Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child (letter #8)

You sat across from me; worry and sorrow dripping from your pores. Your mind wracking with concern. Your heart aching for an answer. You said, “I was told this is how the system works. This is what I should expect.” For a brief moment, I froze in my seat; my own heart plunging into despair. Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, the least comforting words you can hear are “This is how the system works.”

People say that to you, don’t they? They seem to just let it out without a care in the world. In the upside down that you are experiencing, there really are no care-free words. What you walk through each day is far from that.

I refuse to be someone who reminds you of how the system works. I won’t let you feel less validated or that you are in the wrong for having strong emotions. Actually, on the contrary, I welcome your feelings.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, it’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to wonder when you will have to let go or when you can finally rest in permanence. It’s completely well with me for you to be human.

If anyone knows “how the system works”, it is you. Sitting through weeks (maybe even months) of training about how to care for strangers’ children, your own childhood is being explored. Your financial statements are viewed, fingerprints logged, and friends are called upon to give a reference. You are studied over and over again – watching each and every move.

You show up at meetings and speak the truth that needs to be shared – how the stranger’s child you are loving on is doing. Court hearings, therapy sessions, and visits with anyone who is related to the child are just a part of your new normal. Case managers, licensing workers, attorneys and therapists knock at your door. You prep the child for what is to come of the day, wipe away the tears, comfort the wounds, take the wrath of trauma and whisper hope to the Heavens.

As you sit back and listen to everyone discussing a child whose future is unknown, you want so much to voice your opinion and in doing so, you tremble with fear that someone might think you are “sabotaging” this whole thing. You gain the courage to speak but with anticipation of hearing “this is how the system works”.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, you deserve to be heard.

The reality is that you want so very much to see success. You are gutted at the thought of anyone living in despair. If you could, you would wrap the stranger, that has come into your life through a child, and nourish him or her with just enough healing and love to break the cycle and carry on. You desire to do this, even if it means a total loss for you.

There really is no other scenario in life where raw feelings of loss would be met with callous words. Would we say, “well, you knew it was coming”, to someone experiencing the death of a loved one? Gosh, I certainly hope not. Yet, in foster care, this is said a lot. These words do nothing to comfort. They fall flat on anguished hearts.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, don’t forget that while the rest of the world might be judging you, the child you are caring for is growing and changing BECAUSE of you.

It’s okay to get attached – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Without attachment, there is emptiness. On the outside of love, there is stillness. When hope is left out, there is no future. This is how love works. It is unreasonable to expect anything less.

To love a child you may let go, is something that most people would not do. If this were easy, everyone would do it. Sure, all of this may be how the system works, but you know how resilience works, don’t you?

Stay strong, (foster) Momma. Never forget the impact you are making in this world. It has ripples. Those ripples become streams that soon turn into waves. It is more than just a “system”. It is our future.

For you, this is life. This is how you mark your place in the timestamp of history. Your love is changing generations.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, don’t forget that.

Getting Caught Up in Our Own Stories

It is easy to get caught up in our own stories; stories of overcoming something seemingly so strong, so encompassing that it envelopes most of our lives. I’ve been guilty of this with my own story of barrenness. Yet, it took one moment with my child to change my thinking. My story of barrenness will never nullify my children’s stories of adoption.

“Do you know where my Mom is?” I heard this question while driving. I knew what “mom” meant. “No. I don’t but if I did, I would tell you,” I said to my child. “Oh…”. Stillness. No other questions.

As we drove to our destination, the silence was thick. My mind swirled with emotions – wanting to grill my child where this question was coming from. I didn’t, though. Instead, I filled my own head with an internal conversation. “Why does it matter? I’m “mom”. I mean, I KNOW it matters, but I matter as well, right?

Then, the thought hit me,

“Your story of barrenness is not more important than your children’s stories.”

That’s it. A huge pill to swallow. While I believe that a part of my testimony and refinement as a child of God relates directly to barrenness and that there is power in it, I also believe that the script of my life will never supersede the ones belonging to my children. I refuse to dismiss their histories, their need for knowledge, and the grief they feel now or may feel in the future. I refuse to be someone who is constantly getting caught up in my own story.

As an parent through adoption who has overcome barrenness, here are a few things I won’t forget:

  1. I won’t forget that my children have a voice. They have a right to express their feelings about adoption – regardless if it hurts my feelings or causes a measure of doubt and confusion.
  2. I won’t forget that they have histories before coming into my life. Whether that was 9-months in the womb only or a few months in other families, they still have a history that doesn’t include me.
  3. I won’t forget that they may always long for their biological parents. This truth breaks my heart – not because I’m jealous or anything like that. It breaks my heart because I love my children so much and will never know what it is like to be in their shoes.
  4. While illness and subsequent barrenness came like a rushing wind into my life and it took years to find my wings and fly with it, I won’t forget that none of this compares to the sadness and disruption that caused my children to become mine.
  5. I won’t forget that my children are not “door prizes” for infertility and barrenness. I didn’t earn them because of the hardship I endured. They are far more valuable than that and each have their own personalities and struggles. Kids are not meant to be put on pedestals like some kind of trophy – regardless of how long it took or the avenue to which they came into our lives.
  6. I won’t forget that my children are not really mine. I’m just borrowing them for this lifetime. I’ve been given the task of raising them, but honestly, they belong to the Lord. My desire for their lives will never compare to what the Lord desires for them. His will before mine. Can’t forget that.

Sure, the way the Lord weaved the tapestries of our lives with loss, joy, trauma and relief resonates with others. It may even propel people with similar stories to seek healing and resolution. This is all a truth that cannot be denied.

Still, though. When an adoptive parent (like myself) has a story full of pitfalls and long roads, it can seem like our personal narratives have greater value – like we are some kind of broken-hearted saviors for our children. This thinking can be a trap. It can fool us into believing that our struggles have more weight than the struggles of others.

As we make our way through the years (far removed from the days my children were legally declared mine), I’m becoming more fully aware that when we get caught up in our own stories, we miss the evolution and unfolding of the stories around us – sometimes even within our own families.

I don’t want to forget this.

Worth Fighting For {speaking love to children}

Parenting is hard, isn’t it? There are times when you just wish you could step right into your children’s brains and figure out what the heck is going on in there. Your desire is to speak truth to them but sometimes, truth can come out not as loving as you want. If given the opportunity to ‘get it right’ and speak love, worth and truth straight to your child’s heart, I’m sure every single parent would soak that moment right up.

Last night, I unexpectedly had one of those moments. Our kiddo was absolutely NOT willing to do homework. Keep in mind, the work was due Tuesday but this kiddo just kept putting it off. (Thank goodness for a 504 plan that gives a few extra days!) My husband promptly removed the game controllers and iPad from our child.

“NOT FAIR!!” My child yelled and then jumped into bed and covered up completely from head to those sweet toes.

I sat down on the bed next to my child and repeated the words we had already said. “You will get your games back once you do your homework.”

“NO! I want them back now and then I’ll do my homework.”

“Nope, not gonna happen. You do the work first, then you get them back.”

Silence. This kiddo of mine was not backing down, but neither was I. We sat there for about two minutes in total silence. My child remained covered up from head to toe. I closed my eyes and prayed for us both.

My child broke the silence and said, “I want my stuff back.” I repeated, “Not until you get this done.” Now, by this time, I was getting a bit ruffled up in my feathers. It was getting late and I had two other kiddos calling out for food and drinks because kids suddenly become starving and dehydrated once it is bedtime (which is always a fun time).

I found myself getting extremely agitated. Then, all of a sudden, I felt this wave of peace flow over me and I had a vision/remembrance of my child as a little one frolicking around the house. I remembered the feeling of fighting for this one – not literally fighting the foster care team, but fighting for this child through prayer.

My eyes began to well up a bit with tears. I looked at my child and said,

“You are worth the fight.”

Puzzled, my child softened a bit and looked up at me.

I said, “You are worth fighting for. You are deeply loved. You are capable. I know you struggle with paying attention but I also know that you can do this. You have a purpose. You might think that Dad and I are fighting you, but we are fighting FOR you. We are not going to stand by and let you choose to fail or cheat yourself out of what you deserve and are able to do. You can get mad all you want, but you were always worth fighting for and you will always be worth fighting for. You have a choice right now. You can either stay mad, not do the work and not get your things back, or I can sit with you while you do the work. Your choice, but just know that Dad and I will always fight FOR you.”

My child sat there for a moment and then softly said, “Sit with me.” I watched as my child finished up the work and the night ended peacefully. As I got into bed, I had such a sense of calm mixed in with parental accomplishment. The choice to let go of my angst about the whole situation and speak truth and love into it was God-given grace over us both.

Jesus tells us this every single day. The Word speaks love into our lives every time we read it. We lose that feeling during times of hardship. We forget that in Christ, we are enough. We don’t visit the Cross enough to remember how He fought for us, but the Lord continues to pursue us because He sees our worth and yearns to speak love into us.


I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well
. (Psalm 139:14)

Just like we have to be reminded that we are worth fighting for, so do our children – especially when times are tough. Next time you are in a heated battle over homework or anything else that can cause conflict, take a step back, inhale a deep breath and speak love and truth into your child’s heart.

Momma-in-Waiting {at Christmas time}

pexels-photo-76931Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  Christmas is all around us, isn’t it?  You overhear your co-workers talk about the sweet surprises for their kiddos.  You are forced to look at picture after picture of your friend’s little one’s first Santa visit.  It’s not that you don’t think the images are cute or that you don’t want to see them.  It’s just that it hurts…really hurts.

Christmas morning in most houses is filled with chaos, giggling children, and mounds of bows and wrapping paper.  Weary parents get up at the crack of dawn to watch their children excitedly rip open that special gift from Santa.  Christmas morning at your home is a little different, though.  You get up whenever you desire and exchange presents with your spouse or anyone else staying the night.  It’s quiet and calm and in that stillness, your heart plunges to a depth a lot of people just don’t understand.  Your mind races with the same questions you’ve cried out for way too long…

Why is this happening?  When will it end?  What is wrong with me?  What if I never become a mother?  What if every Christmas is this quiet?

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  My own house is now filled with chaos at Christmas.  I hear my giggling children and clean up mounds of bows and paper.  I watch as the kids rush to the tree to see what Santa brought.  I wish I could tell you that it’s not that big of a deal and you’re not missing much, but that would be a lie.  You know it and so do I.

It’s a little ironic, isn’t it?  We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas; yet, you are wailing, wanting, and desperate to celebrate your own miracle; your own gift to the world.  You are waiting to celebrate the birth of your baby.  I don’t really know what to say except I was once where you are and I know that it is miserable.  I knew I could never birth a child but I did not know if I would ever be a parent.  It is so incredibly hard.  It’s one of the worst pains any human can experience on Earth.  I believe that.  I really do.

From Hannah and on, barrenness is noteworthy.  If it wasn’t, then I suspect it would not even be mentioned in Scripture.  People tell you, “God has a plan for you.”  They say, “If it’s God’s will, then it will happen.”  Do you want to know something?  I loathed those words.  I could not stand them.  I despised every single time they were said to me (and they were said more times than I can count).

Only now, after adoption and actually being a Momma-no-longer-in-Waiting, can I say that I “get it”.  I understand that the Lord did have a plan and adoption was His will for my life.  Yet, this knowledge does not erase the pain that I felt nor does it wipe my memory clean of my existence when I was a Momma-in-Waiting.

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  Christmas is hard but so is just about every day when your steps are padded in confusion.  If there is one gift I can give to you this Christmas, it is this – your feelings are valid, your frustration is justifiable and your grief is not lost on those of us who have been there or who are there right now.

At this Christmas and every single day after, I want you to know that even though it feels like it, God has not forsaken you.  He never will.  Even though you do not feel His presence, He is there.  He is near you when test after test shows a negative, or when your doctor tells you news that you just don’t want to hear.  God is with you when you are lonely, tired and weeping the most sorrowful, thick tears ever imaginable.

Perhaps, Momma-in-Waiting, this is the best gift I can give you; the hope of the Lord.  

Be strong.  Be fierce.  Be courageous.  Don’t let anyone stifle your feelings or your voice.  Keep talking about infertility.  Keep asking questions and all of those other laborious things you need to do when you are meeting with doctors.  Don’t let others tell you how to navigate this journey for it is your own.

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child who changed the world.  Today, Momma-in-Waiting, I’m thinking of you and I believe that the very baby born so long ago is thinking of you as well.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. – Isaiah 41:13

 

Author’s Note:  I originally wrote this post in 2017.  Typically, I do not repeat posts that I have already published.  However, this is one that I hope will reach those who need some extra encouragement this time of year.  Blessings, Caroline

In Need of Grace {a letter from my child}

“The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.” Russel Barkley

I think of this quote when parenting my kids.  It is a great reminder when I’m struggling to manage the problems and issues we often face.  I have also thought of it when considering my own actions.

Sometimes, I’m not easy to love.  I absolutely admit that I can be a bit of a grouch at times.  I can put expectations on my kids that are probably too high for their level of functioning.  My feelings get hurt, I lose my temper, and I struggle showing grace – even when I am the one who probably needs it the most.

Last week at a doctor’s appointment for a recent back injury, my doctor asked me how things are going with the kids.  I sat for a minute and thought, “Do I tell him the truth that life is hard or do I grin and say things are going fine?”  The word “fine” has become the one I use when things really aren’t that fine.  It gives a simple response to questions that I don’t want to unpack.

As much as I tried to keep it in, I couldn’t.  The tears ran down my face as I explained the issues we are having and how I have been feeling and failing, lately.  The funny thing (actually, not that funny) is when you are told “maybe tomorrow will be better”, deep down you know that it probably won’t be.  Instead of offering a rallying cry to me, my doctor let me cry.  Soon, he brought in a counselor they have on staff and she also just let me cry.  It felt good to release it.  I should probably do that more often.

Fast forward a few days from this appointment to my birthday (yes, I just turned another year older).  My children were having a rough night.  I’ve learned not to expect nights without behaviors – even on special occasions.  As I opened my gifts, one of my children handed me a letter…

Dear Mom,

Thank you for sooo much for being graceful, and loving to me and for adopting me and helping me up when I’m hurt, cheering me up when I’m sad and you love me no matter what I do.  Thank you for being my mom for the best years of my life.

Did you read that?

Graceful.

Loving.

Helping.

Cheering.

Best years of my life.

I cried as I read it and looked at my child.  Soon, this child’s eyes were welling up as I opened up my arms for a big hug.  I will hang on to this letter.  I will read it over and over again during the good times and the bad.

It is hard to explain what it is like to raise children who struggle with lots of things – mental health, academics, behavioral issues, etc.  From the outside, my kids look perfect.  Their outside appearances do not match what is going on internally.  Because of this, there are false perceptions made about all of us.

Having been down a bit from the past few weeks of challenges, I have been in need of a lot of grace.  I have wondered in desperation if I was equipped to handle the arrows aimed in my direction and at my children.  I have questioned if there will ever be a relief or a miracle or something that proves the heartaches and hardships will make sense one day.

Through a child’s words, I was offered that grace.  It spoke straight to the heart.  I was given the gift of encouragement and a glimpse into why it is so important to keep going.  I was reminded of the need to offer grace, the feeling of being loved, the importance of helping and encouragement, and that (often) we parents are our children’s entire worlds.  My child’s letter thanking me for the grace I have shown actually provided me with the grace I have searched for, lately.  What a powerful moment it was.

Although my child wrote the letter, I see God’s hand all over it.  I hear Him saying, “There you go…there you go.  See?  I told you it is worth it.  You do matter.  Your children matter.  You may not see it every day, but your children do and so do I.”  

Parents of children with extra needs, moments like the one I experienced reading my child’s letter may not come around very often.  I know this.  You know this, as well.  We find ourselves not only managing the typical antics and activities of childhood, but also managing the extra stuff; the kind that yearns to siphon whatever energy or hope we have left at the end of the day.  Some days, it isn’t very much, is it?

We have to remember that we are making a difference even if we don’t see the results immediately.  We must believe that even though a miracle may not occur, our actions, stability, support and love are miraculous to our children.  It is okay to admit our failures.  It is totally acceptable to dwell in the knowledge that we are desperate for a measure of grace on any given day.

Keep going.  Keep the faith.  Even if you think no one is noticing, remember that your children are.

So is the Lord.

Praise Him for that.

 

Not a Burden (a little note on the adoption anniversary of our youngest son)

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope your day was filled with family, food and friendship.
 
A few nights ago, our oldest two kiddos were just not into it (meaning getting along, playing nice, communicating with us, etc). My awesome husband suggested I take our youngest son out to eat and that he would hold down the fort with our two older, cranky kids.
 
As my young son and I scarfed down our meal, I delighted in his whimsy. He is quite the character, says the most random things and dreams of being a rock star one day (insert my fear of him living in our basement as an adult). 
 
Anyway!! As I sat and listened to him, I realized how lucky we are to have him as our son. We hadn’t planned on adopting again but life throw us a curve ball and we chose to take the pitch. We hit the ball out of the park with this kid. I’m so glad we did.
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Five years ago today, our adoption was finalized. As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we are thankful for being his parents. Children are a blessing, not a burden (even on the hard days).
 
P.S. I’m totally fine with him being a rock star one day as long as he can pay his own bills…
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Keep It Real {things I wish I heard prior to adoption}

As a parent to kiddos adopted out of difficult situations, here are the things I totally wish someone would have said to me prior to adoption:

1) It’s not gonna feel good all of the time.
2) Nurture is awesome, but genetics are huge.
3) You might have days where you wished you had made a different decision. (don’t guilt yourself about it)
4) Raising children with extra needs causes you to live life around a schedule of medicines, appointments, triggers, and other issues.
5) It does hurt when you are told that you are not their “real parent”. (even though you pretend it doesn’t)
6) Fear causes you to overthink…a lot.
7) There will be things that come up in your child’s life that you never had to deal with.
8) Don’t compare your own upbringing or the way you were as a child to what you expect or wish of your child.
9) Adoptive parenting can be very lonely and isolating.
10) Don’t underestimate your voice in all of it.
11) Never underestimate your child’s voice in all of it.
12) Get used to advocacy. It will become one of your best assets.
13) Adoption = loss. It just does.

I never want to paint a rosy or perfect picture of adoption – not even during National Adoption Month. Instead, I want others to know that while adoption is incredible and totally life-changing, it is also hard.

In order for us (people who work and live life within the realm of adoption) to make a difference, we need to take off our rose-colored glasses. We need to tell it like it is. We have to understand that adoption is wonderful but also challenging. The gavel’s declaration of adoption does not mean that hard stuff ends. If anything, it is just beginning.

For any of you who are parents through adoption and are struggling, I see you. I get it. I am right there with you.

Keep your chin up. Keep it real.

5 Things I Would Tell My “(pre)Adoptive Mother Self”

November is National Adoption Month in the US.  We set aside this month to focus on adoption stories as well as the plight of many children waiting for families.  I’ve been an “official” adoptive parent now for a little over ten years.  We’ve stretched out of our comfort zone, dealt with issues that we never thought we would face, and we’ve laughed…a lot.

Even on the hardest days – the ones where we have really struggled – my husband and I do not regret our decision to adopt our children.  We would have missed so many precious moments.

Ones like this, 20180607_144153_Film1 (1)

Or, this one…

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Thinking back to my “(pre)adoptive mother self”, I totally wish I could say that I was 100% prepared for parenting – not just parenting in general, but adoptive parenting.  I know that there are many similarities, but I also know there are many differences.

If could go back, here are a few things I would tell myself:

  1. When the gavel falls and adoption is declared, that is when the real work begins.  Meaning, adoption can get much harder.  Sure, there are difficulties getting to the place where you are on the eve of adoption, but oh boy, all of the trials we experienced during that time seem kind of trivial compared to some of the issues we now face on any given day.
  2. Don’t take it personally.  There is a special kind of guilt that seems to tag along with adoptive parenting.  It is hard to not take things personally when you witness your child struggling or when your child says things to you that take your breath away (I’m not talking about the sweet statements, although there has been some of those).  When you work tirelessly advocating for and managing your child’s life to the point of not being able to capture just a glimpse of forward movement, it is hard to not take it personally.  Just don’t.  Or, at least, try not to.
  3. Listen.  Like, REALLY listen to others who have walked in the shoes you are about to walk in.  Learn what you can about trauma (in the womb and out).  Be prepared to have a host of professionals in your life (doctors, specialists, teachers, therapists, etc).  Definitely advocate and ask questions but also choose to listen and learn.  It will serve you well.
  4. It is not going to feel good all of the time.  The reality is that parenting (of any type) can break your heart from time-to-time.  With adoptive parenting, the things that break your heart tend to be ones that you really do not fully comprehend and certainly cannot control.  I’m talking about genetic issues that come into play as the years go on.  I’m speaking of the damage done in the womb that is hard to explain to someone.  I’m thinking of the challenges that you never faced growing up but now dwell in your home because your children face them.  Nope.  It does not feel good all of the time.
  5. No matter what, don’t give up and don’t you dare second-guess your importance in the life of your children.  Don’t do it.  Never do it.  Your kids need you.  They don’t need another set of parents to not come through.  It will get rough.  You will think, “Am I really being the best parent I can be?  What if I didn’t answer that question the way my child needed me to?  Maybe, I’m the problem?  What if I tried a little harder?”  These questions have circulated in my mind a lot through the years.  They are made up of guilt mixed in with a sliver of grief.  Just don’t go there.

Looking back to my “(pre)adoptive mother self”, I totally thought I was prepared for all of this.  I thought I had a grasp of trauma-informed parenting, adoption issues, loss and grief, and a whole host of behavioral issues.  I totally was not.  I can’t even pretend that I was.

Yet, would I do it all again?  Absolutely.

Can I imagine a life without my children?  No way.

Without (foster parenting) and adoption, I could have missed this:

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Tomorrow is a New Day {parenting kids who struggle}

2kpjzs

We walked into the parent-teacher conference today and were greeted with a sweet hello. Soon after, their faces turned grim.

“Has (this child) always been withdrawn?”

“Has (this child) struggled before?”

My husband and I did our best to answer their questions. To be honest, I felt like I was on the defensive. It was awkward. Most of all, it broke my heart. We didn’t have the same challenges that our kids do. We both did well in school, had friends and were active in various sports, etc. I’m sure our parents never had the type of parent-teacher conference that we had.

“It might be best to talk to (child’s) doctor about medication changes.”

“(This child) cannot make eye contact.”

“The issues you are describing can be a much bigger issue than what is known. You really need to talk to the doctor.”

“Has your child always struggled with interacting with others and with grades?”

As a parent to children who struggle, it takes a lot of restraint to NOT scream: “This is NOT all my child is about! My child is kind, wants to help others, and loves (his/her) family!!!”

However, at the end of the day, my husband and I know that our children must fit into this world. The world is not going to fit around them. And, to be honest, that sucks. There, I said it.

The misconception that “if you get a child as an infant, then the child will be okay“, just needs to stop. We got our children as babies. We tended to their needs. We celebrated their milestones and giggled at their curiosities. We did the best we could; like most parents do.

While all that helps, it does not (always) erase the problems that some children have. Instead, my husband and I must do the best we can…at this time…given the circumstances that present themselves.

To be honest, today was just a sad day for me. I wish I could just snap my fingers and all of these Earthly challenges would evaporate. I so wish I could exchange my children’s struggles for my own successes – to give them a life without diagnoses, social challenges and academic strife. Yet, in all of this…in all the daily junk…I know full well that the Lord has given me the exact children I am meant to parent. I know this, even on the hard days.

Parenting looks a whole lot different that I visualized it to be. My husband and I wonder what it would be like to be able to go out in the evening with our kids and not worry about meltdowns. We think about going to parent-teacher conferences and hearing, “You child is just the best student ever.” We long for our children to be given certificates and acknowledgments for being ‘good’. Yet, we also know that this is not the parenting journey that we are on. For me, my faith in Christ is what keeps me going. I know that Jesus hasn’t brought us this far to drop us on our heads. (My friend used to tell me this all of the time.) I believe it.

Today was rough. It’s not like any day is easy. The one hope that a parent with a child who struggles has is for their child to be understood and to have a life-changing breakthrough. When this doesn’t seem to be happening, it can surely dampen the situation, but it can never distinguish the power of parents whose entire world exists to create a better place for their children.

If you know a parent of a child who struggles, the best thing you can do is understand them, love on them and support them. Be a non-judgmental ear for them to pour their angst into. They know you can’t fix the issue, but they also know that just having someone who listens to them is vital. Let them cry to you. Allow them to tell you their story – even if they have to do it time and again.

If you are a parent of a child who struggles, please know that you are not alone. Seek out people who will listen to you. Don’t give up.

Tomorrow is a new day.

 

 

the “broken” system {it’s been one of those days}

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His information came to me in an email.  I opened it up, read the narrative, clicked on a video and my heart sank.  The 9-year old, Harry Potter look-a-like little boy, who my husband and I met at a birthday party over the summer, is in need of a family.

“Watch me do this!”, he said to my husband.  He giggled and played and just soaked up my husband’s attention.  We were there for another boy who was in foster care and now has his forever family.  We met this little guy by chance.

I called my husband and said, “Remember that little boy at the birthday party?  The one with the glasses?”  My husband knew immediately who I was talking about.  “He needs an adoptive family.  He absolutely adored you.”

“You are making me sad.  It’s just one of those days”, my husband said.

My husband also works in child welfare.  “One of those days” is a phrase that we have often said to each other.  I wish I could give you an exact count of the number of profiles of children in need of an adoptive family that I’ve read through the years.  A profile is a synopsis about a child in need of adoption.  One part of my job is to send out adoption profiles to my staff who, in turn, send them out to foster and adoptive families.

It breaks my heart to see repeat profiles – ones of kids whose profile is sent out multiple times in hopes of just one family that might show interest.  The majority of these kids are over the age of five, have significant trauma, and are a handful, to say the least.  However, behind their age, their behaviors and their histories, they are children.  They play dress-up.  They love Lego’s.  They still believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.

They yearn for a Mommy and Daddy who won’t leave.

I have worked in child welfare for over seventeen years now and I still fight back tears when I fully ponder what is going on with children.  I get angry.  I threaten to walk away.  I fight cynicism.  Yet, I remain.

Having worked in the system for so long, I have heard “the system is broken” more times than I can count.  Yes, there are many things about the system that needs to be fixed.  Yes, we have a lot of work to do.  I agree with all of this.  However, when I sign people up for foster care classes knowing that they really just want a baby or I see profiles of kids in need of a family sent out over and over again, I find myself wondering if it really is the system that is broken, or if it is just us.  Maybe what is broken is our perception of child abuse and neglect, our vision of how good we think adoption should feel and our systematic way of turning our heads away from the problems at hand.  It’s easy for us to say, “Someone will step up or someone might adopt that child.”  It’s much harder for us to say, “We will step up.  We will adopt that child.”

First, let me state that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to foster a baby.  My husband and I did this and we are glad that we did.  We got to experience the precious love of babies.  We watched them as they walked for the first time, called us “Mommy and Daddy” and began to explore the world.  We were also blessed to be able to adopt them.

Now that my kids are older and I walk every day in the struggles of their lives, I recognize that if they were in need of an adoptive home right now, their chances of getting adopted would be slim.  That reality breaks my heart.

Is the system broken?  Sure, in some way it is.  Are we broken?  Yes.  I wish that every single child and youth in need of a permanent family would find one.  I wish that more people would step up and say “yes”.  I so wish that people understood trauma better, age didn’t make a difference, adoption was understood as being hard and not rosy, and that each kid was given a chance at experiencing what it truly means to belong.

If we want to fix the broken system, then we need to take a hard look at our expectations and desires.  The kids in it are not perfect (no kid is).  They have experienced things that a lot of us haven’t.  Their brains have literally been changed by trauma (scientific fact).  They can’t change overnight.  They can’t undo what’s been done to them.  They cope the best they can.  They are often in survival mode.  They may not even realize any of this.  We can, though.

We can accept non-perfect kids.  We can learn how trauma changes the brain.  We can change our expectations of adoption.  We can empathize with children who have been forgotten and given back by too many people who promised forever.

We can understand that it won’t feel good all of the time and that a child’s history matters, but their futures matter more.

Their futures matter more.

I don’t believe for one second that God intends for children to be without families; not for one minute.  This is why after all of these years I still have days like this.  I know that Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to seek out the one.  I pray that we do this as well.  I still have hope, though.  I know that nothing is impossible and as long as there are children who need families, there are those of us who wake up day in and day out and do our best to end the scourge of abuse, neglect and children without families.

It’s been one of those days, but it will pass…until it happens again.