Trying to Make Them Lovable

We’ve addressed many topics in our adoption series. We’ve been raw on here, slicing our hearts wide open in order to expose our weakness with the hopes of exposing Christ’s power. And it’s been painful–painful to say it all in such a public manner, painful to be rejected by those who disagree, and painful to have more and more layers pulled back in my own heart.

In the final post of this series, I want to write about my latest reflections, several months after typing my first words on the topic.

The second post of the series was titled “Loving the Unlovable.” Every adoption resource we’ve seen out there seems to have a mutual goal in mind–to make adoption easier by helping you see your children as lovable. This is done mainly by helping you understand how your child thinks so you sympathize with them. The conclusions they draw almost always end with “proving” how their reactions to situations aren’t their fault: it’s a brain disconnect because of their past.

And when parents like me–who know the truth of Scripture and are shocked when I see what a struggle it is to love a child from hard places–hear this, I think, “Thank goodness!!! That makes them far easier to love now that I see them as innocent.” And I cling to words like that because I have my answer and feel so much better.

But this makes a whore of the adoption story of Scripture: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.(Rom 5:10-11)” God doesn’t adopt us as his children because we were good enough or we somehow convinced him we were. No, we’re adopted while still his enemies, dead in our trespasses and sins.

He didn’t first say, “Well, she’s just a child, so sweet and innocent,” or “She can’t really help it because she’s been harmed in the past,” or “She doesn’t know any better” first so he could have the ability to love me. He said, “You’re my enemy, and you know it. There’s nothing good in you. Nothing. You don’t even want me to save you. And I’m going to show my great mercy by saving you anyway, giving you life and love you’ve never deserved. And I’m going to make you my child, because my love for you has nothing to do with how much you deserve it, but everything to do with how covered you are by the blood of my one and only Son. You’ll take my name, and when you do, you’ll be able to love people who are even as bad as you.”

I know this last story personally, though not deeply enough. And it makes me tear up to know how hard we work to try to make our children look lovable instead of how hard we work to reflect on the truth from the last paragraph. The former feels so much easier because none of us know the truth deeply enough. We all believe we’re more lovable on our own than we are. We believe we were loved by Christ because of how lovable we are. We forget that we “were dead in our trespasses and sins”. We forget that there was “no one righteous, not even one”. We forget that “every inclination of the thoughts of our heart was only evil all the time”. When we see absolute depravity in our kids from hard backgrounds, we can’t accept that we’re that awful, that we were loved when we were in that stage. So we can’t love others either, unless they first look more lovable.

The things that happened to my children aren’t their fault, but the way they respond is. The same is true for you and me and anyone else in the world. They have no more good in them than I do. And it was when I was this evil that God in human flesh gave his life for me and adopted me as his own. Even when we display more and more grace to children in situations of correction and guidance, their responses are still their responsibility and will be judged by a holy God.

Adoption is the central point of the gospel, because it’s where we find ourselves a new family, a new hope, and a new inheritance. Our new family redefines our future and sets a new course for our lives. In adopting children, we take them in with all their sin and unloveliness and problems and trauma and issues. Sometimes we even take them in as enemies, pitting themselves against us in rebellion and anger. They’re not lovely–they’re a mess. Just like we were. Just like we still are, save for the righteousness of God we are in Jesus. The kids we adopt are no different than our biological children–they’re born in iniquity, without hope and without God in the world. They’re just like us. No amount of rationalizing or psychologizing or normalizing can change that.

Through the past few months, this is the hardest pill I’ve had to swallow, and yet the most freeing. My “unlovable” children are nothing more than a mirror to own unloveableness. And I don’t want to see that ugliness in me any more than I want to see it in my children.

But the good news of Jesus tells a better story. It gives a better answer to our dilemma. The answer to loving the unlovable is still to know that “we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable
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What About “Those” Kids?

Rules, rules, rules. So many rules in this world. Some good, some bad. Some God-given, some man-made. They’re everywhere, including in the adoption world.

I’m sure you’ve heard many of them. Don’t adopt out of birth order: it might confuse the children already in your home. Don’t adopt older kids especially: it’s too easy for them to overpower your younger kids. And don’t ever, EVER, bring a child in your home who has had any kind of sexual abuse if you have other children: because gaaaaaah!!

I truly understand the rules from the world’s view. They all make total sense. From a biblical view, though, I can’t make heads or tails of it.

We’re called to father (or mother) the fatherless (or motherless). And just like other parts of Scripture where we’re called to love our enemies or become all things for ALL people or take the word to the nations, there aren’t “buts” after those commands. So it doesn’t say “father the fatherless, but not if they’re older than your kids or a little too broken.”

This is a tough topic. I know it. I especially know it because we had to deal with all the questions in our last adoption. And we ultimately decided to break all the “rules.”

It scared the crap out of me. And that fear is still there in my heart daily.

But it scares me because I’m a faithless child. I think my children’s future somehow has something to do with me. I wait for God to curse me when I do something like this, listening to whispers that I somehow tested him. And it will all be my fault because I acted as a fool!

But then I remember there are no “buts.” And I know this was the door opened for us, the one God designed before the foundation of the world. And contrary to God cursing us, not opening the door would have meant many blessings we would have missed.

I look at my child, at the haunted looks she still has in her eyes, and sometimes, if I look closely enough, I see a spark of life break through. I see her do something kind for a sibling or run to help with something. I see the love she and all her siblings have for each other, how the family feels incomplete if one isn’t there.

I see her grow in her understanding of who Jesus is. A little girl scared of monsters in the beginning, telling us God isn’t big enough to make them go away, seeing more each day that God already defeated the biggest monster there will ever be. And even while she’s still rejecting that Jesus in her heart, I know she’s seeing him in bigger and more real ways than she ever was before.

And I think about what her life might have been. Don’t mis-hear. WE are failing all the freaking time. She’s not blessed because she now has rock star parents. She’s blessed because she’s where God intends her to be. Maybe she would have been in a better home if we hadn’t said yes. But maybe she wouldn’t be. Maybe she’d still be in the system and no one would want her. I’ll never know the maybes. I only know I was supposed to say “yes.”

And I don’t know how to say “no” to one child’s soul for the sake of some possible future physical “safety” issue of my other children. I don’t know how to confidently make a future prediction that my children will turn out in any way no matter the decisions we make here. There are the Josh Duggars who were “raised right and safely,” and there are those who experienced unbelievable tragedies who have beautiful stories of redemption. Sometimes we dress up pragmatism and call it wisdom when it’s really just fear and faithlessness.

Have things changed for us? Absolutely. I have a much more keen eye. I have fewer freedoms. We have the “yell and tell” conversation more often than most families. We have “safeties” in place. We have some rules set up in our home that most families wouldn’t probably have.

And we’re also growing to understand we just can’t control every single thing. That’s still the hardest lesson for me, and I hope to say yes over and over to keep learning it. A life I control less suddenly makes God way bigger in my eyes. I get to watch him be sovereign over my family. I get to see him as a good God who loves and protects all my children way better than I can. I get to see there are things more important than physical safety. I get a bigger faith.

It’s important to say that there’s no intent here to say every single person should say yes to every single child coming into their home. We’re not there yet either! My challenge for you (and me!) is to simply have a bigger faith, to get out of your comfort zone, and to trust God’s design.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable

How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)

When we first started talking adoption, most of our adoptive friends had adopted internationally, meaning it had cost them somewhere around $30,000. We didn’t have that kind of money and didn’t look forward to the prospect of raising those funds. So we assumed it would be several years before we could actually do anything.

Then a friend let me know about the Special Needs Adoption Program (SNAP). (We’re giving details about how this program works in Indiana, though we understand that most states are similar.) This is a program through Child Services that helps find a forever home for children considered “hard to place.” Some categories are sibling groups, children with disabilities, or children over the age of three. The parental rights of the parents have already been revoked, so their placement with you means you will be working towards adoption. And there’s no limit to the amount of children you can have in your home!

The process was fairly simple. We took four classes within a month, filled out a load of paperwork, got fingerprinted, got CPR/First Aid certified (optional but preferred), and had a home study. Once the home study was complete, we waited about a month to hear we had been approved. The whole process start to finish was four months for us.

At that point we were free to inquire after children on the Adopt US Kids site (and here’s the listing for Indiana’s SNAP kids). The inquiry would go most often to the child’s case worker. The case worker then is required to send the child’s case summary to you. This is huge, because you’ll get to see exactly what the child’s history is–the reason they were removed from their home, any problems the child has had (mentally, physically, socially, and developmentally), any medications and therapies they receive, and pretty much anything else you’d want to know.

After you’ve read the report and if you think this child would be a good fit for you, you would email the case worker back to let them know you want to be considered as the child’s parents. The case worker and a team look at your home study and decide if you might be a good match. They usually like to have 3-5 families to consider. If you’re chosen as one of them, you’ll be called in for an interview along with the other families being considered. At some point after that, you’ll either find out you were or weren’t chosen as the child’s family, or you may be called for additional interviews.

Once you’ve been matched, there’s ideally a month-long transition period into your home. You meet the child by yourself in a neutral spot, then maybe another time with your other children, then maybe you have an outing together, then a sleepover until finally they move in with you. This period is really intended for you and the case worker to evaluate if you still want to move forward. Though you can technically back out at any point before the adoption is finalized, this is not something you should see as an option after the initial month since you would only be making things more difficult for the child.

Once they live with you and you file to adopt them, it typically takes around six months for the adoption to be finalized. Compared to most adoptions, the whole process is crazy fast.

This is the way things are intended to go, but of course we live in a messy world, so things rarely turn out that way. There are so many different situations with each adoption. For instance it was just short of a year before our first adoption was finalized, and they moved in with us the day we met them because of some extreme circumstances–important to note we had a choice in that matter.

Along with this being a faster process, it’s also almost free! Classes and homestudy cost nothing. You pay for fingerprinting and CPR/First Aid classes. If you don’t have five children in your home, though, they’ll probably try to encourage you to foster first. Absolutely not required but a great role. You can even foster to adopt, meaning they’ll place children with you who are likely to become available for adoption. In that instance, Child Services even pays for your fingerprinting and CPR/First Aid (required for foster parents).

Most people know there’s a monthly per diem for foster-certified families. BUT after the adoption is finalized, most SNAP children qualify for adoption subsidy, a monthly allowance for the parents until the child turns 18. It’s usually just a bit less than the foster care per diem. The child can also always have Medicaid and can go to any state college for free. Huge blessings!

I share this info with you mainly because I find most people have NO IDEA about this program, and I have many friends who, like we did, feel as though adoption is out of their reach financially or think it will be years before they’re matched with someone. God truly has placed those of us living in the US in a unique position to open our homes over and over to the orphans in our country.

Here are all the posts in our adoption series:

  1. Getting Real About Adoption
  2. Loving the Unlovable
  3. Sin in the Adopted Child
  4. Support for the Adoptive Parent
  5. Broken-Hearted Parents
  6. Some Clarifying Thoughts on Our Adoption
  7. Examining Adoption Resources (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 1)
  8. Normal and Healthy? (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 2)
  9. A Matter of Foundations (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 3)
  10. The Sins of Neurology  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 4)
  11. Idol Swapping  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 5)
  12. Setting the Course  (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 6)
  13. Another Way Forward (reviewing The Connected Child, Pt 7)
  14. The Therapy Our Children Need
  15. Who Are You Calling Normal?
  16. Optional Adoption
  17. How to Adopt for Almost Free (And No Fundraising!)
  18. What About “Those” Kids?
  19. Trying to Make Them Lovable