Older and special-needs adoptions

Although I may not blog as frequently as I like about single Christians adopting, it’s not for the lack of interest or passion. Remember folks, the statistics are quite favorable. In April, Pew Research Center came out with this report on how one third of all American children are living with an unmarried parent. Back in 1968, 13 percent of all kids lived with a single parent. In 2017, it was 32 percent.


Veeka is w-a-y in the distance on this day hike near Paradise Lodge on a lovely fall day. Adopting her has taken me on paths I never otherwise would have tread.

I’m not saying that is the best of conditions, either for the parent or kid, but it’s far more common, which is why we must not listen to people telling us we’re some kind of freak show for wanting to adopt.

More recently, Christianity Today came out with a piece about how unwelcome churches are toward foster and adopted kids. Twin that with another piece about how churches exclude kids with autism, ADD and ADHD because the two populations are often the same. Fostered and adoptive kids are much more liable to be special needs and parents often seek out a church as a place where these kids can be cared for while the parents get a respite so they can worship God without being interrupted for an hour.

In recent months, my daughter has been much more combative and disruptive during church, meaning I’ve had to haul her out into the hallway where she was stared at by all sorts of people. Several did try to pray for her and I appreciated the effort, but it only ended up embarrassing her, so we fled out of the building. We did return the following week, but we sat in the way back.


My daughter examines her backpack during a lovely hike we had on the slopes of Mt. Rainier. One of the pleasures of my life is having a hiking partner who can almost keep up with me.

So I’ve been at that point where I’ve despaired of getting through a service, much less getting anything out of a sermon while my kid is having hysterics next to me. It’s been a rough year. My child has been in and out of various places since late June, finally moving back home with me in mid-September, all in an effort for her to find healing and therapy for things she got saddled with either in utero or in the first two years of her life.

Recently I was going through some blog posts from a forum on Russian adoptions (which stopped in 2010 after a spat between U.S. and Russian governments) and noticed how many parents were listing things such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and reactive attachment disorder (RAD) as common conditions. Any ONE of these conditions can sink a parent; imagine kids who have all three. They are beyond psychotic and a lot of adoptive parents are faced with these conditions.

Fortunately, Veeka doesn’t have any of the above but she struggles with other things that are almost as serious. As I talk with mental health professionals, I see the amount of need out there as stunning – and there’s not enough resources in the schools, hospitals and social services to meet it.


At some point I have to trust the path God has chosen for me is a good one. But it’s hard. Veeka is in the distance just off the Skyline trail.

One of the parents on the Russian adoption forum wrote me years ago to list all the problems her adoptive kids had, then gave me some advice on whether or not to adopt an older child.

“Unless you KNOW without a doubt that God has called you to this – and you are committed FOR LIFE – not until 18 or 20,” she said, then do adoption of older – and probably – special needs kids.

What to look for, I asked, if you want a healthy kid? She said to look for a child who was with the mother as long as possible and whose stay in an orphanage was as short as possible. Take any physically fixable thing over ANY possible mental disorder, she added. Korea has a great track record as far as RAD goes; much healthier children.

One woman wrote about significant problems taking years to surface with some children. “I adopted my oldest daughter at 7 months of age and her worst
behaviors came out at 4-5 years old, before any sort of diagnosis
(besides “sensory integration dysfunction” which did NOT explain her
behaviors),” she wrote. “She is on the fetal alcohol spectrum (FAS), which I found out when she was about seven years old. Another woman I know, who adopted
her son as an infant, found out he had RAD when he started first

Regarding older kids in orphanages, “These children have had to become experts at survival and they SO want to be part of a family,” another person wrote me. “They crave it, as we all do, but the damage is more often than not already done.  It’s true, classic, physical FAS signs are more easily detectible, but not fetal alcohol effect, which can be just as devastating and in some ways worse because you’ll never get a diagnosis but you could have the lifelong problems.
“I think its admirable to want to adopt an older child, and perhaps it is
the right choice for your family, but personally, I would assume there
will be significant problems and make my decision based on that.  If
you are gambling for health, I’m afraid the odds are against you.”

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom. We are friends with a two-parent family with three adopted kids from rural areas of various countries. The kids all had significant physical disabilities: Missing arms and legs; extreme scoliosis of the back and one is confined to a wheelchair. We visited them a week ago when we were up near the Canadian border and theirs is the merriest household despite all the physical problems. I know this couple would never do it any other way, as they’ve given 3 kids a life they would have never otherwise had.

Notice, though, their disabilities are physical, not mental, and if I were to give out advice, I’d repeat what it says in bold print above. Take any physical disorder over a mental disorder. They’re both tough, but one is definitely harder than the other.

Single folks adopt in Japan as well

Single folks adopt in Japan as well


Cynthia Ruble is an American expatriate and single Christian woman who adopted a Japanese son, Micah, who has Down Syndrome. | Undated photo from Life Hope Network

February is always a meaningful time for my little family, as it was the month – 11 years ago – when I brought my daughter home from Kazakhstan. I went to court on Jan. 25; all the papers were finalized on Feb. 10 and on Feb. 17, we flew back to the United States. She became an American citizen at around 3 p.m. when the wheels of the jet touched down on the tarmac at Dulles Airport.

She’s fortunate to have been from Central Asia. Had she been from Japan, she would be languishing in an institution. I recently learned how backward – almost non-existent – adoption and foster care is in Japan and how a few brave souls are trying to change that.

First, the situation: This Reuters piece tells of how 85 percent of some 40,000 orphans in Japan are not with families but institutionalized. Oliver Twist it may not be, but it can’t be beneficial to warehouse these children. In 2016, Japan passed a law guaranteeing children a right to live with a family; a needed first step but hardly enough to make a dent in what is a deplorable situation.

Screenshot 2018-02-15 00.32.05Japan has the highest ratio among the rich nations of institutionalized orphans. The Reuters piece said there were only about 10,000 foster families in the entire country and in the year 2015, there were only 544 adoptions. Japan is a country in which ancestry and blood ties among family are everything and the idea of grafting a kid into your family tree through adoption is utterly foreign to most of them.

Screenshot 2018-02-15 00.38.39The Japan Times has covered this phenomenon quite a bit, including this story on the few parents who do foster care in Japan and how tough it is. Many of these orphans aren’t placed into homes until they’re older by which time they’re dealing with attachment disorders or worse. (Didn’t these folks learn from the awful problems suffered by Russian adoptees who’ve had all sorts of problems because they spent their formative years in orphanages?) The Times said about 400 children a year are adopted in Japan, compared with Great Britain, which has half Japan’s population but whose residents take on 5,000 kids per year.

It ran another piece about Internet Akachan Post, which literally means “internet baby mailbox,” an online adoption service that seeks to bring about 3,000 adoptions a year; a drop in the bucket compared with other countries but six times the current Japanese rate.

I was intrigued about how some of the more creative Japanese efforts to dramatically increase adoptions and foster care are found outside of Tokyo. The online service is based in Osaka. A crisis pregnancy center described here is in Nagoya.

That effort was founded by American Cynthia Ruble, once an ad executive in Atlanta who gave it all up to become an overseas missionary. Divorced with no children, she moved to Japan to teach English until she realized that pregnant, unwed women in Japan often had nowhere to go. She started a nonprofit, Life Hope Network, to help these women, a number of whom actually moved in with her during their pregnancies. In the process, she adopted a boy with Down Syndrome. I included a photo atop this blog post of her with her son, Micah. She’d be a perfect fit for this blog, as she’s a single Christian woman who adopted a child who’d never have a home were it not for her. Do read the above link plus this one that also tells about her and also this very recent story that offers an update. Cynthia is now 55. Her son is 10.

pexels-photo-265960And be sure to check out this blog by a Canadian expatriate, Melodie Cook, now living in Niigata Prefecture with her family. She has started a Yahoo group for parents who’ve adopted Japanese kids.

International adoptions from other countries continue even now and sites like Rainbowkids.com (https://www.rainbowkids.com/) are still doing an amazing job alerting people of all the latest trends plus offering a photo gallery of available kids. There’s a lot more going on the internet since I flew to Kazakhstan on New Year’s Eve as 2007 was arriving.

I found the following essay somewhere – can’t remember where – from a single mom who elected to stay within U.S. borders and forego working with an agency:

pexels-photo-207777There are several ways to adopt domestically.  You will have to have a homestudy and a booklet for showing to birth moms first (unless you’re interested in foster child adoption – that’s a different process that I don’t know much about).  
Once I had those (and there are examples of them on the web… but mostly they were common sense things – like what would you want to know if you were shopping for a mother for your child), it was a matter of finding a baby.  You don’t have to sign up with an agency, you can.  I didn’t because then I was ‘stuck’ waiting for a baby to come to me that way.  You can use an attorney but don’t have to.  I did use one in the beginning but that’s pretty expensive… however not so much so that you can’t also look on your own.  The attorney I used only charged me for what she did – she didn’t charge me a fee that locked me in with her.  There may be some that do that…
If you’re open to race and to some other potential issues (such as drug addiction), you may also want to look for an AAAA (American Academy of Adoption Attorneys) attorney in your area.  That, ultimately, was how I found my daughter.  A friend who is an AAAA attorney is who found my daughter for me from emails that are sent to the organization’s members.  There’s a directory of these attorneys here.  If you’re in Oregon or Washington, I could recommend some.
Believe it or not it only took 6 months to get my daughter after my homestudy was done.  I did work on it very hard, though.  My daughter is bi-racial and was born drug addicted.  I talked to a few folks prior to my accepting her since the drug addiction was something that really scared me.  Now that she’s 21 months, she’s obviously really smart and totally on or exceeding all developmental marks.  She was diagnosed with seizure disorder but the doctors cannot tell me if that has anything at all to do with the drug addiction.  It took three months of medication to get her free of drugs.  I say all this just to let you know that this is an avenue that is also not as scary as you may think (I thought it was).

 pexels-photo-207820My hurdles were the adoptions that started but didn’t finish.  Those were emotionally tough…The worst hurdle was that I did get taken for a LOT of money by an accredited adoption agency.  From that I learned that I would pay no money until I had information on the birth mother andshe was going to go with me.  I paid my money before I had the birth mom info and I never got that.  An attorney friend of mine said it’s doubtful there ever was a birth mother since I didn’t get any of that info.  So, beware that not all agencies are ethical even in the US.

Back to process.  Once you have a match with a baby, you need to have an attorney to finalize the adoption.  The state you are adopting from has a lot to do with how this works.  Some states, like Florida and Oregon, are very adoption friendly whereas others may not be as much.  So, that process is determined by the state.  It did take me a year to finalize the adoption of my daughter but that was due to a bad lawyer in Florida… not the process.  During that time, she was mine and nobody could take her away.  Her relinquishment had been signed and the birth parents had no rights to her unless they’d been able to show coercion.

So…there’s a lot of stories out there. Adoption is very possible. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Take it.

Resting at Warm Beach

As Seattle approaches a record in terms of rain-free days (which it will hit tomorrow, Aug. 7), my daughter and I have had a really busy summer. One thing we did was visit a camp for families with adopted and 


Veeka gingerly tries out a mare named Epiphany at the Warm Beach Conference Center horse barn.

foster-care children at the Warm Beach Conference Center north of Everett. It was sponsored by the Refresh group that puts on an annual conference for parents in the spring. Going there was one of my daughter’s favorite things that she’s gotten to do all summer, as she met lots of kids who were like her. She got to try new things like canoeing and horseback riding, plus play and swim a lot. And I got to meet some engaging single moms, one of whom had adopted a teenager from foster care and another who has two small children. Both women had similar journeys: The wait for a husband had become fruitless, so they went ahead and formed their own families.

It was a comfort to be with them, as most churches don’t consider single-parent families as a good example. Just today I was at my church where the pastor was praying and prophesying over two-parent families with bio kids; a nice thing if you can get it, but more and more not the norm in our society. I am getting to the point where I feel quite out of place in church these days; not an unusual thing when you’re seen as a flawed person without the requisite husband. I found a clever piece from a site for single Muslims on ways to deflect the guilt trips from married friends about one’s desires to have a mate.

Anyway, I do admire people for fostering, even if it’s something I cannot do mainly for reasons that this essay in medium.com makes clear. I’m glad I went overseas. International adoptions aren’t what they were, you can still do it as a single woman.

You can also do it at the age of 51 as this article points out and even at 60, as this piece says. And not to leave out the guys here: Here’s a great essayby a tattooed 30-something Christian male who feels called to adopt or foster kids. Love his attitude.



Refresh Conference II: Where adoptions rise or fall

Refresh Conference II: Where adoptions rise or fall


A couple enters Overlake Christian Church on the first day of the 2017 Refresh conference.

Once again, it’s been awhile since I filed. This year (2017) marks the 10th anniversary of the time I flew to Kazakhstan to pick up a daughter. SO much water has flowed under the bridge since then! We have moved four times since then (to Maryland, Tennessee, Alaska, then Washington state) and I’ve switched jobs two or three times, after working at one newspaper for 14½ years. Veeka is now 12 and heading into sixth grade (I held her back a year in kindergarten, so she’s a year older than most kids).

One of the more interesting things I did on the adoption front this year was attend the annual Refresh conference at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, right down the road from Microsoft. There, half of the staff are adoptive families. I attended the same conference last year. It’s a huge gathering (1,600 people from all over North America); it’s been going six years and they’ve started a daughter conference in Chicago. This year’s conference was in early March. It’s clearly a place where people are there to minister to exhausted parents of adoptive and foster kids. In fact, children aren’t allowed anywhere near the conference all weekend, as it’s a place to “refresh” the parents (hence the name Refresh Conference). There’s even a room for people to take naps if so inclined.


One of many vendors at the Refresh conference.

So, you walk into the entrance hall of the church underneath an arch of blue and white balloons. Blue balloons are everywhere. So are large urns of Berry Tree coffee to the right; a café with a jazz band playing to the left; signs instructing you to nab a volunteer in a blue T-shirt if you need prayer – and a # to text for an appointment with an on-site therapist if you are facing a crisis. Also to the left are urns of water with cucumbers, lemons and raspberries floating in them.

The first day, one of the speakers was a couple known as Mike and Kristin Berry, who operate confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com, have 8 adopted kids and own a 12-passenger van.

“We are in the trenches with you,” Mike told us. “We know how much you love your kids and how exhausted you are. We understand how some of you are saying, ‘I didn’t sign up for this.’ ”

No kidding.

People at this event had kids with ADHD, PTSD, bi-polar, depression, sensory processing, anxiety, schizophrenia, FAS, autism, Aspergers, …. “That’s the beauty and brutality of it,” one of the speakers said. “We don’t know how to put a finger on some of these things.”

My first day there, I connected with a woman from the southern part of the state who’s adopted 13 kids. We joked about being reported to Child Protective Services, which has happened to us both more than once. When your kid has Issues and they act out in a public space, there are people out there who will literally take down your license plate and call the police on you (who then call CPS). They never bother to help you with said child or ask if they can be of service; no, they assume the worse. That’s a whole separate post, so I shouldn’t get started on what I think of the dirt bags who do this to parents like me and this woman. Refresh has a whole session on what to do when CPS is called on you, which is pretty common for foster and adoptive families.


As we left after the final session, a wonderful cast of blue-shirted volunteers threw confetti at us to cheer us on.

I ran into all sorts of people: Parents who’ve been threatened by their kids; parents who’ve called the police on their kids and lots of people who are beyond frustrated with how clueless their churches are on this topic. At the time I was attending this conference, I was seething over the thoughtless treatment my daughter had gotten from a leader at my church. When they reject your kid, they reject you.

But my concerns were minor compared with some of the parents I met in a session for people whose kids are so destructive, they must be sent away. Nearly 100 people were at that “Out of Home Care for Hurting Kids” session and this is where I became aware of a network of homes, camps and centers around the country that deal with kids who are at the end of the line. Most are frightfully expensive, ie $7,000 per month, and insurance doesn’t always pick up.

This when adoptions go really wrong.

“Every day,” said a woman who runs one of these homes, “I talk with broken-hearted families.” Forty percent of the cases referred to them are with adopted kids and the hardest condition they get is Reactive Attachment Disorder. One woman in that session stood up to say her son had been at seven such places. Another woman said she had a 6-year-old she wanted to send to one of these residential places. (The speaker told her she’d never recommend institutionalization for someone so young).

One of the speakers at this session (who has a kid in jail partly because of the fetal alcohol problem this child inherited, said, “Our house is chaotic because we’re in chaos. When you’re parenting children whose frontal cortex – which responsible for reason and logic – is damaged, you need to have structure and a routine. When we control our environment, our kids can regulate better. We often live out of chaos.”

One thing I find refreshing about the Refresh conference is that the religious bromides that so many folks lay on you are absent there. People have had it with nitwit comments such as “God must have a reason for this” or “He wants to use your experience to bless someone else.” Some of these kids don’t get better or get healed.

“Every child’s journey into foster care or being an orphan began with tragedy,” one speaker told us. “If we open our hearts and lives, they will bring some of that pain with them…often we Christians speak of adoption as mirroring the Gospel story – and they do. It mirrors the Gospel in its beauty and its costliness. …We have to decide: What do we really want in life?” This was a guy who, with his wife, selected a child to adopt from Ethiopia but she died of pneumonia before they could come get her. They did adopt another girl but they are always haunted by the one they missed.

“The pain and trauma do not invalidate your calling,” he said. “They probably confirm it.”

Orphan Sunday and foster care

Orphan Sunday and foster care

November is Orphan Awareness month, it seems, and any one of several Sundays therein are known as Orphan Sunday. Today (Nov. 20) is one of them, so here’s to remind you all that orphans are still out there awaiting a home. International adoption is such a mixed bag these days, as evidenced by this article on adoption in Uganda and what the country is doing to try to keep their children with them.

I have seen a lot of pieces lately about the difficulties of adoption, such as this piece that ran earlier this year in Christianity Today. I’m glad that the flood of folks who adopted kids in the aughts are speaking out about how hard it really is! I’ve said this before and will repeat it: The horror stories about foster care that I hear in my support group have caused me to decide never to do it. Not as a single mom. More on that in a minute.

Some time ago, I ran across a fascinating blog essay titled “The Silence of Adoption.” It says everything I’d like to say about what goes on with kids from overseas. Because my daughter was adopted fairly early in her life, I thought I had escaped the issues described in this essay but as the years have progressed, it turns out that I have not. As the author says:

It happens to many many families after they come home. It is a disappointing reality for those who are watching and praying the child home.  The family is so great about sharing the adoption story and so many jump on board to support and encourage and then the family hits American soil and suddenly the family is silent.


A blog here or there with happy pictures or maybe hints that things are tough but few words and little information.


It’s the silence of adoption.


Read it all. I’ve found some other helpful links, including this Facebook page for people considering adopting special needs kids from China. These days, special needs kids are what (or who) is available overseas.


I spend a fair amount of time these days going to parent support groups for special needs kids and the situations I run into would tear your heart out. I was at one where one parent wearing a green Seahawks T-shirt confessed how he himself is high-end autistic, but he had dreams of his children not inheriting his problems. Imagine his reaction when his daughter was discovered to be not only Down Syndrome but non-verbal. She’s about 18 and cannot be left alone.

“I can’t even talk with her,” he told us. “Can you imagine what that feels like?” He shuffled out of there, his head drooping, his shoulders sunk forward. My heart went out to him, as he has no hope. Most parents of special needs kids don’t have a lot of money, as insurance doesn’t always cover the specialists and medications they need. I sent Veeka to several week-long camps this summer; two of them overnight camps. Except for one bad day, she got through them all. I’ve had parents tell me what a luxury that is and that they cannot imagine their kids making it through one night away from home, not to mention 5 or 6 nights. I guess that’s one luxury single parents have, as we’ve had to farm out our kids when we go on business trips starting at a young age. So our kids are used to staying with other folks. Still, people aren’t lining up to take care of kids with mental illnesses for several days so the parents can take a break.

Back to foster care: An investigative journalism group recently came out with a depressing series of stories about the mess that the Washington state foster care system is in and how even the good parents are getting out. Click on the above link as well as here and here to read about it.



My brother Steve has written a lot in the pages of the Oregonian about Oregon’s foster care system, which isn’t a whole lot better!


One of his projects was to try to find 884 more foster families among the evangelical Christian populace of greater Portland:


If you’ve ever gone through foster care training, believe me, they don’t make it easy for you to get certified! So far, in this 2014 update, 49 homes had been certified among evangelicals. That may not sound like a whole lot, but if you knew what was involved in foster care, you’d be crowning these folks as saints. The idea behind churches getting involved in this effort was the wish that no child in Oregon be without a home and that Oregon’s churches had a moral responsibility to do something about it.



My brother also wrote about one DHS nightmare in that the agency was taking foster kids out of their foster parents’ home and putting them back into really dangerous situations with their natural parents.


And then another piece – by another Oregonian writer – about a lawsuit against Oregon DHS. This is so disheartening because even when people get the courage up to try fostering kids, they get overwhelmed by the insanities of foster care systems in the Pacific Northwest.

I close with the thought that 10 years ago at this time, I had a picture of my little girl in my purse that I carried with me at all times. I had just told my employers that I was going on three months maternity leave, not because of their generous leave policies but because I had three months of sick leave saved up. Thank God for the Family Medical Leave Act.  Thus, I was able to draw full salary during the entire time I was overseas, then home for 6 weeks with my little girl.

WSJ: International adoptions have fallen off a cliff

WSJ: International adoptions have fallen off a cliff

There’s an interesting piece in today’s Wall Street Journal saying that international adoptions are the lowest they’ve been in three decades. Here is an excerpt:

Foreign adoptions by Americans fell 12% last year to the lowest level in more than three decades, according to new figures from the State Department.

The decline is largely because of measures designed to prevent child-trafficking and promote adoption within developing countries, adoption advocates said.


A picture of kids from the Dominican Republic that was posted on the Kids First Adoption page.

The State Department reported that 5,648 children were adopted abroad in the 2015 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, down from 6,438 in 2014 and from a peak of 22,884 in 2004.

The last year that fewer overall adoptions were recorded was 1981, at 4,868.

The article goes on to say the largest donor country continues to be China (here is an amazing piece in Foreign Policy that tells of an adopted child returning to China to find her birth parents) but that stalwarts like Russia (and Kazakhstan) have fallen off the map because the U.S. (rightly) criticized Russia’s barbaric human rights situation. So the Russian government, kind and gentle folks that they are, decided to take out their fury on adoptive American parents (who had nothing to do with what our State Department was doing) and on their tiniest citizens; children who were basically rotting away in orphanages.

South Korea, Ukraine (which has opened up to single women) and Uganda were second, third and fourth, the piece said. I also know that Poland, Dominican Republic, Latvia, Colombia and India are adopting out kids; in fact, India is said to have greatly improved their adoption processes.  I am curious why the article didn’t mention Bulgaria, which I know is adopting out its kids as fast as possible. Were I adopting internationally today, that’s where I’d head.

But I would not go near Haiti. I attend a parent support group for parents of special needs kids and the horrors I’ve heard about some kids from that country make me wonder what awful things were done to them to make them end up in institutions here. Of course there are exceptions, but…

The article emphasizes that people from the West very much want to adopt kids but several countries are only offering up special needs or older kids. I blame Russia also for loading tons of very damaged kids into their adoption system, many of them given to unsuspecting parents from U.S. or European countries who arrived home only to discover their child had a long list of problems.

Do try to read it, as its main point is there’s plenty of kids abroad who need adopting, but many countries have stopped adoptions altogether or made it next to impossible to do so. The article also says the U.S. government is also to blame for placing adoption standards way beyond the reach of the poorest countries that have the greatest numbers of adoptable children. For instance, there could be a lot more adoptions out of Africa but for the vagueries of U.S. demands.

International adoption is still better than some of the private hells would-be parents endure to adopt American-born children. I’ve been tracking a family in Hyattsville near my former home who just adopted a little girl just after her birth mom gave her up. Or didn’t give her up; turns out Maryland law gives the mother 30 days to reconsider and one week after the birth, the mom revoked the adoption. The heartbroken couple posted a note on the Hyattsville site, saying they were leaving all the baby clothes donated to them on the front porch and would their former owners pick them up?

It’s to avoid that kind of mess that people go overseas.

A Refresh conference for the adoptively exhausted


One of the therapy dogs at the conference for parents to meet and see if their traumatized kids would warm up such a pooch.

Imagine a Christian conference simply for adoptive and foster parents where you get three days of workshops, free massages, haircuts and make-overs plus meets lots of people who are struggling just like you? And talk with folks who are finding that their “forever family” has turned into a nightmare? Someone had told me of a Refresh conference (http://www.occ.org/refresh/) at Overlake Church in Redmond, so I signed up and went this weekend. Veeka was in school most of the time and her grandparents looked after her on Saturday, the final day of the conference.

What I learned is that everyone is having a very difficult time. When I think things are difficult for me, I then consider what foster parents go through. Some of them had put up a large chalkboard about the things their children had endured. Examples:

  • being in a swing for two months with a bottle propped up to their mouth and the TV on 24/7
  • having a heart transplant
  • his mother trying to abort him
  • third-degree burns on 40% of their body
  • meth
  • sleeping in the middle of the street (must have been in India)
  • being raped by multiple men while the bio mom watched
  • not being wanted because his bio dad was Latino

All these kids are some variety of special needs, so I was attending sessions on fetal alcohol effect, strategic parenting for traumatized kids, single parenting, how to help kids who have no executive function and more.

The keynote speakers on Friday morning were Mary Beth Chapman and her daughter, Emily Richards, and they were a hoot. Mary Beth is married to a famous singer, Steven Curtis Chapman, and they adopted three girls from China and have established a nonprofit (http://showhope.org/) to encourage others to adopt. Sadly in 2008, one of the girls ran behind a family car that was being driven by one of the older boys. He didn’t see her and so he ran over her and killed her. Eight years later, the mother was telling us, they are still recovering from her death.

There were some 1,400 people at the conference and it heartened me to see joking about medical bills, counseling bills and CPS allegations (like when people see your child behaving badly and they call the police on YOU), which is something a lot of people there have undergone. These are all part of the adoption experience these days. I had lunch with a couple from Woodinville who had also adopted from Kazakhstan and we were pleased to learn we were both using the same attachment therapist. Small world.

Naturally I gravitated to the workshop on single parenting, which included some 25 of us who were adopting or fostering. The main speaker said that to get past the obstacles, it helps to know you’re called to this; as the barbs and thoughtless remarks one gets from fellow Christians can be overwhelming. Some of the people there said they were unwillingly forced into single parenting, as they had adopted while a couple and then their spouse had fled the coop, leaving them holding the bag/child. I had thought that I was unusual in the evangelical world for adopting a child, but the speaker, who works with Youth for Christ, said there were 15 single moms (adoptive or foster) in her organization.

There was a lot on how to do think-outside-the-box parenting because typical parenting strategies don’t work with kids whose moms destroyed their embryos’ brain cells by imbibing alcohol. So, everything takes longer for them to process. As one of the speakers said, “These are 10-second kids in a one-second world.”

Another speaker said that whether these kids ever meet their birth parents or not, they are always psychologically present. In all, it was an honest, vulnerable conference. As the leader of the last workshop I attended said, “If the story we tell ourselves is that the hard, hurtful and horrible have eternal meaning, we will be fruitful, multiply and plant seeds of victory into a story that echoes across eternity.” Let’s hope so.

On the agency front, RainbowKids.com has come up with a good video and essay about single women adopting from India. India is a country I would have liked to have adopted from, but 10 years ago, when I was selecting countries, India was tough to adopt from. T


This is the board at the Refresh conference where parents wrote of some of the horrors their adopted/foster kids have undergone.

hey favored parents with Indian heritage and I didn’t know any agencies that serviced India. India also sets an age limit at 50, so that would have ruled me out. Anyone reading this who is thinking of adoption: Get started well before you turn 50! I got into it almost too late for my daughter and when I started thinking of doing so a second time, most countries were closed to me.