A Message To Adoptive & Foster Families (Pt. 1)
I had recently been asked to speak on my story at an orphan care ministry at a local church and decided to use this as an opportunity to share my journey and perspective as an adoptee, as well as, a chance to inform adoptive and foster families about an array of various perspectives amongst adoptees that I’ve witnessed ever since adoptees started connecting online. What blessed me the most in speaking at this ministry was seeing the connection and support provided for adoptive and foster families that included a safe space for their adoptive children to connect with one another, as well as, witnessing the eagerness of adoptive parents out of a desire to learn what it takes to not only to be connected with those whom they’ve adopted or fostered, but also a desire to help adoptees and foster children flourish in life despite the trauma they’ve been through. These families recognize that not all needs are being properly met and have been seeking post-adoption support through trainings and communities. We all learn as we experience. In this experience, I recognized the need for adoptive parents, birth parents, and for adoptees to all seek understanding of one-another’s perspective. Each part of the adoption triad has it’s own protective factors that can put up walls and lead to a disruption of transparency in homes and families. In any family, there can be a willingness to open up more to people other than their own family members. There is work and growth to be done at an individual and communal level in families. I’ve witnessed more adoptive parents seeking guidance in online groups created for adoptees to connect. There needs to be safe spaces held for people to connect with others of similar experiences. However, it is encouraging to see more platforms being created to help inform. Just because we live with people, doesn’t mean we understand their experience. Every experience has unique factors that change a person’s perspective that others can learn from. The purpose of this topic is to provide general insight into the perspective of adoptees that can be helpful to adoptive and foster families. This diary entry is only pt. 1, which contains my own journey and perspective that speaks only for myself and not for the experience of other adoptees.
I was adopted at four years old from Eastern Ukraine into the U.S. and I have no clear memories prior to being adopted. Just because I didn’t have memories of prior trauma, doesn’t mean I didn’t experience the effects of trauma. My experience first being adopted out of a Ukrainian orphanage into the U.S. included fear of everything, protecting my food, learning English, self-soothing to calm my fears, getting used to a new routine, and overcoming a developmental delay due to malnourishment. Growing up, I always clarified that I was adopted as an only child, because to me, I knew the possibility of having biological siblings somewhere on the other side of the world. As a child, at night, I would often wonder if my birth parents were looking at the same moon and wondering about their long lost Katya. Some say that the sky is the limit, but the sky was the only view that I knew was the same for us.
Personal struggles in my journey:
~ Initial fears in the adoption and coming to the U.S.
~ The unknown about the people I came from
~ Pre-verbal memory in processing childhood trauma
~ Learning disabilities and mental processing delays
~ Uncontrollable outbursts of emotions
~ Goodbyes, deaths, losses
~ Attachment and fear of second abandonment
I learned that I had to be broken before I could be made whole, that my identify and worth is not in my adoption, but in Christ who alone is my Savior. My parent’s recognized early on that I was God’s beloved before becoming their child. They surrendered their will for me to the calling of God before I even understood who God was. This I believe made all the difference in how they raised me. I came to believe for myself that God already knew me by name before I was conceived and He calls me His own just as I am and I believe the purpose He has for me is my greatest destiny that no mankind and nothing in this life could ever take away from me. I believe that God’s ways are higher than mine and the depth He has brought to my soul is far greater than any family could give me and far more abundant than anything I could ever gain for myself. My worth was never lost but has always been seen in the sight of God.
In my early teenage years, my family got involved with a local organization that helped with foster and respite care for families. We helped with respite care and eventually we took in a child for seven months. Having a foster child in the home was a big adjustment for my whole family. In time, I began to see the need beyond myself, along with the sacrificial and unconditional love of those who helped this organization we fostered through. Saying goodbye to a foster child I finally grew attached to was a big loss to me, and subconsciously, it took me back to a feeling of abandonment. I was reliving that fear of second abandonment that I carried with me for years. I wondered if my birth parents felt that same loss for me. This experience exhibited itself through deepening depression and anxiety.
I’m thankful that my parents eventually offered for me to go to therapy. It was there that I was able to process through subconscious feelings, preverbal memories, and repressed emotions from early childhood trauma. I was able to come to an awareness and acceptance of reality, while learning how to heal from internal wounds. Gaining perspective was critical for me. One of the perks of life is the abundance of learning opportunities we run into that can help us to grow more into the person we need to be.
Not only was four years of therapy helpful in my healing journey, as difficult as it was, but receiving the continual support of even a few people who became mentors in my life, whom I looked up to. These mentors not only saw me in some of my worst moments, but they never lost hope in me. They invested in me and saw my potential as I witnessed the power of a life surrendered to, healed from, and transformed by God. These mentors remained long-term friends. In every season of life, the Lord has always provided the people I need for support and people I can give support to. I’m convinced that different people cross our paths a the right time for specific purposes that we may not always understand. Getting to the point of desperation got me into therapy, but continual healing involved my own intentionality, support of family and mentors, along with seeing the world outside my own reality. Witnessing people who walked genuinely in the power and love of Christ is what gave me a vision for what God could do in my life, through a broken vessel. I’m still learning and growing, every step of the journey in life, one step at a time.
Back in the moment, I probably wouldn’t have listened to myself then, even if I knew what was right and exactly what would’ve eventually helped me. At the time, I wouldn’t have been able to convince myself of anything unless it was validated by others whom I trusted. There were ultimately no magic words that suddenly changed me, but an experience of words, actions, patterns, spirit, and more. Words became influential to me when I witnessed it though the lives of other people. It can be easier to value another person’s input after feeling understood by them first. In the darkest times of my life was when I encountered the power and grace of God on my life. I’m thankful to my parents for still loving me even through all the bitterness I placed on them to come to a place of peace in my own heart.
Birth Family Reunion:
Looking back now, I think it was wise of my parents to have me wait until I was at least 18 years old to search for my birth family. This was around the time that I reached the point of emotional maturity to handle what a person can never be fully prepared for. Although, there remained a prevalent fear in my heart that one day it would be too late. The point when I can to value my parent’s input was when they demonstrated their understanding and value of my own feelings. My parents were learning along the way just as I was learning. We had to learn through our mistakes. I appreciated that my parents provided a safe space to be open and honest with me about their feelings. There comes a point when we can never entirely understand each other’s feelings. My parents could never be as passionate about my birth family as I was. But it was important to them because they knew it was a part of me and they didn’t want to miss out on something that I considered to be such a big part of me. While I think there needs to be differentiation between my brith family and adoptive family, because they are their own unique relationships, I also have a desire to blend these two realities as they are equally important to me and equally a part of me. Adoptive parents need to be made aware of possibilites their child might discover about birth family. There will come a point when the adoptee may decide if they want to simply receive answers and cut ties or if they want to move forward in building a connection with their birth family. This decision could evolve and change over time. Many adoptees at least want answers to the unknown to learn more about themselves. I desired for not only that, but to also pursue a relationship with my birth family.
My perspective on my adoption experience has changed and grown over time. Adoption was an alternative that gave me a chance at life in a time when I was clueless and defenseless. Adoption placed me into a loving family who wanted a child to love. Adoption gave me more opportunities for my family to help others. Adoption allowed me to view life circumstances in different ways. Adoption allowed me to cross paths with many people. Adoption for me was a sacrificial intervention that has provided valuable experiences and opportunities for unconditional love, growth, and belonging into a family who invests in one another through the joys and sorrows of life and who I deeply appreciate an love more and more. My parents have given me a wonderful life and I’m so thankful for all they are to me. They came for me when I was left in the world. They welcomed me as their own. They provided for my needs when I was most vulnerable. They remained with me all these years Their lives reflect the values instilled in me. Their wisdom and guidance has helped me become who I am today and has taught me what true unconditional love is. They introduced me to the greatest love of all. Without them, the center of my heart would remain hallow. My parents are irreplaceable to me.
To me, adoption means a chance for a human being to be loved as family when they have nothing left. Adoption can help a person get replenished for what they have lost in life, but does not replace the trauma previously experienced. Adoption comes with footprints of the past, that dig deep. It also means that a family has room to grow, not just in members, but also in understanding, quality of love, communication, support, and care. Adoption changes the shape of many things and impacts everyone involved. Adoption is an experience of learning and growing as a person and as a community. Adoption is part of a bigger picture.