Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Adoptive Parent?

I was recently tasked with the assignment of writing an article for Adoption.com regarding “what it takes to be an adoptive parent”.  At first, I was not quite sure what to write.  What DOES it take to be an adoptive parent?  What does it take to be any kind of parent, really?

As I thought more and more about this subject, I rested on a few themes: patience, understanding of systems, strong emotions, humor, comfort, perfection, rejection, resilience, “issues”, and the meaning of adoption in each of our lives.  Sure, some of these things may be important for any type of parenting.  The reality is that they are especially important for adoptive families.

Here’s a link to my article on this subject: Do You Have What It Takes to be an Adoptive Parent?

If you have any other ideas of what it takes to be an adoptive parent, I’d love to hear them!

Blessings,

Caroline

Foster Kids Are Not Unwanted Kids {Adoption.com Article}

Foster Care Awareness month has come and gone but the need for a better understanding of the foster care system, and the children in it, never goes away. There are lots of misperceptions and myths circling around about kids in the foster care system; troubled, unwanted.

While some kids in the system struggle with emotional and behavioral issues (given the impact of trauma on a developing child), it is extremely rare to find a foster child that is not wanted by someone. Here’s the link to an article I wrote about this subject:  Foster Kids are not Unwanted Kids

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject!

Blessings,

Caroline

Why We Don’t Celebrate Adoption Anniversaries as “Gotcha Day”

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Adoption anniversaries are widely known as “Gotcha Day”; however, my husband and I made a decision very early on in our foster care and adoption journey to not use this term when celebrating our adoption anniversaries.

Before I go any further, I do want to say that I don’t judge others who use the term “Gotcha Day”.  Not at all.  Every adoptive family is unique and chooses to celebrate or not celebrate their adoption days in their own way.  For our children’s life experiences and the reasons they came into our lives, the notion of “gotcha” has never settled right on our hearts.

According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word gotcha means an unexpected usually disconcerting challenge, revelation, or catch; also:  an attempt to embarrass, expose or disgrace someone (such as a politician) with a gotcha.  Think about the times we have played a joke on people and then said, “Gotcha!”  While this word is often used with fun, the actual meaning is more serious.

“Gotcha Day” is very popular and commonly used by a lot of adoptive families.  It has also sparked debates both within and outside of the adoption community regarding the insensitivity of it and the overall meaning.  I don’t want to get into the societal views of this but I would like to explain why we have chosen not to use this phrase.

From the very start of each our children’s lives after birth, there was heartbreak and loss.  Our children were not able to live with their biological parents and it was not by choice.  Our children’s biological parents did not make a plan for adoption.  They did not set out to find a family for their babies, nor did they expect to lose them.  It is true that two of our birth mothers made the decision to voluntarily terminate their rights but we know that this decision was desperately saddening and very difficult.  To be completely correct, while they voluntarily signed, there really was not a lot of choice in the matter.

Circumstances of life led them down the path that they were forced to walk on and that path included a life without their children.  This is not a cause for celebration nor is it something to take lightly or in fun.  This is why we don’t say “Gotcha!” when referring to our children’s adoptions, nor do we say, “Happy Gotcha Day!” to others who are celebrating.

We acknowledge the anniversaries of our adoptions with a cake, a balloon and by calling it “First Name, Last Name Day”.  For example, mine would be called “Caroline Bailey Day”.  We want our children to know that the day we adopted them is so very meaningful and that they are a gift in our lives.  Honestly, each of our adoption days has been the most joyful ones in our lives, yet, my husband and I also recognize that as the years pass and we witness the unfolding of these little human’s lives, their biological parents do not get to experience this.

It’s in this recognition that joy and sadness sit side-by-side.

Having been a part of the adoption community both professionally and personally, I have witnessed so many precious moments of families whose lives have been touched by adoption.  It has been an incredible privilege to play just a small part in this.  I have also sat with biological mothers who were deeply troubled and trying to navigate life within the decision to make a plan for adoption or trying to mend the reasons their children entered into foster care.  Folks, there is nothing more humbling than this.

To listen to a grieving mother who is acknowledging that she wants to do what is best and safest for her soon-to-be-born baby or choosing to essentially give up and let her child stay with his or her foster parents or be placed in an adoptive home is by far, one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in child welfare work.  While the children may be able to grow up in a safer home or with parents who can provide more opportunities in life, these biological mothers will live with this loss for the rest of their lives, and their children will as well.

Our own children’s biological mothers live with loss.  Even though we’ve tried to soften the blow a little bit and answer as many questions as we can with our children, my husband and I know that we will never replace who their biological parents are or what life would have been like for them to grow up in within their immediate family of origin.

Recognizing all of this and saying “gotcha” when it comes to adoption just doesn’t sit well in my soul.  

It never has.

I suspect it never will.

 

 

 

 

 

Fostering/Adopting a Child Who Comes from an Abusive Home {Adoption.com article}

Hello there, friends!

If you have considered fostering or adopting but you are unsure about bringing children who have experienced abuse or neglect into your home, here’s an article I wrote regarding this very topic: Fostering/Adopting a Child Who Comes from an Abusive Home

I’m away on vacation with my family for this week, but as always, if you have questions feel free to use my Contact Me page and I’ll be more than happy to respond to your queries and concerns.

Blessings,

Caroline

3,285 days

Today marks the anniversary of the adoption of our oldest son.  It has been 3,285 days since the gavel of the Judge slammed down and our oldest son was declared as our legal and forever son; 3,285 days since I turned around and saw the tear-filled eyes of so many friends and family members watching our family become official, since I was able to fully exhale for the first time, and since all of us could truly visualize a future that included the little guy we had all fallen in love with.

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Little cutie in his adoption outfit

We were just four months shy of the two-year mark of him being in our home when our adoption was granted.  Some people have said, “Two years!  I can’t imagine not knowing what will happen for that long.”  Honestly, we feel pretty fortunate that it was only twenty months.  We know cases that have lasted a lot longer with so much more risk involved.  We don’t regret those twenty months.  Instead, we are thankful for them.

20170507_151237During the twenty months of fostering him, we grew closer, more faithful and walked in the witness of the hardship of others.  Words barely give justice for what it is like to completely put your heart out there for another little soul to whom you may or may not spend the rest of your life with.

We were not braver than others.  We just knew that we had to finish the race we had started without knowing what the finish line would look like.

It has been 3,285 days since the last time I looked in his soft, brown eyes and wondered how long I would call myself his mommy; 3,285 days since I was declared his forever mom.

Three thousand, two hundred and eighty-five days since he became our son.

Love you bigger than outer space.  Love you, forever.

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Best big brother

 

 

 

Taking Care of Roots {a little lesson with my daughter}

My daughter came home from school this past week and said, “Mom, we played foster care at school today.”  She then said, “I was the foster child and I had two moms.”  I told her that sounded fun and interesting.  We went on with the rest of the day and she didn’t mention it again.

I thought about this conversation the remainder of the week.  My daughter is very smart, willful and can be extremely challenging.  She walks to the beat of her own drum and is fierce in so many ways.  However, it seems that the older she gets, the more she thinks, questions, and talks about being adopted (even in non-direct ways), and the more concerned I am about her sense of self-worth and identity.

During our foster parent training, one of the videos we watched showed a foster mom and her foster daughter planting flowers together.  Although a bit cheesy and scripted, the point was made that using things like gardening or other activities is a great way to connect with children.

20170415_130021Yesterday, as my daughter and I were planting flowers, I took a look at her little hands digging in the dirt, remembered the scene in the foster parent training video and thought, “If I get an opportunity, take it.”  As I lifted the flowers out of their containers to transplant them, I grabbed the root bed and held on firmly.  I said to my daughter, “You know, the roots are really the most important part of flowers.  Even if you transplant them from one place to the other, as long as the roots are taken care of, the flowers should grow just fine.  If you don’t take care of the roots or feed, water and help them to be stable, the flowers won’t do very well.”

My daughter said, “Kinda like if a baby tiger is taken away from its mother and no one takes care of it, it will die.”  I said, “Kinda unless another tiger family takes it in and takes care of it and gives it ‘roots’ to grow, then it should be just fine.”  As my daughter plunged her hands into the dirt, she said, “I didn’t know my birth mom, right?”  I said, “Well, you were a newborn, so no, I don’t think you would remember her.”  She then said, “Yeah, but you got me and take care of me now.”  I said, “Yes, it’s kinda like taking care of flowers.  Even though we are transplanting these flowers, as long as we give them what they need, they will be just fine.  The same goes for you.  You came to us and we are your family.  Families give us roots to grow.”

We spent the next few hours digging in the soil, planting flowers and just talking.  I watched as she carefully watered and tended to them.  I’m not quite sure if this conversation will actually make a difference in her life, but I do believe that intentional parenting, backed up with nurturing and honesty, will give her and my other children the best chance they have to navigate this world and their place in it.  Most importantly, I deeply hope that it will help them understand that being adopted is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

If you have a child from another mother’s womb, it is important to not be scared of answering questions as they come.  Think outside of the box.  Take moments such as the one I described to connect with your children.  You don’t need to come up with elaborate plans or ideas.  Just be authentic, in the moment, honest and insightful.

Just as we tended to the roots of our flowers, my hope that is that the roots of all children will be met with nourishment, stability, and love.

 

Let Your Heart Speak

It was a particularly rough day at our home. One of my kids struggled ALL DAY with making poor choices, being rude, etc. After a long night, my child said, “I bet you wish you didn’t even adopt me. I bet you wish I was just dead.” I took a breath, thought for a minute, looked at this precious little soul, and then said, “No. If something happened to you, I would miss you every single day for the rest of my life.”

My child collapsed into my arms, crying, and said, “That is the kindest thing I’ve ever heard.” We spent some time crying together and reassuring each other that we are okay, we love each other, and that I (and daddy) are so thankful to have been given the gift of adoption.

A few things come to mind regarding this experience. If you plan on building your family through adoption, please understand that your child(ren) might say things like this. This particular child of mine has been with us since infancy; still, yet, we find ourselves always having to show reassurance through our actions and words. It can be typical for a child who has been adopted to consider his or her “status” in the family. Don’t fear it. Just understand that it can happen.

It can be really hard to fall into the habit of parenting that is too regimented and scripted. I’ve been to lots of training regarding behavioral issues/special needs and I have taught them as well. However, when in the moment, it is hard to remember what is the right and most appropriate response to take.

It is recommended (at times) to hold your ground and be direct with your expectation, but in the moment I described above, I decided to let my heart speak.  My child’s words seemed to be about something more than being angry for some trivial issue. Instead of giving a consequence for the behaviors that preceded the statement, I chose to reveal a truth to my child, and I could tell that my words were unexpected, yet perfect for the moment.

Looking at my child in that desperate state and hearing my child’s words that tended to originate from a place of not feeling secure and good, I was able to see more clearly the power of grace. When I’ve said to God, “You’ve just forgotten about me. You don’t even care. I wonder if I was even worth being created”, I know that He has responded with, “You are loved. You are special. You are unique. You have worth. You mean something.” If I desire this response from God and all the grace that comes from Him, then how in the world would I not want to dish it out to my children or give them the response they need?

There is something pretty powerful when we choose to parent from the place of grace. It can be so hard, though. When the kids are acting up, embarrassing us, or saying mean things, the natural instinct is to defend oneself or give a directive. I’m learning that being an imperfect parent is okay. Not having the right or more disciplined response is okay. I’m trying to allow my heart to speak more, instead of letting my frustration be the author of my words. At the end of the day, when the years have come and gone, I know there will be a lot of regrets and thoughts of “I should have been better”, but I also know that my children will have no doubt that I deeply love them.

If you are building your family through adoption, my advice for you is this:  You will feel judged by others. You will be asked far too many personal questions about your child and your parenting style. You will not feel capable of handling strong emotions from your child. You might question what the heck you are doing and if you are just messing your kids up. You could face lots of obstacles and deal with issues and needs that you did not face as a child. Yet, despite all of this, if you stick to resilience and stand firm in the belief that YOU are exactly the parent that your child was meant to have and needs (however messy it is), then you will be okay.

Let your heart speak.

Of all the regrets we may have as parents, this is not one of them.