Hard Enough: Challenges in foster adoption

I’ve written before about the misconceptions surrounding adoption, especially regarding older children or children from “hard places” like orphanages or the foster care system. You don’t need to look far to find horror stories. Maybe not strychnine-in-the-well kinds of stories (see Anne of Green Gables), as those are rare, but it’s easy enough to find shocking scenarios like the Russian adoptee put on a plane back to his homeland because his mother gave up. In the past four years of advocating for all types of adoption, I’ve learned disrupted adoptions are not as uncommon as I once thought.

foster adoption: hard_enough

Because of all that, and because this isn’t our first go-round, I have researched, talked to people, read books and blogs — all so that I could be as well-prepared as possible. When we learned about Scout and Jem, they seemed almost too good to be true; on paper, they are “ideal” foster-adoption kids, with none of the many dizzying diagnoses these kids sometimes come with. I almost felt guilty that we were getting such “easy” kids, knowing how many “hard” cases there are.

Then they moved in. And I realized this is hard enough.

I’m exhausted — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
There are new challenges EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

In my experience, people tend to think in extremes when it comes to these kinds of adoption: either the kids are awful, or they are “normal.” In most cases, neither is true. They are not like children raised from birth in stable, loving homes — but neither are they condemned to become delinquents. What they are is hurt, grieving for things they cannot understand or express.

People, including caseworkers, ask how things are going, and I tell them the truth:

All things considered, it’s going well and the kids are doing great.

Here’s the catch: that “all things considered” part is HUGE! It encompasses so much. These 4 and 5 year old kids have said goodbye to their birth parents, left the foster home they’ve lived in for the past 18 months or so, changed homes/schools/families/churches, are learning new rules/expectations/routines. All in the past month. I can’t begin to imagine what that must be like, or how they are processing all of this.

So when Scout acts defiantly or regresses in wetting her pants, or when Jem gets mad and screams and spits at me and calls me bad names (the worst of which, somewhat amusingly, currently consist of things like “poopy head” or “smarty pants”) — who can blame them? Yes, the behavior has to be dealt with, but I have to remind myself of what they’re going through, where they’ve come from, and how much progress they’ve both already made.

God redeems.

With plenty of love and patience, and (more importantly!) with the abundant grace of God, they will overcome. Maybe not in all the ways I hope. But He can redeem and restore all the pain of their early years, and that is a truth I cling to.

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” Joel 2:25

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Erin - The Usual Mayhem

I have a tremendous amount of respect for you guys and what you’re doing. I also have a huge amount of respect for little kids who go through what yours have been through and still have enough love and joy left in them to experience good moments in between the acting out. You’ll all do just fine in the end, I’m sure.


I wish I was a good write to tell you everything I have in my heart for you, all I can say at this moment is that if we could be more like you the world would be a better place. Thank you and may The Lord continue blessing you and every single one of your family.


I am praying for your family. We are 10 years into our placement with two our kiddos. One of them is on a downhill spiral right now and I am hearing even more dizzying labels. It is a hard road at times.
Blessings, dawn

Ellen, the Bluestocking Belle

Jamie, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have two young children “magically appear” into a family’s life! Talk about chaos! It will take time for things to settle down (somewhat!). But I CAN imagine what love, joy, and God-graced lives these children can now have because you and your family chose to make them your own.

Nancy M

Thank you for sharing. I am so thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3: 22-23) and remember that when I mess up, I have a Heavenly Father that grants me the mercies and grace I need to make it through each day. I’ve been trying to remember and apply that with my children lately and love them as I know God tells me too (Love your neighbor as yourself) and that has been helping me. Verse 22 of Lamentations 3 also speaks of God’s steadfast love. I am glad to know that His Love never changes and… Read more »

Trisha Mclellan

Jamie, You shared my adoption story a while back….my husband’s name is Ken too. 🙂 I just want you to know how your blog encourages and inspires me. We brought home our 8th child in December 2012. She is 9yrs old, and has been involved in the foster system most of her life. We are walking through the same things right now, and even after 7 other children, it is a daily, intentional decision to love and have compassion, and mercy for all the hurt and devastation this precious life has endured. She is making great progress, and your blog… Read more »

Zephyr Hill

May the Lord give you grace to make it through each day and to keep on loving them one day at a time!


Amen Jamie! Amen!

Karin Katherine

I so appreciate you writing HONESTLY and OPENLY and PASSIONATELY about the ups and downs with adoption. I do believe you’ve shown me how to gracefully tell our story without hurting the cause for adoption but without making it all seem like a fairytale either. I don’t believe that helps the cause of adoption because LIFE isn’t a fairytale. We are only recently (somewhat) coming out of the biggest challenges with our little Bean. Challenges I never expected because our daughter was 12 weeks when we adopted her and I thought that meant smooth sailing for me. NOT! Thanks to… Read more »


Love this post. So honest and real! And I really appreciate how you acknowledge all the changes the kiddos have gone through.


Well said Jamie – in our hearts we feel as if they have always been with us, but in their minds/hearts they are dealing with messy scars, sadness and so much change. It is awesome you recognize their hurts. I always tell our oldest adopted child that God doesn’t bring us to this journey without every intention of bringing us through it. God is re-writing their story, your story, our story and it will be beautiful, it might be a little dented, but then so are we all! God Bless You!

Pam in Missouri

Thank you so much for sharing this process with us, warts and all. Foster care is something my husband and I would like to provide when our kids (adopted) are a little older. I appreciate hearing how the foster-adopt process is going for you. I’m lifting up you and your family to the Lord this morning.


I adopted from foster care 5 times. Yes it is HARD, but worth it. I still have to remind myself to think of all they have been through in their short lives.