We are Parents of Large Adoptive Families
We are parents of large adoptive families. We are doctors, pastors, artists. We are stay at home moms who have had successful careers as college administrators, nurses, clothing designers. We have been employed by the National PTA, a state Supreme Court, or have run our own businesses. We are educated, we have incredible management skills, and we are passionate about providing permanency for children who have been abused and neglected. We have learned to be patient, to have realistic expectations, to be flexible, to be organized, to be self-differentiated, and to retain our sense of humor and maintain the gift of laughter.
We have not added children to our lives, we have made children our lives. We have given up our careers, our volunteer positions in the community, and our bowling leagues. We have chosen not to purchase a cabin on the lake, buy a brand new SUV, or travel to Disneyland every summer. We have made a conscious choice to parent many children because we believe that nothing is more damning to the soul of a child than impermanence.
We have parented many children. Some of us have determined that we can parent three or four, others have proven they can parent 20 or 30. We have parented children with profound developmental delays, children who are medically fragile, children who have Oppositional Defiant Disorder
, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Effect, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Reactive Attachment
Disorder, Conduct Disorder, and many other emotional and behavioral issues.
We have assisted our children by wading through IEPs and the special education system, we have interviewed dozens of therapists until we've found ones who are effective, we have advocated for our children to receive services, we have sought medical experts, and we have researched our children's disabilities. We have networked with other families like us to share resources and ideas, to provide encouragement and support, and to strategize.
We have accepted children into our homes as infants who have not been expected to live more than a few weeks but have thrived more than a decade. We have accepted large sibling groups who would have had to be separated from the only remaining people in their lives who they loved had we not agreed to parent them. We are successfully parenting children who have disrupted from other adoptive placements. We have welcomed teenagers whose workers had nearly given up and were ready to change the plan of the child to permanent foster care or residential treatment.
We have experienced successes as reflected in these short stories expressed in the parent's own words:
"The baby girl placed with us as our 7th child has CP, hydrocephalus, and many orthopedic problems. According to the Dr. she would be mentally handicapped. Today she is in a regular 2nd grade class, uses a wheelchair and occasionally a walker and just made the highest score in her class on the theme skills test in reading! Her intellect is just fine."
"My thirteenth son who is 18, has severe cerebral palsy, so severe that he can only open and close his left hand. He has the dubious honor of being the most disabled youngster to have ever been mainstreamed in the state of Iowa. Throughout his high school career, he has been ranked in the upper 5% of his class of 385 students. He will graduate this spring. He has found success by using a specialized computer and program that translates Morse code to the written word. After high school, he will take online college courses. His goal is to write children's books, especially for children with special needs."
"When our home study was first completed we had social workers flat out refuse to talk with us anymore when they found out we had 8 biological children. Our family was 'large enough already'. It didn't matter that we were experienced parents willing and able to take another child into our home. Our first adoption
is going wonderfully. Our son,who was 15 at the time of placement, sat in foster care for 8 years. His social worker
had basically given up finding a family for him and had started preliminary preparations for him to age out of the system. When I first began talking with her about placing him with us, she too was skeptical because of the size of our family. I'm happy to report that she would now love to place another child with us. Our son loves being a part of a large family too. And to think, this was a child that could very easily have aged out if his social worker hadn't gotten past the large family issue and really looked at us as a good match."
There are as many success stories as there are large adoptive families. But we also have learned to deal with children who have not yet reached that level of success. We parent children who have been dangerous to themselves or others and are now residing in psychiatric hospitals or treatment centers but still have parents who advocate for them and refuse to disrupt the adoptive placement. We have children who are in juvenile detention, children who are not passing their classes in school, children who may never reach the level of success that others do. And yet we are still loving them, advocating for them, hoping for them, believing in them, and reminding them that no matter what we will always be their parents. We compare them to their former selves, not to other children, and we see growth, change and progress.
We applaud the states who recognize us for what we are -- experts in parenting children who have been abused or neglected. We are grateful for the legislators in these states who have recognized that we, along with our agency social workers, can determine for ourselves what our limits are.
We question the decisions of policy makers who determine that a certain number of children is enough for any family without studying individual situations. We are perplexed by social workers who will refuse our families and choose instead to separate siblings, place teenagers in permanent foster care, or place children in residential treatment centers. And we are heartbroken when we see the efforts put forth in recruiting small adoptive families who quickly disrupt placements because they have not acquired the experience they need to parent such tough children.
We do not proclaim that large adoptive families are the only resource for children with serious issues, but we do believe that a large family is the best resource for some children. And we are confident that being adopted by a large family is almost always a better alternative than permanent foster care or residential treatment.
We have often heard the words, "there was a large adoptive family in our state a few years ago that fell apart so we don't select large families anymore." But we have never heard workers say, "I knew of a small family a few years ago that disrupted a child and the parents divorced, so I don't place with small families any more." Generalizations and comparisons to a small number of large adoptive family disasters is unfair.
We do not suggest that every large family is perfect or that every family is capable of parenting an infinite number of children. But we do believe that by limiting family size many states are neglecting their best resource. In no other arena are the most experienced ignored or the experts rejected, but we are often disregarded the moment our family size is revealed.
We are determined people who have decided how many children we can parent. We will find children to parent . Either the states where we live will place their children with us, or we will turn to surrounding states who appreciate large families and provide a forever family for their waiting children.
We ask for the cooperation of states and social workers. If treated with respect and dignity, parents of large adoptive families can be your most effective recruiters, your strongest advocates and your best post-adoption support resource.
We are the parents of large adoptive families. Our lives are different from the lives others have chosen. We are not crazy, we do know what we're getting ourselves into, and they are all ours. We have been called, we are on a mission, we are driven to provide the best home possible to as many children as we know we can handle.
The number of people in our country who will make the choice to selflessly devote themselves to troubled children is not large. There are few who will willingly "march into hell for a heavenly cause." We know what we do is hard and that few will do it and we are concerned that those who can and will are limited by law or bias. All of the children who are waiting do not have to wait. There are experienced families who can and will parent them if given the chance and we would like the opportunity, with the assistance of capable homestudy workers, to make our decision as to how many children we can parent.
We are the parents of large adoptive families. Hear us, work with us, consider us. Because children SHOULD NOT and DO NOT have to wait.