Making a Lifetime Commitment to Your Adopted Child {Adoption.com article}

Here’s a recent article I wrote for Adoption.com regarding the lifetime commitment of adoption.  You can read the article by clicking on this link:  Making a Lifetime Commitment to Your Adopted Child

It was a bit of a tough one to write because I know there are many complex circumstances with any adoption disruption. However, when writing it, I thought of the kids I once worked with whom had been legally adopted for years and then returned to state custody because their adoptive families did not want to handle the issues they were facing. Some of these situations were completely preventable and with resources, I suspect the families could have made it. Others were not and despite efforts, the safety of the child and other family members could not be assured.

This article is not meant to judge but to be food-for-thought and conversation starters regarding what it means to make a lifetime commitment to any child who is adopted into one’s family. Adopting a child is a lifetime commitment.

Blessings,

Caroline

 

 

Keep on Keeping On {a message for adoptive families}

Today was one of those days when I was reminded that adoption is a human experience that reaches the depths of emotions. I sat through an adoption staffing (interview with families in hopes of being selected for a child in need of adoption). I listened to the families pour their hearts and hopes out to the team members. There were tears, laughter, and a lot of emotions in between. As I finished my day, I watched a touching video of a family who adopted their little one that they have been fostering.

And, I cried.

I thought about our own foster care and adoption journey. I thought about the families who are interviewed time and again, yet never selected. I thought about the ones who are just taking their first steps to becoming adoptive parents, the ones whose hearts are just now being stirred about adoption, and the multitude of others who will soon join the ranks of waiting families.

Adoption is so much harder than it appears to be. I don’t think it is possible for anyone to understand this unless they have been through it. It forces oneself to be strong and courageous, while also being vulnerable. Foster and adoptive families are asked to give all of themselves to children with no guarantee that it will work out.

They have to prove to others that they are worthy of being parents – this is something that people who have had biological children will never understand. They are asked to be authentic and genuine, and by doing so, they are judged on their potential as adoptive parents. Their expectation and labor are not counted by hours or months. Often, they are counted by many years.

Beyond the glorious adoption announcements and videos are years of struggle, hope, angst, heartbreak, and resilience. These things are weaved into the fabric of adoptive families. These things reach into the deepest part of our souls, and remind us that in the end, it is all worth it. The children are always worth it.

Adoption is hard. It takes a ton of patience in the waiting. The ride up the hill is torturous, but my friend, the other side of this mountain is sheer beauty.

To anyone who is awaiting the time when adoption calls your name,

Buckle up,

Put on your boots,

Hold your head high,

and keep on keeping on.

Adoption is worth it

You Are Not Ready To Be a Foster Parent If…

In my job, I often speak to families who are curious about foster parenting.  Some of them come to the decision to foster as a way to fulfill what they believe to be a calling in their lives.  Others have adult children, are now empty-nesters, and continue to have the desire to parent.  There are also many who start the journey of foster parenting after years of infertility, and in hopes that fostering might eventually lead to adoption.  All of these reasons are significant.  They all carry a deep motivation to help meet the needs of at-risk children in our communities.  However, not everyone is right for foster parenting.

To be brutally honest, I cringe a bit when I hear people speak about their desire to be foster parents.  I hear them say, “We really want a baby that is ready to be adopted, and does not have any major issues…”  I just want to say, “Bless your heart”.  And, I mean it.  I really do.

However, there is a great distance between the desire to foster/adopt and the knowledge of what all it will take out of you to do so.  And, that’s okay.  The first step is to ask questions.  The second step is to listen.  I mean…really listen to what professionals, foster parents, and others in the field are saying.

Entering into the world of foster parenting is exciting, but definitely presents a huge learning curve.  Because of this, let’s take off our rose-colored glasses for a bit, and get real.

Presenting my list:  “You Are Not Ready To Be a Foster Parent If…” 

(Disclaimer:  I had some help from other foster/adoptive parents with this one…just want you to know that these opinions are not just my own; although, I agree with all of them.  Also, this list pertains to foster parenting in the United States.  Other countries/areas of the world may have different laws/expectations of foster families.)

  1. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you do not see the value of the required training.  Most agencies/governments require training in order to be approved as a foster parent.  If you believe that “I’ve raised children and it is common sense”, I would challenge you to consider that the training is not only required, it is important.  Of course, you understand basic child development because you have parented, but you need to understand that the children who are in foster care have experienced trauma, separation from family of origin, and lots of changes.  Parenting a foster child IS different than parenting a child you have raised from birth.  The training does not stop when your license is approved.  You will be asked to participate in on-going training.  Even after adoption, you may need to seek additional training, information, and resources. Trust me on this.  My husband and I have both attended various training in order to give us better insight into our kids, and our last adoption occurred in 2013.  Adoption really is a lifelong learning process.
  2. If you desire to find a child for your family instead of offering your family to a child, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  Children who have been brought into the system because of abuse and neglect may not match your expectations of an “ideal” child.  Switch your thinking from finding the right child for your family to giving your family to a child, despite the history and issues the child is facing.  It may not feel perfect (because parenting never is), but foster children should never have to live up to the standards of your home that is hopefully free of abuse and neglect.
  3. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you believe that love fixes everything. Please don’t get me wrong.  Love does help, and I’m all about love, peace, and rainbows, but if love was enough to undo the trauma, then social workers would be spending less time finding new placements for foster children who have disrupted, and I dare say that abuse and neglect would not be an issue.  Pouring love into a child goes a long way, but fostering takes so much more.  Love is also not always about feeling good all of the time.  Love takes it all…the sweat, the tears, the hard work, and the dirt.   It takes tenacity, resourcefulness, humility, understanding, and humor.  If it didn’t, would it even be called love?
  4. If you have firmly picked a side in nature versus nurture debate, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  Oh, this one.  I’ve been asked about a gazillion times where I stand on this debate.  In my twenties/early thirties and before parenting through adoption came around, I was headstrong about nurture.  However, as a parent, I know that nature and nurture are equally important.  I also know that children who have experienced trauma, have on-going developmental delays, or come from high-risk situations need extra nurturing, patience, and stability.  I cannot tell you the number of foster and adoptive parents who, after having children in their homes, shake their heads with a fervent “YES” that genetics and nature are incredibly important and absolutely impact a child’s development.  For example, one of my kids does this certain little thing with his mouth, and I recognize it immediately as resembling the same thing his birth mother does.  He has never lived a day of life with her, except in the womb.
  5. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you believe that children should not have a connection with their birth parents in some way.  Even if adoption has occurred, you must remember that your children have a history that does not include you.  I know that does not feel good, but that is the reality.  For my children, their primary histories only include being in the wombs of their biological mothers.  However, these histories are important, and so is the fact that they all have biological parents who love them, think about them and miss them.  Regardless of how you feel about your child’s biological parents, it is your responsibility to share with your children what you can about their biological families.
  6. If you cannot find it in your heart to forgive the birth parents for what they may have done to the children, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  Forgiveness is one of those things that we love to soak up, but man, we have a hard time dishing it out.  When you think about the drug exposure, the lack of supervision or protection, the physical and sexual abuse, or the chronic neglect of children, the first thing that does not come to your mind is “Let’s just forgive them for what they have done.”  I know what you are thinking because I have thought the same thing!  More than once!  However, if we take a step back and remember that the biological parents were also children who had dreams for their futures or who may histories full of abuse, it is much easier to be empathetic to them.  I’m not saying to forget what has happened, but I am saying that you have to get past it, reconcile with it, and choose to reach out in support to the birth parents.
  7. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you do not have a support system. Fostering can take a lot out of you.  With natural childbirth, you have leave time, people bringing dinner over, others offering to clean your house and lots of support.  With fostering, you may not have any of these things.  I have spoken to so many foster parents who, in their first few months of fostering, were completely worn out.  They cannot go on date nights because they cannot just drop the kids off at a family member’s or friend’s house without prior approval.  They may not be approved for leave from work.  It can be quite overwhelming.  You need to build a support system that includes approved childcare and someone to just let you unload your frustrations on.  It is so important.
  8. If your only goal is adoption, and you are not willing to help parents get their kids back, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  If this is the case, then there are a tremendous amount of children (necessarily, not babies) in need of adoption in the United States.  There is a federal law that mandates states to work towards reunification with biological families when children are brought into custody.  This is not just something that is taken into consideration or viewed as a recommendation.  It is expected to be upheld by the courts, caseworkers, and foster parents, and this can be a very difficult pill to swallow.  I’ve been there and done that.  I know how hard it can be, but it is not impossible.  Like a lot of things in life, we cannot control how other people respond to circumstances, but we can control how we respond.  I just know that if my children were in care, I would certainly want and need foster families who supported me and the goal to reunify with my children.  I suspect you probably feel the same way.
  9. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you are not willing to accept ambivalence and lack of gratitude from the children in your care.  Children who end up in foster care are generally not happy about it.  Why would they be?  Even with the tough situations they are in, they love their parents and want to be home.  Because of this, it is completely unrealistic to expect a child in your home to appreciate what you are doing for him or her.  The same goes with their feelings towards you.  Children and youth might be ambivalent about how they feel about you.  If you are a “feely” kind of person, it can hurt…a lot…to think that the child you are caring for may never (or, at least not for a long time) show you affection and concern.  My advice on this:  Don’t take it personally.
  10. If you lack patience with people and processes, then you are not ready to be a foster parent.  When asked what the average length of time a child is in care before potentially being available for adoption, I usually let people know that there is no average.  Each case and situation are different.  The US federal law dictates a length of time (typically between 15 to 22 months) that the birth parents can work towards reunifying with their children.  It is also important to remember that there is a ton of paperwork involved.  Most caseworkers and court officials are overloaded with cases.  Attorneys are also extremely busy.  All of these players and their workloads absolutely can affect how quickly or slowly things progress on the case.  Also, the biological parents deserve the time to rectify the situation that brought their children into care.  Again, if the tables were turned, I suspect we would all feel the same way.
  11. You are not ready to be a foster parent if you are not willing to remember that God loves the biological parents, whose children are in foster care, as much as He loves you.  Ouch, right?  It is super easy as a human being to administer our own versions of grace, or what we think God should feel about people who abuse/neglect children, or live a different lifestyle (whatever it is) than us.  Jesus entered into places where others did not want to go.  He offered care, compassion, and hope to the people who society disregarded.  He also gave instruction.  When we learn about the details of why a child enters foster care, it is hard not to get angry.  However, the passion of Christ was for us all…everyone.  Let us not forget that.

I hope this list informs and inspires you about foster parenting.  I certainly do not want it to dissuade anyone from foster parenting, or seeking information about it.  However, one must remember that when you choose to become a foster parent, you are choosing to jump into a world of many imperfections.  It is not a fair system.  Not for anyone.

Biological parents are faced with quite difficult circumstances.  They absolutely need our concern and compassion.  Foster families will also deal with frustrating situations beyond their control.

For the children and youth who fall into the system, life is anything but fair.  At the very least, they deserve foster families who are willing to commit to the goal of reunification or permanency through adoption (if this is what the court decides), who understand the need for children to have a connection to their biological families, and who realize that trauma can present many challenges both in the present and the future.

So, are you ready to be a foster parent?  Oh, friend.  I hope so.

 

this is a picture of adoption

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Photo credit:  http://freedom-photography.com/

Here is a recent picture of my children.

This is a picture of three lives brought together through difficult circumstances.

This is a picture of children who found themselves caught up in some of the despair of the world.

But…

This is also a picture of hope, and of love.

This is a picture of the answered prayers of many.

This is a picture of life.

This is a picture of adoption.

You Shook Me Up a Bit, Birth Mother

You shook me up a bit today, birth mother.  Your call at the last half hour of the work day broke up the busyness of paperwork.  The moment I heard your voice say my name, I knew it was you.  It was good hearing from you.  It is something that I do not mind at all.

I never know when you are going to call, but every time you do, I cannot help but be affected by it.  Life has been a little hectic lately.  In the madness of it all, I have found myself barely stopping to inhale, or even exhale.  There have been moments in the past few months where I have felt overwhelmed by parenting; overwhelmed by the challenge of striving to raise kind, happy, faithful, and disciplined children.

There have been moments where my sole focus has been on what the child we share does not do, versus, what he does do.  Yet, when I told you of his recent accomplishments, his strengths, his talents, and his quirks, you gasped, laughed with joy, and thanked me for giving him opportunities in life.  That…birth mother…that shook me up a bit.

The space between our words was filled with just a bit of silence.  That was okay, though.  The gravity of why we are connected carries much weight.  We are connected by a precious little soul.  We are connected by love.

You shook me up a bit today, birth mother.  Your words speared me right into the heart.  While my heart has been worrying about his day-to-day life, your heart has been carrying emptiness to which I do not know.  You told me about all of the pictures I have sent you through the years, and how they are dispersed throughout your living room, and how you surround yourself with pictures of him.  In some sense, it sounded like you have a shrine devoted to the precious boy we share.  This shook me up.

As our conversation ended, your words began to take a more sincere turn.  You spoke of your eternal love for him.  You spoke of your sadness that is carried around on a daily basis.  You told me about how you felt you had to lose him.  In some ways, you believed it was your choice; yet in other ways, it was a choice you had to make.  You hope for a day that it will not hurt so bad; that the loss of him won’t feel as heavy as it does.

And then, you told me that you love me and my husband.  I wanted so badly to say that I love you, too, but the words just would not come.  That…birth mother…that shook me up a bit and caused my heart to wrench.

Your final words to me are ones that stuck to me as I hung up the phone and drove to get the child that has stirred both of our hearts.

“I love him more than words can ever tell.”  

These words from you resonated deep down.

As I stared at the pink sunset declaring itself to me as I drove, the thought hit me that you were probably staring at the very same sunset. You were probably recalling our conversation, my every word, your every word, and details of the incredible child to which we share.

I teared up a bit.  I tuned into a station on Pandora.  As I stared into the sunset, thinking about you, and thinking about our child, I sang every word to the song that was playing:

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.  ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;  How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”

That…birth mother…that shook me up a bit.  

As I tucked our son into bed tonight, I held on to him just a little bit longer.  I told him that I loved him over and over again.  I stared into his soft brown eyes, examined his face, and kissed him.  I thought of you.

The truth is that I love your son…my son…our son…more than words can ever tell.  

All of my children have come to me through the sacrifice of someone else; through the sacrifice of another Mamma who carried them into the world.  The significance of this is something I do not ever want to take for granted.

You shook me up a bit today, birth mother, and I’m so glad you did.

Love that is Far from Barren

Walk
Photo Credit: http://sarahcarterphotos.com/

During this month of celebrating adoption, I’ve been meandering my way through pictures of my kids.  The one above happens to be one of my favorites.  It was taken by a local photographer a few years ago.

When I look at this picture, I see children whose future is wide open, and who matter more to their parents than they may ever fully realize.  I see children who found their way home.  

When I look at the image above, I don’t see barrenness.  I don’t feel desolation.  I don’t find myself speaking the “what if’s”, and “why’s”.  I don’t recall the place I used to dwell in; that wasteland of broken dreams.

I don’t see infertility.

When I set my eyes on the picture above, I know that things happen for a reason.  I feel the restoration of broken lives, the healing of scarred remains, and the mercy-filled grace that I am now living.

When I look at this image of my oldest son and daughter, I am thankful.  I am genuinely thankful for the path I walked to become their mother.  I am truly grateful for others whose hands touched our lives, and molded our family.

Ultimately, though, I am humbled by the acts of my Heavenly Father who shook me out of my barrenness, and said, “MY plan for you is better than this.  MY plan for you will unfold.  MY plan for you is one that diminishes the scars of your youth, and wipes away the tears of your adulthood.  MY plan for you is far from barren.”

When I look at the sweet image of my son and daughter, I see love.

Love fulfilled. 

Love that changed lives.

Love that intervened at just the right time.

Love that brought life into the wasteland.

Love that is far from barren.

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Psalm 30:12

In My Daughter’s Eyes

Sometime before I knew what my plan to become a parent would look like, I heard a song that I just fell in love with.  I’m not a country music fan really, but the song “In My Daughter’s Eyes” by Martina McBride stuck on my heart.  I heard it on a television show and truly thought that one day, if I ever got to adopt a daughter, this song would mean so much to me.

Here I am now, the mother of a son and a daughter.  Our adoption anniversary for our daughter is this coming Monday, February 11th.  She has been “legally” our daughter for three years now; although, she felt likes “ours” the moment we met her.  For our son’s adoption celebration, we made a movie of images of him set to a song about adoption.  For our daughter’s celebration, we chose the song “In My Daughter’s Eyes” for the background music for the video we made of her.

In honor of our third adoption anniversary, I thought I would share the words to this song with pictures of her.

photo (48)In my daughter’s eyes, I am a hero I am strong and wise, and I know no fear. But the truth is plain to see. She was sent to rescue me.

I see who I want to be, 
In my daughter’s eyes. 

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In my daughter’s eyes, everyone is equal.

Darkness turns to light, and the world is at peace.

This miracle God gave to me, gives me strength when I am weak.  

I find reason to believe in my daughter’s eyes.

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And when she wraps her hand around my finger.  

Oh, it puts a smile in my heart.  Everything becomes a little clearer, I realize what life is all about.

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It’s hanging on when your heart has had enough.  

It’s giving more when you feel like giving up.  I’ve seen the light, it’s in my daughter’s eyes.

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In my daughter’s eyes, I can see the future.  

A reflection of who I am and what will be.  

And though she’ll grow and someday leave, maybe raise a family.  

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When I’m gone I hope you see, how happy she made me.  

For I’ll be there, in my daughter’s eyes.

The part of the song that talks about hanging on when your heart has had enough always gets to me.  There were times growing up in the shadow of infertility that I thought my heart could not stand anymore.  I never considered throwing in the towel as an option for me, but, there were moments throughout my adolescents and adulthood where I thought I could not take anymore heartache.

Now, I know that hanging on is worth it.  It is worth it to have hope for the future.  It is worth it to strive to achieve what your heart’s desires are.

It was so worth taking the leap of faith that led to foster care and adoption.

 It is in my children’s eyes that I see why this journey we call life is so worth it.