Monday, February 06, 2012

A Confession

I have a confession to make. I'm kind of embarrassed actually to even write this, but it is true.

As you know, I'm a Christian. I've never hid that or downplayed it and often my blog has been borderline offensive, most likely, to those of you who don't share my faith. But my adoption work has all been in the public sector.

As you may know, for the first eight years of my training and speaking in adoption, I was speaking to caseworkers and foster and adoptive parents at conferences around the country. And my jobs have always been in agencies whose goal is to find homes for foster children and it has been my passion to do so before they age out.

My experience with international adoption, other than our two from Guatemala, has been to try and find homes for the kids who have disrupted from an international adoptive placement. So I began to form a negative opinion about "well meaning people" who are not prepared to handle the children they bring from orphanages to the U.S.

I think this is why I have been skeptical about the orphan care and adoption movement in the evangelical church. In retrospect I'm not sure why I chose not to investigate it further ... maybe it was just a lack of time ... but I was a bit dismissive about the new "fad" of going and getting an orphan and bringing them to the U.S.

REFRESH changed all of that for me. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of people out there who are doing things that are much different than what I assumed. Very few of them are going to other countries to bring home infants are toddlers. Many are bringing home older kids, sibling groups, and kids with medical issues who are hard to place. They are doing so with much less financial support than those of us who adopt from foster care receive.

In addition, the orphan and adoption care ministries in many churches are doing a lot to promote the issue of waiting children adoption in the U.S. as well as supporting foster children. The book Orphanology that I finished yesterday, details all kinds of very cool programs that are supporting orphans all over the world, including us here in the U.S.

When I was at REFRESH I met some amazing people. People who are parenting children that are more difficult than my own and doing it with grace and dignity. People who may or may not have been expecting to have the challenges they do are facing them with God's help and making a big difference in the world.

I'm hoping to slowly get to know other folks and share my story. Mainly because of what I wrote here about encouraging people to prevent their lives from turning out like mine. The Orphan Care Movement is new and the majority of kids who have been adopted in the last decade are hitting their teen years about now or will be soon. Even most of the leaders and speakers in the movement do not have the "been there done that" stories that I have to share.

So I'm excited about possibilities in the future ... even if it is just meeting more amazing people like I met last weekend. I intend to begin to follow some blogs and to reach out to some of the folks out there who are in this journey with me. Maybe that's the one thing that I concluded after my weekend -- it isn't an "us and them" journey -- we are all on the same journey. It may look a bit different as to how we got here, but our kids are the same. FASD, brain trauma, and attachment are all the same whether they were acquired in an African village, an Eastern European orphanage, or the streets of Chicago.

I'm regretting my hasty misinformed judgments and am ready to move on and connect with others and broaden my base of influence... and support! REFRESH did more for me than I did for the people there for sure.

Enough rambling. You get my point.


Other Mother said...

I also left there with an understanding of the orphan care movement that I didn't have before. It was wonderful to be with a whole group of people who adopt with a Biblical motive. I came home renewed and truly REFRESHED!

AnnMarie said...

Here are two groups you might be interested in:

The Charis Project is working on a different model of a self-sustaining orphanage in Thailand. No adoption here, but an interesting different take on it all. I help support the kids.

International Voice of the Orphan just launched late last week, although the work has been underway for a while. They encourage adoption, advocacy, prayer, mission teams, and more.

Interestingly, I am not Christian but like both projects. (The latter is a lot more God-centered than the former.)

AnnMarie said...

I wish these groups were more inclusive of non-Christians, but I guess that's sort of hard when the focus is Jesus and God. It just seems as though most orphan-centered movements are Christian-religion-centered which leaves out people like me.

Miz Kizzle said...

You know what would be refreshing? If conservative Christians would support teaching kids about birth control so there would be fewer teen pregnancies. Texas schools have adopted a policy of teaching abstainance only. Texas has an enormously high teen pregnancy rate. Is it any surprise there are so many adoption agencies based in Texas? Particularly ones whose chief purpose is to get babies adopted into "good Christian homes"?
I am a Christian but I am also a realist. And a liberal Democrat. I have been around long enough to know that adoption involves heartache for everyone concerned.

Mama Sarah said...

So, I don’t know REFRESH but I am a Christian mom that adopted internationally twice to bring kids out literal hell. I could have adopted babies but I did not. I adopted children with medical issues when I did not have to but God called me to go and find my children. Nobody paid me money to adopt my kids. Nobody gave me insurance to cover their doctor visits or surgeries. Nobody helped any of us adoptive parents. But we did and/or do it anyway. Most of us stick to being that parent no matter the cost. Less than 20% of the children in the country I adopted from survive the system. If they age out the death rates are still dramatic.

I recently let a speech therapist go because she told me that she thought I was needlessly putting children into danger if I considered adopting internationally again. She doesn’t know my situation - she simply thought two was enough. Rather, she thought I should have not adopted my daughter, a cleft palate child sent to a psychiatric ward for it. My daughter came home completely normal and better adjusted than most of the foster care children I have had in my home.

I suspect you have never been offered a tenth of a penny so that you will pick a younger brother to adopt rather than the child you have been matched with by an agency. I have been offered that tenth of a penny. I will never forget. Amish friends I know help send blankets to them during this cold, cold winter for them.

I am glad that you, as a representative of the state system of adoption, may gain understanding about those who willingly wade into dark waters. I would say, knowing all such parents as I do, they are the best, simply the best. And they do the heart-breaking work everyday.

As for broading you influence base, I don't know. My state recently told me that they would not recommend me for waiting children in America because I am single even though I have been a certified foster mom for over 26 months. No other reason. I think you are rowing upriver against a dangerous current. Go back, these waters are choppy. Never a Dull Moment so is not what adoptive Mom's like me would consider so very difficult.

Some might even call it a cake walk.