Thursday, November 2, 2017

What do these 3 things have in common?

What do Pinocchio, the Velveteen Rabbit, and Foster parents everywhere have in common? Pinocchio was a puppet carved from wood who wanted to be a real boy. The Velveteen Rabbit was a stuffed bunny with button eyes who wanted to be real. And foster parents? Yep, you guessed it.

They want to be real, too.

People often ask foster parents questions like: "What happened to (so-and-so's) real parents?" "Why were they taken away from their real parents?" "When are they going back to their real parents?" I know what they mean, but I also know that getting up five times a night with a kid having nightmares is real. Changing ten poopy diapers a day is real. Rocking a baby for ten hours a day while he goes through withdrawals is real. Shuttling an 8-year-old to counseling appointments and speech therapy three times a week is real. And that's what foster parents do.

Sometimes when someone finds out I'm a foster parent, they glance over my brood (counting silently in their heads), and say, "How many of these are your real kids?"

Ugh.

It's tempting to respond with sarcasm and say, "Well, none of them are fake." Har har. But I understand what they're asking. There was a time in my life when I might've phrased it the same way, before I learned the appropriate terminology. So I don't get upset with them for using the term "real." But I do want to know this: Why does it matter?

What difference does it make which of these children came from my body and which came from another woman's body? It doesn't change the way I care for them. Or love them. Doesn't affect their importance to me and shouldn't affect their value to you. They are a child in my home whom I am responsible for. They could be biological, adopted, foster, neighbor...they could be my second cousin's husband's from his first marriage. Doesn't matter. If they're in my home and I'm caring for them, they are real to me and I am real to them.

In The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, the Skin Horse explains to the Rabbit how a toy becomes Real by being loved for a long time. And the Rabbit asks, "Does it hurt?" The Skin Horse responds by saying, "Sometimes. But when you are Real, you don't mind being hurt."

And that's what it's like to be a foster parent. It hurts sometimes, but you don't mind because you are Real - just when a child needed a real parent the most.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The $35,000 question: Part 2

This will be short and sweet today.

In my last post, I addressed the question: Could I put a price on helping just "one" child? And the answer was NO. (click here to read that post.) I said adopting one child would not only change that one child's life, but would create an immeasurable and priceless ripple of change that would affect many lives. And I could never put a price on that.

But, as I mentioned, there was another question. At that point in our adoption process, we had settled the question in our minds about whether we could "justify" the cost, and that no longer kept me up at night. But something else did.

How would we know if adoption was for us? If we were cut out for it? How does anyone know whether or not they should adopt?

Before we started the process, I would've said, "Everyone who wants to adopt, should adopt." I thought that was true. But as we learned more and got deeper into it, I began to see the other side of the coin. Where I had seen a black-and-white issue, I now saw a vague grayness.

I read somewhere that about 75% of Americans think about adopting, but less than 2% follow through. I think the number who follow through should be higher - much higher - but I don't think adoption is for everyone. Not anymore.

But is it for you?

Adoption is for you if you are willing to spend thousands of dollars of your own money with no guarantee you will ever add another child to your family. Adoption is for you if you can accept the high likelihood that your adopted child will have mental, psychological, or physical challenges (or all three) that you were never told about. Adoption is for you if you can handle people asking intrusive and inappropriate questions, and people staring and pointing at your family (particularly with transracial adoption). Adoption is for you if you can wake up in the morning and go on with life even if your heart feels like it's been pushed through a meat-grinder, fried on a skillet, and devoured by a broken, callous world.

And adoption is for you if - no matter how hard you try - you just can't talk yourself out of it.

If that's you, please get in touch with me and let's talk. There's a child out there waiting for you.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..."  --James 1:27

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The $35,000 question: Part 1

Do you usually bring up the issue of money in polite conversation? Like your income, or your spouse's income, or how much your car payments are? I don't. With close friends I might mention how the shoes I'm wearing only cost me a quarter at the Thrift Store, but other than that, it just doesn't come up.

At least, it never did until we adopted.

We began our adoption journey in February of 2011 - a lifetime ago. Our first tenuous steps involved research. How do you adopt? What agencies are the best? What age of child might fit best in our family?

And, of course, how much will it cost?

We did our due diligence. Researched online, interviewed adoptive families, scheduled meetings with adoption workers, read books. We prayed about it, discussed the implications with our bio kids, and started setting money aside. Then...we started talking about it publicly.

To our surprise, 9 out of 10 times the first question or comment someone would make when we brought up adoption had to do with money. Isn't it really expensive? We could never afford to adopt. We would adopt too, if it wasn't for the cost. How are you going to pay for that?

Some people asked if we were going to get a loan or just go into debt. Some compared the cost to the cost of a new boat or RV and said it'd be easier to just get an RV. Some said that unless we had the cash on hand, we were being financially irresponsible to consider adoption. And some said, "For one child? With $35,000, you could build a school or dig a well in a third-world country and help many more than just one child."

That question really messed me up. It poked at my insides with its bony fingers and scraped against my brain at night when I tried to sleep. Was it true that I could help more, do a greater good, by using all that money for something else? Was it really possible to put a price on helping one child?

The question haunted me. Then, my son approached me one day with his piggy bank in hand.

"You can use my money for the adoption if you need it," he said.

I swallowed hard. "That's very kind of you, buddy, but that's your special stash. I could never take that from you."

"It's okay." He shrugged. "It's for my sister."

And that's when I realized the truth. The answer to the question. Adopting one child was not only going to change one life. Adopting was going to affect my whole family, my friends, my community. It was going to impact my heart, my kids' hearts, our future. The ripples moving outward from the point of adoption would be countless. Immeasurable.

Priceless.

So could I put a price on helping just "one" child?

The answer to the $35,000 question was a resounding NO. No, no, no.

But there was another question...