Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Adoption From The Inside Out

This is an excellent article written by Michael Monroe and Dr. Karyn Purvis. 

Michael Monroe, and his wife Amy, lead Tapestry, an adoption and foster care ministry at Irving Bible Church. Through this ministry they have walked the adoption journey with nearly 100 families during the past several years. For more information, visit http://www.tapestry/  and

Karyn Purvis, Ph.D., is the director of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, Texas, where she and her colleagues have developed a unique trust-based relational model for parenting. She is also the co-author of the adoption bestseller “The Connected Child”(highly recommended reading for anyone adopting). For more information, visit

For many, the adoption process begins by surveying agency information, evaluating financial considerations and tackling mountains of paperwork, all while working through a complex array of questions, doubts and even fears. Likewise, once a family welcomes a child home their attention generally turns to the everyday aspects of parenting, as well as dealing with the extras that come with being a family who has been woven together through the miracle of adoption. While these are all important aspects of the adoption process, they can often crowd out some equally important steps along the way. One important, but often overlooked, aspect is the need to engage the adoption journey from the “inside out” — through ongoing, honest self-reflection and self-evaluation.

Starting from the Inside

We know how important it is for adoptive parents to engage in a self-evaluation process intentionally focused on assessing their motivations for adopting and examining their expectations about what they will likely experience. While this process may be time consuming and even at times a bit uncomfortable, it is always time well spent.

Properly Motivated — Being honest about motivations can be a tricky thing. However, it is critically important that you start with healthy motivations. It is not so much that there is one single “right” motivation for adopting, as there are several wrong motivations — motivations that often can lead to great disappointment and much hurt and heartache for everyone involved.

At its core, adoption should not be a humanitarian cause aimed at “rescuing” a poor, orphaned child or “fixing” a broken child, as heartbreaking as their children’s realities may be. It is equally important not to adopt in order to try to prove something or to make a point, nor because it is the “in” thing or even the “Christian thing” to do. Invariably, motivations such as these can cause a parent to bring a great deal of unnecessary “baggage” to the new parent-child relationship, resulting in unrealistic expectations, disappointment and a host of other negative outcomes.

Instead, a primary motivation for adopting must always be love — love that a parent has and is willing and able to unconditionally give to a child for a lifetime. This love is not merely a sentiment or a feeling, but rather a true commitment of the heart, soul, mind and body. Motivated by this kind of love, parents are far better well-positioned to partner with their child in order to build a healthy and trusting relationship. With this foundation parents can then begin to empower their children, help them heal and allow them to fully experience the blessings of a forever family.

Ultimately, adoption must be more about the child than it is about the parent. Although there is no denying the “mutual blessing” of adoption, it is essential that parents be willing to ask themselves difficult questions and provide honest answers to ensure that they are properly motivated and can thus provide the necessary foundations for a healthy relationship and a positive outcome.

Realistically Expecting — Adoptive parents who maintain realistic expectations throughout the entire adoption journey are far more likely to thrive even in the midst of the challenges that often arise. As a family travels the adoption journey it is essential that they avoid overly romanticized notions of how the adoption experience will unfold. There will undoubtedly be major milestones, “miracle moments” and breakthroughs filled with joy as a child begins to receive and respond to the love and care showered upon him or her. However, there will also likely be some amount of frustration, disappointment and pain as well.

No doubt every family truly believes they are adopting the “perfect child.” However, early on in the adoption process our heads often know, though our hearts may forget, that even though you may adopt the “perfect child” for your family, your child is not “perfect.” The good news, however, is neither are you. So every adoptive family should fully expect to encounter some challenges and bumps along the roadway as together they seek to learn and develop a healthy, trusting relationship. Our experience is that no family is completely immune.

The challenges start right away for some families, and unrealistic expectations can have a lot to do with both the cause and the ultimate outcomes. Some families travel half way around the world to adopt a young child and when they arrive at the orphanage they may unrealistically expect the child to instantaneously connect with them and them with him or her — the so-called “mommy or daddy moment.” While this does sometimes happen, for many reasons it is not always, or even generally, the norm. In fact, children who seem to instantly “attach” may be in reality exhibiting an attachment issue called “indiscriminate friendliness,” which will require guidance over time to help them understand how to create a healthy parent-child attachment.

Likewise, some adoptive parents choose to adopt older children only to be surprised that after a short “honeymoon” period the child, plucked from an orphanage in another country and culture and removed from all that is familiar and “safe” to him or her, is not grateful and compliant. Instead, the parents find themselves struggling with issues relating to communication, making good decisions and learning to follow the rules. More generally, they find themselves facing the challenge of helping the child fully understand what it means to be part of a family.

Regardless of the challenge or issue that arises it is all important to remember that the solutions and successes will not come over night. What is called for is “investment parenting,” though for many of us, accustomed to our fast paced society of instant gratification and quick results, the “return” on the “investment” is painfully slow in coming. The “investment” can be made in any number of ways, such as taking time off work for an extended period after a child comes home in order to help him or her connect with the new family. Some families make the “investment” by not putting the child in school or daycare immediately to allow for more time and interaction with parents and family members.

When a child comes into our family through birth we naturally expect several months of sleepless nights, dirty diapers and constant attention. Likewise, when a child comes into our family through adoption, parents should expect to make an equal “investment” of time to help the child feel safe and connected, even if the diapers and feedings are replaced with One additional key to creating realistic expectations is to be sure not to travel the adoption journey alone. Other adoptive families can often be the best resource for helping sift through what to realistically expect. It is important, however, that these experienced adoptive families are willing to be honest and open about their experiences – both the highs and the lows. Support groups, church ministries and other communities of families are a great place to connect with families like these to learn about what you should realistically expect and how you can best be prepared to respond.

It’s Never Too Late to Ask the Right Questions

While honest and critical self-evaluation is vitally important early on in the adoption process, it is never too late for parents to start looking “inside” to ask themselves the right questions. As challenges and issues with a child arise it is all too easy for parents to assume that the problem, and therefore the solution, lies completely with the child. However, this assumption can often mask the true reality and serve to only further prolong the pain and frustration.

It is critical for parents to be willing to not only assess their motivations and expectations on an ongoing basis, but to also be willing to explore their own histories and address what they may find. In order to guide a child toward healing, parents need to know the path themselves. All things being equal, parents who fearlessly explore their own history and how it may affect their parenting are parents who are generally better prepared to welcome a child home and begin partnering with their child so they can connect and heal.

Melanie Chung Sherman, an independent adoption social worker in Texas and a Korean adoptee herself, explains: “Parenting can bring an array of emotions and feelings to the surface. When parents build their families through adoption, many times unresolved issues such as grief and loss due to infertility, past abuse and neglect, past addictions or health problems come to the surface. The child’s deep needs can often trigger these unresolved issues of the past and the impacts can ultimately find their way to the child. If parents do not intentionally and honestly assess themselves and begin to work toward healing for unresolved issues, the adoption dynamics can compound these past traumas and prevent parents from fully embracing the complexities and joys of the adoption journey. Self-assessment and self-evaluation must go well beyond the home-study and become an ongoing part of how to engage the adoption journey as it unfolds. It is no doubt messy and difficult, but the long-term rewards will be substantial for the well-being of the child and the entire family.”

This is reinforced by recent research from the TCU Institute of Child Development documenting specific critical parent issues that can become hindrances to positive outcomes for adoptive families if the issues are not explored and resolved. These issues include childhood losses such as the death of a parent, death of a sibling, divorce, alcoholism of a parent, trauma, neglect or abuse. Adult losses that need to be explored include miscarriage, divorce, death of a loved one and trauma. In addition, numerous researchers have documented significant positive shifts in families where the parents are able to process their own histories. In turn, these parents are empowered and able to guide their children through a similar process.

Approaching adoption from the “inside out” is an important ongoing part of the adoption journey that can be incredibly beneficial for both you and your child. The life-long journey of adoption is filled with blessings and joy, though it can also bring its fair share of challenges, loss and pain. In the end, however, we have come to believe that the truest blessing of adoption is not in living “happily ever after,” but rather in the God-kissed opportunity to unconditionally give your love away with the hope that your gift will be fully accepted and will transform the life of a child – forever.

A Few Questions to Consider . . .

Here are a few questions that can help you examine your motivations, expectations and any unresolved issues that may affect your ability to fully connect with your child:

• What are the reasons why I want to adopt?

• Is adoption more about me or the child I will welcome into my family?

• What issues or challenges do I expect to encounter as I parent my children? How do I plan to deal with those issues and challenges?

• How will I respond if things don’t turn out as I have planned after I bring my child home?

• How will those around me, such as friends and family, react if things do not go as planned?

• Are there issues in my past such as unresolved grief, loss, abuse or trauma that I have not adequately dealt with? If so, how do I plan to address and deal with those issues?

Reprinted from the December/January 2009 issue of Adoption Today magazine. Click here for a pdf file of the article.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Together for Adoption Conference 2010

The annual conference for Together for Adoption is coming up in Austin, Texas in October and if you're quick, you can still take advantage of the early bird registration cost of $69 per person (good through June 30th).  Register here.

The theme of this year's conference is "The Gospel, The Church and The Global Orphan Crisis."  From Together for Adoption's website:

The 2010 conference will be our largest and most helpful conference yet, with gospel-saturated general sessions, longer breakout sessions, and more time to network with other churches, organizations, and adoptive families. We’re intentionally structuring the conference around the gospel and community.

Here are just a few of the topics to be covered:

A Lifelong Love: Keeping the Gospel at the Center of Orphan Ministry 
Dan Cruver - founder of Together for Adoption

The Church as the Theater of Transracial Adoption
Bryan Loritts - pastor of Fellowship Memphis

The Trinity as Model and Motive for Church-based Orphan Care
Darrin Patrick - pastor of The Journey

The Church as the Champion of Social Justice
Matt Carter - pastor of The Austin Stone

Counting the Cost: Preparing Churches for the Adoption Journey
Dr. Karyn Purvis - Director of Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University

The Church as the Answer to the Foster Care Challenge
Dave Gibbons - pastor of Newsong

There will also be several breakout sessions - check the T4A website for those details!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Welcome Home Little One!

If you'd like to read a wonderful adventure about traveling to Ethiopia to bring home a beautiful little girl...

Miss Corrie Sifen Watkins

Shannon has done such a great job of sending posts and pictures for her blog while they've been in Ethiopia and has shared so much of her heart.  We are rejoicing with the Watkins family!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Webinars for Orphan Advocates

The Christian Alliance for Orphans will be launching a new monthly webinar series for local church orphan ministry leaders and advocates. The series is designed to help individuals create and grow effective adoption, foster care and global orphan ministry in local churches.

Each 60-minute webinar will give local advocates access to the knowledge and experience of top Alliance member churches and organizations nationwide, covering key topics on adoption, foster care and/or global orphan care. Every webinar will be hosted by a local church orphan ministry and co-presented by one or more national experts on the subject matter. This pairing will deliver a combination of specialist information and resources alongside a “here’s how it works in a real church” perspective.

The monthly webinars are offered free of charge to church orphan ministries nationwide. For Summer 2010, the schedule includes the sessions listed below.

How to Help without Hurting (Register Now)
As church groups nationwide head out on summer missions trips, learn key principles and practices to ensure that the long-term results are for good. Show an orphan the tangible love of Christ, building on principles that are practical, field-tested and useful for your next mission trip.
Host Church: Saddleback Church
Date: June 30 Time: 2 PM Eastern

The Safe Families Model
Understand the model being replicated in 7 states that essentially replaces the government foster system with the open hearts and homes of local Christians and their church community.
Date: July 28 Time: 2 PM Eastern

The Post-Placement Journey
Dr. Karyn Purvis and Michael Monroe present on equipping foster and adoption ministries to serve families through the joys and challenges of loving children from difficult places for the long-haul.
Date: August 25 Time: 2 PM Eastern

Church to Church Partnerships to Care for Orphans in Haiti
Practical advice, principles and practices for how your church can wisely partner with indigenous churches to care for orphans in Haiti and beyond.
Date: September 29 Time: 2 PM Eastern

(check the Christian Alliance for Orphans website for registration information on the July-Sept webinars)

Here’s the link to a recent article by Alliance President Jedd Medefind, Crossing the Sahara.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Orphanage Construction Update Photos

We are underway with construction of a new Widows and Orphans Home in Adama.  Here are some of the latest photos, taken in Ethiopia last week:

One of our goals for each of our four Widows and Orphans Homes is to have a biosand water filter in each orphanage.  This will mean bottled water won't have to be purchased and brought in to each facility.  One biosand filter costs $100 and will produce clean water from almost any source.  They are made of durable cement and can be placed inside the building.  

(photo courtesy of Google Images)

Please pray with us as we move closer to the time we can furnish and further staff this new building!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A necktie, a paperweight or...

Need a last minute Father's Day gift idea?

For only $60 you could buy a sheep or goat in your dad's name for a widow and her children.

This gift keeps on giving, providing income when there is often no other source.

Or a donkey?  Now there's a unique Father's Day gift I'll bet Dad hasn't ever received!

Donkeys can absolutely transform the life of a family by providing a means to transport water and other necessary supplies. 

How about a home for a destitute family in Ethiopia? 

We have recently been able to direct donations toward building homes for several families in a small village in Ethiopia.  Some have given money for this purpose as a birthday or Mother's Day gift!

If you'd like more ideas or you've been inspired to give in this way, please go to our Gift Catalog page on the website to choose a gift to give and we will happily send a card telling the recipient what has been given in their name!   

Happy Father's Day!  Be sure to give thanks to God for your father on earth and your Father in heaven - who defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Links You'll Love

Living by faith... as long as the answers are immediate!

How do you measure 'success' in a big family?

Two posts on dealing with grief in adopted children

The toll this disease has taken on Africa's children

Putting away the preconceived notions and
getting down to the job of parenting.
A downloadable guide

Don't let them boss you around!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Shea in Ethiopia

Shea Connell is a awesome young man from Tacoma, Washington who is serving Christ at YWAM's Mercy Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the next five months.  Mercy Development is an outreach to children living on the streets of the city and includes a home where many of these children have been taken in.  Shea will be living in the compound during his time in Ethiopia.  In the last couple of weeks, he has been traveling with Joy and Mark to our orphanages in Adama, Nekemte, Dembidollo and Gimbie. 

Shea completed his YWAM Discipleship Training School (DTS) in Florida and has traveled to Thailand and South Africa for outreach prior to coming to Ethiopia.  Missions and children are big on Shea's heart.  He grew up in a Christian home with parents who trained him in the ways of Christ.  His love for Christ and his zeal to serve are an encouragement to all of us.  Shea is a "kid magnet" and is ready with a smile, hug or soccer ball to engage children wherever he goes. 

We are thrilled that Shea is partnering with Adoption Ministry in Ethiopia and are looking forward to how the Lord will use this fun but very challenging experience to make him more like Himself.   Shea's heart's desire is just that - to be more like Jesus.  You will be hearing more from Shea on the blog and we ask for you to pray for him during these next months.  Here is his latest update:

We got back to Addis after long travels out west!  We brought back six babies that were all abandoned!

What an amazing thing to be a part of!  These kids - ranging from 18 days old to 16 months - left in the dirt, forgotten and most likely to be eaten by wild animals.  Sad and tragic stories...  But these stories are a reality in Ethiopia, where mothers aren't able to provide for their babies and find it easier to just abandon them - out of sight and out of mind.  Yet God had a different plan for these children who were saved and are no longer called abandoned but are adopted into His family as sons and daughters of the living King!  To see a life left for death, but be turned around and picked up by our heavenly Father amazes me.  I am so thankful to our Father that loves us enough to pick us out of the dirt and bring us home in His loving arms.

Tomorrow Mark, Joy and Dr. Tom Siler leave.  (They are the team that I have been traveling with the past 3 weeks.)  I will move into my room at the boys' compound tomorrow morning where I will be staying for the next 5 months.   I'm excited to run with these children and learn the ways of Jesus with them.

Please pray for strong and trusting relationships with all 11 boys.  Also pray that God would use our team to reach out to more orphaned street kids that they may find a home for eternity.

Thank you all for your prayers and support!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Four Reasons Why We (and you) Serve The Fatherless

The Christian Alliance for Orphans' yearly Summit has become a national focal point for Christians committed to adoption, foster care and global orphan care.  In April of this year, Summit VI was held in Minneapolis and over 1200 orphan advocates from all over the world gathered.  Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jedd Medefind, President of Christian Alliance for Orphans.  I think it provides a very succinct and well-worded answer to the question "Why are you involved with orphans across the world?"  He begins by describing the Summit gathering in April...

At moments, the ethos and interactions felt almost electric. As one band leader expressed, “It felt like that was the first time I’d been worshipping and every person in the room was really a Christian.” I understood what he meant. From families with adopted HIV+ children, to foster parents, to individuals serving the fatherless around the globe, the spirit of that community carried the feel of the early days after Pentecost.

As best I can discern, here are four key reasons why:

Caring for orphans reflects the heart of God. From Isaiah’s call to “defend the cause of the fatherless” (1:17) to James’ placement of orphan care at the heart of “pure and undefiled religion” (1:27), the biblical mandate is clear. But this is not merely God’s expectation of us; it is a mirroring of His own character. “He defends the fatherless,” declares Deuteronomy 10:18. Describes the Psalmist, “He places the lonely in families.” To be like our heavenly Father, we’re invited to do the same.

Caring for orphans makes the Gospel visible. At the heart of the Christian story is the God who pursued us when we were destitute and alone. He adopted us as His children, and invites us to live as His sons and daughters. Perhaps nothing makes this truth more tangible than when Christians follow in their Father’s footsteps, opening heart and home in unconditional affection to the child that has no claim upon them but love.

Caring for orphans defies the gods of our age. Darwinism’s sole ethical imperative is to ensure one’s own genetic material carries forward. So like Gideon tearing down his father’s idols (Judges 6), we assault this dictate when we seek to ensure the survival, and thriving, of a child that does not share our genes. Meanwhile, the purposeful sacrifices required to love this child flout the demands of other gods also, from materialism to self-actualization to comfort. The cost must be counted. But—compared to the depth and richness found along the path of caring for orphans—these false gods are shown to be as lifeless and unsatisfying as statues of bronze or wood.

Caring for orphans invites a journey of discipleship. “I see these kids changed,” explained a woman who helps Christians get involved with foster care, “But I think the parents are changed even more.” It’s true. Every family I know that’s opened themselves to parentless children has not gone unaltered. And though the road can be hard, even painful, virtually always it leads closer to Jesus. Expressed one adoptive mom recently, “People have said, ‘Oh, aren’t they lucky, you rescued them from whatever.’ And I think, Are you kidding? I’m the lucky one. I get to be their mom. And I get to be daily rescued from my selfishness, and my impatience, and things that are just as disease-ridden in my soul.”

Ultimately, here’s the result I see again and again: love for orphans transforms. It transforms children as they experience love and nurture they’ve come to live without. It transforms individual Christians, as we encounter Jesus deeply and personally in a destitute child. It transforms the broader community of believers as well, pulling us corporately beyond a religion of self-development to a costly-but-muscular faith. Finally, love for orphans transforms a watching world, as it sees—perhaps for the first time—the Gospel embodied.

Close friends from Washington, DC, Tom and Leah, adopted a little boy from an African nation two years ago. He’d been found, abandoned, at the edge of a forest, umbilical cord still attached. “He was left for the hyena,” described the old woman who discovered him when the newborn’s cry startled her milk cow.

When I heard that story, I couldn’t help thinking of the early Christians, going outside the city walls to take in abandoned infants. I feel the same about what’s going on in Colorado, where so many Christians have adopted from the foster system that the number of children waiting for adoption has been cut from nearly 800 in 2008 to just 365 today. The same goes for countless partnerships between U.S. Christians and churches abroad to care for orphans within their home countries as well.

Christians are again becoming known as a people who defend the cause of the fatherless. As we do, the world won’t be left unchanged. Neither will we. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Just Sharing

Joy has extended her time in Ethiopia and will now be back home by the middle of next week.  Because the team is in the western part of Ethiopia, they don't always have internet access so I don't get updates from them as often.  They are busy from morning until night and it's difficult to find time to sit and write a blog post!  It's hard for us who are waiting anxiously to hear something but we can be sure there is much work being accomplished, many people being ministered to and many stories being lived out!

So, in the meantime, here are some excellent posts you won't want to miss... 

No Matter Where They Are
Why go overseas to adopt?

Blessed to Be A Weirdo
Turns out it's not normal to adopt an orphan

Especially if you're considering older child adoption

Attachment Help for Parents
What do you do if you just don't 'feel the love?'

God is using this adoption journey to change me

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Growing Old in a Place of Grace and Love

From the Streams of Mercy team at YWAM's Widows and Orphans Home Adama.

by Wick Nease

In this society, widows have no hope at all, especially if they have no children.  They live on the streets or in conditions of extreme poverty.  They are without hope and desperate, as they simply try to survive.

Fifteen years ago, the Lord gave Tezera a vision to help widows and orphans.  She kept this in her heart for many years and then launched this dynamic ministry.  When I’m with Tezera, I feel like I am with a modern day Mother Theresa.  She is that caliber of person.
The widows in Tezera’s home are in a delightful setting.  They are loved and cared for, but they also get to love on the babies of the home.  What a combination!!  They can be cared for and also care for the ‘little ones.'
One of the widows was living with her daughter and son-in-law until her daughter died.  As soon as the funeral was concluded, her son-in-law took her to the alley next to his house and locked her out of his house.  She sat there for 12 days, in fear and desperation...
Please read the rest of Wick's account at the Streams of Mercy blog here.
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