Adoption is Not for the Faint of Heart {let’s get real}

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November is National Adoption Month and I LOVE it. Do you want to know why? Because it dedicates a lot of attention to the need for adoption and the diverse stories of adoption that are out there in the world.

What we usually see during this month are wonderful images of adoptive families smiling for the camera. What we don’t see are the tears, hardships, and struggles of adoptive families. I think it is only fair that if we set aside a month of celebrating adoption, we should also include conversations about all that encompasses it; not just the smiley, cute, feel-good moments.

Here is the truth: As an adoptive family (and I don’t mind that label), we are very normal in our basic rigmarole of the day. However, our days probably look a little different from other families. There are moments when we don’t have the right words, we recognize that genetics is a mightily powerful thing, and we wonder “will this get better?” There are times when one of our kids says, “You’re not even my real mom!”, “I bet you wish you didn’t adopt me.”, or “Why couldn’t I stay with my birth mom?” These things, my friends, are not what we often see or hear about during National Adoption Month.

So, let’s get real. Adoption absolutely changed all our lives. It made me a mother. It made my husband a father. It gave our kids permanency and the opportunity to grow up without the threat of abuse and neglect. However, adoption is certainly not for the faint of heart.

It hurts when your child tells you or asks you the things mentioned above. It is heartbreaking when you don’t know or have answers to questions that doctors are asking. It is alarming when you think about whether your kids will have anger about being adopted as they grow up. It takes a whole lot of energy and patience to handle the issues that come up during the day. It stings when you are rejected or verbally abused or disregarded by the very child that you would give your life for. Like I said, adoption is not for the faint of heart.

Before you go and wonder about the state of parenthood for me, let me explain that I fully believe in the blessing of my kiddos. I adore them. I cherish them. I love them to the moon and back and know that God fully weaved our family together, but I also strive to be authentic about our journey. If I were to tell you that everything is peachy all the time and we are all so in love with each other all the time, I would be a liar.

If you are considering adoption, I want you to know that it is truly a miracle in life. You will recognize a humbling love that is freely given. I also want you to know that there will be moments and days that it doesn’t feel good. You will shed plenty of tears in the corner of your room.

You will pretend that you are having the best of days while knowing the distress that occurred just moments before. You will discover some truths about yourself, and you may not like them. You will feel the vulnerability of others and it will hurt.

Let’s get real.  Adoption is not for the faint of heart, and therefore I know it is an absolute blessing to be a mother through adoption.

 

 

 

 

 

Adopted for Daily Life: A Devotional for Adopting Moms {Adoption.Com Article)

Several months ago, I was asked to be a contributing writer for a Christian devotional for moms who are in the process of adopting.  The devotional was a collaborative effort straight from the hearts of twenty-five mothers whose lives have been forever changed by the gift, and challenges, of adoption.

This was an incredibly special project for me.  My five-day devotion was on the subject of barrenness.  Obviously, this subject is one that I have lived with, and am passionate about.

Here is a link to an article I wrote for the Adoption.Com website about the devotional:  Adopted For Daily Life:  A Devotional for Adopting Moms

The book is available on Amazon Kindle and paperback.  One hundred percent of the proceeds go towards supporting children in need of permanent families in the country of Nicaragua.

If you are someone, or know someone who is getting ready to adopt, this book would make an excellent gift!

Blessings,

Caroline

Adoption at the Movies {Adoption.Com Article}

Foster and Adoptive Parents,

Do you ever watch a movie with your children and become uncomfortable when the topic of adoption comes up?  How about when the theme of foster care and/or adoption is negative?  

There have been moments in movies when I have wondered what my kids were thinking when these themes come up.

Well, there is a way that you can now get a review of movies from the adoption perspective!  My friend, Addison, has a website solely devoted to reviewing movies in order to help foster and adoptive families.

I wrote about this in my article on the Adoption.Com website. I hope you find his reviews beneficial.  I know I have!

Click on this link to be taken to the article:  Adoption at the Movies

Blessings,

Caroline

Welcoming children, Welcoming Him

And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

-Matthew 18:5

I love working for a child welfare agency that is not only Christian in name, but in acts and philosophy.  The agency has been involved in the social welfare of children since 1886 and has evolved through the years as societal changes have occurred.  Although our services have developed through the years to meet the needs of children and families, our priority and reason why we do the work has not changed.  We know that we can serve the Lord by ministering to children who are hurting, youth who are struggling, and families who are broken.  We also believe and have witnessed the great miracles that occur in the lives of children and families through the love and acceptance of Christ.

One aspect of my job is to speak to families who have expressed an interest in foster care and adoption.  Like my husband and I, many families go into fostering with a desire to parent children and know that fostering is an avenue that could lead to adoption.  There are others who see it as a way to give back to children or their society.  Most of the Christian families I work with feel the Lord calling them to be foster parents and to adopt a child out of foster care.

Thinking about these families leads me straight to the Scripture noted above. Our Heavenly Father loves children.  They are near and dear to His heart.  One cannot also overlook the fact that He wants us to be like children when it comes to our walk with Him.

I really do enjoy witnessing the love of Christian families that is poured into children in need of foster and adoptive homes.  To see and know that change is happening in children’s lives is what keeps most of us in the field of child welfare going.  The Lord stirs the hearts of people so that they can minister to His children through fostering and adopting.  

Welcoming children in the name of the Father is a blessing.  Families who feel the Lord calling them out to become foster and adoptive parents are able to learn so much about their own personal journey with Christ.  One such foster parent who was hoping to adopt the child she was fostering, said to me, “The Lord reminded me that they are all His children.  We are just taking care of them.”

It is statements like the one above that confirm my personal belief that when people do what they are called to do, especially when it comes to caring for children, the Lord blesses them with His wisdom, His grace, and His power to withstand many trials.  When the Lord whispers His plan and His calling into the lives of others, they are able to whisper His love into the lives of children.  When one welcomes children, they welcome Him.

Trust Your Heart

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

Here’s another sweet story about adoption-

Although Scott and Cammie were blessed with three children, they knew their family was incomplete and yearned for another child.  They were unable to have anymore biological children and had been considering international adoption when Cammie came across an exhibit about adoption of children with Down Syndrome at a convention.  It tugged at her heart and she left the conference with an application in hand.

Upon returning home, Cammie approached Scott about the idea and showed him the application.  He quickly responded with “Why is it still blank?!”  Their family had some concerns but were also very supportive of their decision.  Cammie is adopted as well so it just seemed to be a natural thing for their family to do.  They followed their heart and went through an agency in hopes of being matched with a child who needed a home.

After waiting for two years, they were matched with Addysen, and were so overjoyed!  She was 7-months-old at the time.  Their adoption is considered open and Addy’s birth parents visit once per year, and they exchange emails.  Cammie is pleased to have the level of openness that she does with Addy’s birth parents. This is something she wished she would have had as a child.  She is not sure if Addy will ever completely understand adoption, but they continue to openly talk about it.

Scott and Cammie feel the biggest joy of their adoption of Addy is watching her develop and grow to the best of her ability.  Because of her special needs, they celebrate each skill she accomplishes.  They enroll her in dancing and other activities so that she can develop her social, physical, and emotional skills.  Addy is loved and accepted by her extended family and community.  She brings great happiness to their lives.

The biggest challenge is dealing with Addy’s health issues.  She has multiple complications and spends many days in the hospital.  Scott and Cammie have developed a team approach to taking care of Addysen’s medical needs and lean on each other for support during the difficult times.  They are wonderful parents to her.

Adoption has taught them that each family is unique and special.  It has taught their children that every person is a child of God who is loved deeply regardless of where the person comes from or who they are.  Their advice to families considering adoption is trust your heart.  If you desire to adopt, then you should follow your heart.  Adopting a child with Down Syndrome or other special need may not be for everyone, but they just knew it was meant for them.  Adoption has been a tremendous blessing and they cannot imagine life without it!

On a side note, Scott and Cammie are now foster parents and are taking care of a little one with special needs!  For information about adopting children with Down Syndrome, please click here.  The ministry linked is call Reece’s Rainbow.  They advocate for the adoption of children with Down Syndrome from all over the world.  Many of these precious babies are abandoned, and in need of loving homes.  Here is a link to Cammie’s blog as well The Heflin Family.

The Love of A Family

Here’s another amazing story of the blessing that is adoption!

Johnovan, TJ, Valery, Addelyn, Arianna, and Deandre

This is the story of TJ and Valery, along with their children Arianna, age 9, Johnovan, age 8, Addelyn, age 6, and Deandre, age 6.  Their family has been enlarged and enhanced by adoption out of the foster care system.

TJ and Valery had 2 biological children when they decided to consider adoption.  Both pregnancies were extremely difficult. Valery was on bed rest for 22 week for their first daughter, then 6 weeks for their second daughter.  Their third pregnancy sadly ended in miscarriage.  It was during this difficult time that they realized their longing for more children.

They decided to pursue international adoption and did a tremendous amount of research   They kept hitting road block after road block and felt that perhaps their path needed to change.  After coming across websites about foster care and adoption, they chose to sign up for fostering classes.  Within a month, they were well on their way to becoming a licensed foster home.

Shortly after being licensed, Valery learned of 2 boys possibly in need of an adoptive home.  Valery was able to speak to the foster-mother of the boys and decided to become their primary respite provider.  Respite is a service that foster families do for each other – like babysitting.  The family provided respite for several months and enjoyed getting to know the boys.

In July of 2011, TJ and Valery were invited to attend an adoption staffing for the boys.  There were 2 other families that were interviewed as well.  Adoption staffings are part of the selection process through the foster care system.  A staffing is a formal interview with potential adoptive homes and the team members who have been involved with the case from the beginning.  Two days passed until they got the phone call they had been waiting for.  TJ and Valery were selected as the adoptive family for the boys!

The family finalized their adoption in June of 2012!  The boys now have a family to call their own and a place to grow their wings.  This is what all children deserve.  The family did not stop at adoption though as they continue to provide foster care to children with higher level of needs; such as emotional and behavioral issues.  Even before being matched with Johnovan and Deandre, they provided foster care and helped reunify children with their birth parents.

Growing up, Valery had the goal of eventually being a foster/adoptive parent.  She had friends in the foster care system and hoped one day that she too would provide a home to children in need.  TJ was a little more slow to warm up to the idea.  However, with the wonderful support of their extended family, their decision to become foster/adoptive parents was one that they do not regret.

The biggest joy they get out of parenting their children is watching them achieve milestones in their lives.  One of the boys struggled immensely in reading and had fairly severe behavior problems at school.  Through the efforts of Valery advocating for his needst, he is doing very well and has made tremendous strides.  She believes that love, attention, security, and “good ole’ fashion” mothering have played parts in his success.

The biggest challenge of their experience so far has been understanding and parenting children with behavioral issues that are directly tied to the chaotic home environment and/or abuse and neglect the children have experienced.  They have learned that progress may be slow, but at least it is progress!  Plus, a sense of humor is key to enjoying each other’s diversity and the unique factors that make up their family.  TJ and Valery urge others to consider taking in older youth who are in the foster care system.  They love babies, but have found that older children add so much to a family, and need stability in their lives.

Foster care and adoption has taught them to be more open-minded about people and to empathize a little more with parents whose children are throwing tantrums.  Valery knows now that one’s experience as a child may shape his or her approach to parenting as an adult, and one really never knows what someone else has been through in life.

TJ and Valery believe they are like most families.  They are busy running the kids back and forth for their extracurricular activities, and breaking up fights between siblings.  They have those parenting moments of praising each other for tasks well done, and getting on to each other for tasks undone.  They look different and come from different pasts, but they are family.

In Valery’s words, “We’ve got our ups and downs and sometimes the downs feel really down, but then something wonderful happens and the love of our family pulls us all back together again.”

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  -1 Corinthians 13:7

Around the Fire

Last night we had the privilege of spending the evening around a bonfire in the country.  Hot dogs, roasted marshmallows, the sound of crackling wood, a gorgeous full moon, the chatter of folks, and gleeful screams of children playing in the field next to us made up our evening.  Fires are so good at catching one’s eye.  I sat and stared for a long time at the majestic wisps of flames as they flickered their way up to the heavens.

With the scent of fall in the air and the comfort of a blanket over me, my thoughts immediately went to the reason why we were all out there under the stars.  Out of the eighteen or so children present last night, around thirteen of them were adopted out of foster care.  Let me say that again….13 out of 18 or so children present last night were adopted out of foster care.  Most of the children were siblings of some sort, but not all.  A handful of families adopted the siblings.  Honestly, it was kind of nice to be at an event where my children were not a minority.  Usually when we go to “get-togethers”, or anywhere in general, my kids are typically the only ones adopted; especially out of protective services.

There is something comforting when being around fellow parents who have experienced the journey of being a foster parent and adopting.  We are able to swap stories of our experiences and compare notes.  We can relate to the challenges sometimes experienced when raising children with histories of abuse, neglect, prenatal exposure, or separation from family of origin.  We can also talk about resources that may come in handy if future issues should arise.

Last night, I took a moment to look out in the field at the children playing.  The image of glow sticks in hands, glow-in-the-dark balloons bouncing up and down, and the sounds of laughing children running freely through the field filled my mind and my heart with gratefulness.  I thought about how their young lives were interrupted by the ways of the world and the poor choices of their  birth parents.  I thought about the losses every single one of them has endured already in life.  I thought about the adults around the fire who took them in.  I thought about the opportunities they have because of permanency in their lives.

I thought about how they get to have a childhood free of abuse.  I also thought about how lucky we are to be a part of this.  Adoption out of foster care is not a second best choice.  It is not reserved for only those who cannot afford private adoption.  It is not just for couples who are unable to have biological children.  It is a blessing to parent a child whose beginning to life automatically put him or her in the category of the “least of these”.

It is a blessing to meet other adults whose lives have also been impacted by the decision to become foster parents.  We are all connected in some way to each other by the children playing in the field.  We are all a part of something bigger, something more eternal, and something better planned for these children.

As I watched the fire burn and looked around, thankfulness filled my heart.  We were all brought together by the one true God who brings light into dark places, hope into hopeless situations, and love into the lives of all of us.