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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Adoption Disruption - The Down and Dirty

This post has been fighting to get out of me for some time now. I have attempted to squash it with a million "what ifs"  and  finally came to grips with the fact that my "what ifs" were really attempts to get myself off the hook and pretend that adoption has been perfect for us in all it's forms.  It hasn't. And it hasn't been perfect for all of our children either, primarily our 12 year old, Lemuel.
 The circumstances of Lemuel's birth are his own private history and out of respect for him, I will only share what is absolutely vital to the understanding of how he became a "disrupted adoption story."  Lemuel was born to a poor and physically ill mother who passed away just a month after surrendering him. Lemuel's birthmother was malnourished. She did not "break" him, she did the best she could but he was born at a disadvantage to his well-nourished, deeply-wanted age mates. A crack appears . . .
Lemuel waited in an Asian orphanage for 7 years for a family to call his own.  He was in a wonderful, Christian orphanage run by a family which I respect immensely. They did not "break" our son.  They fed, clothed and trained him but they are not a nuclear family.  They will be the first to tell you that every child needs a Mommy and Daddy of their own and a "regular family" to develop to the highest potential. The crack widens a little as he waits . . .
Finally, after 7 long years, Lemuel was placed for adoption with one of his biological brothers. That placement lasted all of two weeks before the first family recognized they were not prepared for the challenges that these two children were presenting. They disrupted the placement and Lemuel and his brother were put into two separate foster-to-adopt homes for their own benefits.  This first family did not "break" our son, either but the
crack in him  develops branches . . .
Lemuel's new foster-to-adopt family took him in with, undoubtedly, the purest of intentions. They wanted to help a child who needed them.  In the safety of their home, Lemuel began to express his deep sadness and anger at all of the circumstances in his life that he could never control.  This expression came out as violence. The family had their own biological child to protect. Lemuel was too risky to keep. He needed more than they could safely offer so it was time for him to move on. The crack in the soul of our son becomes a wide crevasse and ugly things ooze out . . . 
Lemuel is placed in a psychiatric hospital and put on a patch delivering continuous medication. He is 8 years old.  This medication keeps the tantrums at bay and puts a bandaid on a gaping, mortal wound.  When his sadness breaks through, he is given pills in addition to the patch.  He is labeled.  He is alone in a foreign country with no family, no siblings and nobody to truly fight for him.  The foundation of this little boy shatters into a million pieces and he says he doesn't want to live anymore. He is a broken pile of shards . . .
We learn about Lemuel through our adoption agency and we agree to go to the psyche hospital and meet him.
We take our three children along because we want them to understand as much as possible about this new child who may or may not be joining our family.  We meet Lemuel in  a large cafeteria at a psyche hospital. The room smells like old pizza and white milk.  He is a tiny figure at the end of a long table sitting with an agency social worker.  We approach him and HE IS TERRIFIED.  His eyes dart to each of our faces and then around the room. His eyes never stop moving. He wants to be anywhere but here, bracing for another probable rejection by people who mean nothing to him and yet symbolize everything.  We try to play a board game with him but he makes a mistake, gets angry and quits. His lips are so chapped that a circle of scabs surrounds them. He has been habitually biting and licking his lips for weeks out of sheer anxiety. We try to joke with him but he does not understand.  He gets up abruptly and leaves the room in the middle of an attempt to engage him.  None of us even knows if he is allowed to do this. The agency social worker goes to check while my husband and I wordlessly communicate "this kid is a mess".  And he was.
We leave the hospital for a nearby restaurant to talk and pray as a family.  We are distraught by what we have seen but aware that we are WAY out of our league.  We could have buckled up in our car and driven away without even looking in the rear view mirror. Part of me wanted to. The other part of me wanted to take Lemuel home with us that very day. We asked the Lord to show us what to do.  We called our agency on the
way home from the psyche hospital and told them we wanted to bring Lemuel home.  We did.  When we picked him up a few days later, he was neither happy nor sad. Just resigned. He had never had his opinion count before so he did not offer one about this new family coming to claim him.  He would simply learn to spell his new last name and move on with life.   He tried to.  He couldn't.  He was not a good enough actor to camouflage his true feelings. He cried a lot. He disobeyed most of the time. His attitude was terrible. He didn't like our food, our music, our ideas or any of us.  He was determined to reject us first or force us to reject him and shorten his time between placement and the big "heave ho."   He made us miserable.  We could not take him places without having to face him whining, griping. complaining or busting out with an inappropriate comment or question - and he could not whisper. He still can't.  He lied incessantly and made nonsense statements.  He overate and had nightmares constantly.  Our lives changed drastically over the course of the next few months.  Our older children began to resent him. Our younger child did not want to play with him because he cheated and always had to win.  In privacy, we questioned our decision to bring this child home.
We felt what his previous families had felt. That we had made a mistake and doomed ourselves to parenting this most difficult child. We cried. We read books. We considered disruption a hundred times and each time, one or the other of us would say "no".  We came to the stark realization that when handed a body bag with a broken person inside, we expected him to "rise up and walk" just by virtue of living under our blessed roof.
We somehow fancied our mere presence sufficient to heal this child.  We thought it would be easy. We were critical of all who had gone before us. Until we were humbled.  Until we couldn't fix him either.
Fast forward 5 years. Lemuel is still in our family. He has been in counseling and residential treatment since joining our crew. We have made many mistakes in our parenting of him. We have held the bar so high that he could never jump over it and then been furious when he didn't.  We have failed. But we have also succeeded.
We promised him that this family would be his last stop. And it is.  Not because we are so tolerant or so perfect and certainly not because he has been "cured" of all his issues.  This is Lemuel's last stop because he is our child and we love him.  We are learning to accept him "as is".   We don't have the kind of  glue that mends
a broken child but we have a Heavenly Father who makes all things new and He is teaching us bit by bit and day by day that He is sovereign.   Lemuel has improved GREATLY over the last 5 years but, guess what.
So have we.  We have learned the meaning of "blessing in disguise" and we are working on figuring out other mysteries like "unconditional love" and "adjusting expectations".  Lemuel is fine. He is exactly who he is supposed to be at this time in his life. 
 Despite the painful blows life has dealt him, he continues to find joy in the smallest of things.  He loves sports, video games, other people, making friends and eating Filipino food.  He laughs too long and too loud at the silliest of TV shows and adores his little brother who has Down Syndrome.
Lemuel is a walking miracle . . . beauty from ashes.
I do not believe I could have survived what he has.  Many could not.  Most would not be able to do it and retain any hope in the future.  Lemuel has many hopes and big plans - he wants to play football for his school, drive a car when he's 16, join the  military and he says he'll never get married because he'll probably die in a war and he doesn't want his wife to be sad.   (A little morbid but quite thoughtful, too).
I am not haughty enough to believe this child was put through all this hell just to teach our family valuable lessons, but he has.  I know the reason for Lemuel's life, just like the reason for all of our lives: we exist for the sole purpose of glorifying God.   Lord Jesus, be glorified in the journey and make us something beautiful for You.  Amen!



  1. What a beautiful post. We adopted our daughter from Haiti at age 7. It is the toughest thing we have done (so far), but also, it has taught me and changed me so much. I look at the world differently now.
    We are hoping to adopt two SN children from RR. The journey continues!



  2. Nikki and all the other Esqiggies running around, I adore you!

    Nikki, I love your post. I love the honesty and I love that the Lord is working through all of you. And most of all, Lem is my hero. Yours and God's love has made this possible.

  3. I'm (almost)speechless, and you know that's rare. I am also filled with awe as I observe a God who is bigger than I can even imagine making people who love Him into more... more loving, more dependent, more humble, more of who they were created to be (and I thought ya'll were completely wonderful to begin with!).

    I know that every story doesn't have the happy ending that I hope for, but I believe that this is going to be one of those stories that resonates into eternity. I believe this little glimmer of hope is just the beginning.

  4. Thanks for sharing the story, Nikki. I know it's hard to put yourself "out there" like that. I do think there are so many struggling adoptive families and too many of them struggle in silence. I hope your story will move at least one of them to speak out and get the support that we all so desperately need. Hugs to all of you today!

  5. THAT was a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing this story. I am sure it was hard to put into words and put it "out there" for all of us to see. May the Lord continue to bless your family.

  6. Nikki, as always I am amazed by who your family is, who you are and what you and Anthony accomplish with your kids. My struggle with one of our sons who also went through far more than any child should have to, is tiny in comparison to what you have been through. Thank you for this post. Your open and honest posts help me so much to better parent my children.

  7. I truly don't know what to say. That moved me to tears. I know only a tiny part of what you are going through and you amaze me. God is using you to do great things for him and to be a blessing to all of us.

  8. Thank you for posting this, as we, too, have a child via disruption who shares a similar, yet different, story. May I copy and paste/repost this message onto my blog (giving you full credit) with a link back to yours or would you prefer that I simply ask people to read this story on your blog by linking to yours and not pasting the story into my blog?
    Lorraine (mom to 10 blessings)

  9. Thanks, Nikki, for being so transparent. What a picture of love and hurt for everyone involved. God is using you and your family in a mighty way. Often adoption struggles are glossed over. I applaud you and others who come forward with the good and bad. Life is messy. Only Jesus can heal in His timing, in His way. Continuing to pray for Lemuel and your whole family! I am so thankful for our friendship and your taking me under your wing in the adoption realm! Hugs, Jo Anna

  10. Thank you. Today your blog addy was shared with me as encouragement. We have a 10 year old daughter that we have been blessed with for 4 years who has been in and out of hospitalization and is now heading to residential treatment for the first time...and we have been in the what if stage for awhile and we know that there is a reason. Thank you for reminding me. God Bless you and your family. Sharyl

  11. How have I never read your blog??? My dear friend posted the link today and thats how I came upon it.

    Thank you so much for your honesty. Our road has been very difficult since being home with Kim. We are struggling as a family right now.

    I use to know which was up, not anymore.

    Your post hit hime in so many ways (;


  12. This is my firsts time on your blog and I am so very thankful that I found myself here...to read such an amazing life-so-far expericnce of a truly incredible and strong family! Your honesty and willingness to share such details is so helpful to me as my own family sets out on a road to bring home a 5yo little boy (our 3rd child) from Ethiopia later this year. Again, thank you.
    Warmly and with many blessings,

  13. I'm also new to your blog and I'm certain it was by no accident that I read this today. I am speechless and incredibly encouraged by your experience. We have a 15 year old daughter that we adopted a year and a half ago and are getting ready to bring home a 12 year old and 4 year old. I am shaking in my boots (once again) over all the unknowns (ummm,and the KNOWNS). We also have two bio boys and a 5 year old adopted daughter.

    You were a great blessing to me today and MUCH glory was brought to our GOD by your post.

    Thank you so much for your transparency.

  14. beautifully said, nikki. i am so proud of you guys for hanging in there- no criticism to those who have made the choice to disrupt. and big hugs to your other kids who also made the choice to accept and love lemuel.

    i assume with francis coming home, 'the plot will thicken'...but i'm also confident that HIS GRACE will be sufficient.

    blessings! denie.

  15. Follow Up: The child about whom this post was written 3 1/2 years ago is now sixteen years old. He is one of the great joys of our lives. He is a wonderful, trustworthy young man who is goal-oriented, strong in his faith and we are so proud of him. God is faithful and more than able. In the throes of your pain with your RAD child, please don't ever forget that.
    For HIS Fame,