Traits of successful adoptive families

Faith and perseverance will help you through the less-than-perfect days

By Debi A. Grebenik, PHD

The adoption journey is resplendent with unforeseen detours, mountaintop experiences, formidable challenges – and magnificent views of God's grace all along the way. Without preparation, this journey can be more than challenging. With awareness and planning, the journey can be one that promotes growth, blessings and healing for all involved. Here are a few things you will need for a successful adoption journey.

The adoption journey begins with a commitment for life. Similar to the vows taken in marriage, the adoption process demands commitment in sickness and in health, and for richer or for poorer. Adoptive parents must begin their journey faithfully and fearlessly. As the apostle James exhorts: "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). As adoptive parents stay the course and complete the journey, they experience the blessings that God promises.

The adoption journey is a walk by faith and must be approached with the same faithful attitudes and fearless abandon that God requires of every aspect of your Christian walk. Faith is imperative. In Exodus 14:13-14, soon after the people of Israel escaped from Egypt, they questioned Moses and God as they faced the fear of their imminent death in the desert. “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still’ ” (Exodus 14:13-14). You, too, may experience difficult times when you wonder why God has brought you on this journey. From the very beginning, adoptive parents must acknowledge their fears, embrace a fearless love, stand firm and still and trust God.

What does it take to embrace a fearless love? You began your journey of adoption with a heart of love, of course, focused on the child who was to come into your home. You prepared your home, your family and your finances – but perhaps without looking at your own heart first. Yet this internal journey is a crucial part of the process that cannot be overlooked.

Real love allows you as the adoptive parent to examine your own fears. Only in your confrontation of these fears can a fearless love be grown. It takes courage to ask those difficult questions about the fears that reside deep within your spirit. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18).

As we lay our fears at the feet of Jesus, He is able to love us with His perfect love, and out of that overflow we can love our children unconditionally.

Your faith is what gives you this foundation of love and commitment, coupled with the model of selflessness that parenting demands. We know from Scripture that "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress . . ." (James 1:27). For many, perhaps even you, adoption – looking after orphans – is a direct expression of personal faith and obedience to God.

Without this foundational faith as part of the journey, you may end up on a detour as you attempt to implement the world's wisdom. With a heart of faith you can find the wisdom that God desires to give you as a parent to your particular child.

You may encounter unplanned and unexpected obstacles in your journey as your child exhibits manipulation, defiance, aggression, depression and other challenging behaviours. Unconditional love provides the highway for this journey. You need faith in a loving Father so that you can love your adopted children in their healing journey.

Faith is staying power when love wanes. It enables you to see your children's needs from God's perspective and – despite various stressors and distractions – successfully stay in the journey for the long haul.

Next article in series: Coping with adoption stress