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

 

 

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #7}

mother-daughter-love-sunset-51953

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

I remember the first time I felt I could exhale.  I was sitting at a table with a pitcher of water, Styrofoam cup, microphone, couple of attorneys, a social worker, juvenile officer, Judge, and my husband with the twenty-month-old little guy who had stumbled his way into our lives, and our hearts.

The moment the Judge declared him as our son, I exhaled.  I didn’t even realize I had been holding my breath through the year and a half we had been fostering him, but that incredibly beautiful moment seemed to deflate my lungs.

Here I am with two more kids and nine years removed from that pivotal moment, and I’m still thinking about that time back in 2008; the first time I understood what it truly meant to exhale.

You’re still waiting, aren’t you?  You get up each day with the same things on your mind:

“Is a decision going to be made today?”

“Will they let me know the answer soon so that I can prepare?”

“What if the Judge disagrees?”

“What will happen if this child leaves or stays or just keeps lingering along in the system?”

“Can my heart take any more?”

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You are not alone in your thoughts.  There are others out there walking a similar path. It’s not an easy one to navigate; although, it is an important one.  Even if others seem to fluff off the gravity of life as a foster parent, you know it.  You live it.  Your life is changed by it and your love dwells within it.

One of the hardest parts of fostering is not knowing what to expect and when to expect it.  It is raw and unbearable at times, yet, it also makes you feel every ounce of what it is to be human and to completely be at the mercy of others.

In many respects, it can be a beautiful experience.  It unveils humility, love, patience, selflessness, and change.  In other ways, it is ugly.  It rips the mask off of hardship, addiction, grief, abuse, and pain.  There is truly no other experience that compares.

I’ve had this thought lately, “Is this what Jesus felt?”  In His walk on Earth, He must have been covered by the pain and the beauty of lost souls; children in need of a Savior.  Just to be clear, I am not comparing the sacrifice of Christ to being a foster parent for nothing compares to what He gave.  Yet, when I think about you, (foster) Momma, choosing to walk with the broken, I can’t help but think of Jesus.

Nothing in my life has had a greater impact on my heart and faith than the time I was a (foster) Momma to a stranger’s child.  On the one hand, I don’t want to go back there; back to not knowing, worrying, and not being able to exhale.  On the other, I would do it all over again…and again.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

Anything you do for a child matters.  Despite your own weary soul, keep at it. Stay strong. Don’t let those whispers of doubt take root in your heart and mind.  Even in the moments when you feel like no one notices what you are doing, you know and the Lord knows.

Take a deep breath.  Don’t hold it in.  Exhale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Hey, Pastors. It’s Time the Church Talks about Infertility.

pexels-photo-27633

Hey, Pastors,

Did you know that one of out of eight couples in the US has trouble either getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy?  One out of eight.  The numbers are even bigger when you consider those struggling with it throughout the world.

While you are preaching this Sunday, count the families in your congregation.  For every eight couples present, there’s a very good chance that one of them is either infertile or has miscarried.  It is possible that your church has numerous couples who have been walking through infertility with barely speaking a word about it.

We have come so far in our history as souls walking on this Earth, yet, we still do not talk about infertility; especially in the church setting.  I’ve always wondered why.  Is it because it involves sex?  Or, maybe it’s just awkward?  Could it be that advice is hard to give and take when dealing with infertility?  I suspect it might be all of these things.

I reached out once to a big national church – like huge – with a very well-known and eloquent Pastor.  I asked them, “What are you doing for people in your congregation who are struggling with infertility?”  They told me that they refer couples/singles who are infertile to their orphan care ministry.  Okay.  That is fine but adoption is a completely different experience than infertility.  Sure, they touch each other but the experiences as whole both require full attention.  They both involve lots of tears, courage, and resilience, but, orphan care, while wonderful, does not equate caring for the infertile.

Here’s the ugly truth, though.  Infertility impacts spirituality.  Let me repeat.

INFERTILITY IMPACTS SPIRITUALITY. 

Case in point:  Several years ago, a Pastor’s wife emailed me via this blog and poured her heart out to me.  She was angry at God for not answering her prayers for pregnancy.  She was confused and felt she could not say anything out loud due to being the Pastor’s wife. Instead of turning to those within her church who know her and love her, she sought me, a complete stranger who just happens to “get it” when it comes to infertility.  I did my best to encourage her and let her know that she is free to vent to me via email anytime she needed to.  However, this is not how it should be.  Infertility should not be a secret that is kept away for fear of showing to others that none of us are spiritual warriors all of the time.

Hey, Pastors.  It’s time the church breaks open the seal of secrecy when it comes to infertility.

I grew up attending a Southern Baptist church.  The Pastor and other members of the church were warm, kind and spiritually mature (at least, that is what I thought of them). However, after my hysterectomy in 1983 (age 11), I do not recall one single person with “authority” in the church reaching out to me about what had just happened.  While they provided some support to my parents, they did not really discuss at all the impact of infertility on my life and where God was in all of it. My mom recalls that “no one asked” when referring to how she dealt with it.  Instead, our family heard lots of “She can always adopt” and “God must have a reason for this”.

I’m sorry, but this is just wrong.  While I know now that adoption was the plan for my life and I absolutely adore my children, these types of comments from other Christians did not comfort, nor did they draw me closer to the Lord.  If a wife were to lose her husband, would the church say, “She can always remarry”?  I don’t think so.

Take a look at the story of Hannah:

1 Samuel 1-15

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LordAlmighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah, he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house.  In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying,

Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.  Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk, and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 


Hannah was in anguish.  She was provoked until she wept.  Yet, she was misunderstood. Her pain was not clear until she bravely told of her grief.

Hey, Pastors.  There are a lot of Hannah’s in your congregation.  

You may not know it.  You may even be surprised by who they are, but they are there. They attend week after week.  They are some of your most dedicated volunteers, teach Sunday school classes and host small groups, pray for you and everyone else, and they are in pain.

Growing up with barrenness, I understand all too well that it can be a stinging arrow heading right into one’s heart.  It does not invite feelings of thankfulness.  It certainly does not create a sense of wholeness; physically or spiritually.  If the church is responsible for growing spiritual beings and encouraging the faithful, why does it do a good job at ignoring the infertile?  Scripture talks about it, so why doesn’t the modern-day church?

Hey, Pastors.  This is my challenge for you.  Learn about infertility.  Read my blog and the multitude of other blogs whose writers whisper their tears via the written word.  Talk to doctors who work with infertile couples.  Read and re-read the stories of barrenness in the Bible, and then, create an open dialog so that the Hannah’s (and spouses) in YOUR church can feel like they are not forgotten children of the Lord and that their church home is a soft spot to land in the midst of their struggle.

Hey, Pastors.  It’s Time the Church Talks about Infertility.

 

 

 

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”

pexels-photo-256807

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Parent of a Sick Child {letter #5}

pexels-photo-239853

I sat on my bed soaking up the silence of an empty house with the knowledge that soon the kids would be home and I would hear, “Mom! I want this!” and “Mom, he’s bugging me!”  “Mom!”  “Mom!”  “MOMMMMM!!”

Silence sure is golden when it seems so evasive these days.

But then, Dear Parent of a Sick Child, I thought of you.

The beeps of machines are the only sounds you hear.  The pacing of your own anxious feet, the hustle of nurses in and out the door, and the frenzied whispered prayers that roll off your tongue are the sounds that surround your life right now.

The sound of silence is deafening, isn’t it?

You are beginning to despise silence.  Day in and day out, you wait for a noise…any noise…that would alert your anxious heart to the awakening of your child.  Sure, you hear the occasional whimper and you engage in conversations with others, but you know these things do not equate for the joyful, full-on, beautiful noise of your child.

During the times when I’m frustrated by my four-year-old asking for “More kisses, Mommy” as I’m trying to get him to go to sleep, you are praying for your little one to wake up from the drug-induced haze of sleep.  The moments when I’ve told my eight-year-old daughter that I need some space, you have craved more time and more space with yours.  When I’ve had to get on to my ten-year-old because he decided to put off a homework assignment, the furthest thing from your mind is worrying about late schoolwork.

These things and these noises are ones that parents of well children take for granted.

You’ve heard people say, “Everything happens for a reason.”  That just seems like a load of nonsense, doesn’t it?  There doesn’t seem to be any good reason that your child is struggling to survive.  It doesn’t make sense that your child has to endure the pain and hardship of a severe, life-threatening illness.  If ever you wished for silence, it would be the times when those five words were spoken to you as if you needed enlightenment or some form of justification for the unjust attack on your child’s body.

You never imagined how painfully loud silence could be until you were forced to sit in the same non-comforting hospital chair for days, months even, and you became engulfed by it.  You long to hear the heavy pitter-patter of your little one’s thick feet bouncing down the floor.  You yearn to hear the slightly off-key voice of your daughter belting out her favorite song.  You wish you could hear just one more of your son’s goofy excuses for not getting his homework done.

This.  

This sits so heavy on my heart.

The loud and painful sound of silence.

The ugly truth is that none of us are prepared for what you have been living the past few months or years.  It is hard to prepare for hell when you are living a seemingly, heavenly life, but this is what you are going through, isn’t it?  When you hear other parents complain about how loud their kids are, you just want to escape inside your own skin in order to maintain a sense of control and not lose your cool.

When the laughter of a child barrels its way in your direction, you notice it and you enjoy it, but those feelings are fleeting.  Your joy dissolves into despair as you turn to the sound of silence surrounding you while holding your child’s hand, and you go right back to whispering words like these that have become your mantra:

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silencefor my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”  -Psalms 62:5-7

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

Hang in there.  Don’t be too proud to ask for help or too timid to ask for prayer. Celebrate the slightest of improvements.  Never give up on the healing power of hope.  May God filter the silence with grace.

For Parents of Well Children – May we never, ever take for granted the noises of our children.

Author’s Note:  I am not a parent of a sick child, thankfully, but I was a sick child.  As an adult, I now understand what my parents went through and the trauma that still touches their lives from watching me dance within the shadow of death. I have such compassion for parents of sick children.  This is the fifth letter in my, “Dear Parent of a Sick Child Series.”  I truly hope this letter series brings a small measure of comfort for the families waiting for their children to be well.