulcast. I’m a parent of a 12 year old who Gid brought to us at 15 months old as our first foster child. We knew nothing about trauma. At age 5 there were red flags and by age 8 full blown outbursts every single day. I researched like crazy and found the YouTube videos with Karyn Purvis. They gave us hope. After 6 years of specialized therapy I’m happy to say he was released by his therapist around a month ago.

  3. Laura

    Made me cry. I can relate. We have 6 children from hard places and in raising them I have faced things I thought were burried deep. New wounds have also been opened. Love has been shared and healing is taking place. We have a ways to go however. I will not give up, because they are worth too much.

  4. Penny

    I am a birth mom who has been fighting for years to overcome my own trauma and give my children better than what I had. I have made many mistakes including remaining in an emotionally abusive marriage for nearly 18 years. I did leave though. When I remarried I felt led to a man who we recently found out is autistic. That in and of itself has been a challenge. Two of our sons are also autistic. I have learned many amazing things along the way. My journey led me to TBRI. I’m just beginning to learn and I am so grateful for it. Just know that some children from hard places belong with their natural parents who are fighting to change. My children were removed from my home for about 6 months because of my overwhelm. It took so long for them to be returned because my past trauma combined with the trauma of losing them often prevented me from showing my true self and that I was capable of connecting with my children. After they were returned I was finally able to show the real me. I understand why some parents give up. It is humiliating and terrifying. Still I am on the same uphill journey of change and healing as foster parents are. My children are everything to me and I am willing to do what it takes to be there for them in the right ways.

  5. Yvonne

    This is a tremendous encouragement. As an adoption family , this pieces together the places where our personal journey and the journeys of our second group of 4 connect. Only in that the places where our very souls have had to become so aware of it’s needs, in releasing ourselves to healing and wholeness where our 4 can actually be safe to journey through their own healing and wholeness. An Intentional journey. One we would never let go of. Yet so difficult at times trauma is a hard reality to navigate well. Thanks for the image of the stairs and the reminder that we are not alone in carrying these precious ones into health and wholeness.

  6. Jori

    Brought me to tears. Couldn’t have been more perfect for the struggle I’m in right now. Thank you.

  7. Mother of 6

    I loved the teaching at the Empowered to Connect Simulcast and it included this letter. Do you have other material available of your teaching and stories? Any videos? I was so blessed and challenged by Amanda’s story today.

  8. Mary Jean Dennis

    Thank you! I finally had the time to sit and read it! I cried also! Reminded me that we are right where we were meant to be!

  9. Karla

    The talk you gave at the ETC 2018 was crazy good. It tied together so many things for me. Is there anywhere to purchase or review that session?

  10. Patricia Mininni

    This letter us so uplifting and inspirational. I can’t wait to share it with the members of my Grandparents Support Group who can certainly use a dose of hope Thank you!

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