“Hey, the reason I asked you that question earlier,” he said with slow, cautious words, as if dipping his toe in to test the deeper waters of his heart. Then, he pushed me in with him. “…it’s because I want you to adopt me.”
I was sitting on a gym floor four hours from my home, and I nearly choked on the pizza I was eating. The question this nine-year old boy was referring to? If I was at the picnic to adopt a child.
For most of my life, I have been guilty of practicing the art of distraction whenever it’s suited me. Truthfully, I have developed quite the knack for picking and choosing which issues I allow to trouble my spirit and which I push off to the fringes of my mind, far enough away that they no longer upset the balance and peace I prefer. As someone who has studied and practiced counseling, I can tell you that I am not referring to healthy coping mechanisms or making positive choices to take care of oneself. Instead, I am referring to the very human ability to blatantly ignore — with the intention of pretending they do not exist — societal issues that need to be addressed. I am talking about mentally escaping reality so that we can instead surround ourselves with a figment of perfection and contentment.
God has orchestrated numerous events over the last several years to bring to my attention the plight of the orphan. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know some of those events. The journeys of infertility and foster care in particular have collided in the life of my family, forcing us to acknowledge that no matter how distracted we are from their reality and how happy we might feel in our present circumstances, the orphan is always in our midst.
Several weekends ago, Trey and I attended an adoption-matching picnic, our first time at such an event. I think the very nature of this type of event — for children who have no parents to meet adults who might become their parents — begs for a certain level of awkwardness for everyone involved. For the children, their great hope and despair is that they might be adopted but that they also might not be chosen. For the adults, they face the huge task of meeting orphaned, hurting children and deciding who they are equipped to bring into their families and commit to love and support for a lifetime. It is a huge and somewhat daunting task.
The event was well-planned. They had bounce houses, pizza, music, and other forms of entertainment. The kids played with friends and siblings whom they hadn’t seen in a while. The adults watched the kids and interacted with them. We talked with their caseworkers and asked important questions. There is no “perfect” scenario for helping orphans find their forever families, but I believe events like this one serve a great purpose.
The beginning of the picnic was very uncomfortable for me. I wanted to jump into the bounce houses and play with the kids, but I had our then 4-month old baby, Alisa, in my arms. So I stood back and observed. Some of the younger children did not pay much attention to the adults; they were simply excited to have a special day like this to play. But the older children knew the purpose of this event. They understood the great possibilities this day held, and they all reacted differently. Some were approachable and talkative. They welcomed us strangers into their little worlds, and they were endearing to the potential adoptive parents. Other kids, though, were more guarded. Their many hurts and disappointments were evident, and the fear of being let down again pushed these children to close themselves off from further rejection.
My husband Trey eventually took Alisa so that I could have a turn mingling with the kids. I made my way inside to have some pizza, but all of the tables were full. I scanned the gym floor for a good place to sit when I spotted a boy, about 9 or 10, sitting by himself while he ate. My heart went out to this little guy, and I decided to sit next to him for a while. Little did I know the course of events that would follow from this one choice I made.
At first, he did not have much to say to me. I wondered if he initially feared I was another adult coming into his world and pretending to care. I had pizza to eat and nowhere else to go, though, so I slowly and carefully asked questions to get to know him. Slowly, he relaxed, and we fell into an easy conversation. We both ate our pizza and talked about little things…school, siblings, sports, favorite foods. I chose my questions carefully, not wanting to bring up painful memories or the fact that this boy, Nathaniel, had no parents.
After a while, though, Nathaniel decided to trust me with more than the surface conversation we held. He took me beyond the comfortable place I sat on the periphery of his heart, and he invited me into his pain. He asked me to adopt him, but not only him. He asked me to adopt his sisters, too.
I met his sisters, Audrey and Alyssa, after we finished eating. Audrey, the oldest, recently got a cell phone for Christmas. She also likes to bake. Alyssa, the middle, was quieter, but I could tell she likes to be around people. She asked me to play with her in a bounce house, and afterwards, she held our baby and talked with us at a table inside. Nathaniel likes to play sports, and he and I played basketball for a bit. He likes to be active, and he told me that basketball and baseball are his favorite sports.
They are three endearing children, and right now, all they have in life is each other…and a caseworker. I spoke with their caseworker that day, and I was impressed with the passion with which she spoke about them. It was evident that she loves them and believes in them. She told me that their foster family has worked hard with them for the last three years. They have chores to complete, and they makes A’s and B’s at school. Their great desire is that they will be adopted together.
As the picnic ended that day, my heart ached for them, and my arms longed to bring them in, to say, “Yes, we choose you!” But emotions play only one part in opening your home to adoption. We had attended this event to meet one little boy whom we were being considered for as an adoptive placement; now we were contemplating a sibling group of three children! As Trey and I drove home from that event, we talked details. Could we adopt three older kids? How would our younger children react to not just one new child, but three? We spent many days discussing these siblings. We wrestled over this issue, we prayed, and we tried to figure out how we could open our home to them. We longed to make it happen, but we knew in the end that it wasn’t possible for our family in this season of life. Not right now, at least.
If I can be completely transparent, I have wept for these three, and I have felt like I am letting them down.
One response we often hear when others learn that we are foster parents is this: “I don’t think I could ever do that because I could never give them back.” Truthfully, it is a line of thinking that has frustrated and discouraged us very often. A loving family that would grieve his departure is exactly the kind of home a hurting child needs! At the same time, I know that not every family is called to fostering. Orphan care is many-faceted, and we can all be involved in different ways. As we drove home that day from the adoption-matching picnic, Trey said something that stirred my spirit. He said, “I know what I’m going to say now whenever people tell me they couldn’t foster because they could never give a child back: Adopt!”
Bring them into your home, and keep them there…forever.
There are children today, right now, waiting for families to adopt them. Like Nathaniel and his sisters, these kids are no longer in the fostering process; parental rights have been terminated and no family members have spoken for them. They need forever homes. However, the painful reality for many of these children is that they will grow into adulthood and age out of the system without ever being adopted.
I will say it again: the tragedy is that families are not adopting many of these children. They legally become adults, yet they are without families to anchor them down, to provide the love and support that every human needs. True, these children come with broken pasts and, often, many great issues to work through. But I cannot think of a life more well-lived than one who invests in these children, who are most worthy of our time and attention.
While it breaks my heart to say that our family is unable to provide a home for Audrey, Alyssa, and Nathaniel, I have made it my mission to find a family for them. I can certainly share their public profile in hopes that someone who reads this post will be able to pursue these children. Perhaps that’s why I sat down on a gym floor that day and enjoyed a pizza lunch with Nathaniel. Perhaps you or someone you know might be the home these three are waiting for with great expectation.
Or perhaps, if not these three, there is another child waiting to be chosen, and you can be the chooser. In fact, almost every state has a Heart Gallery, an online portal where you can view profiles of children who are waiting for families. Right now, wherever you are, you have the ability to pull up on your phone or computer the profiles of “the least of these,” to see their pictures and to read brief descriptions of these children who have no family. The amazing thing about these websites is that they allow families in one state to consider adopting children living in another state. This means that a family living in Florida who might be interested in Audrey, Alyssa, and Nathaniel can still submit their approved home study to be considered for these children.
Adopting from foster care requires very little monetary investment, sometimes totaling only hundreds of dollars, if that. States also offer much aid to families who adopt from the foster care system, so finances are no longer a major concern in the adoption process. You can find state-specific information on how to adopt here. Another great website to find waiting children is adoptuskids.org, and they provide an outline on how to adopt here.
There are so many waiting, and we, my friends, are the answer. We, the Church, are God’s response to the orphan crisis in our midst. As genuine followers of Christ, I pray that we might rise up and be the tangible love of Christ to these children. As genuine followers of Christ, we show this world the clearest picture of the gospel when we dive into the painful and messy reality of adoption.
And with adoption, we find the fear that “I could never give them back” becomes the joyful proclamation that “I don’t have to give them back!”