Disclaimer: We are not adoption professionals.
We are adoptive parents hoping to help other adoptive parents.

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's not as easy as it looks

I've seen the commercials and the websites.  A Child Waits.  Waiting Children.  Everyone Deserves a Home.  All They Need Is Love.  Whatever the catch phrase, it all means the same thing:  For these kids, life sucks.

All they want is a family.  But they don't know what it means to have a family.  It is something they have never had.  Or if they had it - they don't any more.  It is hard for them to understand how to trust.  It is difficult for them to think that they are good enough for a family.  It is hard for them to think anyone could love them.

And so they smile for the camera, putting on a happy face waiting for someone.  Anyone.  But not knowing what it really means if that someone answers their plea.

I always watched these commercials and browsed the websites and felt sad.  How could you not??!!  No child deserves living without a family.  Every child should have someone to tuck them in at night, to kiss their boo-boos, and to give them hope for their future. 

It is a world-wide epidemic.  Children all over the world wait.  The number of children without families is mind-numbing.

It isn't fair.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for these kids.  Maybe I could do it.  Maybe I could be the family they are waiting for.  Maybe I could give them everything they've ever wanted - and in return, they'd give me everything I've ever wanted.  A family.  Something we both want.  How difficult could it be?

As I got beyond the surface smiles of these beautiful waiting children, a theme emerged.  "Special Needs."  "Attachment Disorder."  "Emotional instability."  "A home with no other children required."  I ignored the 'warnings' and believed it didn't matter.  They just needed a chance.  Perhaps one - or two, or three! - were meant to be a part of our family.  Maybe, just maybe.

I 'clicked here' to fill out an inquiry.  The response came:  "Because you have other children, you are not eligible to pursue this child."  I tried again.  "Out of state inquiries are not accepted."  Again.  "What experience do you have with older special needs children?"

Dead end after dead end.  And so I put my dream to rest.  We began to pursue newborn adoption.

Out of nowhere came an opportunity to foster 'older' children, who were younger than ours.  Perfect!  We had experience with this age, we were in the same state.  No roadblocks.  Just 2 smiling kids who needed a chance.  And we could give it to them. 

We brought them into our home.  We loved them up.  We kissed their boo-boos and tucked them in at night.  Then we gave them back to their mom until our next visit.  It was confusing for everyone involved. 

As time went on, the visits continued.  Sometimes.  Sometimes they didn't.  The mom wanted custody; she didn't. She did; she didn't.  She would disappear with the kids.  She would disappear when we had the kids. 

We battled head lice, fist fights, screaming matches, hitting, kicking, acting out drug-taking, talking about hookers, and breaking things in our house.

We witnessed tender moments, sweet smiles, hugs, kisses, playing nicely together, and family fun times.

Sometimes all within 10 seconds of each other.

It was exhausting.  These poor sweet children with the  beautiful smiles had no idea what it meant to be in a family.  We couldn't teach them.  We were too busy trying to do damage control.  Someone was always crying - and sometimes it was me.  Someone was bleeding, screaming, swelling from a punch or a kick, or crying over a broken toy.  Constantly.

We couldn't do it.  We. Couldn't. Do. It. 

The visits stopped.  The mom decided not to go through with her adoption plan.  Last I heard, the kids were back with her.  Not sure if that is a good thing. Or maybe we gave her the respite she needed to decide she did want to be a mom.  I'll never know. The agency can't tell me anything because of confidentiality. 

But what I do know is - I now understand the caveats:  "Requires a home with no other children."  "Experience in dealing with special needs children required."  "Attachment Disorder."  "Emotional Instability."

It's not fair that a child should be labeled with all these caveats.  It is unfortunate that these children have no choice but to not know what it means to be a part of a family.  It isn't fair that they don't have anyone to tuck them in at night or kiss their boo-boos or to give them a hope for their future.

For these kids, life sucks.  And it sure isn't fair.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Facing the Financial Giant

When we first felt called to adopt, we looked at the cost and were shocked. My husband is a self-employed artist (not much income) and at the time, I was making about $35,000 a year. The cost to adopt from Russia at the time was estimated around $35,000, so needless to say, it was daunting.

The whole thing was daunting to my husband, but I can still hear him say "if God wants us to do this, He's going to have to provide the money" and he said it with an "I dare God" kind of attitude.

Well... God did provide. Not just once - but 3 times (3 adoptions)!

Our first adoption took us over 2 years from application to bringing our son home. During that time, we saw so many miracles. We applied for every possible grant and received 2. We sent out letters to friends and family asking for help, etc.

Here are a few stories...

Old friends we rarely talked with called us. They took us out to dinner and gave us a check for $6500. We were shocked!! One other time we had a matching grant and were collecting money though our church. We attended a low-socioeconomic church, so had not shared our fundraising with the church itself. On the last Sunday that we could collect money a woman of our church comes up and hands me $40. This was a woman whose family had nothing (we're talking ratty clothes, a car that was falling apart, etc). She said God told her she needed to give us the $40. I started crying and explained that we had a matching grant and that this gift would be doubled. She cried with me, then pulled out another $20. Now $60 may not sound like a lot, but it was a beautiful example of how God was multiplying!

Prior to our adoption of our son we also had some significant credit card debt. Shortly after returning home with him we were able to pay off all of our credit card debt.

God definitely provides when you trust Him!

When we decided to return to Russia to adopt again, we did intentionally look for children with special needs. By requesting special needs we were eligble for more grants and also received discounts from the agency. We adopted one daughter with a limb difference and our other daughter, though labeled special needs, was perfectly healthy.

Again, God provided.

At one point, we needed to send the agency $10,000. We had $2500 in savings and just prayed that God would provide the rest. The day before we had to mail the money, our church board met and surprised us with a gift of $7500 towards our adoption. They did not know we had a payment due, nor did they know the amount, nor did they know how much we already had. But God did and He provided!

Our son's adoption cost us about $35,000 and the girls' adoptions (adopted together) cost about $50,000. That is travel, agency fees, hotel, food, everything. Over the four years and 3 adoptions, my salary tripled. At the time, I thought I must be a brilliant HR person, but that wasn't truly the case. God was providing for us. Shortly after we got our girls home and everything paid off, I lost my job. God moved me from a 6-figure salary to a fraction of that. But, my current employment allows me to be home with my kids and I am in full-time ministry, where God called me to be a long time ago.

Looking back, I am still amazed by how God provided for our adoptions and how He set everything up for me to be able to follow His call.

The financial part of our adoption sure seemed like a giant at the time. But God is bigger than anything we face - and with Him all things are possible. It sounds so cliche, but it is so true: Where God guides, He provides.

If you are being called to adopt, obey the call. Don't be afraid of the dollar signs. There are adoption grants available, you can have fund-raisers, and you can watch your household budget to save money for your adoption. All of these options are very practical financially.

But prepare yourself for the supernatural - God is going to knock your socks off when He shows you how He will provide for your adoption expenses!

Where God guides, He DEFINITELY provides.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Adjustment Timeline

At 3 years old, our son was considered an older child when we adopted him. When we started on the adoption journey, we had 'happy thoughts' of cuddling with our first child. We dreamed of what parenthood would be like.

Those dreams came to a crashing halt when we adopted him and we ALL went through the adjustment period. At times we were exhausted, overwhelmed, discouraged.

Thank goodness that is all a distant memory now. More than 5 years later, we are all well adjusted and thriving as a family. But it took a lot of work to get here.

Take a sneak peek at my journal I kept:

February 9 - We have our son! He is completely overstimulated, but oh so cute! He is so loving and wants to cuddle and kiss all the time. He freaked out in the bathtub and when we put him on the toilet. He fell asleep very easily.

Februay 10 - He woke up at 5am, ready to eat everything in sight. He is so hungry, poor baby! We might have a small problem. We tell him "no" and he laughs.

February 11 - Last night was rough. He didn't want to sleep but he was so tired. When I asked him if he wanted to sleep, he said yes - but I'd put him in bed and he'd completely freak out. He screamed for 2 hours straight. He finally fell asleep with us on either side of him.

February 12 - Going to sleep was difficult again tonight. He just doesn't want to go to sleep and fights it with every ounce of his being. I was holding him and he was trying to push me away but I just held him tight and talked to him in my calm voice.

February 18 - We came home a few days ago. Everyone is anxious to meet him but he is completely overstimulated with it all and wants to just sit on my lap and be shy. I know cameras flashing, people crying, strangers in his face must be a lot to process.

February 20 - He seems to be adjusting okay, except for sleeping. He screams like crazy, for hours on end, in the middle of the night. It's like he's always been with us, though. Sure, we have some issues to work through, but I'm so glad he's here.

February 22 - He slept through the night for the first time! Yeah!!

February 24 - Well, there are 3 things: the potty, sleeping, and eating. We can get 2 out of the 3 right, but never all 3. Ugh.

February 27 - Last night, I heard him crying. I went in to check on him and he was laying in the middle of the floor! I picked him up and put him back in bed, wondering what had happened. I went back to bed and told my husband and he said, "Oh, yeah, I thought I heard a thump..." What?? I never even heard it! We are EXHAUSTED!

March 1 - Being a mom is more than I imagined. It's amazing and I love every moment. But I wish we could get this sleep thing kicked. I can't believe how much he screams. He makes his body stiff, he throws his head back, and he arches his back. If that doesn't work, he'll do anything to keep himself awake - picking his nose, flopping around on his bed, calling the dog. Just go to sleep - you don't have to do this for 2 hours every night!!

March 4 - Today he purposely (hatefully) ripped a photo album and picked his lips raw. What in the world??

March 10 - I bought him new shoes today. He tried them on in the store and was so excited. When I took them off, he cried. A lot. But when we got home and he saw he still had them, he squealed! He's not used to having anything, poor thing!

March 14 - It's been one month since we've been home, a little more than that since we've gotten custody. It seems like forever. I can't believe it just seems like he's always been here. The pain of the wait is a distant memory.

March 24 - We're having potty issues. I don't get it. When we're out, he'll keep his pants dry but at home, he could care less if he wets his pants. If I ask him if he has to go, he'll scream "NO!" If I take him to the bathroom, he'll scream. But when he goes in the potty, he yells "YAY!" I am at a loss.

March 26 - Big day! He said, "I love you!"

April 4 - I am so over this sleep problem!! It is so random, one night he'll sleep through the night and the next he's up every few hours. How is he not exhausted?? I know I am!!

April 5 - Well, just when my heart was melting because he couldn't stop telling me, "I love you!", I learned he loves everything. Today after he went to the bathroom, he flushed the toilet and said, "Bye bye, kucky, I love you!" then blew kisses down the toilet.

April 6 - We are going on a weekend road trip and he threw up all over the car. Lovely. It was everywhere.

April 7 - I am exhausted. He can't sleep in this hotel.

April 9 - He didn't have a nap today and fell asleep in 6 minutes flat tonight. It's a minor miracle.

April 15 - Instead of napping in the car on longer trips, he just cries. Screams might be a better word. When he stops screaming, he remembers he should be crying and starts all over again. Ugh.

April 18 - Rough day. He was crying about everything. For example, if I asked him if he wanted a cookie, he'd say yes. I'd give him one, he'd shout "NO COOKIE!" and throw it and then cry. I'm so confused.

April 24 - He is very angry for no apparent reason. Today, he was giving me dirty looks, "flapping" his arms, kicking his feet, screaming, crying, holding his breath. I tried to hold him and tell him I love him and he tried to push me away. Once I held him for 25 minutes until he calmed down. I just told him I loved him over and over. What is going through his mind???

April 25 - He is going from cuddly to angry in 2 seconds flat. I'm at a loss.

May 3 - He finally fell asleep at 10:30 last night after quite the fight. He woke up at 7:30 this morning. I am exhausted. Why isn't he???

May 5 - Big day. I took a shower while he wasn't sleeping! I'm so brave. ha ha ha.

May 7 - We've decided to stop rocking him to sleep. It's not working. He is flip flopping like crazy in his bed. I know this is the right transition, so we'll keep trying.

May 11 - We went to Toys R Us for the first time today. Big mistake. He was way too overstimulated.

May 17 - He's been sleeping through the night with no wake ups! It's been 3 or 4 nights in a row now. Exciting!!

The rest is history.... the first 3 months were the toughest for adjustment. We worked hard on fostering a relationship with our son. And he with us. After that, our family really began to become a family. The rest of my journal talks about zoo trips, vacations, cute things he said. But those first 3 months were so important for attaching as a family. Exhausting, but important.

I'm not suggesting that the magic number is 3 months - that will be different for everyone. The key is - expect it to be worse than you think it will be. Don't expect cuddles and kisses and happily ever after. You've got to work hard for that to happen. And then you've got to work harder.

Monday, September 20, 2010

No Hope

It was 11:00 last night. Everyone in my house was in bed - except for me. It was my wind-down time. Time to collapse on the couch and watch some mindless TV before bed.

I flipped through my favorite channels and landed on Food Network. It was Cupcake Wars. I thought I'd watch for just a few minutes. If you have watched this show before, you know that there are 3 rounds. The first and second round the bakers are judged on taste and appearance. Each round, one baker is omitted. The last round is different. They have to bake 1000 cupcakes in 2 hours. Then they present them on a display they have each created.

Every episode, there is a guest judge. That judge represents the organization for whom the cupcakes will eventually be displayed - and eaten.

Last night's guest judge caught my attention. I still don't know what charity she was representing, but it was an organization for kids. She had some artwork that the kids had created that the bakers were to use as inspiration.

My promised few minutes turned into an hour's worth of the show...

In that final round, the evenutal winner used her own 6-year-old-daughter's artwork in the cupcake display. There were butterflies, rainbows, and flowers. Words like hope, dream, and love were on the art too.

The guest judge was in tears. She said, "You got it. Perfectly. The kids I work with don't have any hope."

I was then in tears too. On the couch at midnight, all by myself. Watching Food Network and crying my head off.

No hope.

Kids have who have no hope.

I felt like my heart had fallen out of my chest.

Kids who have no hope sounds like an oxymoron of a sentence. Kids should be running and playing and getting their boo-boos kissed. Not having no hope. Kids should be cuddled and treasured and spoiled just every once in awhile. Not having no hope.

I was taken back almost 5 years ago. We were in a Russian orphanage adopting our son. Of course the children there spoke no English - but we heard, "Mama! Papa!" over and over from the children.

Heartbreaking. Kids who have no hope.

Then I thought about how I had spent my evening. On a computer. Specifically on adoptuskids.org.

Heartbreaking. Kids who have no hope.

Except maybe a glimmer. In both cases - in the Russian orphanage and on the website, there is a glimmer of hope. A shout out to a mama, to a papa. To someone. Anyone. Please.

I am not an adoptive mother because I want to save the world. I am an adoptive mother because I wanted a family. We adopted for selfish reasons. We were not thinking of the hope we were giving our children when we adopted them. We were thinking of the love we had and wanted to share with children. We were thinking of the desire we had to become a family.

But now, I do think of all the children who don't have families. The children who are begging for one - and yet night after night, they go to bed without one. I think about what it must feel like to have lost all hope.

It's devastating.

It doesn't matter if those children are in a foreign orphanage or a foster home right here in America. They have no hope.

I am at a loss. I can't give hope to every child without a family. My husband and I can adopt again, sure. We actually hope to adopt again and again! But we are just one couple who can only adopt so many kids....

But what about the rest? What about the thousands and thousands of children who have no hope?

My heart aches for all of them. They deserve a chance to have that hope.

After all, they're just kids.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Changing Culture One Family at a Time

My Dad is 70 years old. He grew up in a small town in Kansas in which he saw separate drinking fountains and designated bathrooms for white people and black people . My dad saw signs that said “Colored Enter in the Back”. My dad heard dozens of politically correct and downright hate-filled terms to define a people group in his lifetime. My mom had similar experiences. The generation of my parents closely watched the black and white televisions report the story of historically monumental leaps in the civil rights movement. I’m guessing the opinions did not vary much of that generation who watched this happen.

But now 70 years later, my dad and my mom will be grandparents to an African child. We will soon adopt a child from Ethiopia. They are receiving this child with open arms. Not without concern (as they should as parents), but in love and courage and faith.

We are slowly progressing forward even more in bridging the gaps between races. I believe that transracial adoption, while not overwhelming in the percentage of families who adopt outside of their race, it is extremely impactful in the lives of a family and community. It requires the races to hit head on with the heart and mind. I believe God will use the transracial family to require amazing love in and for all people. It is the impact of the family in which God will change a culture.

Jesus never tried to change society or government systems. In fact, he actually had an approach that we would characterize as very passive towards political and societal systems. What Jesus did focus on is the change in the individual, in the family. This is where the catalyst begins. Change the individual first and then the culture will follow.

This is what transracial adoption does for culture. It starts with the individuals, the families. My white sons will have a black sister. We will raise these children knowing both the traditions of our families before us. We will raise them with Russian traditions and we will raise them with Ethiopian traditions and with those mixed up European traditions. My sons will know what African hair feels like, they will eat injera, and they will know African history. They will know the culture of African-Americans like I never did. My daughter will sip tea, celebrate Father Frost and know what a Russian “samovar” is.

There will be a personal knowledge of the races between my children that I never knew.

And those around us will see how our children interact. Their children will watch and be a part of the changing cultural as they become familiar with different traditions and ways. But it is not familiarity of traditions that cause someone to change their perspective. What will change perspective is when they befriend and love the people who celebrate those different traditions.

Transracial adoption is the beginnings of a changing community, a changing culture. It is really remarkable to get to be a catalyst to a changing world. I count it a great blessing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Getting to know our son's needs

Today was the day! We would finally meet our son! We traveled to Ethiopia with two other couples and we were all filled with butterflies. Our hosts came out and invited the first couple in. And then the second.

Then it was our turn - and we were told, "Your son is napping."

For a deflating two hours, we mingled with the other children at the orphanage and took pictures on behalf of other waiting parents. We would stick our heads in the room of the sleeping 2-year-olds and hope our son had awakened. We waited and waited. Finally his beautiful eyes were opened and I picked our son up.

Now, I am an adoption "veteran". I know that during the first meeting of adoptive parents and children, the Disney music is NOT always playing in the background. However, I had not prepared myself for our son's crying. He was emotionally attached to the wonderful caretakers at the transition house. In his world, he knew who was supposed to be there lifting him out of his crib - and it wasn't 1) a man who 2) spoke a language he had never heard. My son started crying and had to be taken by his nanny to calm and soothe him.

I, the adoption vet, felt terrible. I was tired from jet lag and totally depressed. I tried to put on a brave face, but I was bummed. My wife wisely played off the tenderness of the nanny who absolutely loved our son. Watching her, learning from her, my wife began the long process of bonding with our boy. I moped around the margins.

The next day, we went back for our "gotcha day". It didn't take long for me to get over that initial disappointment. When we picked up our son and carried him to the van, he cried out for his "mama". I knew he was calling for his nanny.

With crocodile tears in his eyes, we left the transition home ready to become our son's parents. Little did I know that this little boy who loved his nanny and cried out for her would quickly attach to my wife.

In the early days, our son was attached to my wife's hip. He demanded that he be carried everywhere. Carrying a 23 month old constantly is exhausting but my wife carried him because he needed to be held, he needed to be close, he needed to feel the warmth of her skin.

In this way he knew he was loved and cared for. For him, this was his way of attaching to us.

Well, he was attaching to my wife.

Our son would come to me, but I was not someone he looked for when he needed comfort, soothing, love.... my bonding time with my son would look very different.

The first 7-9 months, our son routinely awoke anytime between 4am and 5am. I would bundle him up, put him in the stroller and we'd walk - anywhere between 2-4 miles. This was a wonderful way for our son to learn that I was not a bad guy. He was close to me, but not touching me. This is the way he needed to bond to me.

For us, a major treat was when he actually stayed asleep until 6 or 6:15. But, as tired as I was, those early mornings yielded beautiful bonding between Father and Son. Sure, it wasn't the recipe used in many adoption books but it was the one my son needed.

Now, my son is my bud and whenever I am not home, he constantly calls for "Daddy". Conversely, whenever my wife is out of sight, he wants "Mommy".

Figuring out how our son needed to bond to each of us has made our family connection strong.

Monday, August 23, 2010

When God Speaks - Obey!

It was August 2004 when we began to explore the idea of adoption. Two months later - after much prayer! - we made the decision. We were going to adopt a child!

We researched adoption agencies and found one we liked. We began paperchasing. But then the doubts crept in. Were we too old to adopt? Would we have the finances to complete an adoption? Would our friends and family be supportive?

We finally decided to press forward and trust God.

By November 2005, we had finished our home study. Then we had piles of paperwork problems. It was May 2006 before we submitted our dossier (adoption paperwork) to our agency. But we were finally in the "waiting room"!

In October 2007, we made a very tough decision. After health problems and a job loss, we decided to stop our adoption process. Our hearts were heavy. We didn't want to close the door on adoption but we weren't sure what God's plans were for us at that time.

We prayed for wisdom and to know God's will for us regarding adoption.

In January 2008, we decided to start a morning couples devotional. One evening, we stopped by the Christian Bookstore to pick up a guide for our devotions. We were not sure what we were looking for but we put it in God's hands and had faith He would show us the way.

After several hours (we both get lost in a bookstore), we finally settled on a book.

Strangely (or according to God's plan) around the begininng of January, we both began to have feelings that we should re-start our adoption process. We started feeling a need to get our paperwork in order because maybe....just maybe.... We had been there before, and realistically we did not have the finances to complete an adoption. So neither one of us said anything to the other about what we were feeling.

That is, until we started our devotions.

As we began praying and doing our devotions daily, we started talking more and shared our feelings about the adoption. We were compelled to add the adoption to our daily prayer list and ask for guidance and wisdom.

Within days, we received a series of phone calls from our agency and our homestudy agency encouraging us to get back into the waiting room!

I have to admit, I was overcome with anxiety about this and could not wrap my head around it. It felt like a cruel joke. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would never be parents. We had given up the idea of adoption - we told everyone it wasn't for us and that God had something else in mind for us. We even thought perhaps our purpose was hosting exchange students.

Not sure if we were really "hearing God tell us to continue with the adoption", we focused our prayers on adoption and asked God to "hit us over the head please" with His will for us.

At the end of January, we received a call from our adoption coordinator telling us that we were at the top of the list but we MUST get our dossier updated. We were stunned!

We were feeling overwhelmed with happiness but also overwhelmed with sadness knowing that our adoption savings had been spent on living expenses for the past 5 months. That evening we talked about it and prayed about it and came to the conclusion that we could not afford to adopt. Why must it always come down to money? We went to bed that night praying for some message from God that our decision was the right one.

The next day, we began our usual routine. Got up, fed the cats, made coffee, brushed teeth, began our devotion. BAMM! There it was, our answer! The devotion was: Adopting God's Heart.

In the middle of the page was this statement: Caring for the fatherless is not simply a compassionate act. Adoption is not merely an additional means of growing our families to the desired size. Caring for orphans is about obedience and expressing the heart of God.

Clearly, God hit us over the head! The message was very clear, God was calling us to adopt and we were saying, "Not now. We can't. We don't have the money...."

As I look back, it seems that God was speaking to us clearly all along, we were just hard of hearing! God calls us to have faith and trust in Him that our needs will be taken care of.

We pulled out the adoption file and began working on updating everything.

In September 2009, we found out how faithful God is. Our daughter finally came home! She is such a joy. I can't imagine our family without her. The struggle was worth it and we are SURE God meant for us to be a family.

And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...