Wednesday Wisdom 29/10/2014

‘The natural posture of parenting bends itself towards protecting our kids at all costs. And rightly so in many ways. However, if opening our home to a foster child has taught me anything about being a parent it’s that there is a fine line between protecting my kids from the dangers of being exposed to hard things and protecting them from the dangers of NOT being exposed to hard things. My natural tendency would be to create a world of comfort and convenience for them while unintentionally never allowing them to see and respond to a world of brokenness and hopelessness that exists around them. Perhaps my greatest fear as a parent should not be the dangers and difficulties which exist all around my kids as much as it should be the self-centeredness and entitlement which exist deep within them. If our society has anything today it’s self-centered, self-entitled kids. That’s the terrifying norm. ‘

Jason Johnson

* Excerpt from blog post.

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Still Worth It?

Beautiful, honest written by Jennifer Phillips about the difficulties surrounding the adoption of their daughter from China.

Still Worth It?

It’s a peculiar thing to love a child who does not love you back. 

When a child grows in your womb, she is part of you. You speak to her, you feed her, you nurture her. You are familiar to her. The first time she’s placed on your chest, she naturally snuggles up. She doesn’t have the muscle tone or coordination yet to try to move away from you, but even if she did, she wouldn’t want to. A newborn’s body naturally curves onto yours as she leans in, not away, for reassurance. She may cry, but she nestles against you for comfort. Being apart from you is scary and unknown; being held by you is home.

My Chinese adopted daughter Lucy and I did not get the privilege of this natural form of bonding. She and I missed out on crucial months of stroking, rocking, singing, and cuddling. Left alone for most hours of the day on a wooden slat that cruelly pretended to be a bed, she soothed herself with tapping or tongue-sucking. She had no one else. I entered the scene 15 months into her under-stimulated life and wanted to hold her. I wanted to kiss her and stroke her and give her all the things she’d missed out on for so very long.

I was not welcome.

I was a stranger, and because she was sensory-deprived, touch was almost painful for her. When I held her on my hip, she leaned her body back, hands in the air. Her newborn body never got the opportunity to nestle against the chest of someone who loved her, so she never learned how to lean in for comfort. Instead, she stiffened at my touch, her expression stoic. When she awoke from her nap, she didn’t cry for me—not even when she had a soiled diaper. Why should she? When no one rushes to your side when you cry, you eventually stop crying. Lucy didn’t know she needed me because her needs had never been met well. The concept of a mother was foreign to her.

Bureaucratic Nightmare

This form of rejection would have been heartbreaking enough had I brought Lucy home under normal circumstances. But I was wrestling with the unrequited love of an infant as a temporarily single mom in the center of a bureaucratic nightmare. My husband and I are missionaries in Australia and traveled to China with our three children in tow to adopt Lucy at the end of 2013. Following the instructions of our adoption agency, the National Passport Center, and fellow ex-pats who had gone before us, my new, malnourished, 15-month-old daughter and I flew to the United States immediately after her adoption to secure her automatic U.S. citizenship, obtain her U.S. passport, and fly home to Australia, to which my husband and other children had already returned.

Her passport application was denied.

Based on a residency issue we didn’t know existed, and to our knowledge had never previously been applied, the agent refused to issue our daughter a passport. Eventually, to our shock and dismay, her U.S. citizenship was denied as well. This left me and my frail, sensory-deprived daughter indefinitely stuck half a globe away from the rest of our family. The longest I had ever been away from my children was eight days. I was now staring down the barrel of a potential six-month separation, possibly longer.

I was so torn. My three biological children who were bonded to me, and had been since day one, were on one side of the world. My adopted daughter, who still didn’t quite know what to think of me, was with me on the other. I felt so guilty for “abandoning” my older three who needed their mom, yet I had been called to love one who had already experienced abandonment and was only beginning to heal. 

Loving the three was easy; loving the one was hard. 

When all we knew of Lucy was four pictures, a video, and a limited medical file, the words “She’s worth it” flowed easily. Worth the paperwork, worth the adoption fees, worth whatever it would take to mean she was ours. My husband and I knew it would be hard, that it would change our family forever, but we emphatically claimed that she was worth it all.

Now that statement was being tested. 

Was she worth being separated from the rest of my family indefinitely? Was she worth the legal battles, the hours on the phone with congressmen, senators, and the State department? Was she worth the enormous stress?

Go Home?

During this period of separation, a question hovered on the lips of those who meant well: If the battle over Lucy’s citizenship and a passport became lengthy, would I consider leaving her in the United States with family and returning for a time to Australia to be with my husband and the other kids? I could understand why some people thought I should do so. I’d only had Lucy for a short time, and she was just getting used to me. Babies are resilient, and oh, the hero’s welcome I would get at home! I could imagine my older kids’ response: My youngest would squeeze my neck as hard as she could. My second-born would give me lots of sloppy kisses, and my oldest would sweetly say, “I’ve missed you, Mom.” It would be such a relief to hold them again.

On the other hand, I had to fight every day for another tiny little piece of Lucy’s heart. She didn’t give kisses. She didn’t know how to hug, keeping her hands defensively in the air most of the time that I held her. She would have rather been alone in the dark than with me.

It would have made sense for me to go home, right? Except, she’s my child. Mine. God gave me a love for her that is just as intense as the love I have for my other three. This baby came to us traumatized and neglected. She had experienced abandonment once, and I could not do it to her again. I couldn’t undo the security she was just beginning to feel. I just couldn’t.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus talks about the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one lost sheep. This priority would seem foolish to most, but Jesus is no ordinary shepherd. He knew the one was worth it. I was worth it. You are worth it.

So was Lucy worth it? Even though she didn’t lavish me with affection, didn’t yet fully accept me? Even though she pushed me away? Even though it meant indefinite separation from the other loves of my life?

I looked into those deep brown eyes, full of mystery, sorrow, and yet the slightest hint of hope and light, and I said, Absolutely. Our commitment to her was being tested to the fullest extent, but our answer was still yes. We would do it all over again.

In a world that so easily throws up its hands and says, “Too hard,” and walks away, God was asking us to mirror his commitment to his people by looking at sweet Lucy and saying, “Dear one, you are not too much for us. No cost is too high; no burden too much to bear. We will fight for you, because you are worth it.”

Who knows? Maybe a day will come when Lucy walks through the pain of questions of identity. It’s almost inevitable. Maybe one day she‘ll feel sad because she looks different from us, or maybe a peer will cruelly joke about her “real parents.” Maybe it is for these moments that God created an opportunity for us to fight for her, for me to choose to stay with her rather than return to her adoptive siblings. Maybe God knew about weak times to come when she would need to know for sure that she is worth it. 

I pray that she’ll be able to look back and see that at a time when she offered me nothing, I sacrificed presence with those closest to me in order to love her and bring her home. I pray that the memory of that sacrifice will draw her heart towards a Savior who also forfeited presence with the One closest to him so that he could one day bring her home, for good.

 

*This article is a modified excerpt from her book in progress, Bringing Lucy Home: A Story of Hope, Heartache, and Happiness © 2014. You can read more about her family’s story at littlelucymei.blogspot.com.

Fact Sheet on Child Abandonment in South Africa

This is quite a sobering look at the orphans crisis currently in South Africa. Several factors play a role in this, as discussed in this article. Apart from the cultural complexities involved the lack of qualified social workers is also a big problem.

NEW RESEARCH ON CHILD ABANDONMENT AND DECLINING ADOPTION RATES IN SOUTH AFRICA

The alarming increase of abandonment requires deeper research insights and understanding of cultural beliefs to stem crisis

[20 May 2014]: A new qualitative research study on child abandonment and adoption in the context of African ancestral beliefs in contemporary urban South Africa was released today by the National Adoption Coalition South Africa (NACSA) ahead of Child Protection Week.  Here is that document: Fact Sheet – Research on Child Abandonment in South Africa

The research undertaken by Dee Blackie, a consultant to the National Adoption Coalition of SA, is the result of an intensive, 1-year long research project that will provide NACSA with the understanding and insights needed to address the growing social crisis of child abandonment and declining adoption rates in South Africa.  Blackie’s fieldwork, conducted from March 2013 to February 2014, involved in-depth interviews and participant observation with young women experiencing unplanned pregnancy, women who had been apprehended for abandoning their children, community members, police officers, nurses and social workers, baby home managers and caregivers, adoption social workers, foster care and adoptive parents, psychologists and psychiatrists, legal experts, traditional healers and abandoned children (predominantly in Alexandra, Soweto and Tembisa).

“Child abandonment continues to rise in South Africa, but there is little to no understanding of this alarming social challenge.  This together with the increasing numbers of orphans due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is placing extreme pressure on temporary care solutions such as children’s homes and foster care.  Adoptions have decreased by more than 50% over the past decade with research indicating that much of the decline is due to the implementation of the new Children’s Act in 2010 and what has been referred to as ‘cultural barriers’,” says Dee Blackie.

Contemporary South Africa has a number of the challenges associated with child abandonment including restrictive legislation, high levels of poverty, mass urbanisation and migrant labour, high levels of violence especially rape, gender inequality and diminishing family support.  All of these issues lead to the increasing vulnerability of young women in the urban environment and can result in child abandonment as a ‘survival strategy’ on the discovery of an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.

Blackie’s research found that both child abandonment and the decline in adoption are influenced by indigenous African ancestral beliefs.  She found that some mothers and community members believe that, in the eyes of their ancestors, to abandon a child is better than formally relinquishing their rights as parents so that the child can be adopted.

The research found that ancestral beliefs play a significant role in child abandonment in South Africa. “Formally placing a child up for adoption is seen as a conscious act, and similar to the choice of abortion, amounts to the rejecting a gift that the ancestors have given you.  Many young women believe that the punishment for doing this could be extreme suffering and bad luck and in some cases, they believe they may even be rendered infertile as a result of their actions. Other circumstances such as depression, high levels of stress possibly due to how the child was conceived such as rape, or that she had been abandoned herself by the father of the child or her own family, which is often the case, are often contributing reasons for abandoning the baby.  In this instance, the mother can then sacrifice something to call her ancestors, and then when they appear, apologise to them at which point they could choose to forgive her,” explains Blackie.

“Adoption is also viewed with great concern as bringing a child with an unknown ancestry into a family is thought to cause problems for both the adoptive family and the child.  Most research respondents believe that a child who does not know their ancestors – the decedents of their father’s line – will live a difficult life and may also not be able to fulfil many of their traditional roles and rituals in their family.  These include paying damages for a child, paying lebola (to get married), celebrating big milestones such as matriculating, graduating or getting a new job.  Ancestors are also important for guidance and support, for understanding where illness may come from, and assisting a person in making important life decisions.

“Many black adoptive parents choose not to disclose that their children are adopted for fear of rejection from their extended family or community.  However, if this is discovered later on in life, it can cause high levels of trauma for the abandoned child” adds Blackie.

But the research also revealed that despite the negative perceptions of adoption, all of the sangomas (traditional healers) interviewed confirmed that they could assist a child who has been abandoned to find their ancestors.  They can also help a family who chooses to adopt a child, through a process called ‘ubigile’ or the announcing of the child to the ancestors.

“The sangomas believe that despite child abandonment being increasingly associated with postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome, the only way to solve this issue is to fix it at a family and community level, rather than through the medication and counselling of the individual mother or child,” adds Blackie.

The comprehensive research will inform a number of initiatives planned by the National Adoption Coalition in their attempt to curb this growing social crisis.

Pam Wilson, spokesperson for NACSA adds:  “Getting to the heart of cultural and ancestral beliefs is crucial if we are to address this challenge by understanding the reasons behind high levels of abandonment and declining adoptions. It will inform and shape our messaging and approach, particularly as we are about to embark on a campaign specifically aimed at unplanned pregnancy and helping families to support the young women in their homes.  The research information will also be used to expand on the Coalition’s Community Engagement Programme specifically around option counselling for unplanned pregnancy to help young pregnant mothers to make informed decisions.  Finally, in support of the call by sangomas and traditional leaders, this year’s adoption conference planned for October, will focus on trying to find more culturally relevant approaches to adoption and other child protection strategies,” says Wilson.

During Child Protection Week 2014, the National Adoption Coalition will focus on the insights revealed from the research and use this as a basis to inform its actions going forward around the plight of South Africa’s adoptable children and provide accurate process information to birth and prospective adoptive parents, particularly around the issues of ancestry and cultural beliefs in South Africa.

* The whole article can be read here.

“About The Adoption Option”

Very encouraging post from a Cape Town adoptive mom about the challenges with adoption.

I so much echo her first point about celebrating with a prospective adoptive couple! I have been blessed with family and friends that treated our “paper pregnancy” with the same joy and enthusiasm as if I were actually pregnant. I had several baby showers and everyone counted the days with us with both our kids’s placements. Forever grateful for that!

“About The Adoption Option”

 

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1 vs 17 (NLT)

This is us, the Kynies – a rainbow nation mash-up. My husband, Ryan, and I are proud parents of two of the best kids. Ilan is three and enjoys ‘dancing like a Zulu’, imitating his sister and riding his bike dangerously down hills. Kira just turned one and is a real busy body – she can handle cuddles in a maximum of five second increments at most, has a deep belly laugh and has eyes only for her brother. We’re a family pieced together through adoption.

Ryan and I discussed our shared heart for adoption before we got married and when we felt ready to start a family, adoption was our number one choice. It helped that we’d seen adoption played out in other families and that we were able to discuss adoption with parents who had pioneered into the world of social workers and courtrooms ahead of us. Even though we felt under-qualified as first-time parents-to-be, we were reassured that ANY family is better than NO family for a child who needs a family.

Our concerns and questions about adoption made me realise that many people – whether it’s something they are personally exploring or never really considered – are also apprehensive when talking about or even approaching the topic. So, having said that, I thought some of the lessons I’ve learnt in my journey so far could be helpful advice to everyone out there – you don’t need to be a Hollywood celeb to broach the subject of adoption.

Celebrate with us!
Please rejoice with us when we tell you that we’re starting or expanding our family through adoption. Please continue to celebrate adoptive parents-to-be in the same way that you’d celebrate a pregnancy announcement – baby showers and meal rosters are very welcome. Please don’t deflate our moment by asking us to explain our motives.

Jumping through (many, many) hoops
So. Much. Admin. We’ve learnt that adoption admin is not for the faint-hearted! Adoption screening is not easy, nor cheap and you never know how long it will all take but all of this fades into the background when you get ‘the call’ to say that you’ve been matched as parents of a precious little one. When you meet your baby for the first time it really feels like you deserve to be there – the home visits, prying interviews and psychological assessments were so worth it. What a gift it is to parent one of God’s very own special ones.

The story
As difficult as it is to keep this information to ourselves, our kids’ stories are not for us to share. Their history doesn’t belong to us. We aim to tell them the best version of their stories in an age-appropriate way as they grow up and if they choose to share it one day, then that’s up to them. South Africans must pray that our collective heart breaks for the issues that break God’s heart. We need to pray that the cycle of poverty and injustice in our country is broken. The reality is that God is building families through adoption despite a fallen world and it is by the grace of God that we don’t find ourselves in the same position as our children’s birth moms. Adoption means understanding, not judgement.

Bite your tongue
Let’s try and choose our vocab carefully. Adoption is such an overused word. Ilan is not our adopted son, he is our son. Plain and simple. Own is also an overused word that is not well received amongst adoptive families, please rather say ‘biological’ if this is what you mean. Our kids are our ‘own’ and yes, now they’re related. Luckyis another oneour kids are not lucky to have us, we are the lucky ones! Please try your best to avoid these words and forgive us if our knee-jerk reaction is to cover our kids’ ears when you use any of these words around them.

African hair, yes we care
We certainly don’t have a whole lot of experience in this department, so if you are someone who does, then help us out! We want to know which barber is going to rip us off and what hair products to use for our kids’ hair. Take it one step further and help our family celebrate our racial differences, see the world in colour and help our kids figure out what it means to be black in South Africa. Adoption is a team effort and we need you on our team.

 

* This post by Julie Kynaston was originally posted here.

“Say This, Not That”

It is common to find people asking questions about adoption, the children and the whole process. Probably due to ignorance more than rudeness, these questions sometimes come across insensitive in the way they are formulated.

This post is a good guidance to rethink the question you want to ask and to formulate it a little bit different. A good read!

“Say This, Not That”

I have had all 6 questions asked to me before, in a few different ways and certainly the one being said/asked the most is – “He is so lucky that you are his parents!”. I do understand the reasoning behind it, but we still firmly believe the WE (their parents) are the lucky and blessed ones to have these special children in our family.

 

A Prayer For Our Growing Children

I recently started using PrayerMate – an app for your mobile device that helps you to organise your prayer life without causing distractions. It is very useful and I can really say that after using it for 2 weeks I feel that my prayer life in general is more focused.

Through the app’s interface you can access different sample prayers and I came across this prayer for your children. How powerful!!

 

A Prayer For Our Children – Jason Helopoulos

As they mature and leave the home
Provide them adequate finances, but not riches
spouses who will love them, but not worship them
Give them sorrows, but not too deep
struggles, but not too great
Make them seasoned, but not hopeless
comfortable in their own skin, but not vain
zealous, but equally wise
knowledgeable, but filled with humility
content, but continually striving
Allow them to be confident, but not cocky
humble, but not sheepish
gracious, but not fearful
Mature their body in strength
their emotions with sophistication
and their imaginations with grounding
Fill their lungs with deep laughter
and their souls with joy

But even as I pray these things,
there is one prayer that soars above the rest
Bestow upon them your grace
Lavish them with your mercy
Drench them with your love
Give them the gift of faith
Satiate all their appetites with you
Fill them with your Holy Spirit
Set them apart for your holy service
Bring them into union with Christ
Let their hearts know a peace that surpasses understanding
Grant that my children would be Your children

That would make this child exceedingly thankful
Hear my prayer, O Father of mercy and grace

Nina turns 4!

October will always be one of the most beautiful months to me. We live in Pretoria, which is also known as the Jacaranda City. These beautiful trees are in full bloom during October, and line our streets with their purple trumpet flowers. It is also when our jasmine bushes start to blossom filling the air with their sweet fragrance. But October is also the month when we celebrate Nina’s birth.

Jacarandas

Now Nina is 4 years old – and what a blessing she is to us! She is a lively, energetic girl with an imagination that can only make you laugh. She loves ballet, fairies, princess stories and dressing up but can play and jump and climb like a real tomboy. 🙂 A good mental picture of her is dressed in a fairy skirt with fairy wings, crown on the head, but feet and hands dirty and legs full of bruises. Never a dull moment!

2 years old.

2 years old

3 years old

Turning 3

IMG_20141006_181947

Now a big girl!

In this time we also specifically remember Nina’s very brave tummy mommy. We know she is also thinking of Nina. We pray for her, that Jesus will also fill her heart continually with His presence and peace. We always thank the Lord for her selfless act of love.

As these beautiful burst of colourful flowers after a cold highveld winter signifies the promise of summer and new life, it is also a reminder to me how our Father brought new life into our lives after going through the long and painful road of infertility.

We love you dearest Nina!! Our prayer for you is that you continue to mature in a girl that will love Jesus increasingly and live for His glory.

 

Wednesday Wisdom 8/10/2014

“The reality of families is not limited by blood. Real families are made up of love, shared experiences, laughter, and trials. They’re made from snuggles, bedtime routines, teaching, and learning. Real families are grown and nurtured by patience, celebrations, tears, and triumphs.”

Adoption.com