Adoption: the joy, struggle and ever-present need
Nearly 428,000 children enter foster care every year, with only 135,000 actually finding their forever families. According to Adoption Network Law Center, the average child waits nearly three years and celebrates their eighth birthday before settling in a family.
Born with the innate desire to feel loved and belong, humans often begin forming these connections with those living with them. For children blessed to grow up in a safe and healthy environment with their biological parents, these connections and needs are easily fulfilled.
Kathy Steele is a certified clinical social worker and program manager for the Aspiranet REACH Fresno County program. Throughout her 25 years of employment, her passion to help form families through adoption has grown. Her journey began as a young adult caring for foster children, making her a witness to the emotional pain foster children endure. Steele gives insight on how adopted children can best deal with these feelings.
“Talking to those they trust about the feelings they are working through allows adoptees to process their feelings and gain a more realistic, strength based perspective,” Steele said. “Joining groups for adopted teens might also be beneficial as teens can learn and support one another in addressing shared issues.”
Steele continues, touching on how families and friends can support struggling adopted children. They can learn more about adoption and understand where they are coming from, as well as make themselves available to talk with adoptees and respect their feelings. There are many resources available to help support families, friends, and adoptees.
“Learn more about adoption and adoption issues,” Steele continued. “‘Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew’ by Sherrie Eldridge is a good book. Listen to your child and appreciate and respect their feelings. If your child seems ‘stuck’, reach out for help. There are lots of resources in the community and there is also post adoption support and referral. In fact, our agency, Aspiranet, contracts with Fresno County to provide post adoption services.”
“Adopting a child is an incredible gift of kindness and generosity,” @SecAzar said today at an HHS ceremony to celebrate #NationalAdoptionMonth. Read his full remarks: https://t.co/5XTGvLiEVH pic.twitter.com/ROyesPZvVG
— HHS.gov (@HHSGov) November 13, 2018
Charity Vincent, now mother of seven, initiated her family’s journey of foster-adoption nearly seven years ago. Her two biological sons nearly grown, God began leading their family toward adoption with the dream of a large family.
“God blessed us with two sons biologically, but we really wanted the opportunity to raise daughters as well,” Vincent said. “Both of us had always dreamed of having a large family, and God began showing us how we would eventually achieve this. In the foster system children are often split from their siblings because it’s harder to accommodate such a need, which is why we specifically set out to keep siblings together.”
Along with her husband, Vincent adopted five children with the intention of adopting a sixth, all biological siblings. The first three children to join the family were of ages seven, six, and four, however they were not adopted for over two years after they moved in. Since then, the family has welcomed their three younger siblings into their home, arriving at three months, two months, and two days old.
Vincent discusses how her children overcame the rooted pain of adoption and flourish in the joy of Christ’s love and acceptance. Her biological sons, both very supportive, often come to visit with their new siblings.
“Adoption is beautiful, however it is rooted in pain,” Vincent said. “My children, that have joined our family via adoption have had to learn their worth in Christ. They have the security that they are indeed worthy of love. They must learn to walk in forgiveness regarding the reason leading to the necessity of adoption in their lives. Each time we’ve adopted, my biological sons have fully embraced each sibling God has placed in our family. They often come to the house as quickly as possible to meet them.”
Having been adopted at just three years old from China, Callie Jioa Ting Lichti, ’21, knows first hand the different emotions adoption can bring about. However, she continues to find happiness in her family and knows they are her own despite questions that can arise.
“One of the biggest joys I’ve experienced through adoption is being blessed with amazing siblings, even though we’re not blood related,” Lichti said. “I don’t even think about it though, because at the end of the day they are my family. I’m not sure where I would be without them but it’s definitely humbling to think about. God picked this family just for me.”
Like many other adopted children, Lichti often finds herself wondering about her birth family. She sometimes feels as though a piece of her is missing because of the many unanswered questions about her biological family.
“Some of the things I’ve struggled with is definitely feeling like there is a part of me missing,” Lichti continued. “Never really knowing where I’m from, what my birth mother is like, if I have any brothers or sisters that I don’t even know about. There’s just always these questions.”
On campus music director, Susan Ainley, shares insight into her own family’s journey of adoption. Even though all were adopted at birth, Ainley’s three daughters each faced their own challenges. Her personal experience of adoption reveals some key struggles and joys. She gives insight into the endeavour of raising adopted children, that each child is born with their own unique genetics, responses and personalities.
“The biggest difference is that there is no such thing as a clean slate baby,” Ainley said. “They come pre-wired, they have their own DNA and personalities given to them, not handed down by me or my husband, so I never recognized myself in my children. I never had preconceived ideas on how to parent them because they just didn’t respond how myself or my husband did as children.”
Ainley tells how every adopted child deals with abandonment issues, whether it is recognized as small issues or life altering problems. She demonstrates how she, through openness and communication, helped her girls overcome their feelings of abandonment.
“From the very beginning it was a part of their story,” Ainley said. “In their baby books there are pictures of their birth mothers in the hospitals or pregnant before they were born. Through discussions we overcame different questions that arose. Plus we’ve been able to stay in contact with some of the birth families, giving us the unique opportunity to have what feels like a really big family.”
Annaleise Anderson interviews music director Susan Ainley for National Adoption Month.
Leicia Riding, adopted at birth, never felt unhappiness toward her life, adopted parents, or birth parents. She grew up with a happy childhood alongside her adopted brother. Throughout her journey she suffered many losses including losing her parents while she was only 25 years old. However, in everything Riding remained steadfast in her joy, continuing to search for good amidst the struggle.
Growing up in a family who openly discussed her adoption, answered her questions and supported her overcame any feelings of loss or difficulty growing up. Riding never remembers a time not knowing she was adopted. She believes growing up with this knowledge helped her avoid some of the common struggles of adoption. Her parents told her the truth and answered any questions she asked as a child.
Riding explains how meeting her birth mother as an adult helped her achieve a better understanding of the selfless love that went into her adoption. A mother herself at the time of their introduction, Riding fully appreciated the decision her birth mother made.
“Meeting my biological mother after I had my first child and was pregnant with my second gave me a clearer understanding of the selfless sacrifice that my birth mother made in giving me up for adoption,” Riding said. “She told me the day we met that it was ‘the hardest thing she has ever done’. Instead of the feeling of abandonment, the Lord revealed to me how much my birth mother truly loved me, unconditionally.
“I praise God that He laid the desire to adopt on my parents’ hearts 50 years ago, and He continues to work in the hearts of his people today,” Riding continued. “Adoption has been the gift that keeps on giving for me. I was given parents and my parents were given a daughter. I was given siblings and a family both at birth and again in my adult life. In adoption, God uses lives to save lives.”
With so many children waiting for their forever homes we need more individuals to step up and love on these children. Every single day children’s lives change and stories are created as adoption brings families together. These few life stories show just a glimpse into the hundreds formulated through adoption. For more information about adoption see Child Welfare Information Gateway.@thefeather, Instagram @thefeatheronline and Facebook @thefeatheronline.
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