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.