...let's talk about it for a minute.
Orphan Sunday is this week and I want to take a moment to answer some questions and respond to some misconceptions about foster care and adoption. This is in NO WAY meant to guilt anyone into orphan care or place any kind of judgment on someone for not choosing to take that step. The desire of my heart is to help some of you, who may be called to adopt or foster, move forward with confidence.
**Okay I think we need to all start out on the same premise to make sure our minds and hearts are in the right place.
There are 3 truths we cannot deny as we approach these questions:
1. These children are loved by God. They are not commodities, a service opportunity, or an add-on to our spiritual resume. They are children, cherished by their Creator.
2. He has a plan for their lives and He desires to use His people to bring about His plans.
3. Anytime we are participating in ministry, we need to be reminded that it is not about us. Hear that? It is NOT about you. There I got that out and I won't say it again so I don't repetitively hack people off.
So Here Goes!
1. Adoption is Too Expensive -
You know what? Adoption is expensive. This is one area that was intimidating to me as well. I can tell you from experience that when we step out in faith, God will provide. Trent and I witnessed this with both of our adoptions where God would provide a check, fundraiser, or work opportunity just in time for each payment. In case you need some practical encouragement, here are some things that might help:
- There is a 10-12K tax credit for domestic and international adoptions. This reimburses a large portion of your expenses and can be taken over several years.
- There are a lot of fundraisers that can be done. I have seen people sell t-shirts, artwork, jewelry, and other handmade goods. Garage sales are a great fundraiser. I did photo shoots to help support our adoption and many people were kind enough to give over my fee because they believed in my cause.
- There are grants available to assist with costs and, in my experience, most people who apply get something.
- There are people who cannot adopt but want to be involved in orphan care. One way they can do that is to support you. This allows other people to be involved in ministry and is a good thing.
That is a hard one so I am going to punt to someone much smarter than I am, my friend, Jennifer.
"There is a difference between being accused of abuse and being investigated. Something relatively minor, like an ER visit for a busted chin, can trigger an investigation on your home. But, in most cases, the things foster parents are cited for during these investigations are things like unsecured cleaning supplies or an incomplete medical log, not abuse. If you were to be accused of abuse, your foster children could be removed during the investigation, but nothing would happen to your other children. The possibility of being accused of something untrue shouldn't stop you from caring for kids in crisis. Furthermore, I have been involved in foster care for over 3 years and I don't know anyone who has been accused of abuse."
3. I Fear the Birth Parents Would Take Them Back -
I am just going to go ahead and get the hard ones out of the way early on. My sister-in-law had this happen. I think it is best if you hear from her regarding her experience.
"I never thought that the birthmother that picked us to parent her child would change her mind. It was never a fear that I had while going through the adoption process. I’m glad I didn’t or it really could have been a paralyzing fear. I thought that once the baby was taken home that he would be ours and that all the legal stuff would be good. That's not how it worked out though. We had a beautiful baby boy in our home for about five days. Five days to take care of him and love him. And we had a few months before his birth to anticipate and dream about his arrival. We were invested (to say the least). And so when we had to literally place him back in the arms of his mother we were devastated. We mourned the loss of that baby, that future. But God is good and we were surrounded with family, church family, and friends that lifted us up and were there for us.
In less than two months we got a call from our agency about another little boy, our Joshua. He was 2-days old when we brought him into our home and hearts, and he will be 10-years old this coming January. I cannot imagine a different outcome or a different family than the one I have. God KNEW!
It was scary to put ourselves back in the pool of perspective parents. It was scary to trust that the calling God had on our lives to adopt was still true. But here is what I’ve learned: there is not a single incredible thing that you will do in your life that doesn’t come with some amount of risk. But If God has called you to it, then He will see you through it. Do you believe it? When you believe it then you will live it. Not everyone is called to adopt. But if you know you have been called, and you haven’t heeded that call, because of a list of fears, real or imagined, then you are missing out. You are missing out on the blessings that come from being obedient to God. We aren’t responsible for the outcome of the steps that God calls us to take. We are just responsible for the walk. So if you have a destination, a calling, realize that you may get there in a way that you didn’t think was possible and that it might be painful or uncomfortable. But when you get there you will be glad that you did because our God is a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. He is powerful. He is a Redeemer. A redeemer of lives, situations, and stories. He is faithful."
4. It Would be too Hard to Give a Foster Child Back -
Since I have never had to do this, I asked my friend Kelsey to respond to this one out of her recent experience.
"This was one of our fears initially. We started this process with hearts that really wanted to help, but still with focus on OUR family, what WE thought would be best, and the impact on US. But somewhere along the way, God showed us that our motives were a little off. Who are we to say, 'God, we will be obedient to Your call to care for the orphans, but only if you let us keep them.'? Once we changed our way of thinking and realigned our hearts, that anxiety over losing control subsided and we committed to obeying with no strings or expectations attached. And then we got placed with two sweet twin girls. And then we loved them like our own as it headed toward adoption. And then we had to give them back. The truth is, there was heartache. But there was also huge peace in knowing that God’s plans are bigger. He chose us to be their parents for the exact number of days He intended us to be, and every single one of those days had purpose. We are on the other side of this question now and I can answer that while yes, it is hard, it’s not TOO hard. We would make the same decision again a thousand times over. And if you think about it, it’s really no different with biological children – we are not promised tomorrow with them either, but it doesn’t mean we choose not to parent them and love them wholeheartedly. ALL children are a gift on loan to us from God."
5. What if the Foster Kid Came With "Baggage" -
Oh they do. They are traumatized children. Have you ever thought about how taking a child with "baggage" and showing them unconditional love that is based on who they are instead of what they do is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel to them? You may be the only opportunity they have to receive unconditional love apart from Jesus. If Christ can look beyond our "baggage" and die for us, can we not demonstrate a fraction of that love for another? Finally, it is in those times when God calls me to step beyond my comfort and demonstrate the Gospel to another that I gain the greatest appreciation for what He did for me.
6. I Couldn't Love Them as Much as My Biological Child -
I believe the question here is about bonding. I will tell you that bonding is different in biological children, foster children, and adoption. With my biological kids, I had 9 months to bond with them as they grew inside of me. I felt like I already knew them when they arrived.
With my adopted girls, I had 6 months to bond with pictures of them and reports about them. I was so ready to get them into my arms that their "Gotcha Day" was just as sweet as my deliveries. Because they were already toddlers, bonding was different and took a little more time, but was just as special. A friend compared getting to know them to peeling the layers of an onion. With each layer, you get to know who they are a little better. I wouldn't trade those days of figuring out who they are and falling more in love with them with each "layer."
Bonding with my foster child was completely different. I had only a few hours to prepare for him but my compassion for him was so great that it enabled me to survive those first few weeks of "who are you and how do I respond to that?" Over time, he learned to trust me and that helped us bond. Compassion transitioned to perspective and that guided me through the next stage. I can't help but wonder if some foster parents never make the switch to perspective but instead begin comparing the behavior of their foster child to that of their biological children and that is where bonding begins to crumble. You cannot compare traumatized children to kids raised in a healthy home. It is simply not fair to them. You have to parent and bond with perspective. Bonding for me increased with each conquered emotional struggle. We were a team navigating waters that he had not asked to enter, in a boat I was learning how to paddle and keep afloat. There is a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment that comes when you can look back and see how far you have come. I would say our bonding happened together because he had to learn to trust me while I had to learn to relate to him in light of his past experiences. Bonding for us was sweet because it was earned.
7. I am Too Old to Adopt -
People adopt for different reasons, but there are 2 groups that I see most consistently. The first is made up of couples who have experienced some form of infertility and have turned to adoption as an alternative way to build their family. I believe what they find is that the experience may be different from what they had originally imagined, but just as sweet.
The second group fits this topic. They are older couples who have already had and maybe even finished raising their biological children but feel called to continue parenting through adoption. They bring with them years of experience and wisdom that younger parents lack. Their age is not a hindrance in their journey but rather their greatest asset.
I don't know how old you are but I would love to tell you about 2 ladies who might be in your age range. They both traveled with me to China on my last mission trip. My friend Toni is 50 and her husband is 58. Her oldest child 27 and her youngest blessing is only 4 years old. My friend Beth is 52 and her husband is 53. Their oldest is 33 and their youngest is 5. The world may say that it isn't right to have your kids spread out by 20-30 years, but the world does not shape their theology, God does.
8. I Fear What My Biological Children Might be Exposed to -
I get that and I think it is wise parenting on your part to consider it. You don't want to go into fostering or adopting in denial of what your family may face. Trent and I responded to our concerns by putting some parameters around what we were open to and what we were not. A good social worker will also help you to establish parameters that are best for your family. For example, we have never taken in a child older than our youngest child already in the home. I am not recommending that for you necessarily. You need to come up with your own parameters, but that was one we felt would help protect our kids physically and emotionally.
9. I Don't Think I Could Raise a Child of Different Ethnicity -
My friend Tabby said this and I thought it was great: "We aren't raising a color. We are raising a boy to love Jesus just as we would any child."
I would like to add that having a multicultural family has been an incredible experience for my kids. Trent and I always said we wanted to raise our kids with a Biblical worldview. Inviting children of different cultures into our home is one way we do that. I don't fear that my children will ever be racist because they have experienced children of a different race as their brother and sister. They know firsthand a different truth.
10. It Wouldn't be Fair to "My Kids" -
My friend Brandon has 2 adopted sisters, one domestic through foster care and one international. I asked him to speak to this concern.
"October 27, 1999. I was 8-years old the day we received Tia Grace Jones. She was only 5-days old. My mom came to pick my brothers and me up from church on a Wednesday evening and surprised us with what would eventually be my sister. We fostered Tia for just over a year before we were able to officially adopt her. From the second she came into our lives, the thought never once crossed my mind about this situation being "fair" to my brothers and me. We embraced her just like she was our biological sister from the get-go. I feel like if it's something God is calling you to then you drop what you are doing and follow his calling. Tia is now not only one of my best friends but just as much a part of our family as anyone else. We fight, laugh, and love just like any other family and God put the puzzle pieces into place perfectly.
When the idea started rolling about a second adoption, my parents allowed me to be much more involved in the process. By this time, I was 16 or 17 years old. Call me weird but from the second it was mentioned, I was not a bit hesitant about adopting from China. I was ready to pack my bags and go that day. While my intentions may have simply been looking for a good excuse for a vacation to China, I was just as excited to have another little sister. There hasn't been a single day that has gone by that I am not thankful to my parents for bringing my precious sisters into our lives. I can cannot imagine life without them.
God calls us to put our pride and selfishness aside and GO! Just the thought of children living without a mother or father breaks my heart. That being said, I ask that anyone that is reading this to take time to really think and pray about adoption. I can guarantee it will be one of the greatest decisions you will ever make. Don't let the small things get in the way of making a huge difference in the life of a fatherless child.
James 1:27 - Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."
11. I Couldn't Do Open Adoption. I Don't Want to Share My Child -
I love the way my friend Tabby views open adoption so I asked her to share her experience with you.
"Open adoption doesn’t mean sharing a child or co-parenting. Open adoption is about honoring the natural bond between your adopted child and their birth mother. Open adoption is a beautiful representation of the Gospel. Open adoption calls us to be vulnerable. It calls us to love deeply. It calls us to step out in faith.
Without our son's beautiful birth mother, we wouldn’t be parents. Our son’s birth mother gave us the most beautiful gift. For her to give us her baby and never be able to see him or us again just doesn’t make sense. Our son is a part of her. We love her and are forever grateful to her. It seems only natural that she be in our lives and we in hers.
I love that they will never have to go searching for each other. They will never wonder how each other are doing, who they are, what they are like, or where the come from. A piece of them will never be missing and I find great comfort and joy in that. I love the fact that my son will always know his birth mother and have a relationship with her. He will always know how loved he is. He will always know why she made the choice to place him. He will never have to wonder about such things. I love that we are able to call or text when a medical issue arises. I love that we have a relationship and I love that we all share a relationship with Jesus."
12. I Couldn't Handle it if They Wanted to Know Their Birthmother Even After What She Did -
More from my friend Tabby. Please keep in mind this is written from the perspective of infant adoption and not in reference to a foster care abuse situation.
"My heart often breaks for birth mothers and the bad rap they get. All too often they are misunderstood. With comments like “I could never give my baby away,” or “they must not love their baby,” or “she took the easy way out.” I would like to address this and educate you on birth mothers.
Birth mothers are heroes. They are selfless. They are loving. They are the strongest women I know.
Everything mentioned above is a myth, a stereotype and well…just plain wrong.
Birth mothers don’t give their babies away. They make the brave decision to place them in a loving home. No birth mother dreams of getting pregnant and having to place a baby. They place a baby because they don’t have the necessary resources and/or support. They place because they feel that they can’t provide everything they need or deserve at that particular time in their life. So they make the hardest and most loving decision ever. They choose adoption.
I can assure you that birth moms LOVE their children. It’s important to remember that just because the pregnancy was unplanned doesn’t mean the child isn’t wanted or loved. They love them SO much that they are able to put the child's needs ahead of their own and make an adoption plan so that their child will have everything they want, need, and deserve. Their love for their child is full, immense, and deep.
Choosing adoption is in NO way the easy way out. In fact, it’s hard….very hard. Many women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy often feel that abortion is their only option not because they aren’t aware of adoption, but because society isn’t kind to birth mothers. I want to CHANGE that. I want birth mothers to be looked at as the heros they are. I want people to love them like Jesus does. I want people to know what precious and selfless gift-givers they are! I want people to see how they value LIFE. I truly feel that if people LOVED birth mothers as much as they HATE abortion, there would be a lot more adoption in the world."
Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you to my friends in the adoption community for taking the time to contribute. If you have any other questions about adoption please don't hesitate to ask. I would love to be an encouraging resource for you.