GREATER DETROIT – My husband and I became first-time parents to a 5 and 8 year old, both at the same time, through the gift of adoption. We were overcome with mixed emotions, thrilled that we would finally be parents, and petrified that we didn’t know what we were doing. Although most parents might not adopt, I think those feelings are common to all new parents, no matter how they get the title.
Parenting is hard, and parenting children through adoption creates some additional, and often unique challenges. It is important to remember that adoption is born out of grief and loss. My being able to become a parent came at the expense of another family not being able to parent their children. My children lost everything they knew when we became their parents. Because they lived in another country, they even lost things like their language, their food, and their culture. In addition, many adopted children encounter neglect and trauma; therefore, their earliest template of a family is not a good model. As a result there are many barriers to overcome and simply taking a child and placing them in a loving family does not ease or erase those barriers.
When we look at scripture, we see that God obviously has a tender spot toward the fatherless or orphans. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress.”
So how can the church “look after” or help adoptive families?
Understand that the process of becoming a family is most often slow with many steps forward and back, especially when the children are older when they are adopted. It is much easier to become a family on paper than it is to become one in the heart and mind. I remember one day when my kindergartener came to the car after school and said, “They called me Duletzke today. I do not want to be Duletzke tomorrow.” Parents and children need grace as the process unfolds, and many times this process can look anything but smooth along the way.
Provide support and encouragement to the family, just as you would to a family who has brought home a newborn. Bring them a meal. Ask if you can watch the children so the parents can go for coffee or dinner. Provide a listening, non-judgmental ear to them as they walk out this process of becoming a family. Send a text or card to encourage them. Above all, pray for these families. God is the one who can bring healing to broken families and broken people.
Be sensitive in your language. Don’t use terms like “real parents” or “real children.” Be understanding that there may be some stories in the Bible even that are hard for the children to hear, such as when baby Moses was put in the river by his mother. Things you might not anticipate may trigger feelings of rejection.
I have often thought the best representation of my family is a mosaic: broken pieces, fitted together to make an amazingly beautiful picture. But isn’t that a picture of the church too? Adoptive families and the church need each other. If you or your church are interested in discovering more about how you can support adoptive families, please visit: www.namb.net/news/adopting-and-fostering-podcast-breaks-myths-shares-insights/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melanie Duletzke is passionate about ministry to women and ministry to families. She has served on staff at the church and/or associational level in Michigan, Texas, and Idaho and has a degree in Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, she has taught at the middle school, high school, and university level, and she is currently a district director of special services. She has been married to her husband, Rob, for fifteen years, and she is the mom to two amazing children, Leydi and Christian.