Goodness, my heart has been stirring to write this post for a while now. But it’s difficult to express..and it may not be received well. This is not a post encouraging you to adopt. In fact, it may do just the opposite (although I hope not!).
Every week I receive comments and/or emails from families inquiring about older child adoption. My silent response is, “If you want the rosy version, read the blog. If you want the truth, I will share it privately.”
I actually prefer prospective adoptive parents to ask me specific questions. That way I can answer directly without sharing too little or too much.
Let me first say, loud and clear, that if God is calling you to do something, DO IT! It doesn’t matter how big the obstacles appear, how wide the gap between you and your calling, how strange or untimely it appears, how many nay-sayers you encounter (and you WILL encounter them), if God is calling you to put your faith into action and you don’t do it, quite simply, you are disobedient.
In all honesty, with each of our adoptions I was not nearly as frightened by the needs of our children as I was the prospect of disobedience. And another truth ~ had we known the demons that plague our Teen Treasure, I’m not sure we would have followed through. Sad, isn’t it? That leaves no room for faith…or redemption.
But that’s one of the things about God’s amazing plans ~ they are so much bigger than we can imagine that we would simply fail without Him! And the testimony of His faithfulness and the way He instantaneously touched my heart for aging-out kiddos has been a game changer for me. In those moments when I am so weary I don’t think I can put one foot in front of the other, He whispers, “Remember Me. Remember that NO THING is impossible for Me. Remember that I brought you $21,000 in one evening just weeks before you traveled. Remember that I provided over $47,000 in 9 months to bring home two more Treasures.”
Why? Not because of who I am, but because He loves the orphan; He loves the family; His Love made a way for no one to perish; and His plan is redemption.
Ya’ll know that my heart beats for the orphan. I love the redeeming plan that God has to bring beauty from ashes in the lives of some of the most desperate children. To be honest, I would love to adopt again (don’t lose sleep over that one, Mom J) But like I said, this is not a post encouraging you to adopt.
We in the adoption community (myself included) typically advocate for children. That’s one way we can love the orphan. And lately our attention has been drawn to many older children, especially those near aging out. In fact, around Christmas time we say things like, “All they want for Christmas is a family.” Or we plead with families who are near travel to consider rushing the paperwork to bring home a child who is running out of time. And that’s okay…if that’s what God is asking you to do. It’s not okay if it’s an emotional decision made to ‘save’ a child just in the nick of time.
If your family is considering adopting an older child, I am urging you to make every effort to prepare yourselves. We have no crystal ball; we have no way of knowing the child’s true personality or how they will respond to the dynamics of our family. We don’t even know if the information we’ve been given is accurate. Our Teen Treasure was reported as “artistic.” Hmmmmm. He draws stick figures just like his Mama.
I’m not necessarily talking about stocking your shelves with countless books. I would suggest getting to know families who have taken this journey before you. Get a variety of scenarios. Heaven forbid, ask your agency to tell you about problems they’ve encountered with older children acculturating, reasons for families disrupting and resources families have found helpful in times of struggle. Of course, ask for the good stuff too, because it does exist!
I’m afraid we give the impression that these children will be so grateful for a family that they will quickly settle in …and live happily ever after. I know families who have had seemingly fairy tale adoption experiences with teens, and then I know families who are struggling. “Family in crisis” is how it is written into a homestudy.
There are so many reasons a family may be in crisis. Shell shock, lack of preparation, mis or undiagnosed medical needs, lack of resources. The last is a biggie! When a family is ‘in crisis,’ shouldn’t there be somewhere to turn? Someone with answers? Oh, contraire! What do we do? We turn to one another! We share our struggles, our triumphs, our prayers, our tears.
But did you know that if you call a teen heartline you will likely be put on hold? Seriously! You finally get up the nerve to seek help, putting aside all fear that someone will blame you, and you get, “All our representatives are busy with other clients. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.” Never mind. I’m probably just imagining this happened anyway. I’m probably blowing it out of proportion.
Sometimes adopting an older child is really like bringing home 3 or 4 different children ~ a certain emotional age; a different biological age; an even different intellectual age. And they often act very differently outside the home. Perhaps the child is apathetic at home but superficially charming and engaging in groups. This in itself can be exhausting.
Did you know if you seek respite, you will likely get the well-meaning, “Oh, she is so precious. He loves his siblings so much. She’s so proud to have you as parents. He’s a perfect angel. She’s so helpful; I didn’t even have to ask.” It’s just another slam to your already fragile perspective. Another slap in your tear-stained face.
Please hear my heart. Not every situation is like this, praise the Lord! And again, I stand firm in my belief that there is NO THING and NO ONE beyond God’s redemption!
The truth is, many of our children come with lifelong baggage stacked one layer after another as a result of institutionalization. They are forced not only to acculturate from their birth country, but also from the institution, which by the way, is really nothing like ‘typical’ family life.
They have learned so many survival and adaptive behaviors, it can take a lifetime to turn fear into trust. Yet, we don’t have a lifetime. We have 6 years? 4? 2? We must be prepared for a bumpy ride. It will serve us best if we are prepared to cast our desires and dreams aside, laying it all down for the sake of this child.
Despite what we might think, bringing home a teen is not like having a ready-made helper around the house J Or even a babysitter. It’s more like having an infant who needs our full attention…except they are too big for us to swaddle and rock in the midst of their fits of rage. And even when they barely know English they seem to know the words that hurt the most.
In many cases it’s especially hard for us Mamas because God made us to love and nurture. We don’t like rejection, especially from our children. We have dreams of this precious child cleaving to us as if they’d been entrusted to our care forever. Teens are naturally becoming independent. It’s God’s design. They are not seeking approval of parents as much as approval of peers. In fact, we parents are pretty doggone stupid by the time our kids are 12 or 13 J And so we’ve entered their lives at a time of natural transition, and yet it’s so important for bonding and attachment to occur with the family. It’s completely contradictory, but somehow we have to fight nature and make this unnatural thing happen!
And what happens if our Treasure becomes violent, aggressive or promiscuous? Betcha didn’t see that in the referral info. It can be a costly endeavor. But really, how much is a life worth?
Okay, enough reality. Again, if the Lord is leading you to adopt an older child, there is nothing that should stop you. No horror story, no fear of the unknown, no hurtful words of discouragement (oh, that’s the enemy himself!), should keep you from following through with God’s amazing plans!
So what can we do?
First, we can alter our expectations. Chances are good this ain’t no fairy tale. But it can be a time of growth! It’s in these challenging times with no answers that we are forced to turn to the One with ALL the answers, the One who doles out grace unending, Whose strength is unsurpassable, Whose Love is immeasurable…and Who allows us to see ourselves in the mirror each time our child rejects us to the core. We must keep our expectations low and our hopes high.
We can strive for simplicity. Keeping a routine without a ton of extracurricular activities and commitments is so important. I’m not suggesting that life stops here! Some things just may need to hit the backburner for a while.
As I said before, it’s helpful to have relationships with families who have Been There Done That. We can glean so much from their experiences and their advice. It’s so much more helpful to seek out the truth rather than what we want to hear. I love it when my confidantes hold me accountable to ‘do what Jesus did,’ which is love even the unlovely.
Keep perspective! Chances are, a season of struggle will not last forever. As I’m whining to the Lord, I’m often given a glimpse of others who have much deeper struggles.
Bookmark resources! If you’re in the middle of a battle with your new addition and you have no clue how to respond, surfing the net for that one applicable morsel of truth you read somewhere, sometime will only add to your frustration. If you find something good, keep it, mark it, print it, whatever you need to do. And if caught off guard, you can always call a time-out! After all, you’re the boss-mom, right?!? I really appreciate Karyn Purvis’ resources!
Pray…and often! I remember the early days when I’d ask the Lord, “Please give us a good day.” That’s laughable now. Soon my prayers changed to, “Lord, no matter what today brings, please give me the grace to respond in a way that glorifies You.” Ahem…I don’t always do that, just for the record.
Every child deserves a family! But they deserve a good family. Not a perfect one, but one willing to make changes to help them through the most difficult transition of their lives. We owe it to our children to approach their homecoming in prayer and with preparation. And we must remember that we were created not for ourselves, but for His purposes.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:12
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26