We stood shivering on a strange doorstep sixteen long hours from home. It was nerves mixed with excitement that churned inside me as we raised our hand to knock on the door. A stack of boxes and suitcases greeted us in the foyer when the door opened. We stepped inside and a little boy with the same face as the child in the picture on our fridge came forward and greeted us.
He tried to quickly dart past us and down through the snow to our RV parked out front. I stopped him, “Do you need to know our names before you leave with us?” He shrugged, “Um, sure.” We knelt down, introduced ourselves to our new son for the first time and walked him to our RV where he was greeted by five smiling, bouncing children inside.
Logistically, we found the adoption process that goes along with adopting an international child from a U.S. adoption disruption is very similar, possibly even identical to a domestic private adoption. The adoption process moved along pretty quickly. From the time we learned of his need for a new family to the day we picked him up was just over 60 days total. In that time frame we had to have our state homestudy updated to a private one, hire a private adoption attorney, as well as travel across the U.S. and navigate the (not so fun) world of ICPC.
Our little guy’s previous adoptive family went all the way to China to make him their own. At that point he had spent his first 4 years growing up in a Chinese orphanage. Before his 8th birthday they truly felt they could no longer parent his issues. In the short blurb we first read about him it said he was diagnosed with RAD and PTSD. They let us know more in depth the behavior struggles they were having, including lying, stealing, wetting himself, etc, as well as the fact that they were finding it almost impossible to form an attachment bond.
I do remember that when Sam first joined us, for the first two months, we worked exclusively with him to simply look at us when he spoke to us or we spoke to him and to speak clearly since we couldn’t understand a thing he said, unless, of course, he was angry with us. There is a connection that comes from that simple eye contact. I also made it a point to tell him every day how glad I was that he was here and how this was his last stop. In those first couple months we worked through some expected hard behaviors but we were pleasantly surprised when they didn’t last nearly as long as we had expected.
Our other five children welcomed Sam with open arms. They know hurt, loss and rejection well. They wanted Sam to also know that he was loved and wanted here. They even reminded him in some of his darkest times that they had been there and guess what, these parents are serious when they say, “We will love you forever no matter what!” It was heartwarming to see the healing that happened in our other adopted children just through counseling and choosing to love their new brother even when he was difficult to love. And the trust that was built in them by seeing us follow through with our commitment to love another child in need.
We have learned a lot from this journey of adopting several children with attachment issues. A child raised by neglectful or abusive parents, children raised hoping from foster home to foster home or children raised in an orphanage will most likely have some form of issues with attachment. New adoptive parents will see some push-back and difficult behaviors as these children test your commitment to love and keep them as their previous parental figures have failed to do so. This is especially true for children who have endured an adoption disruption. When a child has been told “adoption is forever” and then it is not it can certainly cause much confusion for the next family that again says “adoption is forever,” this time for real! Overcoming attachment issues at this point can sometimes be even more difficult.
Attachment takes both parties. A child struggling with attachment needs us, as the parent, to show them a love that they cannot resist. A love that says, “I am going to love you no matter what you do or say to me!” A love that says, “I am going to be here for you whether you want me to be or not, because I love you!” A love that says, “I am not going to let you hurt yourself, me or others because you mean too much to me!” A love that has nothing to do with how we, as parents, feel. We are not toddlers controlled by emotions, but adults who can and must control our emotions.
These children need a love that isn’t a passing warm feeling, but an unwavering commitment. A love that is a daily choice, sometimes a daily battle, but these kids are worth the battle. A love that cannot be shaken by the hard behaviors born in their history of loss and rejection. A love that does not fade or diminish when it is not reciprocated. A love that does not look like any other “love” this world tries to sell us.
I understand that everyone has a story in this journey we call life and adoption. People are weak and this road is difficult. I am weak and sometimes feel overwhelmed. While I cannot say I would ever advocate for a child to be disrupted, in the same way I wouldn’t advocate for a couple to experience the hardship of divorce, I certainly would not be one to judge them in any way for their decision. I would urge anyone considering adoption disruption to exhaust all their resources for an alternative that would allow both parties to work through their difficulties and keep their commitment to each other.
I also understand that the road of adoption disruption can be an extremely lonely and judgmental road to walk. I do believe that most parents that consider or come to a place that they choose to pursue the disruption of the child they adopted have not done so lightly. It is often after much thought, effort, therapy and counsel that disruption is deemed the only viable option. These parents have often put in hundreds or hours and tens of thousands of dollars to bring this child into their family to begin with. Then a disruption will again require more sacrifice of time and money to give this child, what the parents and therapists feel is best, a fresh start and the hope they can heal.
I truly believe that most disruptions are not fueled by malice or hatred but by a humble acceptance that the parents or their home is not what is best for this child’s healing. These parents are often hurting and struggling as much as the child in their home is. Often there is healing needed on both sides. I believe we should be able to extend the same love that we extend to the adopted child also to the bio, foster or even disrupted adoptive parent.
It has been a year since we picked up our Sam from his previous adoptive home. To be honest, he is an amazing kid! He is such a perfect blessing to our large, busy, farming and homeschooling family! He no longer exhibits any behaviors or emotions that one would expect from a child diagnosed with RAD and PTSD. He is obedient, gentle, sweet, responsible, crazy funny and has the most adorable laugh ever.
We have no secret recipe for healing. But we do have a commitment to love these kids the way Jesus loves us. And when we fail and just cannot muster up the strength or feeling to show that love, Jesus supernaturally loves them through us. My goal as mom isn’t for my kids to love me, but for them to love Jesus who is real and lives in me!
— guest post by Shannon