Six things adoption has taught me

Just six of the zillion things adoption has taught me:

1. Generosity is simple.

In 2007, I visited an Ethiopian orphanage, trying not to make eye contact with any of the little ones around me in need of a father. I’ve always found avoidance to be the surest way to never feel bad about saying “no.” My brother-in-law, who was adopting from Ethiopia, was there with me. “Maybe we’ve made it too complicated,” he said. (I knew by “we” he meant “me.”) “What if God’s will for our life is found wherever someone’s need and our ability intersect?”

Today, if I don’t look away, I’m bound to see someone with a need that matches my ability.

2. Adoption is not for everyone.

Ten months ago, my phone rang. A social worker explained a little boy’s situation in broad strokes. He was four, from India, and was being relinquished by the family who adopted him here in America – because they loved him enough to give him better than they could provide. “Can we place him in your home?” the social worker asked.

The more passionate we become about a cause, the more tempting it is to venerate those who “get it” as saints, and condemn those who don’t as wayward or heartless. But every cause is not for everyone to give themselves to. Adoption is not for everyone. If it were, my phone would not have rung.

Good people are not always passionate about the same good things.

3. Kids are kids.

Forty-eight hours after I hung up the phone, Sambhaji joined our family. Relocated for the third time in his short life, he stood at the front door sobbing, understandably inconsolable, trembling with fear, grieving all he left behind. I didn’t know what to do, where to begin.

My other three kids pulled out Legos and cars and blocks. He watched them out of the corner of his eye and slowly – very slowly – inched his way closer. I invited him to build with me. Reluctantly, he took the colored squares from my hand and snapped them together. Eventually, my oldest boy brought out some silly string he’d saved for a special occasion…or an emergency. This was both. I pretended to not know how the spray can worked, fiddled with it clumsily with the nozzle aimed the wrong way, and doused myself in the face, feigning shock and disgust. Sambhaji threw his head back and cackled, then took the can from me and gave my face a second coat.

Some things just work – on almost every kid in the world: Tickling, cartoons, cookies, fart jokes, hugs, Christmas, bubbles, hurting yourself. Good places to start.

4. There is a tool for every child.

To an adopted child, time-out can feel like abandonment. Losing a privilege the other kids in the house get to enjoy can make him feel less-than. And his tenuous grasp of the English language makes a substantive discourse on the origins of household rules and the personal and societal benefits of following them impossible.

So, I hold Sambhaji and reassure him that I love him and always will, that I will never leave him, that I’m not angry at him. And then, after much cuddling and encouraging, I tell him not to hit his sister in the face with an ice cream sandwich ever again.

No tool fits every kid. And sometimes, no matter how many tools I’ve got, I have to go out and get new ones.

5. Lowering expectations works better than chocolate.

Sambhaji is a hilarious, creative, smart, compassionate, charismatic kid. But for the last ten months parenting him has often been exhausting.

So exhausting that I’ve snapped at my children, raised my voice, retreated to the blue and white mindlessness of Facebook, eaten a few dozen peanut butter cups, hidden in the bathroom for an hour, and walked around muttering to myself “you are a horrible horrible human being.” ALL of this before noon some days. All because of my inappropriate expectations.

I can no longer expect him to flush the toilet and wash his hands without being reminded, buckle his seat belt without help, play alone, or put on underwear. Though these are reasonable expectations for a five year-old boy, like many adopted children, my son’s emotional and developmental ages are not aligned with his chronological age. In some ways he’s two. In others he’s an infant. And in a few he’s twenty.

Managing my expectations – for all my children and my wife – is the only way I can put down the chocolate.

6. Adoption is second best.

One night not long ago, I kissed Sambhaji on the cheek and said, “I love you.” Before I reached the hallway he asked, “What is love you?”

I built a definition from the few words he knew. “I love you means I like like like like you big, a lot!” I said, standing on my toes with my hands stretched high. He beamed. “Again!” he shouted. And again.

Sambhaji has made me a better man, a better parent. I’m his dad way down to my bones and I can’t imagine life without him. I’m surprised by this. Amazed. I love him. But somewhere out there lives a mother who loves him too – so much that she sacrificed having him in her life so he could have a better life.

Some say there are 146,000,000 orphans in the world today. It’s estimated that 4 out of 5 of these children were not orphaned by the passing of their parents but by poverty. If every parent in the world could provide nutrition, shelter, education, and health care for their children, there would only be 29,000 orphans today.

4 out of 5 orphans could be at home today, speaking their native language, eating their favorite foods, kissed goodnight by Mom, hearing “I love you” from Dad in words they understand. Adoption is great but orphan prevention is best.

Today I can keep families together. I can do something to meet the basic needs of children living in poverty in my own community and around the world.

Compassion Bloggers: Tanzania 2012A note from Tsh: Yeah, so I can’t read this post of Shaun’s without crying. Amazing words—Shaun is wiser than his hair lets him on to be… And he’s actually in Tanzania right now, leading a group of Compassion bloggersMy trip last year was a game-changer in our family’s life. Would you be brave and follow along, letting your heart do what it may?

Which one of these lessons did you need most today?


Shaun Groves writes about the ups and downs of fatherhood and how he manages to stay sane in spite of (or maybe because of?) being a dad. Shaun is a dad of four and travels the world singing and speaking on behalf of Compassion International. He is also his household’s reigning Candyland champion.

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  1. Adoption is something I’m pretty sure we’re going to do someday. I really want to, and my husband is coming on board… We’ll wait till our daughter (and potential other biological children) is/are older — but stats like Shaun shares at the end are exactly why we want to adopt. It makes my heart hurt to think about all those kids who need love and support, and I really hope to make a difference in at least one of their lives someday!

    One of my dad’s brother is adopted, and I have several cousins who were adopted domestically, so I’ve seen firsthand how great adoption can be even for extended family! Thanks for sharing this post about how much you’ve personally learned from adoption.

    • Jessica, so glad your husband is coming around to our…I mean, your way of thinking.

      Let me know if I can ever help you guys with anything – answers, resources, empathy…whatever. Would be honored to help you in the adoption process someday.

  2. I don’t have words to say except – I’m crying and my heart is aching with pain. At the same time, my heart is filled with gratitude for people like Shaun who are doing all they can to make this world a liveable place for the orphaned kids….
    I have thought about this subject a lot- adoption. Haven’t yet mustered the courage to go ahead…
    I’m not even sure WHAT will give me the courage….Sigh…May be I need to read and listen to more stories like these.

  3. So, so, SO good and true. Loved every word. Blessings, brother. Truly.

  4. Bethany says:

    “What if God’s will for our life is found wherever someone’s need and our ability intersect?”

    I love this! And it goes along with #2 that adoption isn’t for everyone. I have been praying that I would be willing and truly love the child God wants us to adopt if He led us to that point. My biggest fear is that I wouldn’t love them like I love my biological children. And I often wonder how people can adopt while they are still in their child-bearing years! I feel like it’s a lot to trust God with the number of natural children He would like to give us, their spacing, etc. I can’t imagine adopting and bearing children at the same time! I don’t know how those parents do it! I don’t think adoption is something that our family is going to pursue at this point. But if the need came up and a child (or children) were to “fall in our lap” and it was clear God was behind it–we would be more likely to adopt.

    When I hear of people raising money so they can adopt, I love to pray about how I can help and encourage them in their journey because I think adoption is so incredible!

    • I don’t think I love Sambhaji like a love many biological children, but I do love him. No less. No more. But differently. I’m learning – with therapy – that that’s OK. It’s still love.

      • EMSoliDeoGloria says:

        Could you elaborate on the “like I love my biological children” question? I find that’s an obstacle to considering adoption for my DH.

        • We are the adoptive parents of two beautiful girls and I get this question a lot. I actually think biology and love are very loosely connected. Yes there are hormones after pregnancy that help you bond but men don’t have that extra gift and learn to love their biological children. Even with the people we choose to marry or be in a relationship with you don’t instantaneously love them. There’s magic, patience, appreciation for their special qualities as a human being and all that other stuff that draws us closer. So I say don’t fear the love won’t be there. Look for it, create it and hold onto it because parenting whether your biologically connected or not has it’s challenges along with it’s abundance of joyful moments.

        • My husband and I have three biological and two adopted children, and I describe it this way: They are all my kids, to the depths of my being, but there is that biological difference. When my bio daughter uses a certain tone of voice or facial expression, I have a reference — I see myself or my father or my husband in her. The adopted children, while they are growing into the ways of our family, have expressions or actions that I can’t place, and I’m left to ponder if it is their personality, the effects of the abuse they experienced, or something else. So while I would say that my love for them is as absolute as that I have for my bio kids, it is a little different, and that’s ok.

      • OH how I needed to read this. We have 4 sons, 2 biological and 2 that we are fostering. One of our foster sons will soon be adopted by us and we are slowly bonding with him. It’s easier than with our other foster son because he’s a baby and very responsive to affection. I often feel guilty about my “love” not being the same for them as it is for our birth children. My protectiveness and affection is the same, but something is different and I thought it was just something that was wrong with ME. I have wondered if it would be right for us to adopt being that my feelings are the way they are, but when I have asked myself how I would handle them being removed from our home, my heart breaks and I don’t even want to think about the idea of it. Thank you Shaun. This has really helped me bring all of my feelings together.

    • While you don’t understand how adults could adopt during their child-bearing years, I, on the other hand, do not understand why couples are still creating more children when there are so many to be adopted. And you mention being afraid of not loving an adopted child. This too I cannot relate to. Love is way more than a feeling and is not limited by bloodlines. I’m an adoptive mom of 2 sons from Asia. I love them fiercely. Even before I met them. When we were matched with them, my momma hormones kicked in and they were mine and I was theirs. Let the love begin! Maybe it has to do with one’s mindset. Anyway, I wanted to throw in another viewpoint here.

  5. Adoption is another beautiful way in which God demonstrates the truth of redemption. I agree Shaun…the adoption of my son has made me better woman, a better mama, exposed deep insecurities, and has been one of the greatest blessings in all of my life.

  6. Adoption. The road our family has traveled has brought the greatest joy and the most heart wrenching pain in my life. I thank God for all of it.

    This post sealed the deal. We will sponsor Taroci, through Compassion International. She lives with her foster parents in Indonesia.

  7. Catherine says:

    I love your honesty and acknowledgement that adoption isn’t for everyone. I agree wholeheartedly that orphan prevention is the aim. So, so true. Such a powerful post and sending prayers of gratitude to God that Sambhaji and your family found each other. Truly a heart filling story.

  8. chiara says:

    As a mother of 2 girls who arrived 5 years ago from Bogotà, I agree with every word, but I feel closer to “lowering expectations” and “adoption is 2nd best” . Thanks for this post, I’m not alone, I know it but sometimes is not easy to remember it.

  9. I’m in tears also and that is rare. Beautiful thoughts filled with wisdom. And yeah, the hair could fool you but the posts from Tanzania make a pretty strong case for a whole lot of depth. Loved this.

  10. We have 4 children, 2 biological sons (21 and 19) and an adopted girl and boy (8 and 7) from South Africa. To adopt these two was one of the best decisions of our lives! When we adopted our daughter, we knew immediately that we wanted to experience this whole adoption process once more. We were so lucky and we are so very grateful!

  11. Very insightful. And thank you for acknowledging that adoption is not for everyone. While I will never say never, adoption is not right for our family right now and sometimes I feel guilty about that or like others are judging us for that. I will remember this instead: “Today, if I don’t look away, I’m bound to see someone with a need that matches my ability.”

  12. This is a beautiful post.

    I’ve thought a lot about adoption. As a family who squeaks by on a single modest income, it is financial reasons that scare us away the most. We’re not done praying on it yet, though.

    • Michelle, have you considered foster care? I realize that just as adoption isn’t for everyone, neither is adopting through foster care. But for financial reasons this was the road we followed and God has abundantly blessed us with five beautiful children (all are currently age 5 and under). When we first decided to become foster parents, I wasn’t even aware of the adoption assistance program (for children who qualify), but it has been such a blessing because it enables me to stay home with our children. They will even receive free in-state tuition for college! There are of course a host of really tough issues we’ll have to deal with as the kids get older, and I pray every day that my husband and I will have the strength and wisdom to help our kiddos work through them. But I’m just so thankful that this is where God led us, and I want other families who may not think they can afford adoption to know that it is possible!

  13. Ugh, Shaun! You never fail to make my cry. And laugh.

  14. Managing and especially reducing my expectations of my child is key and what I practice most! I feel so drawn to adoption, though it seems so impossible right now. Only God knows and I must trust!

  15. Is it crazy to say that I am anxious for that mess? Our family is waiting. Our papers are on the desk of the agency in Africa who is responsible for matching us to the siblings we’ve been praying for.

    A whole lot can also be said about the waiting. As much as I would love to skip this part, to get them home and into my arms and our family, the waiting has been proving ground for me. Learning that God’s will is perfect, discovering that I have a lot to learn on submission, patience, silence, discipline, and relationship building. It’s in this waiting that God is surrounding us with family and friends and new people to support us for when our family is all home.

    Thanks Shaun. Having previously read some of your thoughts on adoption, you have inspired me again to be patient for my heart’s desire, that there is so much to look forward to (although none of it will be rosy or neat). That’s God’s will is perfect–messy, but perfect.

  16. This is one of the best posts about adoption I have ever read, and I have read a lot. We don’t feel personally called to adopt right now but adoption has a deep, deep place in my heart.

  17. My son is also adopted from India. LOVED this post. Thank you Tsh and Shaun for sharing. I really agree with the thought that adoption is critical–where would are kids go?–but what if more families didn’t have to give up their children due to poverty issues that are fixable? This is a “both/and” opportunity. I’m hosting a conference in Indianapolis May 19 for those who are consdering adoption, foster care or want to launch or partner with an orphan care ministry. More at Blessings to you all on your journeys!

  18. This is a great post. I worked in the adoption field for 6 years (domestic only) and your bullet points are DEAD on with many ideas we hoped our adoptive parents would/could grasp. The love you show for your children is amazing. Thanks for sharing these words with the world.

  19. Beautiful post! I think this is great for ALL parents to read and be reminded of these things – not just adoptive parents. I was especially thankful for the reminder that there is a tool for every child. With two sons, I sometimes forget that what works for one is not going to work for the other. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • Yep. Being an adoptive parent has – I hope – made me a better parent to all my kids. Same lessons apply. Just wish I’d learned them earlier ; )

  20. Great article thank you for sharing!

  21. One of Shaun’s best posts! I am simultaneously thrilled and petrified to be pursuing adoption of a child from Haiti. While I agree that adoption isn’t for everyone, I think that statement can be a big fat excuse for way too many people. I saw a need and I saw that my ability intersected with it perfectly. My husband took a little longer to accept that truth. Most people deny it, because it’s not just generous, it’s sacrificial. You rock, Shaun.

    • Sarah- I too am “simultaneously thrilled and petrified to be pursuing the adoption of a child from Haiti.” Just loved how you put that, and had to say hi! 🙂

      Shaun- this post contributes to BOTH of those feelings. The waiting has been a growing-ground, but I know the real growing is still to come. Exciting, and terrifying. All at once!

  22. Love this post. Full disclosure: I’m an mom through adoption (two sons to us through foster care) and one biological daughter. And I am very passionate about foster care and adoption. I agree that adoption is not for everyone but I do pray often that more people would open themselves up to the option. There was a time when I would have said, “Foster care is not for us.” And then God made it very clear to me that foster care was definitely for us and not pursuing it would be disobedience. So, how does one truly determine if adoption is what God wants for their family? Because the need is very great (in the US foster care system and beyond) and there are a lot of people with the ability. I know how He worked on my heart. I know I thought we couldn’t afford having kids, that I wouldn’t be able to handle saying good-bye to kids but His provision, peace and grace have been so abundant.

  23. Beautiful post. I have four adopted siblings and life growing up was not always easy (in fact some of them really rocked things at home) so I also appreciate the honesty in adoption-related posts – that it is very hard at times. And yet incredibly beautiful. I do have a heart to adopt and if my husband and I come to a place where we are in agreement in the future then this may happen. But until then, we can support children/families/communities through organizations like Compassion or World Vision. And we can continue to financially help our own family in Africa so that they can feed and educate their children, or just buy medicine. I agree that adoption isn’t for everyone, but showing compasssion and sharing our resources is.

  24. This is a beautiful post. I am grateful for people like Shaun who open their hearts and homes to children in need. God bless you.
    It’s hard to choose, but the lesson I most needed to hear was number 1. Generosity is simple. We are each given gifts and abilities, and there are boundless opportunities to use them to benefit others.

  25. Thanks for the story, Shaun. The love you’ve shown to the boy is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. And thanks for reminding me that I need to manage & more importantly, to “lower our expectation”. I feel that you’re talking to me 😉


  26. Claudia Cruz says:

    Well I’m adopted and also have 2 adopted boys. The more I live my own experience as adoptive mom, the more I love my adoptive mother. I feel twice honored by God, life, the universe…I do worry though, my love isn’t going to be enough for my little ones…you know there is always a small little hole in your heart…for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t keep you with them. Thank you for your post. Really great.

  27. Jennifer says:

    I would like to know more about programs aimed at orphan prevention – does anyone know of any good ones? We do sponsor Compassion children, so I know this is one angle, but I’m wondering if there are any groups out there specifically targeting families at risk for giving up their children due to poverty?

    • World Vision has programs targeting aids victims – helping keep families healthy and together as long as possible.

      Mercy House, Kenya, helps young women keep their babies and provides education, health care and skills training to allow them to support their children.

      There are other organizations which provide micro-loans to people to allow them to start a small business which, in turn, allows them to provide for their own children.

    • World Orphans is a wonderful ministry our church partners with–they focus on helping orphans through the local church, specifically orphan prevention and care for families taking care of vulnerable children.

    • The Apparent Project in Haiti is an awesome program that considers itself and “un-orphanage” b/c it gives parents the vocational skills they need to provide for their families. You can check them out at

  28. Thank you for this post! Beautifully written. I’m an adoptive mom with two boys, and they have mild special needs. I sometimes get so caught up in comparing them to other kids, especially their cousins. Honey the cousins can ride two wheelers….they are both potty trained….they go to sleep alone and don’t wake up….you reminded me that they go at their own pace and what other kids their age do, mine may not be ready for. Breathing deep and lifting that up today. Thanks 🙂

  29. THANK YOU!!! I needed to read this post this morning. My husband has been out of town and I’m holding down the fort with my 3 kids, 1 of them, our 5 year old son, home 9 months from Africa!! Bullet point number 5– from standing in the bathroom, feeling soooo guilty to how I have behaved, to desperately needing to lower my expectations…. I’m there right now! Thank you for the reminder to slow down and bring an extra huge helping of grace, patience, and compassion to my day today!!!!

    • I’ll be praying for you, Suzi. If there’s every anything I can do to help, please get in touch. Sometimes it just helps to talk to somebody who’s in the same spot. You’re not alone.

  30. Elizabeth says:

    Excellent post! My husband and I are very excited to adopt some day. We don’t know exactly when that will be (God’s timing isn’t quite revealed yet) but we do know it will be. But I love reading posts like this because while it is exciting to think about, it is also nerve-wrecking and scary because the challenges and joys are different from having your biological children. My mother was adopted and some of my good friends have been adopted too and it is a beautiful gift.

  31. #6 is excellent. It’s exactly what we are about (We also love a lot of Save The Children’s research in this area as well). Thanks for writing!

  32. Beautiful post – as much as anything wisdom for all us parents who haven’t adopted as well. Funny how we take biology for granted as the bridge to connections. When I think about what you’ve consciously worked to build, I think about what I need to build without assumptions but with awareness, observation and consideration. Thank you for a pre-Mother’s Day wakeup call!

  33. Really needed to hear ALL of these points today. Our youngest son has lived with us for just over two years now (he’s 11), and he still really struggles with being impulsive. Yet, he’s also so creative and athletic and loving. He has brought such joy to my life. Realizing that he’s not just 11 biologically but sometimes 8 socially and sometimes 20 with what he knows really helps me a lot. I’ve had to remind myself of that often in the past 2 years.

  34. My husband and I have talked about adoption. We are blessed with two beautiful daughters but lost our son. When we got pregnant for the second time, we thought 2 children was what were in the cards for us, then we found out we were pregnant with twins. We opened our hearts to 3 children and planned how to fit three into our home. Our son was stillborn, but we still have space for number 3. Adoption seems like the right answer for us, but the process seems so overwhelming. It was 4 years ago today that I delivered my son and that space that we created is still open and it seems like the right path is to fill it with child that needs a home, but inertia seems to be getting in the way. Your post reminds me that we still have room in our home and our hearts for a child that needs one.

  35. How do we know if we won the “again bags” or not?

  36. Wow, I had no idea how much I needed to read this today. A very touching story and all of these kids are stinkin’ adorable! But, for me, I needed to be reminded that life can be miserable if you don’t have realistic expectations. I have 3 children (ages 10, 8, 6) and sometimes forget that the way I communicate with my 10 year old daughter – and my expectations of her – are not going to go very far on my 6 year old son. Which means that quite often I end up frustrated and beating myself up for getting upset or mad about having to constantly remind my kids to pick up their room or wash their hands or finish getting ready for school. Anyway, it was a real eye opener when I realized that it’s OKAY if my kids aren’t perfect and I will not mess them up or turn them into awful adults 😉 if they don’t do everything exactly as I expect or if they need to be reminded sometimes. So thanks for sharing your story. I strive to be a more patient, more nurturing parent and your story is very inspiring.

  37. Oh Shaun,

    #5. I love it. I love that you were real about that. I am adopted by my grandparents. I have adopted my niece’s 3 children. My husband has chosen another woman. All hard and broken things here. God once reminded me of how a mosaic is made up of a lot of broken pieces, but together creates something beautiful. That is my life. I think maybe it represents lots of our lives.

    I have so much to say on adoption. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I have begun to understand what the early childhood trauma has done to the brains of my children and to understand how they affect me. Therapy is a yes. A handful of friends who can support me even if they don’t get it. Oh, and it’s SO important to have friends who do get it and won’t think you’re a horrible person for wanting to run away. We’re out there. We’re right here. We get it.

    • Heather says:

      I love what you said about mosaics being made of many broken pieces! I have been thinking a lot about this same concept recently and I rest in the fact that even in what looks like rubble to me, God is at work, molding and shaping. Be encouraged by the promises of God and let his unfailing love sustain you during this difficult time.

  38. Love this. The heartfelt, wise post, the lovely comments afterwards, all of it. I had tears in my eyes many times. We are taking small steps towards possibly doing this someday. First step currently in process: sponsoring a child from India! Thank-you for making it sound so lovely, while still keeping it real.

  39. This went straight to my heart. Thank you for sharing your stories.

  40. Nothing has so swiftly brought me to my knees as adoption has. And at that point, I find the Lord lifts my chin and I look to Him for help. Thanks for voicing how important, difficult, rewarding and faith-building the adoptive experience is – for all sides.

  41. Wow, #6 was awesome. Thank you for the stats and the peak into adoption. I can’t really describe how #6 hit me, but it did. hard.

  42. Thank you so much for sharing this. My best friend adopted two children from Africa and it helps to have a better understanding of what she’s going through and how to support her.

  43. What a beautiful post. I have an adopted niece and nephew and adoption touches me to the core. I LOVE what he said about every child has a tool. So true. Adopted or not.

  44. Shaun,
    I am not sure how I found this blog but I am thankful I did. My husband and I will be leaving our three young children in December for two weeks to head to Uganda and Kenya. After reading this, I am reminded that when we step out in true obedience our journey is full of humble lessons meant to refine us. Since we began our own journey of obedience in being His hands (even temporarily) adoption, adoption conferences, adoption blogs, comments of adoption and people we know adopting has sky rocketed. It’s no coincidence 🙂 It’s a gentle nudge, I am certain, towards our future. Thank you for sharing. I will be keeping this handy. Blessings to you and your family.

  45. Samantha says:

    Love this post! Such an honest and true glimpse snide adoption. My younger brother was adopted at age five. We have had lots of battles throughout the years but I would not give anything for a different situation. The moment he was brought home, he was my brother. I plan on adopting st some point n my future too!

  46. I needed to read this post today. It was a VERY trying day with our adopted 4 yr old. I actually told my husband I wondered how easy it would be to give up our parental rights. He didn’t even get upset with me or try to talk me down as he has other times. We are both emotionally exhausted right now. Yours is the 2nd message I’ve gotten today –out of the blue–about adoption today (the first being the video by Children of God; which I’d never seen before; saw while waiting in child psychiatrist’s office).

    Thank you for this post.

    • Hi Jodie,
      I just wanted to say that – I understand how hard it is to do the heart work you & your husband are doing with your little one. It’s probably the toughest thing you will ever do. It’s definitely the toughest thing your child will ever do. So hang on by those fingernails because there will be change coming and it can only get better. Do whatever you need to do to find that love and compassion that drove you to adopt in the first place. On the days when I am desperate and crazy, I look at the photos of my little guy from when he was really little and through the first year – a time when everything was a wonderful new discovery. Keep learning and keep loving.

  47. It feels so good reading some articles like this. I feel so sad and happy knowing that there are so many kind people who are willing to adopt and help an orphanage. My heart was filled with joy after reading this and the comments. You write so kindly, thank you for this 🙂

  48. We’re in the midst of our second {bumpy} adoption. Yes, yes, yes to this post. I love your emphasis on striving to keep kiddos with their birth families whenever possible.

    • Samantha says:

      “Some say there are 146,000,000 orphans in the world today. It’s estimated that 4 out of 5 of these children were not orphaned by the passing of their parents but by poverty.” This is exactly the point. I love my son beyond description and I find it horrific that people say it’s so wonderful that we adopted him, and how lucky he is. No. It is beyond wrong that because of poverty my son has been denied his mother, his culture, his homeland. Tomorrow is mother’s day in Guatemala, where my son was born, and I am mourning deeply for him and for his mother. Thank you for your post.

      • Samantha says:

        wow, that was weird. sharon, this was meant to go on the end of the thread, not on your post. sorry!

  49. Love this post and plan to link it on my own blog this Friday. As someone who’s been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for an adoption referral, I appreciate Shaun’s insights!

  50. Those were beautiful, encouraging words, thank you for sharing so openly. I love the peek into your home as you have opened it so bravely to love on others.

  51. Woo… We have adopted twice and have seven kids in all… And i tell ya..adoption is no joke. But it is worth it… And there is something magical that happens at year three.
    Shaun have you dealt with his birth language disappearing? We had that at nine months in…and it was so brutal. Especially since we were all still speaking their language.
    Another thing… Watch for mystery anniversaries… Make note on a calendar when he is more then “off”…we found a pattern…and it lined up with loss.
    Bravo..loved the article.

  52. Stephanie says:

    I’m a momma of two, but for the last few years my heart has ached for another child. I’ve not had an easy road bearing my own children and so adoption always seems the way to go. My husband was not on board with it at the time though so we decided to try for another biological baby. Since that time I’ve had two miscarriages and have been left broken hearted. I think losing these little ones has made my husband realize that adoption may be the right choice after all. The only trouble now is the cost. Although my husband says we can make it work, 30,000 plus dollars isn’t easy to come by for a single income family. I know we will eventually be blessed by being able to raise another child, but I’m having trouble accepting that it will be in God’s timing and not my own.

  53. Great points! I’m a foster parent & agree that it certainly isn’t for everyone which goes with your point on expectations. We can’t expect our traumatized kids to relate to our view of normal. Their normal is different. Thanks for opening up. I will definately share this post with my Facebook page!

  54. “In some ways he’s two. In others he’s an infant. And in a few he’s twenty.”

    This rang out to me so much. Like flashing red lights. My 5 year old (3rd child in my family), home only 3 weeks from her orphanage is a baby, a 2yr old, a 5 year old and a 20 year old all wrapped in one, too. Many blessings to your family.

  55. Jeanie says:

    If these families have not been prepared by social workers and psychologists about what to expect, they will not be able to handle their new child’s psychological needs..

  56. 1luckymama says:

    This was a nice post, however, it sounds like the idea of adoption as charity and I struggle with that. If charity is what brings you to the idea of adoption initially, I would hope that sincerely wanting to build your family would end up being the primary reason for following through with adopting. I was adopted (as were my siblings) and my children are adopted and I promise you that ultimately no child wants to feel like they were only the result of an altruistic outreach. He/she wants to be your son or daughter, not your adopted son or daughter. (I do believe it’s true that when a child is adopted from another country and/or the child being adopted is not an infant and/or the child has been moved from caregiver to caregiver, there are a whole host of additional challenges and considerations, yet I would still contend that a heartfelt desire to build/expand your family is the authentic position that ultimately will help your child feel as though he/she was truly wanted as that will come through in your parenting.) Of course you love your son differently, as you probably love each biological child differently because he/she is an individual. If your child has a different birth heritage or ethnicity than others in your family it brings another layer into your parenting. But isn’t celebrating and/or recognizing all the beautiful diversity in each other and, indeed, around the planet a lovely tradition for families and a wonderful way to raise our little ones to appreciate and value differences?

    I also disagree with the notion of adoption being “second best.” I cannot imagine any other family than my parents and siblings, or my own children. To the point I think your making that economic (and sometimes social) duress is the main cause behind the difficult decision to place a child for adoption in the first place, I agree that we need to continue to strive to abolish poverty and other inequities that put children around the world at risk so women and/or families do not have to make the difficult decision to relinquish a child.

    • I absolutely agree with this comment. I hate the thought of people thinking my daughter was a charity case and I NEVER want her to think that. You could say I adopted for selfish reasons in a way. I wanted to be a mother and biology was not going to grant me that. It really rubs me wrong when people comment on how I “saved” my daughter. She saved me. She was not second best.

  57. Sharon c says:

    Although I appreciated many of Shaun’s points, I couldn’t help. Ut notice how people praised him for loving his son, and for being sacrificial..adoption is mutually beneficial..the parent is not just rescuing the child, they are gaining a son or daughter..the you are so wonderful to adopt sentiment gets old..

    • my guess is you have never adopted and dont understand the complexity – i didnt hear him say he was ‘wonderful’ – i heard him say his son was wonderful and worth a little extra effort.

      • your guess would be wrong! My comments are based on the many Statements I see online praising parents who adopt..while the reality is th parents gains at least as much..also please read my comment…you definitely did not get the gist of what I was saying..

  58. love this! we have one bio daughter – a son adopted from Russia and a daughter adopted here in the states. Thank you for sharing this!

  59. This is beautiful! I adopted both my children as a single mother. The first made my life perfect, a sweet little baby from China. The second, a perpetually grumpy 7-year-old from China, nearly tore it apart. Don’t form a happy movie scenario for an adoption of a child – accept it as a journey that may take you to places you don’t want to go but may then end up being the most rewarding thing you have ever done. I can’t imagine life w/o my now 15-year-old. She is still influenced in part by her life in China, but I have learned to respect and accept her for who she is, and I find that I have grown so much from who I was when she came to me. Somehow you learn to bend and flow with the issues of adopting an older child and before you know it you realize things are so much better. Every child deserves a home, even the surly little tigers that hiss and spit at you until they are tamed!

  60. Swapna Nanda says:

    Thank you for this wonderful sharing. I needed the 4th and 5th lessons the most. I am from India and our eldest daughter is by adoption. We had made this commitment early in our marriage but God helped us to have her after 10 years. She was just one year and with her I realized the experienced all the special feelings of being a mom. The next year miraculously I gave birth to our second daughter. We are so very happy to have two daughters now. She does not know that she is adopted. Perhaps she is too small for this. But she has filled our home, our lives and our family with laughter and happiness inn abundance. Some people may think that adoption benefits the child only but I would also add that I have benefited more. God put her in our stewardship because she was special but also because HE loves us and wanted us to have the privilege of raising such a wonderful, loving kid.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  61. I know what it is like first hand to deal with the huge difficulties adopted children can have. My son is a Romanian gypsy that joined our family when he was three and had lived a very difficult life. He is now eight and it has and still is a roller coaster ride. I understand everything you have said. Mine is eight and he still doesn’t remember to flush the toilet, wash his hands or put on underwear!!!!!!!! Hang in there!!!! (oh and I have also hidden in the bathroom on lots of ocasions)

  62. Thank you for this post, Shaun. Everything that adoption has taught you is teaching me, too. As the mom of two biological and two adopted children, ages 16, 14, 11 and 10, I am a work in progress! The lessons I needed most today were #1 and #6. In fact, I’ll be looking at the Compassion site today for my Mother’s Day gift request. Btw, I do a LOT of praying and I hid in the bathroom just last night, until the youngest found me!

  63. What a wonderful message this is. So sincere and real. And here are so many similarities to our family life, child side and parent side ! Thank you for sharing.

    Adopting an older child (and not being the witness of other’s adoption !) is something new for our family, with new challenges but so many more satisfactions !

    And my heart stays broken for all the trauma Sambhaji went through before landing on your front door.

  64. Just have to say I am loving this post and all the comments… I have read it and reread it… talking about writing to the heart!!!

  65. What an amazing story and so true – wisdom beyond years! Adoption is such an amazingly challenging experience. In some ways it is such an incredible blessing, but it will also stretch parents, other siblings, and the adopted child/ren more than anyone often anticipates. It’s so wonderful that God brought him into your lives, and I completely agree with all the lessons you’ve shared here. It’s not for everyone, but God puts kids and parents together and will bless our courage to do what He wills.

  66. “What if God’s will for our life is found wherever someone’s need and our ability intersect?”

    This quote comforts me and gives me a purpose in the waiting. With prayer, every day can be a miracle of compassion. I didn’t always care about others, then I prayed, “God help me to love people.” I didn’t know how and he’s been doing it through me ever since, more and more each year, each month, each week.

    I loved this post. Thank you!

  67. What a beautiful post, Shaun. Thank you. Those words from your brother-in-law really got me: “What if God’s will for our life is found wherever someone’s need and our ability intersect?” That sums it all up, don’t you think?

    My husband, David and I have three biological children and have wanted to ‘one day adopt’ since we were highschool sweethearts. We seriously looked at it a few years ago, but then circumstances (mainly a parent with Alzheimer’s) continued to push it aside. So now we’re sitting back and being patient for a while, but it’s hard to understand God’s timing versus our own. Is it my own hesitation that’s holding us back? Or God’s desire for us to wait? I don’t know, but it’s a constant matter of prayer for our family. I’m sure I won’t feel ‘complete’ until after we adopt a couple of kids.

    Your post was so encouraging for me. I know it was here for me today with good reason. Thank you.

    Your prayers for our family’s clarity on this matter would be appreciated.
    In Christ Alone,

  68. Christy says:

    My husband and I were asked last week to adopt a baby girl due in July. The mother is a friend of a friend and decided she did not want the baby because there is something wrong with her. The baby has a cleft palate and she does not appear to be moving her arms. We are waiting for the results of some more tests to hopefully see why that is. The possibilities are terrifying but I know it would be oh so worth it no matter what is to come. My husband and I have always talked about adoption and of course we said yes to the opportunity to love this precious baby girl. I already love her more than I can describe! The finances involved have always been a barrier for us and we are just trusting the Lord that it will all work out if it is His plan.

  69. I appreciate your thoughts about differentiating. As an adoptive mom of a beautiful daughter, my husband and I realized that there are so many skills that need to be taught and when a child is developmentally behind, we just take every day at a time. It has been 4 years now and things are great. We are looking to adopt a couple more children to complete our family…..I laughed my butt off, however, because I thought I was the only person to have locked myself in my bathroom..ha

  70. ashleigh says:

    Loved these thoughts. However, I’m gonna take issue with #6…okay, really just the wording. 🙂 I totally agree with your point–it would be far, far better for adoption not to be the last best option for a family. And we should be working to create more opportunities for families to stay together rather than assuming that the best thing for a child is being ripped from a family and placed with a wealthy American family. However, that phrase “second best” just breaks my heart. I look at the two boys God has brought into my family through adoption, and I never want them to think they were not deserving of God’s best. Was it by God’s choice or design that their birthmoms placed them for adoption? No, I don’t believe that for a minute. But He is in the business of making beautiful things out of brokenness. I don’t think God does “second best.”
    Thanks for letting me put that into words. And thank you for the amazing work you do on behalf of children all over the world. Hopefully, many more families will stay together–and flourish–because of what Compassion is doing in Jesus’ name.

  71. My family is done with our home study and on to our “just waiting” (ha!) time for our adoption. We are adopting domestically, which means the birth mom will choose us, and we are learning so much every day about this process. Thanks for this article! I too read it with tears and even read a few lines to my husband working beside me. We need reminders that it looks different for everyone, that expectations that are not Biblical are a lot (most?) of the time unnecessary and that we will probably need to grieve with our child over the lost “first best” for their life. Thanks for the article.

  72. Adoption is very, very hard even for those who have done it numerous times.
    We just brought home our daughter from Ethiopia three months ago and we are still figuring out who she is. She is 18 months old now and I do believe had she been an infant at homecoming things would be very different. She would have bonded a lot faster and there would be fewer attachment issues, however I love her as though I gave birth to her. I have no biological children yet but never for one second thought of adoption (for us) as a second choice. I do understand, however that for our daughters birth mother this was a second option of course. I know that she wanted more than anything to parent her but because of poverty she was unable to. I will forever be grateful to her for her selfless gift and I will forever pray for her.
    For anyone that is thinking about adopting I strongly urge you to do it. It is hard, hard as hell but so worth every ounce of pain. To see my daughter smile, laugh, and play endlessly in our backyard without a worry in the world is all I need to know that adoption is worth every financial and emotional burden. Adoption will forever change your life; but it is always for the better.

  73. We already know that we want our family to be added to by adoption at some point in our journey, but I have NEVER thought of the work that Compassion does as orphan prevention. Of course, you\’re absolutely right, it just never occurred to me. Such a great insight. And it makes me all the more passionate about wanting to support the kids we sponsor, and hopefully many more to come. Thank you for this post, Shaun.

  74. Love seeing this, Shaun. Our daughter was adopted from India at the age of four as well–she turns nine in a few days. Our journey has been filled with plenty of highs and many lows and struggles. The point about lowering expectations is so spot on, and I wish someone had prepared me for that. It still helps to keep in mind, even five years down the road.


  75. My husband and I have always wanted to adopt. We have four children right now (our oldest just turned five). Right now we’re held back by college loan debt. We pray that God will bless our efforts to work hard so that we can pay down the debt and make it possible for us to provide a family for children who have none. We’d love a list of resources that are established to help with the financial aspect of adoption.

  76. I am a foster parent and I have had a number of children with FASD… two of which we are probably going to raise until adulthood. I just wanted to say that I can empathize with you. Thanks for posting this.

  77. Thank you for #6.
    Suddenly I see the purpose of Compassion; to keep families together which is first best. First best is my daily struggle in my own home and family, but Compassion could give me a chance to help that happen in another family for another child.
    As always, thought provoking post.

  78. This is one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time. Thank you, Shaun – for your honesty, your compassion, your willingness to share even the hard/messy parts about adoption.

    My husband and I have three biological girls, but we also feel a tug on our hearts to care for orphans. Perhaps foster care and/or adoption is in our future…

    P.S. I laughed at the part where you wrote about muttering to yourself about being a horrible human being after a particularly trying day of parenting. I’ve been there too.

  79. Wow Sean this is beautiful. My wife and I are praying about adoption and we are really wanting too but we get so nervous about so many of the unknowns. Just reading what you have to say eases me and lets me know we do not have to have it all figured out. THanks for this.

  80. Bobbie-Jo says:

    That has got to be the most beautiful and authentic tribute to adoption that I’ve ever read. As an adoptive parent, I can identify with EVERY SINGLE word. For me, I would add these two important lessons: 1) Love is not enough and 2) There is no such thing as supermom (or dad).

    Good job on speaking the hard truth, full of love.

  81. “What if God’s will for our life is found wherever someone’s need and our ability intersect?”

  82. tears.. so many zingers in this post. . .need to reread is a few times. . wow. We just brought home a 7 yr old boy from Ethiopia a year ago. . I so relate to the pull of mindless activity. . to the eating of less than good food, to the exhaustion. I so relate to the kid is 20 or 30 in many ways and 1 or 2 in others. I am still trying to wrap my mind and heart around it all. . .

  83. Michelle says:

    Thank you!!! This was like a breath of fresh air as we are in the midst of a similar road. Attachment with wounded children is exhausting, to say the least. Thank you for sharing honestly and for the encouragement. God bless you and your family!!

  84. hellow
    i have ready a story i name is mary a tanzanian single parent with no relative since i grewup in orphanage education level is university but with no son age is 7months with no assistance at all completely alone..m confused light now he is supoz to start baby food but i cant afford expenses my health is well because of stress…my rent expire in 3months to come i dont have the means to get it..i started a small busness but the market isnot good i feiled..i dont want to give my son for adoption i love him soo much he is the only true relative i have..i want to go back to school and be able to pay rent please i also need adopted parents for me and my son i need a person to direct me because i am confused..please call me +255 653 998105 u may not have finencial help but word of wisdome needed trully m confussed and isolated.

  85. Shaun, i am new to your blog but this quote might just make its way on to my kitchen wall “What if God’s will for our life is found wherever someone’s need and our ability intersect?”
    We are hoping to adopt via the foster care system but no matter what path our lives take, i will remember this quote… i love it! Nadine

  86. Colleen says:

    We are just starting the process to adopt through foster care. It is daunting. I feel so not good enough due to my advanced age of “over 40” and financial inability to be a stay at home mom.

    The comments regarding poverty strike a nerve with me and the thought crosses my mind that poverty is not always necessarily a “financial” issue. As I hear more and more about the abuse and neglect children in the U.S. foster care have been subjected to at the hands of their birth parents, it seems there is a poverty of soul at play as well.

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