I got a comment on my post entitled Understanding Their World that was really disturbing. Occasionally I get comments from parents who have adopted older children and have not had a happy result. They feel compelled to tell me how upset they are with their “hopeless” child.
I sympathize greatly. Sometimes, no matter how much love, or vitamins, or even therapy, you give a child, there is no way to help the child lead a normal life. Such children cannot love, and they cannot integrate successfully into a family.
If you go on the internet, you can quickly find 100 stories of adopted children who have severe behaviors and do damage to themselves, their families, and sometimes animals or other people. Such stories get reported all the time. Sometimes there are older kids who come from foreign countries or are right here in foster care, and they simply cannot live normally. It’s VERY sad. It’s tragic. My heart goes out to those families who have adopted those children.
However, not all situations are like that.
The reason I made this blog public is simple. I wanted to show that older adopted kids are not ALWAYS hopeless. I wanted to show two kids who are, despite severe early neglect and trauma, capable of love and able to live normal lives.
My post Understanding Their World was meant to give parents some idea of how awful their children’s early lives were. Most parents have no idea. They do not realize the effects of trauma and neglect on a child’s brain development. They blame the child for their bad behavior and are not able to help the child. I don’t blame the parents. Everyone has to do what they can do, and sometimes no amount of intervention can turn the situation around.
My experiences are meant to show the positive, though.
I have learned through trial and error that it’s important to really understand the individual idiosyncrasies of each child and figure out how to help them. Now that I am a mother of two I understand that a lot better.
My journey to help my daughter has had 4 distinct phases. Phase One, I had to figure out why she was doing to poorly in school. After a lot of testing, I finally found out she has a learning disability. Therapy at Lindamood Bell and a year of home schooling helped tremendously. Phase 2 was her first year of high school and trying to get her an IEP or Rule 504 plan. Phase 3 is seeing a therapist. Alesia is much better behaved and a much more happy girl now. Phase 4 started in November 2008 when Alesia finally got her IEP.
My story is not the only happy one out there. I could tell you about several families I know personally who have overcome real challenges with older adopted kids and gotten a positive result. Here’s one example:
I have friends who adopted 2 girls, ages 10 and 14, from a former Soviet bloc country. The girls had been badly mistreated in their birth home and suffered PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder]. One girl needed intense therapy and flew into many rages in the first days home. The other child was just scared all the time. The mother was incredibly stressed at first. After some months, though, and a lot of therapy, both girls are doing well. They are sweet girls and have bonded to both parents. There are still behavior challenges. Ongoing therapy helps. The whole family is doing well, however. The girls are thriving. They are loved. The parents have adjusted.
I have been under tremendous stress the past several years that I am only now able to look back on and say “Wow, what a stressful time in my life.” Being a first time single mom is stressful. Taking on the challenges of traumatized kids is a huge responsibility. Trying to figure out the issues and find the right help has been difficult.
My kids are not my only responsibilities, either. I work full time. My mother lives with us and needs some help, as she is very sharp mentally, but not so strong physically. My dog is medically fragile. My house is old and needs constant repair. Sometimes I fight to get 6 hours of sleep a night.
I pray every day, sometimes every hour. Sometimes they are frantic, hasty prayers along the lines of “Please just help me get through this and not screw up!” If I didn’t have faith I wouldn’t make it.
I try to show, in The Crab Chronicles, the good and bad of life with my kids. There are bad times and stressful times in our house. We all get cranky and out of sorts, sometimes. The kids fight. Mother and I get ticked off at each other. I get tired of cleaning up after the dog. There is no perfection and no unmitigated joy. Anyone who thinks I am sugarcoating the facts is mistaken. I don’t blog about every single thing, but I try hard to present an honest picture.
As difficult as it seems sometimes, it’s not nearly as bad as some parents have it.
My heart aches for all the children who cannot be healed, no matter how much love and care they get. My heart aches for the parents who are so hurt and disillusioned after giving their all to help their kids, and not seeing good results.
I don’t think the answer is to stop adopting older children. I don’t think the answer is to give up, or advise others to do so. The only answers I can offer are these:
Have faith in a higher power
Do everything possible to get your adopted kids the help they need, including therapy and/or medication.
If you are a person of faith, please say a prayer for all the families who struggle with severely traumatized children. Pray they can find the help they need. Pray that adoptions of older children won’t stop, but that people can find the courage to adopt older kids despite the chance of getting a “hopeless” child. [I put “hopeless” in quotes because I don’t really believe in hopelessness. I believe in miracles.]
For every child that seems hopeless, there are 100 children who can be helped to lead normal lives, who can love and be loved. For every seemingly hopeless child, there are 100 children who will give great joy to their parents, whether they are adopted at age 2 or age 15.
I stay pretty stressed out, all the time. Some days it’s really not easy. Some days I don’t like myself very much because I think I am letting everyone down. However, the only way to go is forward.
You know what I live for? I live for the good days. I live for the incredible love my children give me, and the joy of loving them back. I live for the many deep belly laughs we all share. I live for their hugs. I live for their smiles of triumph as they accomplish things they never dreamed of in their former lives.
I can manage the stress. Prayer and chocolate help. The rewards are so very worth it. Seeing my children overcome incredible hurdles and still blossom is the most amazing adventure in the world.