Adoptive and Foster Parents Struggle and Then Find Hope to Offer to Other Parents and Vulnerable Children

How Being A Foster and Adoptive Parent Changed My Life, by Mike Berry

 

Yay! We are honored to be first stop on the new book tour of author and good friend, Mike Berry! In his spare time (ha), Mike is a professional blogger, speaker, adoptive father of eight, and former foster parent of 20. Along with beloved wife, Kristin, he created the award-winning blog: Confessions of An Adoptive Parent (www.confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com), which reaches a global audience of 100,000+ every month. His soon-to-be-released book—CONFESSIONS OF AN ADOPTIVE PARENT-is available! I’ve read it and highly recommend it to every adoptive and foster parent…and grandparent.

If you could go back in time and have a conversation with 11-year old me, at some point in the conversation baseball would have come up. Eleven-year-old me dreamed of being a major league baseball star. It wasn’t just a pipe dream like all kids had when they were that age. It was bigger.

I would have told you my full-fledged plan to work my way into the starting line-up of my high school team. I would explain how I was going to try out for the walk-on draft for the Cincinnati Reds the summer after my senior year. And then (hopefully) land a spot in the lower Single A or AA farm system. If that didn’t work, I’d surely have a scholarship to a top-notch division I school of my choice.

Not only could I articulate this at 11 years old…I had it written down. Sketched out in a notebook I kept, complete with stadium diagrams, imaginary starting line-ups, and statistics. Yep…big dream! What 11-year-old kid goes to these lengths?

I wanted to be a legend on the diamond. I studied my hometown hero, Barry Larkin, and dreamed of one day starting for the Cincinnati Reds. I emulated Chris Sabo snagging sharp grounders down the third base line. I matched every move Eric Davis made as he stepped to the plate.

Ask me then and I would have told you….I want to be a star….I want to be rich….I want to be famous.

A Different Path.

That’s not the story my life would go on to tell. I ended up opting out of baseball by my senior year of high school. After 3 years of riding the bench, I looked to other things. After high school I went to a small Christian college on the westside of Cincinnati with barely a sports program. One year they decided to start up their baseball program and I tried out. But the flame had gone out. After a few practices, I hung up my glove and cleats for good.

Many would look at that and see the disappointment of dreams not coming true. After all, I had worked all those years to become the legend I had dreamed of becoming. But for what? On the outside it looked like nothing. But what I didn’t realize until years later was how perfect the story that was being told through my life really was.

And it had nothing to do with fortune, fame, or accolades.

In the spring of 2004, just 5 years after Kristin and I got married, she told me of a women who was about to lose her two children to the foster care system. She suggested we get our license in order to care for them. I hesitated. At that point, we were the parents to 1 perfect baby through adoption, and all seemed fair in love and war. Plus, I had always heard horror stories about foster parenting. What I didn’t realize was this woman had actually personally asked Kristin to care for her children. So, in-spite of my hesitation I agreed and we fast-tracked through the licensing procedures. Sometimes you just have to step off the edge and ask questions later. We jumped.

Legends and Legacies.

Twelve years later….we’ve never looked back. As we stand on the other side of this massive season of our life, we both agree: we wouldn’t change a thing. We ended up fostering over 20 children, and 6 of them stayed with us forever. Foster parenting is one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. It’s nearly taken the life out of us. We’ve been to the darkest places of parenting, the darkest places of human thinking, and we have the scars on our hearts (and our arms) to prove it. We’ve lived through CPS investigations, defeating IEP meetings at our kid’s schools, and the overreaction of a case manager who was trying to make an example out of us.

We’ve taken our son, who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and acts out violently, to residential treatment, and grieved the legal trouble of another child. We became grandparents earlier than we expected to and are roughly 14 years behind on sleep. We’ve had our hearts ripped out, our pockets emptied, and our souls drained of energy.

We’ve lived to tell about it all and, from our vantage point, we wouldn’t change a thing. Nor do we believe that we could have scripted a story any more beautiful or perfect. Call it a perfectly imperfect story. I love these precious children I’ve been blessed with more than life itself. I would bleed myself dry for any of them. Even though I didn’t biologically create them, they own the largest real estate in my heart.

No, I didn’t become a major league baseball star. I never heard the crowd roar as my name was said over the PA. And I’m pretty much a million dollars shy of being a millionaire. But my life is filled with more purpose than I could imagine. I have foster care to thank for that.

I once heard a public speaker say this: “Legends have followings. They have big statistics, and their faces are splashed on every magazine and billboard from here to kingdom come. Legacies, on the other hand, are unknown human beings who quietly change the world.”

Foster and adoptive parents are legacies. Loving children unconditionally, children from vulnerable places, children who are in deep need of permanency in-spite of past trauma, changes the world and the future.

I want to be a legacy.

Mike’s new book, Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent is now available for pre-order. Visit www.confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com/book to pick up your copy and learn about the more than $400 in FREE bonus content you receive when you pre-order before February 6th.


Adoptive mom tries new method to help toddler get over temper tantrum

Taming Tantrums in Adopted and Foster Toddlers

Some days you feel like you can’t take it, right? Especially when your child throws tantrum after tantrum. You’ve read every book, talked to counselors, fellow parents, and gone to support groups, but nothing seems to work. You might feel guilty for your stressed responses to the tantrums.

My heart goes out to you. I know that back in the day, my mom felt the same as you. I had a horrific temper! I thrashed around on the living room floor and then was made to sit alone in the back porch on a chair. I wouldn’t recommend that approach!

Perhaps this article will encourage you. I hope so.

A desperate mom of a 21-month-old son wondered if her son had “infant rage.” He had been relinquished by the birth mother at three days of age, spent 15 months in a foster home, and then was adopted by them.

His high-pitched shout driving her crazy. Anything could trigger his tantrums. Simply putting him down so she could take off her coat, or saying no to him for any reason, could send him into a tailspin.  If he stumbled, but didn’t fall, he’d go into a tantrum.  If someone picked him up after a stumble or fall, he’ll settle and cuddle.  If her husband or she picked him up after he stumbled or fell, he would freak out even more and lash out to hit.

This mother tried various ways of handling the tantrums–putting him in his playpen, ignoring him, trying to reason with him. Nothing worked. Can you relate, moms?

Two Principles for Tantrums

Two basic principles helped this mom. I learned them from Domenica Labasi, a very talented therapist from Quebec. First, you must contain him so that he can learn to contain himself. Second, always combine discipline with attachment. So, when he throws a tantrum, sit down behind him, grab both hands in yours so that they cross over his chest, tell him that this is not acceptable behavior but that you will sit with him until he quiets down.  Hold him until that happens.

The end of the story is that she incorporated these principles for three weeks and said, “My son has not been in the playpen since.  I have been holding him during his numerous tantrums throughout the day and it has been very successful.  I hold him close, facing me, cupping his face in my hands to gain eye contact and I talk to him about the situation surrounding the tantrum.  I let him know I am holding him until he settles and until I feel calmer, too.  Usually he gets rather angry and attempts to bite, kick and hit, but I continue to hug him close, restraining his hands and legs and gently talk into his ear asking him to relax, reassuring him that he is okay. Slowly, he begins to settle.

Now he handles himself much better and the tantrums are less severe and less frequent.  Previously, he would throw a tantrum if he stumbled or dropped a toy. Now he will stop, call me, or look toward me. I let him know he is a good boy and everything is okay. Then I give him a quick hug or kiss whatever he bumped and encourage him.  He is much happier and I can see that he is more secure. Thank you for responding to my distress and for the valuable advice.”

Where to Find Help

Children with attachment problems, like David, are afraid of touch. You can teach them that touch is good by implementing certain play techniques.

There is a wonderful organization called The Theraplay Institute of Chicago, which offers training sessions for parents and therapists www.theraplay.org. Their book is called Theraplay: Helping Parents and Children Build  Better Relationships Through Attachment-Based Play, by Ann M. Jernberg and Phyllis B. Booth (Jossey-Bass Publishing), and can be a great help for you.

I hope you know you’re not alone, parents. This too, shall pass.


I Wish My Adoptive Mom Wouldn't Blab About My Adoption Without Asking Me

What Adoptive and Foster Parents Can Do When Words Fail

Words often fail…and your child’s ability to receive may bottom out.

What can a parent do?

A spiritual answer is needful, but if your child or teen is in total chaos, of course they won’t receive a spiritual answer. They won’t receive any answer, right?

However, if you know the powerful spiritual  truth that needs to prevail for your child, you can storm the gates of heaven on his/her behalf.

What I am sharing is what God has given me over the years…Feel free to use as is needed.
1.God’s heart was the place of our conceptions. Our lives began, not at conception, not
at birth, not on adoption day, but in eternity past-in the very heart of God Himself. He is our Creator!
Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”

Ephesians 1:4-6: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to His pleasure and will-to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”
2. Birth mothers don’t give the gift of life–they carry it. God is the author of all life. He is Life!
John 1:3-4: “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
Psalm 139:13: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Esther 9:6b: “You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You.”
3. God originated adoption, but human adoption and spiritual adoption are not the same.
He wants to adopt us spiritually.
Ephesians 1: 4-5: “In love He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ.”

4. God says we are all orphans because of our sin (not loving God with our whole heart and soul, every minute of every day). We will be orphans for eternity without Him!
Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” I John 1:10: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
5. God provided a Way when there was no way for us to enter His family. He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin by His death!
John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
6. God requires personal trust in Christ’s finished work on the Cross to enter His family.
He invites us!
Romans 10: 9-11: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God
raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”
7. God knocks on human hearts.
Revelation 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
If God is knocking on your heart’s door, you can pray this simple prayer: “Jesus, I realize
that my sin has separated me from You and that I will be an orphan for eternity without You. Thank You that for paying the price for my sin when You shed your blood and died on the cross for me. It’s hard to believe that if I were the only person in the world, You would have come for me, but I take Your great love by faith. Please cleanse me from sin and fill me with your Holy Spirit. I take Your gift of my adoption into your forever family
by faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!”
8. God validates the emotional realities of abandonment. He doesn’t tell us to bite the
bullet and go on as if nothing happened. He is compassionate!
Ezekiel 16: 4-7: “On the day you were born, you were dumped out into a field and left to die, unwanted.”
9. God comes to us in our abandonment. He is our Helper!
Ezekiel 16: 4-7: “But I came by and saw you lying there, covered with your own blood.”
10. God calls us to Life and declares His opinion of us. He values us!
Ezekiel 16: 7 “…and I said, ‘Live! Thrive, like a plant in the field!’ And you did! You grew up and became…a jewel among jewels.”
11. God planned who our biological and adoptive parents would be. He is Lord!
Psalm 139:16: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
12. God’s love is deeper than any rejection life can throw at you! He engraved our names on His hands!
Isaiah 49: 15-16: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
13. God experienced rejection big time. He will walk with us when we are rejected!
John 1:11: “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” Rejection by all of us at the Cross—we pounded the nails in his palms.
14. God holds unanswered adoption questions in His loving hands. He is trust worthy!
Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
15. God offers adoptees an awesome legacy. He wants to be our Father!
Psalm 68:5: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.”

(Note: I know many today struggle with the word “orphan.” Technically, it means a child without parents. There are many physical orphans in our world, but spiritually, we are all orphans…without a family….until we are born again into God’s family.)
16. God promises to hear even the faintest cry of the orphan. He is sensitive!Exodus 22:22-24: “Do not take advantage of a widow or orphan. If you do, and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”

17. God preserves the orphan’s life. He is our Protector!

Jeremiah 49:11: “Leave your orphans; I will protect their lives.”

Esther 2:15: “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

18. God has a unique plan for the orphan in human history. He is Sovereign! Think about Queen Esther.
19. God thinks highly of those who help orphans. He considers it worship!
James 1:27: “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.” (Notice the verse doesn’t say “adopt every orphan.” It says, “to look after.”
20. God gladdens the orphan’s heart with the bounty of Providence. He is our Provider!
Deuteronomy 24: 17a, 19: “Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice…” When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
21. God opposes unjust laws concerning the fatherless. He is our Advocate!
Isaiah 10:1-2: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and rob my oppressed people of justice, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”
22. God cares tenderly for birth mothers. He is close to the brokenhearted!
Genesis 21: 16b-19: “And as she (Hagar) sat there nearby, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.”
23. God wants us to offer our broken lives to Him. He sings over us when we do!
II Chronicles 29:29: “And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also, with trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by King David of Israel.”
24. God told Abraham to let go of contentious birth relatives. He wants us to press on!
Genesis 21:11: “The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maid servant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

 


This post tells about the confusion between adoption and relinquishment and the benefits of knowing the differences.

Relinquishment and Adoption Are Different, by Ron Nydam, Ph.D.

This is a guest post by friend and colleague, Ron Nydam. Here is a brief bio:

I stumbled onto the dynamics around relinquishment and adoption by failing to be helpful in two marital cases where one of the partners was an adoptee. I discovered grief unknown. That turned into a PhD dissertation on birthparents fantasies at the Iliff School of Theology and the University of Denver. That turned into a video production with Bethany Christian Services, entitled More Than Love. And that turned into a book entitled Adoptees Come of Age: living within two families.  Along with the book, I have written a variety of book chapters and published articles on the dynamics of relinquishment and adoption.

Language itself is often a problem in the field of adoption. Seldom is it simply a matter of semantics. For all too long the literature has failed to carefully distinguish between relinquishment and adoption as two separate, parallel processes which interface with each other in adoptive development. And the consequences of this unfortunate muddling of thinking is that relinquishment, with all its negative power, is quietly unnoticed and adoption, as a process of attachment to another family, is unfairly loaded with societal stigma. Let me explain.

One thoughtful and articulate adopted woman told it to me this way: “I hate my relinquishment; I love my adoption! ” She, unlike other adopted people, was able to see the important difference between the two events/processes in her life story. Relinquishment is both an historical event and a lifelong process in adoptive experience. The event is the once for all birthparent decision to let go of a baby/child and possibly, make a plan for adoption. That moment in a relinquished person’s history is powerful and painful and may mark a real injury. In terms of the early development of the self of a person. But relinquishment is also a process in several ways. As the days and years o by the relinquished child is called upon / reminded to grieve the loss of real but ghost birthparents, people who exist in both reality and fantasy for adopted children. Letting go hurts. Most often it takes many years of openness and mourning to truly come to terms with the pain of rejection that the thought of relinquishment triggers. In adolescence the process of relinquishment continues as a person struggles with carving an identity out of the kaleidoscope of personal parts that having four parents entails for adopted people. So, relinquishment as a separate developmental process continues on in adolescence.

But there’s more. It goes on further. Young adults and older adults who were relinquished as infants or children often enter intimate relationships with great ambivalence. In what may be compromised forms of relationship they create connections that may guarantee security bulletproof dependency on either side, which of course, insures connection. Or else, they may form relationships in such a way that they recreate a very primal rejection in the drama of divorce. In either instance it is the ongoing process of relinquishment which serves as a guiding force in terms of the way that they form relationships. So relinquishment, with its own painful power, goes on and on into adult life.

Betty Jean Lifton has been a refreshing insightful voice in the field of adoption. Her recent contribution to the literature, The Journey of the Adopted Self, is a comprehensive and significant gift to all of us in the struggle. But, she too makes the mistake of language. In her book she describes accumulative adoptive trauma as:

It begins when the (adoptees) are separated from the mother at birth;

builds when they, learn that they were not born to the people they call

mother and father; and is further compounded when they are denied

knowledge of the mother and father to whom they were born. Lifton, 7.

There is a useful portrayal of difficulties in adoptive development. However, I believe that she means “cumulative relinquishment trauma.” The term adoption does not deserve to be loaded with the painful dimensions of relinquishment. All of us need to think about relinquishment more carefully … more separately.

Adoption, on the other hand, is a term that needs to be employed more narrowly to refer to the event of initial bonding and the process of ongoing attachment and detachment with adoptive parents in the formation and life of the adoptive family. This, of course, is a critically important part of successful adoptive development as it serves as the basic source of nurture and support for adopted children. All along the way as these connections ebb and flow in adoptive family life they keep adopted children emotionally and spiritually alive on their way to their own adulthood. Adoption as a term should be used to make reference to the blessings and the problems that are part of these relationships. Again, adoption is a separate process of connection and disconnection to a person’s adoptive family.

Once this distinction is clear, the interface between relinquishment and adoption comes to the light of day in a useful, liberating way. They affect each other in both positive and negative ways. For example, relinquishment protested and unresolved may stop the initial bonding and attachment of adoption in the first place. An adoptive mother who struggled for years with connection to her daughter painfully recalls the protest of four hours of screaming upon arrival in her new home in no way the adoptive mother’s fault. On the other hand, the power of initial bonding and attachment to adoptive parents serves as the fuel needed to do the grieving that healthy relinquished children must do. Insufficient attachment may mean that an adopted child shuts down inside and defensively avoids getting the job of mourning done because, without sufficient connection, it hurts too much to (consciously) know the injury of rejection. Adoption as this separate process is the psychic salvation of the relinquished child just as parental care is the critical foundation for mental and spiritual health for the rest of all of us. In this sense, adoption is a critically important, wonderful thing for relinquished children.

Sorting out the important distinctions between relinquishment and adoption allows for the light of new awareness and greater self-understanding for adopted people. It helps them separate the many and confusing emotional responses that they have to what’s going on inside and outside. Understanding how these separate, parallel processes interface with each other brings clarity to the psychic task of both grieving and attachment. So, keeping this distinction may mean the development of healthier adopted adults and a more empathic appreciation for the dilemma from our larger community.


This post handles the problem of adoption grief and proposes the added dimension of worship for healing.

An Unexpected Prescription for Grieving Adoption Loss

It is extremely difficult for those touched by adoption–whether adoptee, birth parent, or adoptive parent, to keep their balance in the midst of deep grieving and loss. I was surprised to find how Job (of the Bible) handled it. And, he ended up in the latter part of his life being better off than before loss–he was given double blessing.

If you could talk to someone who could tell you how to keep your balance in the midst of grieving adoption loss, would you listen?

Are you desperate enough to listen?

Desperate to listen to God?

If so, what do you think he would prescribe for painful adoption loss?

  • Stiff upper lip?
  • Game of pretend?
  • Happy face?
  • Bite the bullet theology?
  • Attend every adoption convention in the world?

I was relieved to discover that Scripture indicates the opposite.

Instead of the above, God prescribes worship.

I can hear my fellow adoptee friends saying, “You must be kidding, Sherrie. Why would God prescribe worship for painful adoption loss? And, besides, what is worship, anyway?”

Let’s take a closer look at Job and at the same time, see if we can identify with his suffering.

  • Job’s servants were knifed to death
  • Sheep were killed by lightening
  • Camels were stolen
  • All of his children died in a monstrous tornado (he lost his family….sound familiar?)

Job’s pain was unimaginable, just like many of you.

“Yet in the midst of the pain, Joe responded with worship.

Yes…worship….go figure!

How did he worship?

Did he belt out all of four stances of the Great Is Thy Faithfulness hymn ? Did he sing a religious song on his knees? Did he quote Romans 8:28 repetitively?

No…Job did three simple things:

  1. He verbalized his primal pain. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.”
  2. He acknowledged blessings as well as the losses.”The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
  3. He offered a sacrifice of praise: “May the name of the Lord be praised.”

This is how God defines worship.

Surprising, isn’t it?

How about us?

Are we willing to enter into transparent, Job-like worship by verbalizing our primal pain to God? Are we willing to acknowledge the painful losses of adoption along with the blessing? Are we willing to offer a sacrifice of praise and thank a good God that our lives have been sovereignly touched by adoption?

If Job, a blameless and upright man worshipped God in the midst of suffering like this, dare we you any less?

Selah (Think about it).