Over the years, a few people at Woodlands have explored adoption. This is an excerpt from one couple’s journey towards adoption.
We didn’t plan for adoption. We longed to be parents. After a series of fertility investigations, heart break, and a ridiculous amount of prayer - God lead us down this route.
The moment we stepped into our local adoption agency, we saw the love-ruined faces of social workers and adoptive parents. We heard their stories, their realism, and their advocacy for these precious kids, took a deep breath and started to imagine it for ourselves.
Adoption is a beautiful reflection of our own adoption into God’s family; an all-encompassing response to a social injustice. It’s choosing to believe that what God says over the lives of these children counts. It’s embracing a new picture of family which is sometimes messy, but one that breaks the mould.
Not everyone adopts, but how can the church rally around those families who are muddling their way through the process and challenges of adoptive family life?
Adoptive parents take in a child who has been through significant trauma; maybe removal from birth parents, exposure to prenatal drugs or alcohol, physical, emotional, sexual abuse or extreme neglect. These wounds run deep. Kids are left with a sub-conscious memory and neurological wiring which can have a detrimental impact on their development and ability to relate.
And yes, God’s healing is in it, but this isn’t always instant. Adoption can be a life-long, day by day, painful yet hopeful, ‘hanging-in-there’ journey.
Here are some practical and emotional ways you can support the families, as well as some things to consider:
• When a family first adopts - they will go into hibernation/‘lock down’ mode. They are not ignoring you, but just need to work at building an attachment by letting the children know who Mum and Dad are. They will resurface eventually but in the early days, prayer and chocolate apparently goes down well!
• Coming along to church services in the early days may be overwhelming - give the family space. Don’t be offended if they won’t freely give their babies over for cuddles. If their children are older, they can be very charming and overly affectionate. This isn’t always coming from a healthy place, so try to point them back to mum and dad.
• Don’t ask about the children’s past. Their stories belong to them and their adoptive parents will tell the appropriate people the appropriate stuff.
• Try to have empathy and grace for the kids. Sometimes (but not always) ’bad behaviour’ may be their trauma bubbling up.
• Taking and uploading pictures of the children on social media could put them and their adoptive parents at risk. It would be better to ask the parents first.
• Take an interest in what parents have learned around their adopted kids, listen without judgement or read a book about it. ’No Matter What’ by Sally Donovan gives an honest account of the joys and hardships of bringing up adopted kids.
When we told people we were adopting, there were broadly three responses. The first was fearful - ‘taking on kids with such baggage will destroy you, don’t do it!!’ The second was romantic - ‘how wonderful that you want kids who need parents. You can crack on and live a wonderful life together!’
And the last (and most helpful) was deeply encouraging - a sense of getting that this was one of the biggest, hardest, bittersweet decisions of our lives, but believing God was in it, they would stand alongside us, listen to us, pray for us, and back our dream to build a family which by the grace of Jesus would speak volumes to the world about our God’s redemptive love.