(This first appeared on Trishryanauthor.com)
Read this article from The Boston Globe. You’ll love it, I promise. (You might even print it off and keep it on your coffee table to make you happy, like I did.) It’s about two girls who were adopted on National Adoption Day. They had been in NINE foster homes over the course of eight years. Think about that.
Imagine a child you know being moved through eight different strangers’ homes between the ages of 3 and 8 years old? Seriously: imagine them being dropped off at any one of the random houses you pass today, then picked up a few days or weeks later, taken to a different town and dropped off there. Repeat this six more times.
Then imagine them landing in a safe (albeit temporary) space: spending another five years in foster care with a sweet older couple, praying for a permanent family before these foster parents die or retire? How precarious an existence is that? And yet somehow these girls were holding it together enough that a beloved teacher didn’t even know they were in care. (This is a common thing, by the way. Kids in foster care don’t like to share their situation because it makes them so different.)
Part of why I love this article is that Steve and I met these girls at that Jordan’s adoption event. I remember they were REALLY excited, which stood out, because kids are usually a little tense at these gatherings – particularly older ones who know the deal and are determined not to get their hopes up. Ty & Que were obviously happy, and I remember seeing them talking in an animated way to this large group of people I now realize was their new family.
It makes me want to dance around the living room shouting, “God is still doing stuff! We shouldn’t give up!!!”
Since God is still doing stuff, we should do stuff too. Like pray. Here are two disappointing realities about foster care that we can change:
DR#1: Many people won’t consider adopting children who are older than 4 or 5. They think older kids are too damaged, and that it’s easier to erase the memory of a younger child and help them start over.
Kids in care are savvy to this, and so start making plans early on to take care of themselves when they “age out” of the system. It’s easier to pretend you don’t want something than to put your heart on the line and risk that vulnerability. (Which is why I was so excited to see Michael profiled in this Sunday’s paper. How brave is he? I know God has a family for him. Could it be you?)
Here’s the truth: You can’t erase the loss of biological parents at ANY age. When a child loses their biological parents, this will always be part of their story. They’ll have different thoughts and responses to this at different points in their lives. But older children often have more tools to address this. They have language. And you have language. This helps a lot if you learn how to use it. As the article mentioned, Ty & Que are angry that they don’t have biological parents. This is a normal, healthy reaction, and there are ways for their new parents to help them through this. That’s what healthy parent do: help their kids through the tough things in life.
Dear God, deliver us all from false beliefs. Lead us into the truth about the families you have for us, and the family you would have us be.
DR#2: Children of color are less likely to get adopted than white kids.
Here’s my take on this: With adoption, it’s less important that your children match you on the OUTSIDE than that they match you on the INSIDE, whatever your race or ethnicity. One of the things I’ve said repeatedly since the Cherubs came is that a key to our success is that we all sort of plug along at the same pace. This helps tremendously as we learn to be a family. All four of us need a balance of together time and alone time. We all function better with a lot of sleep. We like to laugh. We each have peculiar food preferences. We relax by watching and playing sports. These are not small things. How your home and family FEEL day-to-day is much more significant than the varying hues that might show up on your Christmas Card picture. Trust me on this.
I’m not minimizing racism. Or that some people will look at you strangely and make you feel awkward. But adoption IS awkward. It just IS. Nothing that has happened with our Cherubs has been any more awkward than situations we had with Princess Peach, and she looked just like us. (Such as the time she told the dentist, “Oh Mummy NEVER remembers to brush my teeth!” The dentist gave me an awkward, We’ll talk about this later glare, after which Princess Peach blurted, “Oh THAT’S not Mummy! That’s Mommy!” thus redeeming my dental hygiene practices but redefining my relational orientation.)
You can’t get around awkward. So just embrace it and move forward. My experience so far has shown this: Far more people will surprise you with their awesomeness than with their judgment. Give them the opportunity to rise to the occasion.
Lord, give us all the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and then lift us up…
I love this story of these two girls. I love that God has a Plan B. I don’t know that this transition will be easy for this family, but I believe it will be fruitful, and that the good will outpace the hard. Bless, bless, bless them, and all the kids still waiting for their “round 2” families. In Jesus’ name. Amen.