Adoption Myths

  1. My love will fix everything. While your love will certainly be instrumental in bringing healing to your adopted child, love alone cannot meet all your child’s needs. You will need support, education, qualified professionals and new parenting tools in order to help your child adjust to their new family.
  2. The child will be grateful to us for adopting them and show us that. While they may have moments of gratitude toward you for adopting them and may even express that to you, you should not expect this from them. Adoption begins with the loss of a family and home. That is not something that a child should ever have to feel grateful for or appreciative of. It may take a very long time before your child is able to come to terms with the grief, hurt, anger and rejection they feel. Giving space for those feelings is important.
  3. She was so little, she won’t remember. Unfortunately, trauma impacts the brain and body in ways we are just beginning to truly understand. Even prenatal trauma can affect the way a child thinks, processes and learns. Trauma triggers are a real and unavoidable reality for a child who has entered your home through adoption. While your child may have no retrievable memory of early abuse, neglect or trauma, her body and brain will remember and give voice to the struggles she has endured.
  4. I will “fall in love” with them immediately. You might. You might have an initial feeling of affection, overwhelming love or protectiveness. Or you might just feel like this child is a stranger or intruder in your home and family. You might even feel resentful sometimes of the way they have interrupted your life and normal routines. There may be times you strongly dislike the child and the ways that they make you feel and react. Bringing a new person into your family will involve some growing pains for all of you.
  5. I will have a deep sense of satisfaction and reward for making this choice. Or if you are a Christian, you may buy into the lie that you will be more spiritually mature or blessed because of your choice to adopt. While there will certainly be moments of great reward, much of the time you will struggle to feel like you are truly enough for this child. The emotions, behaviours and needs they bring to your family will be challenging at times. They will likely resent you and challenge your authority as they grapple with the changes being forced upon them. A sense of reward is not what will keep you going through the tough days. Instead, you need to be firmly grounded on the truth of why you are here and what you are doing.
  6. I will always feel compassion toward my child’s biological family. My friend, there are times you will struggle deeply to feel compassion and empathy toward your child’s biological family. There are times you will be angry on behalf of your child and yourself. It is not easy to forgive the people who have hurt your child. It is also not easy to justify the love your child will most likely feel toward these people who have harmed them. You will have complicated emotions about your child’s first family and it’s important to find a safe space to process those. Anger, grief, jealousy and love are all normal feelings. Having those feelings does not make you a terrible person, it just makes you human.
  7. Adoption is second best. While it’s true that adoption is always a result of loss, God has this incredibly beautiful way of rearranging our lives based on human failure and sin. When we wander off the path, we are not forever stuck in ‘second best’ for our lives. Instead, God is able to bring about a fully restored version of our lives. This means that while adoption is painful, it is also full of joy and hope and beautiful redemption. Adoption brings a child who has been hurt into the loving, healing atmosphere of a family. Adoption brings new opportunities, new places and new people. This post-adoption life can be full and beautiful. Generational addictions can be broken, poverty alleviated, relationships restored and bruises healed. While I don’t believe God intends families to be torn apart and separated, I believe He is fully capable of mending our children’s lives with such care and beauty that they are transformed into something even more full and complete and glorious than they would have been without this complicated thing we call adoption. Celebrate it!
  8. My child is lucky to be adopted. Your child is not lucky. They have lost some of the most important pieces of their identity. Their family of origin, their medical history, their memories, their name and control over their story. While they may have left behind awful realities, that does not in any way mean they are ‘lucky’ to be here with you. They are chosen, deeply loved, wanted and protected…but not lucky.
  9. Struggling with infertility? If you adopt you will get pregnant! While this seems too bogus and obvious to even take time to discuss, you would be surprised how many couples who have biological children after adopting get these sorts of comments thrown at them. As if adopting somehow miraculously opened the womb or solved the medical complications. Maybe they never really struggled with infertility at all! It was all some sort of mental delusion. Really!? I don’t know why so many people who struggle to conceive end up having a biological child after adopting, but I do know that I’ve heard many of their stories and what they say are words like…His perfect timing, surrender, beautiful, divinely orchestrated, blessed. I think that the way God brings about our desires and dreams and even worst fears is planted in the truth that He knows what is best for our lives far better than we.
  10. Everyone will love my child. On the contrary, once the honeymoon period has passed and your neighbours and friends and family settle into normal with this new child, you may just find that you discover who your true friends really are. Bringing a child with a history of trauma, interrupted attachments, learning differences or behavioral issues into your friends’ lives is uncomfortable. You will find yourself in awkward positions having conversations you didn’t want to have and needing to offer grace and be offered grace over and over again. You may lose some friends, and you may gain some. You might decide to move to another town, school, church or neighbourhood. Seek out the people who will love your family unconditionally and be honest with them. Remember they are learning too. Forgive others the way you want them to forgive you.

10 Things to Know Before You Start Fostering

  1. This is not about you.  Foster care is about bringing your family to a child and their family, for a season that is not determined by your own desires or ability to provide for this child.  Your wishes will not always be granted.  Your advice will not always be followed.  Your opinion will not always be asked.  Your feelings, your family, your schedule and your time will not always be considered.  Entering this world means you are agreeing to put this child’s needs above your own and that you are committing to working alongside a government agency that will ultimately have control over this child’s life and sometimes it will feel like yours as well. 
  2. Foster care is not a pathway to adoption.  While sometimes children will need a new permanent family to care for them, that is a result of much more than just a child being in foster care.  If you are committing to foster care, it’s important to realize that this will most likely end in you saying goodbye to a child you deeply love and care for.  The goal is for biological parents to receive the support they need to raise their own children.  As foster parents you need to be ready to focus your energy and support in that direction, not in building your own family.  I still have to preach this to myself every single time a child enters my home and leaves my home. It is so hard to see past the complicated aspects of each situation to the broader picture. As a society we need to be focused on equipping parents to parent, not on removing children from their families and placing them in new ones. Adoption is a band-aid solution to the larger issue. There will never be enough homes for all the children living in vulnerable situations, but if we can equip parents to parent intuitively and responsibly we are starting to heal the huge tear in the walls of the family structure.     
  3. It will hurt.  Saying goodbye will always hurt.  Playing the part of the parent who stands in the gap will feel uncomfortable.  Watching a child go through painful transitions will leave you helpless.  Hearing your child’s story will tear you apart and make you feel anger and pain and fear like you’ve never felt before.  Loving another parent’s child will hurt.  What you will quickly discover, however, is that your hurt quickly pales in comparison to the hurt experienced by your foster child and their biological family.  Their hurt will become your motivation to love, protect, honor and keep doing the next thing.
  4. Trauma matters.  Children who enter your home through foster care have always experienced trauma of some kind and will need to be parented differently as a result of this.  You need to understand how trauma, even prenatal trauma,  impacts a child’s neurological, physical, emotional and spiritual health.  This is crucial.  It cannot be a side thing.  This knowledge of trauma must be the foundation of your parenting philosophy with these children.  So do the research, find the facts and adjust your expectations accordingly.
  5. It will take time to feel like you love them.  Sure, you may get that adrenaline rush of love and protection and passion when they first enter your arms, your home, your heart.  But it will quickly be followed by a feeling of fear and dismay and ‘what have I done?’  This child will be a stranger to you for the first while, and that is okay.  You will feel like a babysitter before you feel like a parent.  Then one day you will wake up and realize you would die for this child and that you cannot remember what it was like without them in your life.  Don’t beat yourself up when you struggle to attach. They are dealing with the same challenge. Remember that and let it lead you toward compassionate responses.
  6. Know why you’re here.  Some people will love you and others will hate you for being involved in this system.  The opinions will come, sometimes when you least expect and often from those you did not ask.  They will have stories, warnings, accolades and flattery to offer you.  Learn to let them all slide off your back, both the love and the hate.  You know you’re not a hero and you know you’re not a villain.  The admiration of those looking in or the hate of those scarred by it are all irrelevant when it comes to you and your story.  You have made this decision based on many factors and their opinions are not one of them.  Know why you are in this and remind yourself of it often.
  7. You will never really be ready.  You won’t ever really be prepared to bring a stranger into your home or have a social worker tell you how to parent.  You will never really be ready to meet your child’s biological parent and calmly face their anger and hurt.  You will never really be ready to have your home, your family, your life and your past dissected by someone you hardly know to try to gain ‘approval’ from a system you barely understand and definitely don’t trust.  You will never really be ready to be spit on, kicked, screamed at and falsely accused.  You will never really be ready to hear the hard parts of their stories or find the words to explain heartbreak, abandonment, shame and abuse.  You will never really be ready to say goodbye to a child you have loved and fought for and protected.  Please don’t wait to be ready, and don’t be surprised when every last thing about foster care leaves you feeling like the breath just got snatched from your lungs.  Believe it or not, this is normal. 
  8. You don’t have to ride the roller coaster.  There will be highs and lows and promises and demands and fears and failures.  These emotions and words and desires can send you spiraling through loops, soaring on hope and crashing in despair.  Know that you do not have to take that ride!  You can be wise, and discerning and prayerful.  You can hold your heart close and your words in check.  You can take one day at a time and refuse to make promises you can’t keep.  This is not being jaded, this is guarding your heart in the best of ways.  Loving a child in foster care well requires a deep commitment to truth and a resolve to take only the step right in front of you.  It is so tempting to run ahead, join the blame and shame game or throw your hands up in frustration.  Stay the course and keep your heart safely moored to the One who can steady you.
  9. You will need support.  This might be your church family, your parents, your neighbours or your life group.  It might be therapists, teachers or doctors.  It doesn’t really matter who it is, it just matters that you have them.  People who see you and love both you and the children you bring into your home, unconditionally.  People who will babysit, listen to your frustrations and fears, encourage you to keep going and point out the flaws in your perspective.  People who will tell you when to take a break and support you when you say yes anyway.  You are going to need people you can share the hard stuff with and know that it’s not going any further than their ears.  When the stories are hard, the day was long and the court dates are looming…you need someone to call.  Find your people.  Not only will you need them, but the children you bring into your home will be richly blessed by having a community around them.        
  10. There will be easy days. I know, after all that I just said this feels a little odd and unexpected. But it’s true. There will be days you forget that child is not your biological child or that they will one day leave your home. There will be days when the routines feel seamless and the love comes easy and it feels like a match made in heaven. There will be days they are regulated and calm and you can parent them the way you would parent a biological child. There will be days you look down and feel a love so deep it overwhelms you. There will be days that feel normal and predictable. These might be common or they might be that one in a million feeling, depending on the child and the circumstances. But they will come, I promise.          

Are you ready to say yes to this adventure of love and loss and grace? I would love to walk alongside you. Send me a message or email. It is hard but so worth it!

~AF