A Bittersweet Adoption Story

Several years ago we adopted three children. We are no longer their parents. This is the story of what happened.

The Desire to Love

When we got married in 2006, Katie and I hoped for “as many children as God wanted.” After many months of not conceiving, however, we suspected we had a fertility problem, and with the help of NaPro technology, we conceived in 2007.

keast7Baby John Thomas quit growing at six weeks in utero and soon miscarried. We were deeply saddened, a grief that was compounded by a near-fatal hemorrhaging and hospitalization for Katie following the miscarriage.

Nonetheless, we were hopeful to conceive again after Katie recovered. Yet, after over a year with no subsequent children, we started talking about adoption. Both Katie and I had been open to adoption from our first days of marriage and thought that a family of biological and adopted children would be beautiful. Given that we were having difficulty conceiving, we also saw the possibility that God was leading us to grow our family through adoption.

We prayed about it, talked about it, and took the initial steps to inquire into the options. Ultimately we decided to move forward with adoption classes through the State’s foster care system. Adopting through foster care appealed to us because these were children right where we lived who needed families. We didn’t have to fly to another country to find them; they lived “in our backyard”, in some sense! Foster adoption also was much more affordable than international or domestic private adoption.

Over the course of several months, we took the classes to be certified as a foster-adopt family. We continued discerning whether this was our Lord’s calling, and we believed that it was. We felt at the time that the classes equipped us to be ready for any situation we may face with adoption.  We knew that children who came to our family from foster care would have emotional wounds, but we felt deep joy that we would love them in Christ and welcome them into the family of God.

In November 2008, we got a call from the foster care agency informing us that twin seven-month boys needed a foster family with the potential to adopt. We were overjoyed! We met their current foster family, had meetings with the various case workers, and the boys came into our home in December 2008. For this story their names are Louis and Terry.

Relating

Louis and Terry were cute as buttons. They had unique personalities in spite of being identical twins. Louis was extroverted and liked to try new things. Terry was introverted and careful. They were both very chubby, and loud noises frightened them. In their seven short months outside the womb, they had had three previous placements. We were their fourth one, which bears some explaining.

Terry and Louis

Terry and Louis

Their biological mother had drugs in her system when they were born. Due to this, and also due to the fact that she had lost her older daughter due to neglect, the twins were removed immediately by the State.

But bio mom stabilized enough that six weeks later, she entered drug rehab, and the twins were removed from the foster family and placed back with bio mom in drug rehab. Less than two months later, however, she dropped out of drug rehab, and the boys were removed again. But the original foster family had received another infant placement in the interim, so a new foster family was found, and Louis and Terry went there. This family was foster-only; they already had grown children and grandchildren, and felt called to foster children in need

Four months later, we were chosen by the caseworkers to foster-adopt the twins. And, so it was that at only seven months of age, we were the boys’ fourth placement. It is hard to imagine the confusion that they must have gone through, not knowing who was “momma and dadda” during that time. They were each other’s sole constant.

When they first joined our family in December 2008, the twins were non-relational with us. They avoided eye contact. They did not hold onto us or turn to us when they were scared or hungry or tired. Because they were our first children, we did not realize how abnormal their behavior was. But also we expected that it would take time for them to connect with us, so we played lots of interactive games, did “baby wearing” where we carried or held them often, and showered them with affection and care. We had good hopes that they would learn to trust us.

Two Surprises

Five months later, in the Spring of ’09, we found out that we were pregnant. We were shocked and guardedly hopeful, but, by God’s grace, that baby survived. Just a few months later, in July 2009, we were able to finalize the twins’ adoption.

In September of 2009, we were happy and hopeful for our family’s future. We had precious twin boys and another son on the way. The twins were starting to show small signs of bonding to us. They seemed to be opening up more, a beautiful sign, and it felt as if we were becoming a family.

In October 2009, two months before our son was to be born, we got a call from our caseworker. She told us to sit down.

She said, “You don’t need to answer right away. But are you willing to foster-adopt the twins’ sister?”

Katie and I were floored. The twins had a sister named “Alice” who was just 10 months older than they. She had been in the custody of an aunt for her first two years, and was now being removed from that woman, due to neglect. The caseworkers did not know what state of health Alice would be in, as the foster mom had evaded Child Protective Services, living in different dodgy households, and likely using drugs.  They planned a surprise removal of Alice the following week and wanted to know if they could bring her to our home as an “emergency placement”.

Our caseworker told us we had twenty-four hours to decide if we would foster Alice, with the strong likelihood that we could adopt her. Katie and I didn’t know what to do. We talked with extended family members and friends, prayed together, and ultimately decided to say “yes”. Everyone pointed out the obvious good that bringing the siblings together would accomplish. The three, who had lived apart thus far in their lives, would get to grow up in the same family, and that made us happy.

We shared our affirmative decision with our caseworker, and a few days later, Alice brought to our home as an emergency placement.

Alice’s Arrival

Alice arrived with the caseworkers and CASA volunteer. She was 2 1/2 years old, panicked and screaming, too thin, and had a large dirty bandage covering an infected open wound. The foster mom had failed to give Alice the antibiotics she needed, and now the infection was an antibiotic-resistant staph infection.

She cried for hours, not sure who to latch onto. She refused to eat or take nap.   After four hours, the caseworkers had to leave. Alice screamed and ran for the door, and they did their best with us to calm her. Then it was just her and us.

Alice gave us what we thought was a hopeful sign, when the same day of her arrival she went up to Katie and started calling her “mama.” Later we realized that any woman she met was “mama,” as she called Katie’s friends “mama” as well. We took off Alice’s filthy clothes, her too-big shoes, her dirty bandage, and began caring for her. We got her the medicine she needed, clean clothes, and good food.

She devoured scrambled eggs and milk like they were nectar and ambrosia. We just kept feeding her. We had learned in our classes how many neglected and abused children are deprived of food, constantly hungry, and will even hoard food in their rooms, afraid they won’t get anymore to eat. Alice acted like that, but we were not alarmed. We would just keep giving her all that she needed, so she knew there was always enough.

That evening, the twins, who had spent the day with extended family, arrived back at the house. They were then eighteen months old, and they had continued showing signs of increasing trust. But, all of that ended abruptly with Alice’s arrival.

They both stood in stunned toddler-silence as she proceeded to have melt-down after melt-down, kicking and screaming and thrashing around on the floor. We kept her from hurting herself but quickly saw that trying to hold her to comfort her made her even more panicked. So we stayed close beside her during her meltdowns and let her know that it was going to be okay.

At long last, she fell asleep.  That first night, Katie and I sat down in numb silence. We felt as if we had been hit by a tank.  But, we felt joy that we had welcomed Alice into our home and hope that she would be our daughter.

Reactions

By God’s grace, I have always had a great job, and for the twins’ arrival, I was able to take two weeks of paid paternity leave. The same was true for Alice’s arrival. I had two weeks off. And Katie stayed at home full-time.  In addition, we hired a mother’s helper who came every morning for four hours. We were able to focus all our attention on Alice and her brothers and felt a confident hope that, despite her difficulty beginning, Alice would soon settle into family life.

Those first days flew by with learning about Alice. She was extremely volatile. Anything would set her into a meltdown of screaming hysterics, while the twins just stared at her. We ached as we watched them begin to withdraw into themselves. The signs of trust and connection disappeared.

And, already, we knew we needed help. We bought all the books we could find: ones by Dr. Karyn Purvis, Dr. Ray Guarendi, any that had the words “toddler,” “adoption,” and/or “attachment” in them. And we sought out therapists who could help us.

Two therapists, in particular, were recommended by adoptive parents we knew. We interviewed both of them. One practiced a more radical kind of therapy that we were not confident would be a good fit for Alice. The other employed a more conservative play therapy that focused on helping the child and parent to connect with each other. So we began to see her, and continued going weekly for many months.

In addition, we had each of our adopted children assessed for sensory integration difficulties, and, following a universal diagnosis of Sensory Integration Disorder, we began a regimen of sensory exercises.  My wife, Katie, was quite the hero in all of this. She rarely left our home, devoting most of her energies to parenting our children and doing her best to draw them into love and trust.

Edmund is Born

Less than two months after Alice’s arrival, Katie gave birth to our son Edmund. It was a traumatic delivery where Katie, again, hemorrhaged and nearly died. I got yet another two weeks paid leave for Edmund’s birth, and we needed it. He was colicky and not sleeping well.  Katie was weak and sick.  And, with Edmund’s arrival, we now had four children ages two and under.  We were barely able to stay afloat with laundry, meals, and sleep.

Alice, Terry, Louis, and Edmund

Alice, Terry, Louis, and Edmund

Still, with firm dedication we set out for each day’s challenges. We hired mother’s helpers to give Katie time to recuperate; we held colicky Edmund constantly, continued reading all the books we could, watching videos, and going to therapy with Alice. We received help from CASA workers, extended family, caseworkers, and friends. We were exhausted each day, but hopeful and felt like we were living in the craziness of God’s will.

By early 2010, Alice had calmed down to a degree. But she was still volatile, had frequent panic meltdowns in which nothing could calm her, and worst of all, we noticed that the twins began imitating her behavior.

In the ensuing months, our caseworker would come for routine visits. We described Alice’s behaviors but told her we were still committed to adopting her. The caseworker showed no indication that she was concerned about the situation or the children’s behaviors.

And so in April 2010, we adopted Alice. I felt confident that all three of our adopted children would learn to trust us and be secure in our love. We just had to keep loving them and doing the things we had learned to do from books, our training, the therapists, and doctors.

A New Place

At the beginning of 2011, we moved to a new city in order to be close to extended family. We hoped that this change would benefit everyone: more extended family would be around to help us, the new city had many services for children with special needs, and I also was able to work from home full-time, being readily available to assist Katie whenever needed.

Edmund was one year old at this time, Louis and Terry were two, and Alice was three. In spite of the work we had done, Alice and the twins continued to be emotionally aloof, prone to volatile outbursts, and they seemed to reinforce each others’ negative behaviors. In addition, their willfully destructive behavior began to increase, as their still undiagnosed mental illness began to manifest.

We sought out services and got Alice approved for early intervention through the public school system. We had learned, by now, how to best interact with her to keep her in her “green” zone, away from the displaced withdrawal of her “blue” zone and the explosive meltdowns of her “red” zone; our OT therapist called the “green” zone the “optimal level of emotional interaction” and we felt like we constantly walked on tiptoes to keep Alice in that zone. We tried to anticipate Alice’s panic meltdowns and work with her to communicate to us what she needed. We continued working with our boys as well, yet they remained emotionally distant and increasingly tempestuous.

The Family Dynamic Worsens

I noticed in July 2011 that the entire dynamic of our family was worsening. Katie was struggling under the daily assault of behaviors and meltdowns and developed chronic panic attacks; we now know that Katie was developing acute PTSD. The normal response from one’s children involves lots of love and affection in addition to the difficult times, but with the twins and Alice it was always the latter and almost none of the former.

img_0354_0015rEdmund was negatively affected by the frequent barrage of hysterical screaming and yelling from his siblings, and has developed chronic anxiety, as well as auditory sensitivity that we are now addressing through OT therapy. Alice’s behavior continued to exacerbate the twins’ fears, and their responses did the same to hers.

Providentially, we found out about a group of therapists who specialized in helping adoptive families and who would come to your home and coach you and your children. We immediately brought them in. They evaluated our family for several hours as we went about our daily life, and they told us what they saw was happening. It confirmed what we had long suspected, that the children were not connected with us. After nearly three years of being a family and giving every possibly effort to reach their precious hearts, we realized that our adopted children were still very much on guard against us.

Normally, this agency sent one therapist per week to model for the parents how to help their child to connect. For us, their recommendation was that two of their therapists came twice per week. They explained that having four young children, all close to the same age, with three suffering from these challenges, was an especially difficult circumstance, one that they had rarely, if ever, encountered. This was something that Alice’s therapist had also told us previously: she lamented that the foster-care system was not more careful about how many special-needs children they put in one family.

We were close to breaking at this point, but hopeful that these therapists could finally help us and our children. They came over, and we watched as they both modeled various ways of intervening when the children were acting out in various ways. As we watched, we realized that the only way we could do what they were showing us would be if I quit my job, we hired a full-time cook and cleaning person, and Katie and I both focused all our efforts on it. Even then, however, there was no guarantee that we could turn the dynamic around and help our children.

Our adopted children each had a severe mental illness, one that was not their fault and that was understandable in light of their early trauma.  They each behaved with a survivor mentality, as if every adult was a threat to their safety and that the only way to survive was to be autonomous and alone. Those who sought to reach them and love them were threats to be attacked and repulsed. Their mental illness sought to sabotage all attempts at relationship and trust, in order to keep them safe.

The therapists were modeling the way for us to overcome this survivor mentality. We had been doing some of their recommendations already, ones we had picked up from books, videos, or intuition. And, we wanted to want to reach our adopted children.  But, after three years of living in almost constant screaming and destructive behavior, seeing my wife falling to pieces and my biological son increasingly bullied and withdrawn, I did not know what to do.

52It was at this time, in late summer of 2011, that Katie and I sought counsel from our pastor. We shared our agony and our weariness and asked what God wanted of us. As Catholics, we were prone to think that if something entailed suffering, it was probably God’s will. So we were not afraid of suffering, but we had begun to realize that our strength was failing and we asked our pastor where God was in all of this. He told us that he had always known that things were not going well; from the pulpit each week he could tell that we were just barely keeping it together. He was the first person to give us permission to re-discern our family, telling us that it was possible that Our Lord had placed these children in our care for a season and not as a “forever family” and, perhaps God was asking us to place them in the care of those who could meet their needs more fully.  Just because we were suffering, Father said, did not mean that this was God’s will for us.  If we had no peace and if our marriage was stressed and if Katie’s mental health was in shreds, these might be signs that God was not calling us to parent these precious children any longer.

For the first time, we began to consider whether we could give our children what they needed in order to thrive and live healthy, normal lives. Children who never learned to connect grow up to have severe problems, ones that make their lives full of sadness and pain. We did not want that for our children. We wanted them to have happy and abundant lives, lives where they could learn to love others and be loved. Without love, our lives are incomprehensible to us.

I was adamant that we could never “give up” our children. We had adopted them, stood there before the judge and said we would be their parents. How could we possibly stop being their parents? Would it do even worse damage to them, if they left our home?

But as summer gave way to fall, I observed the continued decline of our children’s behavior and our family’s dynamic. Katie was being crushed under it; all the children were suffering. Things were going from bad to worse.

A Decision

I knew that making a decision while under duress was a bad idea. So we arranged for a long break, ten days, where the twins and Alice would be with extended family. We only had Edmund. For the first five days, we just breathed. We rested. We spent time with Edmund, who we realized was getting lost in the chaos. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, and he was the least squeaky wheel.

After five days, we felt rested enough, peaceful enough to talk. We considered what the therapists had modeled for us and what it would take for us to really give it a go. We counted up our savings to figure out how long I could go without a job while we “went for broke” trying to connect with our children. We considered whether, even doing all that, it would work. We prayed, begging God for unity of vision and peace in His will.

And, we heard God assuring us that our work was over.  We felt no grace because the grace was no longer there to parent these children. We realized that we were no longer called nor equipped to meet the needs of our adopted children.  Their needs had grown beyond us and we had to love them enough to place them in more capable hands. So, we decided that we would find two families for the children: one for the twins, for they had never been apart, and one for Alice.

We had no idea where to turn to for this. No roadmap existed. How do you find adoptive families for children you adopted? It was so far outside the bounds of what was normal and accepted that it took us a while to even know how to begin.

The children came back from their visits, and we began in earnest to find families for them. We knew that they needed 1) experienced families where they would be the youngest children by many years, 2) families with extensive support resources, and 3) families who understood that they had special needs and would connect them with the help they needed.

Telling Others

As we started this process, we told close friends and family members of our decision. It was met with universal shock and concern. Understandably so. This struck people as so unthinkable that there was no possible explanation that could ever justify it.

Friends accused us of “abandoning” our children, “giving them away,” and giving in to temptation from the devil. One friend prophesied that we would resent ourselves, resent each other, and “regret this for the rest of your life.” Our pro-life friends thought that we were abandoning our children because they were not “perfect”, as if we were giving back damaged goods, and our devout Catholic friends warned us against “laying down our cross” and stepping off of the path of suffering that God had for us.

Long-time friends and extended family turned their backs on us and cut off communications. Some hinted at hiring lawyers and bringing lawsuits against us, to fight for custody of the children. All this meant that, during the most difficult time of our family’s life, we had little support from friends and family.  Our family was imploding and, rather than receiving support in our grief, we were ostracized and condemned. At that time, we changed parishes; it felt good to be anonymous for a while and to avoid awkward questions.

55The fact was that no one else saw what was going on in our family. They just assumed we were a normal family with young children like any other, with its share of (normal) chaos and difficulties. As if we would make such a momentous decision because we got tired of changing diapers and cleaning up spills! Or even because the children had (normal) tantrums and behavior.

But the condemnation did not matter to me, because God Almighty had placed these children into my care, and Katie and I knew best what they were facing in life, and what they needed to have a chance at a happy and healthy life. I was not responsible for what anyone thought of me, whether they liked me or despised me. As the father of my family, I had to ensure that every member could thrive and fulfill their human potential.

An important principle was involved here: I realized that if I could not provide for the needs of my child, I would have to find someone who could.

It had never occurred to me until this time that I may not be able to provide for my children’s needs. But that was the reality I was facing. It was humiliating and crushing, but it was reality.

Finding Their Families

We turned to those few people who were still talking with us. One faithful friend knew a couple who had fostered recently and were hoping to adopt. We spoke with them and shared our story. We met with them and continued meeting with them many times over the course of a few months, mutually discerning that they were a good fit to adopt the twins.

We worked with adoption caseworkers and attorneys to draw up the paperwork and take the necessary steps. Everything went smoothly and wonderfully. We couldn’t believe it. We had found this family so quickly, and they were superb parents. In the fall of 2011, the twins went to live with their new family. The twins made the transition cheerfully.  They waved and smiled and never looked back as our hearts broke. We gave them some time to get settled into their new home and then visited with them as Uncle Devin and Aunt Katie.

Finding Alice’s family was more difficult. We knew she needed an extra-special family. We said no to many people who wanted to adopt her, not because they were not good people but because we knew she needed something specific. After much searching and praying, we found her family (or they found us) and in the spring of 2012 she went to live with them.

The Resolution

Both families consummated the adoptions a few months later. We have remained in their lives as Aunt and Uncle and stay in touch through phone calls, Skype, birthday gifts and visits. The children are all the youngest in their families by many years. They have older siblings who help to model behavior and provide even more love. They are, by God’s grace, connecting with their new families.

We moved back to Texas in August of 2012. There we began healing as a family. We were blessed with another child, our daughter Josephine, whose conception we saw as a gift from God, joy amidst our sorrow. When Josephine was born, our Catholic pro-life NaPro doctor had to perform a hysterectomy on Katie, to save her life, so we are now unable to have any more children.

On the positive side, most of our friends and family members eventually came to accept our decision and resume communications. While they were not able to fully understand what happened, they knew us and trusted that we made the decision only out of necessity for all involved.

Katie and I got married seven years ago, full of excitement and hope for a house full of children. But that will never happen, and we have learned to bless the Lord for His wisdom in it. Children are a gift. Every child is a gift. They are God’s children, whom we have the honor to care for and love.

Some Objections Considered

Katie and I remain advocates of adoption. That may seem strange, but we realize that just because we had a heart-breaking experience with it, doesn’t mean that others will. Children need and deserve loving parents and a home to call their own. Adoption is a beautiful thing.

Objection: “All toddlers have meltdowns. The behavior you describe is within a normal range.”

For reasons of prudence and justice, we did not divulge all the behaviors and details of our children. They may read this one day, and I want there to be nothing that they would feel ashamed of. None of this was their fault; they were born with drugs in their system; their bio mom abused drugs and alcohol while they were in utero.

So I shared what I felt was okay to share. I realize that all toddlers have meltdowns. I realize that babies and little children show affection in different ways, in differing degrees, etc. But having watched many children, and having two biological children of my own, I can tell you that the behaviors shown by our adopted children were not normal. And it is inadvertently irresponsible to tell people in similar situations that their children are “normal,” because they may believe you and not realize that in fact their children need special services and they need special training.

Objection: I would never give up one of my children

We know people with difficult children: bio and adopted. Many were aghast at our decision. They said they could never imagine doing what we did. And I hope that they never have to. In fact, most people will never have to deal with such a situation. Their children are healthy and securely attached to them. That was not the situation we were in. Our adoptive children never formed that secure attachment.

Consider the principle I mentioned earlier: if you cannot provide for your child’s needs, you need to find someone who can.

In the most common adoption scenario, a young, single mom decides her baby has the best chance with another family. She realizes that she cannot give the child what he or she needs. And so we applaud her loving act to place the child with another family.

In fact our situation was principally similar to hers. Except instead of one healthy, normal child being too much for the young mother to care for, we had four toddlers, three with severe mental illness. That was more than we, even as a couple, could handle without imploding as a family.

Upon Reflection

Why have we written this? Why not let it silently fade away, and along with it the pain and sadness. Since this experience, we have encountered other families to whom this has happened. Some adopted a child who sexually acted out against their bio children. Some adopted a child who sowed division between family members and fellow siblings. Some met financial ruin due to medical expenses, therapies, adoption and lawyer expenses in trying to find a new family.

All met with shock, dismay, and ostracization from friends and family. All for trying to do the right thing.

For Families Who Have Endured This

I have a small platform: this blog and a few other place I write. God gave me this outlet to share truth, life, and love with others. Sometimes that looks pretty; other times it looks ugly.

I have nothing but understanding and sympathy for the families who endured similar situations as we did. Most of them are still healing from it, still trying to help their other children heal from it. The effects are long-term, the wounds deep.

I wrote this for them, that they may know that there are others out there who understand. Other Christians, other pro-life people, other normal families who opened up their hearts to adopt and experienced sufferings from it.

Our story has a relatively happy “ending.” We are still healing and will for a long time to come. But other families have been destroyed from such things, including through divorce due to dissension sowed between husband and wife, with usually the husband–gone all day at work–not seeing what is happening.

For all those families, send this article to your friends and family. Let them voice their criticisms at me. I don’t mind. 

For the Christian pro-life, pro-adoption community

We are still Christian, pro-life, and pro-adoption. While we won’t be on your next billboard, for obvious reasons, it wasn’t because we failed to be pro-life enough that this happened. Or pro-adoption enough.

In fact, through the very messy world we live in, we have come to see that it was by God’s grace that we were able to find the children’s new families. That in fact it is possible, even likely, that the only way they would have found these families, the perfect ones for them, was through us. I wouldn’t make such a claim if it were not for the words of the families who adopted them. Alice’s adoptive mother told us:

You guys saying yes to God brought Alice to our family. She belongs with us, but we could not have been her family at the time you adopted her. You brought her to the point where we could be her family. There was purpose for her being in your family. God brought great good out of hard times.

God will continue to bring good out of the situation and hopefully some understanding and grace from those in your life who haven’t known how to react to the situation.

Adoption didn’t turn out like we had planned it. Sometimes it doesn’t, but we can only do our best, availing ourselves of God’s grace, and leave it all to Him. (Also to be noted: months ago I asked the two families if they were okay with me writing this article; they both said that yes, they approved of it.)

In Hindsight

We see that we took on too much. A few months’ worth of classes does not, cannot, prepare you to parent three toddlers with special attachment needs.

The caseworkers “should” have known better. But we don’t blame them (or anyone). The fact is they are overworked people giving of themselves in low-paying, high-stress work because they love children and want to help them. “Keeping the siblings together” sure seems like a great idea, doesn’t it? And if it had worked out, as it often does, it would have been celebrations all around.

With more wisdom, I would have been able to see that it was unwise to bring Alice into our home when our twin boys were just starting to lower their defenses and our biological son was soon to be born. But we were committed to loving radically, no matter the cost, and so we said yes. It is easy to see in hindsight that I should have said no, but that is another reason for this post…

For families thinking of adopting

There is a strong push in Christian churches for members to consider adoption. That is excellent. It is so needed. So many children need families. That said, adoption is an extra-ordinary action. Some say that everyone is called to adoption. At one time I would have agreed, but now I only say that everyone is called to consider adoption.

Among pro-life Christians this call to adopt often comes with no brake pedal. “Have children! Adopt children! Have more children!” And it is here that I think our story needs to provide a friendly decelerating effect.

If you have young children, you need to seriously consider whether bringing in one or more other young children into your family via adoption is a wise decision. Many adoptive children, even those not marked as having special needs, have special needs. And even if they don’t, they need extra love and care due to their situation. How well will you be able to handle a four month old bio baby and a six month old adoptive baby who needs all your attention?

What may it do to your family dynamic to adopt a three year old, when your children are four and two? Or adopt a five year old when your children are three and one?

If you have normal (high) fertility and plan to continue having children, will you have the time and resources to devote to your bio children as well as an adoptive child with special needs?

Adopting is not just like having another child. It’s a different ball-game. Do you know what challenges and needs your adoptive child will have? It is impossible to. Even a newborn or baby has lived in the womb for nine months, being potentially subjected to alcohol, drugs, intense stress, violence, and ugly noises. I don’t say this to claim that adoptive children all have problems–many do not–but to prepare you that they could and often do have special needs arising from their mother’s difficult situation.

I know that many Christian families will not listen to me. That is okay. We each must live our own lives and decide for ourselves what we will do. However, I wish that someone had sent this to me five years ago. There are children’s lives at stake with this. The health and well-being of families and many children.

Consider well whether you are diving into adoption because “it’s the right thing to do.” It may be a good thing to do, but whether it is the right thing for your family and for the child you are considering adopting is another story.

Are you spending the time with your current children that you need to be? If not, adopting a child will be adding fuel to a fire.

Final Thoughts

In the past two years, since making the decision to find other families for our adopted children, we have had many confirmations that it was the right thing to do. Katie and I both saw that our family was going to self-destruct, and if that had happened, no one in our family would have benefited. All would have suffered even worse. Instead, we were able to find two great Christian families that are perfect fits for the children. God had shown us what they needed. We couldn’t meet those needs. But other families could.

I did not want to write this but for a long time felt that I should. I was afraid of the backlash, of rehashing the trauma. If our friends and family–who ostensibly know us well–took it so poorly, how much worse would people we don’t know take it? But it just kept coming back to my heart again and again, and for the reasons I gave I decided it was time to write it. If we can help reduce the stigma on such decisions, help a family who went through it find fellowship in suffering, help a prospective adoptive family make a wiser decision, then it was worth it.

Here is a photo of all of us from July 2013 when we went to visit them and their new families. It is what our family would have looked like, had things been otherwise. But we are happy, because each of the children is now thriving.

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138 Responses to A Bittersweet Adoption Story

  1. Jennifer H says:

    THANK YOU for sharing this! As a sister to an adoptee with many of these same issues (Reactive-attachment disorder and bi-polar personality disorder) and being an adoptee myself, this story hit home in so many ways. I am the oldest of six (my parents were blessed with 4 biological children after 10 yrs of infertility and 2 adoptions) and my family had to endure so much while dealing with my sister’s disorders. My parents fought for years and she went from therapist to therapist until we met one who dealt specifically with RAD which helped immensely (they’d travel 4 hrs total to see her once a week). In the beginning, no one, including a social worker who threatened to call children’s protective services on my parents for abuse, could understand what was going on in the home. No one believed my sister had the temper she had and treated us all the way she did. Thankfully, my parents were able to fight for her and help her get the help she needed, but it definitely came at a cost to us. I love my sister dearly to this day. I just know it isn’t easy. So, thanks for sharing your story :).

    • Devin Rose says:

      Jennifer, than you for sharing some of your family’s history. Yes many times the child with RAD presents one face to the world, and another to their family (or to anyone with authority over them). We need 10 times the number of RAD therapists that exist. God bless you!

  2. Pattie says:

    I am deeply moved by your story, having arrived here courtesy of Simcha. What an ordeal for your marriage, your family, and those deeply wounded children!

    My husband teaches in an inner city school, and deals with children all day long with the issues you address here…..as if some part of their poor souls have been damaged by what they have expereinced throughout their short lives (I am speaking of children still living with the disfunctional, violent, drug dependent biological mother and/or “family”). They cannot learn because they cannot cope with the chaos in their worlds outside of school, and by age nine or ten there is almost nothing left to be done to change this sorry state for them.

    You did what you could when God asked it of you, and really did do the very best you could with the tools you had. I spent years working maternity in a large public hospital, and often cried for the future I knew was in store for babies less than one hour old. Until young people can see the damage that occurs when they use God’s gifts of sex outside of marriage, we will see more and more damaged kids.

  3. Jeni says:

    God bless you guys. I am so sorry you experienced so much turmoil. This is a great story of great love.

    I would love a follow-up about how the families were able to connect with the children. Was it because they were separated from each other, or that the older siblings modeled behavior had that much of an impact or was it a different environment / therapies / etc?

    I realize that is more their stories to tell, but I am curious what made the difference.

    Thank you for sharing this view. I will be even more empathetic to adopted / special needs and blended families because of it.

    • Devin Rose says:

      Jeni, thanks for your comment.

      The children needed a fresh start. And they got that in their new families. They are also now the youngest siblings, by six years and nine years, respectively. The older siblings multiply the love that is given, model secure attachment, provide younger people to relate and attach to, and give parents breaks in various ways. Some how the alchemy of this, with God’s grace, has turned things around such that they are making progress toward love.

      The road is still long, as both families realize. There has been no overnight transformation. But the parents came into it realizing what would be needed and prepared to do it.

  4. Rachel says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story Devin. Reading this just reminds me how we can never fully understand what others are going through unless we’re “in it” too, and how much everyone around us needs love, support, prayer, and compassion.

    I was linked here from Simcha Fisher’s blog, but I actually have met you and had the opportunity to chat for awhile with Katie recently. You have a beautiful family and are clearly wonderful, loving parents. God bless you :)

  5. Jill says:

    I know of similar stories with friends. God Bless you for giving your best. I think it was Mother Theresa who said,”God doesn’t ask that we succeed in everything, but that we are faithful. However beautiful our work may be, let us not become attached to it. Always remain prepared to give it up, without losing your peace.”

  6. Jen says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. My husband and I lost our first baby at 5mo into the pregnancy, and it took awhile to conceive again. During that time, we fostered – first a baby (who went back home) and then a toddler who was in survival mode. We had him for 3 months – the longest 3 months of our lives – and received NO HELP from counselors or anything. It was frustrating, because we knew he needed help. It scared me to think of him growing up and exhibiting the same behaviors…especially because we were still trying to have our own children.

    Your story gave me chills because it reminded me of our fostering days (although you all hung in much longer than we could, God bless you, plus you were taking care of your own baby!). I said from day one that I would NEVER give back a child, but it got to the point where we could not go on anymore. It’s a hard, hard place to be in. Knowing you don’t have anything left to give to this child when you thought he would be with you forever.

    Ironically, the day after we told our worker that we couldn’t keep him any longer, I found out I was pregnant. I ended up on bedrest for much of the pregnancy, so we knew we had heard God correctly when we felt our fostering time was over. For now, at least.

    Your story is an important one, and I’m sorry you had so little support from family and friends. But I, for one, needed to hear this as we are still open to fostering and adopting in the future. You are so right – adopting may not be the right thing, depending on your circumstances. Sadly, though, I think it’s hard to fully understand that unless you’ve experienced it.

    Thank you again.

  7. Chris says:

    Devin, the first thing I wanted to tell you is that I am praying for you. I can see that you and your family have struggled greatly, not because you did not love your family but because of issues that were completely not in your control. You have a great courage and humility to tell your story! While many people realize that love involves sacrifice, some people don’t understand the kind of sacrifice that you and Katie had to go through, and I am convinced that Our Lord has given you special graces to have had the courage to love those children and place them with families who could help continue your love.

    I shall pray for the spiritual and physical health for you and your family, as well as for the twins and for Alice. God bless you, Devin.

  8. Julie says:

    Thank you for this honest, important piece. (I’ve also come here from Simcha’s post.) It must have taken great courage to write.

    I once visited a residential facility for (seriously) troubled teenagers, most of whom had suffered abuse or neglect. It was sobering to learn of the safeguards the staff had to take to ensure the kids’ safety, and just awful to realize how necessary they were. When we’re blessed enough to only have exposure to the normal range of child behavior (and more importantly, to healthy families who provide safe, nurturing homes for their children), it can be all too easy to forget that some others’ lives are much, much harder. Abuse and neglect and drug use do very serious damage, which is difficult to overcome. May we all reflect on that with gratitude for our own blessings and sensitivity towards those who haven’t been so fortunate.

  9. Julie says:

    By the way, that last photo of your family — those you still have and those you still love — is just beautiful. I’m sure it will do those kids’ hearts good, as they grow and understand more about the situation.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I really appreciate your honesty and your obvious love for all of your children. May God bless you with healing and happiness.

  11. Nobody Important says:

    Thank you. I have a non-adoption variation to share. Following a major medical tragedy to her father, my 13yo had a breakdown that eventually resulted in our putting her into a lockdown program for troubled teens. We did not harm her or abuse her to do anything to cause her problems; we strived for months to find an outpatient solution. No one else can comprehend the heartbreaking reality of basically putting your child in jail for the protection of the other family members. Being rejected by friends and family? You betcha. When something like that happens, you find out who your real friends are and who the deceivers are. Hurts like Hell all around. We could not provide her with the care she needed; we had to find someone else to protect both her and us. No regrets, but much sorrow remains.

  12. Rebecca says:

    This article is needed. Too many people ignore the reality of adopting children with special needs. Thank you for writing this. God bless you both.

  13. I’ve always wandered over here via Simcha’s blog. What a tumultuous first seven years of marriage you have had! It breaks my heart that people turned their backs when you needed support most, but am so inspired by your ability to hear God’s still voice through it all and do what was best for the children He gave you. That’s what it is all about isn’t it? That every parent (bio, foster, adoptive) would have that same heart. What a beautiful, beautiful witness your family gives. Thank you.

  14. Cari says:

    First of all, God bless you and your wife for opening up your lives to other people’s children. You are brave and loving and giving and obedient. I won’t go into a lengthy comment, but know this, like you have never known anything – To be able to do what is right for your children, to give them to someone else who can provide what they specifically needed at this next stage, is THE MOST SELFLESS ACT EVER. That’s all I have to say. Bravery, heart, humbleness, humility, obedience, selflessness, love, and more (so much more) are all yours and your wife’s. God bless all of you!

  15. jenny says:

    Wow, your story made me cry……God will reward you for your struggle and the sacrifice done for those children.

  16. Sarah says:

    I worked in foster care and adoption in a rural county as my first job out of college. I graduated with a degree in Social Work ready to do good. I knew little then about RAD or any of the mental and physical challenges that can often accompany abuse/neglect. I was 23, childless and “teaching/instructing” foster and adoptive families on regulations, parenting. I spent three years and many sleepless nights working in this capacity. It This work is too often done by “green” college grads and supervised by those only more seasoned, not necessarily qaulified. By no means is this an insult to casworkers or the job they do. It is just affirming your observation with my own experience. I experienced a child welfare system that was far from meeting the needs of families (bio, foster, and adoptive). It is challenging work that requires a great deal of communication, time and effort by many parties to come to some resolution. Caseworkers work within a system that is often outdated, under funded and over regulated resulting in cookie cutter attempts to reach resolutions. I believe most everyone has the best intentions, but there are so many limitations that do not provide room for the fluidity of the lives involved. This was brave and needs to be shared. The story doesn’t end with an adoption finalization, nor did it start when childwelfare entered the picture. You are not alone in your story (unfortunately). Thank you for bringing attention to this through your honesty.

  17. Matt Bifulco says:

    All this happened to you during the first seven years of your marriage? What are you going to do for an encore?

    People often get swept away with what they “should” be doing to please God, and make choices based on what people expect, rather than what God has placed on their heart. Then when they don’t live up to these “expectations” (maybe the expectations are completely impossible? They often are), those same judgmental people turn on them like a fickle wind.

    I wonder how many “divorce” stories, or “abortion” stories, or “I got pregnant and couldn’t keep my baby” stories, or “I had a priestly vocation but I ended up teaching high school” stories there are out there, quite similar to yours. The only conclusion I can reach is: Only God knows your heart.

    Peace to you and your wife.

    • Katie Rose says:

      That’s funny, Matt! Actually, after Josephine was born and I was recovering from my hysterectomy, Devin and I joked that all we needed to be an entirely tragic family was for Devin to get cancer and die. And, for our house to be destroyed in an earthquake. :)

      Thanks be to God that we believe in the resurrection and in joy following after tears. Otherwise, I think that I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. Our healing is fully underway, and, while we hope to never suffer in such a way again, we would not change a thing. We are becoming the sort of people we always hoped we’d be–patient, wise, merciful, and tender. Glory be to God!

  18. Megan says:

    You and Katie are so brave. Thank you for sharing this much-needed message. I will be praying for your family, the twins, Alice, and their families.

  19. Jeninmich says:

    Thank you for being brave enough to share. My daughter has behavioral issues and no one understands, but they sure like to judge what I do. May God Bless you in all your faithfulness and generosity.

  20. Nancy says:

    Thank you for your courage and truth-telling. Your story is an important part of the adoption world, and should be required reading for every prospective adoptive family. We are just about ready to travel to meet our 4th child (our second through adoption), and part of me is terrified — we know very little about her orphanage, and have been praying all along that she isn’t being abused or harmed by those entrusted to care for her. I think a little fear is a good thing when we undertake such a life-changing step — it underscores the immense need all of us have for God’s wisdom and grace as we parent. I love the redemptive placements you’ve found for your children — this story is not over yet, and I sense that God is being glorified through your honesty and these children’s stories.

  21. Anonymous says:

    My long post chronicling our ordeal with RAD vanished into cyberspace. It’s probably just as well as the details aren’t important. Suffice it to say, anyone who’s parented a single RAD child knows how difficult it is. The toll on me was physically and emotionally debilitating. Simultaneously parenting three RAD children while trying to protect a bonded fourth child would likely have killed me.

    Because I think this post will get some hits from adoptive parents in difficult situations, I wanted to mention a few things that are not in any way directed to Devin and Katie. First, the experts don’t always know what’s best for your family – you are ultimately the best judge of that. That said, Daniel A. Hughes’ work on dealing with RAD kids was very helpful to me personally. Actually, every book that approached RAD with love and as a treatable process was helpful to me. Just hearing that RAD was not a life sentence was inspirational. Finally, I wanted to add that the most difficult time for our son was from age 4 to age 6, with 5 and 6 being especially draining for me. Our son will be 9 in April and we no longer walk on eggshells around him. He no longer sucks the air out of the room.

  22. Christin says:

    Good for you for making an “unpopular” decision that was in the best interest of everyone. Not an easy thing to do. I commend you and thank you for sharing your story. You are warriors.

  23. Kelly says:

    Devin, I had no idea. I knew a little of your story – about the twins you adopted and their sister coming along a little later, and then having Edmund.

    You are an amazing family. To be going through all this and you always have that smile on your face! And then to be ostracized by friends and family for making the difficult decision you had to in order to save your family and all the children in it.

    I’m so happy to see you’ve made it to the other side. Thank you for sharing your story. It must have been so difficult to open up in this way and bare your soul.

    • Devin Rose says:

      Thank you Kelly. Some of my work friends knew; most didn’t though. I sent out an email to my team about it, but as you know most engineers are awkward and don’t know what to say, even when the subject isn’t awkward enough already!

  24. anna lisa says:

    I am so, so sorry you had to endure such continuous suffering. Caring for my first newborn was a huge shock for me. I just can’t even fathom having all of the additional pressures you had on you. I was just laughing with another mother,about how our first baby was like having a giant icebucket hurled into our faces. We were young and had never seen anyone parent a baby up close. Nothing came naturally, not the birth, and not the breastfeeding. I learned to pray constantly those early days! The one thing that did come naturally however, was an intense bond, that is also a natural chemical process that comes with childbirth and breastfeeding. That was probably my saving grace! All of the subsequent babies that we had were so easy in comparison. Your story makes my head spin. I’m sure God’s grace was with you–and this would account for the length of time you endured so much stress.
    God bless you and all of the other parents who love RAD children. I hope the stress you endured in your early marriage, can be turned to strength and ever deepening admiration for each other. Sometimes in young marriages, tenderness can fly out the window when there are what seems to be insurmountable burdens. I finally learned how to react to stress completely differently–I double up on the tenderness. Life will always be hard, but knowing that a form of heaven and deep consolation is found in my spouse, gives me so much courage to endure the trials. I pray that after going “through the fire” you enjoy many years of marital happiness.

  25. thelarryd says:

    What an incredible story of love, suffering and surrendering to the will of God. So soul-wrenching and yet so inspirational. Thank you for sharing, Devin. A courageous act that will benefit many.

    God bless you, Katie and your children.

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  27. Devin, I wholeheartedly applaud your courage in this post! Ministering to countless parents raising children with special needs, I have seen a groundswell of heartbreak from RAD. I also see parents who are taking remarkable steps, placing their children in special boarding schools in a small handful of locations in America. While the results are positive, I find myself concerned for the families who are financially unable to locate their children in such intensive programs.

    You and Katie prove an incredible inspiration in two regards. First, you clung to the Lord throughout your adoption experience. You sought His wisdom, His direction for the children. You didn’t make a move until the Holy Spirit gave you distinct clarity. Second, you had the well-being of ALL of the children at heart in everything you have done. Taking time to find the appropriate families for the kids, staying in touch with them, and loving them enough to want the very best for each of them makes you a standard-bearer for others who find themselves in this position.

    Thank you for risking further persecution by your transparency! Please, keep on telling your story and encouraging others. This post will be one I refer others to time and again. Meanwhile, know that like Aaron and Hur, there are others of us out here holding you up in prayer.

    • Devin Rose says:

      Thanks Barb, and God bless you with your work.

      We have friends who adopted children and by God’s grace helped them overcome their attachment issues. There is definitely hope, and as you said the key is finding the resources that you and your children need. Unfortunately, as you also pointed out, money can be a challenge and geographical distance–we need skilled therapists, doctors, caseworkers, and centers all around the country. We were thrilled when we finally found competent therapists; finally, someone understood and could help us put into practice the best methods to help our children connect. For us, it was too little, too late, but it does not have to be so for others.

      Thank you for your prayers! We have had an overwhelmingly positive response, different from what we expected. While there have been people who have condemned us and our decision after telling our story here, most have responded with understanding.

      I have also had several people email me, people going through similar situations currently and not knowing what to do, people who have also had to disrupt and have felt ostracized and condemned. Your prayers are a blessing!

      In Christ,
      Devin

  28. Mitzi says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your witness of love humbled and inspired me. That phrase about “if you love, you let go” has a deeper, more beautiful meaning now.

    I am especially struck by the note written by Alice’s mother. Your suffering was truly godly! God is good.

  29. Bless your hearts. I remember when you first got the boys, then the sister. I kept up with you via your blog. Unfortunately, I lost track when you changed your blog. I believe you mentioned the change to protect the privacy of the children. I suspect that’s when you started with the therapists, etc.

    I can’t imagine having to make the decisions you made. I know those decisions must have been gut-wrenching. I believe your pastor was right-on; you were brought into those precious childrens’ lives for a season, for a reason.

    God Bless you and Katie!

  30. Enrique M. Garcia says:

    We love you Devin and Katie :) I too had tears in my eyes after reading your post. Veronica and I were blessed to carry what we now call our “styrofoam cross” during the early part of our marriage and we look back on it, ironically, as a beautiful blessing. It certainly wasn’t beautiful when we lived it. I recall the feeling so well when I realized there was nobody that could help us other than each other and blind faith and hope. I do not compare it in the least with your experience, but your story made me recall those experiences. I am hopeful and confident that your previously adopted children and you will also look back on it as a beautiful blessing in a way that only you and the Lord will understand. Thank you so much for sharing. Need to visit your home some time and repay the wonderful visit you made to our home!

  31. Mike says:

    My name is Mike. My wife and I have 2 adopted children. The youngest is 8 and is a healthy, beautiful, thoughtful, smart, caring, loving boy that I love with every ounce of my being. The oldest is 12. He was 5 months old when we had the opportunity to adopt him. We learned that his Bio mother had been the victim of a violent conception followed by her husband leaving her when she decided to carry the baby to term, leaving her pregnant and with another small child. We did not understand and were not told of the possibilities that surrounded him both mentally and physically. I turned out that he had no physical challenges, but the mental side of the equation has destroyed our lives. It soon became apparent to my wife that there was a problem. Melt downs, screaming, putting hole in the walls,..etc..etc..etc. We took him to Cook Childrens Hosp in Ft Worth where the had us put him in an Intensive Outpatient Program at another facility, to get his medication stabilized to control the moood swings et al. THey kicked us out of the program when he returned due to the high med levels he was put on. Neighbors called Child Protection Services on us, and life continues on this path to nowhere. He was 7+ before we were able to find competent mental health help after moving to Denver. Then he was diagnosed as having Bi-polar Disorder, strong ADHD, a significant cognitive disorder, and ODD (Oppsitional/Defiant Disorder). When the Psychatrist saw the reports defining all this, his response was “OMG, His challenges place him in the 95th percentile for the most difficult children there are”. He takes about 17 pills a day which gets him throught the school day but mornings and evenings are often hell. It is almost non-stop. In the last 6 months he has broken his brothers arm and bitten my wife hard enough to leave a 4″ diameter black and blue bruise. We are prisoners to this child. When we decided to adopt my wife knew and stated that she could not deal with a special need child, yet here we are. Family doesn’t really understand because they don’t see the real behaviors. Even I did not believe or understand the severity of things for a long time, because I “get to go to work each day”, while my wife suffers. My wife suffers from PTSD and has spoken of suicide, I battle depression daily and have a great deal of guilt for what this has done to her/us. We do not know where to turn. We are slowly dying. The state has a residential care program but the “family portion” of that care is $700+ /month which we can’t do. The only other state option is to attempt to give him to the state, part of which requires that were are officially declared “negligent parents”. If I knew where to begin I would try to find him a family that can give him what we can’t. A happier life. I Love my son, and I hate my son. GOD What a horrible place to be.

    • Devin Rose says:

      Mike, I am going to send you an email. In the meantime, I want you to know about these two services.

      Mending Hearts and CHASK.
      http://www.allblessings.org/postplacement/mendinghearts.shtml
      http://www.chask.org/adoption/waiting-children/

      We have no experience with CHASK, it is as they say, the last option, but you should know about it.

      We have experience with Mending Hearts. Ultimately we did not find Alice’s family through them, but we encountered some good families who we seriously considered to adopt Alice.

      God love you,
      Devin

    • Katie says:

      Dear dear Mike, I feel sick for you. You are not alone. God loves you and is with you and has a plan. As the Letter of James says, “God will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. God is faithful and will show you a way out.” Devin is going to email you, but, in the meantime, know that we are praying for you and that we know what it is to feel desperate. When we finally decided to place the children, I had reached the point where I was afraid to be alone with them, for fear that I would lose control and harm them. I understand where your wife is and ache for her. You are not alone. There are many families like you. We will help you to connect with them.

  32. audrey small says:

    As the bio-mother of three biracial children, I strongly believe that the most successful trans-racial adoptions involve parents who have loved, or can see themselves loving, across racial lines. The adoptive parent must be able to fully imagine being deeply and romantically in love with an adult of the racial group of which they are adopting. Only then can the children been seen in the “best possible light” that all parents must see their children in.

    White adults who have never been in such a relationship can and do parent successfully but they tend to see the kiddos as “other” rather than “totally mine.”

    It’s perfectly normal–but significant.

    • Katie says:

      Dear Audrey, your comment is interesting but makes me a little uncomfortable. Are you implying that I never really felt like my three adopted children were “mine” because their skin was coffee-colored, while my skin is peach? Yuck. Those were my children and, it was because I loved them so dearly that I, like a birth mother, realized that I could not meet their needs and chose for them families who could do so. I love them and miss them and ache to hold them.

      In addition, my husband is bi-racial. In fact, strangers often assumed that Devin was their bio father. So, I do know what it is to be “deeply and romantically in love” with an adult with brown skin. Thank you.

      • audrey small says:

        You already meet my “criteria.” Your birth children are biracial and the adopted children, while somewhat darker than your children, appear to be biracial also. Plus you already love and have married a black man.

        I have seen many difficulties when families, who have never loved across racial lines, begin the process with adoption. This puts the children at risk, imo, and should only be undertaken after one has loved adults (not necessarily romantically) across racial lines. I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable.

        I wish we lived in a country where race didn’t matter. However, it surely does matter and presents many, many complications for adults and children.

        • Devin Rose says:

          Audrey,

          Keep in mind that attachment disorders, PTSD, sensory integration, ODD, and the effects of abuse and neglect know no racial boundaries. They equally afflict any poor child, no matter their race. And that was the over-arching difficulty here, as you can see also in the many other people who have shared their stories.

          God bless,
          Devin

  33. Carl & Andrea says:

    Dear Devin & Katie,
    Our hearts go out to you! We adopted 3, and had to put one of the children into another home. Due to the laws in our state, we are not able to unadopt this child, otherwise we go on a list as abusive, neglectful, abandoning parents, and are at risk of losing our other children, including our bio children. We have endured so much heartache as a family. We have had deaths occur in our farm animals from the oldest child, near death experiences caused by this child to other children in our home. As well as death threats toward our older family members, and there was plans to follow through. Yes, at a very young age!!! We have had to install monitors, bells, alarms, etc to keep everyone in the home safe, including this child. We had no choice but to remove this child, and sadly, we are watching it happen all over again with the next one. What went wrong? These two were born to a drug addicted, alcoholic bio-mother who abused them in utero, as well as after. But the worst part of all…..these two precious children were put into 9 homes in a year and a half, by the state. Their ages when we brought them into our home…..almost 2 and almost 3. They had suffered so much abuse, that of course, we did not find out about until so much later. To late to change the outcome of the adoption, and later finding out about the laws in our state have left our family devastated. We have done all we know to do…therapy, doctors, testing and more testing, all natural food, finally prescription drugs…you name it, we have been there did that. The abuse suffered lasts a lifetime for these children, even with a good, loving home & devoted family.
    We were wondering if you might be able to contact us privately, as we have some questions.

    May God bless your family as you continue to heal, and the little ones that were brought to you for a time, in order to get to where they needed to be for a lifetime.

    • Claire says:

      Mike, Carl and Andrea, I am so sorry for your situations, and will keep your families in prayer.

      Devin and Katie: I’m starting to think that God is going to use your experience to help others in similar situations, and to help reform the way families are selected for high-risk children. Maybe he is leading you toward ministry in this area.

      • Devin Rose says:

        Thanks Claire. Certainly that’s not anything I have envisioned, but if we can help others then that would be a blessing. Truth be told, while we have our single experience with this type of situation and know of several others who have gone through similar ones, I am not an expert in the area, especially with the differences from state to state. Nonetheless, people need resources and support, not condemnation and threats, like these poor people are getting.

    • Devin Rose says:

      Carl and Andrea,

      I am so sorry for what you are going through. I don’t know if I can help, but am happy to offer what sympathy and advice I can. I emailed you based on the email you commented with. If you don’t get it, email me with the address on my About page: http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/about/

      Devin

    • JMD says:

      Thank you. A friend sent me the link to this blog.
      My husband and I took in twins, 9 and then 10-year-olds, for only a few week ends and finally a five day visit before the kids were supposed to move in. We waited most of the day, a Thursday, to find out what time to pick the kids up from the group home. Then the authorities involved finally communicated how un-ready they felt the kids were. We expressed our strong desire to still spend time with the kids, and they ended up coming for yet another another week end instead. We had pizza and tried to bond.
      Throughout our time together, the kids verbalized to us their resentment of the changes we brought to their lives, but for social workers they made lists of the great things about possibly living with us, balancing out those lists with all of their fears about leaving behind the group home. Their date for moving in with us was postponed by several months. We continued competing with a 24 hour staff; the children weren’t used to adults sleeping. Bedtimes were a nightmare. We hadn’t even started back to work yet, it being summer and both of us being teachers. We were operating without medical, emotional, etc. background knowledge of the children, being expected in this state (MT) to learn all we could from the kids themselves.
      We learned a lot and nothing at all. My husband ended the situation sooner than I would have. Even if the decision didn’t arise in a graceful manner, God must have been in that decision. Our marriage was being pulled and stretched thin, although I didn’t see it that way at the time. Both of our hearts still ache for the children who we felt in our hearts that God had given us…but maybe they only needed us for a time. We still see the children at church, and it is awkward and painful. But sometimes I see the kids out and about, laughing, and I am glad they have who they have. If they have a staff who can come and go on shifts, people who still really care about them, maybe those people give them what we couldn’t. My husband and I are working on healing. The tears cried together took months to flow, but they’ve trickled down our faces and released some of the tension between us.
      I’ve begun to realize how limited I am, seeing myself within the confines of the true definition of humility (knowing oneself as one really is) probably for the first time ever. I never thought I’d consent to giving children “back,” even if they never really came to stay in the physical sense, but marriage is a covenant and submitting to a loving authority, my husband, is not always meant to be easy. I love my husband, and I will one day be grateful for God’s timing, even if it didn’t feel like my perfect timeline. God has a plan for us and for those kids.
      Thank you for sharing your story. Nothing I found in the “fertility” section of the bookstore spoke to me like I’d hoped. Your blog was what I was longing for.

  34. Sylvia says:

    Sister (and Brother), we are right there with you!

    One adopted child molested our birth children and had to live away for seven years. She eventually came back to us, and with the help of the a therapist and a lot of trial and error, she is now a functioning adult.

    The second adopted child still lives with us, but just an hour before reading your post we were on the phone with the ER because her horrific behavior has taken a turn for the worse. She has been in our home for sixteen years, and with less than a year to go before she turns eighteen, we don’t think we can make it. Heartrending. But with lots of other bios to take care of, the situation is untenable.

    As it has been for sixteen years.

    Another thing that has always been hard for us, as we too endure the rejection of friends and family who have no clue what life in our house is like, is the fear that if we try to get help, our bios will be taken, too.

    ANGUISH.

    My consolation all these years has been the knowledge that God is listening. Before one of the adoptive kids came, I used to pray that God would take my heart of stone and make it a heart of flesh. When this child came to our home, she had in her possessions a plaque from a previous placement which said, “[child's name], you take hearts of stone and make them hearts of flesh.” God still has a sense of humor.

    Like you, I tell everyone who expresses an interest in adoption to not do it unless they have a specific call from God.

    Mother Teresa says, God does not call us to be successful, he calls us to be faithful.

    And that is what you have done, beautiful people! God bless you!

  35. Bethany says:

    I absolutely applaud you for writing this story. I’m sure it was a difficult task to do, but what an amazing and inspiring story it is. Thank you for having the strength and fortitude to share.

    Best wishes!

  36. Emily says:

    Hi Devin,
    I have a question about baptism related to this post. Since you and Katie are Catholics, I assume you baptized Alice and the twins and promised to raise them in the Catholic faith. You say in your post that you and Katie ultimately placed them in Christian homes. What did your pastor or spiritual director say about your and Katie’s promises at the baptisms to raise your children in the Catholic faith? I am not condemning here, just being curious. Thanks.

    • Devin Rose says:

      Emily,

      This was a big concern for us. Should we only look for Catholic families? Include Protestant ones? Include non-Christians? Ultimately we decided to look for Christian families either Catholic or Protestant.

      Our pastor said: “Grace builds on nature. First the man, the human being, then the saint. Without a solid human foundation of love, the child’s spiritual development will be greatly hindered.”

      So we focused primarily on the family itself, their make up, their dynamic, the parents’ skills and understanding and resources; how they interacted with our children, etc. The hope is that they will overcome their challenges and be able to connect, so that they can then fully embrace the divine call to love.

  37. Thank you so much for sharing this story! God bless you all – it is a strong and worthy testimony, and a good lesson in humility and true love.

  38. Shannon says:

    You have no idea how much this has helped me today….We have been raising our adopted daughter for the past 10 plus years. This month she will be 13. I am at the end of myself and honestly dream about sending her to a boarding school or something that would help her and then I could rest and be at peace in my own home. Life has been like a chess game with her. I always have to think ahead of how she’ll respond to a situation. She’s not well and the teen years seem to be honing in on us. She’s come a long way but I don’t know how much more I can bear. I am the one who is abused by her. I’m exhausted and I’m lonely as most don’t understand and I don’t want to expose all of her issues. I have found myself once again waving the white flag of surrender. She was at one point threatening myself and my son with killing us. She doesn’t do that anymore but honestly, I’m not sure where she’s at in her head. What might make her snap? Are we in jeopardy? I just can’t know for sure. Do you know what it’s like to be more like a police officer in your home than a mother??? It’s horrible, unnatural, and there’s nothing loving about it. But, it’s necessary for everyone’s safety. So, again, thank you for having the guts to post your story!! I’m so sorry your friends abandoned you in your heaviest time of need!! Prayers appreciated for us as we continue to trudge through this heart wrenching mess. I’m so tired.
    Blessings, Shannon

    • Devin Rose says:

      Dear Shannon,

      Our hearts go out to you. We understand how you feel. It often feels like there is no love because there is no real attachment. You are seen as an enemy by a child whom you have tried to love for so long. It is the most difficult and saddest of family situations. God bless you and guide you to do what is best for every member of your family.

      Devin