It’s a common question in our society. We all wonder if we are capable of such a hard task. Those of us who are seasoned usually find out we most definitely are not capable at all because so much more plays into it. Outside our group, it’s phrased as more of an exclamation. “Not everyone should adopt!” It seems they feel judged and maybe that I think of them as less than for not doing such a “noble” task.
I’ve observed/know of/heard of many families who started the journey of adoption where it worked great. Most just worked, but maybe not great. I’ve also observed those that started the journey and then it didn’t work. Like all things went TERRIBLY wrong. There is no cookie cutter answer or family for this job.
But it’s true. Not everyone should adopt. There are 3 red flags I think are important to work through.
If married, your marriage has to be strong. This doesn’t mean you haven’t had struggles. It definitely doesn’t mean you won’t have struggles. That’s why I say it. Your marriage will be strained. Like never before. So if it’s already on the verge of falling apart, DON’T DO IT! The inevitable WILL happen. Your marriage is the priority. You will bring more pain to an already traumatized child if you bring them into your broken relationship. And if you aren’t married, you have to have someone you believe in that will pull you through the hard times. We can’t do this alone.
You have to have dealt with your trauma. Again, this doesn’t mean you haven’t been traumatized. But you have to have dealt with it. Like you’ve been to lots of counseling dealt with it. And even told your counselor your desire and heard what their thoughts were on the matter. They may in fact discourage you from it for a time. But they may say the opposite too. Sometimes it’s good to focus our attention on others instead of ourselves. But if you haven’t dealt with the trauma, bringing a traumatized child into your home will only re-traumatize you. If YOU have attachment issues, you will not be the person to help heal a child who has them too.
You have to be OK with not being OK. There are certain personality types that struggle with this. I’m one of them. I was the good girl. And the thought of ever causing a scene publicly would be humiliating. So when one of my kids does in fact cause a ruckus (like completely stop a football game due to his 3-year old tantrum in a 12-year old body), it’s VERY difficult for me. But I also have enough “go with the flow” and “just do what I have to do” mentality to help me refocus after the incident. As well as a husband I cry myself asleep beside at night. Not everyone can be OK when crazy happens.
There are agencies that have done studies on who fares better and why adoptions fail. Some of the research is actually quite fascinating and shocking. One of the more shocking results is that parents with college degrees have a lower success rate than those WITHOUT college degrees. I thought the opposite. Because college equates success.
Nope. Get it out of your head now that your kid is going to be the best in school, the best athlete, the best behaved. If you are too hard on the kid and push them too much, their trauma will be exposed in full force. Actually, sometimes the seemingly dysfunctional families are the ones that can handle the challenges of fostering and adoption better than the ones that follow the expectations set up by our society and churches.
It seems to boil down to this: the success of fostering and adoption is not so much about being capable, rather being adaptable. We cannot expect a kid from a hard place to adapt to our life. We have to adapt to theirs.
If you decide fostering and adoption are not for you….for WHATEVER reason…..that doesn’t mean you don’t have a role to play. We need YOU on our team. Especially if you have been through the process of any kind. You’ve experienced some of the pain involved. That means you can empathize in a way that others can’t. Take a family a meal when you know it’s been a rough day. Clean a family’s house. Provide child care or respite. Sit and cry with a family in distress. There is no shame in deciding full time fostering and adoption is not for you. There is a much needed and important role for everyone, and not one person is capable to walk this journey alone. We can only do this together.
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