Every experienced adoptive parent I have talked with has emphasized that happily-ever-after with an adopted child takes a lot of hard work and that it is critical to be prepared for the sometimes surprising, puzzling or alarming behaviors that may surface after arriving home. I have read a great deal on this subject, and the country from which we are adopting requires 80 hours of pre-adoption training so I will be reading even more in the coming weeks, but this is still a difficult column for me to write because I only have book knowledge and I suspect there is a great deal that I just don’t know that I don’t know . . . you know? So I have asked other, more experienced parents, to do the work for me this time.
Tonya Garrick, a former group home and foster parent, who, with her husband Sean, is now in the process of adopting a little girl from Korea, offers this advice:
“[Adoptive parents] need to be prepared to help our children mourn their losses and to be okay with that. Our children come to us with memories that we are not a part of. We need to respect their pasts and help them heal from their prior hurts, while fostering a love for their birth parents. Adoption books and training courses can help parents in that process.”
Gretchen Thibault, who, with her husband Dan, adopted a son from the Ukraine in 2010 and is now headed back for a daughter, adds, “When there are tougher times, specifically some behavior issues from spending his first few years in a crib, I just remind myself of what the options were for him-life bound in an institution-and it makes me snap right out of it. It is easy to say, ‘I wonder if he would have had this struggle or that,’ but what does it matter? He is who he is now and I am blessed to be his mother and love him. Really, what an honor!”
There is also uncertainly inherent in the adoption process which prospective parents need to be aware of. Carla Dobrovits, who, with husband Paul, adopted a baby boy from the Ukraine a little over a year ago, writes, “We were surprised with a very different, and much more challenging, medical condition than we expected. My advice is to be flexible and expect change and challenges. Don’t dwell on them. Save your energy for finding solutions.”
The struggles faced by adoptive families can be serious stuff and I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that some of what I have read scares the pants off me.
Is there danger? Oh yes, there is danger. There is fear. There is criticism. There are questions to which there are no easy answers. But there is something else, too.
Not long ago, my older daughter and I read The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis and the Narnian Marshwiggle, Puddleglum, offers some very applicable advice.
The characters in the story have been sent on a quest and given certain signs by the Christ figure in the series which will guide them in their quest. They received four signs, but have badly mishandled the first three and when they encounter the fourth they are faced with a terrible choice.
“Oh if only we knew!” says one of the young, human adventurers.
“I think we do know.” says Puddleglum the Marshwiggle
“Do you mean you think everything will come right if we [obey the sign]?” asks the other young human.
“I don’t know about that” says Puddleglum, “You see Aslan [the Christ figure] didn’t tell [us] what would happen. He only told [us] what to do. [This] will be the death of us . . . I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.”
“I love reading families’ stories about their children once they are home,” writes Tonya Garrick, “Jen Hatmaker and Kristen Howerton both are pretty open about the struggles of adding children to your family [through adoption]. They talk about the ups and downs of adoption and I appreciate that. It’s important to be realistic in your expectations. Adoption is a big step for the families as well as the adoptive child. It takes time to bond—it’s not a fairy tale. There may be major issues to deal with or minor bumps along the way, but we know it’s worth it! Thankfully, our heavenly Father is willing to grant us grace and love us regardless.”
The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis
Books: Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen
Brothers and Sisters in Adoption by Arleta James
With each of the columns I will be writing over the next several months, I hope to include information about a particular waiting child. These beautiful children need you! Would you please, please take a moment to read about them, pray the prayer below for them, donate a few dollars to their grants if you possibly can, post their pictures and profiles on your blog or Facebook page and maybe even consider whether God might just have shown you your son or daughter?
Jacob is a precious little guy with cerebral palsy. He is turning 2 in January but is still very much like a baby. When given any bit of attention he would just smile and smile. He is currently in a good orphanage but really needs to get into a family and some therapy. He would thrive with love and attention but will just keep missing milestones if left in the orphanage. Jacob can be adopted by a large family and older parents and there is a grant of over $4,500 available towards his adoption. To learn more about Jacob, or about international, special needs adoption in general, visit Reece’s Rainbow.
A Prayer for Orphans
Bless these children,
so hungry and hurting.
Bless their parents,
whether living or deceased.
Keep the hearts of the staff
full of love for these little ones.
Let these children be adopted
into loving homes.
Heal them from physical,
mental, and spiritual ailments.
Help keep their hearts
open to others
that they may learn to trust and love,
and open to You,
that when their life is done,
they may live with You in heaven
for all eternity.
Angels of God,
Their Guardians Dear,
To whom God’s love commits them here
Ever this day, be at their side
To light and guard,
To rule and guide.
©Sisters in Jesus the Lord, 2005
Used with permission.
Copyright 2012 Sara Fox Peterson