The Blessings of Foster Care Adoption - Part 1

I always wanted to adopt a child. I wanted my husband to bring home an orphan from the Philippines or from Russia. God never allowed me the privilege. But I still love it every time I hear of a Christian sister who has reached out to bless a child through adoption. I think I'd have trouble with Foster Care unless I knew it would lead to adoption ~ it's so hard for me to love and then give away. I have nothing but praise and admiration for those who minister to children and teens in the Foster Care system.

November is Adoption Month, and I asked one of my AWSA (Advances Writers & Speakers Association) Sisters, Sue Badeau ~ who often speaks about adoption from foster care ~ to share her heart. She has so much to say, and it's all important to hear, especially if you are considering adoption; so I will share this post in three parts.

Dawn: Sue, how did you get involved in foster care and adoption?

Sue:  Like you, I always wanted to adopt.  As a young child, I even begged my parents to adopt.  One of my favorite books when I was around 10 or 12 years old was The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss about a family who adopted a dozen or so children from all different ethnic and racial backgrounds and with all kinds of special needs.  I knew in my heart that this was exactly the family I DID want.  I was blessed to date and eventually marry a man who shared this vision.  His heart for children is even bigger than mine.  And so, it is not surprising that our own adoption journey began within months after our wedding day!

We attended a church event about a summer mission team that had worked in India with Mother Theresa and they had so many heart wrenching stories and slides about the orphaned children in India that we felt compelled to start there.  We went immediately the next day to a local adoption agency to “sign up.”  Little did we know what a HUGE journey we had just begun!  Since that day, we have gone on to adopt 20 children and we have been foster parents to over 50 additional children. 

Dawn: What is the biggest misconception people have about adoption or foster care adoption?

Sue: I would say there are four  major misconceptions.

The first is that you have to be “perfect” and wealthy to adopt.  Certainly there are adoption programs for people most interested in a healthy white infant where money is a huge factor.  But for the many, many children in need of homes right here in our own country as well as around the world, adoption can be completed with no fees (if working with the public child welfare agency) or with limited fees even with private agencies depending on the age and type of child (i.e. special needs, etc.).  And adoption agencies are looking for parents who are stable and can give a good home to a child, not for “perfect” people.

The second major misconception is that “love is enough”.  Whether you adopt an infant or a teenager or any child in between, the child has lost their original parents and in most cases that child has lost much more – perhaps they have experienced the trauma of abuse, neglect and/or abandonment.  Perhaps they have lost siblings or grandparents that they loved.  In any case, these losses require more than “just” love to bring healing into their lives.  The children – no matter what age and no matter how “severe” the abuse they suffered or the special needs they have – are not so “damaged” that they cannot be healed and live wonderful, joyful, productive lives.  However, it takes a lot of hard work, faith, supports and resources in addition to love to make this happen.

A third misconception is that adoption is about “rescuing” children from horrible circumstances.  While this may at times appear to be true on the surface, it is not a good way or reason to go into adoption for three important reasons.  

First, no matter how horrific the child’s circumstances may seem, underneath it there are biological parents who do, indeed, love their child and those birth parents are created in God’s image too.  We must have respect for and a loving, compassionate and prayerful heart towards those original parents if we are to successfully parent the child we adopt, because the child is indelibly part of those birth parents and it is impossible to “hate” one while “loving” the other.   

Second, “rescue”-minded parenting prevents us from establishing a normalized parent-child bond with our child which is critical to the lifelong relationship we are beginning when we adopt.  And of course the “rescue” mentality sets us up for dismal failure if we do not see the results we hoped for and expected – only God can save, only God can rescue.  It is our job as a parent to love unconditionally, and not only to be the giver in the relationship but also the receiver – God gives us children, whether by birth, foster care, step-parenting or adoption – as a way of blessing us, teaching us and shaping us into the people he wants us to be. 

Finally, the fourth big misconception is that you can never love a child not born to you quite as much as you would love “flesh of your flesh” – this is totally untrue! 
I love every one of my children – both those born to me and those adopted – with my entire heart and soul and although the relationships with each child is as unique as the child him or herself, the quality and depth of the love is equal and deep beyond measure.

Dawn: What are some of the questions a woman should ask herself (or a couple should discuss) before making the decision to adopt?
Sue: Super question!  Here are a few (my top ten list) of the questions I recommend people ask:
1.      Why do I want to adopt? What do I hope to gain as well as to give?
2.      How do I expect adoption to change my life as well as the child’s life?
3.      How do I handle stress and conflict?
4.      How do I feel about working with multiple systems of care such as the child welfare agency, the schools, medical and mental health agencies, support groups, etc to help me in the lifelong journey of raising my child?
5.      How will I feel if my own family or close friends don’t understand or support my decision and where will I turn to get support?
6.      What role does my faith and walk with the Lord play in my decision to adopt?
7.      How will I feel if my child does not seem to attach to me, or does not share my faith or reciprocate my love?  Is my faith and belief that this is the right way to build my family strong enough to cope with those circumstances if they should arise?
8.      Have I ever spent time with families who have adopted children?  What have I learned from them that will help me?
9.      Are my husband and I truly in this together?
10.   Do I understand that adopting means not just changing my family for now but for all the generations to come?  What excites me about that? What concerns me about that?

Dawn: Those are great questions, Sue. I think this is an incredibly loving, unselfish choice. It reminds me of God's great love for us. He was willing to adopt people as His children who didn't know or love Him, and even when they did come to know Him, they could never love God back the way He loves them. Thank you for your insights and encouragement on this issue.

In part two, Sue Badeau will discuss the greatest challenges adoptive parents face, the differences between adopting a foster child versus an orphan in an orphanage, how adoption changes the personality of a home, and how adoptive parents can help children overcome their fears or sense of loss.

Sue Badeau became deputy director of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care in January 2003 and has been a child welfare professional for 26 years. Contact Sue's writing and speaking ministry at www.suebadeau.com. She writes two weekly blogs, "Building Bridges of Hope" and "Hope for the Journey" (a devotional). You can also reach her at: sue@suebadeau.com.  

Sue and her husband, Hector are the parents of 22 children ~ two by birth and 20 adopted. They have also served as foster parents for more than 75 children in three states, and as a host family for refugee youth from Sudan, Kosovo and Guatemala. You can read about her family at www.badeaufamily.com.

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