Thursday, July 18, 2013

Considering Adoption? Some Things You May Want To Consider....From Our Perspective

Nature Girl 11, Blondie 10, and Mei Mei 8, recently paying a visit to the Mouse.
     I've had several people tell me lately they are thinking about adoption.....and what do I think about "_____"? So, I've been thinking about our journey thus far and decided to write about what I frequently tell people who ask......and we get asked some great questions, and some stupid  ignorant ones. Most people are really extremely nice and sincerely want to know how the systems work. Others want waaaayyyy too much info on the girls backgrounds and histories which we try to protect. I've learned not to judge motives and others agendas in their probing. I simply consider whom I'm talking to....and answer accordingly. Sometimes it's a quick "7-11 convenience store" answer, sometimes it's more in depth. There are also things I wish I'd known before we adopted. There are things you couldn't possibly know without walking through those doors. In a nutshell.....according to our adoption journey with the children we have, 11 years and 3 adoptions later.....these are things I would tell you if you are considering adoption even the tiniest little bit.

1. It is Holy Ground-  These adoptions are not about me. They never have been and never will be. People are eternal beings. When you adopt you are changing the course of a life.....for eternity. Not only are you changing this child but their children, and their grandchildren and so on. The chains of poverty are broken!  God prepared us for years beforehand. Years. As I poured over scriptures I began to see, taste and feel God's heart for the orphan....the poor....the weak....the oppressed and the fatherless. These scriptures became me as I took on God's desires. God heart is for the poor. He rescues the weak. He's the defender of the widow and the orphan.....and he's the mender of the broken. His people (us) in becoming like him have a responsibility to care for these....the weak of this world. It is not an option. I believe the more you open yourself up to God's word, praying, seeking, God will show you your role in caring for the least of these.  It did not happen overnight. I had lost biological babies. I grieved. It made me more aware of the grief the destitute and poor live through everyday. Millions across this planet live on $1 a day or less, and are sometimes forced to choose which child they will feed that day. Many give them up through orphanages or simple abandonment in hopes they will find a better life. It was indescribably hard, BUT to know God means you can't ignore the plight of the 47 million orphans on this planet. You just can't. They are out there....they are hungry.....they need parents.....they need the church. If the church doesn't rise up to help them then who will? I for one didn't want to live my life knowing about God, yet never acting on his behalf.....on behalf of the orphan's cry. We live in one of the most prosperous nations on the planet. With that knowledge, this country's people should be forerunners in the fight for the orphan, poor and widow across the world. What greater call is there than to spend your life building up and giving life to those unable to care for themselves and without the very basic necessities of life?
     It became an issue of obedience. My desire to honor God in this life disqualified my need for comfort, material possessions, and ease as our biological children got older. I CRAVED obedience and couldn't ignore God's call....but as you will see, God's direction of our lives doesn't mean others will always understand.....

2.  Don't be surprised if people don't 'get it'- after all....very few in the day 'got' Jesus. The majority were against him. When we first told people our desire to adopt...those we thought would embrace our plans were horrified. (Why would you mess up your perfect American life?? You will tie yourself down....You won't have time for yourself....You won't have time to shop.....You're too old....Blah, blah, blah) Those who we thought would consider us crazy, were for it. Don't let others opinions (even your family) be your guide. Do what you feel like God is telling you regardless of what others think. If your desires line up with scripture then go for it! God is your authority......not man. Listen to God. It took some of our friends years to 'come around' once our girls were home. Some never did, sad to say. This was so confusing to us because those that we 'thought' knew scripture and would understand....even if they weren't called to this, were some of our biggest dissenters. I wasn't prepared for this, but it has made me ever sure of what I believe. We wouldn't change a thing. It doesn't matter if others 'get it' or not.

3. Find a great church that supports adoption and orphan/foster care- This may come as a surprise, but not all churches/pastors do. If you mention to your pastor that you are 'considering' adoption and he looks at you like you have two heads......find another church. There are SO many good churches out there yet there are so many bad ones. Be discerning. Be prayerful. You are going to need the support, care and love of your church once your child comes home. Make sure you are on the same page regarding these issues.

4. Adoption is expensive but it doesn't have to be expensive- sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it? And it is. Adoption CAN be very expensive and often people are quick to dismiss it as an option because they are just misinformed. Did you know that adoption through most state foster care systems is completely free? Also, most provide health care, dental care and a subsidy until the child is 18. Nothing is cheaper than free! Private adoptions are also another viable option. Many are expensive however there are those who are willing to place a child for adoption for just the cost of medical care and legal fees. This makes private adoptions something to consider.
      International Adoption is the most costly. We discovered that most of the cost here is in your final travel to pick up your child. The actual stateside fees were not that much different than the private system. With IA you do not have to pay the entire fee at the get-go. Your fees are spread out over months....even years. Many times you can delay a segment until you have the funds to move forward. Happens all the time. When you consider the cost but spread out over a year and a half or more it makes IA more of a viable option for many. One of our daughters came to us through the foster care system, one through private adoption and one through IA. All three had their different ups and downs.
     You also have to be willing to make choices. I know people who say they would 'love' to adopt but they don't have the money. These very same people take several cruises every year and other expensive vacations. Most of us make huge sacrifices and lifestyle changes to make sure these children have a home. Adoption is worth it. I promise.

5. They will have issues and have things that will not surface for years- I foolishly believed that once we brought home our children, and they received proper nutrition, love and care that all issues they had faced prior, would come to an end. I (we) could've not been more wrong!! One of our healthy adoptions has turned out to be multiple 'special needs'. We didn't see this coming.....nor would we have chosen this. HOWEVER we would not trade this daughter for anything, and God's grace has more than met us in our moments of need. I have now become a huge advocate for special needs adoption and would do it again in a heartbeat. God chose us to be her parent when she had none, and has moved mountains to allow this daughter to be successful in school and life. From hospitals, to therapies, to multiple specialists, to learning differences, this child has taught me what living sacrificially means. I am a better mom because of her!
     Another one of our daughters we adopted from birth. Although she has had the least issues of all three, she struggles with overwhelming anxiety and panic at times which didn't surface until she went to school.  We do know that her birthmom had anxiety issues which explains alot. Even though you bring them out of a difficult environment, love them and raise them, you can't change their DNA. Don't be surprised when issues crop up out of the blue even years down the road (many times you will not be aware of issues until the school years) because of how the brain works. My philosophy now is "what's next to happen?"
     Our third adoption was a little girl that spent her first year in an orphanage. I don't care if your child is labeled Non-special needs (NSN), if they lived any time in an orphanage it qualifies them to be special needs. This child has struggled the most with attachment issues. Attachment is a HUGE word in adoption and needs to be studied extensively if you are considering it. There is so much complexity to the human brain that I will never understand. What I do know is that consistent care, nurturing, food, and love are so important in that first year. If they miss this (like my first and third adopted daughters did) it can play havoc with their brain. We are still working through many of these very issues and my faith has been made stronger because of the issues each daughter has had to face.

6. God will equip you to parent the wounded-but it won't be easy. The vision can be crystal clear but the day to day is still hard. Many if not most of these children have had several disruptions in their already young years. Any disruptions in a child's life are traumatic and imprint strongly on the brain. One of my daughters was in 6 homes before she came to us at almost 8 months old.....with two of those being shut down for neglect and abuse. She at this young age, lived through trauma most of us can't imagine and she had never attached to anyone. Can you imagine being so alone in the world that not even one person was consistent in your everyday? This is the reality for so many of these kids. This particular child needed parents that would not give up on her when attachment and other issues didn't disappear easily even when your comfortable American life gets slammed with issues you weren't expecting.
      I have three go to books that have helped me see my daughters wounded pasts through different eyes and given me faith that together with God's help we can, and will walk in healing. It is a tough, teary, and difficult journey......not unlike Pilgrim's Progress. It's a journey I am willing to take because I know the end is beautiful.
     1. Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child- I will say don't look at this title!! It should say Parenting your Adopted Child. I have learned so much from this book about how the brain handles stress, disruptions and attachment that I have used for all three of my girls.....two of whom were domestic adoptions. Great, great resource that deserves a reread every year.

2. The Connected Child-In adoption you hear the words 'strong attachments' over and over. It really is the backbone of your relationship with your new child. Another fallacy I believed was that attachment wouldn't take long. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Forming strong attachments with your child can take a year or more. If they have an attachment 'issue' it can take longer. Many adopted kids have never attached to anyone. Their brain simply doesn't know how. They get angry,
they can throw some serious tantrums, you can feel rejected.....all normal as the brain works through grieving and attaching. You have to be very, very patient and not react. I wish I had known what I know now then. It would have saved me alot of heartache. This book is a lifesaver in teaching about attachment. I reread it at least once a year to make sure we keep our bases covered as I will say again.....many, many issues may not surface until the later school years or even their teens. Don't be surprised, be prepared.

3. Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew-Great resource to see adoption through your child's eyes. They may not feel every one of these.....but chances are as they age they will experience some. Being prepared is half the battle I believe. This is an excellent resource to help
encourage your child when issues do rise to the surface.

7. Don't have lofty expectations- Saving an orphan can have romantic, even unrealistic notions about bringing a child home to a perfect home, family and environment. You want to give them all they have never had. You want them to love you back instantly. You want to bond, and want them to do the same. The truth is.......IT IS HARD. But don't be afraid of hard. You can do this if you know ahead of time there is not much romantic about it. You will be a stranger to your child at first. They may experience sensory overload and 'wind up' or do what one of my daughters did....shut down. They will not gaze lovingly into your eyes right at first. You will be exhausted, your brain will be working overtime trying to figure out if it's an attachment issue, DNA issue or personality issue you are dealing with at the moment....and if you have multiple children they will also need you. Adoption is not for the faint of heart. It will be unlike anything you have ever done....or dealt with if you have bio children. But don't may take a while but in the end you will be fine....and better for it. Just change your expectations....and don't forget to smile!

8. Don't neglect the word- Prayer moves mountains. Reading your Bible gives wisdom. Don't neglect this once you are home with your new child. Make this time for you so you are the parent your child needs. Hide in the bathroom if you need to. Go in your closet. Find a me...the God who gave you this child will empower you if you spend time with him.

9. Lower your standards around your house- It's going to take a while for you all to adjust to your new normal once your child is home. I'm not sure if I've ever recovered!! If you have multiple children you are just going to have to let the standard of clean you once knew to slip to the wayside for a while. I know people who would rather die than have a crumb fall to their lovely polished wood floors.....but that takes time away from your children. Attachment is more important than a clean house......for years to come.

10. When you discipline, err on the side of grace- the ol' "You will obey me because I am your parent" method of discipline rarely works with children who have lived through disruptions or trauma. Many times they will take your 'loud' angry tones as rejection. My girls have told me this time after time. When I raise my voice even a little.....they take it as rejection and thus become fearful, nervous and block out anything disciplinary I'm trying to convey.  We had to totally revamp our discipline approach with our three adopted girls.....we now choose to err on the side of grace when conflicting issues arise where we don't know what to do....or even who did what. Corporal punishment doesn't work on traumatized children. It drives their already fragile hearts and attachments farther away from you. The grace our loving Father extends to us we extend to these girls. Yes, they get disciplined.....but it's different. We are more patient (or try to be), we try not to raise our voices so anxiety doesn't overide the lesson we are trying to convey. Their hearts are tender. Their emotions are fragile.....even if their exterior is tough. We want them to want to come to us if their is ever a need. We want them to have someone they can trust when all that was in their pasts was untrustworthy. We want them to feel safe. Yes, they need firm boundaries....but firm doesn't mean harsh. We try to be extra careful of our own emotions in our discipline.....with lots of hugs, not alienation. They need to know their parent is their advocate....not their critic.

11. Let them flourish in being themselves.....afterall, they don't share your DNA-I have friends who have adopted who swear their child 'is just like them'. I love that. I think that is a gift from God. Our girls however are nothing like us parents. We have learned to give them express themselves in who they are (as long as it's not disobedient) in all areas because they don't share our genes. It's interesting. With our bio kids we could always say, "Well, He gets that from his Mom, or his Uncle, or Grandpa." With adopted kids there is no way to tell. Unless you have credible info on the birth family you just. don't. know. We try to give our girls freedom to express themselves through art, activities, sports......anything they are interested in and encourage them that that is a gift brought through in them by their birth family. We let them know this is what makes them unique.....even if it's weird, or off beat, or just not something 'our family' would do. We let them know we will always strive to allow them to have their own identity.....not one that has to fit the 'mold' of our family. We are a multi-ethnic family. We embrace Chinese heritage and culture as easily as our own. It's important even though our daughter doesn't realize it yet that she is secure in who she is and where she came from. As I've mentioned before.....I need to be my daughter's biggest advocate. Not someone who is reminding them constantly how 'different' they are from the rest of the family.
     I have a daughter who is really good at art. I regularly affirm her and her ability by reminding her that she got her talent from her birth family......and that's a good thing! This builds security that all they came from wasn't bad....even though they were given up for adoption. Important.

12. Adoption will change you like nothing else can-Adoption is such a marvelous picture of how each one of us has been adopted by our heavenly father. There is nothing like bringing that son or daughter into a family fold when an instant before, they had none. The feeling is indescribable, in fact I have called it 'addicting'. I do not think adoption is for everyone. You definitely have to know beyond the shadow of doubt God is leading you to do this.... because when the hard hits,  it's too easy to quit if your soul isn't grounded in that knowledge. But if you have heard, please act and do. It will rock your American socks off.

13. They're gonna break your stuff and you will live- Like you've already read, so many of these kids come with issues. If they haven't had consistent care or had many disruptions before coming to their forever family, they could have sensory issues. I have a child who has remained somewhat clumsy and a sensory seeker. She can't help it.....she breaks things. Alot. She spills things. Alot. All that first year of life,  your brain cells (neurotransmitters) are laying pathways for the future. If the first year of life again is not in a nurturing, loving, consistent environment, many pathways aren't formed correctly......leading the way for issues down the road such as speech delays, learning differences, sensory issues, etc.
     Early on I had to remind myself that this daughter is more important than things.....she's an eternal soul and the stuff isn't. I can say now that stuff isn't that important to me. We live on less and have alot less.....and we're ok. Our girls are thriving which is what's most important.

So.....I would ask you. What are you going to do with this one life that you've been given? If you are stirred towards adoption please act on that stirring. I will be happy to help you find a starting place. If you love adoption but aren't called to specifically adopt a child.....what about child sponsorship? Again, I can point you in the right direction here as well. I pray that you would consider being part of the solution for one of the 47 million who wake up daily with no one. I think Mother Teresa gets it right with these words, "Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." 


  1. Awesome post! I read 2 of the 3 books you listed during the years that we were struggling with infertility. It's so heartbreaking to even think about what so many innocent children have to endure during their formative years. We look forward to completing our family with adoption one day down the road - thank you for your inspirational words of wisdom!! -- Rebecca Hughes

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