Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Attachment and Bonding - Part 1

This post has been a long time coming, but it's one of those things that no one *really* wants to talk about. However, as we get closer and closer to getting a placement it is something that Ben and I want to make sure that everyone understands. We figured that if we talk about it a little early it will give all of our friends and family a little time to digest all of this information, ask all the questions that they want to ask, and get a better understanding of the issue before there are children involved.

Please know that we have done a LOT of research on this topic, and that we are continuing to research and so we may change our minds, revise our plan, etc. None of this is meant to hurt anyone, but we really want to do what is best for our child/ren and what will benefit them the most in the long run. I have been reading books, blogs, watching DVDs that our agency has provided and prayed long and hard about what will be best for our family and our child/ren. This is not just some crazy idea that we have come up with, it's something that all adoptive families have (or should!) think about. Now, that doesn't mean that there is any perfect way to deal with attachment and bonding. There are so many variables, and each family has to consider what is best for them and their child! So please, if you are adopting or know someone who has adopted or is in the process, don't think that our way is the only way! We know people who have done very different things with their adopted children and we recognize that there isn't a *right* way to deal with all of this.

To start, I want to explain a little bit about attachment and bonding. First, they are very different things. Bonding is something that happens quickly - it can happen immediately, or take a few weeks or maybe even more - but a bond is simply that human connection that we have with each other. We all bond with many other people in our lives such as family and friends, and these bonds are important. However, a bond is not the same thing as attachment. Attachment is a much more significant bond which takes a longer time to establish. Attachment can take weeks, or even years, to solidify. Most people only have a very few other people in their lives who they are "attached" to. This is a deep bond, most often between a parent and child, or between spouses. Both of these types of bonds are critical to families, and especially to a newly formed family.

The children who are in the foster system are there for various reasons, which I won't go into right now, but the bottom line is that each child in the system has biological parents. Most of the children that are in the age range that we are looking at will probably have lived with their bio parents for a decent portion of their lives. Regardless of how the children were treated by that parent (and not all of them were neglected or abused, many of the parents have addictions and such that keep them from being able to care for their children) there is still an important attachment between the child and their parent (or whomever had been caring for the child). It is difficult to understand, but many children are fiercely loyal to their parent even though it is clear to the state and to anyone else viewing the relationship that it is not to the child's benefit to stay with that parent. It's the same type of thing that you often see with women who are being abused by their husband; they are loyal to him even though the relationship is not beneficial at all. Anyway, what I am getting at is that the children in the system often genuinely love their caregiver despite the family history.

Because of this, it is entirely common for children to actually be in mourning both when the enter the foster system (or orphanage if that is the case) as well as when the are introduced into the home of their forever family. Interestingly, research has shown that this is true both for older children as well as newborns. So, while for our family it will be a joyous time as we welcome our new child/ren, there is a deep sense of loss and sadness for the child because they are losing the only family that he/she has ever known.

Of course, all of this is dependent on so many factors such as the child's age, time spent in the foster system, etc., but overall this is an idea of what we are expecting. Even if a child has been in the foster system for a long period of time it is possible that he/she may be mourning the loss of their previous foster family as well as the loss of hope. I imagine that for many children in the system there is a sense of hope that mom or dad will get better and be able to bring the child back home. Often this does happen and the parent relapses again. All of this is stuff that the child will have been dealing with and will still be dealing with as they enter our home. Can you even begin to imagine the confusion? So far in this child's life nothing has been permanent. Everyone has left them in some capacity. There are some significant issues with trust, and these all seriously impede the child's ability to form secure and healthy bonds with people.

Although there is a lot more that I want to say about this, I feel like this is probably an overwhelming amount of information for right now! Please understand that we are fully aware of many of the issues that we will be dealing with. They will be TOUGH issues, and they aren't going to disappear quickly. However, we are fully committed to being the loving family that every child deserves. Part of that will involve having a specific, written plan for how we will help our family to bond and form healthy attachments. I'll get into that more in the future.

Thank you for sticking with us through all of this! It has been quite a journey so far, and I'm excited to see where we are headed!!! Right now we are still waiting, and preparing as best as we can. It feels like it has been forever since we sent our fingerprints to the FBI, but it has only been six weeks. We are praying for a miracle (that they will get the results to our agency SOON!) but it can take up to 13 weeks. Argh. Either way we know that God's timing is perfect and He knows what is best for us and for our child/ren!

Oh, and if you want to read more about attachment I came across a blog that is beautifully written that you may enjoy. This family adopted a young boy internationally, so some of it is different from our situation, but it is still applicable and she says it MUCH better than I ever could! Here it is:

Love you all!

B, E & H

Monday, February 20, 2012

Praying for patience...

The funny thing about patience is that you don't really have a choice. I mean, I sure wish I could speed things along, but there honestly isn't a thing that I can do other than sit back and wait! So, that's pretty much what we have been doing lately. Which isn't saying that we have been bored by any stretch of the imagination.

Two weeks ago Ben headed out "to the field." Which is Army lingo for playing Soldier in their own backyard. Okay, maybe not exactly, but you get the idea! He was out doing training, conducting ranges, sleeping in tents, and not showering. Ewwww... There are lots of reasons that I would never join the Army and not showering for two weeks is definitely one of them! I have said it before, and I'm sure I will say it again; I make a pretty good Army wife and I am most certainly proud of my hubby, but I am NOT cut out to be a Soldier! Anyway, his training went well and he finally made it home, showered and had some real food. He even got one day off before he had to head back to work this morning to put all the equipment away and such. But, the awesome part is that he will get a four day weekend this weekend, just in time for his thirtieth birthday!!! We are so excited to get to spend some time together as a family and enjoy each other's company for a while.

Right after Ben left, Hunter and I headed to IL for a week to visit family. It was a great visit, but it went so quickly! It always does. We visited the Shedd Aquarium, had a valentine's party, spent some time with Hunter's G.G. (great grandma), saw lots of family and had a lot of fun!

So, we haven't been bored! But we are just waiting. Right now we are still waiting for our fingerprints to be cleared by the FBI, and after that our agency can submit all our paperwork to the state so that we can receive our foster license. It will take about 3-4 weeks after that paper is submitted for our license to be approved, so we are hoping that the fingerprints arrive soon! Once we have the license our social worker will be able to start looking for possible placements for us, which is sooooooooooooo exciting. The way I understand it, she will attend different consortium's in which children that are waiting for homes will be presented. If she feels that any of these children would be a good fit for our family she will talk to their social worker and give that social worker our home study along with a little photo profile of our family. That worker will then review our information and if he/she feels that we are a good fit we will be contacted about the child/ren. So, there are a lot of pieces that have to fall in place for us to even be contacted about a particular child or sibling group.

Well, I guess that's all for now. Nothing exciting to report, but we are still here and waiting! Thank you again for all of your support. It feels so good to log in to the blog and see that people have been checking it, even when I haven't been posting! I would love to post every day, but there is a silly little boy in my house that takes up most of my time! :) Lucky for him, I'd rather spend time with him than posting on here, so sorry for the long breaks sometimes.

Keep praying, we are getting closer and closer!


B, E & H

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can you believe it?

Our (awesome!) social worker has our home study written already! How fantastic is that?!?! Last night Ben and I both read through it and sent it back to her. So now we are just waiting on all the background checks so that we can request our foster license through the state. The irony is that it is the fourth time that the FBI will have cleared our fingerprints (I'm pretty sure that we are still not criminals...) and at least the second or third time that all five states that we have lived in during the past five years will clear us as well. All this even though Ben has a military security clearance. But, I understand. The state has to make sure that we aren't complete crazies before we can be trusted with kids.

On another positive note, this past weekend we were able to attend the first annual "Refresh" conference at Overlake Church. It is a conference just for foster and adoptive parents and it was fantastic! There were so many wonderful speakers and we walked away from it feeling a renewed strength about the process. Granted, we also walked away wondering what in the world we are getting ourselves into, but I promise that we aren't backing down now! There were so many people there from so many different walks on this crazy road of adoptive and foster care. One woman had hosted 190 children in her home throughout her time as a foster parent. Can you even imagine??? WOW. And to think that I'm worried about one or two kiddos :)

I feel like there is so much that I want to share with you from this weekend, but I will just have to do it in little installments. That way I don't get overwhelmed. Plus, it will give me something to write about while we wait.

I know that I say it a lot, but I really do want to thank you for following us on this crazy ride. It means so much to us to know that we have such amazing friends and family supporting us. While we were talking with the social worker during our home visit she was astounded at the number of wonderful adoptive families that we know. I guess I had just come to think that it was normal! Ha! What a blessing to think that among so many of our friends it is "normal" to expand our families in this way. God is so good!!!

Love you all and I promise to write more soon!

E (B & H too, but they just get the credit!)