Blunt thoughts on Supporting Foster/Adoptive Parenting

What foster/adoptive (FA) parent hasn’t heard the “Oh, it’s so good of you to do that”?  Or, may this one, “Oh,  she/he/they are so lucky to have been placed with you”?   It kind of makes me cringe and shiver just typing it.  Here’s the deal, if you are an FA parent and you don’t cringe or shiver at that, check your motives because it has nothing to do with you being a super hero but everything to do with us having a super God, right?!  It is only through the Lord’s  supernatural intervention that broken pots like you and me are able to be anything more than a hotel for these kids.

If you are a friend or support person for an adoptive parent, let me clear up a few things.

#1) Some of you are not called by God to raise children not born of your own flesh; BUT, you are absolutely called to support those who do. Please let the family you are helping dictate what is most helpful to them.  Ask for an honest answer to the question, “What would speak love and support to you as tackle FA parenting?”

#2)  Know that you may get a “good feeling” by helping out an FA family, but please know it may not be a “good time”.  We cannot predict our child’s behavior.  Please supervise them at all times.

#3) Know that the stories of the wild child with the downright demonic behavior we have described to you will probably never be seen by you.   Please NEVER question that it truly happens. The kids tend to save that for us.  We are the ones they want to attach to.  That means we are the ones in the relationship with them that must be sabotaged.  Don’t bond, don’t bond, don’t bond.  It won’t last, it won’t last, it won’t last.  But maybe, maybe maybe. No! NO! NO!    You get the picture.

#4) Know that no matter how early in life our children come to us, they are damaged.  Sound harsh?  Yes, it is.    I won’t bore you with the scientific details of the damage done to the amygdala at the loss of a birth mom, let alone early childhood separation, abuse and neglect.  Please, just trust us.  Please, don’t judge us.

#5)  Never, ever ask us which ones are “ours” when we have our whole crew together.  They all are for whatever time God gives them to us.

#6)  When we experience the loss of a tough kid, and we do, we may look horrible, be exhausted, cranky and battle weary.  Please don’t say, “you must be relieved” or “its probably for the best”.  No, it is never, ever a relief to have a failed placement or to return a child to a dangerous situation.  Even if it is in our best interest, it is a loss and we shoulder heavy guilt over the decision to call it quits.

If Foster/Adoptive Month makes you contemplate becoming an FA parent, know this:

#1)  Some of us were called by God to raise children not born of our own flesh.  It’s a calling, not a playdate.  There are days when there is absolutely not one “good” feeling you can scratch out of the crusty mud left from the deluge of raging emotions.  There are days when, despite your very best efforts, you can’t summon up the strength to find any “good” in your decision to heed the call.  You fail.  The child fails.  The system fails.  The school fails.  Callings aren’t easy.  They never are.

#2)  This is not for the questioning heart.  This must be a hard-core, extensively prayed-over, sold-out, WELL-EDUCATED decision.  Talk, talk, talk to FA families.  Sit in their homes.  Spend time listening to their hearts, not the process.

#3)  It will take a toll on your birth children.  Do not doubt for a minute that your “unexposed kids” will be unaffected by the “exposed children” you bring into your home.  Spending time with FA families will educate you on the challenges you may face in your home and with your children.

#3)   Outcomes for children in care are pretty poor, and you may feel as if you didn’t make a difference but  God still reigns.  We have known that one of ours aged out in a detention facility ravaged by the same mental illness her mother had.  Holding each other, crying, my husband and I walked down the long dark halls of the mental health facility we left her in, well knowing she would never come back to our home, but God was still on his throne.  Fostering, especially, leaves questions unanswered on this side of heaven.  Know that some can’t be saved by you.

#4)  Mommas, hear me….you will not be enough for this child.  Ouch!  You, as a mother with all your momma heart, momma love, and momma skills will not be “enough”.  I don’t care at what age this child enters your heart and home.  While you need to claim your place in this child’s life, you also need to be prepared to search out others to fill in the gaps left by trauma, separation, abuse, loss of birth parent, racial differences, etc.  You will need to find mentors, professionals, service providers, respite providers who can augment your momma love and devotion.  It is okay that you’re not enough because the truth is….only Christ is.

#5) You will age quickly.  You will look for hoarded food in bed sheets.  You will wipe poop from places poop shouldn’t be.  You will learn from the professionals how to take down and restrain a child.  You will shrug off the destruction to your property after a child’s rage.  You will lock children in their rooms at night for safety reasons.  You will gain weight because you hide the chocolate treats in your bedroom closet where only you can get to them.  You will loose weight because you are worried sick.  You will cry.  You will swear.  You will fall on your knees in submission to God who gives you the strength to get up and do it again tomorrow.  And then, one precious day, this will come:

“Thank you! And you had a hand in my up bringing, you were very good to us through it all. You were there when it all began to unfold. You loved and supported me and helped me heal, I’m so thankful that God lead you and dad to be foster parents, I can’t imagine not having you in my life! I love you so much!”

 And, you will hear God whispering,  “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:40.

So, if you are considering FA parenting, is it worth it?  Absolutely it is.

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When Guilt Becomes Your Primary Diagnosis

Chronic illness of any kind deals painful blows to our self-worth, none of which are deserving.  The longer I live, the more I realize how I have stacked pallets of guilt on pallets of shame and allowed them to sit heavy on the decaying foundation of my self-worth.  How many times have I let an employer, friend or loved one down?  How many times have I been a burden?  How many times have I let my health overshadow the joys in life?

How many times have I allowed the cancer of guilt to invade my healthy mind?

Regrets are real and have a healthy place when they are used to mend relationships fractured by the weight of our illness and the selfishness that sometimes occurs with such.  Let’s admit it,  we get selfish when we are sick.  It is necessary to seek forgiveness from both others and ourselves in order to move forward.  Chronic illness often prevents us from performing as we would like.  Our minds desire to do what our bodies refuse.  Now that my children are grown and I’m more reflectfull, (not a typo….I’m full of reflection at my age), it is so easy to become regretful over the amount of activities my illness and anxiety prevented me from.  I’m acutely aware my struggles overshadowed family times that should have been great fun, and for that, I am regretful;  however, I can not invite Regret to make a home in my heart.  Obsessing over Regret will open the door to Shame, and Shame ushers Guilt right on in.

Without realizing what has happened, Guilt, unchecked, can become our primary diagnosis.  Guilt has the ability to incapacitate us in emotional, relational and physical ways, and she is a sneaky, silent killer.

I felt the sting of Guilt’s nasty right hook just this morning when the side effects from a seizure medication change meant I was unable to get out of bed to make sure my special needs daughter did her therapeutic exercises.  Hubby had to be both Mom and Dad, again.  Score one for Guilt.

An unexpected jab hit when my husband wanted to pop into a restaurant for a quick bite to eat.   Key words here are “pop into” because you know how we anxious CIBS  (chronic illness buddies) hate to not have had the time to plan for every possible disastrous, yet highly unlikely scenario.  Really? C’mon, we need the time to worry, or it just can’t happen.  Can I get an Amen?!  So,  I stated in my irritated, flat voice that there was no way I could handle the sensory overload that was in that place.  Guilt sat in my lap as we ate our drive-through meal.

A couple of days later, Guilt left me bruised and in tears as I had to leave a reception after my sweet grand babies’ dance recital.  The lighting and sounds were firing up my brain waves resulting in a nice healthy aura, the kind that sends you fleeing in some kind of hyper state of flight or fight.

You know what I’m saying.  You hear the edge in your own voice.  You hear the cutting irritation directed at loved ones.  You make the same excuse for the millionth time, and you  feel the sting of shame.  Score another for Guilt.

If you have a story like mine,  many of you do, you went years with no answers but plenty of symptoms.  Like me, you may have been misdiagnosed…a few times.   That in and of itself leads to great anxiety, depression and dysfunction.  Perhaps, even NO function, as in bed, covers over head for days at a time. As if those aren’t enough,  we start to heap on shame as we weasel out of social events, responsibilities and commitments.  We are masters at disguising the fact we really are in no physical and/or mental shape to show up anyway.  This all too familiar scenario sets us up perfectly for Guilt to wage war on that eroding foundation of self-worth.  Hence, Guilt slides into number one spot as she eats away at us like acid on flesh.  She really is that destructive.  Guilt becomes the disease.

I intend to rob Guilt of the power she has stolen from me.

  Let’s break it down and choose to claim forgiveness for what has been, acceptance of what is and hope for what will be.

Guilt robs us of a few things.

  1. The ability to see the positive.  We are oh, so much more than our illnesses.  Let’s count the good moments and take them back from the hard grasp of Guilt.  Is Guilt stealing your joy?
  2. The ability to see our potential.  God created us to do great things! While it may look different from peers, it doesn’t mean our contributions to this world are any less valuable than our healthy counterparts.
  3. The ability to perceive truth.  We can easily transfer our own shameful view of ourselves to others.   We can easily tell ourselves we are failures when others do not see us in that light at all.  We can easily see ourselves as incapable when in fact, we are entirely able.  Are you seeing yourself as incapacitated?
  4. The ability to live in the present.  Guilt is the rock WE shackle to our ankles.  It drags us under the surface of this moment into the abyss of the past.  WE hold the key, Truth, to unlock the chains.  WE choose whether or not to swim to the surface of the here and now.

Let’s choose to kick the curable disease of Guilt.  Let’s choose to burn those pallets of regret and shame.  Let’s choose to use the key of Truth to unlock these chains.   I leave you with this:

…I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to live in FREEDOM!  Leviticus 26:13b (HCSB)

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