Friday, June 26, 2009


I think pre-adoption it was so easy to put things in cute little adoption boxes. Boxes that made sense in my mind. Some might have even had label-maker produced labels and little polka dots or bows. They were the boxes that helped tackle an insurmountable problem. There are orphans. Social or true. They would be hurting. They need homes. They need forever families. They need someone in their corner. The numbers seem overwhelming but with my boxes, things could be better, right?
advocate for ministering to orphans
decrease obstacles for Christians to adopt
biblical worldview on multiethnic adoption
be open to older child adoption
keep siblings together
learn all you can about attachment
know yourself to know when you need support and ask for it
and on and on

You get the idea. I was and continue to be hopeful. But I am finding that though the boxes are still helpful, they really come with termite holes and dust and dents. The one with an especially large number of holes these days is the 'keeping siblings together.' I think I would still fight for it, but I am seeing how social workers come to the conclusion to separate sometimes. In the long run, if there is healing, how precious is it that your children can share their history and their future? But in the middle of healing, it is so hard. I am bringing it up tonight for any newbies out there. I know in the attachment books they talk about siblings sabotaging each other when things start to go well. It is so much more challenging than an anecdote or short chapter can reveal. To be the interpreter of loss for 2 or more kids from the same background is insanely hard.
One wants to talk about it, one doesn't.
One has happier memories, one doesn't.
One will claim no memory of a place because such fear erupts from the other talking about it.
One wants to ask questions in the car, one wants to talk privately before bed.
One wants simple answers to many questions
One needs every detail to a few intense questions.

One is raging because of the fear, one is afraid to talk if it looks like this

But because they are not on the same page--emotionally or physically, don't process the same ways, don't have exactly the same experiences, and are not processing things at the same time, I soon feel like I have multiple personalities! I want to comfort and cry with the one who is hurting. I want to talk openly and honestly with the one who is questioning, even if it's in the car with the other kids but I also want to be sensitive to the darting, shocked eyes of the other that clearly doesn't want to talk about this right now. I want to rejoice and affirm the memories and answer the happy questions of the one that isn't processing gunk at the moment. But I don't want to make the other feel like she can only talk about the happy parts of what they've been through.

In short, it is a mess. It fits better into a garbage bag flung over my shoulder than a cute Pottery Barn box! BUT, there is hope. Here are a few things we've been using to wade through our mess.

~we make statements during regulated times to prepare for the messy times like,
"You can always talk to mommy about your (birth country) or your (birth mother)."
"Sometimes your sister/brother will talk about (birth country). Because we are a family, you can say 'I don't want to talk about that right now.'"
"If you want to talk to Mommy about something scary, Mommy wants to talk privately about it so I can hear you carefully."
"I saw you were nervous when sister was talking about XX. Do you want to talk about any big feelings?"

We also discipline for telling your sibling "Don't tell Mommy." We also discipline now (instruction/redirection at the beginning) for asking a sibling to meet a need. (This includes hurting a sibling so they will cry and mommy will come instead of calling mom yourself).

It's not pretty. There is sabotage. There is manipulation. But there is also a connection that has spurred them on. I don't deny that. I am hopeful they will heal. It may just take longer than if they had come home as singles. If you are parenting siblings or multiple children from the same orphanage, you are chosen by God for a special task. Please let us know if you have any other tips to success, too!


Kerrie said...

Unfortunately, I don't have tips- but I could sure use some. I came from the mindset that siblings are always always always better off together. It's not that I don't wish I had all my girls, but the two older ones (6 and 4) seem to poison each other, just by being near by. To make matters worse, the elder has problems processing information, so the younger has an easier time learning; she lords it at every opportunity, and the elder "makes up" acheivements so she can feel proud of herself. We don't allow them to participate in the same activities. They're in the same Sunday school class for the summer, so we're alternating which one comes to the sanctuary with us each week. I'm never sure how much to "do" and how much to "let be." I'll be checking your comments for tips!

Kathy C. said...

Wow. I wonder if that will hold true with my twins. I always thought it was be easier for the children to have someone familiar adopted with them (not speaking of twins here).

BeckyJoie at Leaders in Learning said...

There are the boxes, and then there is reality. Somewhere in between the two is hope. We were unable to keep two siblings together. We had them in foster care together and were not able to adopt both as one child would not settle enough for us to have the approval for her adoption nor the assurance in our minds that we could help her. It was heart-breaking but the siblings were triggering each other so much and kept seeing their abusers in each other's eyes. The one who was able to stay is doing well now. We try to keep in touch with the other sibling too, who knows that we love her and tells everyone that we do even though she knows why she couldn't stay here. I miss her though. I keep hoping that she will come back someday later on or that a loving Christian family near us can help her. I guess each case is dependent on the severity of the siblings' RAD issues which can vary even from the same family. Ours both have RAD and both were severe but one had it so severe that it was not possible for the other RADishes to heal while constantly being abused by the other. We already had a non- related RAD kid in the family. Well, it's such a deep subject and a volatile one. Many disagree with seperating siblings. We have issues with even phone contact between sibs sometimes triggering more RAD behavior. RAD kids hurt so much. I wish I could wipe it all away but I can't. There is only ONE who can and it takes time (unless a miracle occurs). Keep writing-let the reality in and break whatever boxes need opening! Maybe some hope and honesty out there will help other RAD parents as well. I appreciate reading your blog and look forward to talking with you soon.

Ericka said...

oh my goodness, this post couldn't have come at a better time.
Our family is being considered for two little ones (sisters) in foster care....

Lena Wright said...

Thank you for this. I appreciate your honesty, as I prepare and wait to bring siblings home.

Simply Moms said...

Hi Ladies,
Sorry. I posted and then went on vacation!!

Kerrie, that is so hard. I think you are doing great! They need separation and chances to develop their own strengths and abilities. I would discipline those things that clearly can be identified as sin. (Pride, unkindness, etc).

Kathy, it could. And it could not. Awareness of the possibility will have your eyes open if it does arise. Hope that day is hastened!!

Becky-sounds like you have walked this a bit. Any words of advice for some of the other moms?

Erica-let us know how it goes! :)

Lena- :)

Debi said...

Even now, 7 years after placement of three siblings then aged 8, 11, and 15, I struggle with that question. Would it have been better or just easier to have them placed separately? I think that we could have done more individually, but I feel the wound of separation might have been insurmountable for them. The difficulty of dealing with a parentified teen and constantly dealing with control issues seemed to overtake our efforts in bonding at every turn. Ideal solution? Is there one?