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!

1 comment:

  1. As an adoptive mom and previous foster mom, I learned some of this the hard way. I found out years later that there had been a good deal of sexual acting out in my home between 'innocents' sharing rooms, etc. How much more damage did this do to the perpetrators as well as those that may have been truly innocent? I sure wish I had known to be more vigilant!!