Friday, July 18, 2014

You shouldn't adopt a teen-------

How ya liking that cool header Savvi did for me again?? Pretty neat girl, that Savvi. Thanks again to her for keeping us "up on the times." Aren't the "kids" all looking so grown up?  Sigh......

Now-- I gotta tell you all some things that have recently been on my mind along with some conversations with some other moms of teens adopted from China.

And it SEEMS soooo complicated.  HOW do you know you are ready to adopt a teen?? One mom even asked me how I ever thought they were ready to adopt a teen, out-of-birth-order child when she first contacted me.

And I told her honestly-- "After I warned you about everything you didn't run screaming."

Seriously- they were still willing to take it (no matter what IT WAS) on.

So how do you know if you SHOULDN'T adopt a TEEN?

Here's some clues--(speaking on what I know here so it pertains to China teen adoption)

1.  If you expect undying gratitude for adopting a teen- You shouldn't adopt a teen.
They are losing everything they know, you are causing them TRAUMA, even to give them a "better" life.

Some do NOT want to be adopted and there's no way to know if they do or don't.
They don't KNOW any other life so they don't see what they have as terrible so don't think they are coming to you being thrilled about this new life and that they will show you ANY gratitude. Even "thank you" and "please" are not standards in China like they are here. If it annoys you to no end to never hear "thank you" you are gonna need to do a LOT of work to make it a habit and if that's a deal breaker for you .............. you might want to reconsider if you are up for this. 

2. If you are expecting to adopt a 11, 12, 13 year old (even down to babies this really applies to ALL adopted kids) and think they are going to be their number age in maturity and you EXPECT them to act that way any time soon----- You shouldn't adopt a teen. These kids will have YEARS and YEARS that they lack maturity and do not "catch up" for a very, very long time, IF EVER.

You very well could have a 20 year old who may/may not be able to graduate school, can't fill out job applications on their own, have no job history/driver's license or even motivation to work to support themselves. They may read at a 3rd grade level yet think they are going to become "famous" and be a movie star. There's huge gaps in the REALITY of life/taking care of themselves. Teen adoption is a longgggg haul commitment, not "Get them to 18 and phewww, we are done." Nope, not gonna happen. If you are cringing at the thought of your 20 year old thinking they will be the next Jackie Ch*n ..................then you might not be ready to take on a teen adoption.

3. If you are adopting a teen to give another child in the family a "buddy"---- You shouldn't adopt a teen.  Again--These kids lack maturity and the 12 year old you think will be a great pal for your 11 year old at home, will be about 5 year old behavior in China, and 6-7 year old behavior for a least 6 months, gaining slowly up to about 11 years old behavior home 2-3 years, maybe even 4-5 years post adoption, so they will NEVER be the same maturity. 

Adopted child may even be annoying to sibling and jealous of same age sibling along with the issues of having one child who is ready to drive, have a cell phone, computer usage, etc. and often adopted teen is NOT ready for those things at the same time. You DO have to be prepared to parent per their maturity age and not number age and take the heat for them not being allowed the same things sibling (or kids at school) are getting at certain ages.

Your new teen WILL count everything, even down to BEANS on their plate compared to sibling and even YOU. Do you have more than them?  Do you not love them as much????  If the thought of hearing "Why does so and so have MORE?"  every single meal drives you nuts........... you might not be up for teen adoption.  

4. If you don't get that this is a hormonal teen with toddler behaviors at first and you are inpatient/ unable to have tolerance of that-- You should not adopt a teen. Yes, they will bawl, hit, scream, pee, fight, ignore you on purpose, cause you to cry, act out, try to manipulate you in to buying them everything.  You GOTTA have tolerance and patience with these things.

As well you gotta understand they have hormonal changes and all that comes with that and may not have any clue how to take care of those personal issues (periods). You may have a child who knows NOTHING about their body or how it functions, or in the rare case, you may have a child who has been abused/ seen things they shouldn't. You HAVE to HAVE a plan in place to keep younger siblings safe. Baby video monitors, door alarms, even your local crisis center number and how/who to call if you need immediate help and it's Saturday night.  If this seems overwhelming to you and you can't imagine living "like that"...................... you may not be ready to adopt a teen.

5. If you expect great table manners and good hygiene to be the norm--- You should not adopt a teen.  It's totally cool in Chinese culture to slurp, throw food on the table, eat and run (so if you take your time they will find messy things to do at the table since they are DONE and done fast), it's not the norm to shower daily, use soap, use deodorant, even change clothes daily.

 All these things can be worked on, but some WILL take time. Especially that slurping habit!!  If this drives you bonkers.................... you might want to reconsider if you are up for adopting a teen.

6. If you think you will get a child well prepared for adoption and who comes lovingly in to your arms-- You should not adopt a teen.  They may/may not get what "adoption" even means. Usually it's a MAY NOT-- they think they are coming here for education, days filled with gifts, Disneyw*rld, riches galore, opulent rooms just for them. They don't get chores, siblings being equals, they have false ideas of what our lives are like and what we are adopting them for. From crazy stories like organ harvesting to cleaning/babysitting for us-- there is little understanding what being a child within a family MEANS.

Often they don't even like the sight of us-- we are different looking. We smell different. We talk different. Even smiling at them we are scary.  They don't understand why we want to adopt them and most are told we will send them back if they are not "good" thus causing 1 of 2 reactions-- extreme fear (acting out, crying, peeing, hitting, screaming, running, etc.) or shock (totally zoned out, scared to death, afraid to upset you, crying.)  If you don't think you can handle this craziness for your China trip and until you can show them with TIME that you are okay and get them to understand you aren't sending them back EVER.................... you might not be up for adopting a teen.

7. If you think you will have personal space for the next 6 months (or year and a half) -- You should not adopt a teen.  There's no personal space in China and they will be rough, in-your-face, on your lap even, touching everything, grabbing things they shouldn't, trying to nose in on everything that's happening and even be a part of it all no matter if it pertains to them or NOT.  You have to work on this slowly to teach them in this culture we value our personal space and they will offend people if they don't get this.

There's soooo many things we have to teach the teens that you wouldn't think of having to teach.  Orphanage care encourages NO thinking. Don't ask, fall in line, do as you are told and do it fast, don't get called out or you are in trouble--  that's orphanage living. Even correcting a teen can bring BIG, HUGE issues when they decide everything you tell them to correct them is "yelling" at them.  And since they are living in this culture it's really no less than cruel to NOT teach them how to get along here. Because they will be offending people/ unable to make friends, get jobs, marry if they aren't taught how things work here. It takes a lot to work through this and it's not a one time deal, it's LONG TERM. If that sounds daunting to you................ you might not be ready to adopt a teen.

8. If you have no idea what ESL means-- You should not adopt a teen. Get familiar. English Second Language teacher. It's either going to be YOU-- if you homeschool, or your new best friend-- meaning the teacher stuck--- Ooops, I mean BLESSED-- to get your new teen to teach English to. Now understand, if you think your child is coming to you with ANY great school skills-- you will be greatly shocked. Schools are not free to all in China and orphan children are not placed in good schools. Some don't even get to GO to school at all.

They are missing HUGE chunks of skills, areas of learning,  even homework is an issue-- because no one pushed them to do it. Motivation- some come with it, others have NONE. You aren't going to PUT motivation in them. Ain't happening. YOU have to become your child's greatest advocate and you have to be open to more than "We homeschool and that's how it is" attitude. You may have a very social child who does better in a school setting. Or vice versa. Or have a school that is clueless how to teach your child and have to FIGHT to get them educated year after year after YEAR. Till they graduate and then they are usually 19, 20 + and may STILL not be ready to go to college, leave home.  And if you think you can't handle that......................... you might not be up for adopting a teen.

9. If you have unreal expectations that they will drive, babysit, even use common sense sometimes-- You should not adopt a teen.  They DO NOT catch up quickly. And if they have any issues- learning disability, speech delay, even just long term orphanage care for their history-- you are going to be looking at YEARS of "catching up." 

They will not likely be ready to drive at 16 if they come at 14. They will probably be reading at about a 1-2-3 grade level and about 10 in maturity-- so would you let a 10 year old drive??? If you can't grasp that, or even have issue with kiddos taking much longer than 18 to graduate/ be independent, heck even to leave them HOME ALONE can take years-- if this sounds insane to you empty nesters thinking adopting a teen and it will give you freedom to still go places alone...................... You might not be up for adopting a teen.

10. If you think your life will be "back to normal" anytime in the next 2-5  (possibly longer) years after adopting a teen-- You should not adopt a teen. Just because you raised ANY amount of biological children to successful adulthood paths do not, DO NOT think you are NOT going to be slammed by some issue/s with your adopted teen. There's gonna be something, probably more than 1 thing that will take your breath away, steal your joy, rob your hope and leave-you -in-the-bathroom sobbing. If you think this won't happen to YOU, you are stronger than this-- YOU ARE WRONG. 

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT have a false sense that you got this covered. NONE of us "had it covered 100%" and anyone who tells you they do is lying.  There's a common issue with teen adoptions- people don't want to admit how darned hard it is because others love a "happy ending" therefore there's all kinds of adoptive families out there thinking they are failing.

You are NOT failing. You are normal. There are days you feel you have done NOTHING right and all you can do is go to bed and pray and wake up to try again tomorrow. And being slapped daily in the face by issue after issue (or even the SAME issue day after day) wears EVERYONE down.

It's often years and a TON of strain on other kids, marriage, extended family, friends-- times when others do NOT get where you are at with this child/teen and trust me when I say it's a LONELY, LONELY place to be when you are doing the best you can but there's no sympathy from anyone directly in your life because YOU ASKED FOR THIS (it's the attitude you get because you CHOSE to adopt.)  You do not have an adorable, cuddly, bundle of joy. You have an acne laced, sharp tongued, razor eyed, raging teen who isn't CUTE to ANYONE. If you aren't thinking you will be ready to claim this "treasure" as your own...................... you might not be ready to adopt a teen.

11. If you think you will be "safe" because your computer is in English, you have firewalls/ parental guards and you actually believe nothing will ever "go missing" when you adopt a teen-- You should not adopt a teen.  You will be the parent whose laptop is suddenly in Chinese and you can't figure out how to get it back to English. Or the one who will have a heart attack when the bank calls you about "charges on your bank card" caused by your little darling. You may not survive the news that anything and everything that catches your little "sweetie's eye" has made it's way to a hidden "stash" that only your teen knows the location of.

Often teens have deep rooted fears (going hungry) coupled with little understanding of right and wrong, as well they want to make friends and will often give things away to try to "buy friendships." Some will do anything and everything to hide away in social media (Chinese movies, music, contact with former orphanage friends or foster family) to keep from having to accept the WORK it takes to become part of the family. If you don't think you can/will be able to become a sleuth of sorts to keep up on all your teen is going to try to pull on you..................... you may not be up for adopting a teen.

12. If you think your child is going to appreciate and respect your brand new ANYTHING (home, car, bedroom furniture, camera, I pad) You should not adopt a teen.  Pretty much EVERYTHING is "fair game" in the orphanages with cement walls and floors, steel doors being the norm. Slammed doors, broken dishes, burned up microwave from foil being put in it, lawn mower being broken-- you name it, they WILL break it.

If you have "nice things" and think you will "teach them" --- think again. Even your beloved pets, will you be able to handle your new teen who kicks your dog repeatedly even when you say NO and you know they totally understand you?  What about your other kids? Got another adopted child and think they will LOVE a China sister or brother? Try JEALOUS-- because that's what you will get. Jealous they were here longer, they have more "things," they are closer to you, they understand you.

If you do not feel you have the patience or can have the understanding of where the anger comes from and the mere thought of your precious poochie getting kicked or even worse, the thought of your much younger, tender hearted child getting secretly pinched, made fun of, told bad things about you/family makes your blood want to boil.......................... you might want to reconsider if you are really wanting to bring home a teen.

13. If you think your adopted teen will come with a full report and all needs disclosed, along with no issues from their past--You should not adopt a teen. You are not going to get a child with "orphanage issues only that can be LOVED away."  It's not going to happen. You can and will get undisclosed medical stuff, baggage from past relationships or lack of relationships. Even ones in foster care can throw things at you that you never expect. Teens come with layers of hurt. Some overcome this well. Some DO NOT. You have to guide them to learn how to overcome and keep going forward, not let their past (no matter how ugly or bad) cripple them. 

 And it's also ongoing, you WILL visit this over and over issue. Many times teens will RUIN celebrations here (we BTDT parents call them "traumaversaries")  because "Gotcha Day", birthdays, Christmas, sometimes one, sometime ALL gatherings turn in to melt downs, and not just on the day- we have seen issues up to a week BEFORE and AFTER those dates!   If that sounds wayyyy too hard for may not be ready to adopt a teen.

14. If you would never once consider letting ME (or anyone else you don't know) pick a child from US foster care system and send you a great picture of the child, a short phrase on their personality and a very general medical report and expect you to adopt that teen right away without meeting them--- You should not adopt a teen. Please understand me here--- you are getting a teen with HUGE unknowns.

 Understand, we think Chinese culture, medical issues, this "poor abandoned child" NEEDS to be adopted and love will make it ALL BETTER. This is NOT true. Children in long term orphanage care have the SAME trauma/issues as long term foster care here. Changes of caregivers, no real bonds, needs unmet, school lacking/lagging behind, no positive role models they get to stay with.  Add on top of that you speak a different language, are bringing them to a different culture, etc.

 Can it work? Yep, it can. BUT-- if you are unprepared for the issues-- Oh, not YOUR child? YES-- your child. Even when someone met them and said they are quiet, gentle?  Yep, quiet while they hid your things. Gentle while they are pretending to hug their sister and are pinching her on the side you can't see?

If you don't have a clue what you are going to do if this happens or even who to ask "Is this normal?" ..................... you may not be up for adopting a teen.

15. If you think you can dress them up in matching American clothes and send them off to school and they will make friends, be happy, totally FIT IN-- You should not adopt a teen. I hate to say this. But our kids have faced racism-- IN.THEIR.FACE racism:( 

You gotta be prepared to teach them how to cope with it. That it's wrong. You also will have people who will want to "baby them" thus allowing them to "get away" with stuff . (This happened at our school) The mentality is that they were "a poor orphan from an orphanage," so they need to be pitied.   It's a fine line from "my child needs help and consideration of their lack of language/understanding of this culture" to "teen is manipulating adults to get away with things." 

And if you think they don't pick up on who they can pull this nonsense on the easiest, or you don't believe me, you are in for a shock. I don't know ONE child who hasn't done this of our 6. NOT ONE. Parenting these teens is what one mom said to me---- "rehabilitating dysfunctional kids."  They really ARE dysfunctional. And lacking language.

They are street smart but that doesn't WORK in a family.  The family stuff is HARD to learn and they don't always WANT it once they get here and see how hard all this is.  What adoption really and truly means. As my friend and fellow momma said "If you are spending more time painting the bedroom and picking out curtains for their room instead of reading books/ blogs, talking to BTDT parents" (and I add in here) doing therapeutic foster care training, preparing the other kids for every realistic behavior that may come, lining up sitters................... then you probably aren't ready to adopt a teen.

Now, trust me. I am not an expert. I am a mom. Of 6 "older adoptive kiddos," including 4 adopted as teens. One of those adopted from a disruption.  So if you read this and say "That mom is crazy." You would probably be right about that.

And you CAN certainly ignore ALL of this and go ahead --- ADOPT A TEEN.

 I will be happy for another teen to gain a family and will hope and pray it all works out well for you. And trust me when you get in too deep one (or many) time/s and think "What were we thinking, we are failing at this, we didn't expect this, we don't know what to do-- why did we do this?!?!"  I will  tell you to reach out and ask for help. I WILL NOT judge no matter what, I promise. Because sometimes God calls and it doesn't make a lick of sense to anyone but YOU.

And I do NOT know more than Him, so if He really calls you to bring home a teen, then go for it. Just note my email addy at the top of the blog there and be sure to know I will probably say "Yep, I've BTDT" since there's not too much we haven't seen with our 6 and I will be more than happy to be a support to you/ give advice as you need in your new journey with your teen treasure. 

And yes, TREASURE. They are indeed. Worth every-single-time I've been reduced to a sobbing, sloppy mess crying on the bathroom floor. WITHOUT ONE DOUBT.

Lest I get too long written here, which this is already pushing it--- read back through the blog and see, the joy, the accomplishments, the hope, the fast forward parenting. The lessons. The blessings.The love.

 Our family.

 Each one meant to be. We have no regrets, not one, for adopting all 6 of our kiddos. But prepared? Yes. Willing to admit this is one of the hardest things we have ever done? YES. Stretched more than we thought possible? YES.

But again-- OUR FAMILY. The way God meant for it to be. Thus we keep on, keeping on.  With His guidance and love to ease this journey of a lifetime:)


Anonymous said...

Oh brother...........WTF are we least I've met your kids, kinda gives me hope......we're probably traveling in Oct........if I go through all this I'll know who to blame! And who to call!

K said...

Hard to believe, but this is our norm. Who'd have thought? You and I need to write the books, not these funny folks who most unkindly forgot to mention 90% of the reality. Amazing how we manage to get through it, isn't it? I sure miss talking to you! Phone me! I'll phone you, too.

mom2three said...

May I throw in my 2 cents and say to also not adopt a baby and think that because this child is so young, there won't be any issues. Our daughter adopted just a couple of weeks past her first birthday has had more attachment issues than our son adopted when he was 8. Depends on the kid and the extent of the trauma, but there will be issues. Thank you for being brave enough to put it all out there. And yes, yes, yes, it has been worth all of it.

Missy Kenny-Corron said...

You could also change TEEN to CHILD and it would still be true!! We fostered for US then adopted 3 - one infant and 2 school-aged.. and everything you say rings true!! We are 6 and 3 years out and while we have been very lucky in terms of working hard to make the children attach - it is always a process and it is never quite done and we are a "success story" but really more like a work in progress going in the right direction!! LOL

Missy Kenny-Corron said...

You could also change TEEN to CHILD and it would still be true!! We fostered for US then adopted 3 - one infant and 2 school-aged.. and everything you say rings true!! We are 6 and 3 years out and while we have been very lucky in terms of working hard to make the children attach - it is always a process and it is never quite done and we are a "success story" but really more like a work in progress going in the right direction!! LOL

Debbie said...

Vickie, we've talked before. Your post is dead on. Partly I wish we'd seen it before adopting our son and partly I'm glad we didn't, because I believe 100% my husband would not have agreed to go ahead after reading this. I also recognize by reading your post how very, very lucky we are with our son. He's unmotivated, immature, doesn't like being controlled, but also doesn't whine, ask for things, get in anyone's space, yell, holler, rage, or hurt his siblings. In fact, he's more attached to his siblings than he is us. So thank you for writing this helped me realize he is a blessing (though a long-term one, lol).

Dawn said...

Dealing with ALL those here. You nailed it. It still doesn't make it easier for me to live with them, but to see it in writing is somehow validating. Thank-you.

Jean said...

Amen, amen, amen!! Fantastic post on older child adoption! You said it perfectly! And I love the end of the post- obviously, we don't do it cause it's easy. We do it because that is what HE has called us to do!

And ours right away found our kiddos with cognitive delays and took advantage of them. She went from one to the next and to the next and so on-in perfect order of their disability and took advantage of them for food, for things, for favors and to put them down to make herself feel better… lots of street smarts but not the kinda smart we want… She doing much much better now- praise GOD!!

Sarah said...

Phew!!! Thank you for keeping it real and gritty and full of faith! We are adopting a 10 yr. old boy with osteogenesis imperfect . I was a little anxious before reading and now, I have lots of questions for you BTDT. What is therapeutic foster care? Is that life being respite care or a safe house for a family in crisis? Do you have any resources you could connect me to in GA?
Thank you so much,

LucisMomma said...


Chris said...

Oh my goodness...I can't believe others really DONT believe this stuff happens!!!!
And we were guilty of "hoping for a buddy"' and how DUMB we hard it has been, how little I feel equipped to continue on this road.

Jason Ayres said...

I keep thinking...hmmm... I really needed copies of this for us to hand out to the friends and family who passed judgment on us for the way we were parenting our poor, pitiful orphan child who was manipulating them, totally!!! Anyway, Vicki, you are the first one who "counselled" us while still in China and we still appreciate your conversation with us. We are on the beautiful side to adoption at this point, but have so much work ahead of us as well. Thank you for your efforts to help all of us parents who do adopt the aging out teens. You are a true blessing to many of us! LA

bytheriver said...

Great post - so much applies to a 1 year old as well as a teen. Adoption is not easy for either party.

Carrie Bradford said...

Hi, This is wonderful! We didn't adopt a teen...but a six year old. However, we have dealt with so much of this even at her young age. The hardest for me right now is all the teachers wanting to "pity" her and look at you like you are crazy mean monster Mommy when you BEG them to please put up boundaries and enforce consequences. Any tips on how to deal with the schools in this issue? The inconsistency is driving me bananas. We just get something under control and improving, and then the behavior pops up at school and its ten times worse there, but because they refuse to enforce consequences, it comes back home again. She's adorable, little, and a master manipulator......but I'm the only one who sees it.....and our adoption community who gets it. But somehow, I have to get the schools to see it!

paul choyce said...

Very good article, spot on. We just adopted two teens from.a foreign country. We were told not to set expectations too high, not to expect gratitude, and not to expect immediate love or bonding. Reading this, puts things into perspective.