Adoption When It’s Not Easy – MBFLP 225

Adoption is a picture of God’s love for His people. It literally saves lives and it rescues children from terrible situations. It’s not as simple as choosing a pet from the store, though, and adopted children often have problems that continue into adult life. This episode, we talk with Shauna Lopez, an adoptive parent who’s dealt with traumatized children in her own home. Learn what to prepare for if you’re considering adoption, and how to come alongside and love families who are in the process themselves.

Adoption When It's Not Easy

Recently at the Teach Them Diligently conference in Waco, Texas, we had the opportunity to interview our friend Shauna Lopez. We met Shauna, her husband Abel, and their family in our travels several years ago, and we’ve stayed in their home. A few years before we met them, they had a difficult experience adopting three young boys, and Shauna agreed to share some of what they’ve learned.

(You can read their whole story on their website, adoptionishard.com)

One of the concerns we have is that Shauna and Abel’s experience is not uncommon, but it’s not widely recognized. Children who have been through trauma react differently to parenting.

“People think that’s an exception to the rule, and it isn’t. People don’t realize that trauma in any form alters the brain, but especially in children who have been taken from their parents,” Shauna said. “It alters the brain chemistry and it alters their development.”

Trauma has a tremendous impact

Others observe that any adoption, even within a family, starts with some sort of catastrophe. Children don’t end up adopted unless there’s been some loss, some trauma, or some trouble in that young life.

“And that’s really the thing,” she continued, “because when a child undergoes trauma, it undermines new trust. … When we adopted three-month-old twins, we thought they’ll only ever know us as their parents. But that wasn’t true, because they had a family for three months [after they were born] plus nine months [in the womb]. So for a full year they had a whole other family, whole other sounds, whole other voices, whole other stressors and non-stressors in feelings. And then to go from hospital with mom, three days later taken from that environment, those smells, those voices, those environmental contributors, to a foster mom for three months — different sounds, different smells, different voices–and then placed in our home–different sounds, different smells, different voices. And we think ‘What’s the big deal?’”

“Their brains are rapidly developing during those times. And with trauma after trauma after trauma–and all of those things are traumas to a young child–it changes the chemistry of their brain and the way that they respond. How on earth could they expect to feel safe when everything keeps changing over and over?”

Understanding children with trauma and the families who adopt them

 

Discipline will be different with adoptive kids

“So you can’t take the typical parenting advice about discipline for a young child and apply it to a child who’s been traumatized. … When we deal with children who have been safe from the beginning, those kids know they’re okay. They know they’re safe, they know everything’s going to be all right. They have that trust. But when you deal with a child who has been traumatized, where that trust has been taken away–if it was ever even there–…sometimes, they don’t have that trust that no one’s going to hurt them. Instead they freak out. They ‘fight or flight.’ They literally go into self-preservation mode even as young children.”

“We’re not saying don’t adopt. Adoption is amazing. God adopts us. It’s God-ordained. It honors God. It represents Christ and the church. It’s wonderful. What we’re saying is be prepared. Not just what the state requires of you, but beyond that. We have to go beyond that.”

To find out more about loving children with trauma – and ministering to the families who adopt them – listen in to the rest of the program!


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