What Every Healthcare Provider Needs to Know About Adoption

If you are a foster or adoptive parent, you have probably been both amused and frustrated at things some healthcare providers say and ask you during your child’s appointments.  For me, dealing with medical professionals has been quite the learning curve.

Here is an article I recently wrote for Adoption.com about this very subject.  It was a timely article as I had just experienced an uncomfortable (to say the least) appointment with my child!

Please click on the link to read it:  What Every Healthcare Provider Needs to Know

Hope you all are doing well and thank you for reading my blog!

Blessings,

Caroline

Imperfect Families with a Perfect Purpose

In a recent email conversation with a friend, the topic of adoptive families being perceived or expected to always be happy came up. My friend expressed concern for the need to break this stereotype or expectation.

I wholeheartedly agreed with my friend. From the outside of things, our family looks pretty good. Three cute children, smiling faces, and the outgoing statements of how blessed we are seems to permeate the air that we surround.

However, the truth is that adoptive families are not always “happy”. We are not always happy. We don’t always see eye-to-eye. Our children (sometimes) exhibit behaviors and other issues that seem to be directly linked to genetic trademarks and/or other concerns related to when they were in the womb of their birth mothers. Sometimes, they are just being kids making really poor choices.

My husband and I attended a training today that was devoted to parenting children with unique needs (social, emotional, behavioral). As the trainer talked about brain development and the impact of neglect, I thought to myself, “This is not happy.”

The trainer went on to speak about children who put themselves last to take care of their parents and siblings, and the potentially destructive results of this. Again, I thought, “This is not happy.”

All of the families in the training are walking the difficult road of parenting children whose beginnings in life were estranged from normalcy, whose health and well-being were often the last thing anyone thought of, and whose lives have been dramatically changed by circumstances beyond their control. In many respects, I feel the most comfortable when around other families who share similar experiences.

Listening to families share their experiences was invaluable. Watching men cry over the heartbreak of their child’s history, while also reveling in just how far their children have come, was also very touching. Recognizing that we are not alone in our struggles was incredibly encouraging.

So tonight, I’m thankful for the shared experiences of foster and adoptive families who have stepped out of their own comfort zones, and stepped forward into the battle ground of child abuse and neglect.

I’m thankful for families who keep pushing ahead, despite the wounded pasts of their children. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to connect with others who have chosen to stand up to the stereotypes, and bravely care for children who otherwise just might not make it in this world where fairness and kindness do not always exist.

To say we are blessed is true. To say we have many joyful and happy moments is also true. To say that we strive to be resilient, mindful, and intentional is true as well.

But, to say that our hearts do not break for what our (meaning foster/adoptive families as a whole) children struggle with is not true. There are many foster/adoptive families waging wars against the painful realities of their children’s histories.

So next time you are around someone involved in the child welfare system, offer a kind word, tell them that you are encouraged by their courage, show them that you too care for abused and neglected children, and pray that the Lord would heal their hurts, give them wisdom, and surround them with His hedge of protection.

Don’t expect us to be happy all of the time.

Instead, see us as what we are – imperfect families with a perfect purpose.

What Adoption Means: Perspective of a Blessed Aunt

“What Adoption Means” Post #5.  This message came to me from a woman who watched her sister’s journey through adoption. She considers herself a proud and blessed aunt!

“My sister desperately wanted to be a mom and was struggling to get pregnant. When we were in high school, my sister would talk about wanting to adopt children. It was an idea placed on her heart early.

I remember one conversation with her when she said “I have always wanted to adopt. Does it really matter if I adopt before I have biological children?” I agreed with her and watched from a distance as my sister and her husband began the challenging task of navigating all of the requirements, background checks, health screenings, and home visits to be approved to be put on a list of parents wanting to have children. The process is lengthy-it took about two years to go through all of the requirements.

The transparency that the adoptive parent offers is so amazing and challenging. They had to answer what seemed to be crazy questions such as “Are you willing to parent a child that is a different race than you?”, “Would you be willing to parent a child with illness and if so, what level of illness can you handle?”

As a non-adoptive parent, these questions seemed to be so strange, yet I saw that they were necessary, but I thought about the fact that if my children would have been born with health challenges, I wouldn’t think twice about keeping them and loving them.

Around Christmas, my sister and brother-in-law received their much-anticipated letter-they were approved and pregnant women would be viewing their profile in hopes of choosing them as parents. They put that letter under their tree as their most prized gift.

On April 1st, my sister called me. She was choked up and tearful as she told me “We have been chosen!” My first thought was “this is the worst April Fools Joke ever!” but I burst into tears as she assured me that this was real and that they would have a son. He was born about fourteen to fifteen hours later and three days after that, they were at home with their son.  My nephew.

That first month of a waiting period for the mother to change her mind was rough, but the time came and went. They have a semi-open adoption with the birth parents. They exchange letters and pictures. When they lived in the same area, they would meet up with the birth mother. They went to her high school graduation. My nephew knows that this woman is his “tummy mommy.”

When he was 3 months old, my sister found out she was pregnant. Two shocking phone calls in one year! She had a daughter.

People asked questions and insinuated that one child was their real child and the other was not. This probably fired me up more than it did my sister (maybe all that adoption training had prepared her). They are both real!

Fast forward 4 years. My sister got another call from the adoption agency. A young woman from Guatemala had delivered a baby girl in the United States and could not parent her. She left her with the hospital. My sister and husband prayed a lot about this. We prayed a lot about this. This adoption was very different from their first experience. There was no family history, no medical history, and there would be no contact with the birth mother, and this child looks the most different from the family. The conversations my sister and brother-in-law will be having with each of their kids will be so different.

Adoption is hard, it is scary, and it is costly. The journey isn’t over when the baby is placed into the adoptive parents arms.

If you have a family member that is on this journey, support them in any way that you are able.

I love being an aunt to this crazy trio. I am so thankful to the women who acted so incredibly unselfishly and put the needs of these two babies ahead of their own. They have given us all a gift-not just the adoptive parents-but the extended family as well.

I am proud to say that I am the blessed aunt of three awesome, very real, kids.”

Real vs. Not Real…?

“Mom, are you my real Mom?” My son asked as I started his bath water.  “I’m sorry, Honey. What did you say?”  I knew his question, but I wanted to hear it again so that I could listen for the slight change in his voice when he said the word “real’.

“Are you my real Mom?” 

I stared at him for a minute, poured the body wash into the running water so that bubbles would emerge, and said, “Why do you ask?”  He went on to explain that a boy on his gymnastics team kept saying to him that I was not his real mom.

“Well, I wonder if he meant biological mom.  If he did, then no, I am not your biological mother, but I am your real mother.  I love you and take care of you, and that is what makes me your real mother.”

“But he said that because I was not with you at birth, then you are not my real mom”, my son said.  “Was I with you at birth?”

“No, you were not, but you came to live with us when you were just a tiny baby, and I am your real mother.”

And just like that, he went on to talking about what happened at school.  Just like that, the conversation was over.

My children know they are adopted.  We have discussed what makes us different that biological families.  We have spoken the words of adoption, birth mommy, birth daddy, two moms, two dads, adoptive mommy and adoptive daddy to them since before they could barely speak.  My husband and I have always felt that our duty as adoptive parents is to only speak truth to our children.

They deserve to know that they are adopted.  They deserve to know that they were weaved in other women’s wombs, and that they have biological parents.

It has not been easy, you know.  I suspect that a lot of adoptive families have experienced random conversations about birth parents and adoption at the most unsuspecting of times.  I chuckle a little bit when I hear that adoptive parents are waiting for the “right time” to answer children’s questions about adoption.

The truth is that there will never be a right time.  The right time is when you are driving to school one day and your child suddenly pops you with a question.  The right time is when you stumble across a movie about an adopted child, and your child compares himself or herself to that character.  The right time just might be when your child is settling into a warm bubble bath.

As my son’s mind lingered off to the antics of bath time, my mind kept swirling around the word, REAL.  Why is it that we focus on that word (real) when we live in a time of a lot of artificial things?  There is artificial sweetener, artificial limbs and organs, and artificial insemination; yet still, when it comes to parenting, we use the word real.

Real or Not Real…?  I guess that is the question.

I do not know why we automatically jump to the terms of “real mom and real dad”, but this is what I do know:

  • If one is not real, then one is imaginary.  My husband, myself, and my children are not an imaginary family.  We are a very REAL family.
  • When it comes to parenting, why does “real” even matter?  Would you ask a parent if the discipline bestowed upon his or her children was real?  What about the sleepless nights with newborns…are they real?  And how about those cupcakes you baked for your child’s birthday? Are they real?  See?  It seems silly to question if discipline, sleepless nights, and cupcakes are real. Why then…Why do we choose the word “real” when it comes to motherhood and fatherhood?
  • The day-to-day tasks of parenting are all very real.  My husband and I are not faking it.  We get up each day, remind our children to brush their teeth (multiple times), get them to school on time, hold them while they are getting shots, comfort them while they are sick, encourage them when they are down, admonish them when they are acting in ways that will not help them, cheer for them when they are trying their hardest, discipline them when they need corrected, cry for them when they are struggling to make sense of their worlds, stand up for them when it seems the world is not, feed them, dress them, love them, and accept them.  This is REAL parenting.

If your children have friends who are adopted, then this is what you might want to teach your children about adoption:

Adoptive families tend to stray away from the word “real”.  Instead, we use biological or birth parents.  Adoptive families are just like other families.  We were just put together a little differently.  We live the same. We cry the same. We love the same.  

If you are wondering how adoptive parenting might be different from parenting biological children, or if you have friends who have adopted, remember this….

We are all fighting the same battles.  We have a separate history to consider, but for the most part, we are dealing with the same frustrations that biological families are dealing with.  We are all struggling with how to be better parents.

We are all yearning to raise children who feel they are the center of our worlds, but not the center of the world.  

We are all working to keep our children healthy. We are all considering the future, and what that will look like.  

We are all pouring our entire beings into the little souls we have been given to raise.  We are just like other families.  

We are all praying for our children, asking for protection upon their lives, and carrying a bit of them each day in our hearts.

We are all very REAL parents.

I suppose my son (and my other two children) may face questions and even ridicule in the future about being adopted.  This breaks my heart to consider, but also challenges me even more to be an intentional parent…to love with intention, live with intention, discipline with intention, and educate others with intention.

Real or Not Real…?  

Seems like a silly question.  After all….

We are all very REAL families.

our very real family
our very real family

An Open Letter to an Expectant Teen (Consider This)

Dear Expectant Teen,

I know you woke up this morning not expecting to be….well….expecting.  You took the pregnancy test, it read positive, and now you are staring at yourself in the mirror with tears as heavy as the world rolling down your cheeks.  I’m sure the taste of fear is in your mouth.  Your mind is probably racing.  You even might be thinking one or all of the following, “What will dad think?”,  “I can’t face my youth pastor, teacher, or mom.”,  “I won’t be able to be on the team this year.”,  “What about college?”,  or “What if he leaves me?”  

I don’t know what it is like to stare at a pregnancy test in despair or joy.  I’ll never pretend to be in your shoes or even try to walk in them.  I will not judge you.  I’m just another woman, like millions of others, who are unable to have biological children.  I’m a woman who has been blessed by the incredible gift of adoption.  This gift of children does not rest lightly in my heart.  I cherish it.

I hope this makes it to your computer, Facebook, or email.  Most importantly though, I hope it makes it to your heart.  Before you consider your options, before you think about adoption, abortion, or parenting, before you make the most difficult of all choices, please consider this:

The little boy or girl growing in your belly, your child, is there for a reason.  Now, I’m not talking about the “reason” you became pregnant…no, I’m talking about purpose.  You see, I was told at the age of eleven that I would never have a biological child.  I was faced with that grim news at an age when I barely understood how a child is created.  (It was 1983 and things were a lot different back then.)  I remember wondering what my purpose was.  Why was I on this Earth?

As I’ve grown into adulthood, the most amazing thing has happened.  I’ve discovered my purpose.  I’m not a celebrity.  I don’t make a lot of money, and I’m really not much to shout about, but I love.  I love my friends.  I love my family.  I love the children who became mine through adoption.  I love life with all of the ups and downs.  I love with my whole heart….and….I love you.  You have been on my mind.

Your son or daughter could become a doctor or scientist who makes profound discoveries in our world.  Your son or daughter might be an astronaut who flies off to other galaxies, or a teacher who makes a difference in a long forgotten school, or a social worker who teaches parents how to raise children free from abuse.  Your son or daughter could become a missionary feeding orphaned children.  Your son or daughter could possess the most beautiful singing voice any of us have heard, or become the next literary mastermind.

Even if your son or daughter doesn’t do any of the things above, your child has a purpose – to receive love and to share love.  Your son or daughter might be the most kind person to someone who needs a little kindness.  

What purpose is greater than that?

I want you to know that your decision – abortion, adoption, or parenting – are all very difficult decisions to make.  Like I said earlier, I’m not going to judge you for your decision, but I sure hope you choose life.  I’m so glad the birth mothers of my children did.

Please consider carefully what you will do with the little one growing inside of you.  Seek professional counseling, pregnancy services, and prenatal care.  There are many who have chosen abortion, and are walking with grieving steps throughout their days.  There are also many who have chosen adoption.  This decision carries grief as well, but they know that their child is in the safe, loving arms of parents who wanted so badly to have a child to call their own.  The coos, first words, and pitter-patter of your child’s feet will be the sweetest sound the adoptive family will hear.  The brave birth mothers who chose life and made an adoption plan know that their children are the center of another family’s universe, an answer to prayers, and the most significant thing that has happened in their lives.

Dear friend, you were on my mind today.  I don’t know you, and I don’t know what you are going through, but I know that you are facing something you didn’t expect.  You are facing someone you didn’t expect.  You have a lot to think about, and many tears are sure to flow, but before you consider abortion, please consider this.

Love,

Another Woman Who Went From Being Barren to Blessed

It Just Takes One Family

“There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.” The National Adoption Center

I have this quote taped to my desk at work.  I believe it to be true; however, it can get discouraging when children end up growing up in the system because families are not found.  There is a push for placing with relatives and for searching out extended family members who may not even be aware that children have entered custody.  I agree that this should be a priority when it comes to finding relatives for children who have lingered in care for too many years.  Sadly, it does not always happen for them.  I know of several children who came into care at age 10 and exited out at age 18-21.  Basically, they grew up belonging to a system, but not a family.

Then, there are those stories that are so incredibly encouraging, and remind me that “we” (meaning those in the field) should never give up on finding permanent families for children.  I know of children who came into care between the ages of 9-12, their biological parents rights were terminated, and they lingered in the system for several years until meeting that one family that made all the difference.

When I did direct case management work I had a girl on my case load who came into care at age 9.  She spent several years wandering between foster homes, disrupting out of some, being promised adoption by others, but never really connecting with any of them.  One day though, that all changed.  She met a young set of foster parents who provided respite for her.  Their connection was almost instant.

A few months after she moved in, the foster mom called me and told me that this girl was making infant noises at the table and asking the mom to feed her with a baby spoon.  The foster mom was not panicked, but wanted to understand why this teenage girl would do this.  I suggested (I’m no expert) that perhaps it is because this girl had always been the mom to her younger siblings.  She never had the chance to be mothered.  I offered that the foster mom should just “go with it” for a few more weeks to see if it subsides.  Sure enough, a week or so later, the girl stopped doing this and went back to feeding herself like a 15-year-old should.  Her foster family adopted her right before her 16th birthday.  Instead of moving from one family to another, she stayed with a family of her own.

Another situation I know of involved a foster family who desperately wanted to adopt a little girl between the ages of 0-3.  They had been matched with a little one, but that situation did not work out for them for several reasons.  I had sent out a profile of a 15-year-old girl who had been in care for a few years.  She was bright and wanted to attend college, but truthfully, the odds were against if she stayed in the system much longer.

After reading her profile, the foster family called me and asked to learn more about her.  Imagine my surprise when they inquired about her!  I think I needed to clarify that she was 15 years and not 15 months old!  After meeting her and being interviewed by the professional team, the foster dad called and said words that have stayed with me for years.

“Caroline, we may not have bought her first Easter dress, or been around for her first Christmas, but we realize that there are many firsts that we can give her.  I will be the first father she has ever had.”

This conversation is one of those nuggets of goodness that I hold on to while working in child welfare.  They did go on to adopt her and the last I heard, she was doing extremely well in school and preparing to look at colleges.  Her dreams are being realized because of one found family.

I have said over and over again throughout my career in child welfare that “it only takes one family”, and I believe this.  This is the reason why the quote from the National Adoption Center is pasted on to my desk at work.  Part of my job responsibilities is to forward profiles of foster children in need of adoptive homes to families who are hoping to adopt.  Just this week, I have already forwarded around 5 or so profiles. As I do this, I think to myself “it only takes one family.”

One family can make the difference in the life of a child.  One family can provide the soil to which a child can lay down roots.  One family can offer the encouragement and structure needed that will start the child on his or her path to college or a career.  One family can show by actions and words what it feels like to be a part of a healthy home.  One family can help to break generational cycles of abuse and neglect.  In the same tone, one family can potentially make a generational change in the lives of children.  And, one family can model the grace, love, and acceptance that we all long for.