If you haven't yet had a chance to read Part 1 of my interview with Lisa Peele, you can do so here.
For Part 2, I asked Lisa to speak from her heart, and to address any issues she felt would help families getting ready to step into an adoption with Reece's Rainbow.
Please don't miss my links at the bottom of this post...there are two little girls who desperately need our prayers and help.
by Lisa Peele
These are answers to questions I hear often, and other things to think about for people considering adoption through Reece’s Rainbow…
How do you “choose” a child?
I truly believe we “find” the children who are meant to be ours. Or they find us!
How we get to that point is different for everyone, as is the time it takes to become comfortable with the commitment of adopting. Some people decide “on the spot” while others spend quite some time considering their options, gathering money and contemplating a variety of other issues before deciding to commit.
There are a lot of things which bring certain children into our conscious view. Many parents pay close attention to the age of the child, the child’s diagnosis, or the country/region where the child is living. And while some people heavily research costs and travel expectations of the different programs, other parents feel compelled to adopt a certain child and are determined to figure out the details after they have already fallen for that child.
Some people are more likely to consider a boy, or a girl, though some parents don’t have a specific gender in mind. Some parents will be captivated by a particular child because of the way that child looks (beautiful, spirited, sweet, healthy, or because the child shares similar features with other family members), or even because the child appears to have a great need for medical attention or loving care.
Other parents are pulled to a particular child because of the child’s birthday, or listing name, or because of that child’s “story”.
We are each moved by things we can and can’t explain. And we may end up being pulled toward adoption by one child, yet end up bringing home a different child (or children).
And though many of us are looking for confirmation, or for “a sign” that a particular child is the “right” one—no matter how we’ve come to the decision, how long it takes to get there, or what hurdles we face along the way, it always works out in the end.
Try not to stand in your own way. Let your heart guide you, not your fears and doubts. Listen closely for the answers you seek and be patient. They may not always be the answers you were expecting, but they will be there!
Things to think about when “browsing” Reece’s Rainbow
If you are seriously considering adoption, you will need to be flexible, positive, determined and open-minded. I am sharing with such detail because it is so important for parents to go into the adoption process with open eyes and hopeful hearts.
The photographs on RR are generally taken for the purpose of documentation (for a child’s file, or to show that the child exists and is available for adoption). Once in a while, a photo on Reece’s Rainbow is one that was taken by a parent visiting the orphanage or institution (and you can usually tell when this is the case because the children are captured through loving eyes), but they are most often taken by orphanage directors or in-county adoption facilitators (who usually care about the children, but have time constraints and functional requirements in mind).
There isn’t always a lot of effort made to help a child put his or her best foot forward. Children are often gathered from various locations in the building, without consideration of whether they are sick or tired or hungry, but rather when the person in charge of taking pictures is there and able to do it.
And unfortunately, a “good” profile picture is one of the main reasons children are chosen for adoption (the other major “plus” is money in a child’s grant fund).
But potential adoptive parents should bear in mind that a profile picture is just a start. The children listed are all in their “raw” form, without the benefit of the love of a family, good nutrition, or excellent medical care. They may have been neglected, or underestimated since they were born. They may have received very little stimulation or developmental support.
But every child on Reece’s Rainbow is full of potential. And every child has dimension and personality. One profile picture can’t possibly show all of that.
It might be easier to take a leap of faith when you see a beautiful child, or when you read that the child is healthy or is an orphanage favorite.
But the information covered in the child’s listing is also just a start. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an open mind, and an open heart about all of these children.
Be honest with yourself about what you can handle. Recognize that you will be able to make some choices in the adoption process, but that some things will be out of your control. This is where faith comes in .
You won’t know anything for sure until you meet a child in person. I would caution parents to not rely on a child’s listing information or what you see in a profile picture. There is always more to the story than what one picture or a few sentences can reveal. The listing information is not always “exactly” accurate, and there are often other “surprises” when parents travel to meet their children.
These “surprises” could be little or big, and could mean that the child looks different than the parents had imagined (bigger, smaller, lighter hair, different colored eyes, etc.), or it could mean that the child has a health condition that was not mentioned (or maybe doesn’t actually have a condition that was listed). It could mean that the child is less able, or more able than the parents imagined. It could mean that the child has many orphanage behaviors, or is thriving despite less-than-ideal circumstances.
Adoptive parents need to be clear in their own minds about why they want to adopt, and then to remind themselves of that throughout the process.
One thing I do know is that despite the initial circumstances in which parents find their children, all children begin to blossom once home.
Love adds—it never takes away. Each of these children is worthy of love and a family, and is worth fighting for.
Adoption is a complete leap of faith—and a leap of love—much the same as the decision to have a biological child. We never know what any of our children will struggle with, or enjoy, or achieve. We can never predict how the future will play out.
Just like all people, each waiting child will have his or her own set of abilities and challenges. Each child will also bring untold gifts to his or her forever family.
What parents should consider and expect to work through once bringing a child home
Coming home is both exciting and exhausting! (That is a great description of the whole adoption process—it is thrilling and tiring at the same time—just like parenting in general.)
Just as when adding to the family with the birth of a biological child, there is a transition period when adding an adopted child to the family. With International Adoption, the biggest issues are often: a language barrier, bonding, routines, discipline, medical issues and behavior issues. There are so many resources to help parents sort through this part of the process. Reading The Connected Child is a great place to start.
All adoptive parents should expect some challenges once home, and that there will be an initial transition period (which often takes six months to a year). Again, be realistic, but positive. Children who have lived in an orphanage will need to “heal” from the years they have spent there. But with love and care, each of these children will be able to reach their full potential. And each will bring a special new dimension to your family .
The adoption process isn’t finished once you come home! There are still paperwork requirements (though not nearly as much as before traveling), and there are medical appointments, tests and exams for the child which are expected to be completed within two weeks of arrival back in the United States. (Most parents will come home with some medical information on their child, but doctors here will want to fully examine an adopted child to determine whether that information is accurate or not.)
Alina was not as thrown by all of the changes as we anticipated. She adapted very well, very quickly. With that said, we have seen major differences in her since she came home (for the better) and we have had some challenges.
Alina was not uncomfortable with hugs and kisses, but it was obvious that physical affection was confusing for her. She didn’t pull away from us, but she looked at us suspiciously when we kissed her. She also did not seek out physical closeness. She did love to have her hair brushed and her back rubbed from the beginning.
She is so different already. She gives hugs and kisses and high-fives willingly. She is so sweet and tender and loving. She loves to cuddle and to take care of her baby dolls and stuffed animals now, where she wasn’t sure what to do with them when she first came home.
Alina is much more mobile and curious than we anticipated—which is a good thing in many ways—but it was hard initially to establish boundaries with her, especially since we knew only a few basic phrases in Russian. And having “twins” with Down syndrome has taken more energy and focus than I expected.
There have been days when I was sure I was going to lose it, when I felt overwhelmed and tired, and isolated—but there were days like that before we adopted. That is part of parenting in general! But there have also been days where everything seems to have fallen into just the right place. Either way, I know we are living the life we were meant to lead.
Adding Alina to our family has not been particularly “easy”, but nothing worth having is ever easy, and she is worth it! Saving her is a decision we will never regret. She is a wonderful daughter, and we would travel half way around the world for her again in a heartbeat!
There is one other major issue that many adoptive parents struggle with—and it is the lasting impact of what they have seen and experienced while in country. The sights, sounds and smells of the orphanage or institution are haunting for many adoptive parents.
And the thought of the children…all of the children who also need homes, who we had to leave behind…they are seared into our minds.
There is such great need.
If you are moved to help these children, there are many things you can do. Each person’s role will be different. Using blogs and facebook to raise awareness is one way to help, even if you haven’t adopted or don’t think you’ll ever be able to adopt.
Some people will decide to adopt (one or multiple children), and some will donate money. Some will work to raise money, while others will work mainly to raise awareness. Everyone can pray and spread the word about the plight of these children.
We each have a role, and every little bit helps. Together, we CAN make a difference!
***edited to add: please click on the BLUE LINKS below!****
If you are reading this, I don't have any doubts that you have a heart for children like Alina. You wouldn't be here if you didn't. But having a heart for something and doing something about that burden are two different things. It is when our compassion motivates us to actually do something, that we move beyond sympathy to empathy, and into the realm of true love.
This Christmas season, a beautiful little girl needs our prayers. Desperately. And if you can help- or know anyone who can help- please do everything you can to do so.. I don't even have words to describe my grief over this situation.
And next month, Olga turns five. This means she is about to be transferred out of her orphanage...into a mental institution. For life. And if you think your little contribution won't do anything to help- think again. One year ago this week, Lisa was browsing Reece's Rainbow... and today Alina is happy and loved and safe because of someone's heart to give. Her fate could have been that of Elizabeth. Or Olga. Maybe I can't rescue every orphan, but I do believe it is worth it to give... and I do believe part of why God gave me Lily was to open my eyes to these discarded treasures thousands of miles away.