Helping Kids from Hard Places Conference Gives Hope For Struggling Parents

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EL CENTRO — Amaris Ministries hosted a first ever “Helping Kids from Hard Places” conference at Christ Community Church in El Centro. The event took place Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day and featured Debra and Alan Jones, international speakers and parent trainers specializing in at-risk children.

“Anyone can come from a hard place,” Debra Jones told the room. “A hard place can come from an orphanage, jumping from foster home to foster home, abuse, neglect, or even something as simple as a difficult or stressful pregnancy,” she said.

Debra and Alan told the story of the personal journey they embarked on after adopting their son, Dane, from Romania. They felt “overwhelmed and ill-equipped to manage the maladaptive behaviors of (their son),” both asserted. Through “a rich partnership” with researchers at the TCU Institute of Child Development, the Jones’ found “life-changing answers.”

Now, Debra, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education and a Masters in Education, teaches a model of parenting at the Institute called “ Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI).” Both Jones’ travel and speak, training on this model internationally through PACT, Parenting Adoptees Can Trust – an organization they started in 2007.

The Jones’ own personal experience combined with the extensive professional research of the TCU Child Development Institute has opened their eyes to the neurological and emotional abnormalities that occur in children who have come from “a hard place.”

“The more we can get the word about this TBRI model, the better we will be as a whole,” Debra said.

The founder of Amaris Ministries, Valley native, Nicole Rothfleisch, was impacted by this teaching after attending a conference in Orange County where the Jones’ spoke.

“I just knew that we needed this in the Imperial Valley,” Rothfleisch said. “I talked to them at that conference and said, ‘We’ve gotta get you down here. What’s it going to take.’”

Rothfleisch connected to the Jones’ teaching and related to the method they taught because of her own journey and her husband, Ryan’s, with their adopted daughter, Amaris.

“I felt like I had become my child’s adversary instead of her advocate,” she stated.

“I’ve been on a learning journey,” Rothfleisch said. “Through the trust-based parenting model I’m learning the right ways and we are making so much progress,” she praised.

Amaris Ministries focuses on recruiting, training, and supporting foster and adoptive families. Their vision is to start classes and support groups for these families, Rothfleisch said.

“All foster and adoptive kids, even if they’re adopted from birth, are a ‘kid from a hard place,’ and they need this kind of parenting style,” she said.

“The traditional (parenting) methods are not bringing about this relational connection that God desires,” Rothfleisch said. “I really felt the need to bring this here because it’s the best parenting and relationship model I have found.”

Annette Rea also spoke with her husband at the conference, sharing their own story of parenting three biological children and five adoptive children.

“We have a need in our community,” she said. “These kids come into our homes with serious issues.”

“We need these resources and tools and this support system to be able to help,” she said. “This training for us was instrumental, because we didn’t know what the answers were.”

“It completely answered questions we had,” she continued. “(As adoptive parents) we are no experts. This gave answers.”

Debra and Alan are staying in the Valley for a total of 10 days. After completing the conference, they will be doing 3-day in-home interventions with two different Amaris Ministries families.

Rothfleisch stated, “Our hope is to continue what they started here with small group studies, checking out resources from our Amaris Ministries library, and Lord willing, even bringing them back someday.”

“If our families, churches, school teachers, social workers, coaches, and ministries would learn to implement these strategies, I am confident we would bring healing to our community and help stop the destructive cycles so there wouldn’t be as much of a need for foster care,” she concluded.

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