When parents adopt a child, they responsibly contemplate all sorts of scenarios and difficulties, and prepare to help their new child adjust to family life. There are classes to prepare, all sorts of seminars and books to read. Some parents may already have experience with other adoptions both domestic and international as we did. In fact, we had adopted domesetically through the foster care system, through private adoption due to a failed international adoption, and an international adoption where we went overseas to Ukraine to adopt. All of our children were 5 years old and older.
And things were great. Really really great. All of our children had experienced extreme trauma, and I strongly believe that the training we had prepared with, truly helped us navigate difficult waters.
However, nothing could have prepared us for our next adventure in adopting our last daughter. We knew she was from Russia. We knew there were 2 dissolved adoptions. We knew she had trauma upon trauma and we knew that the Lord had called us to her, and her to our family. We prayed that if this was NOT His will, that He would slam the door to adoption shut! Instead, it opened widely.
“Can you be in North Carolina TOMORROW?”
The little girl that I met, with the attorney and her last family, was sitting there with a huge smile, and piercing eyes, her hair neatly braided. Here we were in a Walmart Parking Lot and instead of buying a gallon of Milk, I was there to transfer a CHILD. A HUMAN BEING from one vehicle to another.
It all seemed so surreal and sad.
We had all the paperwork, the attorney was there, and everybody knew what was going on legally in both states, but really WALMART? We could have at least met at a nice restaurant and had dinner or a Chuck E Cheese or SOMETHING….
I invited the people to dinner, but instead they said, “no.” Actually he said, “I don’t rightly think so”….. and with that, her luggage was tossed into the back of the attorney’s vehicle.
I bent down and looked into her eyes, smiled and said, “Hi, I’m Mrs. M and I’m here to keep you safe!”
I sat in the back seat with our little one who was 11 years old and totally CALM. I felt her heart beat and it was that of a scared rabbit. I asked her, “Do you like to swim?”
“We are going to be here for a little while while all the paperwork goes through so everybody knows you are safe.” My emphasis to her was her absolute safety, as there was NO WAY I was going to say something like, “Hi I’m your new mom, you are now in your ‘forever’ family!” Ummm. no.
During our two week stay in NC, she was so polite and sweet. She cried a little bit, and even snuggled up for hugs and talks. Her English was good, but her comprehension was poor. She was a child without a depth of language needed to express herself.
I knew we were not seeing the real girl, as we were all really in shock, but especially her. SHE was in shock. She was in the throws of survival. I still tear up when I think about how absolutely difficult her predicament was, AND how she was now safe, and HOME… She just didn’t know it yet.
Over a year she began to settle in, and while things were rocky they were good. She was not only adjusting to a new family once again, she was also adjusting to culture, mourning losses most of us could never fathom, and stuffing deep emotions for things she could not express, explain or talk about.
She laughed and snuggled and learned to love, and did great, and I thought to myself, “Wow! We are doing AMAZING!”
And we were.
And guess what?? That meant she felt safe. SAFE! Remember that safety I told her about???
She was NOW SAFE ENOUGH to let it all out! ALL OF IT! But in her trauma brain, her thinking was very confused. “Why would they love me?” “I’m not worth loving?” “Maybe they really want to hurt me!”
“I don’t think I can fully trust anybody!” “I can take care of myself!”
And then, those stuffed memories started to flood her mind. The abuses in Russia, the abuse in America, the LOSS, the DEEP LOSS! The fond memories of Russia, making pickles, drying fish, going to the Black sea, and the dark memories of abuse that is unmentionable, horrid abuse, for which she bears not just the physical scars, but the emotional scars.
Yes, she was doing AMAZING. But it all flooded to the front at once. And she was overcome with RAGE and AGGRESSION and HATE, and a heart so wounded, so battered, so scarred that she didn’t EVER want anybody to have access again. So she closed the door to her heart. And she refused to let us in.
And THAT is when we went from “connected” to being in “danger”.
I never dreamed in a million years that I could have had a child harm me physically, not after being in our home and seeing how safe and loved she was.
We practiced how we spoke, how to connect, how to correct through connection, how to stay in the moment with her, trying to help he learn the skills she needed to overcome…. but it was all for naught at that point. She was having NONE of it. NONE… and all her rage, was “safely” taken out on the ones who truly loved her.
Being in a situation like this is so surreal. It happens to others, but not to us! NOT US! We’re just normal folks! We all love each other and everyday is happy and we sing and dance together and have Friday night at the movies! What the heck?????
As we read more, and studied more and talked in more detail to our counselor, we realized that we were going to need more help.
She went from self sabotage, stealing, lying, self harm, threatening suicide, cursing, screaming, slamming doors, to real destruction. Punching holes in walls, picking up furniture and slamming it so hard, that it broke our tile floors, dangerous behaviors that I cannot mention. And then, she turned her rage on us personally. Bruises ensued, bites, words I cannot get out of my head….
By now, we had placed her in public school so she could have more accountability. We had called police when she crossed the line from troubled teen to criminal behavior. And it was the most CONNECTED thing we could do. She was refusing counseling, and literally turning our home into a place of danger and despair. It was taking its toll on ALL of us.
That fateful night, when she was arrested, my mama heart was crushed. “How could I call the police on my own child? How is THAT connected? I teach connection. I teach connected correction and how to have safe boundaries. We have a support group! What is going on???
I’ll tell you how it is connected.
It is NEVER ok, no matter what your issues are, to indulge in criminal behavior. There are societal rules that must be followed for any civilization to survive and for any family to survive. It would have been wrong for us to allow this to continue and not seek out the extra help we needed even if that means law enforcement. Even Heather Forbes and Dr. Karyn Purvis agree with this. It shouldn’t be our first line of action, but if all else fails and a person is in DANGER… it seems that it is the best thing to do to protect the child from further damage to themselves and their reputation.
Waiting until they are older could be the worst thing we could do. Juveniles records do not follow them to adulthood, but once a child is older than 16, they do.
Just because you have to seek outside help, it does not mean you are not connected. STAY connected! Do all you can! Visit! Send letters! We were able to get loads of people to send cards and letters for Sweetie’s birthday, for Christmas and more.
She was blessed to have those connections and we were able to get art supplies to her. Her letters were filled with encouragement, and also with discussion questions. “What do you think about this?” or “It really hurt when this happened?” Letters to promote thinking and empathy were important for her to receive. Bringing in toothpaste or personal hygiene products, we were required to write her name on them; so we wrote her name and put little hearts and wrote things like, “To Sweetie, Love Mama”.
Those are small little connections that sent her the message, “We are in your life to stay.”
Praise the Lord, that in our little area in Texas, the Juvenile Justice System is advanced and truly GETS TRAUMA!
After a couple of short stays, visits to a psychiatrist, 2 neuropsychiatric reports, CPS involvement and art therapy, she wound up in the LONG term program. 12 months. ONE YEAR, behind the walls of the justice system, in kid jail…. but WITH THERAPY; individual, group, family.
It is TERRIBLY sad, that she had to commit a crime to be able to get the help she needed.
We were doing the right things, actually not much different than the therapy she has been getting. But she wouldn’t receive it from us.
She wouldn’t receive it from them either for almost EIGHT MONTHS! But something happened at the 8 month mark.
YES. We had been staying connected with her all those months. Every week, visits, sometimes she would refuse to see us. Many times she was awful. Sometimes she would cry.
On days she was awful, I’d make an extra visit because I knew she’d feel badly, and I was typically correct. Then she’d go back to trying to reject us.
“Why do you visit?”
“We love you.”
And conversations would always be that we wanted her to do well and heal.
When we started therapy together with the counselor several months ago, we weren’t sure if she was going to make it home. It was depressing and sad. Her thinking was so entrenched in the past. Why couldn’t she see the bright future she had? Why weren’t WE good enough for her?
As the counselor began to try to put all the pieces together, she addressed her FEAR and through the 12 step program they were doing inside, then SWEETIE began to address her fear. And it was like a switch flipped.
And she started to understand that we were NOT going to abandon her. We were going to love her and see her through, but SHE had to work too. She had to want to be home. We were willing to let her go if she didn’t want us, if family was too much for her. We were at a point, and I believe I wrote it on this blog where I wasn’t sure if she would be able to survive in a family successfully. We would try something different, but we would NOT abandon her.
Her sisters had been through a LOT and she knew it. Some of the words she spoke to them, like me, they couldn’t forget them. But those amazing girls CHOSE to forgive! I love them so. They have been willing to open their hearts once again, and LOVE their sister. Watching them together is like watching a beautiful dance. I’m so thankful that they did not become bitter themselves. That is another blog post. 🙂
Since that time, when we gave her permission to make that decision. It was like she made a strong turn towards family.
And it has been that way ever since. She is looking forward to being home. She is the same girl, spunky and funny and fearful and awkward, but it appears that she has been able to FINALLY work through her deepest fears and traumas. We now know about all those horrid things that happened to her. And we still love her. And she KNOWS that she KNOWS she is worthy of love. She is cherished, just because. She doesn’t have to EARN our love. She just has it. That’s it.
Love is patient, love is kind, love doesn’t seek its own. Love does what is best for the other person. And love NEVER fails. NEVER EVER EVER.
We have spoken these words to her over and over and over again over the last 5 years 8 months and 2 days.
I do believe, she has finally accepted them.
And we are connected.