TomVanderwell

Feb 072015
 

And this, my friends, is how it should be, if it can be…….

She said, “YES.”

We took in a new little love at HOPE House yesterday.  Her name is Nayika.  You can tell by the look in her eyes that she doesn’t feel good.  And likely never has.  Since she was two months old her mother has called us needing money to take her to the hospital, money for food, and for a place to live.  She is now seventeen months old and her situation wasn’t getting any better. Earlier this week her mother called to say she couldn’t keep caring Nayika any longer, and she was going to place her in an orphanage.

We asked her to come to Port-au-Prince so we could help her find a better solution.  Yesterday evening she arrived at HOPE House and we asked her, “If you had a job and a place to live, do you want to raise this baby?  Do you WANT to keep her?”  With tears swelling in her eyes and a smile across her face, she held Nayika, a bit tighter and said, “YES.”

Read the rest here……..

Jan 202015
 

I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot lately.

No, I’m not talking about the trip home from the airport after you get back from vacation.

I’m talking after the airport.

With a capital T and a capital A.

THE airport.   The one where you come home with your adopted child(ren).    The one where the family meets the cousins, nephew, niece, grandchild etc. for the first time.

THE Airport – the place where your adopted child(ren) are thrust into a whole different world.   A world where there are a lot of people who know them and love them.   Or at least love the picture of them and the “idea” of them.

THE AIRPORT – where everything changes.   Where your child goes from being one of many to suddenly being the center of attention.    From being on a trip to going to a strange house they’ve never been in before.

There are times where, after the airport, it truly is a “happily ever after” story.   Child adjusts well, learns a new language, learns to like chicken nuggets and fries, loves mom and dad and does well in school.

And there are times when it doesn’t.

When after the airport is a whole lot of work. And a whole lot of pain.  And a whole lot of struggle.

An example of that – a friend of mine wrote a post on her blog about dealing with the trauma that many adopted kids struggle with.   You can read it at http://outofshemind.com/2015/01/dear-adoptive-parents-hard-lonely-road/.   It was shared on Facebook over 14,000 times and was read by over 60,000 people.  Think about those numbers.   14,000 times.   That means that 14,000 families are acquainted with the struggles that many adoptive families go through and felt others should know about what Heidi wrote.  60,000 views.   That means that 60,000 people read what she wrote about it.   60,000 people – even if you figure two people per family, that’s still 30,000 families.

Those are vulnerable children.   Children who have a new family.   Children who aren’t vulnerable to malnutrition or preventable disease, but children who are vulnerable.   Vulnerable to the scars of their past.   Vulnerable to the culture shock of going to a new country, a new language, a new…….

Those are vulnerable families.   They are, mostly, experienced parents who know a bit about parenting.    But they haven’t been adequately prepared for THIS.

For Reactive Attachment Disorder.

For what PTSD looks like in adopted children.

For a whole host of other scars.

How can you prepare for the unknown?   It’s not easy.

But, there are things you can do, before the airport, to make “after the airport” go smoother.

I’ll expand on this in the future, but a couple of quick thoughts:

  • Make contacts with some experienced parents – people you can call or text and say, “oh my goodness, what do I do?”
  • Read – read books, read blogs, live into the experiences of others who are walking that trail and sharing it with others.   And don’t let just one spouse read and tell the other about it – both should read…….
  • Plan for chaos – plan for how you’re going to handle chaos.   Look at it sort of like going white water rafting.   The time before the airport, you’re riding in the raft and it’s relatively smooth.   But you know big rapids are coming.   You don’t know how big they are, but you know they are coming.   Prepare for it – talk through what you’re going to do.   Talk through how you’re going to communicate.    If the rapids are minor, it will have been a good exercise in communication.   If it’s a really wild ride, it could be life saving.

Remember, you are not alone.

Tom

Jan 152015
 

I’m going to jump into a difficult subject today.    It has to do with adoption and what happens after the kids get home.   But first, I need to make a disclaimer that comes with a couple of points:

  1. Not every child who is adopted deals with trauma issues.   Many of them live fully adjusted, totally normal lives (if you can even define normal) and don’t carry any emotional baggage from being orphaned and adopted.   You don’t hear about them, precisely because they are “normal.”
  2. Every child who goes through the disruption in their life that comes with being orphaned and adopted has the potential of being affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  
  3. So every adoptive parent should go into adopting knowing that they might have to deal with these type of issues and should be prepared for the possibility.

I’ve had discussions with numerous people over the years where the topic has come up that there are no guarantees with biological children and there are no guarantees with adopted children.    Those who are not in the adoption “world” seem to think that means that adopting isn’t that much more of a risk of “hard parenting.”

That’s not exactly true.   Yes, it is true that there are no guarantees, but there are also probabilities.  And the probability is higher that a child who goes through the first years of their life and faces one or more of the following is more likely to have emotional baggage to deal with:

  • Is not raised by their biological parents and consistently cared for during the first 5 years of their life.
  • Has a constant turnover of the people who are caring for them – and can’t build an emotional and trust bond with one person.
  • Witnesses or experiences a traumatic event – the  death of someone close, abuse, natural disaster…….
  • Has consistent and ongoing situations where they have emotional or physical needs and they need someone and there is no one there to be their “go to” person.

When you look at it, any one or more of those could fit the experiences of almost every orphan in the world.    That tells me two things:

  • There is a lot of work that needs to be done to improve the care of vulnerable children while they are in “transition.”    That means the time between when they are with their birth family until the time when they are with their new family.
  • The adoptive parents and those who care about them need to be much more aware and much more supportive of the reality that every single adopted child has the potential for carrying very difficult experiences that leave scars on them.

So, with that being said, I’m going to step down from the podium and let a couple of other writers talk about adoption, trauma and what it means.    I would encourage you to read the links below and if you want to talk about them, either message me (see the spot on the right side?) or Facebook me or carrier pigeon or whatever way you want to get in touch.

http://outofshemind.com/2015/01/dear-adoptive-parents-hard-lonely-road/

http://outofshemind.com/2015/01/marriage-in-the-trenches/

http://emergingmama.com/things-parents-kids-experienced-trauma-know-well/

Vulnerable children.

Vulnerable parents.

If you are there, know you are not alone.

If you know one, support them.   Encourage them.

If you are feeling God calling you to become one, be faithful.

TJV

Jan 132015
 

While the world has been focused on the terrorist attacks in France that killed, I believe, less than 20 people, this has happened in Nigeria……

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/01/12/violence-continues-in-nigeria-after-boko-haram-deadliest-massacre-reportedly/#

Over 2,000 are estimated killed in terror attacks in Nigeria.   

Many are women, children and elderly.

An entire town was leveled.

A 10 year old was used as a suicide bomber.

The Nigerian President has not commented on the attacks.

The US government essentially said, “It’s the Nigerian government’s problem.”

Though the Catholic Archbishop in Jos Nigeria said, “It’s a monumental tragedy…… if we could stop Boko Haram, we would have done it right away.”

Gary Haugen from International Justice Mission was, unfortunately, right.    When, in his book, The Locust Effect, he said that a lack of social justice is the biggest obstacle to helping people get out of poverty.

And a lack of social justice happens when evil people do things like this.

And the government can’t protect them.

And no one else cries out on their behalf.

They are truly vulnerable people.

And this is not right…….

Jan 122015
 

It was a day.

A day that started like any other day for so many people.

For millions in Haiti.

For hundreds of thousands around the world.

For my kids.

For my family.

For me.

And at 4:53 pm all of that changed.    Many people saw and felt and smelled the changes instantly.   For those who lost loved ones, for those who lost limbs, the moment was immediate, painful and permanent.

For those who survived, the damage was indescribable.   The toll that it took on the lives of so many in Haiti is hard to imagine let alone relate to others.    The survivors were also victims of the earthquake.

The children – so many children were impacted by the shaking of January 12, 2010.   The children who lived through it and remained in Haiti.    The children who lived through it and ended up being evacuated from Haiti.    My wife and I were privileged to play a small role in the evacuation of over 80 children from God’s Littlest Angels to the United States and elsewhere.   These children went through the shock and trauma of suddenly being uprooted but at the same time were able to experience in many cases a lot more quality time with their adoptive families that they weren’t expecting to have.

The adoptive parents – friends of ours went from expecting that it would be 2 years until their kids came home to getting them home in 2 months.    Talk about a shock.

But they aren’t the only ones effected by this quake.

The world changed for millions of adults in Haiti almost instantly on January 12, 2010.    Most of them didn’t have the luxury of evacuating the disaster.   This was who they were, this was where they were and this was where God had planted them.   So, they struggled, they wept, they mourned and they kept going.

They had no other choice.

But there were many others in Haiti who had a choice.   They were there because they wanted to help.   They could have evacuated, they could have gone to whatever “home” was for them.

But they stayed.   They might have left for a short period of time – for their own healing, for the sake of their families, but they came back.   They carried the torch.    They helped the helpless.    They gave faith and hope to the hopeless.    They endured countless aftershocks and countless wonderings, “will this be worse?”

They stayed at great risk and great personal cost.   They stayed because there was a need and they could meet that need.

Speaking of personal friends of mine, many of them are still paying the price for staying.    In many ways – some seen, some unseen.   

The cost of this earthquake goes well beyond the dollars in damage and the lives lost.    It shook people to their core.

Both inside and outside Haiti.

It shifted what’s important for many people.

It shifted what people think of natural disasters.

It shifted the belief of many that one person can’t make a difference.

It reinforced in the lives of many adopted children “the importance of being Haitian.”

It adjusted career trajectories and paths for many.    I don’t know whether I would be where I am if it weren’t for January 12, 2010.

I know of at least three children who are alive and thriving with their adoptive families who wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the evacuation after the quake.

I don’t know why the earthquake happened.   

Questioning why God allowed such a painful and difficult thing to happen is a topic for a much bigger and different discussion.

But I do know this……

The aftershocks of this natural disaster are still moving through the “earth” of life and God is moving in those vibrations.

God is making good things out of very difficult trials.

God  is providing solace where there was suffering.

God is providing healing – not always on this earth but He is the ultimate healer.

God is moving through the difficulties that are life in Haiti.

He’s moving in the hearts of many and many lives have been changed.

Many people have seen and learned of God since then.

Many people have been the hands and feet of God since then to a troubled people in a troubled nation.

January 12, 2010 – a turning point for many.    A disaster for even more.

May God bless and keep those impacted by January 12, 2010.

May we all see God’s hand and feel God’s grace.

And may we never forget to remember Haiti,

Tom