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

 

A New Home

“I don’t want to live in this house!”

Her brown eyes filled with tears and sobs shook her body as she let the words she’d been holding in all day tumble out into the space between us.

I smiled and tugged her toward me with a sigh.

I knew just how she felt because I was just like her.

No matter how wonderful, change is change.

And it’s hard.

We had been in our new home for almost a week now and it was just starting to sink in that she was never going back to the little nest we were all familiar with.

The chipped paint, the crude treehouse, the scribbles on the wall…all blemishes yet somehow so familiar and comforting at the same time.

So…in that first wonderful, yet awkward and challenging first weeks of living in our new home, here are some things I’ve discovered can help you settle in.

  1. Go places.  Walking back through your front door and knowing you’re “home” helps it feel real.
  2. Bake cookies.  It’ll fill your house with delicious smells and help ease the strangeness of it all.
  3. Burn candles.
  4. Relax and indulge in a bubble bath…even though there are still boxes to unpack.
  5. Have friends over.
  6. Do laundry.  Nothing like piles of laundry sitting all over the house to make it feel like home!
  7. Take time to dream and organize while you unpack.
  8. Get things on the walls.
  9. Relax on the couch.
  10. Read a book.
  11. Put on some music.
  12. Let it get a bit dirty.

So there you have it 🙂

In case you’re wondering we all quickly got past the new and awkward feelings and are enjoying our new home SO much!

The whole experience did remind me, however, of the first weeks our girls were home to us.

The first weeks with our newborn son.

The first weeks when a new child has come to stay in our home.

It reminded me to be compassionate of the tears and tantrums and grief that generally accompany those first months with a new foster or adoptive placement.

They’ve left everything familiar…

and even if what they left was not very nice and maybe not even safe…

it was still home.

It was that  broken light fixture hanging on by a thread.

The sound of the air conditioner starting up.

The dim blue night light in the hall.

The familiar sweet scent of marijuana covering the clothes and blankets pressed close.

The way she always sang in the shower or the clattering of his hands doing dishes in the evening.

The smudged, stained marks on the bath tub and the thickest red towel that was your favourite.

The stuffy you always slept with that somehow got left behind.

Your favourite pants.

The wallpaper coming off around the edge of your bed where you would pick at it as you were going to sleep.

The sound of the TV blaring in the next room when you woke up in the middle of the night.

To some it would look, feel and smell strange and frightening.

But if it’s all you’ve ever known…it feels like home.

It feels like expectations and predictable.

It feels like comfortable.

Think about what it feels like to stay or sleep in a hotel for the night.

No matter how luxurious it may be…there’s usually still a little part of you that wishes for home when you sink onto that mattress.

The bed doesn’t feel right.

The blankets are a different texture.

The bathroom light is too bright and the street lights cast flickering shadows on the wall.

The sound of the furnace is heavy and stifling…you can’t hear the clock ticking like at home.

Now imagine if you hadn’t chosen to be there at all…

or in fact if you didn’t even know WHERE you were!

Terrifying is hardly adequate to describe it.

We expect so much from these little people sometimes.

AF

Adoption vs. Birth

I went into adoption absolutely certain that I could and would love children born to another woman.

I was right.

I knew long before I met my girls that my love could run as deep, steady and strong for a child I chose through adoption as a child I gave birth to.

But there was also a lot I didn’t understand until I gave birth to my son.

Before we adopted I naively thought that love for my daughters would come instantly and feel deeply maternal.

I was wrong.

While I did fall instantly in love with my daughters, it was a very different kind of love than the love I felt when I gave birth to my son a  year and a half later.

It took day in, day out, month after month after long month of choosing to love my daughters before those feelings of natural, instinctive, maternal love came to me.

In theory I loved them fully and intimately, but realistically

we were strangers

and we needed to get to know each other.

I hadn’t spent nine months feeling the stirrings under my heart.  I hadn’t held them for those first breaths and watched each tiny movement.  I hadn’t witnessed the steady growth and development and learned what experiences formed in them their character and who they had become.

I have missed so much and I grieve that deeply.

When my son was born his innocence and purity took my breath away.  He was…and still is…so unscarred by this world.

My daughters never had that experience.  Even prenatally they struggled against circumstances beyond their control.

They fought for survival even before their first breaths.

I would give anything to give them the innocence my son got to experience, but I can’t and that is hard.

It is hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and see longing there as she says, “Mommy, I wish I grew in your tummy.”

Or to hold her shuddering little body as she cries tears of grief and loss for her birth mother…tears that she can’t even understand they are so complex and raw.

When my daughters came to me at 7 and 5 years old, they had personalities, character traits and a whole life that I knew very little about.

Sometimes that still gets in the way.

Sometimes I see fear, and I don’t know why it’s there.

Sometimes I see pain, and I don’t know what it’s about.

Sometimes there are vivid memories of people and places that I don’t know and I have no way of knowing if these memories are accurate and true or distorted by a child’s memory.

They’re looking to me for answers and I don’t know what to say.

Sometimes I see anger and resentment and I have no words to unravel the pain behind it all.

Sometimes I am the one battling the deep feelings of loss, of insecurity, of resentment and of exhaustion.

It is so tiring to constantly battle the layers upon layers of grief, fear, loss and trauma written on the hearts of children who have seen and heard and felt the unimaginable.

There is always always an unknown factor to consider.

Just because I chose this doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’s not always fun.

Hurt makes people hurt.

Fear makes people push away.

Betrayal makes hearts break and the healing is slow and painful.

Sometimes I just want a normal family.

Yes, it’s true and I said that out loud.

Sometimes the guilt of that tears me apart.

But so many other times I see love, and I feel honoured to be their mother.

I see happiness and it overwhelms me with joy.

I see healing and it makes me fall to my knees in worship to the One who can bring redemption out of so much pain.

So many people see all the hurt and pain that often goes along with adoption and they decide they could never do it.

Too many risks.

And it’s true…after having experienced both adoption and natural birth, I will atest to the fact that giving birth is probably easier.

It’s the natural way to receive a child, the way our Creator first designed for families to be born.

It’s beautiful.

But what about when the original design falls apart?

What about when pain and destruction and sin enter in?

Ripping, tearing, breaking;

leaving wounds upon both the innocent and the guilty?

Then what?

Is there any hope of redemption?

Yes!

A thousand times yes!

I cannot begin to pour enough passion into these words.

To let you see,

to let you feel

the incredible grace

that our Father pours upon those who choose to engage the pain.

How he takes the ashes and creates beauty from them.

How he takes the broken and uses the scars to proclaim His glory.

How he bathes us in grace upon grace.

How he heals and transforms and gifts.

How we see the gospel through this thing we call adoption.

It is probably true that nothing quite prepares you to face the pain of this.

But it is absolutely true that nothing will prepare you for the rewards you will experience and the victories you will be a part of.

Nothing will prepare you for the small things that will bring you joy,

the grace you will receive

and maybe most of all the love that will grow strong in your heart for these children you’ve chosen as yours.

Yes, yours.

It will become their identity.

Your children.

It’s my favourite thing to say.

My daughters.

One of my favourite narratives in scripture is the account told in Hosea of God lavishly loving upon the people who had turned their backs on him.

Hosea 2:23 says,

“I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”

When I read these words, there is something that resounds within my heart.

I will say to those who were once not my own

“You are mine!”

I will choose, despite all odds, to

lavishly love

upon these people who were once strangers to me.

And in it all, the unthinkable will occur…

we will become one.

A family.

A home.

A testimony of grace and redemption.

So even though adoption can be hard and messy and complicated

it is so worth it and in it’s own way

it is so beautiful.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

AF

Finding the Right Child for You

You’ve completed your homestudy.

You’ve done all the courses.

You’ve made room in your home, your budget and your heart for a child.

Now, all that’s left to do is to find that child.

In Canada alone there are over 30 000 children available right now for adoption, and millions of orphans all over the world.  So how exactly will you figure out which one is meant to be yours?

It might be a photolisting page online, a specific profile in your hands from your social worker, a referral package in the mail, or dozens of profiles set up at an adoption exchange event.

How do I know which child is mine?

The doubts and questions invade your mind at this point and none of the answers are easy.

What if this causes our family to fall apart?

What if my children can’t cope with the attention this child needs?

What if we can’t afford the services we may need?

What if I can’t handle that?

What if I just can’t love this child?

What if I regret this?

It’s very important to honestly evaluate the skills and emotions you and your family possess.  Just because these children need a home and a family doesn’t necessarily mean you are the best home or family for them.

But in this post I’d like to challenge you to think a little deeper.

I want you to glance back up at that list and notice the common denominator in each of those questions.  If you look closely, you’ll see that they all express the feelings or worries of me, our, I and we.  In a nutshell…it’s a rather selfish approach.

Unfortunately, many of us enter adoption with this attitude.  We are seeking some sort of fulfillment for ourselves.  Emotionally, physically, and even spiritually.  We are looking for a child to fill a need we see in our own hearts or lives.

Maybe you’ve struggled with years of infertility and all you want is a child to love and be loved by.  You want someone to call your own.

Maybe you’ve been moved by the passion of others and you’re drawn to the drama of adoption. You want to be a Savior to a child and you envision a happily ever after life where gratitude and joy envelopes every moment of every day.

Maybe you’ve experienced the pain and joys of foster care or adoption personally and you want to heal that wounded place inside of you by reaching out to a hurting child.

Inevitably, most of us will come to foster care and adoption with some kind of agenda that is based on ourselves.

This needs to change before we can even begin to look at a child’s profile objectively and compassionately.  We need to look honestly at our motivations, grieve the losses we may have experienced and pray diligently for God to bring healing to the broken parts of our lives.  Once we can lay aside our own needs, we will be much better prepared to start considering the needs of a child who may enter our family.

There are a few myths I’d like to turn upside down in regards to choosing a child to pursue.

MYTH #1 

I NEED TO FIND THE CHILD THAT’S RIGHT FOR ME.

While I believe God can and will lead you to the child that is destined to become a part of your family, it’s important to get rid of the me in this question.  Instead of focusing on what we believe we can handle or what we would prefer…flip this question around.

What kind of family does this child…or any child,  need?

If that doesn’t match your skill set or preference then…

Can we become the right family for this child?

What skills or resources do I lack in order to be the family this child needs?  What can I do to develop or access those skills and resources?

It completely changes the focus…from me to the child.  No longer am I on a hunt for the child I desire, but instead I am on a journey of change to become the kind of parent or family that a child needs.  This places value on the children we are seeing and opens our hearts to God in a way that places us as clay to mold in his hands.  With this kind of attitude, God can speak clearly to your heart about the individual children you may be considering.

MYTH #2

I CAN’T CHANGE WHO I AM, WHAT I FEAR OR WHAT I HAVE TO OFFER.

“I have never been drawn to that kind of special need.”

“I don’t enjoy that kind of thing.”

“I don’t feel like I could handle that!”

“We don’t have the right kind of home/family/community/church, etc to accommodate that.”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

I think I have probably said all of these things at some point in our adoption and foster care journey.  It’s not hard for us to see what our own needs, desires, comfort levels, etc are.  In fact, it comes quite naturally to consider my own needs above anyone else.  But wait a minute.

Is that what the Bible teaches?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3-4

On the contrary, the Bible teaches radical love.  A love that puts others before ourselves and our ambitions.

The Bible also teaches radical transformation and power when we are in Christ.  Through Him, all things are possible!  This means I need to spend time in meditation and prayer, analyzing the things that are truly holding me back.  It means I need to get my heart in the place where I can truly say, “God what do you want me to do here?”  I want to be that kind of person, and I want to teach my children how to live that kind of life.  A life that is spent serving others.  A life that is constantly pouring out of resources only He can fill.  But as long as I stay only within the lines of what I think I can handle, what I feel is best, what I am comfortable with…that will not happen.  Think about this when you are looking at a child’s profile.

There is also a very practical element that comes in here.  When I decide that others’ needs truly come before my own, I may be amazed what I can do to change my life’s circumstances, my personal skill set, etc.  It is amazing what can be changed when I start to believe that I truly want it!  Maybe it’s time to honestly take a look at what you could do to benefit a child who is waiting for a family.  How could you change your life to best meet their needs instead of worrying how they will fit into your already busy, full life?  What changes do you need to make to your time, your budget, your home and your family?

Do you need to cut out some extracurricular activities or entertainment that is taking up time and money?

Do you need to move to a new neighbourhood or buy a larger home?

Do you need to clean out your spare bedroom or junk closet to create space in your home?

Do you need to volunteer somewhere or take some courses to gain a skill set you are missing?

Do you need to do some research on a specific special need?

Do you need to pray for a heart of compassion for a certain group of people, social issue or special need?

MYTH #3

I CAN’T CHOOSE WHO I WILL LOVE.

So in all this choosing…where is the romance?

Where is the moment where I fall in love with my child or my heart skips a beat as I stare at the profile of a beautiful child?

What about all the stories of those people who just ‘knew’ from the moment they laid eyes on their child that this was the ‘one’ for them?

“I want that!”

Yes.

I know.

Me too.

But the reality is…that doesn’t always happen.

Again, we live in a world and culture where we are so bombarded with selfish messages we don’t even realize how much they’ve permeated our worldview.

You will fall in love with your child…but it probably won’t be right away and the ‘falling in love’ is a mere feeling.

Real love, constant love, forever love…that is made up of much more than emotion.  That is made up of choices.  Daily choices.

You can choose who you will love.

You can choose to love.

The feelings will catch up when you put what you know to be true and right into action.

Just like a marriage, adoption will have it’s romance, it’s drama, it’s cloud 9.  But it will also have it’s struggles, pain and irritations.

Love is a choice.

MYTH #4

IF IT’S RIGHT I WILL HAVE PEACE ABOUT IT.

“I just don’t feel peace about it.”

While I completely understand where this comes from…I think at times we as Christians sling this word ‘peace’ around without any idea what we are really saying.  True peace does not depend on our circumstances and it is not something we can acquire by following a list of steps.  Peace is a gift from God that has given to us when we choose to place ourselves, including all our worries, doubts and fears, into His sovereign hand.  

Peace comes after true heart surrender and steps of faith.

What’s important to distinguish here is that what is RIGHT will not always result in a feeling of peace, contentment, or comfort.  In fact…often the right thing is not easy at all and may put you in a place of struggle emotionally and spiritually.  The Bible promises us that if we follow the example of Jesus our lives will not be easy, comfortable or ‘peaceful’ in the sense that we often think of it.  Doing what is right often requires much sacrifice!  

Just because something is hard does not mean it is not right.    

If we are to use this word ‘peace’ to govern our decision making we must first recognize the true meaning and origin of this peace.

Instead of using our emotions and a sense of ‘rightness’ as our guide, we must go to the scriptures.  I believe as Christians we spend a lot of time praying and asking for God’s guidance in areas that He has already given us more than adequate insight into through the Word.

Go back to the Bible.

What does it teach about orphans, the vulnerable and the marginalized?

What part are we as believers supposed to play, and at what cost?

If you are currently in the middle of wading through the list of special needs, trying to check yes or no or maybe and wondering what your future holds, know that I have been there and understand how hard it is!  You are the only one who can know what God is asking of you, which makes this a very personal journey.  I hope this blog has been encouraging to you, most of all.

My intention is not to give anyone the impression that this decision should be made rashly or lightly.  But I hope I’ve also challenged those of you who may have wrongly put yourself in the middle of this decision.

I say this as the mother of two girls who spent spent over two years waiting for an adoptive home and were labelled as ‘hard to place’ children.  Many families looked at their adoption profiles and eventually backed out, feeling they were ‘too much’ or ‘too old’ or ‘too scary.’

I say this as an adoption advocate who has seen the faces of hundreds of children waiting for a family to see beyond the pain, brokenness and despair they carry with them each day.

I say this as a discouraged Jesus follower who has had too many conversations with fellow Believers that are all about the adults, all about what makes sense, all about what makes us feel normal or comfortable or happy.

When people ask about our adoption process, it’s hard to know what to say.  Do I talk about how it took a year to complete our homestudy and then almost another full year before placement?  Do I talk about all the paperwork, the classes, the search for the child who would be ours?

See…usually what they want to hear is about me…

but what I really want to say

is that it started long before I walked into the CAS office.

Our adoption story is not just about me and my husband’s journey.

It’s really about my girls.

It’s about the weeks my youngest daughter spent in the hospital as an infant, alone and struggling to survive.  It’s about the constant movement she experienced from home, to home, to home, to home.  It’s about the seven long years my older daughter spent in foster care…not knowing what her future would hold or if she’d ever see her birth family again.  It’s about the tearing apart of families that loved each other.  It’s about the struggle to trust, to cope, to thrive.

 It’s about God bringing four people together and making them a family.

 Not built on biology, but on love.

AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask for Help

Many families go into foster care with the idea that if they do not perform perfectly as foster parents they will not be allowed to foster.  I can easily see how this happens in a system where there are many rules and regulations that need to be followed.  Certainly there are certain rules that, if not followed, will jeopardize one’s role as a foster parent.  Those are clearly laid out, logical and always related to the safety of the child.

However, there are many foster families that worry, even after spending years involved in the system, that they will be removed from their role for any random misdemeanor.

A messy kitchen floor,

a child throwing tantrums in the office in front of ten social workers,

forgetting an appointment or visitation,

a visit to the emergency room after a child falls off a bike or does some other childlike thing,

and maybe most common of all…having to ask for, or obviously needing,

HELP.

I remember our first foster placement.

I was only 23 years old and I had never been a parent before.  I was reminded of this continually and cautiously all throughout our home study process.  It was not in a superior way, just gentle reminders that encouraged me to be open to advice from those around me who were more experienced than I.

Despite that, the first child placed in my arms and my amateur care was a five week old baby struggling with drug withdrawal symptoms who had spent all his little life so far in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

I didn’t know enough to be intimidated, but I did know I had something to prove.

I would have to earn the respect and trust of the doctors and nurses releasing him into my care from their expert hands, the social workers putting me on duty as “foster parent” for the first time, the birth parents of this tiny child and maybe most of all myself.

That placement only lasted a few short weeks, and I came out proud of the way I had handled it and grateful for the knowledge I had acquired.

However, looking back I know for certain even if I had been in way over my head…a phone call to our social worker would have been the last option on my list, and one that terrified me.

Despite the friendly support, gentle guidance and beginnings of a relationship we’d developed through the home study process, I was sure that if I showed any sign of weakness or incompetence I would be deemed unworthy.  Maybe even worse, in my own mind asking for help meant I was somehow not enough…and I desperately wanted to be enough.

Thankfully, God brought me just what I needed.

A child who broke me.

A child who needed more than I had to offer.

Asking for help was no longer optional…and when I finally did…the relief and support and encouragement I received made me realize how proud I had been.  Where I had ever gotten the idea that I alone could be enough I have no idea.  It takes much more than just one person to raise a child, especially a child who has been through the physical and emotional trauma most of these children have endured.  Though motherhood certainly requires us to take on aspects of many roles in life, we will find ourselves discouraged, disillusioned and burnt out if we try to be all things to these little people.

Through the next few years, I had many opportunities to practice asking for help.  It is getting easier, though I still have to fight against the craving to somehow be everything for my children.

In foster care and adoption, especially, I soon discovered I won trust and respect much more quickly when I was willing to learn and admit my own weaknesses or lack of expertise.

When I demonstrated a heart that was open to new ideas, new methods, outside resources when needed, others’ opinions and yes, even breaks at times…the relationships formed became solid and deep.

Now, our resource worker is a person I go to quickly when I’m feeling overwhelmed or discouraged and I know she will see my heart because she’s had many opportunities to learn it.  I know without a doubt in my mind that if I’m feeling tired or needing a break, if I just come and ask for help she will try her best to supply that need.  I also know that using these resources to help me prevents burn out, frustration and actions that I would end up regretting as a mother.

We are stronger when we admit we are not always enough.  There is much to learn in parenting…especially children who’ve experienced trauma and heartache to the measure these kids have.  But there is also much that can be accomplished when we choose to learn what we can, tap into resources and even change our lifestyle to accommodate special needs.

Ironically, I have found in the world of foster care and adoption admitting I alone am not enough makes me less afraid, not more, of new challenges.  It feels less frightening to take on children with challenges such as extreme behavioral difficulties, medical needs, permanent diagnoses, etc when we remember we will not have to do it all alone.

It takes a village to raise a child,

but as a parent I will need to choose to tap into the village.

So if you are new to foster care or adoption…my best advice to you is this.

You don’t need to be a superhero.  Admit you do not know everything and be willing to listen, learn and grow.

Even if you’ve parented for years, there is much you do not know about the children who are about to enter your care.  I can guarantee it.

Take the courses.  I have taken the same attachment course three times now and still I have so much to learn.  Many of these are available for FREE through your local agency.  Ask your social worker.

Read the books.  There are more and more child psychology books available on topics such as attachment, exposure to drugs and alcohol, poverty, domestic violence, anxiety, mental illnesses, etc.

Ask for help.  Friends, family, your social worker, community counselling services, your church, etc.  Explain what you need clearly and humbly.

Ask for advice and opinions of those who have been there.  If you don’t know anyone, find a group online.

Seek out professionals and research.  Family doctors, paediatricians, child psychologists, resources for speech and language, behavioral therapy, etc.

Don’t try to do it alone.

You will become a trusted, respected and humble foster/adoptive parent only to the degree that you are willing to ask for help.

I want to give a special warning to Christian families involved in foster care and adoption here.

While it is certainly true that the Bible is full of advice for parents, please do not reject the knowledge and wisdom you can gain from professionals and public resources and services.  Just because someone is not a believer does not mean they have no insight into your situation.  Emotional and physical abuse and neglect causes changes in the way a child’s brain functions and develops.  Alcohol and drug exposure will do the same.  The life your child has come from may be one you could not even begin to imagine.  Just as you would seek the advice and research of an expert on other topics, you will need it here.  You would not expect a teacher to use only the Bible as a textbook for Math, Language, the Sciences and Arts.  There is much knowledge to be gathered about the human mind.  The pieces you already know and the ones you learn will all come together to give you a greater insight than you can imagine and a greater ability to parent your child successfully and biblically.  Your child’s heart is at stake.  Do not be so arrogant as to believe you hold all the keys.  We have an opportunity to display God’s heart of humility and gentleness toward the professionals we interact with.  The church will be valued as a resource for these children only if we show a willingness to learn.

More than anything…remember that with God all things are possible.

Believe that, and seek His guidance in all that you do.

Pray for your children and your self.

Pray for wisdom to seek the right resources and help for your child.

Pray also that you will have wisdom and discretion when seeking personal friends and confidantes.  A lot of damage can result from sharing too much information with the wrong people.

Seek out a faith family that will encourage and build up your family physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Find at least  one friend that you can tell ANYTHING.

The best, the worst

the triumphs, the failures.

You do not have to be alone in this.

Ask for help.

AF