Several things have happened in the past couple weeks that have got me thinking. Before I even begin to explain, I want to confess right now that I am not preaching to anyone more than I am preaching to myself.
I started my "career" as an "adoption professional" back in 2000 when we had been fostering and adopting for about 3.5 years. My first job was post-adoption support and I set up email support groups as well as in-person support groups in order to help parents cope with the issues of raising difficult children. I had acquired several friends, by this point, who were all in my situation, and we called each other often.
People were finally free to say things that they had never been able to say before because they felt safe. They were able to be with others who understood. And so we began to share our stories. Soon it became almost a contest to see who had the worst life. And while all of this was therapeutic and good, those who were having a pretty good life really hadn't much to contribute. And those who were feeling OK about their lives were felt that they couldn't even speak up. And when they did, people chimed in to basically say, "well, your life may not suck now, but it's gonna."
Email list serves took the same turn sometimes. Thread after thread became "if you think your kid is bad, listen to how bad mine is." Or "if you think the system screwed you, you ain't got nothing . Wait until you hear how much I got messed with and how they destroyed my family." And again, if things were going well, on some lists, you almost felt like you couldn't type that.
Then I started blogging and so did several of my friends. And while I feel that the core group of blogs that I read are pretty balanced, (I sure hope mine is), I have read many that show no joy. Nothing good is reported. Sure it is a place to vent, but not just adoptive families read them. They are out there for the world to see.
I know that there are several adoptive families that have been destroyed by the system that they are trying to stop people from adopting. I realize that I play a role in the potential destruction of families by placing children, but I also know good and well that these families, if they are determined enough, are going to find ways to get kids -- as many as they think they can parent. And they aren't going to listen to reason. I never did. And so I would rather be their social worker working for an agency that I know will be supportive, than to say "I'm not going to place kids any more" and have them head to another place to do what they are going to do regardless of what advice anyone gives them. And so I try to be there to support them through it.
Yes the system stinks. Yes our kids are hard. But are positive voices being squelched? Why is it that I feel that others are trying to make me feel guilty because I don't regret our decision? Why can't a message of "We can make it through this, we will be better people, permanency is better for kids" be accepted and welcomed? Have we really fallen this far?
We have had some hard times. I've stopped blogging about many of them, simply because it takes too long and I"m getting used to them. But I love my children. I am a better person because of what I've been through. And sure, my life hasn't been as bad as some of yours, but that also means that a lot of people have lives that are better than mine. But maybe those blogs, full of positive adoption experiences, are too boring for most of us to read.
Do support groups actually offer support? Can we be part of them with love and laughter and continually remind each other that this is a good thing? Can blogs and list serves and online forums be a place where we can offer hope? Isn't support both grieving together AND celebrating together?
My biggest fear is this: If we do such an excellent job of telling the world about our hardest kids and forgetting to mention the blessings of our easier kids, will parents stop giving children a shot? Will the Leons, WIlsons, and Mercedes of the world be in foster care for life because we have shared so much about our harder to live with children?
I like my life. It's a hard one, but I like it. I wouldn't trade it. I love all my kids, the ones who are hard to raise and the ones who are easier. I find joy each day in something. I am glad God gave me this road. I don't regret any of my decisions.
Does that mean I don't fit in anywhere anymore?
Please tell me that you are experiencing something different than what I've written above. Please tell me (and the rest of the world) stories about why you are glad you chose to adopt. Tell me of support groups that offer hope. Just for today let's say to the world, "the system may stink, but the kids don't. Adoption is a GOOD thing."