Dr. Karyn Purvis, a Champion for “Children from Hard Places,” Dies at 66

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Focus on the Family and many parents from around the world lost a dear friend to cancer yesterday.

Dr. Karyn Purvis, one of the most respected child advocates in the nation, developed effective research-based ways to help children with histories of trauma, abuse and neglect. She co-authored “The Connected Child: Bringing Hope and Healing to your Adoptive Family,” a best-selling book on adoption that’s one of the first resources our orphan care team recommends to families considering adoption.

Over the course of her life and distinguished career, Dr. Purvis wore many hats: author, scholar, researcher, speaker and founder of Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development.

But her calling began far away from academia. It began in her heart and personal life, and it was informed by her deep Christian faith.

As a teen, Dr. Purvis mentored at-risk children. In college, she was a “Big Sister” to a child who had been an abuse victim. She went on to minister with her husband in the streets of Daytona Beach, where they worked with runaway teens, kids with drug and alcohol problems and even prostitutes. As Dr. Purvis and her husband raised their three boys, they ministered to other children in their home as foster parents.

After her youngest son went to college, Dr. Purvis went back to school, too. She finished her undergraduate degree and continued studying until she got her doctorate at age 53. Her academic work opened up a whole new world in which she could help children who had experienced life in unkind ways.

At every step, Dr. Purvis’ deep Christian faith informed her work and fueled her passion.

“God gave me the children of the world to love,” she once said.

That biblical foundation was evident in the love and compassion she had towards vulnerable children – and the way she patiently helped equip parents to better meet their child’s needs.

“I have heard Dr. Purvis speak to audiences of several thousand to as few as 150,” says Dr. Sharen Ford, program director for Focus’ adoption & orphan care initiatives. “Each time she engaged with the audience with such a genuine heart. She was a champion of family who taught that families equipped with information, skills and tools could help a child heal. The nurturing that she spoke about came from God’s compassion and love for His children and how He leads us, teaches and equips us.”

And those of you who are parenting children from hard places and have found help in a Focus on the Family counselor, resource or outreach like Wait No More have been indirectly helped by Dr. Karyn Purvis, too.

“She was a pioneer whose work influenced all we do at Focus to support adoptive families,” says Vice President of Community Outreach Kelly Rosati. “From our online content to the trainings we provided our counselors, our resources are informed by her research and writings. Truly, all our support of adoptive families flows from her work.”

“Dr. Purvis was amazing,” says Kelly. “She was my friend. I will deeply miss her.”

Late last year we recorded a broadcast with Dr. Purvis that will run in May, during National Foster Care Month. As I spoke with her, I was struck by the sincere love God had placed in her heart for troubled kids. As a former foster child, I know the uncertainty and doubt a child in that situation experiences. It’s not easy to be in that vulnerable place where you feel like you can’t trust anyone. That’s why I’m grateful for Dr. Purvis and all she did in helping parents effectively reach the children in their care with God’s love.

If you’re interested in learning about common issues children who have been adopted face, I want to offer you two free downloadable resources Focus on the Family developed the help of Dr. Purvis and the TCU Institute of Child Development: Attachment in Adoption and Hope and Healing for Sensory Deprivation.



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Dixie Lewis-Robinson More than 1 year ago
She will greatly be missed . But in the absence of her presence her work with the children shall live on .