Saturday, October 31, 2015

Best of Facebook: October 2015

10/1/15: Click here to see post on FB:
Two years ago I was desperate and finally beginning to open up about our biggest and hardest struggles with our children. It seemed like every time I became bold enough to share the most recent tantrum or incident we had in our home I was told by fellow moms, "Oh, they are just being a kid. This is just a stage they are going through. All kids do that." Finally our youth pastor and his wife sat down and listened to us and the desperateness in our tone. A few weeks later he presented us with this book, he had found it, read it and believed it would be very helpful to us.

Now I had already read book after book, The Connected Child, The Whole-Brained Child, etc and read blog after blog. We had done years of counseling and therapy (including EDMR for a couple months which I do not hold a high opinion of). I was tired of bad news and hopelessness. I was skeptical that another book, another author could help me. BUT, this book was different and as I read it it didn't just give me more head knowledge and parenting tools but it fed my soul. It gave me a renewed view of my children. Not through my worn and weary, struggling to show love eyes but helped me view them through the eyes of Jesus who loves them unconditionally and sacrificially!

This book did change our lives. So much so just months after reading this book God called us to adopt our Sam from an adoption disruption who was diagnosed with RAD. God had shown us so much of His healing power in so little time that we extended trust in Him once again as we pursued another. The healing in Sam was very evident very quickly. He is a walking testimony of the goodness of God and such a blessing to us!

Just less than a year ago one of our children had an isolated incident that led to us having all of our children interviewed and and evaluated by two licensed therapists. I told them our past diagnoses of RAD, PTSD, ODD, ADHD and chronic enuresis. I told them briefly of the horrifying history of their lives before coming into our care. After hours in the office while they saw and spoke with each individual child they called me in the room. What they said to me had me in tears, "Ma'am, we have never met such smart, happy, focused, well-mannered and ATTACHED children as we have seen today. They have only been with you a short 3 years and they don't fit any of their previous diagnoses and whatever you are doing is amazing!"

"But it isn't me, they are healing despite my failures, it is Jesus!"

We often hear, "it takes a special person to raise someone else's children!" or "I could never do what you are doing." Well, I am not super-human for sure, most of the time I look around and wish I was as patient or loving or kind as so-and-so. So to be honest, if I can adopt and parent these kids ANYBODY can do it.

When people ask how do you do it, I say "I am not, it's Jesus." Our human love will never be enough to heal these kids, our human therapies will never be enough to heal these kids but these things coupled with the love of Jesus is what HAS healed my kids! That is why it has to be the followers of Christ that step up to the plate and sacrifically lay down their lives to give these kids one! We, the church, and our church congregations have got to step up and love these kids, our neighbors.

But love is not enough for the days after adoption. We must also be willing to become equipped in attachment parenting. Far too many adoptions are being disrupted (FL has a current disruption rate of 42%). We get emails and calls non-stop from some of these desperate families hanging on by a thread. Why? Because adoption is HARD. It is born in pain, grief, loss and sin. Adoption is a beautiful blessing but it is like a rose that takes time to grow from the ashes. What got us through isn't the skills we had to learn, the trainings we attended, the books we read or the therapies we sat through. What got us through and is getting us through is the unwavering commitment to love these kids regardless of their behavior. A commitment to pursue them as they push away from us with a supernatural love. Did we not run away from God, withhold our affections from Him, live our lives in a way that didn't please Him? But while we were in our sin He loved us so much He laid down His life for us. What pulls us through the hardest days is a deep desire, not to adopt or love, but a to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus by loving sinners the same way He did, with His very life.

Every year Brittney's school takes their special kids and their families to camp for 4 days. Brian wasn't able to come so me and these 7 kiddos attended and had lots of fun. Brittney's school bussed us to the FL Elks Youth camp where they put us up in air-conditioned cabins, fed us like kings and had tons of fun activities ready for us! The kids had lots of time in the pool, got to tie-dye shirts, participate in a ropes course, practice archery, ate lots of icecream and desserts, danced the night away and made smores at a bonfire! Here are some pics of our time.

Three hours and some sore fingers but I am feeling pretty accomplished tonight! She kept looking in the mirror and saying "so pretty, so pretty!" She likes it so it was worth it! :)

We enjoyed having France 2 TV out today for our interview. They were very kind and patient with us and the kids felt like little stars for sure being followed around by a huge camera. I could tell that the kids were also intrigued by their beautiful language and accents, maybe after Spanish class we will take up French. :)

My favorite moment was due to English being their second language one asked, "Do you breed your animals?"
To which I said, "yes, we have bred some at times."
"Ah, so can we film you breeding the animals?"
"Um, well, if that is what you think would make good tv then I suppose...."
"Oh! I meant to say feed! Can we film you feeding the animals!"
"LOL, Yes! We feed all the animals everyday. We can film that." :)
We all got a good laugh at that one.

I came across a journal from 2012 that I had kept at the request of our counselor. Everyday it had a very short entry of what behaviors we dealt with that day. As I read through them I had forgotten some of the huge daily struggles we have worked through. I showed the journal to our big kids, "See this is why I was such a crazy mom when you first came, I didn't know how to deal with this kind of stuff."
Mirabel read it over, "Geez, I can't believe I did this stuff to you. We really were awful!"
"Yea, but you know what I was doing at the same time I was writing these daily journal entries?"
Mirabel smirked, "Crying and eating chocolate?"
"I suppose. At the same time that you were running away, hitting me, cussing me out and doing everything in your power to push me away I was getting fingerprinted and background checked and filling out mountains of paperwork to make you mine."

Adoption is the living gospel. For it was me who was that little orphan girl running from the love of a Father. Yet even in my fighting and running He gave up everything, His only perfect Son, for a chance to adopt me as His own. I now love Him, because He first loved me (1 John 4:19). Our kids love us now because we chose to show them a glimpse of our Father's love.

Adopt because you were adopted! Even when you don't "feel" it, love your kids because your Father loves you! Even though they push and push you away, pursue your kids because your Father pursued you! Even when it feels too hard to keep going, don't give up because your Father didn't give up on you! Even now, in this trial, in this struggle remember that He promises, if we love Him, He will work all things together for our good! (Rom. 8:28)

A young stranger was walking up our long driveway, something small and white let out soft cries in his arms. I walked halfway out to greet him, "Is everything okay?"

"Ma'am we had a goat and she just gave birth to this baby but she died right after. You have goats and we know you will take good care of her."

As I held this tiny little life now entrusted in our care I was reminded of the verse in Prov 12:10 that says, "a righteous man has regard for the life of his animal..." I am so thankful for the reputation that God has granted us in our community. A reputation that no matter the species, breed or color, if they are in need of a family they can find one with open arms here.

Welcome home baby Abba. I hope your place on our farm continually reminds us that God is "Abba, Father" to the orphan.

This is our baby girl, Abba goat. Yes she is dressed as a pumpkin! .... Why? You ask? Because it is freaking adorable!!!

"So you guys are in charge of all these kids?" asked a woman who greeted us as we visited a new church today.

"I suppose we are in charge of them...we are a family, these are our children."

We saw the pastor's eyes widen with curiosity as we came to the door to exit. The woman who greeted us earlier turned to the pastor, "They adopted ALL these kids! Seven!"

The pastor shook our hands, "Well, you certainly have your hands full!"

"Sir, we simply took the Bible quite literally when God said, 'pure and undefiled religion is to care for the orphan.'"

We took part in a local homeschool geography fair tonight. We studied China and the kids were able to present what they learned. It was so neat, there were at least 20 other tables to visit and each child got a little passport to fill up with stickers and facts from each Country or State. Lots of tables even had food from their location to taste. We brought freshly cut bamboo from our own bamboo forest on our farm to give away!

Since I have it all together we started this project at 11pm the night before it was due!!! Good thing the kids had been reading lots of library books on China for weeks and quickly cranked out some facts on a poster board! Anthony took charge of the board and table and the this morning I was quite surprised with how well they did all on their own so I spent 4 hours today creating and sewing costumes to bring our China table to life! God poured out His grace as always, we pulled it together and the kids had a blast!

Posted by Shannon

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Our Family in the News

There were two stories that were published and aired today.

The first was an article about Brittney and her amazing Guardian-ad-litem (GAL) who helped push for her to come home! The article, by Nancy Kinnally with the FL Bar Foundation, is well-written and sheds light on the deeper pieces of her story and eventually finding a forever family:
"Brittney, 11, smiles broadly and extends her hand in greeting to welcome a visitor to her family’s Tallahassee farm, where she and her six siblings help care for a menagerie that includes dogs, cats, ponies, goats, chickens, rabbits, a donkey and a cow named Buttercream.

Born prematurely and with a panoply of medical disorders that could shorten her lifespan, Brittney spent years in and out of Orlando hospitals and medical foster homes until Brian and Shannon got a phone call from a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter asking if they would consider adopting her. 
“We told her, ‘Yes, we would absolutely be interested in taking this little girl,’ because we believe that all life is valuable and that all children deserve a loving family, whether they are going to pass away, whether they have special needs, no matter what the issues are,” Shannon said. “We made a commitment to God a long time ago that if we were ever called to take a child we would consider that a call from Him.”.....

Here is the link to read the entire article:
A long legal road leads to a permanent home for Brittney

The second was a 4 minute news segment, that aired on France2 TV. They inquired with us about their interest in covering a segment on American adoption disruptions since disrupting an adoption is not allowed in France. They traveled to us in FL from Washington D.C. to spend the afternoon filming our lives and interviewing Sam on his experience being adopted twice. We can't express what a sweet crew they were to work with, so natural and patient. 
"One of the more charming segments I've produced at France 2 Washington DC in a while. This one tells the story of Sam, a child from China who was adopted but then given up by his adoptive parents. Thank god he wasn't sent back to the orphanage in China, but taken in by Brian and Shannon in Florida, the 5 Kids 6 Months family. What you see here is love for children by other families who believe in third chances." - Sabrina Buckwalter, producer at France2
Here is link to watch the video news story:
États-Unis : des petites annonces pour réadopter un enfant déjà adopté une première fois

Since it is in French, it was made for France2 TV after all, below is the English translation of the video:
"The little boy is only 10 years old and yet he already has a past saddled with pain and separation.
A birthmark deforms his face but that is a mere detail in comparison to all the suffering he's been through.

Sam has been through an orphanage in China and 2 adoptive families in the US.
18 months ago, his first adoptive parents decided to cede him to another couple. 

Sam precisely recalls the shock he felt at the time:
SOT (Sam, readopted child): "2 days before I was taken they announced it to me, that I was going to have a new house, a new home.

SOT (Valerie Astruc, Reporter) - How did you react?

SOT (Sam, readopted child) - I was scared. They did not think that I was a nice child, but I still was attached to them."

With his new parents, Sam often watches the home videos his previous family had left for him.
Images of apparent bliss, but the child had reactive attachments disorders at that times.
His first adoptive parents therefore decided to give Sam to another family.

SOT (Shannon, Sam's 2nd adoptive mother): "It wasn't that they were neglectful by any means. But it was Sam's behavior, he behaved himself in a way that created a rift, there was a bond that was very hindered."

The little boy has had to learn live with his new brothers and sisters, 6 in total, all adopted by Brian and Shannon, a devout couple who did in the name of Jesus.

Sam's first months in his new family were very testing:
SOT (Sam) : "When I first arrived, I'd get very angry. When I wouldn't get what I wouldn't get my way, I would shut down, and wouldn't talk.

SOT (Shannon, Sam's 2nd adoptive mother) : - Yeah. Sometimes it'd be for hours, yeah. And then we in the family would start thinking, 'Well, what did we do, why are you so mad at us?'. But we understood that he had lost a lot."

Adopted children that change parents, there exists hundreds in the United States. No specific number can be posited as the phenomenon is fairly recent.

SOT (Valerie Astruc, Reporter) : "No federal law prohibits the transfer of an adopted children into a new family. A handful of states require that they go before a tribunal but in the majority of cases, the procedure is rather simple."

On the internet, specialized agencies publish little blurbs drafted by adoptive parents that wish to separate themselves from their adoptive children. Beneath Landon's picture, 8 years old, this is what it reads:
"The arrival of this hyperactive child is not what we expected."

Another face, another story, and another comment:
"Abby needs a house with parents that are calm and patient to help her."

All these posts are perfectly legal and regulated.
This lawyer explains that a home study and backgrounds checks suffices to carry out the transfer of a child between 2 adoptive families, with no intervention from public authorities.

SOT (Christine Thurman, Lawyer specialized in Family Affairs) : "What we're seeing is a trend for 2nd chance families. Apparently they'll want to take on someone with a level of confidentiality, they do not want people to know that there is a new child. After the first child [in the case of a first adoption] there's often a lot of celebration, and then the child just disappears."

Once a child has changed homes, an agency that has been certified by social services comes to make sure that everything is in order.

This couple has re-adopted this 8 year old girl.
Marian is the one who had linked the 2 families up, took care of the transfer procedures and now routinely makes sure the child is doing ok.

SOT (Marian Huet, Director, Love & Hope, Adoptive Services) : "It's very safe."
This disruption from adoption practice remains fairly marginal . And apparently nobody seems to blame families for going back on their decision to adopt a given child.

SOT (Vanessa Smith, 2nd adoptive mother) : "They get a child who is really "damaged" or "hurt", often from abroad and they don't know much about the child or the environment he grew up in."

SOT (Marian Huet, Director, Love & Hope, Adoptive Services) : "It's better to have a re-adoption than staying in a home where it is not working. It's like being in a very bad marriage where people stay together for the wrong reasons."

In the US, the number of readoptions is not limited. In other words, a child can change adoptive families several times, before he reaches the age of 18."

Posted by Shannon