Saturday, November 16, 2013

Adoption is a Gift

Today my sister shared an article about adoption.  The article truly disgusted me and was anything but a celebration of adoption.  The gist is that a family who couldn't have children fostered to adopt 7 mos old twin boys.  Four months later they then became pregnant with their own child.  After some time they were asked to take in the twins 2 1/2 year old sister, who they also adopted.  The adopted children had a lot of issues and the parents decided that they could not deal with their adopted children. They chose to adopt them out to two other families.  The amount of support for this family floored me.  As an adoptive mom there is many things wrong with this scenario and many reasons I think these people should be held accountable for hurting these kids.  I would like to share those reasons with you.  If you are a person contemplating adoption I would urge you to read this and think long and hard about what I share.

When you feel the call to adoption, usually you feel this call based on your belief and faith system.  You believe every child should be guaranteed the right to be loved and nurtured.  Every child should have a happy home.  Every child of God deserves to be taken care of.  Yes, I said God.  Many of these people are in strong church communities that encourage adoptions and "doing more for the least of my people".  This encouragement is awesome but can also be very damaging when you are talking about something that does not come natural to people.  It is my strong opinion that churches need to stop pressuring families to adopt.

I am so thankful that during our discernment process, Shawn and I were surrounded by people who had the courage to speak honestly to us about negative aspects of adoption.  Their brutal honesty helped us confront those issues and really think on if we were ready and equipped to handle this.  We talked to adult adoptive children and their adoptive parents about the struggles they faced.  We spoke to foster families who took in older children to find out what issues they dealt with.  We wanted the horror stories because we would know what we were getting into.  The "Mary Poppins" people we stayed away from.  These are the people telling us how great we were, how amazing it was that we were adopting a child.  These are the same people that talked about God wanting this for us.  We knew they had no way of knowing this and it was OUR JOB to discern if God truly wanted this for us.  Only we knew the answer to this with lots of guidance and prayerful consideration.

Which brings me to my next point.  We discerned this very carefully, together, but most importantly, we honestly talked about our fears.  We spent days discussing our biological children.  How would this affect them?  How would we ensure that Keegan would be their brother not just the adopted kid?  How would we deal with discussing his adoption as part of our family's story?  How would we maintain an open adoption and make sure that all of our children would feel connected to Keegans family and story?  We discussed his biological family in depth.  We talked about every fear, worry and selfish thought we had.  We knew that we would forever be opening our family up to a family that we barely knew.  We knew that we could not be selfish in our decision to involve them in our family.  Everything had to be what was best for Keegan.

Speaking of Keegan... we talked about that kid for months.  We didn't spend hardly anytime talking about how cute, smart, amazing, funny he was.  We literally spent NO time speaking about how lucky he was to be part of our family.  We talked about how we would feel if one day he developed issues from the adoption or genetically developed some of the characteristics of his birth family.  We talked about the developmental issues he was sure to have based on the way his first 3 years had been.  We talked about the psychological affects on HIM when he joined a large family with biological children.  We read a million books on adoptive kids and their journey and worked endlessly on understanding those issues and how they would affect our family.  It was understood from the very first moment that once Keegan was adopted he was OUR child.  If these horrible things happened in his future we would deal with that in the same way we would if it was Shawn, Emma, Kiley or Dylan.  We would NEVER give him away just like we would NEVER give up our biological children.  Until we knew this for certain we would not commit to the adoption.

Once we decided to adopt, we made the conscious decision to actively work EVERYDAY to be fully committed and never look back.  We made sure our extended family had decided that as well.  We talked extensively to our parents about their thoughts on having an adopted grandchild.  We talked about the open adoption and blending strangers into our tight family. We wanted to know that they understood our discernment and that they would be 100% supportive.  Obviously, our parents rock and they did.

Lastly, we spoke to our children.  We explained the situation openly and honestly.  We told them this was a family decision and they were part of the decision making process.  We explained some of the concerns we had and explained that they too must be 100% committed.  He would be their brother forever.  His story would become our story and we would be a very different family.  We allowed them to have a meeting and discuss this {we secretly taped it :)}.  In the meeting they shared their thoughts and feelings.  They were honest.  They were not fearful of having to say yes.  We believe they felt no pressure.  They decided to adopt their brother by creating a small skit.  Kiley would come out to the family room and they would say "we got a keeper!"  They decided this, we decided together as a family that we would love our Keegan NO MATTER WHAT.  That is what families do.  Keegan was meant to be in our family.

After Keegan came to our house we had to do many intentional things to make sure our goal of a blended family would be met.  We intentionally referred to all the children as Brother or Sister.  We intentionally spent time holding and hugging our little boy.  We intentionally found moments for each family member to spend time alone with him.  Not alone watching TV but alone doing some activity that would create a memory and a bond.  We intentionally looked for moments of unease, sadness or anger in all of our children and tried to dialogue. 

Shawn and I got better as time went on sharing our own thoughts and feelings.  We talked about the struggles, the joys and the sadness we were feeling.  The struggles suck.  They are harder than we could have ever imagined.  They are ways that we know "evil" tries to creep into our family.  As many of you know, I tend to be sassy.  Based on this character trait I REFUSE to let that happen.  I bless our house often, I ask for prayers {St. Michael's prayer is my best friend}and work DAILY to be faithful.  I work hard to build my husband up and try to alliviate any extra stress my feelings may cause him.  I have nights where I feel the day was successful and nights where I feel like an utter failure.  I have this with ALL of my children.

Throughout this journey I have maintained a small group of people I trust to share my deepest, darkest feelings.  These are my "Mary Poppins" people.  They listen without judgement and offer realistic solutions to my struggles that NEVER include looking back.  They pray for me daily.  Most importantly they NEVER tell me how amazing I am for adopting Keegan.  They tell me that I am an amazing mother and we can do all things through God.  They make me remember that mothering is a sacrifice and joyful but that mothering also sucks.  They encourage me to never quit and make me remember the very reasons we decided to JOYFULLY have Keegan become a part of our family.

Keegan is a blessing I could never have foreseen would happen.  With blessings, some people find ways to wish for bigger or better things.  Adoption is far from that.  This is not a fairy tale.  This is a story of family.  A family is loving parents working to raise loving children, no matter what.  There are fights, tears, groundings, endless consequences.  Family is not easy but it is always a blessing from God.  You do not give your blessings back to God and say "um, try again.  This is not quite what I wanted".  You accept your blessings and the trials that may come along with it or you DO NOT ask for that blessing.

This family was awesome for FINALLY making the decision that they should never have adopted.  But, they SHOULD NOT be praised for harming these 3 precious children for so long.  They should be held accountable for the way they have created more trauma in their lives.  This should not be praised as selfless love.  This is the worst kind of selfishness.  Putting your needs above a childs is not ok.  They should have discerned this before they made the decision to adopt a child as their own.  Parents don't get to quit.  Especially parents of traumatized children. 

Adopted children are hurt kids in many ways.  You work so hard to try and heal them.  The gift of adoption comes during this trial.  You will grow stronger as a person, as a spiritual being but also as a human being.  Adoptive families are not heroes.  They can not be called heroes because that label will have them reaching for impossible goals.  They are everyday parents who make the impossible decision to parent another one's child.  They are traveling a path that will never end and they choose to do this daily.  If they are lucky their journey will be an easy one but most likely, much like parenting any child, this is not going to be the case.  They will hit pitfalls, detours, construction but they will continue moving forward in the direction of the destination.  You don't get to hail a taxi and head the other way.

It is a shame that during this month of celebrating adoption such an article was written.  Especially an article by a Catholic author who should know the enormous responsibility we have to protect the least of our people.  More time should be spent on the families who are working tirelessly to create families from adoption.  So many of us are doing it correctly without the confusion that was expressed in this article.  I wish more people would share these journeys.  I hope you enjoyed ours.


  1. Thank you! I am an adoptive mother and you expressed what is always been in my heart when someone calls us heroes. We are just a family trying to make it through with God by our sides. If possible I would like to share this with others, please let me know if that is okay?
    God bless you and your family.

    1. Paula....thank you for your comments. Definetely feel free to share. God bless!

  2. I totally agree with you. I just can't understand why any adoptive family would give back a child. It seems to be happening more and more as I keep hearing similar stories. The thing is--any parent when they have a child has a risk of that child having issues. People these days think the are getting perfect children all the time and its all about the parents. Any child whether you give birth to them or not has the possibility for things like learning disorders, genetic disorders, emotional issues etc...and as a parent you should accept them as they are. Its horrible to be a conditional parent---only loving kids that are "perfect".

    I also was recently in a group of Catholic women discussing problematic adoptions who also gave up the adopted child and everyone supported the parents! I was shocked at how no one saw that the parent was remotely in the wrong....instead they all rallied in support of the poor parents burdened with bad children...and they all came forward with their own stories of how their cousin, aunt, friend etc was also in a same situation and did the same thing because it was best for them....I was shocked at how common it was and shocked at how no one saw this as a problem at all.

    1. Kim....totally agree! Thanks for your comments. While i am sad for the parents, i am devastated for these siblings that are now seperated and in, yet another, home.

  3. Hey Katie!
    I totally love and agree with you, but I did just want to share one thing. Years ago my aunt and uncle brought up two children from Mexico to adopt. Because they were coming from out of the country they didn't have the chance to develop a relationship before the adoption and after a few months here they realized that the little girl had severe issues steming from abuse she had suffered before being taking away from her family. My aunt and uncle decided that for the safety of the other children in the home she need to be adopted by an older couple whose children were grown. A place where she could get the individual time and attention she needed and where she couldn't harm herself or any other children. They did and do love her and truly wanted what is best for her and have maintained contact with her through the years. I did read the other article that you are talking about (and it does sound like a very different situation) so I don't know what there story was, but I just figured I'd throw this out there.

    We are so happy that your family was blessed by Keegan. We anxiously await the day we can celebrate our family being "official" through adoption.

    Thanks for always loving and standing up for children! Love you all!

    1. Your Aunt and Uncle sound different. Sounds like when they fugured it out they moved pretty quickly and not knowing the child does matter. This couple fostered before adopting and were aware of the challenges. Its a tough situation but i would understand your situation much differently. Cant wait for you to join the adoption club!!!!!! Continued prayers your way...

  4. I mean't to say that I didn't read the other article that you were speaking about. :-)

  5. I'm so glad you mentioned that we need to slow the roll on the pressure to adopt as the Christian thing to do for all families. It just perpetuates the "child as accessory" mentality. Just as we discern having our own children, adoption is a discernment process and not everyone is called or ready for it. It struck me that the first tragedy here was that it doesn't seem from the story written, that they were ever advised about the possibility that adoption wouldn't be a good idea after traumatic loss and within the first few years of marriage. However, I also feel like no matter how horrible you think their decision was, walking away from them when they did the right thing in the end was uncharitable as well. No, they shouldn't have adopted all the children. I haven't lost a baby. I haven't gone through the system to know what is involved in the whole process of decision making from the state. I do know being a young family in the Church there is a lot of pressure for a big family and pressure to adopt. That doesn't remove the responsibility of personal discernment, of course. I'm just glad you called that out as well. :)

  6. Thanks for the prayers, Katie! I finally read the other article and it was very different.