During my time here at MLJ Adoptions I’ve grown significantly both professionally and personally. I’ve learned more than I can put into words or fit into one blog, but I do want to highlight a few of the most important lessons I have learned.
Trauma All children who join their family through adoption have experienced some kind of trauma. Trauma can have significant effects on brain functioning that can last even after a child is placed in a loving home. Love alone does not heal wounds. Healing takes time. LOTS of time. Parenting a child with a difficult past can be much different than parenting a biological child. Traditional parenting does not always work. Connected parenting, which focuses on building attachment, can be a very effective strategy for parenting a child with a history of trauma.
Transracial Parenting I’ve learned that it is so important for parents to incorporate and embrace their internationally adopted child’s birth culture into their lives, and this means more than just occasionally going to a restaurant that serves food from his culture. It takes effort to create a diverse environment in which to raise a child born into a different culture. I do not believe that there is any such thing as color blind. I believe that race does matter, and an adoptee’s birth culture is part of their identity. Children grow up with a greater sense of racial pride when their parents acknowledge and discuss racial identity, live in culturally diverse neighborhoods, and provide role models from their birth culture. A white mother, as hard as she may try, may not be able to adequately teach her Congolese son how to be a Congolese American. He needs an older male role model whom he feels comfortable discussing issues of race within the American culture.
Community Families deserve support, understanding and compassion. It truly takes a village to parent an adoptive or foster child. All families need support throughout their journey and the right kind of support is not always found outside the adoption community. There are adoptive parent support groups offered in person and online and they often provide some of the best support. Comfort can be found in discussing adoptive parenting with others who have experienced it first-hand and who “get it.”
Cost To be completely honest, before I joined the MLJ team I did not know that 1.) adoption fees are high! and 2.) there were MANY grants, interest free loans and ways to fundraise for an adoption. Camie Schuiteman has been a great resource for adoptive families at MLJ Adoptions, sharing her knowledge of financial resources for adoption. During my first few months working at MLJ I attended one of Camie’s financial seminars and was blown away by the wealth of resources that were available. For my family’s adoption we applied for grants, had garage sales, sold coffee, MUD bracelets, t-shirts and even sold pulled pork sandwiches and chips out of a food truck! It often takes creativity and thinking outside the box, but I’ve seen many families be successful in raising money for their adoption.
Orphans Since I started working in adoption I have been able to put a face on who an orphan is and better understand their story. I have visited orphanages and sat with children without a family and it is heartbreaking. Even though families are our clients, our primary goal/passion as a child placing agency is to ensure that the most vulnerable children in the world can have a family. Children deserve to be raised in families. I have learned the most about adoption from the hundreds of children we have served and continue to serve each day. Before adopting our daughter, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the struggles and joys that come with adoption, but I have learned so much from my daughter, her journey as an adoptee and what it means to be her parent than I ever could have sitting at a desk in an office or attending professional trainings.
I love working in international adoption, and I am glad that I can share my experiences as an adoptive mom through my work with other families on their adoption journey at MLJ. It has been a privilege and honor to serve the most vulnerable population in the world and I look forward to many more years serving children from hard places.