When a Child Leaves Your Home: Thoughts of a Foster-Adoptive Mom

naughty-kidToday a FB friend asked me if I had any advice about how to recover from a disrupted adoption. It got me thinking about the year we had one of our foster kids rehomed for the safety of the younger two (and, I’ll admit it, for my own sanity as well.) Here are the three tips I shared with her, out of my own experience. Would you add anything?
1. Tune out the nay-sayers. We had well-meaning friends from whom we had to distance ourselves for a time, who chastized us for having the child removed from our home. “Don’t you know she’s just testing you? Don’t you know you are making it that much harder for her to bond with anyone, ever again?”
In reality, we had tried for over a year to help our foster child. There came a point, the details of which do not matter, that it became clear to everyone including the social worker that this child needed to be in a home without other children. Thankfully, she blossomed in her new home — though she has harbored anger towards us. Trauma breeds trauma, and unresolved trauma comes out in all kinds of awful ways. And yet, a decade later we know we made the right choice for everyone involved.
2. Adoption is forever. While foster care is by definition a temporary arrangement (reunion is always the ideal, and about 40-50% of foster children do return to their birth parents), adoption is for life, and if your child leaves you cannot simply wash your hands of him or her, or blot that child from your family’s collective memory.
Continue to pray for that child and to make sure (to the extent possible, depending on your situation) that he or she is remembered and taken care of — birthday cards, notes, and perhaps even visits if a safety plan is in place. Not only is it the right thing to do, this will prevent your weakening the bonds you have with the other children in your home (who may otherwise question the security of your attachment to THEM).
The time may come (it certainly came for us) when the child who left will express anger or resentment toward you for your decision, especially if you kept one or more of his or her siblings. Stay strong, and try to be as gentle and kind as you can. Feelings are not facts, and unresolved trauma breeds more trauma. Acknowledge the pain, but do not take it upon yourself.
3. Acknowledge the loss. To yourself. To the children who remain in your home. To your extended family and friends who support you in your grief. Like a divorce, the consequences of the break are real and need to be processed over time. And like a divorce, the fact that there is pain does not automatically mean that the break was not needed.
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When Do I Know It’s REALLY God’s Will, Not Mine?

shadowToday I came across this fascinating discussion over at Jen’s “Conversion Diary,” about a mother of three who was about to adopt a child with special needs . . . and is wondering if she was making a mistake. And if so, what to do now?

Read all about it here.

When we step out prayerfully, wanting nothing more than to do the right thing, what happens if we make a mis-step? Do we retrace our steps . . . or take the next one, trusting God to bring something good out of our own mistakes?

A dear friend of mine is struggling with this dilemma right now. Adopted child with severe emotional problems, hurting her and his younger siblings. She loves him. But the child outweighs her by 40 pounds, and is intent on hurting everyone and everything in his path . . . how long can this go on?

When I was a kid, I knew a family that had a troubled teen with a drug problem. Ultimately, theygave the child a choice: stop, or leave. He wound up in Teen Challenge, and was positively transformed by the experience.

Every day parents are brought up short with the poor choices of their teenage (and younger) children. The volitional component varies — some choices are “freer” than others, but the consequences remain. And when this happens, to “love” that child is not a warm and fuzzy feeling. To “love” in these cases is to want what is in the child’s best interest. In this case, to get him the help he needs to keep him from destroying himself and others.

This is God’s will: to love the child, for as long as we have him (or her). And to help that child become the best and truest version of himself — the masterpiece of God’s (and not our own) design.

EMN Mailbag: 4-year-old Guatemalan special needs child needs home.

Dear Heidi,

I just wanted to let you know that on the advice of two therapists, we are trying to find a new family for our adopted 4 yo son, Paul. Both therapists told us that he should never have been placed in our home, since a child with his history is almost certainly attachment impaired and he will target our children to push us away and keep us from attaching to him.

We are so heartbroken. We were grossly deceived about the child’s history and through their negligence, our biological children were vulnerable to emotional and physical abuse. Both counselors believe John will escalate into severe physical abuse if he remains in our home and that he should have been placed in a home without other children or at the very least, with older teenagers who can assist in the attachment process, instead of being a target for the child’s behavior.

They have recommended a home without other children for him as the best chance for him to thrive and heal from his wounds. We are sad, but we’re trying to do the right thing for both Paul and our other children. If there is any Christian families you know of who might be interested in a special needs adoption of a beautiful little Guatemalan boy, by all means please send them our way.

Sincerely,
Dawn

If you would like to reach Dawn about taking Paul, please send me a note at hsaxton@christianword.com and I will forward your message. In the meantime, please join me in prayer for this hurting family, and the young boy who has so much anger and grief bottled up in his young heart. Pray that his true “forever family” will step forward.

Please also pray for Dawn, who has had to endure criticisms and unkind remarks of those who believe she is “giving up on her son.” Having lived through a similar experience, and knowing some of the details of her story, I can assure you that there are times when it is in the best interest of all concerned — including the child — to have a child moved. Some hurts are so big and deep that they can only be healed in a secure place with no other children in the home. Yes, bonding can take a long time, and adoptive parents routinely “labor” to form these bonds for months and even years to form these attachments. But each family’s journey is different … and those who attempt to assess the situation from the outside, without all the facts, are liable to be more hurtful than helpful.

Are you experiencing attachment issues with your child, and wondering if you made the wrong choice? Don’t give up yet! Remember, adoptive parents do their laboring after they receive their child, to form attachments that should last a lifetime. If you’re looking for help, pick up a copy of “Nurturing Adoption.”  Seek a counselor experienced in working with adoptive families.  Talk to your social worker, who may have ideas that can help you. 

All adoptive families go through periods of adjustment, some right away and others farther down the line. As parents, we need to do everything we can to get our children the help they need to heal from trauma and neglect, without endangering the other children entrusted to us. God bless you!

EMN Mailbag: “Should I disrupt this adoption?”

Adoption is the sweet fruit that miraculously falls from bitter trees.” (The Call to Adoption, p.153).

I was up early this morning, thinking and praying about a letter I received from a distraught mother, and the little boy she and her husband adopted from Guatemala… we’ll call him “Juan.” This mother “Melody” has a chronic illness, and three biological children who are all under the age of 10. Still, they wanted to adopt. The family labored for three years to bring little Juan home … then discovered he had a history of sexual abuse and neglect.  Continue reading