October 31, 2011

Last week, Donald and I saw the photographs of a set of siblings who need a home.

There are three of them, when we originally planned to only consider two children for adoption.  The oldest child is school-age, when we originally planned to only consider children younger than four years old.  The children have family connections which must be maintained, something we had not been open to.

But when I look at their faces…when I look at their faces, I can’t remember any of those things.  Are you our children?, I wonder.

Could we do this?, we ask ourselves.  Could we meet the needs of four children?  Do we have enough love for this?  Do we have enough patience?  Do we have enough self-assurance?  Do we have enough space in our home?  How would Charlotte handle three new siblings, boom, all at once?  Is this unfair to her?  Is it unfair to them?

Then the logistics ignite concern.  We would need a larger car.  We would need to find families nearby who had children of similar ages, so that they could forge enduring friendships.  We would need to make more food at dinner.

We would need to think about education, to re-evaluate whether home-education was a good fit for a child who has already spent time in a classroom and come to rely upon public school as a familiar part of their daily routine.

After a deep breath, a solid night of sleep, we see answers.  We think about it from a different perspective.  What if something happened to us and someone were assessing our Charlotte, our clever and silly and wonderful Charlotte, the way that we are assessing these children?  If they had a nurturing home to share, I would want them to jump in and give her all they could.  What if these children were nieces of nephews?  We would take them in without batting an eye, without once worrying about how much love or patience we had.  Because taking care of each other, well, that’s what families do.  It’s the price families pay and it’s the privilege they receive.  And the children who come into our lives, they are family.  Just because we don’t know them yet doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give them all we can.

We can buy a second-hand vehicle and sell the one we own, my husband tells me.  We can ask our community to help us out, I say.  We can move our social calendar to our home for a few months while the children settle into a routine.  We can find families with older children who live nearby.  We can assess the academic path that is best for each child and our family as that obstacle presents itself.

And goodness knows that cutting up a couple extra sweet potatoes for an afternoon snack isn’t brain surgery.

Of course, these things are coming anyway and our family’s transition period will be much more manageable with two new children than with three.  We also aren’t naïve.  Although we requested more information and our social worker promised to talk it over with us at our upcoming in-home orientation, we already know that these children will probably not join our family.  We know that with only a two-bedroom house we don’t have the space, that we aren’t prepared to adapt Charlotte from single-childhood to one-of-four overnight, that there are other families out there who can provide for these siblings better than we can.  We know that the stress of adopting three children could cause strain in our marriage and that adopting two children will cause less, which will allow us to provide a more secure home.  We know that it’s better to provide an excellent home with confident parents for three children than it is to provide an adequate home with frazzled parents for four children.  We know in our heart of hearts that the best match for us is a pair of two siblings, not three.

But when I look at their faces.  Oh, when I look at their faces I can’t remember any of those things.  Are you our children?, I wonder.  Am I supposed to fight for you?

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  1. By Alex on October 31, 2011

    You are such a strong and brave family. I know that you will give those kids the best home they could have, no matter whether there are two or three of them.

  2. By Amber on October 31, 2011

    My husband’s cousin (a social worker) & her husband—who found out they could not have children—ended up adopting FOUR children from Africa a few years ago. I believe they are all siblings & their mother had & then died from AIDS. They took in these children and they are THRIVING. THRIVING! Its been a few years & though we haven’t been down to see them (busy lives…) we get reports from my mother-in-law and the yearly Christmas letter. Its amazing what love can do, isn’t it? You & Donald would be amazing parents to children like this, too—I know it.

  3. By on October 31, 2011

    When my friend talks about their adoption, part of what she tells is seeing that baby’s picture and *knowing* she was looking at her daughter. Her husband and her moved forward without hesitation and that amazing girl has been home for five years now. Your family will recognize its missing members too.

  4. By Lisa on October 31, 2011

    I think adopting siblings is a wonderful idea. I’ve personaly known 2 families to do that. One adopted 3 at a time (they had no other children) and then, the biological mother had another child and they adopted him as well.
    The other family adopted 3 children from Rwanda.
    The Canadian family knew the Rwandan family through relief work. The parents were killed in the civil war and the Canadian family adopted the children. They were between the ages of 4 and 11, I think. The adopted children seemed to fit right into the family which already had 3 other kids.

    Anyway, whether or not you adopt 2 or 3 children, it’s great that you’re going to be adopting siblings.

  5. By debbie on October 31, 2011

    May I just thank you, from the depths of my heart, for reconsidering keeping the connection to bio parents open? As a woman who placed a child (way different from foster care, I know) I know how important these connections can be.

  6. By on November 01, 2011

    Sarah, I recently took a job with a community “wraparound” program, offering a continuum of services to families with kids who, in some cases, are in similar situations to the kids you’re looking at. I applaud your desire to be open to these children, but please, I’m begging you: be realistic about what taking these kids on could potentially entail. Don’t close your eyes to any aspect of their history—abuse, neglect, drug use, disabilities, educational needs, socialization—because every bit of it is relevent and can’t always be overcome. I love you for jumping on board, but please be aware that what you’re open to is an incredibly loving and unselfish act on your part, but also can have long-lasting and shocking consequences.

  7. By on November 01, 2011

    Similar to Molly’s comment, the first thing I thought, as someone also in the mental health field, was about the incredible difficulties that come with adopting older children. I fully admire and support your decision to consider this option, but hope that you will do a lot of research on attachment disorders, sensory issues, PTSD, and other mental health issues that challenge older children in the system. When you mentioned cutting up extra sweet potato, I was thinking how difficult it might be to have your world turned COMPLETELY upside-down. It takes so much more than love, unfortunately. I wish you and your family the best in this heart-wrenching decision.

  8. By Sarah Christensen on November 01, 2011

    Molly and Joanna - Please rest assured that we are being as realistic about this situation as we can.  It’s important to us not to turn away without considering these children, but there are so many challenges to face with these three that we weren’t originally open to - for very specific reasons.  As part of this process, we have spent a very significant amount of time talking to people we know who work in child services, who were adopted as children, and who have adopted their children - particularly older children and sibling sets - and each of these people has given us valuable insight into adoption that brought me to the point of this post: that while I think it’s important to be open to these children and while we’re trying very hard to find ways to make it work, ultimately we just feel that this isn’t the right choice for us.

    Coming to that realization that you probably can’t help three children when you wish you could is the most heart-breaking reality in the world of adoption.

  9. By on November 02, 2011

    I admire your quest to adopt. It is something that I have always wanted to do myself. I am reminded of a post you wrote about asking your husband how he felt about adoption. My husband was adopted, and he is not at all open to even considering adoption. He believes that he will never love an adopted child as much as our biological one. I hope to someday foster children to show him how much love we can have for another child who doesn’t share our DNA. Thank you for all your posts on adoption. I look forward to hearing more about your journey.

  10. By on November 03, 2011

    Sarah, I must thank you for opening your heart and thoughts on here. I first found your blog through drmomma.org (your modern day wet nurse post). I’ve been checking back here ever since. When I read about your miscarriage I broke. Your dear little Charlotte reminds me so much of my own dear girl. I miscarried when she was 21 months old, and while that is now over two years ago, my grief was raw once more as I read of your trials and pain. After trying again to conceive for two years, my husband and I decided to go forward with adoption. It was not a second-best decision for us; it was always the plan. We just thought that we would have another through birth first. We are in the process of getting our foster-adopt licensing. After I had gotten busy and hadn’t checked your blog for a while, a friend of mine asked if I had read your blog lately. I couldn’t think of the last time. “She’s adopting!“ she said. Once again, our lives seem to be flowing in similar ways. Your perspective adds so much to my own joy and pain. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.





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