Another Teacher

My heart is broken today. Three weeks ago, my favorite school teacher passed away. Today, my favorite teacher on adoption and foster care issues, child development, and parenting passed away.

Remember the conference I mentioned this weekend? The Empowered to Connect Conference is based on the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis and the others at Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development (ICD). Dr. Purvis had been scheduled to speak at the conference, but she was unable to attend due to her doctor’s orders as she was battling cancer. Just a handful of days after that announcement, she passed away.

When you hear others from the ICD speak, it is obvious that Dr. Purvis was the heart and soul of their work. Dr. David Cross, Dr. Amanda Howard, Daren Jones, and many others are filling important roles, but at the conference this weekend, their love and admiration for Dr. Purvis was apparent.

My love and admiration for Dr. Purvis is apparent if you talk to me about parenting or adoption and foster care for more than approximately 90 seconds. I learned about her about three and a half years ago, and I am not overstating her influence when I say that she changed my life. She changed my family. Watching the short videos from her and Michael & Amy Monroe at gave me practical tips and encouragement when I needed it most. Reading the book that she and Dr. Cross wrote, The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family, was a significant turning point in moving from despair and hopelessness toward hope and healing. Attending the Empowered to Connect Conference in Chicago with Mike helped the two of us get on the same page and gave us a refreshing, much-needed getaway. She taught us how to look past the behavior and see the preciousness of the child who was only doing what he knew to survive. She gave us practical tools to be able to parent to our child’s needs instead of others’ expectations.

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is the name of the philosophy that is taught at ICD and Empowered to Connect. TBRI is an evidence-based program drawing on sound child development principles and the latest in neurobiology and brain research. It is not something someone tried with her own kids and decided to monetize it.

Dr. Purvis’s methods are scientifically sound.

“I’ve never once met a child who can’t come to deep levels of healing if you understand what they need.”

“If you share power with your child, you have proven that the power is yours to share.”

“You have chosen the destination. Let the child choose the path.”

“Recovery of function recapitulates development of function.”

But her heart shone even brighter than the science.

Dr. Purvis called us as parents to love our children the way God loves us.

“Trust-based parenting mirrors God’s sacrificial love for us.”

“It is powerful for children to know that they are loved and adored even in the midst of their worst behaviors.”

Dr. Purvis offered grace.

“It is better to err and repair than never to err at all.”

“We’re called to see the preciousness of our children even when they are covered in their own mess.'”

Dr. Purvis recognized the hurts our children have experienced and gave them a path of healing.

“The kids bled before they came to us. They should not have to bleed in our care.”

“Say to your child, ‘I’m gonna see you through. We’re gonna get to the other side.’”

Dr. Purvis offered hope to struggling parents.

“I want you to know there’s a plan to keep breathing.”

Dr. Purvis was a dreamer who sought to provide resources to people around the world to care for hurting children.

“Imagine a world where every child’s hurt, every child’s cry, and every child’s need is met by a loving adult.”

In her sweet, lilting, southern, and occasionally sassy, voice she encouraged and empowered parents and professionals around the world.

Her work will go on through the ICD, through Empowered to Connect, and through the thousands of parents and professionals she sought to equip.

But, goodness, she will be missed.

(All quotes by Dr. Karyn Purvis, transcribed from my notes from conferences and the dozens of videos of her I’ve watched.)

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