…struggle with many things but are so awesome! We have been working with some amazing ones at my agency recently… and I want to tell you about them… and also about the conference I went to for adoptive families last week, the Empowered to Connect conference with Dr. Karyn Purvis. Oh my goodness, if you have any interest in her you need to check out her website, www.empoweredtoconnect.org … there are so many resources for adoptive families on there. If you are at your wits end with your adopted child let me PLEAD with you to check her out and get help!
Anyway, more on all these things soon. I wanted to share the link of a woman I met at the above mentioned conference– for her blog about older child adoption. Love it! I posted my blog there too 🙂
I wanted to post 2 neat adoption articles I read this week:
http://www.npr.org/2013/01/11/169051364/-that-s-when-i-knew-i-was-adopted-mother-explains-to-daughter This article is a story about a woman adopted at birth without being told who then discovered her background as a Lakota Indian. She then learned more about her culture, which was a unique experience, and adopted a little Lakota girl who needed a family… only to find out down the road they were biological cousins. Crazy! A lot of people question the importance (as you can even see in the story’s comment section) of biological cultural identity in adoption. Not being adopted myself, I can’t say for sure, but it makes a lot of sense to me with the importance of a person’s culture and biology in their identity development. It seems to me that adopted people often have a search for self that could only be helped by finding out more about their cultural roots, but I can’t say for sure.
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_RUSSIA_ADOPTION_PROTEST?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-01-13-06-48-09 This article is about a Russian protest responding to Russian’s ban on American adoptions. Did you know that there are estimated to be 740,000 children in Russia without parents and only 18,000 Russians waiting to adopt?
So those are my articles. My update for you is to say I’ve been working with some more pregnant mothers lately and this has been a neat blessing and a pleasant experience. It’s been a very relational part of my job and a great opportunity to bless women in an oftentimes vulnerable place. I went to an ultrasound appointment this week where a young lady got to find out the sex of her child… she was already certain it was a girl and the doctors confirmed it 🙂 What a beautiful baby she is having, it’s crazy how you can see so much from the ultrasounds these days!
Well, I’m sorry it’s taken over a month for me to write part 2 of this post! It has been a crazy holiday time and work time. We are working with 5 birth mothers at Embraced by Grace right now, more than the total amount we’ve been working with since I got there in September. Also our Colombian host children have come and gone (or are going right now?) And it has been an awesome time. Now. Back to me!
When we left off last time, I had decided to move down to Orlando on faith without a job or health insurance or too much money in savings, with a desire to work in child welfare and a belief that God would take care of me. I had gotten over my fear of not being able to emotionally handle social work and had a kind of vision of working with a bunch of other stressed but emotionally rewarded people advocating for children. I even researched places I could work and found this one place I liked called Kids Hope United that looked pretty great. I had tried applying to places before I moved but no one wanted to hire a non-local person. So I started applying to places when I got down there, with resume copies I printed out at the library or local work force center. After being in Orlando for one month, with my savings dwindling low, I got a job (despite my low level of experience) at Kids Hope United! And despite having applied for a ‘Family Case Manager’ position, the most entry level position available, I somehow ended up as an Adoptions Case Manager in the Adoptions Unit. God was at work.
I will sum up my 5 years of working at a state-contracted agency as a job with high highs and low lows, with constant stress and a need to build up boundaries. The adoption unit was somewhat protected from some problems that regular case managers experienced, but not completely. I still went on call at times, my time was not my own often (even on evenings and weekends) and I lived in fear of something going wrong, especially with the children I had grown to care about despite their often crazy antics. I decided I loved adoption and social work and applied to get my Masters Degree in Social Work part time while I was working full time. In retrospect, I don’t know if I would do it all again this way, but I survived in the end 🙂
In graduate school, I took classes at night and online, I had 2 internships (one as a family case manager and one as a therapist [where, by the way, I got to do school groups with children of divorced parents— just like I’d wanted to do when I first became a Christian!!]), went a little crazy, managed to learn to cope and keep friendships throughout anyway. I even grew and matured a lot and became more physically and emotionally healthy. I reached a level of mastery at my job that was still at times impacted by stress and a nagging desire to be able to work more with Christian families and be able to do more of God’s work, talk about him more to Christians and non-Christians and impress upon people the importance of (and God’s will for) adoption, particularly adoption of older children and/or children with special needs. I wrote many papers on adoption that never felt like a burden to write as they were based on a deep passion and desire to learn and work.
Around and after the time of my graduation, I was eager to move up or on with my skills. I applied for a job as the supervisor of my unit but the position was given to someone with supervisory experience but no adoption experience. I ended up teaching her a lot– and really appreciating her– in the last 2 months I was there. I was not too distraught over not getting the job, trusting a scripture I had read in Peter about getting “promoted [by God] at the right time.”
My church began a series on loving the world in action, and not just in words, and they focused a lot on sponsorship, foster care, and adoption. I actually was able to speak to my congregation about foster care adoption, which had been a burning desire in my heart for some time. I also started talking with my (now) boss from Embraced by Grace about their need for a social worker who could write home studies, and their desire to begin an adoptive family care and therapy center. Interviews (over coffee) went well, and I began work in September 2012 at Embraced by Grace, an answer to a prayer of my heart that I had never even asked God but had deeply desired: to work with God’s people in advancing his kingdom view of adoption.
I’m not sure if all of this communicates my awe in the work I get to do and the ways that God has worked in this adoption story and calling of mine. I have been able to do amazing things time and again, from having teenagers adopted, to having siblings adopted by families that were friends so they could mantain a relationship even though they had to be separated, to having one of my adopted teenagers become a Christian— and recently tell me he is going to college to become a foster care case manager himself. My heart has burned with joy, I have cried extensively, and have seen my prayers answered time and again. I have put my whole heart into this work, and have seen Ellen and her husband adopt, and supported them throughout (both rejoicing in their joy and cringing under their stress, and experiencing great joy when their adoption finalized recently.) I get to be involved in some of the most important work– and deliver joy to families– and experience a unique part of God’s heart. Hopefully you can see some of that here 🙂 I’m sure there’s even more to come… who knows where God will lead me next? All I know is that He has been faithful so far to work out all the details and make it an awesome and joyful journey.
For now, I leave you with a book recommendation: Adopted for Life, by Russell Moore. Ignore all the parts where he tells you to disregard the advice of social workers 🙂 But read everything else, I have particularly loved Chapter 3 over these holiday/vacation days about how Joseph was Jesus’ adoptive father in many ways and our mandate as Christians to care for vulnerable children (which is really kind of all children!)
Happy New Year!!!
Hello, today is my birthday, yay!
In honor of my life and the joy that I get out of my calling, I want to write and give you all a synopsis of my journey as a social worker in adoptions and my “walking in good works that God prepared beforehand for me to walk in” or something like that 😉 (Ephesians 2:10 is a better translation!)
Outline/Timeline Part 1:
Prior to my birth: Although I was raised by my biological parents, adoption is a big part of my family that I have known about for as long as I can remember.
Elementary school: One of my most favorite TV shows is Punky Brewster, a show about a foster child who gets adopted by her unlikely caregiver, Henry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punky_brewster)
Later elementary school/early middle school: I love Barbies, and making stories for their lives. I have adult and child barbies. One of my favorite story plots is having a Barbie orphanage and having the children get adopted.
Middle school: I consider I might like to go into psychology (or social sciences) as a field.
High school: I make some bad choices. Other things happened, but the bad choices are relevant 🙂 I also learned that I have a comfort level with/interest in sadness.
College: I get involved in various causes to support others, double major in psychology and English. Also, I become a Christian. I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for some of the pain I had experienced. God used this pain, over time, as well, to help me be sensitive to others’ vulnerability and be able to commiserate with them. By the end of college I wasn’t sure what kind of career I wanted to go into, but I knew it would need to be focused on helping others. Particularly, as we studied what Jesus said about divorce in the bible, I felt a strong pull to help children whose parents had divorced, as I sensed this was a very hard thing for children.
Year after college: I work at a psychology research lab at Syracuse University. I do home visits and work with many families, some middle class and some very poor. I have a sense that while we are researching the families and helping a larger cause, I wish I could offer more help to the families we visit. Also this year, I meet a foster family at my church and their foster son, John. I am really impacted by this family I think this is a sort of job I can pour my heart and gifts into. These experiences, and the thoughts I had at the end of college, make me consider if I could really have what it takes to be a social worker. Although lots of people with experience say it is really hard, I decide it’s worth a try. I move down to Orlando with a close friend from college, my friend Ellen 🙂 (See my previous post about her!)
To be continued…
I will leave you, for now, with a picture of me and Ellen with a few friends in college 😉 In this picture, I think we are doing the cupid shuffle move the ‘Charlie Brown’ and we don’t know what that is!
I spent a lot of time with adoptive families over this past weekend, including:
The Magical Families event at Disney World, an annual get together (at Disney World!) for adoptive families. I volunteered at a movie/crafts night facebpainting kids. (http://www.facebook.com/MagicalFamilies)
I also spoke at a local church (where my coworker’s father is the pastor) where they have some adoptive families and are looking to adopt more.
I have added a picture so you can see because I am about to make a visual point, but also because pictures spice up a blog 🙂
Haha do these look like kids or what? Like none of them are still.
So anyway. It was a busy weekend… but really awesome. I found myself moved and inspired by the many different children (boys and girls, all shapes and sizes and colors) even as the families themselves were fairly homogenous. It is obvious to me (and can be seen in a fairly quick scan of the bible passages relating to orphans and widows and adoption) that adoption is an issue on God’s heart, but what about multicultural, ‘trans-racial’ adoption? I felt a tug here after this weekend but I wasn’t sure what God was trying to tell me.
I was chatting about it with my sweet coworker yesterday who adopted her daughter from Guatemala. She agreed with me about this vision of God’s glory in multiracial families and helped me clarify my theology a little bit. She told me that back in the Old Testament days, at the Tower of Babel, all people of the different cultures were separated. But in Jesus, God is bringing all the cultures and peoples back under Him. I know thats a real simplification, so forgive me, but I think you can get the picture. God is saying people of all races and cultures are precious to him and equally loved. They are all welcome into God’s family, which isn’t reserved for just one group. And also… that all children regardless of where they are from or the color of their skin deserve a family… and that if there aren’t adoptive families of their own race or in their own country, they shouldn’t have to go without.
Now, I’m not saying everything is perfect with transracial adoption… or ANY adoption. It’s hard to grow up in a family that doesn’t look like you or have your same culture… but then again, this happens for many adopted children even of a same or similar-looking race to their adoptive parents. They are still not biologically related and thus will look and feel different in many ways. For many reasons, adoption can just be hard in general. There is a lot of research with differing conclusions on the issue of transracial adoption, but the fact is that there are many children without homes and families who need them and we don’t have enough people adopting of every given race and culture to give them all homes with families at all, let alone by families that look like them. So… conclude what you will. I think it is important to remember that adoption is different than biological parenthood in some ways, and can be more challenging, but it is also uniquely beautiful– and that for each child who gains a loving home and family, the challenges are worth it.
OK so our official Embraced by Grace photo shoot pictures haven’t come back yet, but we got a lady in line at the Tijuana Flats restaurant near us to take this picture yesterday when we went out for lunch! Those who had already voted got a free appetizer so we decided to make an office trip of it 🙂
Left to right in this picture is:
Sara, Dee, Hannah, Me, Josh, Helen, Megan, Leah, and Abbie
We have an awesome team! I ate tacos in case you are wondering and had some amazing cookie dough flautas for dessert. Hey, adoptions is hard work! Sometimes you need a little bonding and deliciousness break 🙂
For our adoptive families… for us single ladies (and men)… for children who need families… waiting is hard! I will be praying for my loved ones and clients who are waiting—and for me!!– that God will use the wait for His glory and our good! I know there is some theological basis for the importance of wait periods, and I’ll try to get back to you on that 🙂