Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Adoption Realities

I received an email and article from a friend yesterday that in a roundabout way got me thinking that possibly I have painted this fluffy little picture of adoption on my blog. A few of my latest posts have been about stepping out in faith. But to some this could look as though I am advocating for people to wildy jump into adoption, almost blindly, without giving it too much thought… something along the lines of: 'if you feel God has placed adoption into your heart then go for it, because it’s all going to be ok.' And I think I sort of am saying all of that in the context of stepping out in faith even when you don't know what the outcome will be. However you can take out the 'without giving it too much thought' part and the ‘it’s all going to be ok’ part....I am NOT saying any of that! ‘Going for it’ should obviously include prayerful consideration and many talks with your spouse. If any of you were at the event on Sunday you would know from Jake’s speech that our adoption has been anything but fluffy and peachy! Adoption has completely ruined our life….but in a good way. And that’s why I can’t shut up about it. Because this journey has changed us and challenged our faith SO MUCH. Anyways, since many of you weren’t there on Sunday to hear the awesome speakers, and to listen to the honest and revealing answers from the adoption panel, I feel that I should do this post on adoption realities. So here we go.

I haven’t posted enough about adoption realities/struggles/trials after the child is home. Realities such as behavioral issues, bonding/attachment issues, and the list goes on. At this point, we haven’t experienced any of these in our adoption with Justice, which is why I haven’t really blogged about it. His transition into our family and lifestyle has been extremely smooth. From the things I’ve read, I think this is somewhat rare with international adoption.

I remember back when we shared with our families that we would be adopting from Africa. One of the responses that we got was ‘Have you really thought through this? It sounds like you are just on some sort of emotional high with adoption. What if the child comes and ruins your family?’ This family member wasn’t trying to talk us out of adoption, rather I think he was trying to give us a reality check. The funny thing was that this family member was right! We were completely unprepared for anything that we could potentially face. We were simply moving forward in faith. Mostly heart, not much brains…..which could definitely translate into an emotional high to some. I will be the first to admit that we really had no idea what we were getting into. We just felt it was clear that God was asking us to start an adoption. So we did.

Enter the 10 hours of adoption literature reading that was required as part of our homestudy. And actually 10 hours is a considerably small amount compared to what some other agencies require. The first book that I read was this one:
(Adoption Parenting: Creating a toolbox, building connections. Edited by Jean MacLeod and Sheena Macrae, PhD)

And my goodness. If we didn’t know what we getting into at the start, we certainly were brought back down to earth after reading this book. This book is close to 500 pages detailing every single scenario that you could ever imagine that comes along with adoption….most of the accounts are written first-hand by adoptive parents and professionals regarding real-life scenarios and stories. My favorite chapter has an excerpt titled ‘The One Thing I Wish’ which is a collection of notes written from adult adoptees sharing their thoughts with adoptive parents on things they hope we consider as we raise our adoptive kids. Some of the hardcore topics in the book include night terrors, attachment problems, food aversions and obsessions, post-adoption depression, issues regarding the subject of race and transracial adoption, parenting children who’ve experienced fetal alcohol syndrome, addiction, sexual abuse, trauma, precocious puberty, loss and grief, transitions and behavior problems, introducing the adoptive child to siblings, making plans to visit a birthmother or birthcountry, self-harm, sensory issues, lying, hoarding, scarring of shame & abandonment….really anything you ever wanted to know (or didn’t want to know) about adoption is in this book! And most of this book shares strategies for preventing failure, and tools for overcoming failure when things have gone completely wrong.

And that’s the great thing about the adoption process. Your agency should completely and fully prepare you to experience almost every single adoption reality that could ever happen….good, bad, or awful. That is part of their job! So, even if you feel like you are flying by the seat of your pants heading into adoption, take note, you will be slammed in the face fully educated with all possibilities of what could happen…..before you are even a few months into your journey.

At the event on Sunday, one of the parents on the adoption panel noted that oftentimes the horrible possibilities with adoption are worst case scenarios that your agency must share with you to be sure that you are prepared for anything. Hearing bad adoption stories can really stir up fear in your heart (it did mine) with the ‘what if’ scenarios. However, sometimes the ‘what ifs’ do become realities. I am sure we can all think of at least one example in which a family we know has experienced really rough situations after their adopted child has come home. And I can think of a few examples in which the word ‘rough’ is an understatement. Some families have gone through some really heart-breaking things and have had to make very hard decisions for the best interest of their adopted child. As with anything you embark on, things could go terribly wrong. But in my opinion, reputable adoption agencies do a good job of being your ‘reality check’ in adoption. If you start an adoption off some sort of ‘emotional high’ you won’t be able to stay there for long if your agency is doing their job. Hopefully in the long run you will find yourself adequately prepared for the issues and realities that often accompany adoption. This is also one service to make sure that your adoption agency offers: post-placement guidance/support/help. Some agencies do not do a good job in being there to help you through things after your child is home. So, just another thing to be thinking of if you are reviewing agencies.

If you’ve adopted or been in a family who has adopted, I would love it if you would weigh in on this topic in the comments section. How did your agency prepare you to face ‘adoption realities’? Do you have any reputable resources to recommend for those considering adoption? Or, maybe you weren’t fully prepared for a hardship or failure that you faced with your adopted child post-placement. What would you say in this regard to those considering adoption? How did you overcome a trial/hardship post-placement? Or maybe you would like to post on this topic. If so, leave your blog in the comments section and let us know when you will be posting. :)


Hollie said...

I forwarded your blog address onto a friend of mine who has adopted from Africa also and their experiences are very eye opening. I have asked her to share their story if she has time, so different from your story but definately worth hearing and sharing. So glad Justice has had such an easy adjustment, we have him at D6 Wednesday and he is such a polite, well behaved boy, what a blessing to your family!

Lacie said...

Hey! It is Lacie Jensen. I have a question for you. Where do I need to start? Do I pick an agency, is there a form a need to fill out? Are there agencies that you would recommed? Thanks for the help!

laurasgang said...

After having adopted 3 "babies", now ages 6,7 and 10, I have had so many different experiences with each child. I would start by saying that attachment begins in the birth mothers belly. So many people believe that if you adopt from birth, that baby won't have any problem attaching to the adopted parents. They have attached/bonded to their birth mother for 9 months already. One book I read explained an adoption this way: when a baby is removed from a mother, the baby feels as if it was "kidnapped". They go into a fight, fright, flight response and the brain is on high alert. This causes actual brain changes that aren't "normal". These children go through so many emotions as they grow. It is heartbreaking. I would do it all over again. My children are a blessing and the plans God has for them are amazing. We can't wait to see what God has for them. But adoption is not for everyone. It is an emotional roller coaster. I would tell anyone that feels they are called to adopt to read, read, read.... Find out everything you can about it. Make appointments to talk to specialists, therapists that see adopted children, etc. It will make it all go more smoothly. :)

the crawfords said...

thank you so much for this! i hate it when people beat around the bush and make it seem like it's going to be easy. for the record, i've never felt like you did that. i knew full well that it was still hard. you're writing was always glorifying to God no matter what. maybe that's why it might have seems like you hadn't shared the hardships of it. my parents adopted a 15 year old from Romania years ago and it was extremely hard and no one even knows where he is now. they did the best they could and he made still his choices though.
so i've definitely seen how horribly difficult it can be. it's nothing to take lightly that's for sure! we're walking into it knowing that it will mostly likely be the hardest thing we've ever done.
i've been reading Raising Adopted Children by Lois Ruskai Melina. It's pretty good, but not Biblical based. An easy read. Really strait forward.

Janel said...

Thanks for sharing you guys! Keep it coming....these comments are very insightful!!!! Lacie, I am going to try and post on agencies tomorrow. I am going to try and find you on facebook also, and in case you need it for future questions my email is

Amber said...

We adopted our son who was 2 1/2 (turned out to be at least a year older) from Ethiopia and he had an awful transition. It was heart breaking. He would rage/ tantrum, scream, bite, pull hair, spit and pee on me. He would listen to no direction and tried harming some of the other children in our home. We were told by a psychologist who specialized in attachment and adoption that he needed to be re-homed. Or we needed to look at residential treatment. They said he had RAD. I am so thankful that he was brought to us. Only through God could his story be possible. We reached out to our friends and family. We asked for prayers and help. And, we received both. The support we received helped us have the strength to continue to teach. To help our son learn who we are and that he is loved. We made sure to put safety as a number one concern and after 2 1/2 years home I am happy to say that I have the most loveable, kind heart-ed little boy in the world. My faith has grown immensely in this process and I cannot wait to see what the Lord has planned for us next. We just lost our referral of a Ghanian girl... but I have great faith there was a reason and I am waiting (trying to be patient) to see just what it is that He has planned :) Thank you for blogging!!