Adoption & Foster Care

Foster Care & Adoption Changed Me

I often say, “95% of all the change that’s happened in my children has started in me.” Admittedly, this isn’t something that I was expecting when I began my journey into Foster Care & Adoption. I had a simple expectation, “I’m going to change the life of a child and give them a forever family!” That’s not a bad place to start and not an all together bad motive either. It’s just mostly wrong.

The life that changed was mine.

The bad habits that were unlearned were mine.

The one who had to learn to love was me.

The behaviors that had to be corrected were mine.

Quite simply, in this journey to forever I had to leave behind the person that I was and become someone totally new. My children came to me from broken pasts, with lists of diagnosis, described behaviors from former care givers and a litany of “issues” that needed to be corrected. At first, I focused on those things and really tried hard to correct them, help the child learn to be better, do better, think better, act better. After all, in order to be a productive member of society, they have to get some of this stuff dealt with or they’re going to be a disaster.

The problem was – none of my correcting worked.

Through many mistakes as a mom, I’ve learned that I have to put aside what I think I know about parenting and focus on each of my children as individual creations of God. In the process, I’ve learned to connect with them in the midst of “bad” behaviors – to really, truly get down on their level and feel what they feel so that I can understand and help them heal.

As foster and adoptive parents, we often consider ourselves vessels for the redemption of our children. What we fail to consider is how our own redemption was accomplished – naked, bloodied and beaten – crucified on a cross.

For me to be truly effective as a mother to my children, crucifixion was required. Crucifixion cost me.

It cost me my right to be right. Sometimes, what I think just simply isn’t the answer. The answer is much more complicated, requires much more listening and is often arrived at days after the initial issue.

It cost me my right to quick fix. Connection is costly – it takes time. It means that rather than a quick consequence or punishment for a behavior, instead I focus on contentment in my relationship with my child.

It cost me my right to self pity. There’s no shortage of reasons to feel sorry for myself as a parent, but I had to quickly lose my right to pity if I really wanted to help my children. Their behaviors aren’t personal. They’re the result of trauma. To take it personal takes the focus off of them and puts it on me. When my attention is focused on myself, I cannot be useful to helping my children overcome and move forward.

Crucifixion continues to cost me and I am thankful.

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  • Mallory

    You and your family never cease to amaze me. I can only pray that we can pursue love & parenting in the way you have. You’re one of my heroes!

    • Pam Parish

      Mallory, I can only say that, in this instance, it’s one hero speaking to another because YOU are MY hero. I love and admire you so greatly.

  • Ruby Johnston

    Amen and love to you….continue the journey – every challenge refines us and brings us to a better place.

    • Pam Parish

      That’s the truth!! I’m thankful for the refining, even when it’s painful. Much love to you too, Ruby.

  • Susan Gage

    This reminds me of the book “You are Special” by Max Lucado where the characters go around giving each other dots when they see a flaw or a mistake and stars when they want to praise someone or they find them attractive in some way. These stay with them and change how others see them and more importantly how they see themselves until they meet their maker, the God character in the story. At that point the dots and stars do not stick to them anymore because the only view that matters is how God sees them. I have made sure to read this book to every child who comes thru our home no matter the age. The system and caregivers do this to foster children all the time. They are labeled by their pasts, behaviors and diagnosis rather than viewed thru God’s eyes as His creation. We have a huge responsibility to help them see themselves without all the labels and stereotypes that others have put on them and teach them that they are strong, capable and deserving children of God.

    • Pam Parish

      That’s so true, Susan. It’s an unfortunate turn of events that happens in our children’s lives when their identity becomes wrapped up in their emotional issues and diagnosis. But, God can and does turn all of that around when we allow Him to lead us in knowing our children the way He knows them. It just takes great prayer and care.

  • Penelope

    Amen! Sometimes it feels like we are being crucified – lol – but like you said, behaviors such as tantrums, lying, manipulation, are all survival techniques caused by trauma. I cannot “save” these traumatized children. Only through Him and His redemptive blood is there true healing.

    • Pam Parish

      Amen, Penelope. I’ve often had to remind myself that it’s just simply not in my power to “save” these kids. Saving work is Jesus work. Healing work is Jesus work. Redeeming work is Jesus work. My work is simply to reflect Him in love and rely on the wisdom and understanding He provides. It’s NOT an easy task because I want to solve the problem – right NOW. 🙂