Karen And Family - Welcome Pineapple


In August 2012, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hosted a two-day meeting to discuss science, policy, and practice related to the behavioral health challenges of children who have been adopted and their families.  SAMHSA found that parents experience many challenges in finding support for the myriad behavioral health issues of their adopted children. Likewise, parents can feel unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with these concerns. Family-driven and youth-guided care are critical components to consider when approaching discussions around adoption services and supports.


Our adoption story isn’t traumatic, but we experience post-adoption challenges ranging from behavioral, financial, social, educational and mental. Finding a safe place to discuss issues related to adoption can be difficult because most people do not understand the additional stress of international adoption. During the pre-adoption process, we researched all the unique challenges of raising an internationally adopted child. We wrestled with the nature/nurture questions.  We continually seek the help of professional advice and balance the help from caring friends and family. Yet, after all the help, our family still struggles.

Well-meaning advice can be unhelpful and condescending. There are professional resources but they all come with a hefty financial burden and time commitment.  Focusing on meeting the needs of the adopted child, often the primary caregivers are left to deal with the chaos left behind.  When you see your child struggling, you make adjustments to your own behavior to help correct your child’s behavior.

Artists are extremely sensitive to their environment so to deal with my personal struggles I began to paint profusely.  I found comfort and peace as I used my creative energy as personal therapy.  I went to my studio and painted about how much money therapy cost, constant defiance/disobedience, fear of getting hurt, shame when I lost control, embarrassment, cultural differences, anger, condescending remarks, medication, police reports, family health, etc.   My studio is open to the public.  As viewers looked at the dozens and dozens of pineapple paintings, they started to inquire about the reason I was painting so many pineapples.  As I talked about my connection with pineapples and my struggles with adoption, I found a support system.  Not only was I able to educate my audience, but I was able to offer comfort for their own struggles.

Why the pineapple? After I painting 30+ pineapples, I realized there must be a deeper meaning for me. Researching the pineapple and its role in our culture, I learned it is a symbol of friendship and hospitality. Due to the healing properties of the Bromelain enzyme, it has also come to represent health and healing.  Painting the different aspects of the pineapple from the prickly outside, the sweet inside, the crown, the color palette, healing qualities, friendship and decay symbolized different challenges of adoption including hospitality, sweet moments, rough outsides, storms, expectations, failures, disappointment, and emotional/mental/spiritual healing.

Pineapples are a perfect metaphor for raising awareness to the challenges of post-adoption in children from other countries because they are a safe and fun symbol to start respectful conversations about a social, political, economical and spiritual topic.  Talking about how adoption can affect the family in a respectful and safe environment allows families to work through tough issues.


The purpose of the Welcome Pineapple Project (WPP) is to raise awareness of the post-adoption challenges of international adoption.  When you purchase a 5 x 7 Welcome Pineapple, 100% of profits go to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.  Each Welcome Pineapple is printed by CG Proprints who is providing a reduced cost to print for this collaborative effort.  We are excited to engage in the adoption community and provide a way to raise funds for adoption needs.

Karen is the founder of Welcome Pineapple which raises awareness of the challenges of international adoption. After producing hundreds of pineapples, she realized that the pineapple was a safe symbol to start conversations about the issues unique to adoption. Using the profits from the sales of pineapple paintings, the Welcome Pineapple is able to help organizations raise funds to help adoptive families who can not afford therapy or counseling. The Welcome Pineapple book will be published in the spring of 2019.

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