Adoption & Foster Care

The Hidden Side of Foster Care & Adoption

I had lunch with a friend recently and shared some difficult moments that our family had been going through in recent months. After sharing some details, my friend looked at me and said, “Wow. I would have never known just looking at your Facebook profile, it looked like everything was going great.” Her comment gave me pause and caused me to stop and consider all that we keep hidden as foster and adoptive parents.

The reality is that I don’t air out my family’s issues all over social media. My kids are all older and are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Google+ — well, you get the point… and, as their mom, it’s my job to protect and guard them. I strongly believe that healthy parent/child relationships require parents to praise in public and rebuke in private; otherwise your children don’t trust you. So, I keep our faults & failures mostly out of the public eye (except for those things that don’t attack their character, or they’ve given me permission to share). Even so, I had to ask myself if there was a bigger issue going on and “protecting my kids” was part of my excuse for not dealing with it… unfortunately, I think there is a bigger issue. It’s the issue of hiding. 

We often feel the pressure to put on a happy face and say that everything is going awesome. After all, you chose to do this so you feel like you have something to prove. The danger is that parents who are really struggling often feel alone because they don’t hear other families sharing their struggles. While I’m not advocating a giant gripe session about our families and their struggles, I do think a level of honesty has to come into play for the health of all of us.

Let me offer a big sigh of relief and say – you’re not alone, I’m not alone. We all struggle, it’s not always roses and some days it’s downright difficult. Even though our family pictures are all smiley and cute, our Facebook statuses about our latest family adventure seem awesome and our latest Instagram selfie with our child is simply adorable – things can still be tough and it’s okay.

Reality is always harder than “the dream”

When I train potential foster/adoptive parents, I often play a game with them and have them draw a picture of their dream child – what will they look like, act like, be like, etc. It’s always fun to hear the answers and it never fails to illicit things like, “..they love to read,” “…love football,” etc… We all have dreams of what this journey will be like and how much of a difference we’re going to make in our children’s lives because we said, “yes.” But, reality is much harder than the dream and sometimes certain aspects of the dream have to die. Maybe you love to read and your new son/daughter hates it, maybe you love to sit and watch a movie but your new son/daughter has a sensory reaction to the action and noise, the list is endless but the reality is the same – it’s not what you expected and the adjustment is hard.

Our first adoption taught us this pretty quickly. As a one-child family, one of our favorite pastimes was going to Barnes & Noble and spending hours reading. We all loved to read! The initial information about our new daughter indicated that she loved reading too. We were so excited to have another daughter/sister who would share one of our greatest loves with us. Once she joined our family, though, we realized, on our first failed outing to Barnes & Noble, that this was not the case (to put it mildly). Not only did she not like reading, she hated it. We had a choice to make, either continue and try to force her to like what we liked, or find other ways to bond and spend time together that everyone could enjoy. Thankfully, we chose the later. To this day, she dislikes reading, but she no longer hates it – that’s pretty good progress in 7 years 🙂

We have to be honest about our reality.

The reality of marriage is harder than the dream of marriage too. Great marriages make it through really difficult times – great parent/child relationships work the same. But, if we’re never honest with anyone, we can’t properly deal with the issues that are there and move forward. Too often I’ve seen struggling parents put on the fake, “Everything is awesome! We’re so blessed!” face only to go home and crumble in a heap of tears because they’re so stressed out and overwhelmed. Their reality is vastly different from the face they present publicly.

So, why aren’t we honest?

It’s hard.

We’ve raised money, trusted God, talked about adoption and foster care, posted James 1:27 to Twitter feed and “waited” with such excitement that we’ve pressured ourselves into keeping up the illusion that everything is wonderful, when, in fact, it’s not. Our minds are bombarded with doubts, “Will everyone think I’m a failure?” “I don’t want to seem like I’m not trusting God — or, that I missed God” “I don’t want people to think I can’t handle it.”… and much more.

It’s time to stop hiding…

We have to be honest about our journey. We need to be free to say, “It’s tough, I could use some prayer” when others ask how things are going. We need to surround ourselves with people who see behind the scenes and can encourage us when things are hard – and they are really hard sometimes. Our children are healing, adjusting and struggling – therefore so are we.

Let’s be honest with people we trust. Let’s be honest with others who are beginning their journey and open the door to be their friend in the hard times. Let’s be honest with ourselves and give ourselves the freedom to have a bad day.







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  • Heather@To Sow a Seed

    I constantly struggle with protecting one of my son’s stories and sharing how issues related to his past and his medical condition affect our family. The people closest to us know the real knotty gritty of daily life, but yes, I admit that sometimes pride sneaks in and I do not want to share some of the pain and frustration that we encounter. Layer that with the truth that his story is HIS and well … It’s complicated. Thank you for posting this. I think I am your new biggest bloggy fan.

    • pamparish

      I understand that struggle all too well, Heather. 🙂 Their stories are theirs to tell, not ours. I continually ask for wisdom and guidance from the Lord.

  • Missy Hoffman

    Yes. Thank you for sharing this. I think we need a lot more honesty and a lot less hiding. I also feel that we isolate ourselves as “The Foster/Adoptive Community” when we hide. We’ll never find a “normal” unless we LET ourselves be normal…OUR normal. 🙂 Blessings to you for sharing this.

  • Tammy Noel Smith

    Wow! As an adoptive mother of 5 children all different races,this spoke VOLUMES to me.I have 2 children from China and 3 children from Ethiopia.The difficulties are less from within,but immense pressure from the community.I have been told that I adopted out of white guilt,my daughter from Ethiopia was told by a black man,while shopping in a grocery store that she was ‘one of them’,2 women watched me like a hawk and followed me around in the store after I got after my daughter for kicking her sister….Like you,I discipline my children in private,as I don’t believe humiliation is part of discipline,But I have had to battle the fact that out in public,my daughter now thinks she can ‘get away’ with things she otherwise would not.I can see this is destructive to my confidence as a mother and more so,I see the confusion it is bringing to my daughter.I’m so tired of the racial fighting going on,it’s hurting real families.Thank you for this article,I know I’m not alone…..

  • Charles Johnston

    As an adopted child, now adult I am thankful social media did not exist when I was being raised. I think as both adopters and adoptees as well as those born into a family there are some things that just are better unshared, the truth is not usually it. We all struggle and fall short, that can be shared with humbleness and humility with a dose of truthful reality without exposing the person. If we all go through life pretending its full of rainbows and unicorns we set others that follow out lead for failure. Adoptions and fosterings are dirty business for the parent and the child, but everyone that is able should open their hearts to get their hands dirty..the rewards well I am proof that adoption works.