Take that (adopted) kid away from his culture, please!

Adoptive parents sometimes assume children understand where they are coming from (don’t steal, don’t hit, be nice, etc.) Conservative parents tend to think these guidelines are universal, but orphanages have their own subculture, just as a birth country has a culture. Habit and survival trump conscience and many times government trumps or replaces God.- Positive Adoption: A Memoir

Orphanages have a culture. Homes have a culture.

“Children placed into an orphanage shortly after birth receive little one on one care. No matter where in the world the orphanage is located, this early placement can affect a child’s development and create attachment issues.

Whether the abuse and/or neglect occur in utero or after the child is born, the results may be similar.”-Parenting the Hurt Child 24ea3-img_0976

Homes with neglect have a culture. Abusive homes have a culture.  Alcoholic homes have a culture. Stable homes have a culture. Communities have a culture.

Culture- the behavior and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic or age group. (dictionary.com)

Before you close out this post, read a bit further- let’s talk about the culture that some children come from and decide whether we want to continue it or not.

  • Neglect- the culture of neglect says, “You do not exist!” (Dr. Karen Purvis)
  • Abuse- the culture of abuse says, “You are not worth anything!”
  • Hunger- the culture of hunger says, “There will never be enough!”
  • An Institution- the culture of an institution says – Communism
  • Alcoholism- the culture of alcoholism says, “You never know what’s coming next, the good guy or the bad.” Anxiety. Unrest. Hypervigilance.
  • War- the culture of war says, “You will never be safe!” Fear. Torment.

Obviously, I’m not talking about celebrating Chinese New Year or St. Nicholas day or whatever traditions or holidays your child’s birth country celebrates.  I am saying, take a moment and ask what they celebrated or if they did at all. We think of culture as visiting museums, attending concerts, going to a play or state park. Many children from hard places (whether adopted domestically or internationally) have never done any of those things. Their culture has been survival.  Foraging for food or if they are fortunate -playing soccer with a tennis ball in the halls of an orphanage (true story).

I asked my son Gregory (21 years old now, had just turned 6 when adopted) what sort of culture he remembers of the museum-art-play-field trip sort while in the care of the orphanage. NONE. He said there were a few field trips with the local school, but he and brother Damian skipped them, choosing instead to ride around town with the orphanage’s bus driver. Probably the most of that sort of culture those kids ever got.

I remember the first field trip we took the kids on (while still in Poland).  Damian and Gregory were glued to the rail at the front of the bus, leaning over as far as the bus driver allowed, drinking in every scene and asking questions. Questions. Questions.

So, before you slap that ethnic costume on your child (and I’m not saying not to) find out what sort of culture they experienced, if any. And then make sure they have the culture of security, of felt-safety. Of constancy. Of knowing there is food there for today – all day- and tomorrow too. Let them know their belongs are not communal property.

Before you decide to continue your child’s culture, find out what it means to them first. Does it mean connection? Does it mean disorganized? Does it mean hunger? Does it mean stealing-to-get by? And then…… start building a new foundation. A new foundation of trust.  Then… you can celebrate.

Why I didn’t send my internationally adopted children to counseling fresh off the plane


In the book Solomon Says, a young girl named Tracy is removed from the home for sexual abuse at the hands of her father. She is labeled ‘sexual abuse’.  Tracy says of a foster home she liked,

“The only problem was they put me in a sexual abuse program. We had to drive about sixty miles every Monday to get there. And I was feeling, ‘Why am I getting punished for this crap?” They’re preaching at me all the time about how this isn’t my fault. That’s what bothered me. They’re all saying, ‘This isn’t your fault.’ And I’m —‘Fine, I think I got that point now, I know that.’ Every time I said anything, ‘This isn’t your fault.’ ‘GOD, i know. Would you just tell me something besides that all the time?'”


  1. Adopted children need time to feel secure.

Kids don’t need to feel like there is something wrong with them. Many of them already feel that way because of past abuse and neglect.

My kids were fresh out of the orphanage where they had spent the better part of two years. For the youngest minus the five months in the hospital it had been his whole life. There was a natural therapy going on. It was a new set of suppositions. We will eat meals regularly. There will be food available all the time. Mom will bathe me. I have clothes to wear. Mom and dad are in charge. They read me stories and tuck me in. The kids didn’t need anyone to tell them that orphanage style living wasn’t the highest on the food chain. They knew it. Instinctively. They didn’t want to go back there. The children wanted roots. Stability. Yes, survival mode reared its ugly head daily. Regressions came and went. Triggers sent kids off the deep end. But, here’s the thing- my kids were raised by ‘social workers’, doctors, etc, professionals were high on the fear factor list for my children. The last thing they needed fresh off the plane was to be embedded once again in the social system. No, they needed time to be part of a family with a mom and a dad. Those wounds were fresh and they needed the salve of security not probing questions to open them up again.Kids don’t need to feel like there is something wrong with them. Many of them already feel that way because of past abuse and neglect.

  1. Counseling is good. However, it is not good for everyone, all the time.. There is a time and place for everything.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:

2 A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted,(A)

3 A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, Ecclesiates 3

My face went numb. My arms tingled. I looked in the mirror at my scarlet blotched neck and splashed water on my face.I was at  high school at a basketball game with friends. My parents were bowling nearby and I got stuffed into an ambulance while authorities tried to get in touch with them. (No cell phones). And then asked questions about my drug use. I didn’t use drugs. I didn’t drink. I was having a panic attack, my first.

My first counseling session was during my freshman year of college. Panic attacks reappeared. Mom put her foot down. I only went once. My face red with shame. Anxiety ruled the session. I wasn’t ready to face what ate at me. I needed time and maturity before I was. So I took my proverbial shovel and buried it. During the college years, I had several healing baby steps. And some relapses- a bout with an eating disorder and a few more panic attacks.

15855532426_bef22c648a_oCounseling is great at the proper time. When someone needs help and asks for it. Recognizes the need. I didn’t recognize my need, not yet. I only recognized the problem which I thought (as many hurt children do) was me. It never occurred to me that it was circumstances that had happened to me.Thankfully, God, in His omniscience, knew my suppositions and he put me in a group of gals who had a hunger for the Word and prayer. We dug deep into the Word together, talking and counseling each other for hours on end. That intense time was another chapter in my healing journey. I had begun to believe that all I needed to heal was God, me and some friends (which is true sometimes). But, God shot that belief out of the sky. I ordered a book Healing is a Choice: 10 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and 10 Lies That Can Prevent You from Making Them after a friend suggest it. The first lie? “All I need to Heal is God and me.” I threw the book across the room.

“You are willing to acknowledge that there is something that needs attention. You admit there is smoke, but you balk at the notion of fire. You admit to something, but deny that it needs attention from others. Rather than stay isolated inside your own solitary cave, you hole up there with God, expecting God to meet every need and heal every pain. It does not happen, because that is not God’s plan. God’s plan is for us to connect with each other to facilitate healing in our lives.”

I didn’t want this to be true. I wanted to work it out with God in my own home. I didn’t want to open up, to be vulnerable. Problem is, I stuffed until there was no room left in body, soul and mind. Then fear. Anxiety ruled. I didn’t want to drive. I didn’t want to leave the house. When I brought up memories with siblings, theirs were different or they were still so deep in denial they couldn’t relate. So, I made the call, hand shaking, sweat pouring, clenched hands, shallow breath. If you are not sure if you need to see a therapist check out this post by Marty Walden here.

Wait, you say, I thought this was an anti counseling post? No, it is when the time is right, therapy is good. It is good to have someone to walk beside you on the healing journey, not to be dragged along kicking and screaming the whole way. Then it does more damage than good. Healing is only healing if the wounded is ready.The woman with the issue of blood had to find Jesus and touch Him. She went out of her way. She wanted to be healed (Matthew 9:20-22). Two blind men followed Jesus ‘shouting loudly, Have pity and mercy on us, Son of David’ (Matthew 9:27) .  Often we adoptive parents must cover our wounds and parent while we watch our children suffer with their own. They lash out at us verbally knifing those scars of ours, but they don’t see, they don’t recognize their need. So we wait. As I said, two of my children went to the same therapist i currently go to. As teens, they were ready. Also, they are bios. The children who were adopted may take longer to recognize the need. Be patient. Don’t push. Another option, get some counseling for them. By that I mean go to a counselor in lieu of them going and then quietly  put into practice what you learned for them.

This is not a therapy bash. I had a steep learning curve when it came to counseling outside of my own comfy home or safe in the confines of the church pew. God can use your friends. He can use the Word, but, if you, like me think you can do it alone, He may challenge that. At the same time, remember your adopted children may not be ready or willing to relive the trauma just yet. Therapy at the wrong time can cause more trauma. A child with a shame based nature needs some time to attach to parents and become secure before he examines the chapters of his former life. When he realizes the first few chapters are getting in the way of his right now, he is ready. But, he must come to you in one way or another, grab the hem of your t-shirt or yell loudly in the street,’ I NEED SOME HELP HERE!’


*I use the therms counseling and therapy interchangeably in this post! Both have the same goal. Therapy is from the term Psychotherapy which means a long term approach to healing and a doctorate behind the name. Counseling has the same goal and usually denotes a master’s degree in counseling. Both are effective.

What Does the World Long to See?

    This week I promised to share about some individuals who were secret agents, working under the radar, ambassadors for Christ doing the work of the kingdom.

    In this series on the Church’s responsibility, I think it is important to investigate  what the world longs to see the Church doing.  There is a theological debate that keeps some Saints sidelined.  Faith or works?  The query has us scratching our heads and wondering.  Should we believe that God will meet our needs and the needs of the community or should we step out and be the hands and feet of Jesus, the living breathing body of Christ, hands baking the loaves and grilling fishes?

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.-James 1:14

How can we say to our brethren, be warm and be filled without offering the bread.  Jesus, the bread of life, who offered the word of life, health to our flesh, chose to feed the multitude before sending them on their way.

And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.
17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
18 He said, Bring them hither to me.
19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

-Matthew 14: 14-20

     Is that the miracle?  Jesus multiplies the loaves and fishes in us?  We follow in His footsteps and are moved by compassion?  Then we give thanks, as the prequel to the miracle of multiplication?
We have faith and do the works that He has commissioned us to do.  Take care of the widow and the orphan, our external religious worship (James 1:27).  Religion is something that must be practiced, right? Not hidden under a bushel, remember the children’s song?  Hide it under a bushel, NO!   Let your light shine where all can see it.  What is the world looking for?  Darkness?  Deception?  Hunger?  Despair?  Lack?  Disease?  Depression?  Hate?  NO!  

For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. Romans 8:19

   All of creation ‘waits expectantly and longs earnestly’ for Christ’s followers to be made known.  Creation waits for us to walk in the compassion of Christ, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, wiping the brow and sending up prayers for the sick.  The world waits breathlessly for us to carry out Isaiah 61, as Christ did, to do as we saw Him do- preach the Gospel of great tidings to the meek, the poor, the afflicted.

“I want to see God, who gives gifts in hospitals and gravesides and homeless shelters and refugee camps….”  – Ann Voskamp

Tune in next time when for a look into a life of a Saint who fed the poor and clothed the naked, a hero of the faith….