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.
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.
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