Phone call comes in to a local adoption agency and on the other end of the line is an adoptive parent who is struggling with the child they chose to adopt. They have not lost their commitment, but they have found themselves at a crossroads of serious issues that need to be addressed with intense therapy and maybe even a residential program/environment. The internal struggle raging within that parent occurs for a number of reasons; first, they are committed, second, they know the child needs more help than they can give and/or afford, third, most states are highly lacking in post adoption services, and lastly they feel like they are on an island. Where does the adoptive parent turn in this situation? Maybe Medicaid, if there child is still on state insurance, unfortunately in my state, Medicaid for an adoptive child does not cover residential treatment services.
When talking about adoption disruptions we have to be honest about the areas that are lacking in leading to greater success for the child, parent, and overall family. The number one lacking area in most cases is the support this family should receive from the state, as a parent who is willing to adopt a child that otherwise may linger in the foster care system until they age out. Often times, the family feels like everyone was there to cheer them on up until the day of adoption, but afterwards the state turns their back and holds somewhat of a “you chose to adopt the child, now suck it up and deal with it” attitude toward them. This attitude rarely leads to success and most of the time leads to failure. In fact, in some states if the family turns to their local child welfare office they are told the only way to get help is to turn the child back over to the state and have a charge of child neglect against them. Say what?!?
Parents who have chosen to adopt children that are from ‘hard places’, as Dr. Karyn Purvis would say, should have access to greater support networks of therapists, treatment centers, support groups, and possibly access to a worker within the state agency that could address their needs and point them in the right direction.
But, this isn’t just an ‘adoption from foster care’ issue. This also carries over to families who have chosen to adopt children from ‘hard places’ around the world. You remember the lady who shipped the child back to Russia on an airplane? Yeah, the one that helped get the ball rolling on the current political climate amidst Russian politicians regarding international adoption of their children. I do not know all the facts, and to be honest, I don’t know any of the facts of that case, but I do believe there are several individuals with good hearts who adopt children with a lack of knowledge regarding the child’s past and then they get them over here to America and believe love and God will change all things. When in fact, their child may need some intense therapy and support, in addition, the family will need therapy, support, and more in-depth training. Instead everyone is caught up in the euphoria of ‘saving an orphan’ and we all want to pat them on the back and then turn the other way when it get’s hard. And, if it gets really hard? Well, we might just hear things like, “I knew they shouldn’t have adopted that kid from another country…what were they thinking?”, “It is such a shame, they spend all that money and now they are stuck with a kid that is broken?”, “It looks like they got themselves into quite a mess now.” or “That’s why adoption is so risky, I would never take that risk.” And, these are just things church friends or Pastor’s say, that’s the sad part.
How can you help?
- Send a letter to your state legislator stating the importance of Post Adoption Services. (Send it to both State and Federal, be an Advocate!)
- Start a local adoption support group in your area (with babysitting provided).
- Engage local organizations that specialize in attachment disorders, special needs, etc. and see if you can set up free trainings for adoptive parents.
- Give an adoptive parent a 2 hour break for a date night, a coffee, or a quick run to the grocery store.
- Be available….sometimes just having a friend who will allow you to vent and listen makes all the difference in the world.
- Avoid judgemental comments and instead pray for and lift up the family and child. Afterall, this family is truly living out the Gospel!
- Surprise the family with dinner, lunch, or even a Saturday morning breakfast from time to time. Living on the adoption island, especially with a child from a ‘hard place’, can be really lonely.
- Offer support and encouragement.
- Set up a training for the children’s staff in your church, so the family feels comfortable with leaving their child in the children’s area and do all you can to allow those parents an hour of worship and renewal with God. They need it.
- Set up a Big Brother, Big Sister program within your Church or network of friends that partners up with an adoptive child, to give that parent additional support.
These are just a few practical ways to be involved and engaged. As I mentioned in my previous post on Adoption Disruption (http://wp.me/p2yK8I-1x) when an adoption fails, it is human error, not God’s error. But, we can all be a part of helping maintain these adoptive placements. We can all be a part of supporting these families and incredible children. We can all be a part of God’s work in walking side by side with these families that are struggling to maintain their home and the child they have fought for and prayed for.
Together we can make an impact, together we can be the Church, together we can live out pure and true religion.