Thoughts on Disruption: This Much I Know For Sure

March 6, 2015 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments

Continuing our series, Disruption in Adoption, today we are sharing a post from Stephanie, a mom who has personally experienced the devastation of a failed adoption. We are grateful for her willingness to share her story.



18 years in the classroom as a teacher was easy compared to parenting three little ones at home full-time. Through their three daughters, God has revealed Himself most clearly to Stephanie and her husband Matthew. He not only worked a miracle in giving them their biological daughter, He continued to show Himself in mighty ways throughout adoption journeys in China and Bhutan that were anything but normal.

Nowadays she enjoys encouraging and connecting with other adoptive families through speaking and her work on the leadership team of We Are Grafted In and on the Board of The Sparrow Fund.



It’s one of Oprah’s catch phrases. This much I know for sure. Following that phrase, she expounds on some epiphany, conclusion, or lesson she has learned. There are many things I know for sure. In most of those cases, it is because of personal experience or first-hand knowledge.

I know that the bottom of the Dead Sea is very difficult to walk on because of the large salt crystals littering the bottom. (personal experience)

I know that the pain of giving yourself fertility injections is nothing compared to the pain of being childless. (personal experience)

But, there are other things I cannot be sure of. I can only imagine how it must feel or be or what I would or would not do, but I don’t know for certain.

I think it would be great to have an amazing singing voice and perform for the masses. But, I don’t really know what that would be like and never will.

I can say that I would never move far away from my family, but I have never had to make that decision and pray I never will.

That’s just it. We don’t really know what it’s like to experience something without actually experiencing it ourselves. I can imagine how I hope I would react, what I hope I would think, how I hope I would respond all I want. But, until I walk through it myself, I really have no idea.

I have never been a very scandalous person. No huge public life dramas have played out in my life… until the summer of 2010.

What happened? We did not complete the adoption of the child we traveled to bring home because the child’s needs were greater than what the file disclosed and greater than we felt prepared or were even approved to handle. After that decision was made, while still in country, our agency locked a child off the shared list for us to consider. After much prayer and discussion and input from our support system, we accepted the referral and completed that adoption.

To say our adoption journey was difficult is understatement. But, by far, the most hurtful thing this momma dealt with were the misconceptions people in the adoption community had–and may still have — regarding those who do not complete an adoption and the opinions openly shared about “those parents.” Naively, I had no idea just how scandalous this was in the eyes of many in the adoption community. In reading what many other adoptive parents thought about our situation, it seemed as if the thinking was either you bring home the child you were referred no matter what, or you are a terrible, selfish person who wishes for that child to never find a family.

I can tell you that is not the case. This much I know for sure.

The sadness and shock we felt when the serious undisclosed needs became apparent was hard, but we had lots of supportive people walking us through the confusion. Discovering that we were not the best family for the child we thought was ours was hard, but we had peace about the decision, knowing it was the best for that child and us. We were simply not equipped to handle that child’s needs and knew that there would be a family out there who could meet those needs and meet them well. Facing the reality of not coming home with a child, the child who we had attached to at some level through video and pictures after almost 4 years of being in the process was hard. But, with the peace we had in our decision, we knew that if that’s what it came down to, it would be okay. We would be okay with coming home childless, if that’s where God led. Our family, our friends, our church lifted us up in prayer, listened to us as we processed through everything that was happening, and supported the difficult decision we had to make.

However, the comments about our situation (and about others who find themselves in similar situations) I read upon returning home, and still occasionally stumble upon as I scan adoption boards, pierced my heart and rattled me for days. I sat stunned at the broad paintbrush often used to paint parents who go through this as cold, heartless, uneducated, unprepared, only thinking of themselves with no thought or caring for what happens to the child.

The comments seem to center around the same logic: EITHER you are on the side of the child OR you disrupt. EITHER you parent a child who you know is not a good fit for your family OR you are declaring that child unworthy of having a family. It is not like that. It is just not that simple.

This much I know for sure: it is not an either/or type of situation. 

From the outside, it is not possible to know ALL the details of why parents may choose not to complete an adoption, to know all the reasons a family felt ill-prepared to meet a particular child’s needs. Those details are extremely personal and private for both the child and family. Absolutely, the adoptive parents want the child they are unable to parent to find a home, the right home. It’s the same thing we all want for all the kids on those lists. We want homes for every one of them. But, as adoptive parents, we have to make decisions along the way in a special needs adoption as to what needs we feel called to and prepared to handle. That is why agencies have parents fill out special needs checklists. Some of those reasons for choosing certain special needs and not others are personal preferences; but, some have to do with very practical things such as insurance, availability of services, etc. Adoptive parents who decide they cannot parent the child they were referred and, therefore, make the painful decision not to complete an adoption do so with the family’s and child’s best interests at heart.

Since returning home almost five years ago, I have been in contact with other parents who have also gone through the pain of an uncompleted adoption. And, there are certain common denominators that have been true in each of those situations. This much I know for sure:

1. The parents hurt and grieve over the loss of the child. In all cases, parents have prepared a room and bed and clothing for the child. They have lined up medical treatment and doctors. They have prepared the other children in their families for this brother or sister. They have packed, planned, and prayed for this child. In most cases, the parents have named the child. In all cases, the parents fully intended on bringing home that child.

2. The parents want the child they are unable to parent to find the right family. They pray for them. Often times, they actively advocate for them. And, sometimes, they even offer monetary donations to help the child receive treatment and/or diagnostic testing while that child waits for a family.

3. The parents have grief and confusion and heartache and disappointment that they need to process. While local family and friends do what they can to support these families, often times, the family looks to the adoption community for support and becomes isolated when that community (their community) shames them and sometimes even vilifies them.

4. Parents who are offered another referral while in country (as we were due to being an I-600 family) did not travel intending to “switch” or “upgrade.” Many times, it is implied that adoptive parents who come home with a different child had some “master plan” to get a better/younger/healthier/cuter child. When in most (if not all) cases, the decision is made to not complete the adoption well before the option of another referral is even considered. It is not a situation of “would you rather have this child instead?”

5. The parents receive a lot of negative comments on forums and blogs from some in the adoption community and, as a result, feel isolated, judged, and shut out. Online forums can be a blessing for all the sharing of information and personal experiences that help to educate families about adoption. However, the relative anonymity also makes it too easy for some to say hurtful and judgmental comments aimed at parents who decided they could not complete the adoption of the child they had traveled for. Most of these comments offer support and compassion for the child in a way that is critical and judgmental of the adoptive parents.

So, to the people who have said my husband and I were not prepared as adoptive parents, you are right. We were not prepared in many ways. 

We were not prepared to meet a child whose needs were far beyond what were presented and what we were equipped or approved for. 

We were not prepared to learn that the medical files we reviewed had not disclosed the other serious medical needs the child had that were not related to the main special need. 

We were not prepared to leave behind the child whose picture we proudly shared with family and friends. 

We were not prepared to find the child who IS our daughter in such a confusing way following God’s clear leading. 

We were not prepared to feel God’s presence so clearly throughout the entire process. 

We were not prepared to be given such a sense of clarity and peace about the decisions we felt led to make. 

We were not prepared for the outpouring of love, support, and understanding we received from our friends, family, and church family. 

We were not prepared to feel so alone, isolated, and criticized by members of the adoption community in cyber-land.

And, we certainly were not prepared to be judged so harshly by an adoption community that had previously been such a source of support for us. 

In the years that have passed, I have sensed that perhaps those in adoption circles are beginning to understand public shaming is not helpful. The demise of forums that offer anonymity has helped stem the flow of unbridled anger. Our experience has taught me that making assumptions of people in other circumstances is rarely helpful. I am reminded that in any given situation, it’s not as simple as either/or, because, this much I know for sure…

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

I never thought we would disrupt. Never. It wasn’t on the radar. It wasn’t in our vocabulary. At. All. Not even a little bit. We were bringing our child home no. matter. what.

Except that she wasn’t our child. We knew that without a doubt.

There has never been a doubt about any of it at all. No second guessing. Just hurt. Hurt for what had to happen, and hurt for the stigma that seems to cloud over us within the adoption community. Miraculously, we came home with our child, and the child-who-was-not-ours has found a family as well. Her family.

We couldn’t be more thrilled.

This much I know for sure.

find my family: Holden

March 6, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Ready for some cuteness?!?

Holden, born July 2012, is an active little boy, who loves to be cuddled. He has differences in his external ears, with mild hearing loss. However, he loves to listen to music! His file contains an abnormal CT scan from October 2012, but he has not had another since then. In a recent update he can pass toys from one hand to the other, but hasn’t learned to build with blocks quite yet. He interacts well with other children and likes to play with them. Currently he can call “mama” and “baba.” He especially enjoys outdoor activities. He seldom cries, and when he does a cuddle from a caregiver cheers him up quickly.


Holden’s file is currently with WACAP and he has a $2000 grant available for qualified families. For more information on this adorable little guy, please contact WACAP.

Jen’s Cliff Notes Review: TBRI DVD series part 4

March 5, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

If you have been following this series, congratulations! We just made it through Disc 1! Hopefully the minutes that you have scanned these posts have saved you the hours it took for me to watch it! Don’t fret – I’ve got your back all you parents in the middle of it all. I know you don’t have time when you’re drowning to find the lengthy answers because I’ve been there too – it can be quite overwhelming. So skim through this post for some ways to take action that may lead to positive results!

A disclosure first though… this particular section was so practically good that I believe it spans outside of adoption and into parenting in general. Especially the parenting of a preteen. My oldest is in that season and I am unabashedly using these techniques on him. He was secretly watching the series with me as he pretended to read his book. Dr. Purvis would present an idea and I would just look his direction and nod. He returned my nod with his nod and there is an understanding that in preteen world you can look just like a child from a difficult background despite your charmed upbringing. Hormones can do crazy things. I am not ashamed. He gladly proofs my writing from a child’s point of view, making sure that someday our youngest daughter Grace will enjoy reading them and know she was loved from the start. He is normally my eyes and ears for that check. This time however, he will read this one and know that I am coming at the preteen angst with some trust-based parenting. Look out; we are about to script some new behavior!

Scripting New Behavior:

The overriding concept in this section is that a child’s preciousness is never up for grabs. Never. The troubling behavior on display is a survival skill, not the child’s identity. As parents, our role is to play and nurture rather than punish and to allow play to become the healing environment. We shape and show the right behavior to promote change.

Creating scripts helps to redirect the survival behavior. Use short phrases that have great meaning to teach self-regulation. Make sure the vocabulary honors everyone and is straightforward. Used in this manner, the scripts teach social skills that the child may have never learned before. Examples such as “Stick Together,” “No Hurts” and “Have Fun” are easy to recall goals that can be repeated and expressed often. They can be acted out with puppets or written on popsicles sticks as reminders. Practicing in calm times is key so that the memory is there in the “not so calm” times to call upon.


Setting Goals:

A partnership with the child must exist in the goal setting. This helps the child to own his or her behavior and the consequences or rewards that follow. Goals should be communicated and created in multiple outlets, written down and if helpful, with pictures. Access and repetition is key.

Teaching Life Values – Show Respect:

While much of the behavior changes are occurring through play; there still is no tolerance for disrespect. A child learns that he can always share or verbalize his feelings. However, this does not give the child the right to act on them. Simple scripts like, “Don’t touch without permission” or “Please ask to get in my space” make a child aware and attentive to how respect looks. Playfully practicing respect is vital. Puppets and acting out scenarios where respect is violated and then “re-doing” the scenario where the “respectful response” is praised, builds a partnership between child and parent as they investigate respect together. Practicing in the mirror also fosters eye contact and a way to observe body cues in responding to positive and negative ways of showing respect. This is specifically a great tool for children who cannot control their impulses – such as jumping at adults without warning, exaggerated displays and use of other’s property without asking. When the parent sets the proper example, a child can then give back what the parent has already given and demonstrated in respect. We must show our children respect if we want respect in return.

Ask Permission:

For even the smallest of issues, have the child ask permission for even the seemingly nicest of gestures. For children who have had a need to control everything to survive, this is key. The parent can redirect with a question such as “Are you asking me or telling me?” to kindly steer their child back into a successful reality after a rude outburst displaying their need. “I want crackers NOW!” is easily redirected with a simple script from the parent, “Are you asking me or telling me?” so that the child is reminded and can self regulate a better way of expressing need.

Mark the Task:

In order to build new methods of communication, specific tasks need to be “marked” clearly and in detail. If a child responds to an instruction, instead of saying, “You are such a good girl,” be specific to what was done well. Comments such as “Good asking!” or “Good obeying!” or “You did that on the first try, thank you for your eyes in watching Mom!” are all specific to the task and make a concrete point to the child. Knowing that new experiences promote joy, allows children to gradually take chances with the script “With permission and supervision.” This is key for the children who have had to fend for themselves and are overly independent. We want to meet their desire to experience new things, but with the loving supervision and assistance of the mom or dad. Simple activities such as playing “Red Light, Green Light” or “Stop and Go” can assist children in learning these scripts. Combining “With permission and supervision” with “Listen and Obey” can take those simple games and expand them into silly or extended versions with new activities with each new success.

Gentle and Kind:

Teaching children the meaning of the script “Gentle and Kind” is essential for learning to build empathy for other people and creatures. The likelihood is that they were never taught this empathy young, so they need a concrete way to practice. This can be done with sensory objects and most effectively with pets and animals. Even holding a cricket can teach “Gentle and Kind” well as children naturally engage in gingerly holding the insect! Not only does this prompt help to self regulate their responses but children hear a positive prompt instead of “How many times have I told you not to be rough?! Not to hit your sister?! Not to pinch your brother!?” It must be taught and is a sensory motor response.


The key to this life value is letting the child determine what some of the consequences could be to his or her behavior. This involves asking questions and fostering brainstorming, which is very difficult in the heat of the moment of disruptive behavior. Questions like, “What could happen if you run at her with scissors in your hand?” “What could happen to you?” “What could happen to her?” “Is there a better way to do this?” “Can you show me?” are all ways to foster some critical thinking that may have never existed. We cannot expect our children to know things that we have not taught them. It is an unfair expectation, regardless of their age.

No Hurts:

This one might be my very favorite. The idea with this prompt is that we don’t hurt with our words or with our actions. What would happen if we all lived like that!? Many of the children in the series would get a band aid over their shirt where their heart is when their feelings were hurt. I foresee a lot of band aids in my future but love this all the same. Just allowing children the safety to express a hurt heart is crucial. For many, they were covered or masked in their feelings and it is now safe to allow them to be expressed. Acknowledging pain is key in promoting healing.

Sharing Power and Compromise:

Choices always steer to better outcomes for a child with a need to control. Teaching children the respectful art of asking for a compromise builds trust and competency in social situations. A child hears that the parent listens and understands. For example, if it is bedtime, instead of a tantrum, the child learns to ask, “Can I have a compromise?” “May I please finish the page I’m on?” This little bit of shared power and compromise can lead to a more pleasant outcome and trust. If the compromise is not a valid one, the parent works to keep the “train” of success and connection moving with other options.

The Re-do:

Behavioral re-do’s teach that trying again is ok and a way to overcome negative consequences. Acting out scenarios with puppets or dolls is a great resource here because they teach a tool in a playful and positive manner. The mood is upbeat and the knowledge is building connection as the child learns that re-do’s aren’t a punishment but a constructive way to build confidence. Here’s the kicker with this one that makes it worth it – “Motor memory trumps cognitive memory!” You can undo months or years of cognitive memory simply by re-doing in repetition and acting out the re-do.

The “Real” Child:

The goal is to connect with the “real” child underneath all of the behavior. You can simply ask to speak to the “real” boy or girl when the behavior happens. The behavior is masking feelings, putting up boundaries for self protection and ultimately blocking connection. If the tone is highly anxious, overly silly or unusually shy in a tough scenario, you can ask to see the real little person underneath it all. It is shocking what that does and how easy it is when the child is reminded by the parent’s tone that it is safe to be who they really are. Hugs and gentle coaxing can help the “real child” to feel safe again. I can testify that I’ve done this and it does work beautifully, even with young children. I’m trying it on my preteen after school today.

Scaffolding – Support Your Child:

Much like a baby learning to walk, children from tough beginnings need a lot of guidance at the beginning. As they master skills, the parent can step slowly away and encourage from the sidelines. We want to give enough support until the child can stand comfortably alone in all of the scripts and life values that promote change.


Change Requires Repetition:

There are actual brain connections that must happen in order to sustain and hold new ways of behaving. It takes 400 times to create new synaptic connections! While this may seem daunting, how many times do you think you’ve said “Stop it!” and “No!” already this week? Repetition in new behavior is not only for the child but for the parent too! In a little while, we all can look and feel better together!

The idea that most impressed me about this section is that we can “script” new behavior. I like this because it was God’s idea to begin with. Just like renewing our minds, we become what we behold and what we do. The old idea of “garbage in, garbage out” is true. We can retrain our minds to react in a way that promotes connection. I love good educational psychology and science but these ideas are not new and actually come straight from the Tree of Life. Our minds were created with the ability to change and with a strong desire to connect. Scripting new behavior is key with children from tough places but even better when it’s inspired scripting by the very Spirit of God. My script for those in the pit today is “Pick One.” Don’t be overwhelmed, just pick one idea to try and see what happens. I’d love to hear about it when you do.

– Photography by Tish Goff

Gia: Adopting a Child with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB)

March 4, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


When my husband and I began the adoption process, we knew we were open to adopting a child with special needs, but we didn’t have any specific need in mind. We had a very broad medical checklist, and we planned on getting our LID and having our agency match us with a child. But then …Read More

Disruption: the facts

March 3, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


The beginning of March marks the start of a series where we will be discussing disruption and dissolution in adoption. We are treading prayerfully and lightly into this realm of the adoption world that is so often avoided. It is hard to talk about. It is complicated. And it is most definitely life altering to …Read More

find my family: Rion

March 2, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Adorable and handsome Rion recently turned 8. He is waiting for a family on the shared list and he is diagnosed as having postoperative cleft lip and palate and epilepsy. As of Dec. 2011 he has stopped the medication he was taking for his epilepsy and it sounds as if he has not had any …Read More

How Children’s Books Helped My Family

March 1, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


Dr. Karyn Purvis said, “If you didn’t teach your child something then don’t assume he knows or understands it.” We have found this to be very true in our family. When my daughter joined our family last year, people were often curious about how her English language was progressing. Some assumed this would be the …Read More

What We Know…

February 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


We know that adoption is beautiful, don’t we? We know that it is a wonderful way to build a family. We also know that it can be painful, and scary, and even though it can most definitely be a dream come true, it can also hold many frightening unknowns… We have three dreams come true, …Read More

find my family: larry

February 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Larry was born in September 2012 and diagnosed with congenital heart disease. Sweet Larry was found in a hotel dustbin as a newborn and taken to the hospital. At that time he had a hematoma on his scalp and began treatment for jaundice after entering an orphanage. His hematoma resolved on its own but it …Read More

out of the darkness

February 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


I don’t think I will ever be the mom who believes God’s original and best plan for my daughter was for her to be in my home. I realize that’s a controversial statement, and perhaps many of the people reading this will feel something bristle inside of them as they think about their own precious …Read More