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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Can't Change THAT

I'm in a unique position that I wonder if I share with any other Philippine adoptive parent.  Probably so.

Our family had the distinct pleasure of adopting from The Philippines FOUR TIMES while we were living in the United States.  All four adoptions were  individual and happened over a span of six years. 

AFTER being an international adoptive parent, my family was called to full-time service of orphans in The Philippines.
We have now lived in Silang, Cavite for almost a year. We have worked with children in orphanages and we now run a shelter/orphanage for children ages 3-13.

We have lived in two very interrelated camps.  One "life" in the adoptive parent camp and one " life" in the child caring agency camp.

And although we still have so much to learn in BOTH arenas, I have learned something so valuable, so vital that I believe every adoptive or pre-adoptive parent should know it.

I believe, as an adoptive parent, I had a LOT of unrealistic expectations of the child caring agencies that sheltered our kids.
I want to share some of those with you and encourage you, if you are waiting, to adjust your expectations and understand the limitations of a child caring agency, even the very best ones in the world!

CHILD CARING AGENCIES CAN NOT . . . 

...promise your child will not have undiscovered learning challenges.
Children in care are almost always delayed in the areas of speech and learning. I have found this to be true in my own adoptions and I see it with the children in our care.  The big question is "WHY?".  The short answer is "we don't know".  I would suspect that some of our kids have birth  parents of low intellect and that may contribute but, considering that MANY adoptees catch up academically, that doesn't account for all the delays.  My heart tells me that kids who don't have permanency in their lives - meaning a "forever family" just have trouble learning and developing.
God created children to live in families and be raised with a mom and  a dad who cherish them. When that design is varied, I believe the child does not reach his highest potential.  
We have home tutoring with our children here daily. They are preparing to attend our local public school in June. I know that the children we have are "smart kids" but they are also painfully illiterate, for the most part.  This is not due to lack of effort on our part. I long for them to find their "forever families" and then to hear,  in time, of the great gains they will make.  Until then, we do the best we can to help them.

...ensure your child will be a Christian.
This is an unfair expectation to place on any child caring agency.  The fact that an orphanage is run and staffed by Believers does not mean your child is a Christian and will behave as such.  GOD draws hearts to Himself in His way and in His time.  I can assure you that a child in our care is prayed with and prayed for. He participates in daily devotion and Bible reading.  He attends church.  Does he have a personal walk with Christ  wherein he has come to the Lord for forgiveness of sin and a new heart?   We don't know for sure. We hope so, we pray so.  And if he hasn't yet, we pray that He will.

...know for sure that your child does not have a physical disability.
I have heard of several cases where a child, after adoption, is discovered to have a  disability not noted in his file.  Maybe some child caring agencies try to "cover up" problems to get a child placed but I believe that is a rare occurance.  Most likely, the disability was undiagnosed because your child received medical care in a country that is not quite as advanced, diagnostically, as the country he was adopted to.  The children in our care receive check ups, vaccinations and dental care.  If we suspect something significant, we will have it investigated.  Some issues simply do not "show up" well in group care.  If a child is having tiny, mini seizures, it may look to caregivers like he is daydreaming and not raise suspicions.  If your child has hearing loss but has learned to lip read and/or "follow the crowd", a caregiver may not key in to that.  If you adopt a very young child, the chances increase that he/she may have a delay or challenge not yet manifest well enough to raise concerns.
Most child caring agencies in which we have worked, and now in  our own, do due diligence to make sure special needs are known prior to placement. Sometimes that doesn't happen.  It is unfair to judge your child's orphanage harshly for not noticing what YOU notice. It happens from time to time and is never easy. Although we are human and make mistakes, keep in mind that our God is not and never does.  He knows who needs to come to your table and maybe, just maybe, He veiled that issue from the eyes of your child's caregivers and revealed it to you for YOUR own faith walk.  Maybe.

..."westernize" your child.
This can be a sensitive issue. I can be an insensitive blogger.  I'll do the best I can here. 
I'm a white American. My husband is a Filipino. There ARE cultural differences, plain and simple.  Some adoptive parents probably believe it is the responsibility of the orphanage to prepare a child for adoption so thoroughly that the child slides into Western culture seamlessly.  I disagree.
The kids in our care know how to use the restroom (which they call the "CR") like an American if needed. We have toilet paper and rims on the seats for sitting.  So far, the kids we serve prefer to squat on the rim, barefoot, and not to use tissue. They wash their bottoms with a "tabo" - a plastic sauce pan of water- and air dry.  It's their way.
We use silverware here at every meal but some of our children ask permission to eat "Kamayan" - with their hands. Again, it is what they are used to. 
Our kids squat at circle time rather than sitting "criss cross applesauce".
The older kids know how to hand wash and hang out clothing. One of our girls is very good at it.
They will come to you, depending of their ages, with a whole lot of years lived in Philippine culture. This is a rich and distinct culture.
Some of the things they do here may get them teased by their peers in their new lives. other habits may simply annoy you as a parent, still others are just fine left alone. It is not the job of the child caring agency to decide which cultural behaviors are "okay" and which are not.  Please speak kindly of your child's caring agency even if he/she is not the least bit "westernized" when he/she comes home. In time, it will come. 

HERE ARE A LIST OF THINGS WE CAN DO . . .

love your child
provide food,clothing and shelter
make sure he gets dental and medical care
send him/her to school
tutor him at home
tuck him in at night, with hugs and kisses
help him begin to learn right from wrong
hold and reassure him he is more than "just an orphan" when he is teased
tell him/her how precious he/she is every day
read the Bible with him
remind him that God made him, he is special and he has a big purpose
 
And I'm proud of that list of "cans". It is a privilege to have such an opportunity with a child who we know is not ours forever. It's a hard job and a precious one.  It takes a lot of diligence and discipline to keep focus. It would be easy to get lazy and take shortcuts but we will not. 
We are accountable to the Lord.
We are accountable to future parents.
We are accountable to that child.

So, please go gently with your child's orphanage. Give the benefit of the doubt. Believe the best and pray for the staff and caregivers. Their job is so difficult and yet of the utmost importance.   If you have criticized unfairly, apologize. Set it right.
If you have found just cause for criticism or uncovered egregious errors committed with intent, there are venues for addressing that, talk to your adoption agency directly.
But I beg you to be fair.  Adjust your expectations and even be GRATEFUL.  Your child was taken in when so many remain on the streets.  Your child was fed when many starve.  Your child made it all the way from a developing nation, rife with human rights issues, into the safety of your arms.  . .
                                     THANKS TO A CHILD CARING AGENCY SOMEWHERE FAR AWAY

  


Friday, May 9, 2014

The Open Hand

"The whole earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof,
the world and all those who dwell therein."
Psalm 24:1


This has been and promises to be a  difficult and yet joyful week for our family.   Just a few days ago, our eighteen year old son came very close to losing his life due to a ruptured and leaking appendix.  His fever was over 103 degrees upon arrival at the hospital and it refused to come down. His abdomen was being overtaken by infection and he was in more pain than I have ever seen someone.
Emergency room at St. Dominic Hospital, Bacoor, Cavite

 For 24 hours, we did not know for certain how the infection would respond to treatment and if the surgery was enough to remove it. 
Friends and family on three continents were lifting up our son in prayer and God saw fit to heal.  Faithful and Awesome is our God! 

On the drive home from the hospital, I could not hold back the tears of gratitude and relief. Many people lose children.  Believers lose children.   There are no guarantees in the Christian life that God will not have us walk that path.  I pray that He won't but He is sovereign and will do what He sees fit. That is just how our God moves.  


"And He is before all things. In Him, all things hold together"
Colossians 1:17

Right on the heels of the illness of one son, two other children are packing their bags to return to the United States for college.
"See You Later" lunch at Italliani's . Bittersweet day.

Missing her so much and she hasn't even left yet!

Although I am beyond sad at the thought of having my beautiful progeny living on a different continent than the rest of us, there is much to be grateful for in this situation.  They go back to our home state of North Carolina and will be staying with their Grandparents. They will have aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives nearby.  They will be with people who love them and who know the Lord, who I pray will always point them to Jesus.   
But so far away.
THIS is the phase of life I have dreaded since they were born.  The time when they separate physically and venture out on their own.
I changed their diapers, I taught them to read. Their father and I did the best that we knew how to do, however flawed, to show them the great love that Jesus has for them.  Now the responsibility shifts to them to make good choices and be the people God created them to be.  

"The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps".
Proverbs 16:9

I know the Lord is hard at work, individually, in the lives of these precious treasures of mine. He is at work in my heart, too. 
As I came to Him in prayer these last few days, the echo in my own heart was "open your hand, Mama".   
And I understand a little more fully that these children are not and never were "ALL MINE".  These are souls created by their Heavenly Father, loaned to us, and He does what He pleases with these lives.  My worry and tears will not preserve them.  I learned that fully in the hospital this week.   It is all about our Great God, His will, His plans and His sovereignty.  

So, it is with a trusting heart and an open hand that I can state without a doubt that the children God has loaned to us are HIS, all the more,  I look forward to what He will do in them.  

"Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’"  Isaiah 46:9-10



If you are reading this post and all your children are young, I will not patronize you with the "they grow up so fast" rhetoric. 
I will encourage you with "start NOW in trusting the Lord with them."  Do not waste another moment believing that you will not have to open your own hand someday.  You will.   My  prayer for you young parents is that you pray more and worry less, knowing that God can and will do what He pleases in the life of your child.  
Be a good steward. Train them with His word.  Guide them toward Him.  Model Godly living.  Pray together. 

Always, with an open hand . . .