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We have lived in Romania for 16 years now. We have 6 kids.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Adoption: Pt. 1

We first met the twins just a month before their 4th birthday. They had been abandoned at birth by a very poor mother who had about 5 other kids and lived in a leaky one room hut. She was overwhelmed and didn't know what she would do with 2 babies so her best option, she thought, was to leave them in the care of the hospital. They were there for 6 months, not the best environment for development for the first 6 months of life. At 6 months, they were taken to a private children's home. Here, they had  many people who loved them but again, it wasn't ideal. They had many care givers who loved them but when you've been neglected and abandoned, love is not enough.  Care givers came and care givers went and the twins were never able to learn how to form a lasting bond with anyone. We were introduced to them and decided we would pursue adopting them unless God closed a door.

We knew from the time we moved to Romania that we would adopt. We knew nothing of attachment disorder, we were starry eyed and thought we could take in a child or two and they would be part of our family and know they were loved and the rest would be history. Adoption is the perfect picture of how God adopts us into his family. We are not pretty, we are messy, sinful, rebellious and yet he takes us in with all our baggage. We call him Father and He loves us as we are and begins to help us change but it's a long process. In a country full of fatherless children, we knew God was calling us to this.

We met these two beautiful sweet gypsy children and fell in love with them. The process was slow. We thought we would at least be granted custody fairly quickly so we told them on our second visit we wanted to be their mom and dad. They immediately begin calling us mom and dad. Then we realized we probably shouldn't have told them so quickly as it was a year long process before we were given  custody of them. It was a hard year, bringing them home for a week visit, then taking them the 4 hours back to the orphanage. Joey especially was upset every time we dropped him off. It didn't seem to phase Gina, she would run back in, wave bye and that would be it. Joey would cry, he was sad, he didn't understand why mom was bringing him back to the orphanage. Finally, on their 5th birthday, April 22, 2009, we were granted custody. They didn't have our name yet but they were in our home and we were a family at last! We were complete!

We had a year long honeymoon period. I was told Gina was a screamer but we never saw it in that first year. It was an amazing year, they smiled and laughed and spoke broken English. It was so much fun! Then after the first year, real life set in. That is when Gina had her first screaming fit. Boy could she scream even though she was little! It was usually only once a week sometimes only twice a month. She was little, she was manageable and she was usually just angry she didn't get her way. She never expressed anger or hatred towards us. She just didn't understand why she couldn't always have what she wanted. This began our long road to realizing our kids had a lot of baggage to deal with and we began to realize there were many emotional delays. We read a lot of books on how to help children from institutions. We loved them, we tried to be very consistent with what we expected of them. We tried rewards, we tried consequences, we tried keeping them busy, we tried keeping them on a tight schedule, we tried entertaining them all the time, we tried to teach them to entertain themselves. The walls were colored, furniture was colored, scissors had to be hidden (hair cuts, eyebrows, bed linen). When they got bored they would just mindlessly destroy something. The other kids would get frustrated when they would save up to buy something and then shortly after they made their purchase if Joey got his hands on it, it would be broken. We tried to remember things aren't important but we also tried to teach the twins to take care of things and to respect other people's property to no avail. Much later we realized they were OCD. It didn't matter what form of punishment or consequences they knew would come, if they had something in their head that they thought needed to be done, nothing was going to stop them from following through with it. They were funny and full of energy. It always felt when they were little like they tag teamed. It felt like somehow they discussed which one was going to give mom the most trouble that day. Thankfully, they never had a really bad day at the same time! We could never leave them without supervision. It was challenging too because our youngest son is 2 years younger then them but he has always been more responsible but the twins always thought we favored their younger brother because he had more privileges then they did.


Homeschooling was difficult. It was hard to tell if they really didn't understand something or if they just weren't in the mood to learn that day. There was also the language barrier. Not so much a barrier for us but trying to help them learn phonics in English was a slow process. In the midst of all this, we still had formed a love for them that could only come from God. We loved them, the boys loved them, they were our family. When they were 6 1/2 they finally received our last name and our names on their birth certificates. I'm not sure how significant this was for them since they already felt like family; they had been living with us for 18 months. The day they received their blue passports close to their 7th birthday they were so excited! It made them feel like part of the family since their passports matched ours!

We had no idea what Attachment Disorder was but would soon learn more about it. Attachment Disorder is when there has been a failure to form normal attachments to a primary care giver in early childhood. A frequent change in caregivers, many caregivers, or a lack of caregiver responsiveness to a child results in a lack of basic trust. The twins had many wonderful caregivers who deeply loved them. One of them actually has kept in contact with us all these years. They did the best they could for our twins but they were volunteers and they came and they went which made it difficult for the twins to be able to form lasting bonds with any one caregiver. The first time I went to pick the twins up and bring them home for a visit, I went by train. I got them on the train with me and a man with a beard sat next to us. Gina jumped into his lap and was rubbing his beard before I could even respond. No one was a stranger. We had to begin to try to teach them about the dangerous people that were out in the world. To them, everyone was their friend. They would talk to anyone and asked strangers the most personal of questions.

I remember  how entertained they were by seeing me after my shower with wet hair. They had never experienced any of their caregivers getting ready in the morning. They always just showed up ready for the day. They would just stand in the bathroom and watch me dry and fix my hair.  Joey's nose would bring him out to the kitchen when dinner was being cooked. He loved to eat and any time he smelled food, he'd be in the kitchen smelling, mouth watering, waiting for what was going to be put on the table. After breakfast he'd ask what we were going to have for lunch. After lunch he'd want to know what was for supper. So many new delights and it was fun to watch them get used to what life in a family was like.

Even though they were 5 years old when they moved in with us, it was like starting at the very beginning. They had no idea what it was like living with a family, being part of a family, having boundaries, and not having to fight for attention. They needed constant attention and supervision.

I think the adoption mindset is changing but raising the huge amount of money needed for foreign adoptions is the smallest of hurdles to jump over. It seems like people are a part of the adoption journey until you bring the children home and then they assume it's over. When the children are actually adopted is when the family will need the most support. Especially a family who adopts an older child from a traumatic background. They need your love and continual support and understanding. Many adoptions are "happily ever after" stories but just as many are not and those are the families that need a lot of support and understanding. They need for people to step in and assist them, help them find the counseling and help that they and their children need. If you have friends that have adopted or are adopting, don't walk away when they bring the child/children home. In a later post, I will tell you  some of the many ways that people in the states came a long side me (I arrived in the states with Gina 3 months before Baron) and helped carry the heavy load of finding help for  Attachment Disorder.

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