For security reasons I can’t say much about my son or even show you his amazing smile. But I can show you mine. That’s the picture you see here. It’s me hugging a photo of my family.
When I write about adoption it’s hard to know where to start. My work as an investigative reporter revolves around facts. But when it comes to this issue, for me it’s all about emotion. I can’t talk about the subject (or apparently even write about it) without crying.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Think about the timing of that. November, the month families gather around the table to eat too much. A time families debate ‘which’ house they will gather, not whether they will. It’s a debate children in foster care won’t have. And for many of the children that age out before finding a forever family – they never will.
I’ve met some great people who aged out and are living wonderful, fulfilling, meaningful lives. But it doesn’t change the fact they are living it without parents. Aging out means no place to drag your dirty laundry so you can secretly ask advice. No one to walk you down the aisle or nag you for grandkids. No one lovingly obligated to pick up the phone when you have a crisis… or even a major victory. Friends fill the gap, but parents are the stable constant (or at least supposed to be) that support us no matter what. I have amazing parents. I can’t imagine life without them. We don’t always have to like each other – because we will always love each other.
The Lord blessed me with a clear heart, ever since I was a teenager, that someday I would adopt an older child. I spent decades listening to people tell me why I shouldn’t. They told me to at least adopt a baby, as if somehow age made us less worthy of unconditional love.
But my son was ten when he entered our lives. My husband and I were immediately thrust into a world of braces, teacher blogs and cub scouts. Instead of lessons on the ABC’s we jumped straight into the battle dates of the Civil War and how to do long division without a calculator.
I watch my son struggle every day to make new friends and reconcile his new family with the memories of his past. He has great memories of his biological parents. I want him to keep those. I am not threatened that his memories of them will impair his ability to love me. My house is filled with drawings and notes that tout me as #1 Mom. They’re decorated with more hearts than I can count.
My son spent nearly three years in state custody, three years wondering if he would ever get to draw those pictures. Three years fully aware that his biological home was not a safe place for him to be. As his birth mother dabbled with trying to placate DFCS, he made his own decision not to go back. Can you imagine being so young, turning your back on the past, on the only family you had ever known? Can you imagine stepping out in faith, only to find yourself year later completely alone? That’s what happens to 700 children every year in Georgia that waited, believing someday they would find a forever family.
Before we were matched with our son, we attended several adoption events. Children who want a forever home come to meet prospective parents. Organizers do their best to make it casual and fun, but everyone knows it’s an audition. The children especially eager to find a mom or dad do their best to smile, be helpful, and answer questions the way they think you want. Then there are other kids, generally the older ones, that have lost hope. They show up to get a day away from their foster home, or perhaps see a sibling placed in another house. I think they all hope someone will want to talk with them, but usually they hang by themselves, convinced they’re too old, it’s too late.
I am so grateful my son is not one of those kids. He doesn’t have to audition or prove himself to anyone. He is loved and will be loved. He is home.
This month as you gather around the table, I would encourage you to remember November is more than a time to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family. It’s a month to let your heart ache for the children that don’t have one. Perhaps it’s a month to fill your own picture frame with a new face, not to be loved, but to give love unconditionally.