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In this life we can not always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.." :) Mother Teresa

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“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis


I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

For As Long As We All Shall Live!

My heart hurts once again, for children who are suffering. They are not the children in Pakistan this time, but children who have been brought into families with the promise of being cared for, loved, accepted and cherished.

Yet, I have been made aware of SEVERAL children in limbo, facing disruption, or in the middle of active disruption. I think the new term is "re homed " now. That is just too sanitary for me.

The actual REAL word, is Adoption Dissolution. A disruption happens before an adoption is finalized. Animals are re homed. An adoption dissolution is a process in which an adoptive parent, who legally has the exact same place as a biological parent, divorces their child and sends them away to another family.

We have been the happy recipients of one such child, and I am so thankful for her. However, I still can't believe we have her or that anybody in their right mind would have wanted to not have her in their family as their precious daughter. My mama bear feelings come out when I think about it.

But this post is not about that. This post is about people who bring a child over here, waiting sometimes YEARS to adopt, only to disrupt after a very, short time.
The stories are often similar, with a few differences. But in every case so far, it has been a situation where a parent has not bonded to the child, cannot fully accept them as their own, and begins to concentrate on the bad things about the child instead of the good.

One of the things we forget to educate families about, is that LOVE is not necessarily a "gushy feeling at first sight". Love is a VERB. It is action. It gets up and changes diapers in the middle of the night while sleep deprived, and it is patient and kind to a very scared child. A parent may have those gushy feelings, or not... but one thing is sure, "True Love" will not hold back. We also forget to tell parents about the absolute FEAR and TERROR a child feels when they are taken from one environment to another, one culture to another, one family to another or from an institution into a foreign family.
It is hard enough for a child to adjust to a new situation within their own culture. But what about when that child cannot speak your language, eat your foods, AND knows NOTHING familiar and therefore has NO comfort?
Golly, I know adults who can't handle eating foods they aren't used to in other countries. What about children who will never see those things again?

How terrifying to be taken by adults onto an airplane across the ocean, and to hear nothing but foreign words. And don't forget, these people are expecting all sorts of things from you, and they seem to have mastered one word in your language. NO!

Children respond to extreme stress in very different ways, but many of them do the following:
SCREAM, BITE, HIT, KICK, SPIT, FLAIL, and did I say RAGE? Typically this is short lived, or not at all, and the child will begin to get more comfortable and feel safer, but then, something happens. They can no longer THINK in their own language. They can't remember it! AND they can't think in YOUR Language or remember much of it either!

They wind up being a child without a language. This typically happens after about 2 months. Yes that soon! And it can last awhile. A child may learn to speak English, and totally not understand what he is saying. His verbal language will be ahead of his expressive language. During this time, the frustration of not being able to communicate my be heightened and therefore the child may throw tantrums or fits out of sheer frustration.

I remember when Sarah came to us, after being here 10 months, she was speaking English very well. In fact, perfectly. No accent. But.... what had been considered misbehavior and rebellion, was actually a lack of understanding of English. We discovered this on her second day at home.

She was jumping off of the coffee table. I said, "Please don't jump off of the coffee table ok?" She said, "OK"... with a big ole' smile. And then, she jumped off of the coffee table. I was perplexed. So I repeated... and so did she.

I then asked her, "What is a coffee table?" guess what? She didn't know!
"What is jump?" SHE DIDN'T Know!

So, I showed her the coffee table and pointed at it, "this is a coffee table" and then I jumped.... "this is jump. "Don't JUMP off of the Coffee Table!" bingo!
A light went off in her little mind and she had a big smile. "OH! OK!" and she didn't do it again.

We as the adults, as the parents have got to educate ourselves on what to expect when it comes to adoption. It seems that sometimes the adoption process is romanticized and bringing the child home seems to be the climax, very similar to a bride who does everything to plan for the wedding, the dress, the cake, but forgets to plan for the marriage!

Money well spent, will be spent on education BEFORE the child comes home, not on cute outfits for the child to wear. It seems we spend more time fixing up rooms and redecorating instead of educating ourselves.
The cutest clothes and best award winning room will not make a child happy or a relationship good.

Please remember, your child needs things familiar. They need your tender care and understanding. They need familiar smells. They need familiar foods. And yes, they need the light on. Many of them have never been in a dark room. They don't turn the lights all the way out at the orphanage. They need to be prepared ahead of time if you are going to change their schedule. If you are going to go somewhere, they need to know where and why and how long. They have lived in such uncertainty, just going to the store can be traumatic.

Most of all, our kids need us to commit to love them. They need us to be the adult, the PARENT, the safe haven. It isn't about us or our needs, it is ALL about them.
You are the one who went and interrupted their life. If you are going to do that, then by golly commit to make it work! Do NOT withhold your love from your child. (love is a verb) Pour yourself into them, it is the very LEAST of what they deserve. It is what being a real parent is all about.


Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

Good post, Christie! I'm concerned too about the many, many "divorces" esp. the ones happening in the first year. Had we not been committed to our child just as much as to our bios, we could have EASILY "divorced" in the first 6 weeks, and even the first year. Her behaviors were such that our SW said if we took her in for an eval we'd have probably ended up with a Dx of RAD. Time, and LOTS of LOVE and Consistency has brought out what was hidden under all the fear, anger, and shame . . . our beautiful, lovely, compassionate daughter! The sweet heart who cried harder than her brother almost when she found out he had a broken foot, "because I just feel so bad for him"! Many times those first weeks I had to daily CHOOSE to love her, to "fake it until I could make it" etc. because it's very hard to feel warm and cozy toward someone who is hitting, kicking, biting, slapping etc. again and again . . . When a wise adoptive Dad pointed out in a blog post that I re-read many times in the first few years that God has called us to suffer for His name's sake so that our children might be reached with the love of God, it all clicked for me . . . I'm very grateful for the support circle of friends (though small) who walked with us, AND for that wise Dad's post. I have since had the privilege of helping hold the hand of a family who was about to dissolve their adoption of their Russian born daughter . . . with suopport they eventually decided to keep on trying, and last I heard, she was doing well. I consider that a sucess story. ;-)

beckyww said...

You fake it till you make it. Shame on the agencies who just take a check and don't REQUIRE education.

Christie M said...

I know "fake it till you make it" is a catchy term that many use. But I don't see anything fake about giving yourself completely over, heart and soul to devotion to your children, meeting their needs, and loving them unconditionally. It just ain't fake. It is very real. It may not feel good, and it may be tiring, but it is very real, and they will know if you are holding back.

The Gum Gang said...

Wise words Christie! There is so much for these kids to learn and adjust too. I remember how good it felt to have familiar food again after only a week in Russia. I can't imagine what my kids had to go through adjusting to their complete and utter loss. Thank you for being there for the adoption community and thank you for telling it the way it needs to be said.

Unknown said...

Your line "Golly, I know adults who can't handle eating foods they aren't used to in other countries." made me smile. Those very parents who eat every chance they get at TGI Friday's or McDonald's in country, expect a complete Americanization of their children upon landing in the United States. That doesn't work like that.

When I was adopted I was an English speaking 4-year-old and transition was still extremely scary and stressful.

Our social worker again contacted us about a respite/dissolution situation here in TA, where the child was adopted about a year ago from Russia by an American couple, who can't handle the repeated uprooting.

Annie said...

Brilliantly written! I agree with you absolutely. And you are right. The love you give when you don't feel it is the truest love you will ever give. I know from experience, that nothing has made me grow spiritually more than making that effort.

Frankly I like the word "disruption" because that word somehow expresses the pain of it. "Dissolution" sounds so easy and effortless, and it is nothing like that for anyone.

Spent the entire night unable to sleep, agonizing over the disruption of a little girl that I have never even seen. I want so much to do something about it, and don't know how.

Annie said...

Also - I think your post is far better than most "education" because the education usually consists of describing all of the serious issues that a child can have. It is like taking first year Psychology - when you truly believe you have every mental illness described. Because of the fear, misunderstandings and distress of the first year, to say nothing about language issues - I think SO many children are misdiagnosed with problems they don't have, but which the parents who were "educated" are expecting them to have.

Too much about problems brings problems, but a LOT about UNDERSTANDING - that, I'd like to see.

Anonymous said...

This thing about disruption really freaks me out... Before starting reading your blog I didn't even know you could disrupt a child. As you can't divorce from a bio kid, you should not be given possibility to give up an adopted kid. At least in Italy it is forbidden.
I already told this in another comment. Parenthood is not something you are forced in. Honestly disrupting a child brings in my mind people how buy a pet and as soon the puppy misbehaves, they return it to the pet shop.

Christie M said...

Hevel, We so loved eating at all the local places and trying things we had never had before. At the end of our trip, I was stressed because 1. I couldn't figure out how to say "ground pepper" to the lady behind the counter. So she made me get out of line, 3 TIMES! :)
2. I was tired of cooking.
3. I was craving Nachos with Jalapenos. So we went to TGI Fridays in Kyiv. :)
The Lord orchestrated that whole event. It was there we met the director for Delta Airlines and he let us know where his new offices were so we could change our flights. :)

Christie M said...


I am mixed on this, because there are two sides or even more than that, to every situation.

I have settled on the fact that a child deserves to be loved and cherished. In some cases, it is best for the child to leave and be placed in a family that will love them. Period.
I have learned that the world isn't so black and white. I can't imagine our Sarah in any other home but ours. It breaks my heart to think that she would be in a place where she wasn't loved. That would have been worse than disruption.

BUT.... what I DO believe is that prevention is the best solution, AND, if a parent does wind up disrupting, they should not be allowed to adopt again. Period.

You are so right, people don't "disrupt" bio children.... but do they? There are plenty of bio children who are abandoned, abused and neglected.....

This world is just a difficult place sometimes. :(

I'm just so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of 3 little girl's lives, who had pretty grim futures. They have made my life so amazing! I just love them so very much.

Unknown said...

Mmm, nothing wrong with eating at TGI a few times, but when I was in Kiyv I met adoptive parents who were absolutely unwilling to try the local cuisine. (The same people who later were surprised their kids had food issues in the States.)

I was just reminded of something that happened this summer. P whom we adopted from disruption was very eager to visit Hungary again, but with the whole single mom sending adopted son back to Russia thing he was having all kinds of unverbalized fears. It might have been unreasonable in any other situation to trus a 9-year-old to carry his passport and plane ticket back home with himself the whole time he was in Hungary, but it worked in calming his anxiety.

Diana said...

Very well said! I can't even begin to tell you how often WE are told that we should disrupt, we're hurting our daughter by keeping the boys, these kids are killing us, they're never going to be normal, we should never have adopted, yada yada yada. It makes my blood boil every single time...and sometimes I let it show, too...piranha style. :-)

They seriously assume that even if it were an option for us, that if we did it, we could somehow rewind the hands of time and resume our lives before they joined us. I don't know of anyone that could happen with! And seriously, just because it's hard and they aren't a product of my belly, does taht make them any less mine? Does that mean that anyone who has problems with their kids should throw them out on the street? I don't think so!! Just because it's hard doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.

You know what, I'm just going to put this out there, too. I am completely shocked at the number of parents who adopt traumatized children (knowingly and unknowingly) only to come home and both return to work full time just a few days or weeks later. Some HAVE to, yes. I get that. But seriously, I think WAY more consideration should be given to this BEFORE parents adopt. Generally speaking, I believe there are a LOT of moms (adoptive or not) that don't NEED to work to support their families. They just need to tighten the belt, downsize if necessary, and live on less. Especially our newly (and in my case not so newly) adopted kids NEED their parents to be right there with them all the time. They need this far more than they need new toys and fancy clothes and big houses. They need the security that mom isn't leaving (not even for work) and that they're not going to be stuck being cared for by more strangers or "orphanage workers" (daycare) in this new strange land. In my opinion, it's all part of the sacrifice that needs to be made when one takes this adventure on.

One thing I can guarantee for sure is that had I had to go back to work at a paying job, my adoption would never have lasted. There is absolutely NO WAY I could have ever been stretched that thin or been effective at either endeavor - being an employee or a mom to two (unknown at the time) highly traumatized children who inadvertantly traumatized my third. Something or someone would have cracked pretty fast!!

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

I agree with Diane--being THERE with your child is SOOO important. Our SW even says that they recommend almost always that even if a paretn doesn't want to homeschool permanently that they do homeschool their child's first year home! How's that?! ;-) They encourage that because they know that the kids NEED the extra time with Mommy to form bonds. There is only one reason I would remove my child from our home--and it's the same reason that would get a bio child removed--if they were posing a clear and imminent danger to anyone's health and safety in the family that teaching/counseling etc. wasn't resolving promptly. Some may disagree with me, but as the mom of several children, I need to keep ALL my children safe. It would break my heart, but it would have to be done. But frankly, how often does a scenario like that truly present itself? Probably not that often. Sometimes, yes, but not that often.

Tony and Dawn said...

I agree with all - no need to candy coat it with a "nicer" name. It is what it is. I think some adoptive parents have a very high expectation (like has been said) and when things don't go they way YOU want it to, the first thought is "tthis isn't going to work".

Boy I'm glad God doesn't treat us that way! I would have been dumped a long time ago!!

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