Why Adoptive Families Need a Support System by Cheri Dee Johnson | #adoptionstory
On instagram, Facebook, and on numerous blogs you see beautiful adoption stories that bring tears to your eyes and a smile to your face. But beyond those awe inspiring pictures and videos, there often come a number of challenges. This is why adoptive families need a loving community to surround them in support. I am not just talking about when they start the adoption process….or when the child (or children) come home……I am talking about continual support as they raise the children God has placed in their life.
So even if YOU do not feel called to adopt, you can definitely be a part of a support system for a adoptive family.
I “met” Cheri through this blogging adventure of mine. Cheri is on “the other side” of her adoption story, as all her children are now grown. Reading her post (especially the one you are getting ready to read) are SOOO inspiring!
In this post, Cheri shares her raw and honest story, and I absolutely LOVE that! Adoption is special, but it isn’t always easy – something I can totally relate to.
For those of you who have adopted a child from a hard place, you will find so much encouragement today. Know that you are NOT alone!
For those of you who haven’t adopted, you will learn how vital your role is in surrounding an adoptive family in love and in support!
How many cycles would I endure hoping to get pregnant, only to experience heartbreak every 28 or so days?
Getting married in my early thirties meant I didn’t want to wait five or ten years to have children. I wasn’t one to have to carry a child in my body. And I certainly wasn’t one to want to live year after year under a cloud of loss.
I was fine with God building our family however He chose.
Building Our Family through Adoption
Working in the kitchen one day while my husband worked in the office, the radio played in both rooms. We heard Josh McDowell share of his work to Russian orphans. Our hearts were pierced and our spirits responded.
After purchasing a house and settling in, we located a local agency who worked with Russian orphanages.
Within six months of our very first meeting we brought three children home. Two biological brothers, ages five and eight, and a seven-year-old girl from another family.
We had some wonderful bonding moments. Bob woke each child every morning and carried them one at a time to the rocking chair in our bedroom and prayed over them. We read Bible stories, even before they knew English, and sang simple repetitive songs like “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” each bedtime. They played in the tree fort Bob built and ate plenty of nutritious food at our table. As they learned English, we’d sit around the dinner table captivated by stories of their lives in Russia.
We faced many challenges but eventually settled into a routine. Three years later we felt ready to adopt two more children. The new two were actually older than our first three—a brother/sister pair, ages 11 and 14. We had considered them, along with five other sibling groups, three years earlier.
When we felt the urge to adopt more, these two were the only children we were interested in, and just happened to be the only two left from the original six groups we had considered.
Now lest you think we had loads of money, we did not. In the first adoption we had a small savings and a 401K available. In the second adoption we had no savings, needed a new house, a seven-passenger van, and salary to support the family.
Don’t ask me where the money came from but in both cases every single penny showed up.
In both adoptions our airline tickets were all purchased by people donating frequent flyer miles—usually from people we didn’t even know.
Support During the Challenges
It’s too long ago for me to remember all the details, but it was the miracles God provided along the way that held us steady through the difficulties in the years to come.
And there were many.
So many lessons I had to learn the hard way because very few resources were available for adoptive parents seventeen and twenty years ago. Therapists were just as lost as we were.
The glue that kept my mind from falling to pieces was a group of other adoptive moms who met regularly to listen, cry, encourage, and pray for each other.
At one of the hardest times, our church stepped forward and provided regular respite for Bob and I so we could get a break. Two Saturdays a month, five families picked up one of our children by 4 PM and kept them overnight. We retrieved them at church the next morning.
Our kids were happy at their friends homes and Bob and I had an evening to ourselves. At that point in time I felt like these families saved my life.
Why I Share the Hard Parts
One, God truly showed Himself faithful even in our worst moments.
Two, because if you’re feeling like a failure or like giving up in your orphan care journey, I strongly encourage you to gather a team around you that “get it” and can offer specific, supportive assistance.
Three, if you’re heading into adoption or orphan care yourself, then I encourage you to get support systems in place before bringing children home, and do your homework.
Scripture is clear, parent-less children are very dear to the heart of Father God. These children need consistent, nurturing, godly parents in their lives.
In order to best meet the needs of these children, these parents need honest preparation. Not just tear-stimulating stories, but truth and techniques.
What I Wish I Had Known
Any child available for adoption, fostering, or any kind of care away from their family of origin is dealing with trauma, loss, rejection, and a huge pile of mistrust.
They may have a distorted context from which they define family. For our children, the orphanage felt more like home. Peers were the parents. Adults were worthless—except to provide food, clothing, and a bed to sleep in—maybe. Behaviors such as lying weren’t moral choices but (inappropriate) survival mechanisms.
Bonding takes time.
It actually took our kids until they were in their twenties to get it. But they did. And now we have rewarding and loving relationships with each one of our five.
These children’s emotional age is far behind their chronological age.
Parents have to meet them at their emotional age. There are excellent helpful materials available now, including Karen Purvis’s book The Connected Child.
Because these children are dealing with loss and are very delayed in learning how to attach, their new parents/care-givers will operate more as therapists than as parents.
It sounds so cold to say, but it would have helped me tremendously to have known this. You still get to be the parent, but you must also be a therapist. So on those days you feel like you’re a miserable mom, it’s okay. You’re not. Give yourself a break and hang in there. Better days will come.
We Aren’t Raising Our Kids Alone
Through it all, God knows what He’s doing. He is faithful. His plans will be established. He can be trusted. He knows how to reach these children. He’s got this.
My experience with adoption, taught me that Jesus is more precious than I ever imagined.
When I felt alone, He was my Emmanuel.
When I felt lost, He was my Shepherd.
When I felt hopeless, He was my Bright Morning Star.
When I wanted to bite someone’s head off, He was The Lion of the Tribe of Judah—who by the way, is the Lamb who was slain (Revelation 5).
What I Have Learned
My rough-edged children put me through the wringer. But they also taught me much about unconditional love, the heart of the Father, and the His infinite patience.
I experienced many days when I questioned if we had chosen the right path to building our family. But God’s promises, His presence, and the history of His work in our family, kept me focused and moving forward.
I’m so glad we all hung in there. I’m now relishing the rewards—11 grandchildren.
Cheri is a writer and speaker, wife, adoptive mom of five, and grandma of eleven. Equipped by over twenty years with her own children, and hundreds of hours with other nonbiological moms, she leads wounded and weary women in discovering God’s heart for them and for their children. She, with her husband, Bob, are starting a new ministry through their church for parents of nonbiological children.
Personal website: http://cherideejohnson.com/
Facebook writer’s page: https://www.facebook.com/Cheri-Dee-Johnson-385065661856787/.
Instagram writer’s page: https://www.instagram.com/cherideejohnson/
Do Your Part
Everyone can take part of God’s mission for orphans. Below you will find some ways you can help. Today’s suggestions focus on adoptive familieswho have adopted children with special needs.
Take a moment to pray for Sarah, her husband, and her children. Pray for all adoptive families – specifically those who have adopted children with special needs. Pray for:
- the adoptive families as they raise their children.
- adoptive families who have children with special needs.
- Opportunities for self care – care taking can take a toll emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically
- For comfort, peace and friendships – taking care of a child with special needs can often be a lonely journey
- For their marriage
- wisdom and discernment as they answer questions and make decisions along life’s way.
- the children God has placed in the adoptive parents’ care
- doctors, therapists, and teachers who are part of the care team
- the birth parents as they continue to grieve the loss of their child.
- organizations that support those who adopt children with special needs
- Talk to organizations and ministries that support and minister to adoptive parents. Find out how you can get involved.
- Volunteer to babysit for a family who has adopted a special needs child
- Provide a meal every so often just to help out (Often parents with special needs children have a number of appointments throughout the week. Find out a day that is especially full.)
- Lead your church is “adopting” an adoptive family. Many times, there are post adoption challenges families face that many are unaware of. See how you can love and support a family you know that has adopted.
- Check out the concept of “Care Communities” by Project 686. This is a GREAT way to create a support system for foster and adoptive families.
- Help share adoption stories on social media. Go ahead and begin advocating today, by sharing Cheri’s story!
- Connect with me on instagram and Facebook and share quotes, videos, statistics, stories, and prayer requests.
Maybe you sense God calling you to adopt, check out the following websites for more information:
More ideas for getting involved with orphan care can be found here.
Want to read another #adoptionstory and find out ways you can get involved? Take some time to read these:
Caleb and Kaila’s #adoptionstory: Clinging to the Father in the Wait
Jake and Shay’s #adoptionstory: Q&A about Adoption
Kristin Hill Taylor’s #adoptionstory: How Open Adoption Built My Faith
Sarah Frazer’s #adoptionstory: 3 Ways Adoption Built My Faith
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Looking for some more encouragement? Check out some of the blogs where I link up throughout the week here.