I see you. I see your newsfeed with smiling photos, happy videos, and the latest accomplishments. When someone asks, “How are you doing?” what do you say in response?
“We’re hanging in there.”
“We’re taking one day at a time.”
“It’s harder than we expected, but we’re still standing.”
“I showered today, so it’s a good day.”
These responses hint at the real truth. But perhaps you’re not that honest and instead respond, “We’re great! Adoption (or foster care) rocks.”
Indeed it does. Adoption and foster care does rock. But it’s not a fairytale. It’s the redemptive work of God in the midst of much brokenness and trauma. It’s redemptive work with a child unable to comprehend that yet another transition is for his or her good. It’s redemptive work with a child that more than likely has had no permanency, suffered abuse (even life-saving medical trauma at an early age registers in the child’s brain as abuse), gone hungry, cried with no one to comfort her (so she just stops crying), and laid in a crib too long (as evidenced by a flat back of the head).
No matter how well your adoption or foster care agency prepared you for this redemptive work, I bet most days you feel like you’re drowning. Have you admitted it to anyone? Say it out loud,
Home just two months from China, those two words were our not-so-subtle cry for help. “We're drowning.” Yes, you read that right. Are you shocked? The typical Facebook friend or Instagram follower would not have realized this truth.
Our post-adoption transition was harder, our child’s trauma was greater, and the attachment/bonding needs were much bigger than we had ever expected. The days were tough.
Additionally, obtaining sleep was difficult at best. We tried every supplement, trick, and technique recommended to improve our son’s sleep patterns. Nothing worked (for the better part of a year). According to our social worker our son was the exception—not the rule—in terms of lack of adjustment for sleep. The nights were long and grueling.
Layer on top of that the need for specialized medical care. Living in a large metropolitan area it had never occurred to us we’d have to travel to obtain good medical treatments for our son. But when our children’s hospital failed us in terms of proper medical evaluation and testing, I spent my few spare moments daily doing medical research, follow-up, phone calls, and paperwork until we got connected with an out-of-state hospital team of experts. Even naptimes were without reprieve.
It was true. We were drowning.
Why is it that we, adoptive and foster parents, are not so honest with how we’re doing post-adoption/placement?
- Most people want to believe in the fairytale. They think the happy ending occurs when the child is placed in your arms.
- Most people do not have an adequate understanding of how trauma affects children long-term. (I didn’t.)
- Most people give advice of what they did with their biological children, which is typically the opposite of what should be done with a child that comes from hard places. (See #2.)
- Most people should not be privy to the specifics of your child’s story, because it’s your child’s story to share, not yours.
- Most people do not feel called to orphan care.
Let’s pause for just a moment and address item #5. All of us—and by all I mean all—are called to orphan care. James states that “pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27 NLT)
Not all are called to adopt a child.
Not all are called to foster a child.
Not all are called to run an orphan or foster care organization.
But all are called to care for orphans (and widows).
If you’re the family member, friend, or pastoral leader of an adoptive or foster parent have you asked—truthfully asked and listened—how your loved ones and parishioners are doing?
They need your help. Not just to raise funds pre-adoption/placement, but to be the hands and feet of Jesus after placement, because that's when the real work begins. Children who come from hard places need special care and special parenting. It takes a village to do redemptive work in their lives.
Would you like to be a part of that village?
Fellow China adoptive parent, Rebecca Radicchi, recently reached out to other adoptive parents and asked how they could best be helped by friends, family, and church members. She wrote this informative article as a result: 20 Simple and Fun Ways to Support Newly Home Adoptive Families.
- If you’re an adoptive or foster parent, which of the twenty ways would most benefit you? Tell others.
- If you’re a family member, friend, or pastoral leader, which of the twenty ways could you be of the most help? Go now and follow through with that help.
If you’re an employer, consider if any of these following benefits might be useful:
- Extended leave of absence with job security (for the husband, too).
- Extended paid vacation time (possibly donated from other coworkers).
- Temporary reduction in job responsibilities for the first few months home.
- If travel is a required part of the job, consider reallocating responsibilities temporarily to reduce a parent’s time away during the initial bonding/attachment stage. (Typically the first three months home.)
We are coming up on almost a year home with our son and finally we feel like we are no longer drowning. We are, however, still in the deep end paddling daily, and our son has more medical treatments ahead of him.
Given the hard reality and tough redemptive work of adoption and foster care, the second question I want you to ask me is, “Is it all worth it?”
I will respond, “Yes. A thousand times, yes.”
Adoptive and foster parents post smiling photos, happy videos, and the latest accomplishments on Social Media because amidst the hard we want to celebrate God’s redemptive work. We want to show the bright spots and small celebrations. We want to encourage others to consider joining us in this fight for precious children.
Hearing my son laugh and giggle makes all the hard worth it.
Watching him learn and grow to trust us as his permanent caregivers makes all the hard worth it.
Reading nightly to him from his Baby’s Hug-A-Bible and seeing him point to himself when I recite,“Why did [Jesus] come? To be with you!” makes every tough day, long night, and no-reprieve-naptime worth it.
Conclusion: Adoptive and foster parents need a village of helpers for the long haul. And if they are ever so honest as to say to you, “We’re drowning,” send in the cavalry in terms of care and send it quick. They really, truly are dangerously hanging on by a very, thin thread.
Will you join them in God’s redemptive work? It is worth it.
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for [the parents of] orphans…in their distress.” (James 1:27 NLT, emphasis mine)
Related article: What Parents of Special Needs Kids Wish You Knew
Photo courtesy of Lightstock.