Risk Factors for a Poor Start in Life

TBRI® has identified six early risk factors that impact how some children think, trust, and connect with others. These risk factors change children’s brain development and brain chemistry, leading to a higher risk for emotional problems and mal-adaptive behaviors.

The Risk Factors Are:

Difficult pregnancy

 •including medical, drugs/alcohol, crisis or other trauma.

•persistent, high level of stress throughout pregnancy.

Difficult birth

Early hospitalization

 •greater exposure to painful touch rather than nurturing, comforting touch in the first days of life.


•Children from abusive backgrounds are always on guard, hyper vigilant to the environment around them.


•The message sent to a child from a neglectful background is ‘you don’t exist.’

•Children from neglectful backgrounds often suffer from the most severe behavioral problems and developmental deficits.


 •Any number of traumas in the child’s life (witnessing an extreme event, for example) can cause the child’s developmental trajectory to change in response.

The brain is “plastic”, which means it adapts to these situations that the child faces. Responses to these environments are ‘wired’ within their brain and are changeable to suit the needs of the specific situation. The bad news is that the behaviors that helped them cope in their early environment can become mal-adaptive once they are in your home and safe. They no longer need the behaviors for survival, but their brains are still wired to feel that way. Thankfully, the brain remains “plastic” throughout our life and still adapts to new situations. What this means for your child is that, with help, he or she can heal and learn to function in your home.

Suddenly Siblings™

When I first realized how hard it had been for my biological children already in the home when we adopted, I felt like a failure. My ‘resident children’ had been suffering for years and I didn’t realize it. They’d been afraid to speak up for fear it would be just more stress added to their already stressed family.

It wasn’t until about 10 years after the adoptions that I realized how much pressure my biological children were under to continue to be welcoming to their adopted siblings even when they were tired and feeling alone in their frustrations at their brothers’ behaviors. My expectations about what the resident siblings could handle were way off.

Talking about it openly, discussing the ‘secondary trauma stress’ they were experiencing, and allowing them to not walk on egg-shells anymore made a world of difference for some of them. Giving them ‘permission’ to be understandably upset about what was happening with their brothers’ behaviors wasn’t an easy transition for me, but at least I didn’t feel like I was a complete failure anymore.

To help other parents avoid the mistakes I made by not knowing how to support my kids already in the home, I created Suddenly Siblings™, bringing focused support and education just on resident children.

The website suddenlysibs.com is full of content to help you understand

  • WHY your resident child needs specific support when your family fosters or adopts
  • WHAT you can do to support them
  • and HOW to connect with them even if it’s years later (like with me)

You can support your children already in the home – it’s never too late!


Wilderness and Desert Places

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They’d been telling us all week that being in this Israel wilderness, away from distractions of modern conveniences will practically guarantee a special encounter with the Holy One. After all, we had been staying at one of the 42 wilderness camp sites from the great exodus. This is the area that Abraham walked, where he raised Isaac and Esau. Its history is holy (set apart). But for this Montana gal, what I experience isn’t very spiritual. It was in the high 90’s, it was sticky, sand dusty, there were flies everywhere and much of the area is dry and parched.

When we were sojourning in Israel, the land had not yet entered into the wet season, which comes after the days of Sukkot. They’ve had life-giving rains since we left, praise God. He is so faithful. It is a tradition (and a necessity) to pray for rain during the days of Sukkot.

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When I first began to contemplate the lack of modern distractions that the dessert offers, I was hot and bugged by flies, as I sat in a tent replica of the kind that Abraham and his family lived in. The walls and roof were made by Bedouins, they are authentic, if not ancient.

In the desert, I wondered if I can quiet my mind long enough to hear God in the wilderness. Kol demama decca is the Hebrew phrase we’ve translated as ‘still, small voice’ – the voice that requires a very attuned and attentive ear to be able to process.

My husband Randy has been frustrated with me for some time, because I keep asking him to repeat what he’s said to me. Maybe I’m losing my hearing, I don’t know. He wants me to get it checked out when we return to Montana. If he thinks I wasn’t paying close enough attention to him, instead of just not being able to pick up the sounds he’s saying, then he usually will just say “never mind” and that’s the end of that. Truth be told, I don’t know if I can’t hear, or if I am not attentive enough. Perhaps my processing speed is slowing down, and before my mind can ‘wake up’ to listen, over half of the words he’s said are already gone. ‘Huh? What did you say?’ If there is any kind of background noise around me, I am a goner, that’s for sure.

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So there I was, in the desert wilderness of the Arava, wondering if I’m not hearing all that God is saying to me because of the background noise, or slow processing speed, or if I am not constantly on the listen for His voice.  

Kol demama decca and the desert wilderness go hand in hand. I do know this: the desert is quiet, and it causes me to realize there is still a lot of “self” that is a droning background noise that makes it more difficult for me to hear God. My needs, wants, desires, and insecurities are loud in my life. Perhaps it does take heat and sand and flies and sweat and tears for me to be reminded of what His voice sounds like. It can be painful, but it is good to be in the desert wilderness when you know God is there, too. What does your dessert wilderness look like? Look for the beauty of fellowship with God in the middle of the dry places.

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The Tamarisk Tree

“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God.” (Genesis 21:33)

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Tamarisk tree in southern Israel

It’s the only recorded time in scripture that Abraham planted trees.

The tamarisk tree is a very slow-growing tree, taking hundreds of years to grow to full maturity. The mature trees act as a kind of air cooling system in the hot desert.

Think about this: Abraham was so confident of the promises of God to create numerous descendants from him, that he planted trees that would not benefit himself in the here and now, but rather would provide for his descendants who would come through hundreds of years later after leaving their captivity in Egypt.

Oh, to be so confident of God’s promises in the future, that I would live today sowing seeds of faith like that!!!!!!

What ‘trees’ are you planting today that will benefit your future generations? Comment below.