How Adoption Changed My Life : #AskAMentorMom

It was during the last night of the CAFO Summit (Christian Alliance For Orphans.) I had been learning about adoption, foster care and orphan care. This night, something stood out to me.

I was listening to the speaker’s every word trying to allow them to sink in deeper and deeper. 

Suddenly, a phrase came out his mouth that made everything make sense.

“We care for orphans not because we are rescuers, but because we are rescued.”  

After one year of serving orphans in Mexico hearing these words from David Platt made my “why” very clear.

Today, you will read a story that will inspire you and remind you of your “why.” 

Shannon’s story will show you God’s heart through one woman and man that have said yes over and over again to unconditional love.

Shannon is a mom to three adoptive kids and many foster children. She is sharing some of her wisdom with us today.

1.    How did adoption and foster care change your life?

The biggest obvious change is I got to become a Mom 😊

I had always dreamed of being a mom.  The desire in my heart was very strong.

After many failed attempts of infertility and a husband against adoption I was literally praying that God would remove my motherly desire that was very strong inside me.

Praise the Lord that he doesn’t answer all our prayers how we want.  But instead he worked on my husband’s heart and I was able to fulfill my dream through adoption.

My most favorite part of adoption is being able to look at our earthly adoptions and compare them to God’s eternal adoption of us.

Verses like the ones below hold a much more deeper and meaningful significance in my life:

“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”  Gal 4:7

“In love he predestined us for adoption…”  Ephesians 1:5

God chose me, he sought me out, he loves me despite the many times I am fearful and mistrusting, and try to take care of myself.

He keeps showing up no matter how many steps forward or backwards I take.

I am his beautiful daughter fearfully and wonderfully made,  just as I think, love and pursue all three of my kids.

2.   How do you find the right adoption agency for you when there are so many options out there? What’s a good place to start if you are interested in adopting either domestic or international?

My best advice is to ask those you know that have traveled the adoption journey.

I wish I could say that there was no corruption in the adoption/foster world but there is so much spiritual warfare around kiddos from vulnerable places that it seems hard to avoid.

We used America World with our international adoptions. I would recommend them again. They are a Christian organization and they have been transparent about changes and corruption that they may have encountered along the way. 

As an organization they had great respect in country and the orphan was always their priority.  They continue to offer education to us about kids from trauma even years after our adoptions have been final. 

More recently they have been trying to build a program that can better support families after they bring a child home. 

It has also been our experience adoption/foster agencies have a big turnover and are always changing.  You could have someone you love one month and then someone you find difficult to work with the next month.  

So just be prepared for changes during  the process of paperwork, home studies, and waiting. 

Just try and always remember that God is always in control and knew way before we said yes of what lies ahead, I know – easier said than done.

3. What are your top 5 pieces of advice for a mom and her family that are adopting or doing foster care?

1. Create a strong community around you and your family.  

You need to have those people in place that are educated and aware of what raising a child with trauma can look like.  

You need to have those people that will help provide respite when you need a break or a date night to connect with your spouse, or will offer to bring a meal when you get a new placement or stuck in the ER with someone.

Those people that will pray over your family, cheer you on through the triumphs, and help you pack up a foster child that unexpectedly has to go home.  

Adoption and foster care can feel very isolating at times.

I think it is Satan’s little lie he likes to creep in our homes and the next thing you know you feel like no one else will understand what you are going through.

I remember when we adopted the boys 8 years ago  I experienced this and felt so guilty about it.  

Remember that burning desire to be a mother I talked about? Well, when we brought home an 18 month old boy and a 4 year old boy that burning desire to be a mother quickly vanished.

I was exhausted, tired, and depressed. I had no strong community to run to.

I had to be put on anti depressants. My boys for the most part did pretty well with the transition. I did horrible.

I learned during that season that I am a very selfish person. I had spent many years being able to do whatever I wanted with my time and now I had to share my time with TWO rambunctious boys and I was drowning.

If I would’ve had a strong community around me I would have realized that I was not alone. 

Just as women who experience  postpartum depression, they can also experience post adoption depression.

I also would have had a tribe that I could have called to give me a break or get me out of the house,  or let me take a shower in silence. 

Learn from my mistakes and begin creating your community now.   

2. Learn all you can about trauma and how to parent kids from hard places.  

Adoption comes with a lot of waiting which is a perfect time to educate yourself.  

Did you know that the younger the trauma occurs in a child’s life the more effects you will usually see from the trauma?

This has been very true in our experience. It has been our younger babies and toddlers that we have seen have the most lasting effects like anxiety, obsessive behaviors, poor regulation skills, and they usually have more signs and symptoms of sensory processing disorder.  

Some good places to start would be:

Books and training by Dr. Karen Purvis

Empowered to Connect

Trauma Competent Care Training by Back2Back Ministries.

3. Self Care!!!!  Self Care!!!!  Self Care!!!!  

I had to shout this one because I am horrible at this.

I have found that the ones in my life that I look up to and that I think have got this trauma care down are those that our good at self care. 

It is so easy to get burnt out, discouraged, and defeated and these kids need your best effort. 

Here are some ways you can practice self care as a mom.

4. My motto many times a day through many situations is “it is not about me.” 

When you choose to adopt or foster you are saying yes to something God has called us to do.

In those moments when you spend hours shopping for your new 12 year old’s wardrobe. Picking out things you just know she is going to love because she lives in an orphanage where she has to share everything.  

You have it pictured in your head that she will squeal with delight because of all the new clothes you got her. Then reality happens and your new daughter only liked a few of the outfits you brought and would not even wear the rest of them.  

You bite your tongue and you smile and you say “it is not about me.” 

Your primary goal is to connect to this child so you can begin to build a relationship and trust.  

When you get home you take this child  shopping and let her pick out all the things she will wear even if you don’t think it will go together and you again say “it is not about me.”

God has asked me to be his hands and feet to this child and that often times means putting my opinions, thoughts and ideas aside and saying yes. Yeses will create trust with a kid from trauma.  

If anyone reading this knows my fashion girl, this story I am sure will make you laugh and probably not surprise you. In the beginning I did not know that all things girly and fashionable ran deep in her blood and it caught me off guard.  

I have to intentionally decide everyday how I am going to respond to my kids.  

Will my response create connection, love and trust or will it create a disconnect and mistrust?  

I by no means get this perfect and mess it up frequently but I always know when I respond poorly that I need to find a way to reconnect with them.  

Thank you God for redo’s – even for the parents!

5. Be in God’s word and in his presence!!!  

Yes, I need to shout this one to myself too.  

The trauma education is good and great but don’t ever underestimate the power of God’s words.

Be praying now for the children that will be coming in your home. 

Be praying for yourself and your family and asking God to reveal areas you may need to work on and be praying that God will bring that community around you.

Here are some practical ways to get into the Word

4.   What has been the most challenging thing and your favorite thing about adoption and foster care?  

The most challenging thing about adoption is that I feel like we are constantly battling Satan’s lie that our kids can’t trust us.  

If one of our kids gets in trouble what is the first thing probably 8 out of 10 times that they think?

a. – They don’t love me 

b. – They  probably want to get rid of me. Or 

c. – I don’t need them to take care of me. I can take care of myself.  

It is frustrating  when you intentionally think of ways to connect and build trust so they don’t have to feel this way but yet it is a theme that all three of our kids struggle with.

The root of this lie runs deep in our kiddo’s stories but I know that God is bigger than this root and any lie. He can heal any fear and mistrust they may have.

This leads me to my second favorite part of adoption.

When you get to witness a kid who falls and scrapes a knee but doesn’t cry, and months later falls and scrapes the same knee and comes crying to you. Praise the Lord healing is happening.  

When your child sits at school all day sick because they have no idea they can call their Mom to come get them and do all those wonderful things that Mom’s do when you are sick, to months later being sick at school and calling you to come get them.  Woo hoo!!  

You have never been so happy to jump in the car and go pick them up because you are witnessing God’s healing!

I can’t even imagine being so young and experiencing all that they have.

Being removed from your birth family, birth country, language, sounds, smells, everything familiar and yet they continue to strive, heal, and grow and we are so proud of all three of them.  

5. What is the best way to support families that are adopting or doing foster care?

There are so many ways to support an adopting and foster family.  

  • Become educated about trauma.
  • Become a respite provider.   
  • Make meals.  
  • Babysit. 
  • Do laundry.
  • Offer to clean.  

When we started foster care I was shocked at how many appointments we would have.

Between family visits, Dr appointments, therapies, social workers and case worker appointments it is never ending.  

Think of ways to not only bless the parents but bless the other children in the home.  

We are asking a lot of our kiddos when we bring in a foster child and I would love people to think of ways to bless them too.

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