Finally the day came to face the matching panel. To explain why we wanted to adopt Star and for the next official step of our adoption journey.
It was Friday, just after 5pm, the day had felt like an eternity, (as we knew the social work team were meeting to discuss who Star’s forever family would be,) and the phone rang.
It was Star’s family finding social worker ringing from the train station, because she wanted us to know, they had chosen us.
I silently jumped up and down in our study, barely able to take it in.
And then a new waiting game started. Now, we were linked. We were the only link they were progressing but they needed to find out more about us and we needed to find out more about Star.
Which really makes you think. How much do we really know each other and ourselves? How should one judge themselves? Should we present our best, cleanest, neatest, politest version of us? The person we hope to be and wish other people to see. Or do we dwell on our worst bits, our worst moments, the lack of patience, the times when we are selfish, afraid, tired and grumpy.
If you were to sum up yourself or your children what would you write?
And so there were meetings, with her foster carer, the social worker who had removed her from her birth home, and her current social worker. Medical reports, educational psychology reports, nursery reports. Words, grades, tests. But are we not more than the sum of our biology, of our grades, of our abilities?
Some of these reports made me mad, I mean really mad. The medical was strewn with errors – it turns out the doctor had not even met her. The educational psychologist wrote that she was a child who “paid no regard for the routine of the session at nursery” and “prefers to run around doing whatever she chooses.” I have read about the “Tiger mother”, the “Dragon mother”, I don’t know what animal defines the would-be adopted mother of the child with special needs who they have never met…I was that mother, and I was mad. I thought “good on her, she knows her own mind, and actually maybe the previously neglected child who is in foster care, with very limited speech should not be having to conform to your routine…..maybe you should be conforming to hers.”
However the question remained, who is this child and one day will she be ours?
Whose word can we trust, because everyone had an agenda? And she has no voice to speak for herself.
Then there comes the uncertainty, the known problems and the suspected problems. The troubling behaviour and the cute, heartwarming attributes. And that smile.
Which makes you think
If someone has written a report about me: my strengths, my weaknesses, my skills, my bad habits, what would it say, and would anyone have wanted me?
Consider this, what if that report contained more than a CV containing grades and honest personal references from people who have seen us at our worst. What if the report contained everything we have ever thought, said and done?
What if that report, or DVD was viewed not by a social worker, but by a holy and all knowing God. What then?
The Bible tells us that God knit us together in the womb, he has numbered our days and the hairs on our head, he knows us completely – even before a word is on our tongue he knows what it will be..
How correct the Psalmist is in Psalm 139: this knowledge is too overwhelming for me… (Too wonderful, to lofty to attain.)
Until I remember Jesus
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5v8b
God knows my entire report, including the bits I don’t know yet. If another human being knew that report, I would not want to be in the same room as them. Ever.
God, who is holy and just, knows me completely, he has read my “report” and instead of banishing me, he sent his son to die in my place, to take the punishment that was rightfully mine and in exchange I am ransomed, healed, forgiven and adopted into his family.
That, my friend, is Amazing Grace. That is my security and hope. That defines my present identity and my eternal future.
Thank you, Jesus.
It was a very ordinary Friday in mid December . I came home after a brain-numbing day at work, collected the children from school and they settled down in front of the TV and I snuggled on the sofa and got out our I pad.
We had been approved as adopters just over a month before. We had created a profile of ourselves for a site called Adoption Link. It included some pictures of us and our house, a paragraph about us and the child we were looking for, we had to put ticks and crosses in little boxes regarding the sorts of problems we might be able to manage in a child, looking for a forever home.
You can view stats on the site. Such as how many people had viewed our profile. How many children we were linked with and how many links each child had.
For the first few days I had logged on obsessively, looking for a child to fit our criteria – a girl aged less than 3. And while there were lots of children on the site, not many who met this criteria. Many said they were looking for this child to be the only child in the family. Several had significant long term or life limiting illnesses.
I can still see some of their faces when I close my eyes.
After a week or so hardly anyone had viewed our profile. I had to tell myself to be a grown up. We have each other and our 2 lovely children. What about the children, with no family and no one enquiring or wanting them. My DH, ever practical said it did not matter that there weren’t many children who we could realistically offer a home to, there only needed to be one.
You make an enquiry to the social workers , often this goes weeks without being answered. And you wait, wondering whether this child might be yours one day. And then you get an e mail, saying the social workers have progressed the link with someone else and the child’s picture is gone.
So I stopped logging on for a bit. It was just too hard. Too painful. Too many faces of children’s lives blighted by drugs, alcohol, neglect and disease. Too many that we couldn’t help.
But on this day I decided to log on again.
And then I saw her face..
Twinkling eyes, huge smile, hair standing on end as she knelt on a trampoline. Another photo.. Face alive with mischief as she wore a pair of shorts on her head. I read the words: “Star is bright, chatty, full of energy and mischief. ” “Star has Down syndrome.” More photos: playing in the sand pit, walking on the trampoline, climbing into her Foster carers boots. However I didn’t see a diagnosis, I saw a little girl, full of life, who needed a home. A beautiful little girl, who needed a forever home.
I sent a “link request” and a little note:
” we have experience of children who have lots of energy and mischief.. Would like to find out more.”
I pressed send. Closed my I pad. I wondered if that had been too flippant.
And then the phone rang…
Her social worker, talkative and excited…painting a picture in my mind and adding to the colour of the words I had read: a child, who loves her trampoline, is chatty, affectionate, and when excited she jumps up and down. Her birth family background, why she is in care, why she needs an adoptive family.
And then, we spoke to our SW and sent our report.
And waited, and waited, hours turned into days, and the numbers of families linked to little Star on Adoption Link grew.
“They have found somebody better than us,” I told my Mum.
Our SW couldn’t get through to hers. And then the computer systems wouldn’t connect to send the reports, and then they would. They set a linking meeting to discuss which family to go forward with, then it was postponed.
A sensible person probably would have waited patiently, prayerfully and calmly.
The problem is that love is not sensible .. Not at all.
I logged in every day, just to see her face. I imagined, I researched. I wrote Christmas cards and wondered if her name would be on them next year. I wrote out our family calendar with important dates for the coming year and left the 5th column blank.
Between Christmas and New Year our social worker came round with her CPR. (Child permanence report.) This was the report presented to court for her adoption hearing. It told the tale of her story, and that of her birth parents. A tale of loss, and of grief and hope. The conclusion: “Star needs a forever family of her own.”
And as we waited and hoped, discussed and planned. It occurred to me that God also made a plan to bring children into his family. A plan that was costly, because for God, before adoption, came the cross.
We are approaching our first Mothers’ Day as an adoptive family. And this quote is frequently on my mind:
“A child born to another woman calls me “Mummy” the depth of that tragedy and the enormity of that privilege are not lost on me.” (Jody Landers)
Tragedy and privilege.
Two mothers approaching Mothering Sunday, one will receive cards, smiles, chocolatey kisses, crafts from school and clubs, the other lives in a house, once full, but now empty of children.
Sometimes the weight of that tragedy is overwhelming. We have photos of Star’s first mother, we know where she went to school, the things she enjoyed doing and some of the choices she made.
There are so many questions I would like to ask her “why?”
“why did you choose to do that, why him?”
“why couldn’t you (or wouldn’t you) accept help?”
Sometimes there is just anger and “how could you.”
Then, at times there is a deep sorrow, for a mother who tried and failed, and had her children permanently removed.
You see, on the day of the court hearing, hundred of miles away, I could picture them, getting up and dressed, taking the money they had saved up for the bus fare to go to court to plead to have their daughter back. By this point we knew it was (legally) futile. We have her letter to the court which states they love her, that they want her back, and that no one will ever love their daughter the way they do.
And in a way they are correct.
I did not give birth or carry her in my womb. I did not see her smile for the first time or watch her take her first steps.
Neither was I there to hold her when she was afraid, cold and hungry. I was not there to protect her, or to explain to her what was happening, when those who should have loved, protected and always put her first, didn’t.
I was not there the day she lost everything and everyone she had ever known.
But I am here now.
I did not gain the right to be her Mummy through biology, no, ours was a long, risky, uncertain process, to finally, legally be her adoptive parents. For us adoption is a reality of what God has done for us, in Jesus. In adopting a child into our family, we are simply loving because “he first loved us.”
Or as I read once:
“We adopt not because we are the rescuers. No, it is because we are the rescued.” (David Platt)
When you adopt you realise that the pain, loss and tragedy of the child’s journey comes too. The memories and the scars can’t be easily left behind. But we take comfort and strength in the fact that interceding for us in heaven stands the one who endured the cross, was raised to life and bears the nail marks in his hands as he prays.
God knows about the cost of adopting children into his family. Because it took Calvary to bring me into his forever family. Not just words, but action: bearing the judgement I deserve, pain, separation from his Father and outrageous sacrificial love.
Which makes me think about love, what it is and how we communicate it.
Someone tried to tell me once that Makaton was a less valid form of communication than speech.
I know they are wrong..
Because when my daughter signed that I was her “forever Mummy” for the first time, I thought my heart would burst.
She is my daughter and I am her forever mummy. On this Mother’s Day and for always.
Her story, is now part of my story and it involves pain and privilege, loss and joy. As we pray together at night we list the members of her families, adoptive and birth, and pray that our mighty loving God will meet with and help each one.
How comforting it is to lift her birth family and our family to our perfect Heavenly Father in prayer. To thank him that we are now an adoptive family, to thank him for our safety, fun and joy, to entrust to his care the impact of the past, to ask for strength for the challenges of each day, and to know he promises to be with us and to help us on this Mothering Sunday and always.