The Battle for Adoptive Families

As most of you know, my husband and I want to adopt. As we have waited for our opportunity, we have felt a strong clear calling is to support and encourage families who go before us in adoption and foster care. Our wait has made us “students” of adoption and prayer warriors for adoptive families. There is so much we did not know before we began this journey – and as our eyes have opened, our prayer life has increased.

One of our previous misconceptions was that the adoption struggle and the adoption story was the process to get a child home. We now know there are two main struggles of adoption, and the initial struggle to get a child home is only part of the story. The first struggle includes the sometimes nightmarish bureaucracy that has to be painstakingly navigated, the many thousands of dollars that must be raised, the process of educating and developing a support system to surround your family in the process, the uncertainty inherent to such an emotionally charged decision, the potential for great pain and even disruption of the adoption, and the logistics of travel or legal processes. This struggle can be simply annoying, or it can absolutely break the hearts of the adoptive family. We have seen families survive difficulties and hurts in this struggle that are the worst-case scenario. We’ve watched God redeem and restore even the most broken.

The second struggle is the process of healing and adapting to the new normal within the family once the children come home. This is not talked about very much outside of the adoption community, because frankly it doesn’t often feel “safe” for an adoptive family to share that there are challenges after the new children get home. The common misconception is that once the child gets home into a safe loving home, the work is done. But it is just beginning. These children from hard places are hurt, often deeply. Even if they are adopted at birth, they may have had prenatal exposure that will impact their ability to connect. Trust needs to be established, boundaries established and enforced in love without the child overreacting, and the people in the home need to connect as a family. None of this is simple. Just like we don’t /poof!/ become completely angelic creatures without sin at salvation, but instead we work out our salvation “in fear and trembling” as we gradually grow more like Christ, so a child doesn’t always trust completely and meld perfectly into the family God has chosen for him instantly at adoption. The work of connection after a child comes home is hard for many of our adoptive families. Occasionally it feels “impossible” – to quote a dear friend who has endured the worst. And they don’t feel free to share that struggle because when they do, they are often faced with people who say “I told you so” or who judge the way the family is handling the adjustment or who judge the child as “broken.” Very few people can be trusted to know the deep struggles that come along with adoption, and not judge or criticize. This creates a situation where the family can be isolated, and we all know that the enemy of our souls works in isolation. So this struggle is often longer and more painful than the first struggle, although there are few articles about it on the internet and few discussions about it over the dinner table. But this struggle remains, and this is a major prayer need of an adoptive family.

We have also seen God work huge miracles in this struggle. We have seen Him make all things new, although that journey can be tough. I recently heard someone say that when God calls families to “visit orphans in their distress” (James 1) it is more often us entering into their pain and distress with them and walking with them to healing, rather than plucking them up out of pain and bringing them into our world of wholeness. It is painful for us and them, but God is faithful.

During these years we have waited, we have intentionally reached out to adoptive families on Facebook and in person to get to know them, to let them know it is safe to be honest with us, and to come alongside them in prayer. It has stretched our faith to walk through the valleys of these two struggles with these families (as much as we are able). But as we have done so – there is a really interesting phenomenon we have noted.

In Ephesians 6, Paul talks about difficulty in our world. He says: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” During the two struggles of adoption, it can seem like you are fighting all kinds of things. It feels like you are fighting a bureaucracy that is fundamentally broken, it feels like you are fighting to advocate for a child that has often been forgotten, it feels like you are fighting against the misled and often false assumptions of others, it feels like you are fighting against societal norms, and it even can feel like, after the child is home, you are fighting the walls in your child as you try to get them to trust you. It can feel like you are fighting the world. But this verse makes clear who you are actually fighting. You are fighting the enemy of our souls, which is why the battle is so difficult.

The Bible says God “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68). The Bible says that adoption is a picture of our salvation (Romans 8, Galatians 4). The Bible says that God gives special care to the orphan  and watches over them as a Father (Exodus 22, Psalms 10, James 1, Psalms 68, Deuteronomy 24). The Bible says that all Christ-followers are called to serve the orphan (James 1, Isaiah 1, Proverbs 31, Matthew 18, Matthew 25). It is clear that the call to adopt, as difficult as it may be, is something we are called to do and God is faithful to provide for and equip the called, because it is important to Him. So of course, if adoption is so important to God, then thwarting it is important to the enemy of God.

One of the things I have noticed as we’ve watched and prayed, is that time and time again, my friends in the adoption world seem to have simultaneous victories and struggles. It is like this fabric across the world is attached to every adoption. And when God breaks through a struggle and works a miracle on someone’s behalf, there is a ripple that goes across the world, and there is a consequence of that breakthrough in many families. It happened again this week. A precious friend’s adoption of a little girl from Haiti finally passed through a certain government office where their adoption had been stalled for months. It was a great victory, and we rejoiced. But on that day, several completely disconnected adoptive families shared with me through different avenues that they had experienced a really difficult day with the healing of their newly adopted child. It was like the fabric was shaken, and it affected everyone. This concept sounds crazy, I know, until you look at the verse from Ephesians 6. If all of these adoptive struggles were separate and not related, then they should not impact each other. But if we are all fighting one enemy, set against adoption, against the lonely finding families, opposed to the healing and connection of a child, then it isn’t so crazy after all.

Not to overdo the imagery, but since I am visual I have also seen this like a dragon who experiences the swipe of a claw against his face. It hurts him, and He swings around in rage, lashing out with his tail at anything surrounding him. He was wounded, so he wounds. That is how I have seen the adoption community this week. It seems connected. God is moving (praise Him) but our enemy is reacting and his goal is to wound. We need to be praying. In a spiritual battle, against an enemy we cannot see but can feel his effects, prayer is our weapon. We know that the Lord has the victory, and we know that He is more powerful, but we also know that for a time, the enemy has some level of authority on the earth. Revelations 12:12 says “Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” I believe that the wrath and fury of the enemy is focused many places, but certainly adoptive families are included in that list. I don’t believe those families are without hope (thank you Jesus), but I also believe that we who are not in an adoption process have a responsibility to battle these forces of evil with adoptive families in prayer throughout both of the struggles of adoption, the initial struggle to bring a child home and the secondary struggle to get a child healed and connected. We who stand around these adoptive families must fight our human instinct to criticize and correct, and instead act on our spiritual responsibility to humbly enter into community, acting with compassion and grace, praying as we go.

I count myself humbled, and honored, to get to stand with you families fighting these battles. This week has felt heavy and my prayer has felt especially necessary this week, and my heart cries out on your behalf. I am grateful for each of you. My faith grows because of your sacrifice and your faithful obedience to the call of our Father.

Take heart friends. Just as this past week we celebrated Christ’s victory over death and sin, so this week we stand with you and proclaim Christ’s victory over your struggles. Your children will be made whole because of Jesus, and your family’s struggle will be redeemed. And until that day, we stand with you in prayer.

Jesus be near, give grace, be mighty to save, fight for these beloved children, give encouragement and peace to adoptive families. We stand in simple faith and tell you that we trust you, we are grateful for the victory you promise, and we give you the glory.

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12 Comments

    1. Rebecca – I took a look at your blog – and I can’t tell you how it encouraged me. We have waited now 4 years for the green light, and sometimes that feels like FOREVER. But to see your calling, and your desire, fulfilled after 8 years, is so encouraging. He does not lie – and He does sometimes make us wait. It makes me feel less crazy. Thank you for posting and for sharing. I am so grateful for families like yours. I pray that the Lord works mightily on your behalf to bring your beautiful daughter home. God bless you.

      Reply

  1. Thank you Jen for putting into words what is so difficult at times to explain to people surrounding the adoption process. I’m bringing my son home soon, and plan to pass along your words of encouragement to my ‘team’! Blessings to you during your season of waiting….it’s TOTALLY worth it!!

    Reply

  2. Thank you Jen!! A friend passed this along to me. We just brought our daughter home a month ago after an over seven year wait. We are beginning our “second struggle” as you aptly word it. Thanks for sharing what we, now with child, can not so much say. Best of luck to you and your family in your own journey.

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  3. Thanks for this amazing article! We are an older couple who adopted three siblings a year and a half ago. We are definitely experiencing that second struggle, and God gave us a victory yesterday, but we have certainly been under attack today.
    Please do include us in your prayers! I’m convinced God is answering!

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  4. We, too, are in the second struggle. We have 3 biological sons & have had our 4 year old adoptive daughter home for almost 2 months now. It has been a VERY difficult transition- unlike any I expected. I don’t really know what I expected. But, you’re right….. It just seems that’s it’s not ok to talk about it. After you’ve asked your family, friends & church family to pray, help raise money, & be there to listen & support you in the first struggle – and then you get home & “complain” – it just doesn’t seem right. I never knew it could/would feel this way. We do see God moving & working each & every day – but there have been HARD days too. I think more people need to talk about it. Thank you so much for this post. And thank you for your prayers.

    Reply

    1. Jennifer I will join in prayer for your family. Thank you for opening your heart and home, for following the Lord’s lead, for being so open in your comment. I’m praying for your heart, that you would know the Lord is pleased with you and is working this out for good. I’m praying for your daughter, that the Holy Spirit would work in her heart to demolish walls and build trust. I’m praying for a support system of “safe” people to step up and surround you guys like a mighty army battling in prayer for your family. I’m asking the Lord for total victory over the enemy. For salvation and light and hope and love and peace to reign in your home. Thank you for commenting. You have blessed me with your words.

      Reply

  5. This is wonderful…. I read your recent post on the election, which I loved how you expressed everything I feel also. Then I kept exploring your blog and discovered this, which brought comfort to my soul and tears of relief to my eyes. We had our first foster child over the summer and it was very hard, but oddly, the worst part about it was that we had little support from friends or family, although my family are believers and we are plugged into a group at church. I often just needed someone to pray for me and our family. We are hoping to continue with foster-to-adopt, but with more experience this time. How would you recommend we let family and friends know of our needs ahead of time? Our church handed out great pamphlets recently on Orphan Sunday about how to support adoptive families (I sadly wished people had done those things for us), but we feel strange handing that to people…. Anyway, thank you for your heart for God and words to express it!

    Reply

    1. Hi Angela. Man I understand. We have not yet adopted, but I have walked with friends through adoption, and so few people truly understand the struggle of adoption. And it’s mostly just a lack of knowledge, not intentional hurt (although there is certainly that as well). I will join you in praying for people to rise up and stand with you. I have seen a pamphlet from Focus on the Family about supporting adoptive families, and there are several blogs (Jen Hatmaker has a brilliant blog about it – Ihttp://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/09/06/after-the-airport). In fact Jen is an incredible blogger – follow her on FB, Twitter, and get her book 7 – it’s amazing.

      Here’s what I would do. I think there will probably be 1 or 2 people who “get it.” I would maybe use them to distribute one of these resources to others. And frankly, just be honest when people ask. Not to dump on them, but to educate them. We all tend to only view the world from where we see it. Whether you blog, or use social media, or just when people come up to you in church, try not to ever say “fine” as a response when they ask you how you are doing. Tell them. Share your anxiety. I think some of them will further understand and join you in researching more.

      another option that a friend of mine uses – she found a great online support board that she is on almost every night as she battles through their journey. It has been a lifeline for her. So even if in person you don’t have much support – it is out there to be found.

      It is hard – but don’t let the enemy isolate you. When he does that, he wins. So seek out community, even though it’s awkward and difficult.

      Thank you for your service to kids in our world. I admire that so so much.

      Reply

  6. Misty and I were high school sweethearts. Being madly in love with one another we married young. It was the perfect fairy tail, but it didn’t take long before the idea of happily ever after faded. We both made bad decisions and neither of us lay blame on the other but we went through some very rough times. I could tell you more, but that is story for another day. The important thing to know is that in July of 1998 we trusted that God could bring us through it, and that God was going to bless us for being faithful and trusting in him. I didn’t know how or what, but I did know that it would be BIG! And that is where this story begins.

    It was a couple of years later and Misty and I had been trying to have a baby. We had been married for about eight years and this wasn’t the first time we had tried, but with our new found commitment to one another we had never tried harder. Thing just weren’t happening so we started with the infertility treatment and nothing seemed to be working and the doctor couldn’t tell us why. The next step was a much more aggressive treatment and it was going to cost a lot of money. So we continued to pray about it. One day Misty and I were talking and I told her “Misty, you know God has really laid it on my heart that our children are already here”. Her response to me was “you know, that is what he has been telling me too”. So again we pray and started looking into adoption.

    You know I believe that God can speak to us. Not out loud, well not most of the time, but to your spirit. That feeling in your heart and in your soul that God is close and that he is with you. Well one day I had been spending time in prayer about our kids and God spoke to me “I am going to give you a baby about a year old and they will have a sibling under three”. I know, sounds kind of strange, but on the day of our interview that is exactly what I told them.

    We had contacted Olive Crest. They were a foster agency that advertised on the radio station that we listened to. The lady that came to our house also went to our church. So when she asked questions like “how much risk are you willing to take”. I didn’t have trouble being honest with her. I asked “risk? What do you mean?” and she said “well some people don’t want to take any risk. They just want to adopt a child and they don’t want to foster with the chance that the child might be taken away”. Our answer to that was “well we believe that this is God’s plan and that if it is his will that we have children for two days, two weeks, two months, two years or forever, that is just how long we had to make a difference in that child’s life. So then if that is what you call risk, we are all in”. Then came the next question “so what kind of child do you want?” When she asked this question I thought “that’s a weird question”. Were we on a car lot or choosing carpet. So I asked “what do you mean”? She said well most people want a blond haired blue eyed little girl, which makes them the hardest to get. So if that is what you want it might take a while”. But I already knew the answers to her question. So I told her “well, God has told me that he is going to give us a baby about a year old and that they would have a sibling under three.” Her response to me was “well I can’t right that on my form”. So I told her “I don’t know, I guess kids that look like us. I didn’t know what else to say. Any way we still had a couple of classes to take and they told us it would probably be several months before we would hear from anyone.

    About a week later is when Misty got the phone call. We hadn’t even finised our last class yet. “Mrs. Snider. We have a little boy that needs to be placed. If you want him you need to be here in thirty minutes.” Misty was in Yucaipa, it was going to take at least thirty minutes, so she asked the lady “can I call you right back? I need to ask my husband”. I still think it is funny that she felt the need to call me first, and like I told her when she called “of course Misty. If they are calling it is because it is part of God’s plan”. So she called the lady back and the lady told her “Okay. Then you need to meet me in the parking lot of the Burger King”. This is funny because we tell Jarid “most kids were brought by the stork, but we got you from Burger King”. When I got home there he was, a great big baby. Jarid was 13 months old but they had shaved his head so he looked like a little baby but he was huge. We were so amazed. Here he was, and there was no doubt in my mind that he was part of God’s plan for us. But as sure as I was this wasn’t what God had promised and I was confused. But no big deal, we were a family and that is what Misty and I had prayed for.

    It had been about three weeks and I was at work one day when Misty called. I answered the phone “hey babe” and Misty said “Lance your not going to believe this! They just called and said that Jarid has a sister, and they want to know if we will take her too”. OMG…. I’m a firefighter and work is not a place to cry, but I started sobbing. I couldn’t believe it. God kept his promise. I still remember the day Joannie came to us like it was yesterday. And to our amazement, it was four days before her third birthday. God had given us a baby about a year with a sibling under three. God is good!

    It didn’t dawn on us right away, but did you know that when you adopt a child that they reissue them a birth certificate? Well one day when I was picking up the mail I opened an envelope that contained a birth certificate. And on the birth certificate this is what it read.

    Joannie Marie Snider born to Lance and Misty Snider on July 16th, 1998.
    Yup! That’s BIG alright…. Because we trusted in him he blessed us for being faithful. Three years before we would ever meet her, Joannie Marie Snider was born to us… Thank you Jesus!

    Reply

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