Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The "Why Can't I Live With My Birth-Mom" Question

When Luke, Gracie, and Sara came to live with us in the summer of 2011, they often asked, “Why can’t we live with our mom and grammy anymore?” We tried to explain the best we could—even though, honestly, we couldn’t understand the situation ourselves. Apparently, their mom had no stable housing and no job—was given a year to get it together—but a year had come and gone, and her excuse was that she had no car. The state had offered her help—a small monthly supplement to help with all six of her children, food stamps, government housing, free day care, free health insurance, and I don’t know what else. Caseworkers had been trying to work with her for over a year before the kids had been taken away from her. But when they continually saw her, pregnant and out on the street with her five children panhandling, their only option was to put the children in foster care until she could get things together. I had trouble understanding why, with such a large family that the birth mom has, nobody was able to help her with a car or at least with transportation of some form so that she could get to work. Her extreme lack of motivation would have been understandable if she had tested positive for drugs or even been diagnosed as severely depressed—but neither of these were the case. She always played the victim to her children—saying the state was being unfair to her by forcing her to get a job when she had no car. So the kids felt sorry for her and would stick up for her, complaining, “How is our mom supposed to get a job when she doesn’t even have a car?” I couldn’t answer them honestly at that point. I just told them that some people, perhaps because of how they were raised, never really mature, and have a very difficult time taking care of themselves, let alone six children. That I knew she loved them a lot, but that parents have to have a place for their children to live and that I was so sorry she wasn't able to do that.

But then I switched gears. The issue here is not who is being unfair to their mom, or why their mom can’t do what she needs to do, who is bad, who is good, etc. Instead, I told them the story of Samuel. Samuel had to leave his mother at a young age in order to be consecrated to the Lord as His servant and priest/prophet. It must have been extremely painful for both Hannah and Samuel when she dropped him off at Eli, the high priest’s, home to be raised by him instead of his own loving mother. But Samuel had a true heart after God and he became one of the greatest prophets the Lord ever used to lead His people. This is how I see Luke, Gracie, and Sara. They are so attuned to the things of God, and their spirits so receptive. When we discuss God’s Word, you almost wouldn’t know that they’ve only been living in a Christian home for eight months. So I tell them, “God set you apart to live in our home for a purpose. We must always trust God and never question or doubt him—all of his decisions are perfect. Perhaps you are here so that one day in the future you can bring all your family to the Lord. Perhaps if you had grown up with your biological family, all of you might have been lost and never known God as his adopted children. This is your time for growing closer to Jesus and getting to know him. And like Samuel, God will do very important things with your life.”

But what these three children also get in the move, that Samuel did not, are two loving, stable parents. For the first time in their life they have a true father who lives with them and takes care of them—and who doesn’t abuse their mother. They have a mom who not only hugs them and loves them, but who cooks for them and makes sure they are clean and clothed properly, etc. I know the kids feel this. The first week or so that they lived with us, they used to say (except for Sara) “When I turn 18 I’m going to move back in with my mom.” That soon changed to “I’m gonna visit my mom.” And now there’s the occasional, “I miss my mom” but for the most part they are happy to be living securely and normally for the first time ever. They always say, “I love our house” and “I love our car”—things that the average child takes for granted. Before adopting, Norman and I prayed for God to send us children who would have a heart open and receptive to the things of God—children who would grow in the Lord and take the gospel message beyond our walls--so that we could impact not just one life, but many down the line. That is what He has done here and we see that His ways are so perfect!

Friday, February 10, 2012

DEC 2011--Sibling Group Adoption

Well, it’s been over a year since my last blog—that should tell you how busy little David keeps me! He is three-years-old now and all-boy, and full of energy! Over the past 14 months, David has been such a blessing to us and we thank God every day for him. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you see the hilarious things he says on a regular basis—he makes us laugh multiple times per day! Back in December 2010 we had our home-study updated and started waiting for another placement from foster care. In the Spring of 2011, we had a caseworker contact us about a sibling group of 5 from Missouri; then soon after that a caseworker contacted us about a sibling group of 5 from Kansas; and then, believe it or not, a caseworker from here in Georgia contacted us about a sibling group of 5 as well! The ages of the kids were 9,8,7,4, and 1—which would mean that we’d have 6 children under the age of 9! At first we thought, “This must be God, because it’s the third sibling group of 5 and we haven’t been asked about any other kids.” Then we thought, “No, six young children is way too many—we won’t be able to handle all of them.” Then it was, “Well, if God brings them to us then he will give us the ability to do it.” And then, “But it isn’t fair for the kids not to get the attention they need.” It went back and forth for a few days as we told the case worker we would pray about it and get back to her with an answer. One night, I was having trouble sleeping, so I got out of bed, went into the living room, sat on the love seat, turned on the lamp, and opened my bible randomly. It opened up to Isaiah 54 and I just glanced down and the first verse I read was verse 13 which says “All your children will be taught of the Lord, and great will be the peace of your children.” Then, believe it or not, immediately after I read that verse, the light bulb in the lamp next to me blew out with a mini explosion. I jumped and then, of course, was in awe of God—I knew he had spoken to me very clearly and directly and had settled the matter. I was able to go back to sleep and slept soundly.

We called our caseworker and told her we wanted to move forward with the placement. We soon started having visits with all five children, and they called us Mommy and Daddy from day one. But there quickly appeared a serious emotional/behavioral issue with the four-year-old child, who had already been separated from her older siblings earlier in the year for not being able to adapt to life in a large family—she needed an immense amount of attention. That, on top of the fact that the biological mother had another baby who was now also being taken from her, led DFCS to decide to split the sibling group into two. They asked us to keep the three oldest children, and they found another home for the three youngest. It was a very sad and difficult decision for everyone, but all of the adults involved do feel like the children are now getting what they need, and doing better than if they all lived together under one roof. In fact, they had not all lived together previously and had been split up even when with their biological family.  We’ve had a couple of visits with the younger siblings, but the new adoptive family wants the kids to settle in and adapt better before we make visits more frequent.

So, now we have four children living with us—Luke who is 10, Gracie who is 9, Sara who is 7, and David, 3. They came to live with us permanently last summer, and believe me—it was quite an adjustment. In the beginning, I confess, I was saying to God, “Lord, what did I do??? We were settled with David….everything was fine….and peaceful…..I can’t handle this stress—it’s too much God. Please help me!” I felt so weak and sick, I went to the doctor twice, and he did a bunch of blood tests and of course found nothing.  I didn’t realize how much stress could affect a person physically. The kids were always very affectionate, loving, and helpful—but they were incredibly HYPER!!  I like a calm, peaceful atmosphere. But what I was hearing/seeing was thundering up and down the steps, screams of laughter or screams of fighting, messes everywhere, jealousy, competition, arguing. I just didn’t know what to do. Of course, our hearts went out to them because we understood how difficult it must be for these kids to accept the fact that they would never be able to move back with their biological mom and grandmother. We knew we weren’t the only ones going through a stressful transition.

I had planned on home schooling our kids, when kids were just an “idea” and we didn’t have them yet. But when August came around, and the children had only been living with us for less than a month, I really didn’t feel up to the challenge of home schooling them—especially when they were so hyper-active. So they started school, and we once again had peace in our home! At least until 3:15 when they got off the bus! Gradually they did start to settle down. I imagine that moving to a new home must be a tremendous emotional upheaval for children, on top of the fact that they never really had any structure growing up. Considering these things, they adjusted very quickly to our home. They all get along now exceptionally well now; they are learning not to be jealous of one another but to be thankful for what God has given them; they are very helpful around the house, and I’m happy to say that it’s been months since I’ve had to go outside and scoop up dog poop! I’m happy for the dogs, too, who now get lots more attention than they have since little David came to live with us. What I am most happy about is how tender all of these kids’ hearts are toward the things of God. They soak up the teachings of God like a sponge, and pray every night for all family members who are far from the Lord—they know that this life is not the main event—it’s eternity in Heaven that we really look forward to!

We had a great Christmas holiday with the kids—home relaxing for the first week off and then visiting family in PA for the second week. My second oldest daughter, Elizabeth, who is 25 and lives nearby, spent a lot of time with us. The kids just love her and they call her Sissy. And we got to spend some quality time with my oldest daughter, Shannyn, who is now married! She lives in PA near my sister, and I really miss her and hope she moves back down to Georgia soon. Actually, I'm trying to get all of my family to move down here! The day we drove home from PA was the day before school was to start again. During that 12 hour drive, Norman and I decided that we’d try home schooling—only Luke for starters—since he is the one who needs the most attention with school work, and since he’s the oldest. Were the girls jealous? YES! But they soon got over it and I told them I would seriously consider home schooling them soon as well. I know that God will give me the strength to do it!  So far, working with Luke at home has been much easier/smoother than I had expected! Such a blessing:) 

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