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adoption: proceed with caution!

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Disclaimer: Anthony and I put our thoughts down together for this post.  We are NOT against adoption disruption.  This post is not about that.  We completely understand that there are times when a family brings a child home and that child simply can no longer stay in their home due to him/her harming or sexually abusing other kids in the home.  We completely understand that.  This post is not about disruption!  Nor is this post about any particular family or situation…it is merely our own thoughts and convictions about adoption! 


It’s no secret…I love adoption! I think adoption is God’s answer to the many, many children who have been abandoned through no fault of their own. God’s heart IS adoption. By His unfathomable grace He adopted each one of us first—and that very spirit of adoption is passed along to many of us who feel called to grow our families through the same blessing we so freely received.


Adoption is not for everyone. Especially special-needs adoption. Quite honestly, I ache when I hear stories more and more frequently of people who travel to faraway lands to adopt their child—the one God “called” them to adopt—and find themselves absolutely devastated because that child is just not quite what they were anticipating or hoping for. They arrive on the other side of the world and meet a child who is either extremely delayed, desperately malnourished, unable to communicate, or has needs far more severe than the family was originally told. Dreams come crashing down and the family finds themselves in a predicament…is this really their child after all?

I’ve been wondering a lot recently…Are social workers preparing families enough for all the things that can go wrong? Are they not doing their jobs thoroughly? Or, do some families not prepare their hearts and their minds enough for all the many possibilities which may (or may not) go wrong when adopting an institutionalized child? Or, perhaps, do we just live in a society, in a day and age, where if something doesn’t quite work out the way we anticipated, well, we just abandon plans? We chalk it all up to the fact that we either really didn’t hear the Lord and this was all a big mistake, or this really was entirely God’s plan for us.

If we’re inclined to believe the former, we tell ourselves that the Lord wanted us to raise all this money, go through months and months of paperwork, then bring us to this place, only to finally have the revelation that this is actually not our child. Or it was God’s way of leading us to another child He wanted to show us.

It breaks my heart. These are children we’re talking about. It is not the same as going to the local animal shelter to find a new dog for the family, finding that pup and taking him home, only to find out that the sweet little guy who was in the kennel is not quite suitable for the family after all—so he gets returned. We’re talking about children here! Precious, amazing, wonderful children who desperately need someone to come for them…no matter what is “wrong” with them. Children who deserve unconditional love.

I must say that I completely, and I mean completely understand the thoughts, the feelings, the fears, and the concerns which overcome a person when you are handed a child who is so severely delayed.  I traveled to Ukraine alone last year to adopt our two girls who have Down syndrome.  I remember the day like it was yesterday–the day they shoved Hailee into my arms.  Nothing could have prepared me for a five year old who weighed less than fifteen pounds, had sores on her body from banging her head on the bars on her crib, smelled positively awful, could harldy even sit up due to being so severely drugged, made no eye contact whatsoever, and was nothing but a floppy ragdoll in my arms.  I was so afraid of what the future with this child looked like.  I had no idea how God was going to work it out.  But there was one thing I did know…she was our daughter!  God was big enough to handle the details.

I think that anyone considering adopting an institutionalized child MUST be prepared for every conceivable thing that can go wrong. Quite honestly, every family needs to go into the adoption with zero expectations. Go into it expecting the worst case scenario! That way there is little room for disappointment and horrible discouragement once you meet your child face to face. Pray and trust the Lord for the best—but know that it may just look very different to what you anticipate. Is God God? Is He not more than able to direct us to the child whom HE desires for our family—no matter what the circumstances?

No one can deny that there is a move of God in this country. The heart of adoption is spreading far and wide. The message of adoption is finally being preached in many churches, and hearts are being stirred across this great land to welcome a child into their homes through the blessing of adoption. It is so easy to look on a website overflowing with children who live in desperate situations and have your heart be broken into a million pieces. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all—and possibly commit for wrong reasons. It is easy to fall in love with a sweet little face in a photo which is three years old and not be prepared for the fact that for the last year that child has been living in a hell hole and hardly even resembles the cute little cherub in the picture you hold in your hands.

This, dear friends, is the reality of the institutionalized child. Many of them live in conditions our hearts cannot comprehend. They lie in cribs day in and day out and their only source of stimulation is the bars on their crib which they bang their heads on. Some will even gnaw on the cribs they are forced to live in just for some sort of stimulation (think caged animals!). Most of them are drugged—not with some mild sedative to help them asleep at night—no, they are drugged with adult tranquilizers to make them sleep 24/7. Most of these children live on diets which consist of some form of liquid mush—they have no idea how to even chew food at five years or six years of age. The tiny confines of a crib and a horribly inadequate diet ensure that they are severely malnourished. Truly, most of these precious children quickly get reduced to mere breathing corpses in the horrendous environments they live in.

And sadly, many people are just not prepared for it. They arrive in their child’s orphanage and simply cannot deal with what is handed to them. In an instant their worlds come crashing down around them and drastic decisions get made. “This child requires a lifetime of care and we cannot give it to them.” Or, “We fear for our other children at home and cannot adopt this child.” Or, “This is not what we signed up for.”

I see it happening more and more. Children who have waited for years and years to find families and finally have that opportunity, only to get left behind after just a few days of meeting their potential family. We have one living in our home! Sadly for them, another family will have to commit and the adoption process will have to start all over again from scratch. Potentially the child can wait for several more years to be rescued! For many of these children who live in dire situations, they either get transferred to an adult mental asylum (around their fifth birthday) and become unadoptable, or many die from sheer neglect–they just cannot survive in the heinous conditions.  Or, as with our Haven, these children are left even more confused and traumatized–they had a family, and then they didn’t.

Come on, body of Christ! Are we not called to do the tough things? Are we not commanded to care for the orphan? Did Jesus not teach us to do the things which the rest of the world does not feel “called” to do? Does the Lord not promise us that He will never leave us nor forsake us? And when He calls us…does He not equip us with everything we need to do the job with excellence? Why then do so many children come so close to being adopted—only to be left behind when the going gets tough?

I seriously just do not understand it. I think we have fallen into the world’s trap of living in such a ME society. It’s all about me, me, me. My life must be as comfortable as possible. My children must be as comfortable as possible. Nothing must disrupt the harmonious balance of my family life. Lord forbid God asks us to actually DO the hard things. I too fall into the trap of taking the easy way out sometimes, and I hate it.

Sometimes it is in the difficult things, in the trying times, and when we’re literally clinging onto Jesus by our fingernails that we see His love and His faithfulness like never before. Saying yes takes such enormous courage and strength, but the blessing which follows is truly indescribable. You just have to open the Bible and pick any place to read to know that it’s the truth. God ALWAYS equips His people. Always.

Sometimes it is when we rescue one of “the least of these”—a child discarded by the world, with no value or worth whatsoever, a life which is completely and utterly broken—that we see the living God face-to-face. It’s in that precious child that his glory shines through. How often we miss out on the blessing!

Please, I’m begging anyone in the process of adopting or considering an adoption…have zero expectations! Please know what you’re getting into BEFORE you commit.  Pray, seek wise counsel, read as much as you can about adoption, get advice, and pray some more before you say yes. And then go into the adoption trusting the Lord with all your heart (and not leaning on your own understanding)—but be prepared for anything which awaits you on the other side. Take any information you are given from their country with a grain of salt—it means nothing (and is very often completely inaccurate). Know that He has called you to adopt YOUR child and never waiver in your faith that He is more than able to help you face any challenge which awaits you.

If you’re looking for the “perfect” child, do not adopt! There is no such thing. Just as we are never, ever assured of having a completely healthy and “normal” child by birth, so adoption can be filled with many unknowns. You just never know what is waiting for you when you finally walk into the orphanage to meet your child for the first time…but your God in heaven does! He…does…not…make…mistakes! And that has to be good enough.

Open the eyes of your hearts.

Let your yes be yes! 

We can honestly say from our own experiences in adopting SEVERELY delayed children that taking a chance on these children is so, so worth it!  They will astound you, amaze you.  They just need someone to give them a chance at LIFE.