Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Adoption Resource #1 - Helping Your Adopted Child

This is the first of several posts intended to highlight quality adoption resources. I will be recommending books that provide helpful and effective advice in matters of parenting adoptive children as an alternative to parenting books than have proven harmful to adopted children. Helping Your Adopted Child - Understanding Your Child's Unique Identity, by Paul David Tripp is the first of these recommendations.

Helping Your Adopted Child is a 22-page booklet that is provided by the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. While it is clearly Christian in nature, I would encourage non-Christians considering adoption to read it, as Tripp's practical strategies are applicable to parents of all religions.

Paul Tripp (not to be confused with Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child's Heart) has been counseling for over 25 years, but he is also an adoptive parent. That combination is extremely appealing to me, as he has both professional and personal experience with adoption. He starts out summarizing his experience with the adoption of his daughter, who is now well into adulthood. He then discusses God's view of adoption and progresses to struggles that an adopted child faces throughout life. His insight is frank and firm, yet he provides hope for parents in their efforts to help these unique children through their struggles. With this important foundation, Helping Your Adopted Child also provides practical strategies for helping adopted children through transition and struggles.

I appreciate the fact that Tripp points out that often times, parenting strategies for adoptive children sometimes require different techniques that parents would use with their biological children. He's clear that formulas do not work in the parenting realm and encourages parents to point their children to their identity as God sees them. The best part of this booklet is the fact that Tripp points parents to look to God, and not to quick-fix solutions.

I recommend this pamphlet to adoptive parents at the beginning of the process, to adoptive parents struggling with parenting their children, and to adoptive parents who don't like to read long books . So check it out. Buy one, a pack of five, or a case, and pass them out to anyone you know considering adoption.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Adoption Education for Life

To say that I'm sad about this story is an enormous understatement. The death of any child under any circumstance is horrific. The death of a child at the hands of adoptive parents somehow seems more than horrific. That it's happened twice in the past three years with the same book as the guiding parental advice light is abominable.

Here at Civil Thoughts we adore adoption. Someone's pain became our joy four times over. For us, adoption has been the greatest joy of our lives. For some parents, this joy is not felt. Adoption is complicated, at best, for everyone involved. Over the past 13 years, we've completed four adoptions and assisted with countless others. During these years, one of the constants I've experienced is the fact that, once the excitement subsides, the first days at home can be extremely challenging for the child and parents. This is especially true for children adopted older than the infant stage. The cry of the new parents during this time is always this: "Why didn't I know it was going to be this difficult?"

Most people would assume that adoption agencies help with post-adoption counseling. Typically, they do not. I vacillate on whether or not it is their responsibility to do so. The bottom line is that processing adoption paperwork is expensive, and adoptive families balk at adoption costs as it is. If agencies were to spend time providing post-adoption counseling, they couldn't cover the basic costs of running the agency. So, families who bring home children at older ages are usually left with little help as they navigate how to live life together.

While adoption of children at any age is challenging for the child, the most difficult adoption situation - by far - is when an older child is adopted from a foreign country. In most situations, these children have lived in orphanages for some time, and while logic would dictate that their new surroundings would evoke gratefulness from them, the surroundings seem strange and overwhelming to the child. These kids can't speak the language, they can't recognize the food they are eating, and they can't wrap their brains around why everyone looks so different. Many parents of these children muddle through these challenges, and some parents actually help the children settle into the their new life in a way that is effective. Some parents, however, become so overwhelmed that they hang on to every last ounce of control that they think they have and they use that control in an attempt to "fix" these children who are clamoring to survive in their new environments. By all accounts, this is what happened to poor little Hannah Williams. It's also what happened to Lydia Schatz.

Trying to fix adopted children to the point of death is simply not acceptable.

Someday, I'd love to start a non-profit organization solely dedicated to providing post-adoption counseling to families. Until then, I'm going to have to just try to continue to educate people about how to help these precious children settle in to their new lives.

Over the next few weeks, I'm hoping to highlight resources that will help adoptive families with transitioning their newly adopted children with love, grace, and patience. These resources that I will summarize are not a substitute for competent professional counseling, which is often times what these children and families need once they are home. I'm not a professional counselor, but I am experienced with adoption, and I feel as if I have to do something in light of this latest tragedy. The books and pamphlets that I'm going to discuss are a first step in the right direction for families thinking about adoption, for families in the midst of an adoption, and for families who are wringing their hands over how to survive a completed adoption. More often than not, I talk to parents who are embarking on the adoption journey and they have no education about how they are going to help their children once the adoption is complete. Starting an adoption without reading about the challenges is nothing short of foolish. Prospective adoptive parents must educate themselves. It can be a matter of life and death.

Please send the adoptive families here to read about books that can help. Encourage them to throw away books like To Train Up A Child and pick up books like the ones I'm going to discuss in the coming days. Together, we can take this little step to help end the senseless deaths of children who want and need loving families.