Today we are going to meet Kathy. She shares her story about the challenges that came in her life through adoption. Maybe you will find your story within hers. May you also find hope and encouragement too.
Adoption has been a true dear to the heart passion for you and your husband. You have adopted four times domestically and internationally. What were the ages of your children when you adopted them?
Our first son was a domestic adoption and he was 3 days old, next daughter was International adoption and she was 23 months, then another international adoption and he was 16 months, our youngest daughter we adopted as a domestic adoption at 9years, 11 months old.
Certain adoptions pose different challenges such as age range, living in an orphanage or foster home and even second chance adoptions. What challenges were you faced with?
I think all of my children have had many challenges and still continue into adulthood. My daughter adopted from Ukraine was institutionalized from birth. She was diagnosed with emotional deprivation. She was unable to give or receive affection for her first year, and her emotions were always guarded, and she continues to struggle to this day. She has struggled with making deep, lasting, trusting relationships. My boys both had issues related to delays in learning. There is no way to know if there was a direct correlation to their adoptions but I imagine so. Our daughter who was adopted at 9years 11 months, as an interrupted adoption, we were the second family that had adopted her since she was brought to America from Russia when she was 5 years old. Her primary diagnosis was attachment disorder. She was put in a Russian orphanage at age 4, adopted and brought to America at age 5, was treated for attachment disorder, and the family felt as though they were no longer able to handle the challenges of keeping her in their home. They had a list of issues that they claimed were were so severe that they had made a decision to have her institutionalized in the state the family was living. We intervened and adopted her. We have had many challenges in parenting her. I could write a book with her challenges alone. I think another challenge for adoptive children that is greater than for biological children is the question of identity-Who am
Adoptive children typically don’t look like anyone else in the family – it becomes obvious to them at a young age that they don’t fit like biological children. My older son had a lot of interest in knowing things about his biological parents. Sometimes information about an adoptive child’s biological parents leaves them feeling disappointed as often the parents have lived a less than praiseworthy life, which was the case in 3 out of my 4 children. With my kids we tried to steer them to God. Their essential identity is found in what God says about them. Point them to Christ.
One of the discussions we had a while back regarding adopted children is that many other parents who have not adopted, do not understand the complexity of raising an adopted child who struggles with social or behavioral issues, emotional detachments, disorders and delays, identity issues, etc… How were you able to respond and address these issues or situations with those parents?
I think there are so many misconceptions regarding adoption. Just like any issue, education is helpful. I think telling our story and sharing our experiences has been the most helpful. It’s important to be open to questions. Don’t be fearful; be honest in sharing your adoption story. I have also given out articles and books. But I think most helpful is your personal experience.
Through the years I have met families with adopted children in crisis. Those crises consist of: running away, drug use, sub-culture ideology, leaving old families and creating new families, depression and suicidal issues, severe anger issues, habitual lying, stealing, etc…. What are some of the crises you have dealt with as a parent?
Having 4 adopted children from different countries, with different histories, I definitely see the benefit of adopting children at a very young age compared to an adoption of an older child. The crisis was very different. I think a child can suffer from attachment and bonding issues even though they are adopted fairly early. I think that adoptive kids, mine included, have a genuine fear of abandonment. Some have never bonded with their birth parents or any adoptive parents. They feel rejected and some are hurt, and they are angry about it. The adoptive parent can become the object of the child’s anger. I most certainly was the object of my daughter’s anger. Psychologists call this transference. We dealt with anger, lying, and depression namely.
Did you seek counseling, therapy, or any type of treatment for your children who had difficult backgrounds or developed negative behaviors? How well did your child respond from these supportive avenues? Did it help you as a parent to understand your child’s limitations or problems?
We sought out counseling with our youngest daughter with an attachment bonding counselor. It proved very beneficial to my husband and I in learning how to deal with this issue. My daughter was resistant to the counseling and we eventually needed to stop.
As Christian parents, we are called to be a home for the hurting and broken. However, during our journey of parenting adopted children, we can also get hurt and pained by their wrong choices, bad decisions, and behaviors. How has God been able to help you during those seasons? What lessons have you learned that could be helpful to another parent?
Our dependence needs to be upon the Lord! Many adoptive children have so many complicated issues, we need to continue to point them to Christ. I had to keep in mind that I didn’t break them and I can’t fix them. I will love them with an unconditional love, and trust God for the outcome. This may seem simplistic and I suppose in a sense it is!
Adoptive kids often contend with the questions, “Why did my birth mom give me up? Is there something wrong with me?” These answers are not always available and sometimes children need to live with not having answers to some of their questions. Use age appropriate answers and be honest with them if you don’t know. Point them to God who knows all things.
I know of three families in which their adopted children, who are older teens and young adults, have caused great pain for the parents. In some cases, these children have rejected their families despite all of the love, care, and understanding given to them. Have you ever found yourself in any of these predicaments? If so, what have you learned from this experience that you could share with other parents who are struggling with this now?
Yes, and it is a hard painful place to be in. I have had a very difficult few years with our youngest daughter whom didn’t speak to us for 2 years. It was so hard, as I dealt with the rejection as her mom. I needed to be in prayer. I thank God for a few other adoptive moms who were going through similar situations and we were able to share with one another and pray for one another. This is not something we are able to walk out on our own. Find others, either in a support group, church etc that can help share that burden. We need one another.
What resources have been an encouragement and support to you and your husband through your trials as an adoptive parent?
Prayer, God’s Word, articles from counseling magazines. We have been receiving counseling to help us deal with our children’s issues as they come up.
Dealing with adoptive children and their crises, how has this affected your faith in God?
It has strengthened it. As a believer I understand that we have been adopted by God. He is faithful, trustworthy and keeps His promises no matter what I see happening around me or in our children. We dedicated them to the Lord, so we trust that they belong to Him. We did our best as parents and we are trusting Him with outcomes.
How has God guided you through these waves of uncertainty and frustration?
We have done a lot of crying, and praying. He promises He will never leave us nor forsake us. That goes for our children as well. We remind them of that and ourselves.
If you could impart Godly wisdom to a parent who is struggling with their adopted child in crisis, what would it be?
Find others who you can walk out your life with, who you can call on for prayer, receive words of hope and encouragement and ones that you can trust that have been through similar crisis. Be part of a body of believers. Get help! Don’t be afraid of failure. Ultimately have faith and trust in a loving Father who cares for you and your children!
Photography Credit – Jordan McDonald