November is National Adoption Awareness Month.
November starts the season of family, thanksgiving, Christmas decorating, home for the holidays feels. And in the middle of family-oriented holidays, I think it’s super appropriate to remember the most vulnerable – children.
Whether kids are still in foster care, living with legal guardians, or adopted from other countries, you will meet adopted children.
As a child who experienced foster care and living with legal guardians, I’m passionate about adoption. There’s so many things I could say on this subject.
But today, I’m focusing on what you can do to help kids adjust and feel more emotionally stable. I first thought about this topic for friends in my church, but it’s easy to apply what I’m saying to any group setting.
Because there are many children in foster care. In your neighborhood, your school, your church. They are all around you, and they need your support and love.
So how can you help foster families and their kids?
Help them make their own choices
One thing I realized as an adult, was how little choice I ever had in my life. Foster care often takes away your ability to make any decisions.
Your next home.
Your friends, your school, your family.
What clothes to wear, what food to eat, what movies to watch.
Often, living in foster care is one step away from virtual prison. And when you finally move to a more permanent home, you have no idea how to make good decisions.
Instead, you’re a preteen or a teenager still thinking like a child. Most foster kids aren’t on the same maturity levels because they haven’t received the emotional support kids need to mature.
So, if you have the chance, let these kids make decisions.
Invite them for a game night, let them choose the games.
Let them choose what movie to watch.
Let them choose your kids as their friends.
Let them choose whether to talk to you.
Foster kids crave respect. We don’t want to be defined by our parent’s failures, our horrible home life, or our emotional brokenness. Find a way to treat us as great, respectable adults. Talk to us as you would ‘normal’ kids our age.
Foster kids tend to get lumped into groups. The kids without families, without a ‘home’ of our own. Whether we live in group homes, or not, we don’t tend to have developed our individuality.
So, as much as you can, personally, individually reach out to foster kids.
Speak to them one-on-one.
If you can, talk to a child yourself. If you’re planning a party, obviously ask a parent if the child can come. If the answer is affirmative, ask the kid yourself.
Show that you think they are worth your undivided attention.
Personal invites are huge! They show, I, on my own, matter to you. You’re not just inviting me, because all the kids are coming. Or because my parents said I had to go.
You want me there. You care about me. You like me. I’m not too weird, broken, or messed up.
This is easily, the most important bit of advice I can share.
And it’s the hardest. Because, foster kids go through hard things. And when we share them, sometimes you have to report it.
But be honest about that. Because we really do understand if you have to tell someone.
We don’t understand if you lie.
I remember this so very clearly. When I was 14 or so, something pretty horrific happened at home. My parents made a bad decision in a moment of intense emotional frustration.
I was hurting. And I didn’t know what to do.
So, I told a friend. I shared that my parents were sending me back to my biological grandfather. Raising me was too hard; I was moving back to North Carolina.
My friend was naturally horrified. She told she wouldn’t tell anyone. And I felt better after finally telling someone.
But the next day at church, several people came up to me. They were all trying to convince me to stay. It completely threw me off – first, I didn’t actually want to leave. Please go to talk to my parents, not me. And second, I didn’t want any of you to know.
I was so angry. This was my secret, and my friend said she wouldn’t share.
My friend had made the right, but hard choice. She told her parents. Now, I’m glad that she did. But at 14, I was furious.
Yes, people intervened. They helped my parents make the right choice. I didn’t get sent away.
But I didn’t want to talk to that friend ever again. I didn’t want to tell anyone at church anything that happened at home.
If my friend had been honest, telling me she had to tell her parents, I would have been mad. But I wouldn’t have felt so incredibly betrayed.
Now, we were both young teenagers. I don’t blame her. She’s my friend today.
But, learn from our mistakes. Be honest with kids. Be as honest as possible. Be more honest than you even think is possible.
Adoption is a life-changing event with so many layers. It is hard work, and stretches families and individuals in ways you might think impossible.
Today, I’ve only dealt with a small snapshot of adoption. This month, I’m hoping to tackle several facets. If you have any questions, or a topic you’d like to see addressed, feel free to comment below or email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adoption isn’t easy, and yet, the Church is called to help orphans. This November, I’m praying that God can show you how to help vulnerable children and their families in your community.