Thursday, May 24, 2012

What to Consider When Considering Special Needs Adoption

Recently I was talking (via e-mail) to a woman who is in process of adopting two children newly placed in her home. We began discussing some of the issues involved. Rather than answer the immediate questions directly, I had the strongest urge to say a few things first. 

The following is a compilation of the first three things I think are essential to consider when embarking (or deciding whether to embark) on the journey that is special needs adoption.

I have been told that I have a choppy writing style and I do say things bluntly, so if anything sounds harsher than I mean it to, please don’t take offense!

Questions to ask yourself:

First of all, 
'Why are we doing this?'
-'Do we think it will be fun for our children to be raised in a larger family? More kids to play with… kids who ‘just need to have a forever family and be loved’? '
(If this is the case, I believe there are much happier and safer ways to fulfill this desire.)
-'Do we have an absolute sense of calling in this endeavor? Do we view it as a mission field that will be very different from parenting our neuro-typical children?' If this is the case, don’t let anyone tell you not to pursue special needs adoption. Because if God is driving it, then you will know that all of the drama, pain, loss (and yes, some joy) is worth it. You will know that all of the sacrifices your birth children make (and they are extreme) through the years are a part of their story in God’s economy. Adopting children whose brains are formed through trauma is absolutely a mission field (and missions are HARD). It is not the same thing as regular parenting.

(Hope you’re still with me, #2 is harder.)

'Can we absolutely commit to keeping our healthy, non-traumatized, neuro-typical children SAFE?' Are you willing to act as if there is danger despite our normal preconceived ideas that little children are innocent? Are you willing to provide 24 hour line-of-sight supervision including door alarms or some other way of supervising when you are asleep? For years maybe, until you really know all of the issues involved. No sharing bedrooms, no unsupervised play with siblings or neighbors.

Honestly, if you have questions about this, I can provide MANY firsthand accounts from our home, friend’s children, etc. of sexualized, acting out children, (sophisticated in manipulation because it was done to them) who are put into homes with innocents and the parents are never warned. For example…

(Caution- hard information follows!)
One young woman was brought into foster care because of her sexual acting out on other kids in preschool. She was moved several times and at least one move was directly related to her sexually acting out on a 3 year old in the foster home. Now she tells us that she was sexually active with children in every foster home she was in. They put her in a home with a much younger, moderately mentally and physically disabled child AND THEY NEVER SAID A WORD when they placed her in the home. Thankfully the family had door alarms since day one; it was a year before they learned all of this. She was just a baby doing what she had been taught.

I know a woman whose three year old seemed the most well-adjusted of her adopted kids. When he was 6 she learned that he had been molesting all of the other children. Another hurt baby, hurting others. 

I am sorry; I know that this is very hard to hear. Really, the most common reaction to this information is to brush it aside, thinking “Wow, that parent is really negative. That’s not a common experience.”

But I am not negative and it is a very common experience. I wish I was able to help newly foster or adoptive parents know how much better it is to be safe now (even if it’s unnecessary), than to be desperately sorry later.

'Are we ready for all of our cherished relationships to be stretched if not changed altogether?' You will most likely find more comfort and acceptance among people who have walked this road than you will even among your closest friends and family members. Many friendships fall by the wayside. New ones are made. MANY, many grandparents just CAN NOT get this and can make your kids sicker when you are doing everything in your power to help them heal. Eventually you may need to set some limits with family and friends who won't support you.  ("All kids do that", "You just have to love him more" "You need to discipline her", not supportive- sorry)

Also, the divorce rate for families with special needs adopted kids is HIGH. Your husband may be on-board, but it is SO common for dads to come home to a sweet, sweet child (who has been cussing you out ALL day). They then wonder, "WHAT has happened to my loving wife, she's so mean to these kids!" Even if he gets it, getting him together with other dads who KNOW, is priceless for him because the demands on him are also going to fall outside the realm of what HIS peers experience.

Anyway, that is my jaunt into unsolicited advice for those considering or just beginning this journey. Kids need homes. Some adjust beautifully, not necessarily the majority. 
We are called to care for children. 
Conscientiously considering whether you are
prepared for the issues mentioned IS a way of
caring for children. 
Your birth children and those special needs children who may come into your home deserve it. 

Adoption disruption hurts everyone. 

Consider carefully!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Your Children Want YOU

I just read this great article on The Power of Moms website. It made me cry. In a good way.

Although motherhood is a bit more complicated in many adoption situations, this article is a great reminder for all of us in this too technical, information overload era.

It is beautiful and a necessary boost to our mom-egos.

Our kids often tell us and show us they don't want us. We know they long for another with much of their hearts. We probably fail more often than other moms. What we're trying to do is so complicated. And, really, how often do we give ourselves grace for our failures?

More often we board the "Bad Mommy" bus and tell ourselves we could be the driver!

...And look what other moms do! (she wailed while looking at Pinterest!)

We (or I) want to not just be a 'good enough mother' but a darned near perfect one. I don't know about you, but the more perfect I try to be, the worse I get!

Anyway, take a look. It's pretty encouraging.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Infertility, Adoption, and Mother's Day

Mother's Day! Mmhmm.

Once upon a time I looked forward to being included in the celebration.

Then came years of trying to get pregnant without help and with help. Realizing we weren't going to get pregnant without SERIOUS help (if at all). Those were the days I noticed that babies were no longer drawn to me but withdrew when I approached. (Or maybe I just felt sorry for myself!)

In that era, I was not so keen on Mother's Day. Sorry Mom. But it kind of became all about me, and not deserving the rose they gave to mothers as they walked into church or brunch! Hated it, actually. I still feel quite conflicted for those who hurt on this day because they have never become mothers.

Now... we have one adult daughter we consider our own, but who has LOTS of moms who love her and three adopted darlings with varying degrees of birthmom loyalty and conflicted feelings about me. Mother's Day takes on a whole new meaning. Aside from helping them process and grieve in healthy ways, I have one other big responsibility.

It is the day I have to celebrate myself! I am a Mother (whether they want me or not)!

My husband and I have taken to making sure we each get some of what we need on Mother's/Father's day. Which usually adds up to time!

We celebrate our Mom's ON the day, and around it we care for each other and ourselves.

This road is tiring and can be pretty rough sometimes. But as a very wise lady said to me recently, "That can be very redemptive work, if you keep a right heart." So my prayer for all the trauma moms I know is that they keep a right heart. This involves lots of things, mostly from God.  It also requires that we are disciplined in caring for ourselves by taking the time to allow our spirits to be refreshed!

Care for yourself by allowing space for peace and love to flow in from the source! 

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Adoption Life Books

I recently decided that if I didn't do a life book for my 7 year old now, I never would. And that's not fair. His brother has had one since he was 3 (before the population increase - no excuse, I know). All those years ago I bought the book , Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child. Can't seem to find it anymore so I went searching online for some fresh ideas. You know, there's just not a lot of free life book text out there. So, here's one of ours...

It was written for a 7 year old who is beginning to read chapter books so it's kind of long. Also, I am working really hard to finish things before they're perfect (so things actually get done!) Please take it for what it's worth.

Each section is a page to fit with the photos we have available.
 This is D.
His full name is ADM. He is named after a famous Hawaiian surfer, Duke Kahanamoku. D is seven years old, and 48 3/4 inches tall. 

D lives with his Mom and Dad and his brother K. He also has an older sister, and a baby sister who is not adopted yet. They have a horse, a dog, and three barn cats. 

D loves to play Legos. He also likes to see the lights on fire trucks when he’s in the car.   D’s room is green and has a fishing theme. Dressing up in nice clothes is D’s style!

D was born on a Saturday in autumn. His birthday is ------. He was born at ___o’clock.  He was___ inches long and weighed ___. His birth name was A J S.

D grew in his birth mommy’s body. His birth mommy’s name is J. See her beautiful brown skin and eyes! We know why D is so handsome!

D had a birth father, too. We don’t know much about D’s birth father, but maybe we can guess. He might look like this.

D’s birth mommy had three babies. K is one of them. J called her Z. J also had a little boy about brother K’s age. His name is Z.

A sad thing is that D’s birth mommy was not able to take care of herself or her children so the police, social workers and a judge decided they needed to be safely cared for by a foster family. It was not D’s fault; he was just a tiny baby!

Another very sad thing is that D moved a lot as a baby. It was SO confusing. Each time he changed "mommies" Baby D thought he must have done something wrong or bad. But babies can't be bad! First, when he was newborn, D went home from the hospital with one family. We do not know that family’s name. He was moved so that he could be together with his sister K.

The next family D  and K lived with was the N family. They had one son, F, Jr. We don’t know why K and D moved to a new foster family, but we DO know it was not because of D. Remember, he was just a teeny-tiny baby.

There were at least two more families that D and K lived with. Even K has trouble remembering all of their names. Then they moved to Grandmommy’s house. They lived with Grandmommy, J, and J. D went to a babysitter every day when Grandmommy had to go to work. Her name was R and she was very special to him.

Finally, the social workers and the judge decided that D needed a forever family. They were sad that J could not take care of D and K. They decided that all of this changing of families, "mommies", houses, smells, sounds, food and everything was TOO confusing for a little baby. It wasn't his fault. Grandmommy had an idea! She said to herself, “I am too old to raise a baby, I am a grandma! But I really love these kiddos… It would be great to be family with them.” She told D’s Mommy and Daddy that he was going to need a forever family. Mommy and Daddy said, “That’s us!”

Mommy and Daddy moved back to California from Idaho where they were living so they could get ready for D to come live with them. D and K visited Mommy and Daddy’s house in California several times to get used to the smells, sounds and all the different stuff, including a brother, K!  It was still scary and sad when they moved in with Mommy and Daddy, though. D missed Grandmommy and R so much!

The forever family went to the courthouse for the adoption day. D got to sit in the judge’s chair! Then they had a luau party on the driveway and the grandmas came. It was so fun!

Now D lives in P with his forever family. They have an apple orchard and a horse! D helps his dad with the yard work. One exciting family tradition is that the birthday boy picks his desert every year. This year D might pick apple crisp.

When D grows up he wants to be a fire fighter. Even though everything hasn't gone as hoped or easily in his life; God planned D, God made D and loves him. God has a purpose for D. The big adventure will be seeing all that God has in store for D's future!

Wherever D goes and whatever he does he will always be a loved and important part of the M family!

It is basically complete. Can't wait to see how he wants to arrange the pictures! Still, I would appreciate a comment if you see any glaring issues.

Also, if it helps you, let me know!

Monday, May 7, 2012


(Spiritual content alert!)

Written previously:

Lately I have been thinking about simplicity. I am going to a women's retreat with our church and the title is Abundant Simplicity. We are reading (at least) the first chapter of the book by the same name written by Jan Johnson.
So, in the beginning of the first chapter Jan states that simplicity is "not a discipline itself but a way of being." She talks about experiments with simplicity of speech, frugality, spaciousness of time, holy leisure, and simplicity of appearance and technology.

Before I get any more in to the awesome things of note I found in reading this chapter, a little background.

The History: Several years ago, DH and I basically sold our stuff, home, business and all. We traveled and lived in our RV with our one special needs baby at the time (now almost 10). We SIMPLIFIED. We eliminated television in our home years before that. 

Now, we have moved to a home in the country and still live fairly low-budget. Grown ups watch carefully chosen movies in the evenings occasionally (or it used to be only occasionally). Kids infrequently watch movies when it is a family activity. Music is on at specific times and we are watchful for over-stimulation. We have pretty much eliminated all outside busyness activities such as sports teams, clubs, etc. Home school is it, so we don't transport a ton.

The Reality: That said, we have four children with a variety of special needs growing up here. Living, changing, working, playing, and learning or not to love and trust.
So! not so peaceful after all! Way less hectic than it could be, but... simplicity?

Planning to go to this retreat got me contemplating simplifying. For some reason I was thinking in terms of eliminating technology.

The Epiphany: Then I realized that if I simply stopped multitasking it would be huge! Why do I feel the need to get 3-5 things done at any given moment? Am I really being more productive, or just making myself feel indispensable? Could it be that I might actually be more efficient if I did just ONE thing at a time?
  • Why am I having a text conversation woven in and around saying goodnight to my son? Or while I'm rocking the baby to sleep and doing laundry?
  • Why am I blogging while I'm helping with schoolwork? Or while supervising breakfast and cleaning the kitchen?
  • Why am I reading a Nook Book while making dinner? Or while hanging out with my husband for a few precious minutes and texting?
  • Etc, etc, etc... (Please don't judge, I'm judging enough for both of us!)
So, for now my experiment with simplicity is Tasking (one thing at a time), not Multitasking (get it?), as much as is actually possible while raising several kids.

And, of course, the bottom line with that seems to be... technology (for me). 

Oops, I didn't get to the stuff I really liked in the book chapter. Hmm, oh well, there will be more on this... It's good stuff. Challenging.