“I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.” John 14:18 (NKJV)
Christmas is a season, probably more than any other, when we focus on children and family. The traditions that we observe within our families give us a sense of generational continuity, they give our children a sense of security, and they give us the satisfaction of passing down to our children that which we believe is important.
God has a heart for children and families; He places great value on both. He has put deep within every heart the desire to marry and have children. No matter what corner of the world we live in, each culture has family as foundational to its survival. A culture’s long-term survival rate is deeply dependant of the strength of the family unit.
Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ Who restored to us our place in the family of God. “Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.” (Ephesians 1:5-9 NKJV).
As a result of the sin that is so evident in our culture, and in other cultures around the world, the family unit is disintegrating. We are constantly told that marriage is no longer necessary, that children don’t require both mother and father to thrive, and that family is what we make it or how we see it. Children bear the painful brunt of these sinful decisions. We don’t seem understand the long term consequences of our rebellion against the Scriptural tenets that God has said are so important.
My husband and I have always had a heart for adoption. As the years passed and we were not blessed with children, we frequently considered adoption as a means to build our family. It was with great joy that, after twelve years of marriage, we found ourselves expecting our daughter. When we realized that she was the only child God was going to bless us with, we again looked to adoption.
I know that many people have had wonderful experiences with the adoption process. This was not so for us. My husband and I have always been drawn those children that were deemed “difficult to place” either by reason of age, being part of a sibling group, or having a specific challenge. We particularly had a special place in our hearts for sibling groups.
Our first adoption attempt was with a Christian organization who placed orphans from Russia. We found a group of three siblings (two girls and a boy) who especially tugged at our hearts. I do not know how to explain how a mother’s heart can be bound in love to children she has only seen in a picture. I can only tell you that my heart was bound to these three children. I could see them living in our home. I could see them as siblings for our daughter. I could imagine their future with us. As we began to complete the mountain of paperwork necessary for a foreign adoption and prepare our home, we were able to keep track of them via the computer and the adoption agency’s website. And then something happened. They completely disappeared from the system. We never did find out what happened to them, but we were able to ascertain that they were not adopted by anyone else. We understand that this problem was not entirely unheard of in the Russian state system at that time. We were deeply disappointed to have lost them.
After that experience, we began to discuss domestic adoption as we knew there were many children here in need of loving homes. We began to work with another Christian adoption agency located close to our house. After completing all of the paperwork, home study, and other preparatory elements, we began to look at available children. We again placed special emphasis on sibling groups. One day we received a telephone call from our social worker telling us about a picnic sponsored by Los Angeles County for parents interested in “difficult to place” children. At that time there were over one thousand adoptable children in the Los Angeles/Orange County system within this group and only ten couples who were interested in these types of children. The premise for this picnic was to meet some of these children, get to know them, and then, if you made a special connection with one (or more) of them, you could express your interest to the social workers who would then quickly set things in motion.
We found ourselves seated at a picnic table with a social worker and a ten-year old girl. We heard this girl ask the social worker who all of the people were at the picnic and why they were there. The social worker gently explained to her that these were people who were looking for children to adopt. We saw her face light up with hope. As we sat there, we learned that the day of the picnic was also her eleventh birthday. The county had thoughtfully provided a cake for her so that we could all help celebrate her birthday. I can’t tell you how I knew this, but as I saw her face light up with hope, it was as if I could see her thinking: “Maybe this year I will get a family for my birthday.” My husband and I lost our hearts to her at that moment. Her yearning for a family was palpable. After we had finished our meal, we made our way to the table where the social workers were sitting, to express our interest in this girl. After taking our information, they told us to contact our adoption agency on Monday to let them know of our decision, which we did. And then we waited, and waited, and waited for six long weeks to hear something. We made multiple calls to our social worker trying to find out what was happening and they, in turn, kept calling Los Angeles County, getting no response. We became increasingly frustrated. Finally someone from the county called our social worker to tell us that this girl was no longer available for adoption. She had been recently hospitalized after suffering an emotional breakdown. We were incredibly angry. It didn’t take much for us to come to the conclusion that this young girl’s hopes were cruelly crushed as she waited and hoped for a family that never materialized. What made us so angry is that there was a family for her–us! It was because of bureaucratic ineffectiveness and inefficiency (to put it nicely) that she suffered this unnecessary emotional trauma.
So, we returned to the beginning of the process by paging through the book of available children. We settled on two sisters who were considered difficult to place because, not only were they part of an older sibling group, but they were considered “racially mixed”. These sisters were half Caucasian and half Hispanic and currently were in foster care with a Hispanic woman who had made it clear that she did not want to adopt them herself. We felt these girls were a safe emotional risk for us. Not only had their mother’s parental rights been legally terminated for abuse and neglect, but their grandmother’s custodial rights had been legally terminated for neglect, as well. It was not unusual for the issue of unresolved parental or custodial rights to complicate the adoption process. After our two previous aborted attempts at adoption and its associated heartache, we were hesitant to consider any children where we might lose them at the last moment to a legal snafu.
As we began to prepare our home for their arrival (many of our friends had generously given us clothing and we had purchased furniture for their room) the grandmother’s visitation rights were temporarily reinstated, with the proviso that these must be supervised visits. We were pleased that April and Rebecca would have some connection with their birth family, as we felt this would be helpful with their adjustment to us. Then our social worker told us something that we did not recognize as problematic when we heard it. The girls’ foster mother was extremely angry that the girls were being placed with a Caucasian family and not with a Hispanic family. She was concerned that they would ultimately lose their Hispanic heritage and culture. We were also told that she particularly disliked Caucasians in general.
Our social worker assured us that this foster-mother had no say in the matter and that since we had already been approved by Los Angeles County for the girls’ adoption, we had nothing to worry about. The social worker requested that we wait until just after Christmas for April’s and Rebecca’s placement in our home. We felt that letting the girls spend one last Christmas in this foster home, where they had been stable for some time, would be a good idea. We gave them our permission.
After New Years, we began calling our social worker trying to find out when we could expect the girls. As time continued to pass, we began to get extremely nervous. Something was obviously very wrong. We can only surmise what must have happened over that Christmas holiday, but we feel that April’s and Rebecca’s foster-mother must have spoken with their grandmother during one of those supervised visits, convincing the grandmother that she would never see her grandchildren again. We did learn that the girls’ grandmother had gone to court, filed an emergency petition to stop our adoption of them, requested that her custodial rights be re-instated, and then promptly left on vacation for two weeks, thereby significantly delaying the process. Even though her custodial rights had already been legally terminated once for neglect, the judge not only heard her plea, but also ruled in her favor.
This left us with an incredibly difficult decision to make. We could have fought in court for these girls, and probably would have won, but we were concerned that April and Rebecca might never forgive us if they perceived that we had taken them away from their grandmother. Our other choice was to completely release our parental intent, allowing them to return to a grandmother’s care that we felt likely was unsafe. There was no easy answer to this dilemma. We agonized over what we should do. One of the most difficult aspects of this was having to explain to our daughter that she may lose the two sisters she was so excited about having.
After much prayer, thought, and discussion we decided to release our interest in their adoption. To say that we were devastated would be an incredible understatement. We were not sure if we were willing to take the risk of going through this type of heartbreak again, so we elected to put our status at the adoption agency “on hold” until our hearts could heal. It was a full three months before we were ready to proceed once more. Just as we had restarted this process, my mother-in-law suffered a massive stroke. As we were not sure what our part in her long-term care would be and whether this would require an out-of-state move, we elected to permanently stop any attempts at adoption with our agency.
For many years there was a significant hole in my heart where those children should have been. I do not know why God, in His Sovereign plan, did not allow us to either have more children or adopt these children that we so greatly desired. I do know however, that His plan for our lives is perfect and have since come to peace with the outcome. I will have to admit, however, that there is some residual anger with a governmental adoption and foster-care system that is so fundamentally skewed. I can’t imagine how many children would have or could have been placed in good, loving homes, were it not for a system that functions so badly.
One thing I know for certain, God has an eternal heart for adoption. He has adopted us into His own family and He specifically addresses in His Word the care we are to give to orphans. God values children, that is abundantly clear. He desires that we bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He desires that they are adopted into His family for eternity. So, whether we physically adopt children into our families, or support the many fine organizations world-wide who take care for them, I would hope that we make adoption a priority in our hearts. God’s heart is for adoption. Ours should be too.
“Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth–everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for my glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” Isaiah 43:6b-7 (NKJV)
“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families.” Psalm 68:5-6a (NKJV)
Copyright © 2010 by Susan E. Johnson
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