Tuesday Topic: What Changes Would You Make Now if You had a Few Years to Prepare for Adopting/Fostering?

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Today’s question comes from Bonnie. I loved getting her email and reading her questions. I wish I had been able to ask these of somebody further along in the adoption process when we were at the beginning.

What habits in your heart and home would be useful to form before adopting? I ask this because my husband and I both believe the Lord wants us to have a lifetime of fostering/adopting. As my husband says, “I don’t see us ever retiring to the beach and the golf links. But if over the course of our lives we were privileged to raise, say, 23 kids (bio and adoptive), I’d count that a life well spent.”
Right now we are in a preparation time – getting out of the last of our school debt, just had our first bio baby (7months), finally into our own house and out of the tiny apartment. As we look to being able to adopt in the next few years, we are looking intensely at our lives: what do we need in it? what should we get rid of?
So, as adoptive parents, what habits are your most treasured? What habits did you form after adopting but wish you’d made earlier? What homemaking, organizational, and parenting skills help you the most? In hindsight, if you had a few years to prepare prior to adopting – what would you spend that time implementing in your personal life and home? And on the flip side, what personal habits and family structure would you change/get rid of/fall on your knees and beg the Lord to begin sanctifying?
When I got Bonnie’s question, my mind ran to an entire series of posts on this topic. What would you have wanted to know? What changes would you have made?
If you all love this question as much as I do, give me your thoughts on what topics you would want covered if  we do a series.
Please take a moment to leave a comment and encourage this young family. You are all a wealth of wisdom and I hope to hear from you today.
encourage one another,
Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Emily
    February 25, 2014

    Wow. What a question!! Can't wait to read responses.
    Bonnie, you seem like a very wsie woman to me!

    Reply
  2. Rebekah
    February 25, 2014

    Read! Read all the books you can. I highly recommend Building the Bonds of Attachment. I also would find others who have adopted and get involved in supporting them. I would not adopt out of birth order. While it is do able I feel like it has made our situation more difficult as we now have 5 kids under the age of 6 emotionally. There biological ages may be older but not emotionally. It is very exhausting.

    Reply
    1. Deborah
      March 3, 2014

      And don't just read the books with all the happy endings about how great adoption was for so and so…… they are harder to find when you don't know what to look for – but look for the worst case scenario books and decide what time is right for your family and bio kids based upon how this decision may affect them too if the worst case is your reality.

      Reply
  3. Jenny Covey Story
    February 25, 2014

    What a great question. I'm looking forward to reading all the comments.

    Reply
  4. Nancy
    February 25, 2014

    I am definitely going to follow this post! Two friends and I (and our husbands) are going to be facilitating a Sunday School class at our church for those considering adoption and those wanting to know how to support adoptive families. I know that many who follow your blog will have great insight that they can share. One thing I would add, after adopting two older children, is that I wish we had put away AT LEAST 75% of our toys, books, crafts before the child came home. The typical American home is just too overwhelming for a child who has had little or no personal belongings.

    Reply
  5. Lisa Qualls
    February 25, 2014

    This is from Karen. My blog was acting up and wouldn't allow her to comment.

    "Outside of educating oneself and identifying a solid community -both of which are critically important, I would encourage. 1. decluttering (get rid of anything that you don't love). I do this ongoing, but as I look around my house, I don't want "stuff" to take over. 2. Organize all the places you keep putting off. The garage, the office. They will get messy again, but if there is a place for everything, it's easier to put everything in its place (and create systems for the kids to help). 3. Meal-planning. This is a personal weakness. I've never enjoyed cooking. When it was just 2 of us, it was easy to wing-it. Now we are 6 and planning ahead is still a struggle. I'm sure I will think of more, but those are the concrete tangibles."

    Reply
  6. Debi
    February 25, 2014

    Get some counseling. Find out what you don't know about your life trauma, hard place history. Find a therapist you like and trust. You find out now, what's deep inside you don't know about…and heal, or it's triggered by the intense pain of a child. Much harder to work with. I would actively seek out families with kids that have come from hard places, get in the trenches with them..live it to prepare.

    Reply
    1. tnraichart
      March 3, 2014

      Agree! Just what I was going to post 🙂

      Reply
  7. Anne
    February 25, 2014

    Identify ways you can reduce your own stress (yes, I know these sometimes change) but, if you have time to implement a positive way of dealing with your stress it can really help. Remember, sometimes you'll be able to leave and take a walk, but sometimes you will be forced to stay within a line of sight. What will help to bring you peace when your child is anything but peaceful?

    Learning about attachment and brain based learning was also incredibly valuable to me. Decide if you're able to implement personal time for reading/learning or if you'd like to take courses. However it works for you, I highly recommend it.

    Decide now to implement time with your husband as a priority. Again, these logistics might change with time, but you will both NEED each other. Date nights? Special time set aside after all the kids are in bed: meal made just for you two to enjoy, etc.

    And, lastly, begin the habit of contentment. Be content in your season of preparation. Be thankful for today, do not worry about tomorrow. This is still something I work on, but it's a life changer 🙂

    Reply
  8. Sherri
    February 25, 2014

    I'm sure there are hundreds of answers to this question but the first thing that comes to my mind is this…education on caring for children from hard places. Learn and memorize everything you can from Empowered To Connect! Read The Connected Child. It will feel a bit overwhelming because you have no-one to practice on 🙂 but if you are well versed, God will bring it back to you when you need it. As it turned out, our son had no true attachment issues. He adjusted easily. Still, the things we learned helped us ever so much. Seeing the real emotion behind your child's actions, understanding how past hurts affects your child today, knowing the parenting methods that can help your child to heal and adjust to a family….all of this information is simply invaluable. And I've barely scratched the surface in describing it! A tiny example: our son would become very angry when someone looked at his deformed ears. Years ago, I probably would have given a child the classic "God loves you so much…be content with how He made you" talk. Because of our Empowered to Connect Training, I recognized that the anger was actually coming from a deep fear. Responding with the words "You are so brave" melted my son immediately. It's not always this easy. For children with attachment disorders, it's much more complicated than saying a few words. But for many, many orphans out there, it's NOT more complicated. They are not that deeply damaged and if their parents have the proper tools and information, there can be wonderful adjustment and Love can flow into the heart of that child. And if your child IS more damaged, education in this area is ongoing but any you do ahead of time will surely bless you. Sorry so long…I have tons more to say but I'll let others cover 🙂

    Reply
  9. Karen
    February 25, 2014

    I have been learning about how my weaknesses impact others, and how that impacts me in return.

    For example, I am the youngest daughter (out of 5) born to a musician and an artist. I grew up with a degree of acceptable chaos and disaster. My husband is an engineer, the oldest child of a neat-nick. For 16 years, I have been learning how to be more organized for my husband. Some of these things make me seem like a slob, and I admit, I should have learned them years ago. I am learning to make my bed each day, do the dishes before going to bed, put my clothes away instead of tossing them on the ground. (I know, I know- feeling shame even as I type)
    The reason this impacts an adoption or fostering decision is that I am now having to learn to do what I am trying to teach my kids. It's not easy. More importantly, the more disorganized I am, the less patience I have to meet their needs. If I am scattered, I don't handle disruptions well.
    Another reason this impacts adoption or fostering is that I would very, very much like to increase my family. My husband husband is not there yet, but he is not closed to the idea. However, he struggles with too much chaos. I guess I hope that if I am able to learn how to more efficiently run our home, his capacity for more kids might increase. But I also know that even if our family doesn't grow, having a clean, organized, intentional home makes more room for the chaos and mess children and relationships bring.

    Reply
    1. Emily
      February 25, 2014

      Brene Brown says the two words most powerful for removing shame is "Me too" so in response to the bed making, dishes, tossing clothes on the ground- no shame! Me too!

      Reply
  10. Lisa Qualls
    February 25, 2014

    From Marla via Facebook.

    " There are lots of things, but after reading the first comment something came to me that has served me very well in adopting 4 teenagers. I completely agree with decluttering and getting rid of what you don't love. After you have done that go around to all those things you love and tell yourself they are just things. And no thing is more important than the children God calls you to raise. Not only will this help you hold your temper when the inevitable accident happens, but also your child will see that breaking something doesn't phase you and they will not be able to use that as a manipulation tool."

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth
      February 26, 2014

      Yes! This states it far better than I was going to. I can't tell you the number of things that have been broken over the years and learning to hold on to things very lightly helps to deal with it. The 'people are more important than things' lesson is crucial.

      Reply
  11. Margaret
    February 25, 2014

    reading was a big help, but after a while I had to stop and take the leap of faith to adopt. The books were starting to scare me out of it. Having supportive community is essential, but you have to keep building it as time goes on too. Not an issue for everyone, but one key thing we could have done better and still work on is living in communities that include people who look like our children (in our case, AfricanAmericans), and also Ethiopians. It is really important that my children have many places where they are not the only person of color, places they can get their hair cut or styled, etc. I knew this when they were younger, but it would have been easy to ignore. They did not want to talk about it much and seemed OK with everything. Now they are teenagers and race is an everyday topic of conversation, and part of their experience.

    Reply
  12. Tricia
    February 25, 2014

    Get a trusted counselor/therapist to begin to work out my own stuff – before the adoptions…. So healing and lifegiving – though doing it before rather than several years in would have been helpful. Read a lot and really examine your parenting style and do what you can to shift it to what is most appropriate for adopted children. Blessings to you and yours!

    Reply
  13. brianandracheldavis
    February 26, 2014

    Well, I would remind myself quite a few times that things will not be like I imagined them and they will probably be harder. Kind of like laboring without pain medication. You think you can do it and then you get into the middle of transition and you start telling everybody that you are DONE and get me that epidural. Well, sometimes parenting, especially with special needs and attachment struggles… you feel like you're on a ride you can't get off and it's scarier/harder/more painful than you are ok with. And it's not what you thought it'd be like. So just go ahead and prepare yourself for different periods of disillusionment. It doesn't mean you're doing it wrong.
    Also, we hope to have many kids. We are at 4 kids right now (3 bio and 1 adopted) and I don't know if the needs of our son with special needs is going to prevent us from being able to adopt any more. His needs are just really high. I'm hoping it's just a season and that we get into a rhythm where I feel his needs are being met. But until then, I'm feeling a little sad that I'm not pursuing growing our family right now.

    Reply
  14. brianandracheldavis
    February 26, 2014

    We also made a list of people we could call for help. Parenting help, babysitting help, housecleaning help, SOS I'm melting down help. With phone numbers and emails.

    Reply
  15. Sandy
    February 27, 2014

    Memorize a TON of Bible verses and promises of God that you can use in teaching your children in diciplining them in the way of the Lord. Also memorize verses you can use when you struggle with fears and doubts. For a good long time, when we were struggling with our child, the first words that came to my mind upon waking in the morning were: "Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Is. 41:10 Literally, I had to cling to that verse all day and by the power of God it did and still is keeping me afloat. Memorize many, many verses that you can stand upon in your time of trouble, and time of joy.

    Reply
  16. peaceliving
    February 28, 2014

    So many great things have been said here. I will add that perhaps the most important thing is to be flexible…don't pigeon-hole yourself and plan your next 15 years of fostering and adopting before you have even started. You won't know what is the right path for your family until you are actually into it. I regret announcing to the world how exactly we were going to foster and all of our plans, only to find out after one month in that our plans completely changed! We didn't even take the adoption classes during our foster training, only to realize after our first placement that we actually were interested in adoption after all! This coming from a mom of 8: two bio, three foster short term and respite over a 2 year span, 1 foster who was fost adopt then reunified and bounced back and forth between us and her bio dad over three years (still seeing her weekly!) and two foster whom we'll be adopting shortly. You never know how God will change your heart and all the ways he will humble you about your set plans!

    Reply
  17. Emily
    March 1, 2014

    A lot of areas to consider.

    In your home: consider space, how many children you can imagine having in your home at one time. The age span you might anticipate. The gender choices you might make. Not necessarily because you care, but because if you are starting to think about the process now, picking a house with a good layout can make a huge difference. Enough bedrooms. Bedrooms with privacy. Bedrooms without privacy. Play space. As others have said, pick the posessions you prize. Then be prepared to let them go. Declutter, pick good family toys. Pick things that add to an environment of love – we have a keyboard as a recent addition (Christmas gift!) and while the kids can bang on it sometimes, it also adds to our home and environment. I love simple toys that kids with a wide variety of maturity can play with together, things where broken pieces and missing parts don't end the world.

    In your marriage: my husband and I have faced a lot over the last year. I have said over and over that I can live with whatever happens with our kids, but I have to make it through this with our marriage intact. That above all else on earth, I choose him. I respect him.

    Reply
  18. Emily
    March 1, 2014

    In your schedules: margin, and lots of it. If you plan on working, how will that impact your ability to foster? Who is your support system? Who will watch your kids? Will you be pursuing promotion in your carreer, or holding a routine job? I have had to let go some of the advancements I could be making at work, would like to make at work, in order to be more available to my family. These are small things that I could probably do easily if we didn't foster, but we made that choice and so now I let some stuff go. If we had foreseen a little more, I would have made a certification a higher priority three or four years ago.

    In learning: do some reading. Then, do your best to make inroads into the foster community. Reading about disorders, special needs, therapeutic parenting, can be really overwhelming. Starting to put it together with real kids and real situations will give you a much bigger idea of what you can, or want, to handle. If you can, try to become a licensed respite provider – that can give you the option to learn a lot more about kids without as much of the emotional rollercoaster.

    Reply
  19. Emily
    March 1, 2014

    In prayer: pray for your marriage, your family, your bio kids, and your future kids. I have prayed for their safety, protection, and that they would be able to recognize and accpet our love. Pray that you would learn to trust God and that you could hear His voice. Pray for their biological families. My greatest prayer for my current littles is healthy parents. Pray for discernment and discretion. Pray for a lot of laughter, humor, and grace – for you, your spouse, and your kids.

    Have fun – there is certainly nothing quite like this.

    Reply
  20. Deborah
    March 3, 2014

    Go to an Empowered to Connect Conference – if you can hear 2-3 days on the reality of trauma kid parenting and still say "I'm all in" then start researching and be sure you understand all the costs – what are covered and what are not (therapies are expensive, residential treatment facilities are insanely expensive)…… be very very very deliberate and careful in your wording about what you will NOT take or cannot handle on your adoption application – 3 missing words make a huge difference – I know! If a kid moves in and things don't feel right – trust your gut not the caseworker!

    Reply
  21. Kris
    March 7, 2014

    Expect nothing but understand you will have to give everything. Pray for the best but prepare for the worst. If you adopt older children or out of birth order – make sure your home has options. By this I mean space options. Boys and girls may need to have separate quarters, Never assume all is well, always look for red flags, be proactive and not reactive. Take safety measures – hurt children will hurt children. Adoption is long term ministry – you do not get to pass the baton after a few years service…it is forever. Look only to the Lord to sustain you, not your husband, not your children, not food. =) Lastly, the most worthwhile things in the world are the hardest things in the world. You will be blessed – but it is a hard road.
    This wasn't supposed to be depressing – just real.

    Reply
  22. Momma T
    March 9, 2014

    My husband and I have adopted seven children. My biggest peace of advice would be to ask yourself what your capacity for unconditional love is. Every child will test you. At some point in their life they will want to see if you truly love them. They will take you to the edge of insanity, and you will need to be able to let the hurt roll and keep the love going. When you survive that test you will be amazed at the change in yourself and each child. And NEVER keep their adoption a secret! Celebrate the anniversary of their adoption as a family holiday. Secrets mean shame and their journey in life will be challenging enough without feeling like less of a person because of the journey they took to come to you.

    Reply

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