November is National Adoption Month and many voices will be out there raising awareness for the orphans in their county who are in need of a home. In the past, I’ve shared with you a real epidemic our country is facing and how the church as a whole needs to step up more. That epidemic is the outrageous amount of orphans that have no home.
While I wholeheartedly believe every Christian should pray on what their role could be, I equally believe not every single person will be called to help out in the same way.
A few years ago, James and I were speaking with a man who had adopted four children. He stated that no one should adopt if they’re not called. This conversation took place prior to James and I adopting and was right before we started fostering. I didn’t understand that statement and asked him why he felt that way because I feel like every capable family should.
This man explained how two of the children were a dream. They adapted to his biological children and his wife. They became a part of the family with such ease that parenting them was as simple as breathing. He then pointed to a picture of the other two and simply said if he wasn’t called by God to be their father he wouldn’t be able to do it. Every day is a challenge and he feels like he’s on a constant uphill battle.
He talked about how hard it is to love someone who doesn’t love back. How tiring it is to give of yourself and the person on the receiving end doesn’t see the value and worth in it. He mentioned the sacrifices his wife and family have made for these two children and all they do is speak hurtful words back to them.
I asked him why he kept parenting them and his answer has stayed with me through my tough days of parenting an adopted child. He talked about how he knows God has called him to be their father and on the really tough days, Christ reminds him how He always loves us when we don’t love back. He gave of Himself and sacrificed His life when no one saw the value and worth in it. This man said he is called to love like Jesus and that means choosing every day to love two difficult children just as Jesus does.
The truth of the matter is, fostering is hard and adoption is harder. When a family chooses to step up solely because they feel bad, that’s when they can leave feeling defeated and disappointed. However, when a family feels called to open their home to a child who’ve experienced trauma on a deep level, Christ will give them the strength to overcome every challenge and obstacle.
THREE Reasons Fostering/Adopting May Not Be For You
1. Healthy Marriage: Your marriage is the top priority after your relationship with Christ. Every marriage goes through rough patches and dry seasons. Those times, even if they’re years, must take the front seat. When a marriage is struggling, tackling the obstacles and challenges of foster care will be nearly impossible.
When James and I were going through our classes to become licensed to adopt there was another couple in our class who at the end of the ten weeks stated that going through this process showed them there are things in their marriage they need to work on before welcoming a child into their home. They shared they were going to spend time focusing on that so they can, together, face fostering as a stronger unit. I remember thinking how brave of them to not only share that but to recognize it and deal with it.
So, if opening your home to a child is something you’re feeling called to do, carefully evaluate if your marriage can handle a challenge of that magnitude. There’s a reason why couples go through extensive marital evaluations before being cleared to foster/adopt.
2. Protection Of Bio Children: I’ve heard many families with small children say they don’t want to foster/adopt until their children are older. That decision is wise and often underappreciated. Your biological children come first. Their safety, needs, and desires come first. Fostering another child will take plenty of your time and focus and not all parents are OK with taking some time away from their children. Some bio children are not fit for that family structure, and that’s OK too.
Doing whatever is best for your biological children must be taken into consideration. James and I have been asked a lot if we would ever foster or adopt again. I always respond with saying that I would never say never because if God tells us so we will. But, I also share we wouldn’t consider it until after we’re done having children and they are raised.
My children need their mother one hundred percent and for me personally, adding in another child will take the time I have away from them, and I’m not comfortable with that at this point in my life. Especially since I’m already raising our adopted son which takes extra and intentional effort.
3. Time: Raising a child who has experienced levels of trauma looks and feels totally different than raising a biological child. The extra time it takes every day for James and me to parent our adopted son is over twice the effort of our biological son. It requires a lot of patience, trial, and errors, research, counseling, etc.
Beyond the traditional aspects of parenting are the practical aspects of adopting. Transporting the child to his/her therapy sessions, visitations, and monitoring the visitations multiple times a week is a true reality for many families. A child having four appointments throughout the week, every week, is the norm. Having the flexibility to drive them to all these appointments and planning this within your daily routine is crucial.
Being legitimately too busy to invest deeply in a child’s life is a real and true reason and not just an excuse.
Ways To Help Beyond Fostering And Adopting
1. Prayer: Just like you may feel led to pray for families on the foreign mission field, pray for the families whose mission field is fostering/adoption. Just like foreign mission field families, adopting/fostering families are facing spiritual warfare daily within their own home. They’re facing unknowns and taking each day one at a time. Covering them in prayer is an undervalued need.
2. Support: Give practical support to the families. Offer to bring them dinner, ask if there are any needs the child has that you could help with. I know a family who fosters and every other week their close friend drives the child to their therapy appointment to give the family a break and lighten their load a little. Any sort of support is appreciated and all it takes is to simply ask. If the family says they don’t need anything, because let’s be honest, who accepts help easily? Do something anyways.
3. Listening: Be the listening ear many parents need. Withhold judgment and opinions on what you think they should or could be doing instead unless it’s asked for and you have experience. Speak words of encouragement over them while they navigate a bumpy road that has no handbook. Speak words of life over the situation and show your support even if you don’t understand. Nothing about parenting a foster/adopted child is typical and the last thing a family needs is to explain or defend themselves.
This November, spend time praying for that family who is fostering or adopting. Seek them out and offer any sort of help you’re comfortable with. Know that being the encouraging support to those families is just as important as the work the family is doing itself.
James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”