Posts Tagged ‘ Support group ’

Waiting to adopt? Please don’t give up

“My earnest plea to all prospective adoptive parents is don’t give up. The adoption procedure is fraught with difficult obstacles but see it through. God has a special place in His heart for people who take care of orphans (James 1:27).”

I was addressing a group of around twenty at a meeting of the Pretoria Adoption Support Group. I wasn’t scheduled to speak. I had only been invited to sell copies of my book, the proceeds of which were to be donated to the Southern Africa Bible College.

But as I listened to the discussion going on around me, I began to sense a rising sense of frustration among the audience, comprised primarily of pre and post adoptive parents.

The topic under discussion was the latest amendments to the South African Children’s Act 2007 and how these affect the adoption process.

I listened as an experienced adoption social worker explained the rationale behind the extensive waiting periods prospective parents must endure before a baby is placed with its adoptive family, and how every decision made by a social worker has to be done with “the best interests of the child” in mind.

It wasn’t long into her presentation before someone in the audience posed a question, which was quickly followed by another, and another. Although the social worker responded well to each one, it soon became apparent that the Act, although an improvement on its predecessor, remains fraught with flaws.

Under the new Act, babies only “become adoptable” after 60 days, the social worker explained. After this period, the birth mother has an additional 30 days in which to rescind her decision to give up her baby. Factor in the time required by the Act to search for birth fathers, and that they are also afforded 30 days to give their consent to the adoption, and it can be months before a child is eventually placed in their adoptive parents’ arms for the first time. For abandoned babies, the waiting period can be even longer, as the Act affords the birth mother, father and even extended family members ample time to come forward to claim the baby. By then, adoptive parents may be faced with serious bonding issues with their adopted child.

“Government adoption agencies expect us to wait months before placing a baby in our arms, so who can blame couples for choosing to work with private social workers who give them a newborn baby immediately?” one father asked (I later learned that he and his wife are waiting to adopt their second child). Everyone could hear the exasperation in his voice and as he spoke other parents nodded their heads in agreement.

I could not remain silent. As an adoptee, I felt a responsibility to speak for the orphaned, unwanted and abandoned babies. After obtaining permission from the group co-ordinator I stood up after the final presentation and faced the group. I knew that all they wanted to do was give a loving home to an orphaned, unwanted or abandoned child, but complex legal procedures made it so difficult for them to do so.

“After listening to everything that has been said today I cannot help but feel thankful that I was adopted under the old Children’s Act, which enabled me to be placed in my mother’s arms when I was a few days old and stay with them while the adoption process was finalised,” I began.

“That said, part of me also wishes I had been adopted under the new Act, because then my birth mother would have been legally required to name my birth father on my original birth certificate and that piece of my life puzzle would not still be missing to today.

“What this has made me realise is that sadly, even though it is intended to protect children from being exploited, the Children’s Act will never be perfect. It is formulated by imperfect humans who will never be able to devise a law that will satisfy the needs of all the parties involved.

“My parents also went through a difficult screening process and had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to adopt me. But they did it. They never gave up and today I am so thankful, because were it not for their perseverance I wouldn’t be standing here today pleading with you not to give up hope.

“The adoption procedure may lengthy, complex and frustrating, but stick with it. Orphans all over the world need you and God will bless you richly for your selfless act of love.”

 

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What’s good about being adopted?

This question was asked of me recently by an adoptive mother, following a talk I presented to an adoption support group on the myriad painful emotional issues adoptees have to deal with over their lifetime.

For a few moments I was silent as I tried to think of an answer.

“That’s a difficult one,” I said eventually, playing for time while I frantically searched my brain for an answer.

Then I thought of the Bible story about the man born blind (John 9:1ff). Jesus’ disciples asked Him whose sin – the man’s or his parents’ – had caused him to be born blind.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

It’s a heavy cross we adoptees have to bear, but my journey of healing has showed me that we can use it to glorify God and further His Gospel, as the apostle Paul did (Philippians 1:12).

He also encouraged the Corinthian Church with these words:

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8)

and went on to say:

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

It is important to note, however, that God doesn’t cause bad things to happen so that He can manifest Himself and others can learn of Him. For example, an innocent person being killed by a drunk driver is certainly not part of God’s plan or His will.

But God can use situations such as these and turn them into good. As He did with Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his own brothers (sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?).

Despite all the hardships Joseph had to endure while in Egypt, he remained faithful to God and eventually became a high-ranking ruler of the country. In time, he was  reunited and reconciled with his family and saved his countrymen from famine.

Thus he was able to say to his brothers:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

God is fully aware of the pain that results when babies are placed for adoption, but because He has given us free will, He doesn’t interfere with our choices. He can turn that pain into something beautiful, however, as long as we remain faithful to Him and wholly submit our lives to His will.

It’s a wonderful, liberating promise.

Telling your child they are adopted – when and how

Guest Post
By Michelle Aspeling
Coordinator: Pretoria Adoption Support Group, South Africa

Families are formed in many ways and adoption is a beautiful way to make a family.  From the moment I received the referral of my son to the moment I laid eyes on him and looked into those little brown eyes, I knew he was my son.

After all the excitement and the joy that came with this blessed moment in my life, I had a great fear of how do I tell him I did not give birth to him?  Although for everyone else it might be obvious, as I am vanilla and he is chocolate, my biggest fear was, how would he respond and would he still love me as mommy?

During our home study preparation we were informed and educated on all aspects that lay ahead of us, so I knew from the beginning that he had the right to know that although he did not come from my body, this was just a technicality, as he was my choice and my gift from God.

There is often hesitancy on the part of adoptive parents, especially in cases of same-race adoptions for a variety of reasons, not to tell their children they are adopted.  During our home study preparation we were told that a child should never remember the moment they found out they were adopted; they should simply grow up knowing it.  I thought this made a lot of sense, and wanted to share some of the choices we made about telling our son that he is adopted.

Tell your child at an early age
It doesn’t have to be a major undertaking, as it is often best to introduce the idea slowly and over time.  This can avoid the risk of the child finding out by accident from a family member or friend.  Some parents choose to wait until the child is in their teens before telling them child they are adopted, but adolescence is in itself a difficult time, so this may not be the best time.

In some ways, this can make the question of how to go about telling your child they are adopted somewhat easier, as small children tend to ask simpler questions than older children.  My son was four when he came home from nursery school and proudly told me: “I came from your tummy!” and pointed to my tummy.  (The teacher had explained to all the kids in the class where they came from and that they were born from their mommy’s tummies.)  At that moment, my heart skipped a beat and I said, “Skattebol, families are made in all kinds of ways, and sometimes children don’t come from their mommy’s tummy, but I’m still your mommy.”

This satisfied him for the moment. I did not deceive my child, nor did I make a big deal about it either, as telling them they are adopted is an ongoing process.  As your child is able to better understand things as they get older, you can explain more and more.  Obviously, a one or two-year-old is not going to comprehend the complicated facts of adoption, but they can start becoming partially aware of their special identity.

Be patient
It is important to explain a little at a time.  Only answer the questions asked.  This will allow your child to comprehend what you are telling them.  Answer each question as they come up, so that they are not overwhelmed and confused.  Children may only understand a small fraction of what has been explained, but, as they get older and are able to understand more detail, you will be able to build on an existing foundation.

Never place birth parents in a negative light
I used the following explanation: “You didn’t grow in mommy’s tummy.  You have a birth mother (or tummy mummy) and you grew inside her.  She loved you very much.  She couldn’t take care of you.  Now, you are my child and I am so lucky to be your mommy.”

It makes the child feel less rejected to know that they were loved deeply, but the biological parents just weren’t able to give them the kind of home they wanted the child to have.  You just have to find that middle ground between “over glamorising” birth parents and talking negatively about them.

Be honest
Adoption is not a shameful thing, it is simply the child’s “truth”.  We decided to be open about adoption, to talk about it freely, but not obsessively, and have our son always know how he came into our family.

Tell their story
We do this by telling our son bedtime stories of how we prayed for him, how we travelled to pick him up from the orphanage, how he came to live with us, and the joy, anticipation and love we felt. As he gets older, we adapt the story according to his level of understanding.  He is now starting to add his own bits and sometimes it is just wonderful how he is able to comprehend certain facts and explain to me what he understands.

Recently, he said: “I sat on the chair at the orphanage and was waiting for Mommy and Daddy to come and get me!” He asks questions which create a great dialogue between us. Other methods, such as reading a book about adoption, scrap booking and pictures, are ways parents can use to tell their children their story. Always stay positive!

Celebrate your differences
Our family is not defined by who received whose DNA, we are defined by relationship, as not one of us in our family shares the same genetics.  It doesn’t matter how you are formed; what matters is the love you share and the memories you create.  We celebrate his culture, heritage, food, art, and more.  Our son is from Cambodia, so it is not always easy living in South Africa to participate in the various festivities, but we take him to the temple, cook Cambodian cuisine and try to incorporate Cambodian traditions in our home.

Adoptive parents should not fear saying the “wrong thing”; there is no correct language or method to use when telling a child they are adopted.  You know your child best, so approach the discussion in the way you feel is most appropriate.

Visit the Pretoria Adoption Support Group on Facebook

email: pretoriaasg@yahoo.com

The final chapter

I did not write the final chapter of my book. It was written by my husband Sean, for a very special reason.

During my journey of discovery and healing, Sean was always at my side – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

One on occasion he accompanied me to a support group meeting for adoption triad members. There we met not only adoptees, birth mothers and adoptive parents, but also their spouses. Like Sean, they had come along to provide support.

One young man, the husband of an adoptee, expressed how helpless he felt as his wife battled to deal with all the emotions that engulfed her. He admitted that sometimes he struggled to understand her pain, even though, as her husband, he experienced it almost first hand with her every day.

Sitting next to me, Sean nodded his head in agreement, now and then whispering a quiet “yes” as the young man spoke. Clearly he could relate to what the man was talking about.

In that moment I realised that I was not travelling my journey alone. The pain I felt was not limited to me , but also affected those close to me, especially my immediate family – my husband and children.

When I made the decision to write my book I asked Sean to contribute a chapter. I wanted him to write about his experience of my adoption journey – how he felt through it all and most importantly, how he dealt with it. I wanted Sean to speak so that others like him, whose unwavering support is indispensable, who feel our pain as they carry our burden with us, could feel heard.

I was not prepared for my reaction when I read Sean’s chapter. He wrote from the heart and his honesty moved me to tears. I had been so self-absorbed, so intent on what I was going through, that I never gave a minute’s thought to how he was being affected by it all. Yes, learning about your adoption as an adult is traumatic, but the trauma is not isolated. The spillover effect on those closest to us is considerable and as adoptees, we need to be aware of this.

Although our pain causes our loved ones pain, mostly they remain silent because their primary role is to provide support. How unselfish is this love.

Sean’s chapter is entitled A Little While of Winter, taken from Song of Solomon 2:10-12. A  talented friend of mine put the words to music and recorded the song, which I gave it to Sean as a gift as our pain turned into healing:

My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past;
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land.

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