Sometimes we can feel so discouraged when we think about the needs of kids — the number of children in foster care is rising; the number of children in need throughout the world is rising. What in the world can we do to possibly make a difference? The incredibly good news is that it only takes one thing… and recent research at Harvard proves it.

The Power of One

So how does one set a child up for success in today’s culture? All it takes is one adult who cares. Yep, just one!

For those who are adopting kids from difficult beginnings to life, or foster parents seeking tools to point their foster kids toward healing, this question runs across our minds frequently. Here at Creating a Family, we devote blog posts, radio shows, and countless community conversations to the topics of what our kids need to succeed.

The One Single Thing That Makes the Difference

Some might answer that a great school with just the right mix of academic excellence and extra-curricular activities is the key to a child’s long-term success. Others would offer that a life focused on superb nutritional support and daily physical exercise is the bedrock of growing a successful child into adulthood. Still, others might say that early cultivation of the habits of self-discipline and self-motivation are the foundations to helping a child succeed.

It turns out, the one single thing that makes the difference between long-term success and failure for a child is the Power of One.

What is the Power of One?

In a now-viral video by author, youth advocate and former foster youth, Josh Shipp, he defines the Power of One: “Every Kid is One Caring Adult Away From Being a Success Story.” It’s the foundational platform on which he has built his entire organization. He is internationally known for influencing and mentoring educators and parents to raise successful kids. He speaks of the Power of One, even over those who have come from the hardest of places in life. And he knows whereof he speaks.

After a run of countless failed foster placements, struggles in school, and difficulties with the law, Josh recounts the first time he met Rodney. This new foster dad refused to quit on him. Long story short, even after three years of shutting Rodney out and refusing to accept the care that Rodney offered, Josh heard a message from him that he’d never heard before.

“We don’t see you as a problem. We see you as an opportunity.”

That is the Power of One. Rodney was that one caring adult who would not quit on Josh. He was that caring adult who wanted to see Josh succeed and was willing to hang in there with him to find the path where Josh could flourish.

The Brain Science Proves It Out

A recent study by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child revealed that understanding child development and the necessary life skills kids need to grow up leads to what they call “design principles.” These three basic principles can be used by policymakers and practitioners to improve outcomes for children and families. First in these “design principles” is the concept of “supportive responsive relationships.” In other words, kids need healthy relationships with the adults in their lives.

Of course, we all need these types of relationships in our lives. As adults, we recognize that these interactive bonds create a sense of well-being and connectedness that help us weather the storms of life. What’s so important about this study is that they discovered that these “supportive responsive relationships” are doubly beneficial to kids:

For children, responsive relationships with adults have a double benefit, both promoting healthy brain development and providing the buffering protection needed to prevent very challenging experiences from producing a toxic stress response.

That first principle is a key to making the difference between long-term success and failure for a child. It’s the foundation for setting a kid on the right path in life. One caring adult.

Who knew it would be that simple?

One adult being a foster parent can make a huge difference in the life of a child

Several years ago, we did a show on fostering and adopting children who may have suffered sexual abuse. Our guest, Dr. Jennifer Shaw shared something that has stuck with me since I heard the show:

For kids who’ve been sexually abused to heal, they need one person. One who tried to prevent the abuse. One who believed the child. One willing to go the distance and say, ‘We’re in this together.’

YOU are the Power of One

It turns out, the Power of One is not just for those kids who are broken and abused so brutally as Dr. Shaw treats. The Harvard study points us to the truth that every single child needs one grown-up to believe in him, to invest in him for long-term success. As Josh Shipp says so eloquently:

“The difference between a statistic and a success story is YOU.”

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Image credit: lisaschafferphotoEdge of Space