Once a family says yes to adoption, the course of history is forever changed. It's that way for us when we are adopted by God as his precious child. We don't come to Him as a baby...pink and angelic..like a newborn...we don't come as a "blank slate" when God picks us up out and calls us His. We come scarred with sin, broken and in need of a Savior.
Most of our children have come to adoption through the County foster care system. Many people fear that system. It isn't a well oiled machine...nor should it be..It is about children...And the people who are given the responsibility of deciding what is best for a child. Many of the social workers, guardian ad litems and judges we have met along the way have taken that responsibility seriously. We have been blessed by knowing so many conscientious, dedicated workers in the field of child protection. Some have allowed their judgment to be clouded by "rights." While the rights of people should always be considered, children in the system are not afforded those same rights. And there are times when I have cried out in agony "Who is defending the rights of our children?" It is beyond a tragedy to see children suffering because their drug addicted biological parents had "rights." I believe that people can change and that the great majority of parents who have found themselves in the child protection system want to make those changes...but their children don't have time to wait until their parents get their act together...they need parents now..not 5 or 10 years from now.
And just as in anything that we do, we can decide to do it well and for the right reasons, or we can use it for our own selfish advantage. Our own agendas get in the way. Our own need to feel esteemed or powerful can steal adoption's precious purpose. Every situation is different and I don't mean to say that adoptions that don't have good outcomes are the fault of anyone. But sometimes, as with all parenting, the parents' issues get in the way. Most of the time, the process of adoption reveals to us the longings and losses in our own hearts..and healing comes to us in places we didn't even know we needed it in. Otherwise, the pain just gets perpetuated. My hearts is aching for several young people that have crossed my path this past week...stories of adoption that did not have an ending that was filled with unconditional love and a promise for a better future for a child.
Kids who come through the foster care system and are not able to be reunited with their biological family usually come in to the system a mess. They have lived through unstable situations, moved around, experienced abuse or neglect, and find it difficult to trust. And if they survived all of that, they must survive the culture shock of entering foster care. Everything that had been "home" to them, is gone. The smells, the sights, the chaos, the uncertainty...it strangely felt like home. Foster parents who take the time to listen, hear the cries disguised as difficult behaviors. Social workers who take the time to listen, hear the cries of the foster parents and help support them in the difficult journey of adjustment. It isn't pretty most of the time.
And then these same kids must move again. Imagine a lifetime of trauma stuffed into the heart of a 6 year old. And now all of us adults are so excited...Everyone has come with smiles on their faces and balloons and a party...because it is time to move again...but this time, they tell you, it's going to be different..you are entering your forever home...you are going to be adopted. What does permanency mean to you as a traumatized kid? It has no meaning because you have probably heard it before. Your heart has been crushed too many times and you aren't about to let that happen again. Everyone is happy around you and you feel on the outside yet again...because that is not what you are feeling at all. Why am I so different that everyone else, you wonder? They say they will love me, but I know it's not true...it has never happened before.
And so adoptive parents have an ominous task ahead of them. They themselves may have come to adoption because of a need of their own, but now it is no longer about them..but it is about the healing of a hurting heart. We all enter new situations in our lives with images of what that new experience might be like..And when we adopt an older child, those images are plentiful. We just want to add a child to our family and we imagine all the wonderful, special memories that we will cherish forever. And then comes reality. It's the toughest road we will ever walk...but so worth it the first time that struggling, wounded child looks to you for comfort and reassurance...even if it takes 8 years to get there.
This week, my heart is breaking for adoptions that were not about the children...the wounded children. In the County system, the training is usually plentiful..and if you are not scared off after the horror stories you hear in the training, the County, thinks you should be good to go. Not so. Because most everyone in the training room who stick it out through the end is thinking...but I will do it different. It won't be like that for us. The Christian parents often convince themselves that since God has called them to adoption, that He will grace their new child with healing that doesn't involve this much struggle. And the Christian parents struggle even more with the behaviors of their children...it just plain makes them look and feel bad and their expectations are so high. They wrestle over what is sin and what is something that is out of their child's control. Some adoptive parents just continue the cycle of abuse and neglect because they didn't listen...they weren't willing or able to let go and give it all for the sake of healing.
Kids disowned by their adoptive parents when they turned 18. Abuse and neglect at the hands of adoptive parents. These are the stories I have heard this week. Wounds from the past being reopened because adoptive parents didn't listen to the fearful and hurting hearts of their children. And then there is the denial that can be damaging as well...denial of brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Kids who are expected to perform well beyond what their capabilities lie. Kids who feel like they will NEVER measure up..and so they give up.
My heart aches. My mind races. What can we do to help the kids? How can we support adoptive families better through this journey? And how can we help adults who have suffered at the hands of those who were suppose to love them unconditionally? I guess for now, I will just start with the ones that God has placed in my life...I guess we start by loving them...unconditionally.