International (MNN) — Families go through the adoption process, and adoption agencies prepare people for the unexpected: a sick child, a difficult journey, developmental delays. But there isn’t much for “After the Bliss.”
Kris Faase with Bethany Christian Services is the Senior Vice President of Clinical Services. She explains, “When we adopt a child and bring that child into our family, we want so much for that child to integrate and meld right into our family and just become part of the fabric.”
The reality can be startling. Faase says as the challenges emerge, some adoptive parents might be asking themselves, “‘What did we get into? No. We need to love this child.'” She adds, “We also often bring an expectation even though it may be hidden, that ‘they’ll just be happy, and they’ll attach to us.'”
Sometimes, doubts and worries surface, and instead of seeking help, adoptive parents may try to tough it out because they worry that an admission could get them branded as unfit or incompetent parents. They think, “We’ve been telling this agency and these social workers that we’re going to be a great family. We can do this. Of course we’re prepared!” says Faase. “It’s very hard to go back and say, ‘Ummm….maybe not so much.’”
Each child that walks through the adoptive process comes in with unique gifts and abilities and also some challenges that manifest in the form of behaviors. “One of the first things that we run into with families is that these kids are angry; they may have behaviors that we don’t understand, and that sets up conflict almost right away.”
What then? If it’s past the one-year mark, adoption support has gone away. But adoption is a lifelong journey. Where do struggling families turn for help? Faase says, “A lot of the resources that we’ve developed are because we know it’s hard to make that call and say, ‘Things aren’t going so well,’ or ‘I don’t know how to handle this.’ Sometimes it’s even ‘I’m at my wits’ end.'”
For one thing, says Faase, Bethany offers the Lifelines quarterly magazine. The articles cover a wide range of timely subjects and help adoptive families learn how to deal with some issues or recognize them before they become problematic.
If a more one-on-one approach is needed, “We also have a post-adoption contact center, because we know it’s hard to make that phone call. We have an adoption-competent clinician. She’s available to families to help them navigate some of those challenges and maybe identify resources in their community.”
Conflict isn’t the only challenge that comes up for adoptive families. “One that we commonly hear about are identity questions and struggles that kids who are adopted may face differently than kids who are biologically born into a family,” says Faase. The common theme, she adds, is community. Everyone wants to belong somewhere. “Post-adoption support is one way that we don’t go it alone but we access gifts from God with other people who understand, or who can come with compassion, knowledge. God reveals Himself to us in so many ways.”
Whether you are an adoptive parent, a birth parent, or were adopted yourself, Bethany’s staff is dedicated to supporting you and providing useful information through their services.
The journey doesn’t end when the adoption is finalized. In fact, it’s just beginning. If you need help, or just want to explore a little more about what kind of support is out there, click here.