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Thoughts on Adoption

19 Oct

I’ve been in two ‘conversations’ today regarding international adoptions.
I say ‘conversations’ because one was via email, and the other a discussion of sorts on Facebook.
But anyway, I thought that I would share some of these two conversations that lead to some insight I’ve never really put in to words before today.
Perhaps other adopting couples will glean something from it – or perhaps I’ll just bark from my soap box with only myself as an audience.
Either way…

First, I’ll share a bit of my conversation via email with ‘friends’? (I’m not ever sure what to call people who you email semi-regularly over a period of time that you’ve never met, but have something in common you share about…) that have just adopted a beautiful little boy from Olive’s orphanage this past week.
We were talking about if either of us were going to adopt again from that same orphanage, and I ended up getting on the topic of parenting a post-institutionalize child with special needs.
I hadn’t put it in to words before, but I think what came out might be insightful for anyone considering adopting a child with special needs, who aren’t sure exactly what to expect…
Obviously every experience is very different, but I would say that ours has been pretty ‘average’ having seen people come home with much ‘easier’ and much more challenging children.
My response to being asked if we’d adopt special needs again any time soon was something like this….

“Karl and I were pretty seasoned with parenting, having 2 kids at home when starting the adoption process, and having had up to three other foster children at a time along with them – and we STILL are going through an adjustment phase with bringing Olive home. Not to mention it’s already been 8 months too!
(Post-institutionalized) Special needs children stretch you in a way that other ‘typical’ children don’t – even when those ‘typical’ children are challenging. And it takes a while to get use to a new way of parenting. It takes a lot of repetition that’s almost mind mushing at times ;) Be it disciplining, teaching, or getting our institutionalized children to accept our love and affection, and showing theirs. I often feel like Olive is twice the physical work because she’s my 30lb baby that doesn’t walk, toilet, or eat on her own yet, but also requires twice the mental stamina because I’m constantly doing the same things over, and over, and over again. Especially with modifying behavior that’s socially inappropriate.”
I’m sure it’s clear, but NO we do not plan on adopting again any time soon. There’s one beautiful girl Millica that is the only child that could motivate me to adopt again right now, and unfortunately she’s not available for adoption at this time.
I don’t mean to cast a negative light on Olive or adopting post-institutionalized special needs children at all – but let’s not be naive. It’s  a lot of work!
I would not change my decision for anything ! And I applaud those who are able to do multiple special needs adoptions! But, for us – this is where we are right now. Still adjusting to and trying to do our best to parent the kids we currently are entrusted with. I went in with rose-colored glasses hoping to save all the world’s orphans, and am finding out that just one is enough for us right now :)
So if you take away anything from that part – just be prepared for the mind-mushing repetition! ;)
The other conversation I had, was really a serious of comments I posted on Facebook in defense of my position that adopting couples who are accepting donations should expect to be held accountable as to where they are spending their finances, donations and otherwise. In this particular conversation my point of view was apparently offensive to some people, which I did not intend it to be. And NO I am not attempting to kindle the fire on that conversation. BUT on the other hand, I think it’s something that SHOULD be talked about.
Unfortunately international adoption is very expensive, and it’s a choice that couples (and single parents) make that often requires them to seek financial support outside of their own means.
And I’ve seen far too many people get upset over finances related to adoption over the past two years as we entered the adoption arena…. so I’m just throwing my two cents out there and maybe it will help other adopting families to be prepared for what they might encounter while fundraising, and frankly I think it just needs to be said.
The conversation referenced was sparked when I offended someone by asking an adopting couple about some home-remodeling plans they shared about on Facebook.
This particular fellow adoptive mom vaguely posted about putting a new front porch on their house. And I responded to this post by asking them if they were planning on doing it after they brought home their daughter, who they are currently fundraising for her international adoption costs. (This family explained plainly that they were using free materials found on Craigslist, and the conversation ended) I later asked a question about why they were looking for a bounce house in response to a different post on Facebook, wondering if they were holding an adoption fundraiser, etc. And a friend of hers felt offended enough by my questioning to defend her friend (the fellow adoptive-mom) and to tell me that it was none of my business to question the adoptive family about where they were spending their money… and that’s where the conversation ensued.
Unfortunately this friend felt very strongly that I was trying to be offensive and accusatory in my questioning, and despite my efforts to explain other wise, she is probably still on the defense for her friends. I want to be clear for anyone reading this blog that if you are aware of this ‘conversation’ via facebook – that I am not trying to beat a dead horse, but I really do think it’s important that other adopting families fundraising understand my point of view. Let’s hope I don’t stand alone in my opinions!
Being an adoptive family who has had to seek a lot of support from our friends and family to fund Olive’s adoption, and also a family who makes sacrifices to fund others’ adoptions by giving financially – I have been on both sides of the equation. I have felt the frustration of having to make sacrifice after sacrifice to bring a child home and have felt weary about having to answer to people’s probing questions about our finances. But, I haven’t taken offense to it. And I’ve seen too many adoptive families who have, and I’ve seen too many donating families regret that they gave financially for a child’s adoption for those funds to either be misused or completely lost when a family doesn’t go through with the adoption. As adopting families we need to do everything we can to be good stewards of the finances entrusted to us by others for our adoptions, not only because it’s morally the right the to do – but to do everything we can to encourage those who are blessed enough to GIVE to continue giving! We also need to be prepared with a financial plan before we commit to a specific child’s adoption should people not donate as much as we’re expecting, because it’s heartbreaking to lose those donated funds AND waste that child’s time when you have to release the adoption.

I honestly don’t have the brain power to reiterate everything that I already expressed earlier…. so I’ll just modify some of the things that I already attempted to share in love earlier today and this week for easier reading.
I wish I were more eloquent in words – because I’d love to see this concept as a viral post that goes around to shed light on a subject that no one wants to talk about: MONEY!
But anyway, here it is:
In short:
I don’t think it’s really unreasonable to wonder about or question someone about their finances if they are asking publicly for donations towards their adoption while putting in a new patio. (Again this family did NOT do that) But, when you ask someone about financial aspects of their adoption, that’s all it needs to be – a question and not a judgement.When you’ve seen families buying RVs while fundraising for their adoption – you start to get a little skeptical…. I would hope that more Christians would lovingly ask their brothers and sisters the hard questions about their choices. It’s not to be offensive. Don’t you expect your Church to be accountable for the money they’re given? Wouldn’t you question a charity if they weren’t being good stewards of the funds you give them? Wouldn’t it be a little silly of them to call you the offensive one for questioning?
In long:
Unfortunately when you continually ask people for donations towards an adoption, you open up yourself to being responsible and accountable for the money that you spend. Wether it be money that you’re earning out of your own efforts, or by donations given to you by others. It’s the morally responsible thing to do. It’s people who spend money with out frugality that give the entire adopting population who needs financial assistance a bad name, and make it harder on everyone to find people willing to trust us with their money and to spend it wisely. It’s not something to take offense to – but something to be prepared for and expect.
My husband and I also had to fundraise a good chunk of the $16K for our adoption, had to continually ask friends and family for support, and were also held accountable to where our finances were spent. If you’re able to spend money on a patio, for this argument’s sake – then you should NOT be asking people for donations. Asking for donations should be a last resource after you have given everything you can to your own efforts completely, not just 50%, 70% or even 99% of what you have. It’s not offensive to be held accountable when you’re fundraising, it’s part of the process. I greatly sympathize with other adopting families. It’s very hard to continually make sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice to bring home a child having done it ourselves recently. But, Adoptive couples should not lose heart or be offended when people question them, but try to respond with love and transparency, and take faith that God will provide to those who steward His gifts well.
We often had to answer to many people how we were spending our finances, and instead of taking offense to it, we attempted to be as clear as possible with our spending on our blog. It was an attempt on our part to understand where they were coming from, and to satisfy their need for accountability. We gave details about how much we were putting towards Olive’s adoption ourselves, showed how we were making sacrifices, showed exactly where every penny of their donations were going, and continued on with our lives knowing that we were doing our best – knowing people would be convicted in their harsh judgements in time if there were any. Unfortunately many people ask for money towards their adoptions while spending money on fast food, getting their hair colored, and on other things that are not necessities. When you donate to those people, it’s hard not to look at that money spent in a negative light, because you expect the adopting family to make every sacrifice on their own if they’re asking for your help too. I’m not trying to put our family on a pedestal but we canceled cable, stopped buying groceries anywhere other than Aldi, sold our second vehicle, put 100% of the money I earned through crafting and photography towards Olive’s adoption, applied for every grant and no-interest loan that we could even possibly qualify for (that’s a lot of paperwork and time!), maxed out all our credit cards, spent every single penny of our savings, gave up eating out and all fast food, and made our kids ‘go with out’ anything that wasn’t a necessity for an entire year! We’re still paying off credit cards, still saving for a second car, and still have no savings what-so-ever. BUT we hope that by making those sacrifices, and being transparent about our money, that we encouraged those who GAVE to trust us… and hopefully they’ll give AGAIN when they hear of other adoptive families who need help!
The worst thing we can do is to spend money on non-necessities or get offended and be vague with our finances, then expect those willing to give to us to feel offended when they’re curious about how our adoption is progressing financially. So, other adopting families I pray, pray, pray that you will see my point of view – and not take offense! But be encouraged to be transparent and open about your financial needs, continue to ask for the generosity of others – because it’s all God’s money and they’re all God’s children anyway! But, please, please, please – do not take offense and leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those willing to give by not being good stewards of their finances!