What I Didn’t Know Before Adopting

There are a lot of things I didn’t know before adopting.

I love that God protects us from too much knowledge.

Out of His love, he gives us just what we need to take the next steps;

Too little and we’d be stumbling around in the dark in confusion.

Too much and we would be overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.

Before I became an adoptive parent…

I didn’t know that sometimes I would wonder what my life would be like if we had not chosen adoption as a way to build our family.

I didn’t know that I would be jealous of the natural bond between my friends and their children.  Healthy, established, natural-as-breathing bonds.

I didn’t know that I would feel guilty sometimes.  Guilty for being the one these children call Mommy, the one they run to, cry to and love so unconditionally.

I didn’t know that my worldview would shift to encompass the pain, trauma and injustice of my children’s early life…and that sometimes this would leave me feeling a little numb.

I didn’t know that sometimes I would feel all alone in this…like when people talk about what their kids were like as babies, how they have friends over to play or how great they are doing in school.

I didn’t know that sometimes I would be angry with the world, the church, the school, the neighbours, my family…for not understanding my children…or me.

I didn’t know that sometimes I would be most angry at myself for not being able to parent these children the way I want to.

I didn’t know that at times I would forget all about adoption and foster care, until someone comments on how tall my daughter is, how young I look to have a preteen or how busy I must be with all those children!

I didn’t know how much my extended family would have to give up when we decided to grow our family through adoption, and how grateful I would feel towards them as they jumped in with two feet alongside us.

I didn’t know how personally I would take my children’s birth stories and how deeply I would love their biological families.

I didn’t know that our social worker would become one of my favourite people; someone I feel safe with.  I didn’t know I would consider her a friend and look forward to her phone calls and visits.

I didn’t know how grateful I would feel towards the people who invest in our children’s lives, whether for a week or a lifetime.  The people who throw their hearts into loving my children bless me in the deepest way possible.  I am so thankful to have family and friends who have literally dropped everything to be present in our lives and help us care for these children.

I didn’t know how proud I would be to be called Mommy by my daughter or how humbled I would be when she curls up by my side and says she missed me today.

I didn’t know that I would become a homeschooling mom for a while…and love it.

I didn’t know that I would be the one sitting in a counselling office and across the table from a therapist, instead of my child.

I didn’t know that even after three years of living in our home, my children would not always feel safe, and that I would not be able to fix that.

I didn’t know that choosing adoption in some ways meant choosing isolation.

I didn’t know that I would need a whole new toolbox for parenting and that I would learn to constantly read my children’s body language and behaviours to monitor for overstimulation, trauma triggers and attachment issues.

I didn’t know that I would sometimes wonder if my children were really with the right parents.

I didn’t realize how much time and energy I would spend advocating for my children and how often I would feel misunderstood as a parent.

I didn’t know that love alone is not enough.

I didn’t know how many things would become insignificant in life.

I didn’t know how much grace I would need on a daily basis to do this parenting thing.

I didn’t know how many new people I would meet because of adoption.

I didn’t know just how much I did not yet know!

And for that I am so grateful.

But despite all this…and knowing it now…still I will choose this again.

Because the joy far outweighs the pain.

The truth finds it’s way through the lies.

The grief dissipates into healing.

Beauty from ashes.

~AF

 

 

 

If You Can’t Adopt…

So many people are in situations or circumstances that make it impossible or difficult for them to pursue adoption.  While I campaign and advocate openly for MORE FAMILIES TO ADOPT I certainly realize some families are not able to pursue adoption for a variety of reasons…and shouldn’t.  Unfortunately the landscape of our culture is also making it more and more difficult for Christian families to adopt as our values and ethics become increasingly controversial to society at large.

So what can you do if you are not able to adopt?

How can you obey the biblical command to care for the orphan? (Psalm 82:3, James 1:27, Isaiah 58:6-10)

1. PRAY

Old, young, middle aged…even children can get involved in this way!  Through this season we’ve committed to praying with our children for waiting children needing families.  I’ve seen such a space open in their hearts just in a few short prayers as they connect with these children.  Prayer changes hearts and it changes lives!

  • Pray for the waiting children, waiting families, newly adoptive families, and tired adoptive families in the trenches.
  • Pray for more adoptive families to step forward!
  • Pray for wisdom and perseverance for families wading through the trauma adoption brings.
  • Pray for courage for families facing difficult adoption realities.
  • Pray for healing for the children.
  • Pray that through the next month the church would rise up and meet the challenge of thousands of children needing homes!
  • Pray that the Christian families currently undergoing the home study process would be approved to adopt!  Pray that they would not be excluded from consideration due to their faith.
  • Pray for the social workers, judges and other professionals on the front line deciding the fates of these children.

2. BECOME A RESPITE HOME.

To become a respite home you will go through the typical foster care training and assessment, but as a respite home you will only commit to the time you have available.  It may be one weekend a month, every weekend, one day a week or one weekend a year!  Whatever time you have can benefit a foster child and family.

Children in care are dealing with big emotions and big life changes which often show themselves through big behaviours!  It can be a huge relief to have a weekend off for a foster family to regroup, catch up on sleep, visit family or just relax and rejuvenate for the work God has called them to.

Likewise, respite homes are encouraged to act more like a ‘grandparent’ in the child’s life.  Relax a bit on the structure of the child’s life and just have fun.  My girls have very fond memories of some respite homes they spent time in on weekends during their years in foster care.  These people, though only in their lives for brief periods of time, built fond memories with them and helped them to feel like they had a larger, extended family outside of their foster families.  They still talk about them today.  One couple in particular advocated strongly for our girls to be placed together instead of separately for adoption when they cared for them on weekends.  We are very grateful to them!

This role is perfect for an older couple who may not be prepared to take on a child full time, a family busy raising their biological children or a single person who may not have the resources or time to commit to full time parenting.  Also, if you’re considering foster care and would like to ‘ease in’ a bit…this will give you a taste and some experience before forging ahead full time.  Many times the agency will set you up with the same child or children so that you can form a relationship and become a safe haven in the child’s life.  Most children in care look forward to these “sleepovers”.

3. SUPPORT A FOSTER OR ADOPTIVE FAMILY IN YOUR CHURCH OR COMMUNITY.

There are so many ways you can bless a foster or adoptive family in your church or community.  Take a look at the time, skills and resources you have to offer and then just ask the question, “How can I use these to support a family on the front lines of this ministry?”  We are so grateful for our extended family, friends and church community who have supported, loved and prayed for us through our adoption journey.  It is so important to feel like you have a village behind you!  These are some of the ways that people have blessed our family:

  • Hand me down clothes, toys, etc.
  • Babysitting – so thankful for people who have volunteered to babysit…even when our children are not easy to care for – so that we can have a date night!  Being foster parents means our babysitters need Criminal Record Checks and agency approval.  It means a lot to us when people do this for us so we can leave the children for an hour or two!  There are also many appointments for children in care so having a babysitter available to take some of the children while you go to the dentist, doctor, paediatrician, school meetings or visits with birth family is a huge blessing.  We also have family members who have went to even further lengths to have their homes approved to be able to keep our children overnight as well.
  • Meals – freezer meals, leftovers, take out or gift cards…we are thankful for them all!
  • Gifts – When our daughters first joined our family one couple blessed us by giving us Canadian Tire gift cards specifically to buy the girls each a new bike and helmet.  Not only did it mean the world to us, it was special for the girls to realize so many people they’d never even met cared for them and wanted to bless them.
  • Accompaniment travelling to appointments.  In those first months we had to travel over 3 hours just to see the girls’ paediatrician.  It was a huge blessing to have a friend come with me so that my husband wouldn’t need to take off work.  6 hours on the road, 2 very active girls and a stuffy doctor’s office were a less than appealing prospect until my friend added in her company, some fun toys and snacks.
  • Taking an interest in the children’s lives.  Like any other parent, we want our children to have a broader world than just us.  It’s a huge blessing to know someone else is investing in our children’s lives alongside us.  It’s also really important for the child to build as many healthy relationships as possible.
  • Ask how it’s going.  Acknowledge the extra layer in their family dynamics and give space for them to talk about that.  You might be surprised at what their normal looks like.
  • Point out the progress or positive things you notice in the child’s life.  It is so reassuring and comforting as the parent to hear something good about your child.  It can help affirm progress, encourage during a difficult season or just remind you that you are not alone in this when others notice your child growing and maturing.
  • If none of these ideas fit…just ask!  Ask how you can help, and observe their family to see if you can spot a need.  They may feel vulnerable at first accepting your help but if you prove to be a safe and nonjudgmental support they will gladly welcome your assistance!

    4. EDUCATE YOURSELF.

    I cannot stress this one enough!  So many adoptive parents and children who have been adopted have been hurt by the ignorant words of someone around them.  Words cut deep, and for many adoptive families every conversation about adoption is full of landmines.  As an adoptive parent, I know that sometimes I read into things too deeply, and I apologize for that.  I certainly want to understand when comments are made out of ignorance…however…you must understand that the stakes are often a lot higher than you think!  An off hand comment overheard by a child can plant deep seeds of fear, shame or inadequacy.  So be aware!  Listen to the adoptive families around you and follow their lead in how they discuss their child’s history and challenges related to adoption.  Don’t ask for more information than they are willing to give, as it may be sensitive, but at the same time take an interest in the child’s life.  If there are diagnoses or behavioral challenges, don’t jump to conclusions!  There is very likely a huge part of the story you are missing.  They need your encouragement, understanding and support…not your criticism.  Also, know that parenting advice is rarely helpful to families parenting a child with attachment disorder, trauma or neurological differences.

    5. VOLUNTEER

    Similar to providing respite care, public child protection agencies are always in need of volunteers.  With thousands of children in care and not nearly enough foster homes to accommodate them all, agencies are often scrambling to meet the needs of the children.  As a volunteer you will need to complete a short screening process and be approved.

    There are many opportunities to serve such as:

  • Driving children in care or their families to appointments, visits with birth family, school, etc.
  • Holding babies in the NICU who have been apprehended but not yet placed in a foster home.  After spending 2 days and 2 nights in the NICU with one tiny baby I know first hand how big a need this is!  Many of these babies are withdrawing from drugs they were exposed to in utero and in severe pain.  They desperately need the one to one care a nurse does not have time for.  They need eyes that will see the dirty onesies, hands to cream the raging diaper rashes, arms to hold them firm and walk the halls for hours as they cry and cry.  They need someone to go out and buy them sleepers.  They need someone to hold them and feed them and make sure they are getting enough nourishment.  Our particular little baby spent most of his hours at the nurse’s station as he had no one to care for him before we showed up.  No infant should be that alone in the world.
  • Completing paperwork for childcare workers
  • Organizing events

In the foster and adoptive community we often hear, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  This is very true.  While it may be possible to do it on your own, it is so much easier and so much better with support from your friends, family and community.  Ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to foster and adoptive families.  You will be richly rewarded for any time, money or resources you pour into this ministry!

10 Reasons To Adopt

 

In our home…

This means we are spending time praying for children waiting for families.  We are praying that God would bring them their forever families and that other specific needs in their lives would be met.  There are three little ones specifically whom God has laid on our hearts for quite some time now that we have been praying a bright and hopeful future over, expectantly and eagerly awaiting His answer.

Here in Ontario…

This means that public agencies will be focusing more on permanency and presenting available children’s profiles at numerous adoption events across the province.  Hundreds of waiting adoptive families will attend these events and view profiles of children waiting for forever families.  Many families and children will be matched and begin their adoption journey!

Today, I want to give you ten reasons to consider adoption.

1. YOU CARE.

The fact that you are reading this post says that you care

2. THERE ARE 153 MILLION ORPHANS AND VULNERABLE CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD.

Every willing heart is needed!  We need more than just a few people who are ‘called’ to this mission.  As the church of Jesus Christ we have a huge opportunity to change the landscape of our culture today and to raise up a new generation of loved and chosen peoples.

3. ADOPTION SAVES LIVES AND CELEBRATES THE SANCTITY OF LIFE.

There are millions of orphans around the world caught in extreme poverty.  The need is so great!  Children are dying; many of diseases and circumstances that are well within our ability as a blessed people to change!  We have access to medical care, food and fresh water that some children will never see in their current conditions.  Closer to home, there are millions of abortions taking place in our country every year.  Those who choose to give life to their children are brave!  Adoption gives them hope.

4. ADOPTION GIVES YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO BREAK A NEGATIVE FAMILY CYCLE AND CHANGE THE WORLD 1 CHILD AT A TIME!  

These children are paying the price of choices the adults in their life have made.  Through no fault of their own they’ve been thrust into the middle of what is many times a generational cycle of abuse, neglect, poverty and addiction.  By choosing adoption you choose to break that cycle for a child and give them an opportunity to experience a healthy family environment.

5. ADOPTION IS AFFORDABLE.

In Canada and the U.S. you can adopt for very little cost through the foster care system and even apply for grants to cover the expenses of treatment, medical needs, etc.

6. CHILDREN WITHOUT PERMANENT FAMILIES FACE CHALLENGES THEY WOULDN’T IN A STABLE FAMILY.

Children without stable family lives find it difficult to thrive in school or in life in general.  They often feel very alone and have no one to advocate for the help and resources they need to grow and learn.

7. THESE CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE.

In twenty years these will be the grown ups of our society.  Without a family to nurture and guide them, many will end up without a home, education or support system.  Many will also end up in our criminal justice system.  Their struggles do not minimize over time.

8. LOVE IS A CHOICE.

You may not fall in love with an adoptive child upon first sight…but love is a choice.  Love is not about fuzzy warm feelings.  Love is the reality that you are committed to someone, for better or for worse, for the rest of their life.  And once you put these choices into action…you will absolutely feel love for your adopted child!

9. HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN WILL AGE OUT OF THE FOSTER SYSTEM THIS YEAR WITHOUT A FOREVER FAMILY!  

The government is working hard to support these kids with services and assistance through age 21, but government support does not replace family.   These kids need families to support them through life and to celebrate their accomplishments.  They need a place to spend Christmas and someone to call when life throws them curveballs.  They need role models and financial advisors and the reassurance that someone has their back.

10. EVERY CHILD DESERVES THE CHANCE TO HAVE A FAMILY TO CALL THEIR OWN—FOREVER.

Moving Day

Throwback to four years ago when our daughters came home!

It’s moving day!

Yes, we are finally here 🙂  Today is the day we get to go pick up our girls and bring them home to start FOREVER together!!

It’s funny how things are never quite as you imagined they will be.

Even though I’ve been waiting for this day for so long…now that it’s finally here I don’t really feel all those emotions I thought I would.  Well…I do, but they are alongside others that don’t fit so well.

I am so excited, of course…I mean, why wouldn’t I be?!?  My daughters are finally going to be here with me, where they belong.  I love them so much and I miss them when they’re not here.  I love our weekends together, knowing that they’re here within my grasp.  That feeling of walking downstairs after we’ve tucked them in and said goodnight a thousand times and gave kisses and backrubs and cuddles…it’s amazing.  I love knowing that they’re safe.  They’re just up the steps, safe in their pink room and pink beds and pink pajamas.  I will know and hear if they are scared or lonely.  I can take care of them.  When they’re two and a half hours away…I have no idea what they’re doing or how to help.  So I can’t wait to have them here with me.

But the last few days I have also been hit by this tsunami size wave of FEAR.

From now on…everything is going to be different…and I’ve never really been that great with change.

Never again will it be just my husband and I…our little family of 2 that I know and love and am so comfortable in.  From now on we will always be a family of 4, not 2.  This isn’t really anything to be afraid of…except that I have no idea what that is even going to be like or feel like all the time.  And I will miss being a family of 2.  I am so in love with my husband, and I will miss it just being the 2 of us.  I know what it feels like to have children, because we’ve had children in our home lots already…but other times it wasn’t forever.  Eventually, they always moved on and it was just the 2 of us again.  It’s overwhelming to realize we are really at the end of this stage, of it just being us.  I know it’ll be good…and I won’t even think about it.  But I have so enjoyed  the last couple months, after having kids around so much in the past year, to just enjoy being a couple.  I will miss that.  I know from experience that having children around does not make your marriage less rich or exciting, but I do know that it’s harder.  It’s harder to find time to talk.  It’s harder to have energy to do things that are fun and crazy…just for the two of you.  It’s harder to get in date nights.  It’s harder to know every little thing that’s going on in each other’s lives.  It takes a lot of energy and time to parent…and that often means other areas can get neglected a bit sometimes.  Lucky for me I have a pretty amazing husband who is always willing to go that extra mile to make sure that I don’t just feel like a harried mama, but also the love of his life ❤

I always imagined what this kind of day…the actual day of moving our child home…would feel like.  Immediately, you get all these images running through your mind of tears of joy, hugging, kissing, smiling…perfect.  After all, there are tons of home videos on YouTube of parents meeting their child for the first time or bringing their children home.  But without having done this day yet, I know that’s not exactly a complete picture.  To be honest, I am dreading this day a little bit.  I wish we could skip over it, because I’m not sure how to best handle it.  My girls are not tiny, wide eyed, oblivious one year olds being passed over to their new Mommy and Daddy by cheering nannies.  My girls are 5 and 7, and they know exactly what’s happening today.  We have been going over and over and over this for weeks now.  Today is the day they are saying goodbye.  They are saying goodbye to the families they love.  They are saying goodbye to the only normal they know.  They will see their foster parents cry today, and they will not know what to do with those big feelings inside.  I know what it’s like to be a foster parent…and I have no idea how to stand there and watch someone else’s painful goodbye while I wait for my child to come to me.  How do you do that well?  I’m not sure if it’s more or less complicated that we’ve formed a friendship with these families over the last couple months.  Does that make it easier or harder?  I think that once the last goodbyes and hugs are given and we are strapped in the van on our way home…we’ll all be fine.  We’ve done that part a thousand times now.  But it’s just that inevitable moment where you have to watch your little girl give her ‘Mommy’ that last hug and kiss goodbye.  There is no pretty way to cover up that pain.  Right now, they don’t understand why this needs to happen.  They’re excited, they’ve bonded and they love us…but they don’t understand why it really needs to happen.  Especially my 5 year old.  It’s not fair that to get one thing she loves she must give up another.   Those feel like adult decisions, not something a child should have to grapple with.

But…that is the reality.

I’m nervous.

I’m scared.

I’m excited.

We will get through today…and maybe it will be better than I could ever hope 🙂

Tomorrow…on the first day of forever…things will feel pretty normal.  The girls will wake up around 6:30 am, start giggling and chattering to each other and creep downstairs once the alarm goes off telling them they may get up.  We will eat breakfast…probably Fruit Loops…and go for either a walk or a bike ride.  They will play with their dolls and maybe run in the sprinkler if it’s warm.  We probably won’t be thinking about forever or goodbyes.  In the next week sometime, when they start feeling homesick, we will call and talk to their foster moms and tell them all about what we’ve been doing.  I’ll send emails and pictures whenever I think of it, to let them know we still value the love and energy they gave to our daughters and let them see their smiling, happy faces…because that is such a gift.  Eventually, after maybe six months or a year, when we know it won’t do more harm than good, we will go back and visit.  Maybe we’ll play at the park together or just hang out in the backyard.  We’ll build the tentative first straws of a new relationship.  One day at a time we will become a family…us 4.  The girls will eventually have that first day where they call me Mommy every time they talk to me.  One day they will be able to talk about how they came to be here, in our family, without that shadow of fear and confusion in their eyes.  We will start our own traditions, build our own memories and life will become normal.

I’m ready to begin that.

So…if you read this before 1:00 pm today, June 24, 2014…please say a little prayer for us.  We could use some help today.  Mostly pray for Akeisha and Alexa…because more than anything I wish we could become a family of 4 without them having to go through this pain and loss.  They’ve already dealt with more pain and loss than is fair.  Pray that they will be able to do one day at a time, and that they will feel safe and loved…always.

For the next few months we’ll be doing lots of hibernating here…spending as much time as possible just making sure we know who our family is 🙂  Busy starting forever.

Cheers

AF

Two Mothers

I stare at the photo, breath caught in my lungs.

It’s my daughter in 20 years staring back at me.

Same beautiful eyes and wide smile.

Same long and lean body; so different from my own.

The light and laughter there makes me want to reach out and pull her from the photo.

I dream that night of meeting her.

We smile and reach out for each other; familiar despite having never met.

I wake up still feeling her slender back under my hands.

It is the little things that make me wince; that dig a well of grief in the middle of my joy at finding her.

The way she describes drinking olive juice from a jar and the look in my daughter’s eyes when I tell her, the only one in our family who eats olives.

The way she loves so many of the same things my daughters do.  Banana muffins, horses, music and nature.

The way she tenderly recounts sewing in little waistbands and what my children…or hers…or ours…were like as babies and toddlers.

I am unprepared for this grief.

This abrupt encounter with so much gain…and so much loss.

I am unsure how to hold my joy in my hands…while looking down and realizing it all came at her expense.

How do I justify all I have when I know the tables could have so easily been turned.

It is beautiful,

and shattering.

I look at them differently as they smile into my eyes,

seek out my affection,

come running to me with their latest drawings, stories and ideas.

I know as they bring me their caterpillars and create ant homes and worm habitats that she would be so much more delighted than I am right now.

I think of her finding a huge caterpillar in her garden, or her stories of helping turtles safely cross the road.

I wish she were here to enjoy their dirty faces grinning cheekily at me.

I tread unsteadily on the fence line of guilt and gratitude,

haunted by what she might do and say were she here.

All her words have been laden with grace and dignity and humility.

I have her permission to love without guilt, yet that in itself speaks a thousand words and almost makes it more difficult.

I feel like a heroine and a traitor.

I wonder at the world.

The world that separates mother and child,

that pulls unsuspecting teens into spirals of addiction and compromise with no warning of all they have to lose.

The world that offers so much pain and loss and heartache to one,

while another trips almost effortlessly through and lands in so much joy and blessing.

I reach out for more of her, knowing that as I learn her favourite colours, TV shows, hobbies, fears, regrets and joys…I am putting together the pieces of my children.

I scroll through her photos, feeling the weight of loss as I see family and friends that were meant to be part of my children’s lives…but aren’t.

It’s not that there’s a hole…it’s just that I know this was meant to be theirs.

We schedule chat sessions and eventually, our first meeting.

She’s even taller than I imagined and so graceful as she slides into the seat across from me, dressed in a pretty aqua top…my daughter’s favourite colour.

We stumble awkwardly yet enjoyably through a dinner conversation…most of which I cannot remember later for the butterflies in my stomach.

My husband bridges the gap between us…two mothers…and I’m grateful for his casual conversation.

I leave with anticlimactic memories and a picture of the two of us, arms slung around each other, smiling side by side.

I know it’ll be an important image for my daughters as they grow into this relationship…the picture of what was and what is simultaneously, tethering them to reality.

We fall into patterns of texting and chatting online, slowly letting in a new normal.

I casually laugh about a conversation we had, a photo she sent or a story she shared.

My daughters get used to it; their two mothers being acquaintances and then slowly…friends.

I love the way I think of her randomly, or can send off a text whenever I want.

I love the way I can share those special moments with her and know that she’ll care…because she’s a mother.

I love the way I can see more and more clearly the similarities between mother and daughters, and the shy adoration I see in their eyes when I notice them and comment.

I love the letters that get sent off in the mail with lovingly braided bracelets tucked inside.

I love the forging of our lives.

Loving my daughters’ birth mother is loving them.

They reflect so much of what I say and project about her onto themselves.

She is and always will be a part of them…and therefore a part of us.

I both love and hurt watching them reach out in fragile innocence for the affirmation she offers.

It is humbling to watch them flower beneath her tender care in ways that I can’t provide.

I see clearly the holes I cannot fill, and I’m grateful she is there and willing to fill those.

I imagine she feels the same, and once again this is one thing we share.

Two mothers.

I know so many people don’t have this story.

They don’t have this happy ending.

But I’m so grateful for this woman we call Mom.

Her integrity, humility, determination and beauty has added depth and colour to our adoption story that we never could have imagined.

Two mothers.

-AF

“A child born to another woman calls me mom.  The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.”

-Jody Landers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Still Do it Even Though It’s Hard…

As a foster and adoptive family, we have heard so many different comments from people regarding our choice to reach out to these vulnerable little ones.

Some of them have been very encouraging and inspiring, and we are thankful to have a great support network of people who are behind us in this venture.

But along with that, I think we have heard every reason in the book why someone might NOT want to adopt or foster.  People seem to think they need to explain to me every reason why they can’t or won’t get involved.  I often stand there quietly, silently struggling for words as they unload on me.  Most of the comments seem to be guilt or fear driven.

“I would get too attached.”

This is the most common statement I hear in regards to foster care, specifically.  I know where this comes from, because I used to say it too.  While I always had myself convinced I could never foster because I would ‘love the child too much to give them back’ I now understand the arrogance and selfishness of that statement.

“Too loving to love” is the idea most people want to convey in this statement.  This is completely unbiblical.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.         (1 Cor. 13)

True love is not based on what may or may not happen.  True love is a choice: to commit, to sacrifice, to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own.  True love rejoices in good things…and healing broken families is certainly a part of that!

Yes, I know…things can go horribly wrong.  You will be working with a broken system and broken families…but that is no excuse!  As a believer in Christ you must believe that God can bring beauty from ashes and is fully in control over all of life’s circumstances.  We will not always understand, but we are commanded to trust and obey.

Many families have walked heartbreaking journeys beside children in their care, and many times things did not turn out as they hoped or planned, but as followers of Christ we need to believe that His purposes will not be thwarted.  We are working for the Potter who can redeem even the most shattered of vessels.

“I have my ‘own’ children to love and care for.”

While I understand our commitment to guide, protect and nurture the children God has placed in our care, I think our idea of what this looks like is often twisted.  There are many children who have been taken all over the world on the mission field, living in less than ideal conditions, being exposed to life threatening illnesses, residing near war zones and being exposed to all kinds of danger physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Is this a reason not to go?  Do the positives outweigh the negatives?

I will not pretend to think that every family can easily begin fostering or adopting additional children, but I want to challenge your perceptions and ideas on this.

What is it that you dream of for your children?  Do you dream of health, wealth and happiness…or do you dream of something more?

Do you dream of seeing your children evade the materialism and entitlement so prevalent in our culture today?  Do you dream of them becoming world changers?  Do you dream of them developing a deep compassion for the less fortunate, the marginalized, the oppressed?  Do you dream of them understanding that all we are given is to be used in service for Kingdom Building?

What is more important?  That their personal comforts and privileges are guarded and protected?  Or that they are given opportunities to build character qualities that will prepare them to be used in spreading the gospel?

Yes, you need to keep them safe.

Yes, you need to place them above your own ambitions.

Yes, you need to be prepared and have a plan.

But know this.

If you are called, you will also be equipped.  And it just might surprise you what fruits you see emerge in your children as you serve in this way together.

Oh, and one more thing.  Please don’t use that word…”own.”  It’s time to extend  your borders and start calling someone else your “own.”  Love is a choice.  Choose it.

I am not ‘cut out’ for that.  That takes a special kind of person.

I understand.

I understand what you mean when you say this.  But I can’t help but think it’s a pretty easy way to let yourself off the hook while millions of orphans around the world wait for a select few people to be ‘cut out’ for this job.

What is this job exactly?

This job is parenting.

This job is sharing generously your time and resources.

This job is being willing to love the least of these…with no expectations in return.

This job is caring.

What exactly about this job do you need to be ‘specially equipped’ for?

What about this job is so much harder than any career path or ministry you may pursue?

What about this job does not line up with exactly who Christ asks us to be, and the example He left us to follow?

It’s time to stop waiting to be ‘cut out’ for this job!

It’s time to pray and ask God to equip you for this task!

He can and he will.

Just ask!

“But I’ve heard that…”

Oh the stories!

Everyone has a horror story about adoption, foster care or the local child protection agency.

Are they true?

Some of them, yes.

But please…don’t make your decision based on somebody’s story.

Do the research.

Find out for yourself what you need to know from a reliable source.

Don’t believe everything you hear.

There are always two sides to a story, and the worst stories are only ever one sided.

I believe Satan is using this tactic powerfully to keep people from pursuing foster care or adoption.

I’ve been disappointed at the number of Believers that will gladly join the bandwagon of complaints, criticism and disgust.  This is not helpful.

We need to be wise.

We need to pray for discernment as we engage the world and it’s brokenness.

We need to be prepared to give an answer for what we believe and we need to be firmly rooted in Truth, so that bitter stories and angry rants will not sway us from what we know to be true.

All I ask is that you choose to believe and repeat only things that you know for certain are true and valid.

Horror stories passed on through friends and acquaintances do not fall into this category!

If the story does not honour all involved, including the birth family, adoptive family, children and professionals…please take a deep breath and keep silent.  Try to imagine what the opposite side of the story may be and realize that almost all situations in the foster and adoptive world carry grief, loss and trauma.  They are complicated, sad and easily misunderstood.

God never promised that His plan for our lives would be easy, comfortable or even make sense in our worldly vision.

In fact, He promised the opposite!

Our task here is to daily ‘take up our cross’ and follow him.

Our retirement will come in heaven.

As long as we are here, we are to be busy building his Kingdom, reflecting His character and taking the gospel to the broken.

AF

 

 

 

Broken System

I hear so many people complaining about our social services system.

And I get it.

I do it too!

Right now our local branch is in the middle of a labour disruption and it is holding up the paperwork for our homestudy to be updated so we can pursue another adoption.  I know God uses bureaucracy sometimes to keep things in His timeline, so I’m holding onto that hope but I also see a tainted system where personal agendas and budget cuts are preventing families and children from what is best for them right now.

There are so many things wrong.  Sometimes it feels like the whole system needs to be reorganized and revamped!  Most of the time we are playing catch up instead of preventing problems from arising.

However,

While I am very comfortable complaining alongside other foster and adoptive parents as well as social workers who are frustrated with the handcuffs of this system, I am not okay with people complaining about a system that they are doing nothing to improve.

The bottom line is that the system is in desperate need of more families who are committed to caring for kids, even when it costs them personally.

We need foster parents.

People who are willing to love hard, even when the goodbye is heart wrenching.

People who are willing to fight for families to be reunified if at all possible, putting in their own time and energy to build uncomfortable relationships when needed.

People who will open their doors to kids who push, pull and threaten their way through life because that is the only survival mode they are familiar with.

People who will show Jesus to both these kids and their biological families at some of their most broken and vulnerable moments.

People who will advocate strongly for better lives for these children while realizing that their perspective on the situation may be skewed.

We need people who will follow through and become a child’s permanent family if need be, but are committed first and foremost to reunifying a biological family.

We need adoptive homes.

People who are committed to sticking with a child for EVER.  No matter what.  No ifs, ands, buts.  Just forever period.

People who are willing to go through the paperwork, the scrutiny, the headaches and the waiting time because they know that a child is worth all that times ten!

People who will restructure their lives to meet the needs of a child.

People to rise up and be parents to a lost and broken generation and usher them into the Household of Grace.

People who will believe in a God who redeems even the most broken…and realize that may be you, not the child you adopt.

People who will commit to laughter and joy in the journey, even when it gets hard.

People who will not shy away from the hard in a child’s story, but instead enter into that pain with them.

People who will be willing to enter into relationships today or someday down the road with birth family members.

We need churches, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers and neighbours that are willing to invest in a child’s life.

People that will not jump to hasty conclusions but instead offer grace and support.

People that will lend physical, financial, spiritual and emotional support when serving these kids leaves holes in hearts, homes and wallets.

People who will go the extra mile to make a child feel loved and accepted no matter where they are in life.

People who will pray for children, families and social workers in the system.

The best way to do something about it is to get involved and do your part to change the way things work!  Chances are as you get involved you will see the answers are not as easy as they may have seemed from the outside.

There is no way to evade all the pitfalls when you are working with a broken family in a broken society.

I can’t wait to see the Church of Jesus Christ rise up and take back the work we were meant to do from the beginning.

Love.

Protect.

Heal.

Restore.

AF

 

 

 

Claiming Your Adopted Child

For weeks, months or possibly even years you’ve been praying, decorating bedrooms, buying clothes and stuffies, asking questions, researching and observing.

Then suddenly, the time is here.

One of the toughest transitions in your adoption process may be when your child finally comes home.

Now it’s time to parent, and suddenly you realize that the child before you is a stranger.

On top of that, they may be dealing with the trauma of yet another move and disruption in their attachment.

How do you claim this child as YOURS even when you don’t feel that reality?

What if you don’t feel love toward this new person that is now in your home?

First of all, don’t panic!  It is perfectly normal to feel awkward, uncomfortable and even a bit resentful toward a new child in your home.  Your normal has been upset, and it’s going to take time to feel the comfortable familiarity we usually associate with “family” and “home”.  The good news is you have lots of time!  It will come, so just relax and admit that it may be harder than you envisioned.  If you have other children in the home, make sure you acknowledge this to them as well and give them space and assurance that the emotions they are feeling are perfectly normal and acceptable.

It’s ok for things to not feel ok for a while.

In these early days, try to find ways to imitate the natural bonding that would typically occur between a mother and newborn.  If the children are young, make sure you take full advantage of physical closeness (as long as they are comfortable.)  Help them bathe, rub lotion on their body, snuggle while reading a story or wrestle with them on the floor.  For older children you can brush their hair, give a back rub at bedtime, hold hands, do foot massages, have a spa day involving foot baths and face creams.

Another essential way infants bond with their caregiver is through food.  The act of meeting basic needs in a child’s life is extremely powerful to the brain.  One of the best ways you can connect with a new child in your home is to make sure you take charge of their food.  By this I mean that you offer them food regularly, take time to prepare it for them and constantly ask if they need anything to eat or drink.  Peel an apple or fix breakfast for a teenager who could do it themselves.  Pack their lunch, including their favourite foods and some treats.  Get them a glass of water instead of showing them where they can get it themselves.  Feed toddlers and preschoolers from sippy cups or bottles so you can hold it for them while they drink.

 Your approach in this situation is to do the opposite of what typical parents do.  Instead of encouraging independence you want to encourage their dependence on you.  It is in this way that trust is built and emotional connectivity happens.

Another way to connect with your new child and claim them as ‘yours’ is to make sure to give yourself space to be you.  It is amazing how the little things help it to feel more real for you!  Let yourself be a new parent.  Brag, spoil, buy and take lots of photos.  Your family has just gained a new member and you have every right to all the emotions a mother has in the first weeks after giving birth.

Other things you can do:

  • Start new routines…or revamp old ones they are familiar with
  • Listen closely to the ways they are trying to communicate with you
  • Spend TIME together – there is no substitute for this!  It is the ONLY way to get to know your newest son or daughter and for them to get to know you.
  • Hang their photos on the wall, their artwork on the fridge and leave their sticky fingerprints on the window.  They are all physical evidences of the reality that your family has expanded.
  • Host an adoption celebration when you think you and your child are ready.  Make it official and memorable.
  • Pray for your child and for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you try to reach his or her heart.  Much wisdom and grace is needed…especially when your attempts are spurned.

I hope that by reading this post the overwhelming message you are hearing is that

YOU HAVE A CHOICE!

We all love the idea of love at first sight and happily ever after…but if we’re honest we also know that is usually not reality.

Love is not a feeling or emotion that is left to fate to decide.

Love is a choice.

Adoption is a choice.

When you choose adoption, you are choosing love.

Unconditional love.

That sounds big…and it is…but really it is just a life full of little choices.

Day after day,

moment after moment,

I will choose love.

Some days it will feel hard and the sacrifice will be great.  There will be tears, and yes, even regret.

But other days will be so full of genuine, authentic, life giving joy that you will catch your breath and think, “How did I ever live without you?”

And suddenly, you will know it.

I love this child.

He is mine.

AF

FB Questions Answered!

A few weeks ago I wrote a short request on facebook asking people to share their questions regarding adoption.  Here are the questions and the best answers I could come up with 🙂

“In places like China, for example, I’ve heard that it is customary to offer expensive gifts, etc., not to mention the plane fare. Where might a middle class family who don’t have plane fare, etc. be able to inquire?”

So unfortunately I have no firsthand experience with this one, but I will share the best I’ve been able to acquire from my research!

So from what I’ve been able to understand, in many cases these “gifts” are items being requested by orphanage directors/workers when a child is being adopted.  Though this may seem incredibly manipulative, from what I’ve read in many cases it is actually the agency you are working with here in North America that is requesting you to bring these gifts because it is culturally appropriate to offer gifts in situations such as these.  I also found that in many cases these gifts are really not expensive ($10-25 each) and are actually donations for the children left behind in the orphanage when you return home with your child.  The $30-50 thousand dollars you spend on an international adoption is largely spent on lawyer fees both in your country and the child’s, travel costs, adoption agency fees, and government documents you need to acquire for your child.  The orphanage itself from which your child is coming will receive very little, if any, of this money.  These “gifts” are their way of trying to improve the conditions of the orphanage.  Again, this is not first hand experience and my information may not be reliable but that’s what I found.  To avoid being taken advantage of financially in an international adoption the overwhelming advice I read was to work with a reputable agency, to be organized and to choose a country that has signed the Hague Convention.

As far as being able to afford an international adoption, there are many things a middle class family can do:

  1. Apply for adoption grants
  2. Fundraise for your adoption
  3. Live on less
  4. Sell stuff
  5. Get a loan

I believe that where there is a will there is a way 🙂

Read my blog post on affording adoption here.

How does a family go about discretely investigating about whether or not the child has physical/neurological difficulties? There have been many reports of adoptive parents finding that the babies have difficulties that they weren’t aware of. While a couple would need to accept these things in their own birth child, there are many who adopt, not wanting to sign up for that.

To be honest, I think this was probably more common longer ago.  Here in Canada, I do not think you need to be concerned at all about this as any public or private agency will share as much information as possible with you if you are serious about adopting a specific child.  They are not trying to con you into adopting a child.  On the contrary, they are working for the best interests of the child, not you!  Once you express serious interest in a child, you will be given the opportunity to view their entire file including any medical history, diagnoses, etc.  It will be your job to do the research on whatever you find and be sure you are equipped and informed.

However, you must remember that there are many unknowns related to children who have suffered trauma, abuse and/or neglect.  Short of a magic genie there is no way for you to predict the full capabilities of a child upon adoption any more than a biological child’s future needs at birth.

I would say:

Ask as many questions as you can.

Consult with professionals regarding the information you do receive.

Do your research, but at the same time be prepared that life has a way of throwing curve balls at you and it doesn’t mean someone deliberately mislead you.

If you’re referring to international adoption I would certainly think there are many more risks of this occurring.  I know most adoption agencies encourage you to arrange for a medical examination to take place in the child’s current country and then again immediately upon arrival to Canada.  Many children available for adoption internationally have been abandoned at an orphanage with very little information, so there is not necessarily any way you can know what the true extent of their limitations are.  It’s important to be prepared for things to be much worse than you expect…but it’s also important to keep in mind that a secure and loving environment, with great access to medical care and services is the ideal place for a child to reach his or her fullest potential!

As far as not wanting to ‘sign up for this’…it’s a phrase that would be worth considering deeply.  If you are not prepared to face some unknowns adoption may not be for you.  These kids need people who are willing to stick with them no matter what.

 

“I know a couple who adopted a young girl after fostering for a long time. Later, there was such conflict with their biological children, that they arrived at the difficult decision of letting the girl go again. How does the couple with the heartache in that decision reconcile that issue within themselves. I’m sure they still ache.”

This is a tough one for me.  Everybody has a story about an adoption that went wrong in some way or other.  I feel for this family deeply and I’m sure that they must have walked through some very dark and desperate times to reach this decision.  I have never had this experience, and to be honest it goes against everything I believe.

At the same time, I am not so naive as to think that the intense struggles involved in foster care and adoption could not lead to this.  As much as I don’t like it, there are children who have been wounded to the point where they cannot function well in a family environment.  Love does not fix everything.  There are times when a child needs supports that a home environment will not be able to provide.  Many adoptive parents have lived through the agony of having to choose to send their child to residential treatment centres, etc.  This is hard stuff.

I would say, however…that I feel like there should always be an option that still includes the preservation of the vows you made to your child upon their adoption into your family.  I cannot ever in my mind conceive a time when it would be ok to abdicate my biological child’s place as my son or daughter.  Any parent who abandons their biological child or rejects their place in the family is labelled as a monster.  I struggle to understand why a child you’ve chosen to adopt would be any different.  The day you adopt a child you legally become their parent.  They receive a new birth certificate, with your name on it.  They take on your last name.  You vow before a judge to care for them and love them forever.  The minute you sign those documents in the court room, the time to back out of an adoption is past.  While it may be necessary to relinquish a child to live outside of your home for a while…or even permanently…I would be lying if I said I thought there was ever an ok time to nullify an adoption.  Especially due to sibling rivalry.  I’m guessing the thought of “letting go” of the biological children never crossed their minds.  Two wrongs will not make a right.  They may reject you, they may push you away, they may leave your life in a pile of rubble and desolation…but they desperately need you to follow through on the promise that nobody else did; that they belong to you and nothing can ever change that.  Whether they are under your roof, behind bars, in a respite home or enrolled in a treatment centre…they are yours and you are theirs.  That’s what family means.

 

Do you feel differently about your biological child than your adopted ones?

Yes, I do.  I ADORE all 3 of my children but I absolutely feel differently about them in some ways.  I worry less about my biological son’s future, and my relationship with him is so easy.  Our attachment is secure and unexplainable, with no interruptions or unknowns.  My daughters and I have walked some hard and dark places together, and I have fought harder for them than I knew was possible.  There are days my heart wants to explode with pride as I watch them conquer their world.  There are other days I feel a lot of fear and pain as I watch them.  I have had to earn their trust, and we still walk on eggshells around some issues.  It is a more intentional love, and there are days the foundation appears to be crumbling in places I didn’t know exist.  I am constantly on alert with them.  We take nothing for granted.  But we are a family.  Forever.  And I would choose this again and again and again.  My 3 children came to me in very different ways, but the 3 of them make up my heart and together they are siblings with a bond that is unmistakably family!

 

How long does the adoption process take? 

Unfortunately the adoption process is unpredictable as there are many variables.  There are 3 different types of adoption, first of all.  International, domestic and foster care.  For all three you will need to start with a homestudy assessment.  This process usually takes approximately 6  months to complete.  After your homestudy is complete it depends largely on how motivated you are to adopt and what type of child you plan to adopt.  If you are adopting internationally or through foster care and are interested in adopting children with special needs, older children or a sibling group your adoption will usually go fairly quickly from this point…especially if you are being proactive in searching for your children.  If, however, you are waiting for a baby or child with very limited special needs you will wait longer as children rarely make it through being abandoned, abused, neglected or orphaned without some major trauma.  If you are adopting domestically and being matched with a birth mother there is no guarantee when or if you will be matched but most families statistically are matched within a year.  You can speed up the adoption process by being prompt in completing your paperwork, being open to special needs children and being proactive alongside your adoption worker.  However…God has a way of making things happen in His timing and in His ways, and sometime that means waiting.  At the end of the day it is all up to Him and trusting His timing will help bring peace in the waiting periods and hope in what seems to be endless holdups.  He is bigger than any obstacle that may stand in the way.

 

What are some things your home requires to pass the home inspection?

Some things you will need to complete a homestudy in Ontario are:

  • Criminal Record Checks
  • Fire Inspection
  • Medical Certificate completed by family physician
  • References
  • Financial Statement form
  • Proof of Home and Auto Insurance
  • MTO Driver’s Abstract
  • Car Seat Inspections
  • Notice of Assessment
  • Complete PRIDE training
  • Meet with your social worker at least 3-5 times

Many people find the homestudy process to be quite invasive and intimidating, which it certainly can be.  Having someone come in and inspect every aspect of your life, home and family is a little disconcerting.  However, this is an essential part of being sure you are a safe, consistent and loving home for a child to grow up in.  Try to remember that everything you are being asked to do is for the sake of the many children out there waiting for a family.  Raising children with trauma backgrounds is not always easy and it’s important to be sure you are prepared for this challenge.  The homestudy is designed to help both you and the adoption agency you are working with to determine whether your family is prepared for adoption.

AF

 

Refresh Chicago 2016

My heart is full.

My husband and I travelled to Chicago this past weekend to attend the Refresh Conference.  It’s a conference specifically for Believers involved in foster care and adoption.

The name says it all.

The main goal is to refresh and equip foster and adoptive families while providing space for community to flourish.

I did not know I was starving;

For a glimpse of this part of God’s Kingdom

for encouragement and blessing on this journey

for hope

for the future.

I did not expect the emotions I felt as I stood with over a hundred other people passionate about orphaned and vulnerable children, worshipping together.

The tears caught me off guard as I felt their presence around me,

listened to their words of hope

and saw the same heart in their eyes as I see looking back in the mirror at me every day.

We laughed,

we cried,

we worshipped,

we prayed,

we learned,

we said “me too.”

I went expecting to meet new people, hear their stories and be encouraged.

What I experienced was so much more.

I was spiritually nourished.

I felt like they were speaking my heart language.

My soul rested and I felt this balm just wash over me, knowing that here in this place I did not need to fight or defend.

Here I was understood.

At the end of the weekend we exited through a prayer line.

I walked beside my husband, clenching his hand and feeling the tears sting my eyes as I saw their hands stretched over us and heard their prayers ringing in my ears.

“Patience…bring healing”

“His strength in your weakness”

“power…love…be blessed…”

I didn’t know how much it would mean to have someone praying His Word over me, my husband and our family.

We are not alone.

Thank you

AF