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Notes on Hope began as a Tuesday Topic and was such an encouragement to me and my readers, that I didn’t want it to drop down the page and disappear from view.  The comments on this  post are wonderful, especially if you are parenting children from “hard places.”

I want to keep these thoughts coming, and may develop it into a weekly feature, but for today, I’m going to highlight this on my sidebar in the hope that people will stumble upon it.

Please add your comments and stories of progress.  We want to hear from you – let’s encourage one another.


It’s Tuesday and time for a new Tuesday Topic.  This one comes from a friend-of-a-friend who currently has three children 7, 4, and 1 at home, as well as an older son in college.  Nine months ago they added their oldest and youngest to their now- four year old.  Their seven year old is having an extremely challenging adjustment.

Melissa asked a question that I think will be a great encouragement to all of us, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some good news!  This is what Melissa wrote:

It has been NINE LONG MONTHS.  LONG.  We cannot get over how drained we are on a daily basis. People consistently ask me if “it is getting better.”  To be honest, there are some things that are better but many things that aren’t.  In fact, it seems that there are constantly new difficulties as soon as one subsides.  I am weary.

So, my idea for a Tuesday Topic involves POSITIVES.  I want to hear from folks who have adopted older children and who have HAD SUCCESS.  I don’t need a timeline from you (I get it, I am in it for the long haul) but rather want to hear some redemptive stories. Some HEALING that is going on.  “My child used to…..but now he/she….” It can be big or small.  I mean, I gather that people DO have success with their kids or they would not continue to adopt, right????  This would encourage people like me who are trucking along, trying to love my often unlovable child- failing often but waking up each morning trying to start afresh.

Melissa is right, this is a long, and sometimes challenging journey, but there is hope and healing for our children.  Let’s share some of the positives we see in our children – the progress they are making, the signs of hearts healing.  How about giving a shout-out to God for His good gifts and amazing power to heal broken hearts.

Bring it on — we want to hear from you! If you are thinking right now that maybe you have something to say, but maybe it won’t be quite good enough, or perhaps you just don’t have time to share it — I’m asking you to take the time.  Even a sentence or two would give hope to parents who are deep in the trenches.

Let’s encourage one another,


  1. Sandee (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Oh what a difference HELP and 4 months has made for us. I have four children…12,11,10 and 7. My 11 year old daughter was added to our family 8 1/2 months ago….and the first 5 months I thought it was the end of our life as a family. Last November, a friend recommended me to a most wonderful therapist, for ME. I call her my parent tutor. She started with me…focusing on mommy being rested, focused. Then one by one, we have been unsnarling our largest issues and irritants with interactions. And one of the biggest things I am seeing is how my disposition and interactions are reflected in my children.

    My biggest suggestion is get help. the right help. (the first therapist I went to was a major mistake. Just overwhelmed me more, spoke on how messed up everything was and set impossible tasks for me to do.). Starting with a baby step and one area…tackling that..and then moving to the next has been so awesome.

    our first was bedtimes and sleep

    second was three rules (based on what our sibling issues were) 1-no touching (hitting, tripping etc) 2-no mean mouth 3-no parenting (bossy etc, ) other than mom.

    that was our start…

  2. bonnie (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Aaahhh this I know. We have 2 older kiddos who have been home just over a year. Ages 8 and 9 now – the 9 year old, a boy, transitioned beautifully. The 8 year old, a girl, did not. We have 8 kiddos total – 4 bio 4 adopted including a 16 year old from the US foster care system and this little 8 year old brought us to our knees multiple times each day crying out for diving help. We used to see daily rages – screaming, hitting you name it. We used to see jumping out of cars, running away, self injury. We were exhausted each and every day for months. We sought wise counsel from friends who had BTDT and found a great therapist and gradually around the 9 mth mark, with several months of counseling , we began to see changes. Tears of grief rather than rage, running to us rather than away, obedience rather than defiance. Now 14 months in with her we have hugs, I love you's, snuggles and peace in our hearts and home again. There are still struggles but they are much more manageable. Generally I tell folks – its a marathon – adoption that is. A 5k is nothing compared to the marathon of parenting wounded hurt adopted kiddos. The days when you are running up hill in the snow – that is what you are facing now… get help for those days. The days will come where you are running down hill in the bright sun… you can be someones help those days. It isn't easy…worth it yes…but easy no.

  3. carla (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    We have had our two adopted children home from Ethiopia for a little over two years now and for the first year and a half, I didn't think I was going to be able to do this. All I could think about is how I could get out of it. It's been the most challenging thing I've ever done. BUT, once we hit the two year mark, things began to click. We all began to settle in. I guess my encouraging word to you is "time". It takes "time" to get to know each other and especially learn what these children need. It takes "time" for them to be able to trust us to open their hearts to us. It takes "time" to bond with and love a person, even a child.

    We are having major breakthroughs with our children and major bonding moments with our oldest adopted child who is 7 (more like 9) years old. The younger who is 5 has been more about intense training and being consistent with it (tiring!). From what we gather, there was little or no discipline or training with this child, but we are at the point that we are having to discipline less and enjoy him more.

    I battled with this adoption from the beginning, but God has changed my heart and if He can change my heart, He can do anything! He is our Redeemer and Healer! My best advice is to just take one day at a time, don't look forward and only look back at what you have learned. There will be some very good days and some very challenging and discouraging days. But the good days will increase over time. I read a comment on a blog (I think it was this one) where this one lady shared would pretend she was a foster parent, this helped me tremendously. I lived my life as normal as possible and handled the situations with the children as though I was there foster parent. I quit trying so hard and allowing it to consume my whole being and this is when good things really begin to happen. I just put it in God's hands because it was too big for me and asked Him to bring us together as a family. I quit feeling guilty about my feelings for my bio children and just acted as a foster parent and over time, the bonding began and is continuing.

    As far as "My child used to" stories, our oldest adopted child didn't know how to show affection or even hug, but now loves to cuddle and be rocked. She used to do different things, like hiding people's things, lying and physically lashing out at our younger adopted son. But now, she is showing her emotions and sharing her feelings more in the right way. We haven't had any of those episodes for months. We did decide to put her in public school and this has helped tremendously! Our youngest used to try to take control over everybody and every situation, but is now more balanced. He needs more help in attaching because I don't think he ever attached to one person, it was whoever could take care of him for the moment. I see him coming along in his attachment process.

    Ultimately, we cannot fix them or heal them, only God can. But we can be a "mother" to them and help them feel safe and cared for as God works in all of us.

    • carla (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

      I wanted to add a very good thing that happened just last week. Because our oldest adopted child was not told ANYTHING about what was happening to her during the adoption process (nobody on the Ethiopia end explained anything to her, makes me very angry), she was very angry towards me and looked at it like I had abducted her (I traveled over with my then 16 year old bio daughter, my husband had to work and couldn't go). After some major breakthroughs over the past few months, she gave me a piece of paper with some artwork around the edges last week, at the top she wrote: "To mom From Amber" in the middle in BIG letters, she wrote "YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL". This touched me more than anybody will ever know!! I know you weren't concerned with the time line thing, but I think it is so important to know that over time things do get better. And we have come a long way in just two years. It made me think about bringing a new baby home, for about two years mothers are at the mercy of that baby. We cannot do anything without making sure that baby is taken care of. Even though it is a more joyful time and more of a physical stress than emotional, I still remember getting to that two year mark and feeling like I had breathing room again. Hope this helps!!

  4. Rosee Anne (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I bought my son home at 18 months,he will be 10. Food was a problem at first as was night terrors.
    Change is still hard for him but he knows how to talk about it now. I have finally gotten him to atleast try a food item before he refuses to eat it and for the most part he eat most things. The positive thing with him he knows now when to stop (to listen to his own body). He also usually sleeps very well( except when there is stress going on) this is his second week of public school , he was homeschooled before so the change has been hard.

  5. Leslee (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I can really relate to this struggle. We adopted 3 children 21 months ago, ages 7,7 & 6 at the time. Oh, those first 9 months were the hardest. I think it took all of us that long to BEGIN to feel connected as a family. It really was about that time that we BEGAN to see good things start to happen. It was also that time that mommy got help. I struggled desperately with guilt and depression through those first months. Things just weren't going as I thought they would and I reacted horribly to nearly every situation and it made me feel horrible. I was drowning. So low in a pit that I didn't see how I could ever get out. I prayed and prayed and prayed and I for me I was lead to medication to help. It was what was right for me but the tide really turned at that point. It's was amazing to see how differently my children behaved when I stopped re-acting and began re-sponding to their behaviors. Hmmmm.

    (read the rest in my next comment – too long :-)

  6. Leslee (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Another success happened much later. This last fall we enrolled all three of our adopted children in public school. We were a 'homeschool family' and I desperately wanted to keep things that way. Ha! I had really struggled through the language and other issues thrughout the last year and realized that I was not equipped to do their education justice. So I sought help from our school system. The children were about kinder/1st grade level but we enrolled the older two – then 8 – into 2nd grade and the younger into first. Just having a break from them during the day was HUGE. We all got to breathe and things began to settle even more. However one of my 8 yo's really continued to struggle. She had been 'the fighter ' from the beginning and things weren't really setting down in that area. She would come home from school seemingly angry and agressive. She was really scrappy and verbally viscious to us all.

  7. Leslee (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    (continued :-)
    She was also 'struggling' in school. It's very difficult to walk into a 2nd grade class when you don't really even know your letters yet. Her foundation was not there and her teacher, God bless her, really didn't have any idea what to do with her. She was either sent to work alone on a computer or sat pretending to understand all that was going on but between lack of vocabulary and concepts that were impossible for her, it all went over head.

  8. Leslee (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    We prayed about bringing her home. We knew she thrived on 'special' attention but didn't want her to feel like she was being punished. She 'loved' school and thought of it as a priveledge. As we prayed and began talking with her about it she ultimately made the choice to come home. So at Christmas break we said good-bye to school for her.
    It has really been the biggest 'succes' for our family to date. In just a couple of months we saw her just relax. I can't tell you how that has affected her behavior. She is calm. Not scrappy, agitated or agressive. We do a couple of hours of school and the rest of the day she just plays. Ahhhh. ….breathe.
    Oh, and she's learning to read! Huge.
    The other two remain in school and are doing well.
    Be encouraged. There are things that will happen as you learn about your children – over time- that will bring healling and connect you as a family. Remember that the Lord brought you together and He will see you through….in His time.
    Be Blessed.

  9. Kayla (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    My now 4 year old was 3 when she came home from Haiti following the earthquake last year. There were days when between her and my other 3 year old, all it sounded like was crying all day long. There were days when I felt like all I did was discipline her as she pushed every boundary. There were days when it felt like every five minutes we were sitting in time out together because she would not stay in time out by herself. (So really it was a combination time in/time out.) She did not sleep well from February to September. The first three months home, she maybe slept through the night 5 times. Multiple night time wakings. Not terrors, just being awake. But now? She and my son are the best of friends. She has a desire in her heart to be caught doing good. She is sleeping through the night.

  10. Kayla (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Something that helped me was to reread my copy of The Weaver's Craft. The author mentions all sorts of signs that a child is progressing, small things that I missed. Like when a child plays with a baby doll and loves it like a mama should, it shows that the child understands the role of child/adult. Finding those small things helped me not get lost in the day in and day out grind. It also helped to look in on her at bedtime, every night, to see her while she slept as just a scared, confused little girl, to put a positive image in my mind for the next day.

  11. Lisa (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I'll go! :) I just recently blogged about this as well because it had hit me that this progress had been made. Sometimes I don't even realize the progress until I step back and think about "what it had been." My daughter came to me at 3 1/2. Not REAL older, but still with attachment issues that we've worked on over the years. She USED to sabotage every birthday and celebration that wasn't about HER. There was a whole year that was just birthday H*ll. But she is now celebrating. She YELLED Happy Birthday to her brothers this year for each of their special days, handpicked her clothes purposefully wanting to look nice for them on their days, and is genuinely happy for others in their celebrations. She is thriving. She is doing Great! :) It does get better. :)

  12. projecthopefulva (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Thank you all for posting these! We are in the process to adopt for the 3rd time and have been thinking about older children. It seems as though perhaps the girls have a bit harder time adjusting? Perhaps it's just that those momma's are the ones posting? Just wondering if others have seen this happening? We are open to both gender age 1- 12 yrs…huge range. I am just working on preparing myself for the new challenges God has in store for us. :)
    Thank you again!

    • thejessicarudder (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

      Hi Andrea,

      I've been researching adoption (focusing on older child adoption) and had noticed the same thing.

      It seems that most of the stories I see with severe struggles post-adoption are about girls.

      I'm not sure if this is random (i.e. not really the case) but just seems that way due to the stories I've read, if it's the result of more girls being adopted than boys (therefore more adoption stories – good and bad – about girls than boys), or if there is actually something that causes girls to have a harder time dealing with adoption than boys (off the top of my head, I wonder if it's because girls tend to reach emotional maturity at a younger age which means they are more aware of – and therefore wounded by – what is going on when they are younger).

      Of course, it could be none of the above.

      It's been good to read the success stories as it can feel (at times) that older child adoption would be nothing but years and years of struggle.


      • projecthopefulva (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

        Yes Jessica, that's pretty much what I was thinking. Perhaps because there are more girl adoptions, girls do tend to have a higher incidence of drama related behaviors ( I have a teen bio daughter…she has drama related behaviors lol) Where my boys do not. (And I am so not trying to down play the very real hurts and wounds our children suffer!)
        It is very good to read success stories, and stories of hope. Thank you all for sharing them.

    • Julie (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

      We have a boy who has had desperate trouble adjusting, older (13 now). Has been home 2 years. He was so closed off and independent trying to "be a man" that it took him a full year for the extreme troubles to show up. I know of several boys in our city that have had adjustment issues, but maybe I just overlay our experience on the stories I hear. His bio sister (8 now) had a mild time adjusting. At least no violence, just has a hugely hard time expressing what her needs are, withdraws and cries for long periods. After a year with good counselors for the kids and me, they are starting to stop trying to hurt one another and my bio kids and I know how to sense when things are about to get tough and forestall it if it is possible. I am slowly starting to think that my life has not utterly been destroyed. Had a huge moment last week when I realized that in my that he is MY boy now and I am connected to him and that he in some small way is connected to me.

  13. Melissa (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I'm an adoptive Mommy to one (4.5 yo) and a foster Mommy. There is hope if you just keep on the path that you know is right. For a year, I had a 17yo foster daughter. She made some choices and got pregnant… stayed with me almost to term, but then decided to leave (after she turned 18). I was heart-broken. I didn't want to fail her.

    Well, I got to be at the birth of the baby, and she's been home twice since. This weekend she and the baby even spent the night. No, I'm no longer her foster mom, technically. BUT, I praise God for the seeds He must have been planting to get her to realize that we are "safe" and that she is loved. Our broken children need that more than anything – Safety and Love.

    Sometimes it takes a long time to see if they "get it" or not. But I have to believe they do… persistence, persistence, persistence!!!!

    My other motto – pray, pray, pray. God is with you. God is with the little children. He wants to see them happy and healthy and whole, too. Tell yourself, it WILL take time. and then start looking for the glimmers, no matter how few and far they may seem.

  14. Eileen (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I'm so happy to read these positives. We adopted an 11 month old, so I can't relate to adopting an older child, but we leave in 10 days to meet our nearly 4 year-old. I'll keep this post earmarked!

  15. Lisa (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I just wrote about this recently on my blog, so I hope its ok to post the link here instead of rewriting. Also, there is link at the end of the post to an amazing short film. You HAVE to watch it.

  16. Kathrin (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I adopted a baby. But that dosen't mean it's all easy. My baby was happiest when left alone in her crib. She didn't wat me to hold her. And now she comes running into my arms. How is that for getting better.
    I am thinking about you. It will get better.

  17. mamaluvs5 (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    We are a family of seven with 5 children ages 12, 11, 8, 6 & 4 and have had our 6 & 8 years old siblings home from the Philippines for 4 months. We are gradually seeing more eye contact and less refusing to answer or pretending they don't know something! Our son, who is 8, had the most obvious difficulty with the transition and was very defiant every day, he is now beginning to show remorse quickly and is often willing to talk about what he's feeling and why. Our daughter dealt with the transition more smoothly but now that she is more comfortable in our family we're seeing lots of lying. She is laughing so much more now though that I'll take some lying any day, in a strange way I'm glad to see some acting out so we can deal with it and move forward. Sometimes my son will now ask me to pray with him when he's shutting down, praise God!!! I am slowly learning to find those small beautiful moments every day and hang onto them for dear life =)

  18. Stephanie (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    We adopted a 1 yr old & an 8 yr old from Ghana. I never thought it would be as difficult as it was – the ages are so different & the demands were high. We still struggle 2 yrs later but the imporvement has been astounding. Our now 10 yr old no longer has Temper tantrums. He is not stealing food. The lying has become less frequent. His communication of his thoughts and feelings are increasing & we are bonding on that level. He now enjoys learning (homeschool) & doesn't cry or throw fits everytime we sit down. He has become helpful without expecting pay or reward. He is kinder to our younger son & patient.There is hope. All this has been after 2 moves in the last two years even. We backslide when we moved but this last time it took less time to bounce back.There is now more space to work with our younger son who is still struggling. Howvere even he is much improved and content.I think seeing them content & secure has been the biggest blessing. They know we are here & will cont. to be here no matter how they act & no matter if the bottom falls out. They know they are safe. When we see any doubt creep in – we move in closer – so they know. They have hope & so do we we – Finally!

  19. Dana@AdoptionJourney (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    We adopted a 7 year old boy from China last September. We are at the 6 month mark. It has been hard, but we have seen progress. We met a little boy who was hyper – on constant alert – who wouldn't sit still for a moment. At first he liked my husband. Me, not so much. Now he is a big mama's boy and loves to be held and snuggled. For the first 3 months he rejected his younger sister (the youngest of our bio kids.) He told her daily that he loved everyone else, but not her. He stuck out his tongue at her and made mean faces. Today, he's stopped all the mean behavior. They are constant companions and he's even told her he loves her once or twice. He's terrified of medical personal. On one doctor's visit he fought us so hard that we couldn't get him out or our house and into the car safely. On another visit, he slapped at the doctor and would not let her approach him. Last week I took him for an appointment. He allowed her to examine him and followed all her instructions and answered all her questions. He even sat still for two shots without tears.

  20. Dana@AdoptionJourney (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    My last comment got too long and I still have more to say! He's still very shy around strangers, but he finally (after about 4 months) is going to his Sunday School class without me. And he just joined a soccer team (we'll see if he'll actually play at the first game this weekend.) Melt downs are rare, but still happen from time to time. Our parenting still has to be very intentional. My husband and I have left our house together once (without kids) in the last six months. We've changed our eating habits. We've adjusted our parenting style. We are exhausted. But there is progress. BTW -I hate the question, "Is it getting better?"

    • Dana@AdoptionJourney (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

      Speaking of the fact that my husband and I haven't had any time just us: how long did you wait after adopting a new child before taking a day or two away together with your spouse. We wanted to let our son feel secure before we left him with others. Now I'm wondering how long is long enough. I know it will vary child to child, but I'm just wondering how others judged when it would be ok to leave their child for a day or two.

  21. Elizabeth (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    (Part one) Two things leap to mind as I think about the healing that has occurred with my son (adopted at nearly 4 from Vietnam) and my relationship with my son. The first was when he had been home for nearly two years (two hard years) and I was feeling under the weather and resting on the couch in the living room. He comes through the room, gives me a hug and a kiss, and says, "I love you, Mommy! I hope you feel better" and skips out. I was flabbergasted. Never did I believe in the two years previous that we would ever reach the point of his feeling, much less expressing love for me.

  22. Elizabeth (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    (Part two) Two years after that, years which gradually become less and less challenging, but still not easy, I had a dream that we had never really adopted our son, that he was merely our foster child. In the dream we were notified that his adoptive parents would be coming soon to take him home. I was devastated. I didn't want to say good-bye to this child… I wanted to raise him to adulthood and be a grandmother to his children. I sobbed and sobbed in my dream and upon waking, though I felt emotionally spent, I had a lightness of heart that hadn't been there before. I realized that I really and truly loved my son. I wasn't faking it anymore.

    Our life together continues to get easier, but because of his past trauma it still does not look like it would were he our biological son, but my fear for his and our future is (nearly) gone. We still work on our attachment dance and his kisses are still somewhat of a surprise, but life is so much better and more joyful than it was five years ago.

  23. Linda (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Our two youngest came to our home at three and four years old through the foster system and we were able to adopt them three years later. They are now eleven and twelve, and oh what a difference time, a really good adoption therapist and social worker make. They still have subtle effects of prenatal alcohol, attachment disorder, and past trauma, but there is SUCH a difference! They no longer swear like truckers. That disappeared after about 6 months. My son no longer hits, give me the finger or kicks me, in public or at home. His rages are rare and only under extreme circumstances, like injuries involving stitches, when before they were hourly. My daughter still under eats and holds things inside, but she no longer scratches herself until she bleeds or pulls out her hair, and is able to talk to my older daughters and Christian neighbor ladies about "girl stuff". I can honestly say they are the best behaved children in our neighborhood and people love to have them over. My boy hit our dog with a 2 by 4 when he was four but my neighbors ask them both to watch and walk their dogs. The kids used to choke each other and play "being arrested", but now the neighbors have my kids be "mother's helpers". When they first came to our home, they thought Jesus was another swear word and laughed at the children's Bible with the picture of Jesus on the cross. Now, my son has a relationship with God and my daughter loves Christian music. Yes, there is still more growth needed, and sometimes I get discouraged when my daughter can't remember today what she knew yesterday or my son gets angry or fearful. But after eight years, I can see that it just might be possible that they can live a better life than they would have.

  24. Cat (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I ended up writing my own post here:…. I took a little different take… I didn't focus on how much my kids have grown and changed (yet, they have in huge ways) but how my heart has grown for them. The truth is, even 3 years later, it still can be very hard. Yet, once I finally fell in love with my children, it was much easier to extend them grace and understanding and to deal with our issues, rather than feeling knocked down with each tantrum or issue. It's a long-term process, a growing process… for ALL of us.

  25. Jen (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Wake up every morning and keep trying. Keep believing that God has a plan to redeem your children! If He can raise people from the dead, He can heal the broken hearts of children from hard places! He can! He does!

    We have such a long story and we have seen God move in incredible ways. He has brought true healing and redemption to all of our 9 children from hard places with attachment issues and trauma. It wasn't an easy journey and some days, it is still hard, but (for the most part) we REJOICE in the changes that He has brought to their hearts, bodies, minds. . . to ALL of them.

    Just so you have some idea of what I am talking about: our first adoption was a sibling group of 3 from Liberia who were 4, 5, and 7 when we brought them home 4 years ago. They were VERY attachment-challenged/RAD – as in, screaming raging fits, pouting, non-verbal, sensory issues, serious spiritual battles, etc. . . almost daily for the better part of a year or so! Today, they are SUPER healthy, happy, wonderful children whom I forget have not been with me since birth sometimes! They do not rage anymore, don't ignore or manipulate or triangulate. We have the rare (very rare) occasion when they might sort of slip back into a "oh poor me" type attitude but we see it right away and they "regulate" (RAD lingo) SO fast – minutes instead of hours! They initiate loving contact appropriately and receive it appropriately. They are attached to US and don't go giving random affection to strangers anymore! All of them have come to know and love Christ and they have a heart for others as well. Really, I forget what a struggle it was unless I go back and read my old blog posts! Then, I, quite honestly, have to fall on my knees thanking God for all he has done. It really has been incredible.

    more in part 2. . .

  26. Jen (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    part 2:
    Our second adoption was a sibling group of 6 who came to us from the foster system just a year and a half ago when they were ages 2,4,6, 8, 10, and 12. LOTS of attachment and trust issues. LOTS. They had been in and out of care for years and had most adults in their lives leave and lie to them. ugh. the older ones were sad, cold, distant, depressed, angry, fearful, mean, hateful, sassy, rude, and terribly self-centered and hateful. the younger ones were completely unattached – almost like wild animals – hard, unfocused, no eye contact, mostly non-verbal, fit throwing, "behind," and even had strange self soothing techniques like clicking and head-banging. Yes, it was seriously crazy around here – again, for the better part of a year (or more?!) –

    BUT, again, God is in the business of making all things new! Just last week the now 9 year old came and wanted to "repent and walk with Jesus and obey Him." After he prayed and we talked, he said, "Mom, I feel like the old has gone and the new has come. . . you know that verse? And my life is like Romans 8:28. . . we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes." Oh, the amazing redemption stories He has allowed us to be a part of!

    Today (less than 2 years later), the oldest two girls are some of the most amazing young "teens" that I know. They are compassionate, loving, and gracious. When they do get sassy and rude (as most women struggle with, right?) they are quick to repent and make it right. They trust us and when they get scared or fearful they come right to us so we can talk about it. We have honest, open discussions about joys, fears, and the pain of loss that is still there, but they are truly healed little girls. They have goals, dreams, and true JOY in the Lord. They are helpful to us and to others. They are playful and love to laugh.

    The two youngest are no longer "behind" – in fact, all of their "diagnosis" they came with can just be ripped up and thrown away! They are totally communicative, funny, happy, growing pre-schoolers. They push the limits like any preschooler, but not in the crazy RAD way. They get their love from mom and dad and not from strangers. They are happy to see us. They want to rock, make eye contact, and do the other very healthy things that a non-attachment challenged child would do! They are truly JOYful blessings in our family!

    The two "middle" children are still on their path to true healing, but we have seen some amazing progress even in the past month. Our little wild child – our 7 y.o. girl – now actually "melts" when I hold her instead of feeling like a stiff board. She climbs up for hugs, looks in my eyes, wants to talk and interact. Her irritating, annoying, "look at me" behavior has decreased dramatically, and I think she is well on her way to total healing! Our boy, now 9, has maybe had the hardest time because he probably has had the hardest past. BUT, he doesn't head bang anymore (incredible!). . . he is beginning to "melt" when hugged, talk and not talk at appropriate times, and is starting to have a sense of wanting to please us (rather than not caring at all). He is the one who recently committed to following Christ and we see a change in him already.

    Wow! I wrote a book! I was going to just post a link to my blog, but realized I have never written all of this on my blog before (I'm going to post it there now). . .

    however, I realized that one of the reasons I have never really told all of this part of our story is that I sometimes feel like telling it will discourage others who haven't seen this type of healing yet. I would hate for anyone to get the idea that this is anything other than the Grace and Wonder of God working in our children's lives. What we have done is this:

    We have BELIEVED (not just in our heads, but in our actions):

    that He CAN heal
    that He has called us to this and will give us the strength to carry on
    that He is refining us in this process and that it is a GOOD thing (although hard)
    that there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS Hope.

    You HAVE GOT TO believe those things. You just have to! If God is not Sovereign and Good, then why do we serve him or even believe in him? If he is Sovereign and Good, then the above list is true and we simply MUST believe it and live like we do!

    • Lori (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

      LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, what you had to say Jen! Very well said and so true. God is our strength and our hope – I couldn't get up every morning if I didn't believe that!

  27. Guest (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Our two Ethiopian daughters came home in Aug. 2008 (actually met you briefly in the D.C. airport, Lisa). Life has been challenging; thankfully, God gave them such different temperaments and that has kept us from being overwhelmed. Our younger daughter (7 when coming home) physically fought us, screamed regularly, was terrified of sleeping in her room, tried to run away, and was determined to choose where she would live next. Being "out" with her required constant supervision and shopping was out of the question (any store overwhelmed her). We were exhausted, frustrated, hurting for her and ourselves and unsure how to explain this tigress to our other children (ages 17, 15 and 13 at the time) who had been looking forward to a little sister.
    Our older Ethiopian daughter (12 when coming home) was very quiet, but very skilled at quietly provoking our other children (one in particular), setting them up, and at lying. Unfortunately, my husband and I were unaware of those tactics, so the anger and division escalated between our Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian children.
    Fast forward two-and-a-half years: Tonight my husband and I were out alone with our youngest daughter and she danced excitedly when she was able to ride the escalator, was thrilled when she had birthday money to spend on a basketball of her own, and told us, "You and Daddy are my best friends. You know, I would never know about God if you did not bring me here." Now when she wants to run away, it's because she didn't get her own way and she only plans to stay away for a "little while."
    Our older daughter, still quiet, wrote a note recently that apologized for lying and asked for forgiveness. She is learning to accept and seek parental love, direction, and be a part of a family. A huge breakthrough came last month when she trusted us enough to share a very sad time from her past, something she has not done since coming home. She is slowly, quietly, tentatively joining our family.
    We are very thankful!

  28. Kate in NY (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Our son (now 12) has been in our family for 5 1/2 years. The other day, apropos of nothing special, in the middle of the afternoon, for no apparent reason, he hugged me and said "I love you, Mom." I mumbled back an "I love you, too," and then busied myself in the kitchen so he wouldn't see me crying. This was the first time he had ever told me he loved me without my saying it first. We still have our ups and downs, but we love each other. It makes the hard work seem really, really worth it.

  29. Mama D's Dozen (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Today is the 3 year anniversary of bringing home our children from Ghana.

    Sadly, I cannot think of any positives … any improvement … with our 9 year old daughter. It's been HARD, and it just seems to keep getting HARDER.


  30. Paula (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    My twin daughters spontaneously tell me that they love me. Not because I did something nice or gave them something they wanted… because they just want to tell me. And today when my husband came home from a trip, my daughter exclaimed "Daddy! I missed you!" And she did. They will be seven years old this May and came home in June of 2009. We waited a long time for those things.

  31. learningpatience (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    You know, there are so many, "they used to . . . but now they" stories at our house, but the thing that stands out to me are these:
    -I used to feel like I would always have to fake it . . . afraid that I might never get to the point of simply loving these children . . . but now I love them fiercely!
    -I used to be overwhelmed at changing the bed-wetters bed almost daily, but now the sheets are rarely wet . . . and I don't mind washing them when they are.
    -I used to think I would never ever feel normal again, but now I can't remember a normal without them!
    -I used to sit and cry because it was so hard; now I often cry out of gratitude to our heavenly Father who has brought us all healing and hope.
    -I used to wonder if our littler one would ever be able to have a normal relationship – or even look me in the eye . . . now he is the child that everyone is drawn to. He's a little people magnet who is constantly getting praise for his polite behavior. (There's still plenty of issues, but there's been so much progress that it's amazing!)
    -I used to think about the "old" kids and the "new" kids; now it's just "us."
    -It took a ridiculously long time to learn the alphabet; it is taking a long time to learn to read. The pace is picking up though!
    -I used to feel exhausted all the time . . . oh, wait! I still do! ;) Except now, I'm not exhausted out of frustration and anxiety and being overwhelmed; I'm exhausted after fun days full of amazing children who show daily evidence of growing stronger.

    Holding out hope!

    • Jen (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011


      I LOVE this! I think all of these are SO true in our family too! It does take a while to get there. This has been as much a process of me changing as it has been of them healing. It has been an incredibly refining fire for getting rid of the sin in my own life!

  32. amber (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I have a 4 year old son who has been home for about 10 months now. I cannot believe how far we have come. In Ethiopia I was scared to death. We have three bio kids and I had done a lot of reading and research before adopting my son. However, his behaviors were so exhausting I just did not know if I would be able to handle them. He would scream, spit, bite, hit, kick and try to pee on me. He would lie and pretend that I hurt him. He did not want to follow any type of direction and melted down constantly during those first few months. It was HARD. But, it continued to get better. Language once it came in helped and our consistency with rules and boundaries helped also. I think strong routines and verbally explaining what he could expect from each day was also helpful. I am so HAPPY to report that we have made tremendous progress. He is the sweetest most caring and loving little boy. He is real now. You can tell he feels safe. We still have set backs occasionally but we know how to help him out of the mood and recover. It can happen, our kids can heal.

  33. Margaret (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Our daughter is 10 now, came to our family from Ethiopia 2 years ago. Used to: refuse to hug her brother or father, NOW she hugs both (brother rarely). Used to: ONLY eat Ethiopian food and refuse to try anything else and have huge fits when anything else was served. NOW: eats many things, tries new foods at times. Used to: come unglued whenever she saw, smelled, heard about (you name it) food. Couldn't easily go grocery shopping or even walk down the street past the bakery. She would whine, cry, claim she was starving, etc. Now: jokes about it, sometimes decides that she shouldn't go grocery shopping because it will be too hard. Used to: get upset, cranky, or hateful whenever anything about our family before she arrived was mentioned. Yesterday: we were talking about a trip we took without her and she listened and then asked if the trip we are taking next week for spring break was to a place that is new to all of us.
    She still has difficult moments. At times she gets totally angry at us and threatens or does run out of the house. But lately she has been doing an amazing job of diffusing difficult situations with humor.

  34. Julie (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Oh, the progress we've seen! It has been hard work, but I don't even recognize my daughter as being the same person as the "old girl" most of the time. It happens in a million small steps, so sometimes it's easy to miss the progress. Things that were once daily: peeing on the floor, "Mike Tyson rages" (off the charts strength and anger), scratching, hair pulling by the chunk, eating like an animal, self-harm, defiance for everything, bi-polar characteristics, and the list goes on and on. We have not seen any of that behavior for well over a year now. Our daughter is now self-controlled, regulated, polite, able to name her feelings, making friends, and catching up in school. We still have a ways to go, especially in impulsivity and kindness to siblings, but I never imagined that we could come this far in just 3 years. The job seemed impossible, but God does amazing work!

  35. Phyllis (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Our boys were 9, 7, and 4 when we arrived home in Dec. '08. Progress? Often it is hard for me to see, I am with them 24/7/365. I can say that the hateful words that were expressed often by the oldest that first summer home have almost stopped. I have to think when he conveyed those thoughts to me the last time, instead of thinking "We just heard that last week." Yesterday, I told my husband in front of the boys that we had had a "very good day." Our youngest said that they were sharing, and not fighting, etc. My husband asked him why was it different that day than the past days. He popped out with "Because I was thinking." I nearly jumped up from the table with my cheering! : ) Progress!!! Although that was one day out of how many? : ) Our big progress will take place tomorrow (Sunday) when the older 2 boys will be baptized. They both proclaimed Jesus as their Lord back in 2009. They have recently said that they are ready for baptism. And isn't that the ultimate desire for every Christian parent?! Now if we can just make progress on obedience. lol

  36. Lori (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    My husband and I were just talking about this two weeks ago as we sat in a hotel room in India watching our newly adopted six year old son play on the floor. I said something about a certain behavior I saw in our son and my husband said, "You do remember that K and K were just like that three years ago." I had forgotten! It really is good to look back. Sometimes the progress is so small that you don't see it each day so a look back is great for perspective. Looking back and remembering the progress our girls have made (adopted at 6 and 10 years old) in the last three years is giving me confidence and encouragement that we will get there with our new son. It also reminds me that although we have a ways to go with our girls, good things are happening and will continue to do so.

  37. Linda (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Wow- these stories are really encouraging! Our 10 yo came to us at the age of 19 mos. from the foster care system. We were his 5th placement and he has had many struggles. Attachment and all that comes with that, much anxiety, and also health challenges, etc. We have seen many of the original behaviors fade like night terrors, eating challenges, etc. but he still struggles- just not with the frequency and intensity. Things can be going along really well for the longest time, and its like meltdowns and old coping mechanisms seem to come out of nowhere. We are very hopeful that he will continue to heal, be it ever slow and sure. It is with God's grace that we continue this journey not knowing how "healed" our son will be. There are days that are trying and discouraging, but we do have to look back and remember how far he/we have come. Only by His grace.

  38. AmyE (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    I know I'm late to this party …. but am so grateful for all of these posts. We've been home for almost a year with our 4yo son from Ethiopia, who our attachment therapist keeps reminding us is "off the bell curve" .. meaning his issues are extreme. So easy to feel so very alone as I see all of these families with their "fairytale transitions". Thanks for keeping it real, ladies. I'm bookmarking this post to keep re-reading. And yes, as for my positives … not nearly as much violence … and longer periods of time when he is regulated. Still hard, but definitely better …

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

      Amy, you aren't late to the party at all; this is exactly why I put that post in the sidebar. I was very encouraged by it myself! I am so glad that you are seeing progress with your son – don't despair, persevere. We have been home a little more than four years with three of our children and we are still working hard, but also seeing healing.

  39. laurajonesjournal (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Well, I'm actually replying just to share my great story. My husband and I adopted a little girl (8 months) from china. she is now 6. our bio children are 14,12,10 and 8. 3 months ago we adopted again, 2 older girls (6.5 and 7) oh my, yes, out of birth order!!! :) Our experience with the 2 new girls has been deep, satisfying, humbling joy. They are attached, they look us in the eye, we are hugging and connecting. I will say that the Empowered to Connect Conference, videos and the connected child by Dr. Karen Purvis have helped us in a huge way. it's the only resource I would recommend. I AM having difficulties with the infant we adopted (who is now 6). She is very difficult to love. Something about her personality rubs us all the wrong way. However, God is gracious and helps me parent her and love her. Adoption has blessed my family. Easier? no. Better? yes. Joy.

  40. Gwen (Reply) on Tuesday 15, 2011

    Oh, my. How did I miss this post? I'm jumping in super late, because I have so much to be thankful for!

    We brought home a boy (8) and a girl (5) from Ethiopia, eight months ago, and they joined our two bio daughters (13 and 11). It's been…. very hard.

    THEN: I couldn't wrap my mind around the "new" style of parenting we'd have to adopt. It felt absurdly permissive, like we were rewarding the tantrums. I thought I could never be that kind of parent.
    NOW: I totally get it. I'm not perfect at it, and some days I still struggle with keeping my cool in the face of major defiance. But we've seen our kids glean such comfort from our new Purvis-methods that it's keeping us going. Never thought we'd get here!

    THEN: Howling, wailing, banshee crying over discovering that it's NOT Sunday yet, and we can't go to church today. :)
    NOW: They've begun to grasp the concept of constantly-repeating days of the week. Sounds silly, I know, but this has brought WAY more peace into our home!

    THEN: Our 8 year old boy who had no idea how to play. If he couldn't do back-breaking labour, he would literally lay on the couch and sulk, bored stiff, all day long. Could not play anything at all, didn't understand the point of playing. He was just a little old man.
    NOW: He can't stop playing!!!!! I'm constantly tripping over Lego, Hot Wheels cars, bike helmets, etc. Wow!

    THEN: My daughter's unending tantrums. They lasted for hours on end, and included spitting, hitting, urinating on us, scratching, biting….. etc…. then turned into several hours of sulking and refusing to look at us or talk. At the age of five, she could hold a grudge (over a very small slight) for up to two days. Literally.
    NOW: Starting to verbalize feelings! Still gets angry, but does not lash out physically anymore. Hasn't peed on me for MONTHS. (yay!) When she gets really mad, she starts to sulk, then after a minute or two, she suddenly seems to "turn it off," and starts laughing and smiling again. I am SO thankful for this change!

    THEN: I felt that I would never love them, or even like them. I wanted them to go away and leave us alone. I felt so angry at God for destroying our family, when all we wanted to do was serve Him.
    NOW: I love them. I do! It's still not as unconditional as my love for my bios, but it's growing. I enjoy them now. When they wake up in the mornings, my first thought isn't, "Ugh." I LIKE them now. It's incredible to me, and just makes me thank God over and over…. I know that this kind of love is a gift from the God who IS love. He's changing MY heart… and that's the biggest change of all! :)