Saturday, May 28, 2011

 Our Attachment Plan When The Boy's Get Home (there are 3 sections so keep reading after this one to read all of it)!

This might seem like a long and crazy post...I actually have somewhat dreaded writing it...but, we so want our friends and family to be totally aware of our plans with our boys when they arrive home. Oh, having them home...we can't wait! :) So, here we go! A lot of this post has came from friends “plans”, books, etc. we have read and required video's, etc. we have watched (one friend...I borrowed a lot of her writing...she just does a GREAT job!).

Attachment and bonding are often used interchangeably; however, they are two very different processes. Bonding is that phase of falling in love with your child and your child with you. Darren and I were very excited and overjoyed to meet our boys. I think I felt instantaneous love for Dagim upon meeting him. With Gadisa I certainly was excited, but I think I was a bit more overwhelmed when I met him. He is older, he had thoughts about what was going on (unlike Dagim), and I couldn't understand him and ask how he felt...(It is natural and normal for adopting families to not feel immediate love, and it in no way indicates that there are problems ahead. Sometimes love has to grow. Adoption, while beautiful, is unnatural, and by that I simply mean that adoption is not how God originally intended for families to grow. Adoption did not exist until after sin entered the world.)

While I feel love for is still growing and has grown more with our time apart. We found out quickly that Gadisa had his own friends, the Transition Home had became his home, and he wasn't as “into us” as we thought he would be. He was so very excited to meet us, (he cried days before wondering when we would arrive). He was excited to see us every day, and was very sad when we left...I don't know if it was a feeling of abandonment or what...but, it was sad each and every day. But, one on one for hours was just not natural for him. He had his own things to do at almost 9 and his own routine and, that's what I mean by him not being “into us” like I thought. That made those days a lot harder. I tried, we all tried but, felt like we were outsiders. But, then we would see the tears when we were leaving and knew that even though he didn't seem that “into us”...he did like us there while he was “doing his thing”. So, interesting.

I have realized after coming home and now that we are love has grown immensely for this young man, (I'm so glad we had to come home, because of this). I miss him, I want him here with us. It's incredible what walking away and leaving him did to my made it long and crave for him. Praise God. I can picture him here. I can see and feel and remember in the crevice of my heart each special moment now. Sometimes in the middle of frustration and craziness you just can't see all of the little things. I can see him stroke my arm, I can feel it! I can see and feel him touch my freckles, him studying me. I can see him look into my eyes so deep. I can see the tears well up when he knew it was time for his dad to leave and then each day we all left. I can see his smile from down the road. I can feel his tight hugs. I long for him now. Praise God for absence making the heart grow fonder.

While our love is growing for Gadisa, he does not feel that same love toward us yet, we are strangers to him, we have yet to bond. The bonding process is typically relatively short with a younger child. It usually begins to occur within a few weeks. With Dagim, I felt like he was attaching and bonding with me while I was there...I was amazed. For Gadisa, it was much easier for him to “just walk away”, “do his own thing”, and “not listen” (I will give the language barrier as a reason for that one). Bonding is about sharing love, relationship, and commitment. We have done very little so far (in the grand scheme of his life) to foster bonding with him. Even after our days with them in Ethiopia, we are still essentially strangers to them. Much of bonding involves physical touch. This is why it sometimes (not all of the time - not every case) appears easier and faster for adopting families to bond with infants rather than older children. Infants require a lot of physical touch, and it is instinctual and natural for most parents to touch and nurture an infant - even for those adults who are not inclined to a lot of physical touching in how they parent. I believe that bonding, especially after a child is adopted, must be initiated by the parents. A child that comes from a hard place will not usually, naturally interact with his or her new family through physical touch. It is a process that must be taught and prayerfully will eventually be mirrored and reciprocated in our boys.

Attachment is bigger and more complicated and
usually takes much longer than bonding (think months not weeks and sometimes even years). Simply stated attachment is a process of trust. I believe that the research for attachment is extensive, on-going and changing, and because every child is so different it is very important to continually and constantly be researching, learning, and growing as parents while giving our children over to God. Some research indicates that the attachment process begins in the womb as the baby receives nourishment from the mother. I am not educated enough to say whether or not this is factual. However, I have heard some very convincing theories that babies in utero who experience trauma or stress will have a brain that develops differently from a baby who did not experience such things. From these studies it truly does seem to indicate that the attachment process is not only very real, but happens very early in a child's life. Regardless of that, I do believe that enough data has been collected to prove that during a child's first 18 months of life, he or she has learned whether or not their caregivers can be trusted to meet their needs. When a child's needs are met continually in the first 18 months of life, the attachment process begins in a healthy normal manner. However, when needs are repeatedly unmet- for example a baby cries out for food and no food is given, the attachment process is disrupted. Although, it is unlikely that a child would remember this occurrence, the affects of this could have lifelong implications if tools to heal this wounded child's heart are not implemented. Children who are in orphanages may discover that sometimes their needs are met and sometimes they are not, so they learn to trust no one. Sadly many of these children have had to find ways to gratify and sooth themselves - even at very young ages.

As Gadisa and Dagim's parents we feel that it is absolutely vital to commit to fostering both bonding and attachment between ourselves and them and among our family as a whole. We understand through various research that the first few weeks and months that they are home with us are absolutely critical to the future healing that we desire to take place in their hearts. We are ready to invest our time and our energy into doing everything we can to transition them into our home - into our family. Now that I have set the groundwork for why we feel this is so necessary I will share how we plan to do it and exactly what our attachment plan looks like. Hopefully in sharing all of this, it will make our plan a little more understandable and less crazy sounding! If you ever have questions...please ask. I hope I can answer them.

The issues surrounding attachment, bonding, and cocooning can be sensitive and controversial. Just so you know...this is our decision and not necessarily how everyone adopting will “do things”...after research, training, prayer and searching the Scriptures this is our plan. It could change...but, for now...we at least have a goal. If you are a family that is not involved in adoption, please understand the carefulness that went into all of this and know that yes it will most likely look very, very differently from how you do things with your birth children. I also want to clearly state that because we are doing things special with the boys does not make them more special than Corbin & Lauren. We seek to meet our children at the place that they individually are. And is that not how God deals with His children? Please read this with grace, and understanding. We are only putting this into writing so everyone is on the same page and no one's feeling are hurt when the boy's come home :)!

The reason I am writing this is because I have been asked by many what our plan is. A lot of what I found was the hard truth of problems that
can (does not always) happen when a child is adopted into a family who did not establish an attachment plan. Much of the information and our plan that I will share is not original to us. I am not an expert. I have never lived through this with an adopted child, but I have been adopted. I will not pretend to know it all about any of this. We gathered information from a few blogs, books, seminars, our social worker, adopting friends, etc.

Gadisa and Dagim have came from a hard place. They have had a very difficult first 20 months and 9 years of life - no matter how you look at it. With saying that...I pray you will treat them normal and like our other 2 kiddos...they are all 4 ours...we are their mom & dad, period. Anyway...According to Dr. Karyn Purvis
any child that is eligible for adoption or foster care comes from a hard place. Yes, even that newborn infant adopted the day of his or her birth, comes from a hard place. A child coming from a hard place may have experienced some or many of the following (our boys experienced many...and there may be some we do not know they experienced):

In-utero stress (drug or alcohol related, a stressful environment, a traumatic experience that the birth mother went through - even stress while deciding whether or not she should place her child for adoption, etc.)
Traumatic Birth
Separation from birth mother *
Foster Care
Orphanage Care *
Separation from primary caregiver *
Shifting between foster family and birth family
Move to a new country *
Move to a new institution *
Unresolved medical issues
Neglect *
Adoption *

Parenting a child who has been adopted is not the same as parenting a birth child. Adoption is a means to bring a child into a home and make him or her a son or a daughter and become a source of healing for that child. Every foster and adopted child needs to to be given the tools to heal. Obviously every child is different, and depending on the child and the family, this can be a very difficult process. However, it is
not an impossible process or a process without hope. We feel that it is a process that we must prepare and plan for, so that we are equipped to pass on the tools that Gadisa and Dagim will need to heal from their traumatic experiences. I also strongly believe, that when families are adequately trained and are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to help their new children heal, that people will start noticing this and stop feeling so fearful about foster care and adoption. Then maybe we will start seeing our churches explode with children who are being loved and nurtured in church families because of the beautiful ministry of foster care and adoption.

Gadisa and Dagim were in an orphanage for a few months and now have been in AWAA's Transition Home (TH) since September. The TH is wonderful. It is clean (yes small and very simple when compared to American standard's) and the children are nurtured, cared for, and I even dare say loved by the wonderful nannies. Yes, the nannies are overworked, yes there are about 5-7 babies per nanny, but for being an institution in a developing country, They are getting phenomenal care. Both have bonded with their nannies. When we swoop in for our gotcha day we will be introducing trauma once again into our boy's lives. They will grieve the loss of this special place and precious people who met their needs for the past 9 months of their lives. They will be handling some very major transitions from new foods, clothes (think snow gear this next winter!), smells, a room that does not have as many sleep mates, people, language, experiences (think car seat!), environment, climate etc. All of these transitions will happen very rapidly, and they will all cause them more pain, more confusion, more healing that will need to take place. As their parents, we want to be sensitive to all that will be taking place in their hearts, all of the pain that they will be enduring. We want to be equipped and ready to help them begin the healing process. We feel this is our role as their parents. It is our obligation with each of the children God chooses to bless us with. Because of this we are taking a rather intense approach, and we plan to cocoon them for a few weeks (once home we can adjust just how many weeks as we see how they are doing). I will share our specific plan in a minute.

No comments:

Post a Comment