Friday, May 10, 2013

Counting the Cost of Adoption – {Good Parenting and Love is NOT Enough}

*I started this post over a month ago.  I now understand why I was unable to finish it.  More information was about to be revealed to me and I needed to truly grasp the depth of each word I’m about to share.  Because you truly can’t teach what you don’t fully know or haven’t lived yourself.  I am NOT anti-adoption.  Nor am I able to promote it like I once did.  Read on to understand.  If you can’t leave a comment in love, then please leave none at all.  These are just my opinions and experiences.  You are entitled to your own, just not here if not with compassion and seeking to understand!  With Mother’s Day coming up in two days, this post hits so close to home for me!  Before you continue reading this post take a moment to understand why LOVE IS VULNERABLE.

Over and over again I have thought, “did we really count the cost before adopting each of our children?”

The answer is no.

Nothing could have ever prepared us for what we would face.  Nothing.  

There is no book that can appropriately and fully describe the depth of pain a broken child can bring into your life. 

There are not enough honest and open conversations being had in the adoption community about the reality of raising a broken child and how much it will cost you:  physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

With seven internationally adopted children I feel pretty secure in our personal opinions on the subject.  What is the real cost of adopting a child?  And how exactly do you go about counting the cost realistically?

I have been around the adoption community for over eight years, with hundreds of friends around the U.S.A. who have walked through adoptions around the world!  Many of my friends have adopted more children than we have.   I share that not to boast, but to help you understand that this topic is not new to me and I take it very seriously.   So when I read this post, I knew it was time to dig a little deeper and share another perspective.   You may also want to read this post to get another rich perspective on the truth of adoption.  As well as this one.

I am not a professional adoption advocate, counselor, or anything of the sort.  I’m simply a mom who has gone through the valley and continues to fight her way up to the mountain top every single day with our adopted children.    And I will continue to press in and on until my last breath…hoping they will all find victory over their pasts that still haunts them each day.

First, when we began our adoption journey we knew nothing about the process, the ups and downs of adopting internationally vs. domestic, what countries were good to adopt from vs. which ones were corrupt (sorry but any country where children are being adopted has some level of corruption – including the USA!), how long we should expect an adoption to take, the cost to adopt a child (from the paperwork needed, fingerprints, doctor visits, many express mailings, agency fees, travel fees, items needed immediately for child, etc.), what the true story was on how they became an orphan, was the agency ethical and honest, were the people running the foster homes and orphanages taking the best care of the children, were they getting adequate nutrition, and what was their daily life really like??   We had ZERO clue.  

All we knew was that God had seriously tugged on our hearts to bring more children into our lives and we simply said, “yes”.    God doesn’t seem to do anything slowly with us.  Before we could literally breathe five years had past and seven children were added into our home and lives forever. 

Our adoption stories are filled with bumps, bruises, and betrayal.    I don’t know many adoptions that don’t have a similar experience to ours.   Sure there are the wonderful adoption stories you hear about where everything went perfectly, the agency did what they were hired to do, the child came home fairly quickly, and without any noticeable trauma from their past.   Those adoptions are far and few between.  

Why?  Because being abandoned, neglected, and rejected causes deep rooted pain for children.  Yes, even to babies who are way too young to vocalize what the loss has done to them.  Add in if they were abused and the damage it causes often takes years to be revealed to you.   Sometimes the damage done to them won’t surface until they are in their teens.   And when it does, it will rock your heart and world to the core; often leaving your life, home, and family changed forever.  

I can’t count how many times a broken child has broken a home.  

I can’t count how many times adoptive families have chosen to disrupt their adoption and place the child into another home forever. 

I can’t keep track of how many adoptions have needed respite for months to help the family breathe and regroup before the adopted child re-enters the home.   Often repeating this cycle many times. 

Sadly, I can’t keep track of how many marriages have been broken because of the stress the adopted child(ren) put on the marriage either. 

I’m not blaming the adopted children.  Actually I think the entire system is unfair to them.  It doesn't serve them well.  It does what it can, but too many children fall through the cracks.  Too many mistakes are made along the way.  The children suffer in the hands of unqualified caretakers.  They suffer in the hands of a system operating under the guise of looking out for their best interest.  They suffer at the hands of people who don’t truly care for them.   They suffer at the hands of people who know they can take advantage of the children and will never get caught.  And if they do, what really can or will be done?  

The entire system sets up false expectation on both parts.  Something is very wrong with the system.  Something is very wrong when the truth about the child’s past is being withheld from the prospective adoptive family.   There are so many things wrong with the adoption process, namely how prospective families and the child waiting to be adopted are informed/prepared for life together after the adoption.   The U.S. government relies on social workers to give a comprehensive and truthful history of the prospective families…yet, often times they miss or overlook very important things.  And who suffers?  The children.   They come home into families that are not prepared or qualified to meet the needs of the adoptive child.  The list of things that are wrong with the system would take me weeks if not months to go over.   

You can’t just take a child out of an orphanage and expect them to know or understand what it means to live in or be a part of a family.   You can’t just take a child living in a foster home and expect them to be prepared for it either.   Too often in international adoption the children are abused in both situations.  Too often this happens when they are very young.  Too often it goes unreported which opens the door for future children to be abused and entering the homes of unknowing families. 

I don’t claim to have all the answers.  But the lying must stop.  The deceit, greed, and mishandling of the children must stop.   We owe it to the 143 million orphans around the world to do better.  We owe it to every child who has been placed into a situation where they are abused emotionally and physically every single day.   We owe it to them to fix a system that has failed them time and time again.  We owe it to them because if we don’t find a way to protect them, the damage done to them only gets repeated.   The statistics rise and we become numb to the pain it causes so many.   

Here are just a few of the misperceptions about adoption that lead to many of the issues I mentioned above:

  1. Most adoptive parents go into it truly believing the child will be just as happy as you are about adopting them.  (Sure there will be a honeymoon period when they first realize they are being set free from the hell in which they live. However, once that phase has passed and they feel safe to be who they really are…it can cost you more than time, patience, and love.)
  2. Most adoptive parents believe that hearing the child is healthy will guarantee them a child without physical or emotional challenges after coming home.  
  3. Most adoptive parents believe that with enough love the child will be fine and their past won’t really effect them.  They just need a family, a safe home, good nutrition, good parenting, and love. 
  4. Most adoptive parents believe that the hardest part of the process is being separated from the child and not being able to take care of them while they wait to become a “family”. 
  5. Most adoptive parents believe that if they adopt a baby the risks will be less for issues once home.  The risks are less but there is NEVER a guarantee that the child will be easy, healthy, or without severe challenges as time goes on.

When prospective adoptive parents contact me and ask me to share about our adoptions, my words are few and filled with truths that I pray they listen to and take very seriously!

“Congratulations!  Prepare your heart now as best you can for a journey that will blow your mind in every way possible through a life not grown in your womb, but in your heart.   Prepare yourself to sacrifice everything.   Prepare yourself that parenting an adopted child will make you look at the world through a whole new set of eyes.  Prepare yourself to be stared at, ridiculed, and judged for being a different color than your child(ren).   Prepare yourself for the questions that will come from family, friends, strangers, and eventually your child(ren).   Prepare yourself for the often horrendous and stupid things people will say to you in front of your child, or worse yet, directly to your child.   Prepare yourself to be stretched so thin that without faith you will surely break.  Prepare yourself for the reality that you might struggle to bond, like, and love your adopted child.  Prepare yourself that your child may struggle to bond, like, and love you!  Prepare yourself that you must celebrate every success you achieve along the way, because you will need them to live through what seem like failure after failure!  Prepare yourself to forgive more than you thought possible, to love deeper than you imagined you could, to fight for things you never thought you would care about, and to become more humble with every single day that passes.   Adoption is the greatest blessing and the hardest journey you will ever take.  So walk wisely with your eyes and heart wide open, willing to accept everything that comes your way.   If you cannot do that, then please support those who will and have.”

My favorite quote and reminder about adoption is the following!!!


If only every orphan could ask this question before they were adopted, “will you love me as I feel safe enough to let go of the baggage I am bringing with me?”  And, “will you help me to feel safe to never want to carry it again?”


I get asked this question so often, “How do you do it?”  It’s a reasonable question to ask a mother of nine.   I truly can’t take much credit.  Yes, I do the work day in and day out.  Yes, I push through the impossible stages they have gone through and will continue to go through for years to come.  But I know that it is His grace, mercy, and love that has held it all together.  Even now as I doubt His presence in our circumstances, I know the truth.  The truth is, He is right here and will do everything that He set out to do from the moment we said yes to adopt each of our children, He will redeem them and shower them with His healing grace and love!  He never asked that of me/us.   He simply asked me to be His hands and feet.  I must remember that.  I’m simply a tool being used by the Master craftsman.   He has give me the strength to persevere and I must not give up.   He has given me the courage to face this situation and I will not back down from it until the pain has become a distant memory! 

My answer to that question has changed through the years because we walked through many valleys filled with pain and despair.   With this many internationally adopted children we seem to experience long deep valleys where pain breathes and rages like an endless fire.  Together we continue to learn how to withstand the heat and walk steadily through it.  Running away may be awfully appealing at times, but it will never extinguish their heart cry for peace, joy, hope, and love!   Only faith can do that.   Only God can supply it.     

Here is how I answered that question the other day…

“Day by day. Moment by moment. That is how I'm taking life right now. I'm counting the cost of adoption and how it has changed my life. As a mother. As a woman. As a human. I struggle to finish the post I started three weeks ago with the heaviness of each day. I never imagined that my words would have such truth filled in them. Nor did I ever imagine that I would be living out all that I have prayed about for others the last eight years. I started a blog Adoption is Forever over three years ago. But only a few read I stopped blogging there. I may not blog there but I am living proof that NO matter what adoption is forever. No matter how many times I have wanted to quit, give up, be done with all that breaks my heart and soul. A child needs to know in the depth of their soul that you do NOT think they are easily disposable. I am beyond blessed to walk on this journey with a man of integrity and a love so rich, that he never gives up on me and pushes me beyond what I desire or feel.  He never allows me to act from my raw emotions.  He helps me to move through them and past them.   He is the reason we have never walked through disruption.   He is the reason our family is still whole.  Because if it were up to my feelings along the way, we would have a very different story to tell.   He never discredits my feelings either.  He simply shows me how they are not in the best interest of the child or our family in the long run.  He has never let me give up on them or myself.  He believes in my ability to love big, even when I feel everything but love.   When I don't feel it, I fake it until I make it. Sometimes that has taken years.  Sometimes it takes a moment.  Right now I have no idea how long it will take.  I just know adoption is forever.  I know I must forgive completely once again.  I know that I know that I know - a broken child needs more than great parents and love.  Sorry to all who believe that is all they need.  If that were true, then our lives would have a very different story to tell and the journey wouldn’t feel so cumbersome.  Your prayers are keeping me going and when I forget my way I think of these wise words... "It may feel horrible right now and seem impossible. It won't always feel this way and because of your inner strength to dig deep into your faith - your family will not only make it, but come out VICTORIOUS!" Yes, my friends I'm pressing in and on towards VICTORY! That is what a mother does. She never gives up on her children. Even when they have completely given up on themselves.”

I have walked through the valley of resentment, bitterness, exhaustion, and please take this circumstance away from me – NOW!!!!  I have questioned God more times in the last three years than I care to admit.  I have felt trapped, burdened, and even hopeless that our home would never feel the peace it once did.  I have walked through guilt, shame, and convinced myself several times that I was a complete failure as a mom. 

I have also walked on the mountain tops of joy, victory, and hope!    Even now walking through the hardest parenting season of my life, I refuse to let the YUCK of this situation win.   I refuse to let the enemy of my soul and theirs have victory or power over our lives!   We will do what we have always done, and that is to trust in God even when nothing makes sense.  We will not rely on our ability to fix or change things.  Because we know now more than ever before, our good parenting and love has never been enough!   We will rely on His love to heal the broken places deep within them that our love has never touched and never will.   We will pray they grab tightly to Him and allow His unending love for them to breathe life into the broken places that holds them so tightly to their pasts. 



You see love like this is messy and challenging,

it stains the soul,

rips at the skin,

leaves you breathless,

and will cause you to live out your faith like nothing else ever could!

But it takes more than time, money, patience, wisdom, discernment, and trying to control it all. 

Because you can’t have control.   That is what so many adoptive parents want from the beginning.  The ability to control the journey.   They long to have things go their way.  They long to be in the drivers seat.   They long to be navigating through the mounds of heartache along the way.   They want what they want, when and how they want it.   This has never produced the best for the child or the adoption community.   It continues to eat away at every fiber of goodness left within the system.   It forces the hand of those just trying to do their job.   It forces those in charge around the world to take bribes, pay off people to get documents signed or forged.  It forces those in charge to keep paying off birth parents to relinquish their children.   Yes, it does.   You can choose to believe whatever you want.  But the reality is this, until everyone stops trying to control the life of an orphan, the orphan will never be safe!    A child is NOT a commodity.   A child is NOT to be bought and sold.  They are to be given a chance to be raised in their own country, with their parents, and community.   We must stop feeding their villages fish, and instead teach them to fish for themselves.   We must try to keep every child possible with their birth families – even in America.   When a child is rejected, neglected, or abandoned, we MUST do everything we can to ensure their safety and needs are met without further damaging them.   We are responsible for the brokenness we abhor.   

It is time we all count the cost of adoption.  

It is time we all count the cost of raising a child who has been damaged by the very system meant to protect them.

It is time we all count the cost of not coming together to help those who have sacrificed everything to adopt a child.

It is time we all count the cost of a life and placing the appropriate value upon it…PRICELESS!

Until we do…their voices are silenced and their hope is distinguished.

The one thing I want our children to know more than any other thing is this…


Until they fully grasp and believe in the reality of those words, their minds will count them anything but worthy of the cross! It is our job as their parents to do everything possible to redeem what was once stolen from them.  It is our job to do everything in our power to help them find healing for their heart and souls.   It is our job to ensure they know that they know that they know, adoption is forever!  

When a child can no longer safely live in your home, ensure they know they will always live in your heart.  I know there are times where it is best and safest for all involved that the child moves on, but please ensure they know they are forgiven and loved no matter where they end up.  Knowing their life has value even in the midst of so much pain, could be the very thing that helps them to heal and allow God to work in their hearts forever!

I leave you with one last beautiful quote about adoption…


It took this quote to remind me why I said “yes” seven times to adopt and why I can’t allow myself to ever think anything less than this…adoption is forever!   In a world that disposes of everything so easily, our children must learn that even when they mess up and they must own the consequences caused by their poor choices, we will NOT walk away and tell them once again they weren’t worth the heartache to love.   We will never stop telling them they are our child and that means forever!   

Counting the cost of adoption takes more than being a good parent and lots of love!  

It takes more than you have to give, and yet, requires no more than faith of a mustard seed. 



  1. Thank you for your bravery- I wish that we didn't belong to this secret sisterhood of families broken by adoption but at the same time, we belong to the sisterhood of those that experience the power of Almighty God because it is the only way we can parent these broken children. Adoption is FOREVER! I am proud of you for saying it publically!

  2. Thank you for sharing truth !! Our love as adoptive parents is not enough and never will be enough . I internationally adopted twins at 5 months old who came from a foster home . That was supposed to be the most "ideal" situation with the least amount of trauma . Nothing could have prepared us for the road we still journey on to this day . The pain and grief they live with is unbearable to them and us all on most days. The cost of adoption is always worth it but it is a very high price . And the system is very broken . Thanks for your honesty !

  3. This post comes from a place of such raw emotion. Every word you said rang with truth to me. Honestly you need to write a book. Share your story...let others share, too. It would have been helpful to have this frame of reference before we adopted. No one tells you these things. There needs to be a special section on adopting children AS teenagers. So little is written on this and the unique issues it brings.

    No love is not enough. But God is. I thank God that He is!

  4. Jill, I read this yesterday and couldn't even respond because of the tears. Thank you so much for your honesty; I know it's not easy.

    I have to tell you that I've read your blogs for years now, and I used to wonder how you did it. Your children were always so beautifully photographed, and your life always looked like it was so much fun, so I assumed that you weren't experiencing the issues that many of us adoptive parents are going through. I wondered how you could have adopted so many children and not dealt with any attachment or mental or behavioral health issues. And if you *were* dealing with them, I figured that you must be a much better mom than I was!

    I, personally, have struggled with how much to share about our adoption experiences. I certainly don't want to discourage anyone who is following God's calling to adopt. On the other hand, it's good to be as prepared as possible and at least be aware of some of the issues that might arise.

    Still, I don't know if I would have listened if someone had attempted to prepare me. I honestly don't think that anyone can fully understand it unless they've lived it. I was aware that there could be issues but I was still sure that I could conquer them with my unending love, acceptance, and prayers that I would shower on my children!

    This may be too lengthy to publish, and that's okay. I just wanted to thank you because on the days when I don't feel like I can breathe, when I'm not sure I can survive one more thing, there are three things that help me survive: my faith, my husband (even though there was a time when the stress of everything threatened our marriage), and the other adoptive parents who are following this path.

    I'm praying for you, Jill!

  5. thank you for writing this. i am blessed to know you. i am going to read this again and again and share... so many truths well written.

  6. It took me several days to get through this post. I left reading it when I had enough to think and pray about and then would return... Your wisdom and articulation are a gift to the adoption community. In good and hard times, your family is an example of how to follow in faith. I stand in awe of your perseverance and continued ability to love selflessly. You are following the "road less traveled" and it is a blessing to be a part of it! I'm praying for you!

  7. Oh Jill, I'm glad you shared all of this from your heart. I have admired you and Scott so much for being willing to open your heart and home to many children. They are blessed to have you as their forever mother.

    I don't have experience with adoption. Although I desperately wanted to have children, I couldn't conceive. Adoption needs to be something husband and wife agree on and I can see why.

    In our school, a family adopted a little boy from Ethiopia. They already had one of their own and during the adoption process the mom got pregnant. She now has four children under the age of five. The little adopted boy is precious but as you say ...comes with much baggage. It's been hard to work with him in a classroom. Everyone loves him but it's hard for him to abide by the rules.

    I pray for you and your family Jill. You are very special to me.

    Love you,

  8. I am right there with you, Jill...every word...every emotion. Most days I feel so depleted, and I wonder if I'm even making a difference with one child specifically. After three years, attachment is still very difficult and some moments doesn't even feel like it's there. But this is where God has called us to be, and He has not released us of the responsibility. Thank you for your real & honest post.

  9. Thank you for sharing what has been on my heart for a long time. We are over the hump per se' with 5 children from our international adoptions. We were called as second time parents and adopted 5 children in three years. I pray constantly about the younger moms coming along behind me and know that the pain we have experienced will help someone along the way. The hardest part for me was being so incredibly alone. I know that God was with me and He was the sustaining power behind all the tough times....I am now super sensitive to the pain that I see on others faces and the depth of pain that I know can be in their hearts. This post has encouraged me to remember that I am not alone...and I can be there for others...and that is an added gift of adopting. Blessings, tjmc

  10. WOW! If I were a gifted writer, those could be my words. No one wants to hear the truth about living with adopted children. We have 12 year old twins that we fostered/adopted from birth. NOTHING could have prepared me for this journey. It's truly like no other. I think it's easy for people to look at my life and simply say that they wouldn't chose babies who were born drug positive. As if that's the only obstacle we face. These children are damaged by life experiences they can't even remember! There's a reason that we fight an "Orphan Spirit". Thank you for your honesty. I really needed this read. Blessings!

  11. Thanks for not putting on a happy face and pretending everything is rosy,when in adoption almost nothing is rosy. I live in the trenches too. I have hurt,neglected,brain damaged kids. I chose to walk this walk and yet society blames me for their problems. I appreciate your honesty.

  12. I can hardly post through the tears, but echo wholeheartedly what others have said. Thank you!

  13. Wow! That was some tough stuff to read through and yet so very touching and heart-felt. Thank you!

  14. Thank you for your honesty and taking the time to share your experience, strength and hope.

  15. What a blessing this post is to me! I have often felt so alone on this journey; this is such an encouragement to me, and it needs to be heard in the adoption community.

  16. What a blessing this post is to me! I have often felt so alone on this journey; this is such an encouragement to me, and it needs to be heard in the adoption community.

  17. Excellent. Thank you for this Jill. Beautifully written and full of truth. May the God of all HOPE take each one of us, along with our children, on into the wholeness and healing that He alone can give.

  18. Thank you for giving me a better perspective on adoption. My husband and I considered adopting about 10 years ago. I have 1 child and he has 3. God knew that I wasn't strong enough to do it and thankfully it just never happened. He always knows where our lives will go if we live for him.

  19. Hi,

    I wrote the post you referenced here, titled, "On Counting the Cost." I agree with just about everything you've said here. I might be reading into this too much, but I hope you're not implying that my post suggested that being a good parent and love would be enough, because I never meant to portray that. My title, "On Counting the Cost" comes directly from scripture after witnessing absolute devastation that maybe could have been prevented. I respect and agree with what you are saying here, I guess I'm just trying to understand how my post is tied in here.

  20. Jill:
    What you said struck such a chord, I feel like I am vibrating. We have 4 adopted children and the hills and valleys are frequent and amazing. But without a doubt God called us to this journey and we will climb every mountain placed before us. We frequently speak to prospective adoptive parents and find that once the children are home, despite our honesty before they came home, they are shocked by the challenges. I have sadly watched 2 disruptions take place in the last few months and am watching another possibly take shape. I know the bad days but God has carried me through them to see the pain in my children rather than just seeing the pain in myself. But I have also had to allow myself to mourn the image I had of what my family used to be like. :) Thanks for sharing so honestly!

  21. Thank you Jill for sharing a picture in words of your life as an adoptive mother. I am a single woman who has considered adoption. Your words are inspiring and frightening. You seem to be REALLY living in a way I'm sure you don't feel capable of sustaining. I wouldn't either. Yet there is such beauty in your honesty. And as "broken" as adoptive children can be or as full of "failure" mothers can feel and be, it is life in a broken world we all live. And thank God Christ is here in the midst of it. Bless you for articulating such a profoundly dimensional perspective of life with adoption.


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