Think for a minute about children from hard places: institutions, the foster care system, orphanages, and abuse or neglect histories. At best, the family into which they were born cannot care for them. At worst, those are the very ones causing them harm. Are these children lucky? Even once they are adopted?
We sometimes like to think so, but the legal act of adoption, though transformational for children, can never erase their history. This is a tough truth for those of us who are adoptive parents, isn’t it? We want to wipe it all away and make everything better.
We try, though. We try so hard, particularly we dads. We have a drive to fix everything; even if we deny it or try to hide this fact, we think that surely there is a fix for every problem. If only we think hard enough or are smart enough, we just might figure it out. I could write years of blog posts confessing all the times I have suffered under the weight of this misguided trait. Well meaning? Yes. Just not particularly helpful in all situations. Like for our children.
Not being adopted myself, but a (struggling) parent to three children of adoption, I imagine they don’t really like the feeling of needing to be fixed. Just maybe, this leaves them feeling broken. But we American parents want our children to shape up, behave, get over it and live up to their potential. I believe that most parents (adoptive, biological or otherwise) don’t see their children as broken. We see them hurting, and that’s simply unbearable.
So what can we do?
There are no quick fixes. There are, unfortunately, no moderately unhurried fixes, either. Just the excruciatingly sluggish process of our children slowly waking up to the reality that they are now safe. They are loved. They are in a family who is permanent. This takes months, or years.*
In the meantime, we must, as parents, do a better job of connecting with our children, particularly those we have adopted from hard places. Life has roughed them up, and often important adults have proven not to be very trustworthy. Children don’t need to be corrected as much as we think they do; it’s time to let go of that drive. What they need, more often than not, is to feel safe and to build safe and healthy relationships with these new adults in their lives.
About WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home.