If you are an adoptive parent, this is for you.
If you are a friend of an adoptive parent, this is for you.
If you are thinking about adopting/fostering, this is for you.
If you want to know how to support adoptive/foster families, this is for you.
When I speak to adoptive parents, they often begin vomiting a litany of circumstances going on in their lives they just don’t feel comfortable sharing with others (outside of therapists, doctors and other professionals and boy do we give them an ear full). Because, which one of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and say to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?” “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No. Those sorts of conversations don’t normally happen, unless we find a kindred spirit, one who has adopted and has shared experiences. The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.
I spent years not telling anyone about what was happening at home because I was trying to cover my children and I felt guilty for ‘complaining’ about something that I had asked for. In fact the few times I did step out and confess I was bone-weary tired, I was told, “Well, you adopted the children. It was your choice.” In other words, “YOU asked for it!” Not cool, brothers and sisters. Not cool. Not that I am older and wiser (which took me about sixty seconds) I know this is a lie. For we will all have trouble in this world, but Jesus said to be of good cheer, He has overcome the world. When each of us step out and uses the gifts, the talents and walks in the path God has chosen for us, we will suffer setbacks and challenges along the way. The job of us brothers and sisters in Christ is support and encourage, not to stomp each other down into a pit of despair.
Which brings me to the heart of this post and the few following it. This is just a small smidgen of a sample of what adoptive parents don’t tell you, so I will. I will tell you from experience and from the multitude of adoptive parents I have spoken to over the years.
!. Adoption is hard work.
Yes, adoption is positive. Positive things take an effort. Thinking positively takes endurance, the strength to persevere. It takes time forming new grooves in the brain to think differently -it is positive work. It is still hard. Grueling. Taxing. Adoption is like that. We adoptive parents must form new grooves in our brain to account for going about this process in a different way. We fill out paper work. Pour out our life stories for the home study. We are studied. Our homes are studied. Our lives are on display. Our habits and monetary value, our standards, morals, values, all on display. We take classes to teach us how to be parent and how to parent hurt children. Friend Jeanette and her family are ‘jumping through the hoops’ in the stages of fostering to adopt. She’s weary and hopeful at the same time, last week in an email, she changed ‘hoops’ to ‘jumping through fiery hoops”. Another family on the shores of their second adoption, had several adoptions fall through before they got call number three. Jerry and I met them for dinner and we talked about things adoptive parents need to. The husband set his mind and said, “Adoption is a sure thing. if this one doesn’t work out, God will send another one.”
So, next time you ask that future adoptive parent, ‘When are you going to get your kids?” or “Are you sure this isn’t a hoax to get your money?” (both questions I was asked more than once). Instead, ask, “How can I help?” “How can I pray for you?” Or send the waiting family a card, invite them over for dinner. Encourage them.
When Jerry and I came home from our first trip to Poland (without our adopted children) and settled in to wait for the return trip, wonderful friends and family had set up our Christmas tree and decorated it. Cleaned our home. Baked us Christmas goodies and family poured in for the Christmas holiday making it much more joyful while we waited.
And adoptive parents- don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know. That’s the last thing I want to do. I like to handle everything myself. Those five weeks I was in Poland, it was hard for me knowing someone was coming into my home and digging through that mess of Christmas decorations and seeing my dusty,messy boxes. It’s that way with our souls too. We don’t want to ask for help because people will see our weaknesses. They will see that we don’t have it altogether. Guess what, none of us do. And during this stressful precious time, ASK. ASK. ASK. If someone rebuffs you with the comments or questions I mentioned above, move on and ask someone else. Don’t shut down. You are not responsible for other people’s reactions. Their reactions don’t define you. Jesus does.
Holley Gerth says the belief that we need to change is
“if we need help, we’re a burden. Because the opposite is true. In the kingdom of God, it’s more of a blessing to give than receive. So when we’re in need and we let someone help us, we’re blessing them.” (You’re Loved No Matter What)
This is a hard pill to swallow. Read that again and let it sink in. If is hard for you to believe that, write it down somewhere and look at it often. James 1:27 is for everyone in the body of Christ. However, not everyone is called to adopt. So, in essence if you adopt/foster and you are asking non adoptive/foster families for help, you are helping them fulfill the mission.
Ask yourself, “what do I really need?”, Holley suggests, and then answer that. If you need a coffee date with a friend, then ask for it. If you need help with paper work, or someone to come shopping with you to buy things for the child you are waiting on, ask.
And the flip side of this, if you know someone who is jumping through the fiery hoops of adoption/foster care, ask them what you can do to help. Most of the time it has nothing to do with money, just time, encouraging words and maybe putting up a Christmas tree.
Next time – the second thing adoptive parents don’t tell you!