Once upon a time, there was a 30-something couple who wanted to adopt. They believed firmly in Jesus and the concept that “Love conquers all.” They were married for 14 happy(ish) years before the ache of not having any children to call their own became too great. They began to research different types of adoption. (The woman was infertile.) After much consideration, the couple decided on adopting older children from foster care because that was the demographic where there was the most need.
The couple eagerly prepared their home for children, attended training after training, and read all the books they could get their hands on about adoption. When the auspicious day finally arrived, all of the information bestowed upon them, be it from professionals or close friends, seemed to evacuate itself from their brains. The children were horribly malnourished and weighed as much as toddlers. They were 8 and 9.
The couple was bewildered by this turn of events. They were not prepared to take care of children who were so horrifically traumatized. But alas, they believed they were because they really, really wanted to.
The first months were filled with many tears, loud screaming, and a bewildering inability to find food the children would eat without complaint. Still, the couple was besotted with their new additions. They endured every tantrum with detached care, not giving in to the desire to yell back or run away.
The woman was exhausted. Constantly. In addition to the two boys, there was a baby girl—their sister—who also came to reside with the family. The baby was also undernourished and required a great deal of work by herself. Still, the woman fell deeper in love with the children as the days went by.
The caseworker reminded the couple that these children could potentially go back to their biological parents. The couple assured her they were aware and it would be fine either way. Yet in the darkest corners of her heart, hidden from everyone, the woman wished for the biological parents to walk away and never come back. It was wrong, she realized, to want someone else to fail so she could have what she wanted. She was also aware that the children were behind in every way they could be because of the biological parents’ inability to parent in a healthy way.
Eventually, after two years of court dates, reports, prayer, therapy, and doctor’s appointments the children were adopted by the couple. The children who had appeared happy to be rid of their past suddenly clung to any vestige of their past life with a passion rivaling Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Everything was precious to them. Clothes that no longer fit became hoarded and
treasured items. Shoes, where the sole was flapping off, were fought over.
Instead of the adoption bringing a sense of closure and happiness, the couple wondered if they had made the wrong choices in saying yes to these children. Their needs were so great and the couple was now unsure if they could adequately meet them. Still, they persevered.
The couple wouldn’t go back and change the adoption now. They love their family and are grateful they get to be a part of the children’s lives. Still, however, there is the wish that adoption had never needed to be an option for the children. The woman would sometimes lose sleep when she remembered how terrible the children’s lives had been before they were in foster care.
The man felt certain at first but then became less certain as time went on. Yet by that point, there was nothing to be done because the children were theirs. There was no undoing of the adoption that wouldn’t leave every person involved raw and bleeding, so the option was never even considered. Making it work, however, took an extraordinary toll on the family’s life. Instead of fun, carefree summers, the children had summer school to try and make up on everything they had missed during their formative years.
The children attended several types of therapy: physical, occupational, and psychological. The amount of time spent in the car just driving place to place was not begrudging, but it was exhausting.
Now the boys are in their teens and the baby is in elementary school. It seems like both so long ago and just yesterday that the gangly young men used to be itty bitty children with so many needs it was difficult to know where to start.
I tell you this story not for its uniqueness. On the contrary, this type of story is played out all around the world. Adoption is, unfortunately, not all sunshine and roses. It’s not even half the time rainbows and gumdrops. It is worth it, but there is a cost. Losing oneself is difficult and finding your way back to who you were in the before times may never actually happen. Looking at old pictures, the woman is shocked to realize she had entire hobbies she hadn’t thought about in years—hobbies that became too difficult to find time for amid school drop-off, homework, cleaning, meal making, and laundry. Ask her now what her favorite hobby is and she will unashamedly say “nap.” Next is drawing, then writing, biking, hiking, and camping. All of those things are difficult to do when only allotted a few minutes at a time.
Don’t go into foster care and adoption thinking it will be like a Hallmark movie. Don’t have anime heart eyes instead of eyes wide open to the need. I’ve made mistakes I’m not proud of, but one of them has never been saying yes to kids in need.
So, do you think you can handle it? If you do, if you think you can handle sleepless nights, weekly therapy, lots of noise, monthly caseworker inspections and mountains of laundry that never seem to get any smaller, no matter how much you wash, dry, fold and put away.
If that sounds like a good time to you, I think you should go for it. In foster care, the need is great, but it’s not for everyone. Make sure it’s for you before diving in.