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When Adoptees & Foster Kids Get Shamed for Depression

One Christian"s View of Depression Is Faulty

I wanted to wring her neck!

In the midst of a book study group for Christian women, the leader informed us why one lady wasn’t there. “So and so is depressed again…just like other times of the year… it just comes on her with no warning.”

I nodded affirmatively, for I have been there and done that…twice.

Then, another member butted in. “It’s a spirit of infirmity that must be dealt with through prayer.”

My blood was boiling.

Why do many Christians think they have to spiritualize depression? They only add insult to injury.

When I was depressed, I lost contact with reality.

When in the Stress Center, physicians wanted to put me on anti-psychotic drugs to bring me back. My counselor said, “Only temporarily.”

It was then that I was told by a friend about two seminary students that had lost touch with reality. One took anti-psychotic meds, recovered, and was able to have a fruitful ministry. The other, well, he refused to take meds because it wasn’t “spiritual” and he never returned to reality. He was permanently hospitalized.

Needless to say, we followed the physicians orders.

I studied quite a bit about depression when I was going through it.

There are different causes for depression. One reason is physical. You have no control over it. That is what happened to me. Someone may be genetically pre-disposed to it also, and with the right level of stressors, depression may kick in.

Another reason is psychological. You can get really depressed after you lose a loved one. Adoptees and foster kids can get really depressed because of the trauma that they’ve been through and the losses that they’ve suffered. Depression may be like a super-highway through our brains.

There is such a thing as spiritual depression and I understand that that means when you are out of fellowship with God….when you have fallen deeply into a hole. We all make crummy choices at some point in our lives, right?

Does God Shame Depression?

But, bottom line….what does God say? Does He condemn?

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Or, where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there thy hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even there the darkness is not dark to Thee, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to thee.” (Psalm 139: 7-12)

So, what can we do to help those who are depressed, especially adoptees and foster kids?

How to Help Depressed Adoptees and Foster Kids

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t quote Scripture
  • Go for a walk together
  • Don’t get on a high horse and judge
  • Ask if you can pray a simple prayer for comfort
  • Remember, for we adoptees and foster kids, when we’re in the dark, our fear of abandonment is shouting at us. Maybe even God has abandoned us? Assure that God will never leave.
  • Remind that it won’t always hurt this bad
  • Encourage to follow physician’s orders
  • Take into physician if there is a loss of reality (hallucinations)
  • Hold tenderly, after asking permission
  • Don’t share how you’ve been depressed…this is not helpful
  • Don’t blame on negative birth history

Well, that’s it, friends.

I made the right choice at the study group last week….I didn’t wring her neck with words or nasty looks, even though every cell in my body wanted to.

I probably won’t continue in this group, though.





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I Wish I Could Be Somebody Else

If you’re an adoptee or foster kid, chances are that identity is a huge issue for you.
After all, how can you figure out who you are when you’ve got two sets of parents–biological and adoptive?
Are you supposed to be like one pair or the other? Or, should you just rebel and act out? Many of us have tried that to no avail.
Personally, I believe identity is a travel companion of self-esteem, and many times, self-esteem may be non-existent. The lack of it is incredibly painful and so social skills and relationships are avoided.
Many adoptees and foster kids believe:
  • If I could only find and meet my birth mother, I won’t feel adopted anymore, or like a foster kid anymore.
  • The painful trauma I endured in losing my first family (or multiple placements) will totally heal when I have forever parents.
  • The trauma of wondering if my life is a mistake will dissipate when I am adopted.
  • My birth mother may be a princess. If she is, I will feel good about myself.

The Value of Psychology

There is a place for psychology in an adoptee’s search for identity. I love the book called BEING ADOPTED: THE LIFELONG SEARCH FOR SELF.  Through psychological research we learn from Drs. Brodzinsky and Schechter that adoption loss for the adoptee is deeper than death or divorce.

That helps! At least, we know we’re not crazy.

We could name hundreds of wonderful books with great research and it is all part and parcel of our healing and finding our identity. We can know tons of psychological research, but the emptiness and hole in our hearts is still there, beckoning to be filled.

The Need to Look Up

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God sets eternity in the hearts of man.  That’s you and me and eternity describes the hole in our hearts. It is God-shaped and can’t be filled by anyone or anything but God Himself.

God will show any adoptee or foster kid his worth if there is an open, seeking heart. And, it is usually in the midst of pain that we can hear what He thinks about us.  For me, it was after my birth mother rejected me after reunion. He showed me in an unmistakable way that I am his “jewel Among jewels.”

Hearing what He thinks about me was life-defining. I rarely, if ever, struggle with self-esteem since that revelation of who I am.

I love this poem from a book called PRINCE OF EGYPT:

A single thread in a tapestry

Though its color brightly shine

Can never see its purpose

In the pattern of the grand design

And the stone that sits on the very top of the mountain’s mighty face

Does it think it’s more important

Than the stones that form the base?

So how can you see what your life is worth

Or where your value lies?

You can never see through the eyes of man

You must look at your life

Look at your life through heaven’s eyes.

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Emotionally Absent….An Open Letter to Adoptive and Foster Dads

Dear Dads,

You have a role in your daughter’s life that no one else can fill.

As an adopted person, I believe our sense of self worth is foundational to our relationship with you.

You set the pattern for male relationships for life.

If you are emotionally absent, we will believe that is normal and seek out those that act like this…in dating and marriage. For sure, your daughter doesn’t need such a dad, who looks at his daughter like a deer in headlights…like he’s “home, but the lights aren’t on.”  That daughter will try hard to connect with you and the pressure will grow with every failed attempt. She will end up taking care of you in your old age.

If you see your daughter as a reminder that you weren’t able to have biological children, she will sense that you are disappointed in her, even though you would never say it openly.

If you see her as an extension of yourself, she will feel violated in the most subtle way. She will never learn the joy of authenticity and using her own precious voice.

Because your daughter likely came from abuse or abandonment, it is almost certain that the first father figure in her life gave her a warped idea of fatherhood. So, your daughter comes to you with a gaping wound in her heart that makes her not want to trust any father figures.

However, if you see and her as the Heavenly Father sees her, she will gradually learn that she is a princess. Recently, I read how Mike Berry, author and speaker, called out “here come the princess” to his daughter at Disney. There’s a photo of his daughter grabbing his face and slapping a huge kiss on his lips. Priceless!

In reality, your role is so important, vitally important, because our perception of God the Father comes from our perception of you.

I hope you will get right with the Father and continue in constant communion with Him so that you can be all your daughter needs you to be.

Personally, I didn’t have the kind of dad that was able to treat me like a princess. I don’t hold it against him. The hole in my heart was filled when the Father told me I am his jewel among jewels.



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What Adoptees Need To Get Unstuck

I Wonder If God Expects Me to Be Perfect

This is another favorite article from the Jewels News Archives by Connie Dawson, Ph.D., L.P.C.

“So, deal with it!”

This is the frequent admonishment of my older son. I’ve not always liked hearing it, especially when I was deep in the heart of my helplessness and whining.

Now, I pose this issue to those of us most affected by adoption.

When are we going to get our hats on straight?

How are we going to deal with it?

Adoption will always be a fact of life. Some parents should never have children because they don’t know how to live humanely and decently themselves, much less have those skills to rear children. Some parents got pregnant and thought it was better for them to have someone else do the rearing… and some had little choice.

Some couples should get pregnant and can’t.

It’s anything but a perfect world.

The important lessons seem often to be the ones that cause the most pain.The things that happen we should pay really good attention to are the ones that offer us an opportunity to learn the truth of unconditional love and about the illusions we hold about control. I think the stronger the lessons, the more power there is in the learning.

I’ve often said that all parties to adoption experience a break of an implied contract with God, a break in the natural order of things. Bodies were made to make babies. A baby was meant to be cared for by the woman and man who gave it life. Women who give birth are meant to keep the child close by.

During a conversation with the well-known adoptee and birthmother a few years ago, I was relieved to hear the words her mentor had given her. “You have suffered an irreparable wound.”

A burden lifted from my shoulders and in all my therapy no one had told me that I couldn’t wrap this one up meet and tidy… couldn’t fix it.

Oh, yes, I could lay gangplanks over the deepest part so I wouldn’t be swallowed up by its resources. I could cauterize the edges to heal the rawness. But I couldn’t fix it if f ixing means I take care of it and it goes away.

It doesn’t go away, Neither does it have to be the ball and chain around my ankle. It doesn’t have to make me feel I should apologize for being who and what I am. It doesn’t mean my life purpose is to protect others from their lessons. It only means I’ll take care of my own. And I will accept that this wound will continue to instruct me for the rest of my life.

A case in point: A birth mother was quoted in a newspaper article in a distant town. She was responding to a question about how she felt about finding the son she relinquished, only to have him say she didn’t want he didn’t when contact. If a reunited adoptee is expected to fix his mother’s pain, the future of their relationship is not right. She has to do that for herself.

I am willing to arbitrarily say that un-grieved infertility and denying that creating a family by means of adoption is different from creating a family by birth will keep adoptive parents from developing a deeper level of trust and closeness with our children. Trust will be highly correlated with their own healing.

Adoptees who blame everyone for the pain they feel, give away their power. They are held captive by the very ones they resent, as though they can’t change unless someone else makes the first move, take responsibility. As adults, we are free to do that whenever we are ready to feel more powerful.

When we don’t deal with and accept responsibility for our own pain, it is bound to be visited upon others. Unfinished business creeps up in the most unexpected places and in opportune times.

The prognosis for all of us looks clearer and brighter as we learn to attend our own fields.

We reap what we sow.

Adoption just IS.

What separates us from one another is how we handle it.


Sherrie’s and Lauren’s Help for Adopted and Foster Teens

So, I know parents are asking how they can help their kids through this challenge. One way is to use my Twelve Steps for Adopted Teens Workbook. This was created years ago with a teen who had just come out of residential care.

12 Steps for Adopted Teens

  1. I admit that I am overwhelmed by the feeling that something inside doesn’t feel right.
  2. I realize that only Someone stronger than me can help the mixed-up feelings go away.
  3. I ask God to take care of me and help me learn how to trust him.
  4. I look deep in my heart and discover how I have hurt God, others, and myself.
  5. I tell God and the person that I trust exactly how I have hurt others.
  6. I ask God to take away how bad I feel about hurting him and others.
  7. I asked God how I can become his child.
  8. I make a list of everyone I have hurt and need to apologize to.
  9. I go to the people I have heard and say I am sorry, unless it would hurt them or someone else.
  10. I keep track of every day of how I hurt others and ask themRight a way to forgive me.
  11. I try everyday get to know God by reading the Bible, praying, ending with other Christians.
  12. I reach out to those that are still hurting and live daily is Jesus

Twelve Promises for Teens

  1. Adoption is filled with pain as well as pleasure and a part of my life I cannot change.
  2. Feeling sad about losing my birth family is normal.
  3. Taking care of myself when I feel sad or like something inside isn’t right means that I am growing in self-esteem.
  4. Taking responsibility for strong emotions means I am learning to be accountable to God and others.
  5. Choosing to admit that I want to hurt myself is not a sign of weakness, but strength.
  6. God will never abandon me even when my emotions tell me something else.
  7. God loves every part of me–even the parts I cannot see.
  8. Honesty frees me up to be all God created me to be.
  9. Only God can create a life. My life is no mistake. I am his creation.
  10. God has a special plan for my life in human history that no one else can fill.
  11. Evidence that I am doing what God wants is that I am filled with joy.
  12. Reaching out to others who are hurting blesses me as well as them.

Two Prayers that Connect Teens with God

Dear God,
Please help me accept the things I can’t change, courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen!

Creative Project for Teens

Create 3 collages showing:

  1. Your painful past
  2. Your growth
  3. Your promising future













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Why Adopted and Fostered Kids May Cry Old Man Tears

Deep Grief for Adopted and Foster Children


It’s hard to believe I’ve carried an old newspaper clipping for more than 40 years…from Michigan to San Fran to LA to Canada and back to MI and finally to Indiana.

You’d think it was special. Maybe a clipping from high school or my friends that moved away, never to be heard from again? Or, my parents…perhaps when Dad retired from the Clinton County Bank?

But no.

Nothing significant.

It’s just an old man bawling his eyes out.

Why would I save that?

And, why was he so sad?  What was he thinking?

The caption clarifies.  All his family was lost in the Holocaust.

How could he not be sad? That is major loss…in capital letters.

When I re-discovered the photograph a few days ago, it all made sense why I had seemingly treasured this insignificant thing.

You see, it was nearly 10 years ago that I found out that I am Jewish…at least on my mothers side, and it looks like there may be European Jewish on the bio father’s side. That information was buried deep within me. It was cellular. DNA.

Then, memories flashed of touring the Holocaust museum in Israel–the Museum of the Righteous.

That’s where I learned first-hand about relentless old man tears. When looking into huge photos of children who resembled me, I couldn’t stop sobbing.

In addition, the old man lost his entire family….so did I when whisked away from my mother at birth.

But, I was only a baby. I wouldn’t ever be able to recall that separation, would I? Not in pictures, but on a sensory, cellular level.

Adoptee loss is real and deep. Dr. David Brodzinsky Ph.D. and the late Marshall Schecther, M.D. say in their book, BEING ADOPTED: THE LIFELONG SEARCH FOR SELF that “adoption loss for the adoptee is deeper than death or divorce.” ( Order here:

And, so, adoptive and foster parents, who knows what lies dormant in your kiddo’s heart?

It may take years for it to surface or get triggered by something seemingly irrelevant…like a photo of an old man sobbing his heart out.

But when that time comes…you will know about old man tears and will hold those beloved kiddos until every tear is cried.

I love that about you.