Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Adopting Older

It's gonna be a long post so get your tea or coffee ready, maybe a snack even, take a pee and settle in.

Disclaimer- I am NOT calling children animals (MOM) 

Just imagine you hear about these 2 precious and different cats- like Bengal cats-ohhh pretty. Now, you may have had a kitten or 2 in your life, sweet little things with claws.  That grew up and you had to de- claw, or send kitty outside, or get kitty enough toys for him or her to behave and stop shredding momma's couch.You even have little sweet tabby "Wilma" now.  And she'd love a playmate or two.  So you've got experience, right?

But you hear about this cool sounding duo of cats and think-- hummm, I want them.  And you know they will be gone on Monday and this is Saturday so you gotta act fast.  You plan and think of all the ways these kitties will fit in your life.  You might even, if you are a believer-- ask God to help you make the decision and may feel He is saying 'Yes, take the kitties." Because He made all things big and small and wants us to LOVE, right?  So we can't be going about this wrong.

So kitties comes home from the pet shop. At first kitties are quiet, don't do much.  You don't know kitties very well so you give kitties lots of room, lots of treats, lots of leeway to learn about the home and the others who live there.

And after a bit you really start to notice something.  Kitty #1 seems to be more easy going than Kitty #2.  Fred (Kitty #1) and Bubba (Kitty #2) are very different.  Even though they are the same breed.  You think, humm, odd. Now Fred, he seems real laid back and you are starting to really get what he is all about.  Where his favorite spot to sleep is. His favorite toy.  Where he likes to be petted.

But Bubba, well, he seems a bit harder to "get."  Bubba does things to puzzle you.  Bubba acts like he is starving and steals Fred's food.  Bubba goes after Fred and even Wilma who was already home even though you give Bubba lots of love and attention and food.  You even take Bubba to kitty day care with others just like him and think it will make him feel better to be with other kitties just like him. You go out of your way to make him feel special and loved.

Bubba isn't doing better but you feel bad for Bubba and you give him even more food and maybe more hours at kitty daycare. Thinking it will help Bubba and of course, you didn't bring Bubba home for him to be unhappy but you are really feeling clueless as to what is wrong with Bubba.

So as Bubba becomes more sullen, kitty daycare workers start to wonder what you are doing with Bubba. I mean, Bubba "seems" okay at kitty daycare and he purrs and plays nicely so why when you show up to get him does he start hissing?  What are YOU doing to Bubba?? They wonder.  

You think maybe Bubba misses Miss Sara who worked at the pet shop so you try to reach her and she tells Bubba there's no going back, the pet shop closed down. So he better be thankful he got to come home with you and be good, he was LUCKY you chose him.  Now Bubba feels even MORE lost. 

And what does Bubba do then?   Well, Bubba  is still going after Fred and Wilma, and added in he has started to "lie in wait" for you.  And he attacks you when you least expect it. Even with all the extra TLC you are giving him, he continues along this path and his outbursts are even worse.  You wonder what Bubba's issues are but you are so tired of breaking up cat fights that Bubba starts, Bubba pooping on your bed,  being attacked for doing everything you can think of for Bubba but other cat owners are SURE it HAS to be something you are doing wrong.  All the while you are being scratched and tore up by Bubba who you vowed to give a good home and love forever.

You start to wonder. Is this fair to Fred and Wilma? How much do you ask them to tolerate of Bubba? Why can't Bubba GET that you want to like him and will care for him just as much as the others?  Why does Bubba not get this?  Why?  What are you supposed to do?  The pet shop is gone. No answers at that door.  No one else seems to know what to do with Bubba and they just shake their heads and say "Just love him more."  And you try, you truly do.

Months go by,  now your home has become a battle ground. You ask Bubba nicely to use the litter pan.  You have fresh and lovely litter in there at all times. And Bubba poops on your bed. Over and over. He will not listen. He seems so incredibly unhappy and you feel so incredibly overwhelmed and sad. You feel lost in what to do for Bubba.

Bubba continues to see everything you do for Fred and Wilma as favoring them and makes everyone in the house PAY for anything he sees as "him being wronged."  As someone else getting more than him.  

Wilma is a crying mess. She is scared to come out of her room.  Fred is sad.  He doesn't understand why Bubba doesn't like this new and wonderful home, with plenty of food and love, treats and clean litter.  He just hangs his head in frustration.  He "gets" what it's all about here, WHY CAN'T BUBBA?  

Everyone tip toes around Bubba trying not to upset him but he is walking misery.  He snarls at everyone. He hisses. He runs off and you don't know, do you go after him or wait him out?  Will he come back? Is it terrible to wish he wouldn't, you wonder?

At this point you have "hit the line."  What line?  Well, the invisible line we all have.  Of what we can and can not tolerate.  And you tell Bubba, "You gotta shape up.  There's no going back.  I can not force you to stop this behavior, but if you do not I can not allow you to have free rein in MY HOUSE. You can not run MY HOME."  So Bubba goes to the spare bedroom where Bubba is told, "You will get fed, you will have litter, use it.  When you listen and show me you are ready to handle life in this home, in this family, then we'll talk."  And it takes DAYS, Bubba cries. Bubba whines. Bubba sleeps a lot, refuses to look at you when you take him food.  BUT then, one day when you take Bubba his lunch, he goes over and uses the litter pan, to show you he will.

And as time goes on Bubba starts to "get" that you mean it.  And he decides you really aren't sending him back to the pet store, or off to another home.  So after much thinking Bubba settles down.  He accepts that he is loved the  same as Fred.  He still has some issues of jealousy, of anger, but they are less and less. His anger is controllable and he doesn't have to poop on your bed to "show you" anymore.

Now you feel somewhat relieved but also as if you have gone through a wringer washer. TWICE. Or even 3 times. You are drained. Fred and Wilma still don't completely trust Bubba and are whiny. You've lost many friends and family that don't want to hear about Bubba and his issues anymore, who think it must be something you did/are doing to him.

You work with the pieces of your broken up family and eventually everyone does settle down.  You find a new "normal" -- different from before but still okay, even good.  And Bubba, well, his issues become "manageable" because you know when they are coming and see it and are able to head him off.  You are thankful Bubba seems to be on the right road. 

 But really you are NEVER the same after what Bubba has put you through.

Here's why I wrote this---- some people don't understand what day to day life can possibly be with an older treasure and are so unprepared for this type of chaos or living.  It's TOUGH.  It's draining.  (Again, not calling children animals, it was the best story line I could come up with to illustrate my point)

The adoption "system" has things  going on that are not being addressed. I am by NO means an expert but I call things like I see them-

Some things I see over and over that are NOT working with older child Chinese adoption---

Agencies NOT preparing families for older child issues.  They have to "man up."  Older child behaviors, how personality factors into a child's adoption as well as orphanage verses foster care, past history, genetics, and if a child truly wants to be adopted or not need to be addressed.   

 EDUCATION-- I can not stress this enough. I don't care if you have NO CHILDREN- I feel any family CAN parent an adopted Chinese teen successfully  even if you have never parented. You CAN. 

 BUT you MUST be totally prepared for what you may get. Behaviors brought on by trauma because your older child is traumatized. I don't care if they spent 7 years or 7 days in the orphanage, if they have foster care verses orphanage care. If their birth parents died or abandoned them.  THEY ARE TRAUMATIZED children.

My BEST recommendation is to read like mad, to take therapeutic foster care training (we did this) to ASK people who have BTDT (mom it means Been There -Done That) to be there for you, to guide you, to tell you what to expect. And yes, every child is different. BUT be prepared for the WORST case. Then if you do get an easy one you will be that much more educated and capable- how can that be wrong?

It's possible to become a CASA worker, to volunteer to work with kids in foster care to be their advocate. Big Brothers/ Big sister. You'll see kids who react to feeling different for not having a mom or a dad, the struggles, behaviors you may not have ever seen even if you do have experience raising bio children.

Older children are NOT being prepared for what being adopted means. We are not host families. They are not getting everything handed to them and hitting the "family lottery." It's WORK. It's hard.  They must want to be adopted and do the work to become part of a family that behaves in a totally foreign way and expects them to mold to many of those behaviors. They are not coming here to teach us how to be orphans. They are coming to be adopted in a family and learn to become a family member.

Children NEED to be listened to.  When they say "I don't want to be adopted" it should NOT become about the $$, or someone else deciding it's best for the child.  Forcing a child to come to a family they don't really want, and it could take a good YEAR of struggle with communication and trust to even LEARN this is how child felt, it's BAD.  

And how do you really know if they want to be adopted?  They will do as they are told, "say you want to be adopted."  But then they come here and they don't want anything to do with this "family."  THEN WHAT?  One of the biggest hurdles is them WANTING to have a family.  Why would they even TRY to be a part of our family if they didn't really want us to begin with??  No motivation= no trying. I don't KNOW how to fix this issue as it's really up to the orphanage to be honest for the child's sake.

Older Chinese children are very culturally CHINESE.  (No duh, huh?)  When we *think* we are helping them feel better by giving them immediate access to many avenues of Chinese culture in our homes, we are hindering their adjustment.  They often will take all we give them of China, friends, calls, movies, music, church, and gravitate to it, therefore denying they are now Chinese AMERICANS (aka part of our family).  They must, to "make it" here become AMERICAN.  

They must learn the culture, language, what is expected of them as our child.  Families need to know it's OKAY to take a large portion of Chinese contact from their child to allow them to get to know child/ child to not be able to "hide" in that contact or dream about that contact taking them back to China.  And if you do allow contact it be a positive good thing, but monitored and understood by child that if negative behaviors result from this contact then contact goes away UNTIL negative behaviors stop. However long that takes. Not a set time of "grounding" because this does not work. It has to be till the behavior changes for them to "get it."

When we adopt these teens become Chinese Americans, like it or not. It's something they have to accept to get a family.  They already HAVE the Chinese part down pat. They need TIME to get the AMERICAN part and them clinging to the Chinese part does NOT foster healthy and positive bonding/blending into a family.  Even 2 and 3 years home we limit our children as to their Chinese cultural contacts.  We would not ever be able to take the Chinese out of them if we DID want to (we don't)

  It's not to say we do not respect their culture. We celebrate Chinese holidays, our home is decorated in a very Asian manner, we cook Chinese, our children speak Chinese.  We totally respect their roots and want them to be proud of who they are.They are not LOSING being Chinese, they are adding being American to being Chinese.  Being part of our family gives them the offer to take the best of both worlds if they want to. That's what we emphasize to our children OFTEN.

 As far as Chinese/born contacts we have 2 kinds reactions of Chinese people to our family.

1. Those who "get us" -- they understand our love, commitment and how we truly take these children into our hearts and homes as our own.  We would die for any of our kids, including the adopted ones-- we see them as no different.

2. Those who follow traditional Chinese belief that orphans are worthless. That you should only have 1 child to give that child everything, that we can't possibly love so many children.  

Number 1's are few. We love them. 

 Number 2's- they are not good.  We do not waste time on them. WHY? Because they will tell our children "Ohh you so lucky to be adopted" (which means to them-- you are worthless orphan who was our charity case)
When our kids struggle, they tell them to "suck it up, how dare you dislike people who adopted you"  (which means to them-- your feelings are unimportant, you aren't loved as much as the other children and our kids don't have the right to be unhappy.) 

The type of interaction with Number 2's damages our children, erodes their confidence and hinders their bonding to us.

Adopting 2 children at once, one older, one younger, even 2 older and one with a difficult personality is NOT a good thing.  You all know me, I want to see every child possible have a family.  For sure. And I am NOT saying it can't be done.  It can.  But so often the reports do not give enough info to determine if you will get 2 easy going kids. I do not recommend it to anyone. And I don't care what anyone thinks of that either.  It's my honest opinion.

 When your child is "slapped in the face" daily with "new sister or brother" adopted same time as them making it and they are struggling, you've cooked a recipe for anger, resentment, alienation and hurt that they are "odd man out" in your family. NOT GOOD.

 I'm also going to add here, DO NOT sent one parent to adopt older child.  If at all possible, do not ever send dad to adopt teen girl, mom to adopt teen boy without someone else with them, mom with a brother, dad with an aunt.  It's a set up for one parent to get off on the wrong foot and often the damage/mistrust can not be repaired with an older treasure.

Also gonna add that deciding to adopt because a child will age out, we know what this means for child. We have teens who faced this. But families need to really be prepared  to adopt an older child and what that means.  NOT reacting to a time limit said child has left. It's too important  for the best for the CHILD as well as the entire family for an adoption of a teen to be made as a snap decision.

People thinking that disruption is a swear word. Re home sounds nicer, but it means the same thing.  No one ever adopts (at least I have never heard of anyone) who adopted to rehome the child.  It's like gettin' married to get divorced.  Just plain silly.  But sometimes it does happen. And a struggling and desperate family should have  choices when faced with a child who is not able to make it in their family. There should be options for families that include support, breaks, and rehoming to decent homes.

Agencies need to step up here.  Less push to get older children adopted then nothing once there are issues. A base of families willing to accept a child needing rehomed and understanding/help if it would come to that choice for a family would be HUGE.  An agency should never dump people once the adoption is over, it's just wrong.

Most of all I suggest you prepare your heart, prepare your mind, prepare your children if you already have kiddos at home.  Go over what behaviors new teen might have and what is expected of children already living in the home.  Make it real. Prepare your hearts that one parent may have a long wait for child to trust, speak and be comfortable with them.  Dad here patiently waited for Chloe to come around for over a YEAR. If this is going to be an issue/ intolerable for either parent this happens to, you NEED to know this ahead of time.  KNOW the family strengths and weaknesses.

Have phone numbers of  BTDT support parents,  pastor, social worker, Chinese interpreter and local crisis center and USE them in that order as needed. Join support groups that are supportive, NOT slam you for sharing the tough. Slamming people for the tough is like pretending it isn't happening. And it is. It's very real. It's very hard. Sometimes you just need to hear someone else HAS walked through this, had stood firm because is can be the hardest parenting you have ever done. It's a tough JOB-- tougher still when it seems they hate you:(

 And most of all because I do believe in God, His power, His will, His call to care for the orphans---- prayer. Follow God's WILL (not ours) in what He wants you to do, the child HE chooses for your family  IF He is calling you to adopt. Because God does NOT make mistakes then I believe you SHOULD LISTEN.  He knows your heart. He loves you, the orphans, your family, He will not send you more than you can handle NO MATTER THE OUTCOME. 

There are MANY teen treasures out there that DO want and deserve to get a family-- a family prepared  for all the joy, fun, hardship, entertainment, attachment, love, and acceptance of them no matter what that means, including if it means loving them enough to see your family is not their forever answer.  

Now, if anyone has gotten through ALL of this, I have a little news for you as a reward:)

We have been led by God to accept a child from another family. She is 14 and Chinese, of course.  Paisley will be joining us soon. 

She was adopted recently and has not adjusted well. We deeply respect her first family for caring enough about her to see this and realize for her to move forward she needed a new family. 

It will not affect our adopting Phoebe. Paisley is an extra treasure God has sent our way, unexpected but no less welcomed into our hearts and family.

We ask for prayer for her first family, for her and adjustment for all to go smoothly.

Some of what I addressed above are issues that first mom very openly has shared herself,  but not all apply to her or any of our family but are taken from other families I have helped, been in contact with and /or are my own personal opinions.

Comments to this post are welcomed:)


Jo's Corner said...

Excellent post! You wrote/spoke the truth! I will pray for Paisley and for your family, as you all adjust. I look forward to "meeting" her and watching her grow in your care and love. I just want to put this out for you and/or for other families: My heart is open and willing to adopt a child who needs a new home. It isn't possible for me to go through the travel necessary for an IA, but I would love to be Mama to a child who needs love and security and a new start in life. Hugs ~ Jo

Chris said...

WoW oh WOW!! You hit on so many good points. Our almost teen adoption went so well...and yet is/was hard. Because of that I am afraid to adopt older again...I see the possibilities.
I salute you lady...and will be praying for your family

Unknown said...

Love the honesty. An open heart is a start but without a support system and education it is not enough. Well said. Sending prayers your way for the adjustment of Paisley into your flock.

Lori said...

Great post!

I agree completely.

Thanks for speaking out, friend.

thesleepyknitter said...

Great post! Thank you.

Jo's Corner, there are agencies that help families adopt national and international children who need a second chance at a forever family. You might Google the words Wasatch Second Chance and see what you find.

Patty said...

Great post, Vickie!

Sandy said...

You hit so many of the issues all of us adopting older kids should heed. I know we've missed the mark on a few, but have been blessed with an "easy" tween. We're learning from our mistakes. It is so important for people to go into this with realistic expectations. Thanks for being open and honest.

Linette said...

Great points, and well-written. I know lots of people read your blog, but do you think you could get this published in one of the online...I don't know what to call them, blogs? magazines? I do think this is useful. I'm grateful for two agencies who are not phased by big kid issues and made sure we would be comfortable calling them, as well as for books and blogs that gave us an idea of what to expect. Also grateful for a teen treasure who really wanted a family and who intersperses the moments of frustration with moments of satisfaction. I'm looking forward to seeing Paisley welcomed into your home!

Nancy said...

Wow. Good luck with Paisley. I will keep all of you in my prayers.

Elissa said...

Well done, my friend! I agree with Linette-- this needs to be plastered all over the place!!

bbmomof2boys said...

As usual you just amaze me. Great post. It really helped me to see some things that older kids go through - stuff I wouldn't have thought about.

Hugs and prayers to you and your family my friend!!


Sandy said...

Great Post. So,so true!
Sandy,mom to 3 teen adoptions,all disrupted and mom to a Paisley, age 5, adoped at age 3 months from Vietnam. Can't wait to "meet" your Paisley

Debbie said...

What a tremendous post! It should be a requirement to read before saying "yes' to an aging out child.
Can I have your contact information when we're in China in August for our first "teen" adoption?

angelchica said...

I have been a reader of your blog for a loooooong time. You actually helped to inspire us to adopt. My husband and I are currently in the process of adopting a special needs baby from China. We are of Chinese descent and looking forward to our first child. Our dossier is already logged in. I was wondering, what agency did you go through to adopt your children? Also, you used to post up a fund raising link to raise funds for your adoptions and the adoptions of your friends kids. Can you please tell me how to set one up myself? I really am looking for resources to help raise the much needed funds for this adoption.

Please feel free to visit my personal blog, and my websites at:

God bless you for having the heart to adopt and for inspiring us to adopt!


TheDideonGang said...

I will be sharing this with families i work with who consider an older child. It can be this way with a 4-5 yr old too, regarding the trauma.
Thank you for posting and being honest - so few get it, and you put it all out there. Will be forwarding to some agency friends as well so they can learn how to improve on their programs and training. Glad to hear things have improved, but as you wrote it is a new family or structure - things have changed.'Lavonne

Karen said...

I enjoyed your blog post. It has so many truths to it. I do not agree with catagorizing the "adopting two at once stance". We have done it twice, with great success both times. It works for some... doesn't work for others. Doesn't mean it is always a bad thing as you have mentioned in your blog.

Glad things have settled down and so thankful that you will be Paisley's family.

Blessings, Karen R

Jean said...

Great Post! All this needed to be said!
I hope a dialogue begins from this and the topic isn't just dropped.

It's important to say it like it is and not continue to have the topic sugar coated.

Way to GO!!

Lisa said...

Wonderfully written. I always feel like we are living a "best-case scenario" with our older child adoption and yet it has still been the most difficult and painful two years of my life. Thanks for the honesty.

Holly said...

Wow! This absolutely needs to be shared! I have been extremely disappointed to see so many adoption agencies, even well known and well respected ones, drop the ball completely once the adoption is completed overseas. I have some personal experience with much of what you wrote and it is so refreshing to finally read something that doesn't shame or sugarcoat. I think the two greatest needs for agencies are better preparation of adopting families and better post adoption support! So many families struggle silently and isolation during such struggles is so harmful. I really appreciated your kitten analogy. Sometimes difficult things are more easily understood using things we do understand. I also deeply appreciated your respect for families who adopt but for many reasons find that their new child can not heal and or thrive in their family setting. Such a realization is always met with heartbreak and bitter disappointment. I know not all will agree with your stance against adopting two children at once and while I have no experience with that I understand your reasoning and believe that is why our agency, BAAS, refuses to allow more than one adoption at a time. Education and supportare keys we all need for success in our adoptions. Thanks again for sharing this. -Holly

Kristen said...

Thank you for the insightful post! My family is traveling to China in June/July to adopt a 12 year old girl. We are thrilled, but also a little scared about the transition for our family. I have been reading your blog for quite a while, but have never posted a comment. I feel like I have learned a great deal about older child adoption just from reading about your family's adventures. Would you and your family be willing to be a contact for us when we get home with our new daughter? Incase we, or she, needs someone to talk to. You can email me at kcweil1@gmail.com if this would be something you would consider. Thanks again for your wonderful post. Congrats and good luck on your new daughter!

Kristen Weil

~Monica Utt~ Itty Bitty Land said...

Maybe I remember incorrectly... but it seems to me I remember someone saying, "Phoebe will be our last!" ROTFLOL!!! Can ya just hear God laughing at you as you said that?!!!


May Our Dear Lord hold all involved in His loving arms. Amen.

Desiree' said...

excellent post!! Our son is 6 and seems to be doing well so far. (stil in Guangzhou) but you touched on so many things I needed to hear!!

C. said...

You are an inspiration - you listen to God's voice and do what He says! Can't wait to see how He uses you and your family in Paisley's life.

Julie said...

Our daughter from Dongguan is 5 on Sunday and has been home five months. So much of what you said applies to her. Some days it is so hard! Lots of days it is very easy.

Thanks for always saying what needs to be said and often what I need to hear.


Love for Lilly Yin said...

BEAUTIFUL POST! And congrats on your surprise adoption!

Shonni said...

Great post! Should be required reading. We recently brought home an 11 year old girl and an 8 year old boy. It has been hard. I wish I had of know a little more than we do, but we are learning as we go (much of what you wrote in this post are things that we have done/are doing). Our newest son seems to have some past abuse also. I would love any support or advise as we continue to parent our new son and daughter. We would still do it again, however, this kind of adoption has certainly tested everything that we have.

Jennifer P said...

A wonderfully cautionary tale. Be prepared! What resonated with me here is that the children are "told" to accept what is happening to them. I believe that the Chinese culture has the orphans in a hard place of not being able to make their wishes heard or known. Our 8 1/2 year old (adopted 6 months ago) admitted recently that he didn't know he was coming here forever. He did what he was told. And he was told to be happy about it. Fortunately, he is one of those easy-going ones and it's been a happy ending - so far.

Rebecca said...

Great info. I'll be coming back for more. Please keep talking!!! We are adopting a 13 year old girl from china.
We've read all the books, blogs, and BTDT parents that we know of. We know this is our calling. We are so ready for her to get home and just get on with it. Please pray for us.
Thank you!!!

connie said...

Thank you, sista, for sharing this much-needed, infrequently-shared info! Keep on keepin' on, my friend!

Christine said...

You have a gift for children. God bless this family!

The Byrd's Nest said...

Great post. In my opinion, most agencies drop the ball before and most especially after the adoption. We have two adopted children, one came to us at 9 months old with lots of anger and control issues that we are still dealing with at the age of (almost) 8, I can't imagine multiplying the trauma she has endured at least a million times into a teenager that is being adopted at such a late age. I have lost many friends over the last 6 years because they just don't "get us".

I will be praying for your family, Paisley and her first adoptive family. I can only imagine just by the pain our little one has had. I have much respect for a family that is NOT giving up on this child but giving her another chance. Their hearts must be broken and I am praying for them to only have hearts filled with peace.

Hunan Mommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenny Goff said...

Wonderful Post! All of what you posted is TRUE. We have never adopted from another country but foster care in US. Still the same principles apply. I wish more newly adopted families could read this!
Jenny Goff

redthread said...

Wonderful post!

Lisa M said...

Thank you!!!! We are in the process of our first older child adoption and this is exactly what I needed to read. I will be attempting to read your blog from "cover to cover" as we prepare to bring our son home. I appreciate your honestly and your heart more than I can say!!!

Lisa M said...

Thank you!!!! We are in the process of our first older child adoption and this is exactly what I needed to read. I will be attempting to read your blog from "cover to cover" as we prepare to bring our son home. I appreciate your honestly and your heart more than I can say!!!