Paved with good intentions

Some days it just doesn't pay to wander around the different adoption groups on Facebook. These are the days where I end up smacking my head and wondering, oh, so many things, such as, "What the [bad word] were these parents thinking?" or "Where in the [bad word] were the social workers and agencies, and why didn't they do their job to educate?" or "Why in the [bad word] weren't the adults caring more for the children involved than the money these children could result in?"

I'm all for adoption, if you haven't figured that out yet. I'm all for children who have lost their first families to have a chance at another family and some stability and hope for their future. No child should grow up without parents in their lives, supporting them, loving them, being an encouraging presence as they grow to adulthood and beyond. But I'm also for educated adoptive parents, supportive agencies, and agencies who put the emotional needs of the children ahead of their bottom lines. It seems that sometimes these three things are terribly difficult to come by.

It's been said the road to Hell has been paved with good intentions, and no where is this more apparent, it seems, than in adoption. Parents, wanting to do a 'good thing' and help the 'poor orphan' sign up to adopt. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but without appropriate education and expectations, it can become one. This is especially true when trauma enters the picture. Trauma doesn't play nicely, or cooperate with grand plans of doing good things. So children come home, to an ill-prepared family, and no great surprise, things fall apart in a big way. This is often because the adoption fantasy of grateful adopted children and happy, fulfilled parents doesn't really exist. There is usually nothing quick or painless or easy about helping a hurt child heal. When things fall apart, the children suffer. Again.

Or, people agree to host 'a poor orphan' for several weeks, giving them a taste of family and abundance, with the noble aim of finding a permanent home for them. I'm going to take some grief here, but I really hate hosting programs. Children are put in the position of essentially auditioning to be adopted into a family. They are given a taste of what life could be like. And then, at the end, have to leave it all and go back to the orphanage. It is an attachment disaster. As the parent of children who have had multiple placements, there is nothing good about it. It does not help. It only hurts. And the children have absolutely no say in the matter. Sure some children find families. But I've also talked with families who have hosted, and then adopted those children. Some of the stories are very difficult, because at some point the auditioning behavior has to stop, it is not sustainable long-term, and what you're left with is more hurt and more trauma. There is just no way to avoid dealing with the hurt these children have experienced. There are no free passes. I don't really care if the child was as good as gold during the four weeks of the hosting trip.

I'm on a soap box, I know. But if you are thinking about adoption, here is what you absolutely need to understand.

1. There are no guarantees. None. No matter what information you think you have ahead of time. Files are not always accurate. Even if files are accurate how the child will manage the trauma of moving to a new home and a new family... again... is not known. It could very well be the last straw in their ability to cope. You just don't know. If you cannot accept this child, even if everything you think you know is wrong, do not adopt.

2. Transitions take longer than you expect. It will take a long time for your new child to feel comfortable as a part of your family, and it will take a long time for you to be comfortable with your new child. When I say a long time, I'm talking years here, people. Not days. Not weeks. Not months. Years. If you cannot live with that timeline, do not adopt.

3. The impetus to change lies with you and not your child. Your child did not ask for this, remember. They are the ones that got dealt the raw deal. Their trauma happened at the hands of adults who were supposed to take care of them. They actually owe no one anything. If your child is having a difficult time, you are the one who needs to figure out how to help them. If you are having a difficult time, you are the one who needs to deal with your stuff in order to make things right. Children cannot have a failed placement, because anything that happened was NOT THEIR FAULT. Failed placements lie solely in the hands of the adults who brought them into their family and the social service agencies who did not prepare and support them.

4. It will be hard. Do not assume you will be one of the few that experience no issues with yourself or your adopted child. Go in assuming that this will stretch you to your limit and beyond. You will feel like a failure. You will be disgusted at yourself. You will be afraid for what you have done to your family. You will feel incredible guilt. And this is absolutely normal, because there is actually nothing normal about the situation. Children were not meant to lose their first families. Children were not meant to be hurt. Children were not meant to have to learn to function in a new family. It is abnormal, and it can be very difficult to make the abnormal normal again. If you are not strong enough to learn at a very deep level, exactly how messed up you are, then don't adopt.

5. These children are worth every ounce of pain. These children are human beings who deserve love and care as much as anyone else. We do this because these children are valuable, both to the God who created them and to society. They are worth fighting for. They are worth loving. They worth going through hard things for. Do not set out to love them and help them heal if you are doing this for you and how it will make you feel. Do this because you understand they have intrinsic worth.

6. Finally, for those coming from a Christian perspective. Do not adopt just because you feel God calls you to. It is not an item to check off on your good deeds list. Duty is very cold comfort in the cold dark of worry at 2 am. (Personally, I find the character of Aunt Polly in Pollyanna, to be very illuminating in this regard.) If you are a Christian and feel called to adopt, do it because you realize the depth of love Jesus has for you, and because you cannot contain that love, but must reach out and love other unlovable people in return. (And yes, adoption will teach you in a particularly pointed way just how unlovable you are.) Adoption should be an outpouring of love because of Jesus' outpouring of love for us, and not because a stern and vaguely angry God told us that we better.

Not terribly Christmas-y, I know. I'll try to get back to that tomorrow.


Winslow Gang said…
Thank you for this! This is the truth! The reality. I appreciate your honesty and transparency! <3
Kari said…
Well said! This is what every potential adoptive parent needs to hear. And then needs to be reminded of during those first hard days and months.

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