(It is with a great deal of prayer that I share these words. This is the hardest blog I have ever written, but the most important message I’ve ever felt compelled to share. Warning: the writing is honest, raw, and may make you feel uncomfortable, but it is a message I feel the Lord calling me to speak. Please be merciful in your judgement of my children and our family.)
Our road toward adoption began with an adoption survey.
Physicals were needed, financial statements were gathered. There were child abuse clearances and home safety checks. There was mounds of other paperwork that had to be submitted, but reality really hit when we sat down for the first time with our social worker and filled out the questionnaire that determined what background, struggles and disabilities we would be willing to accept into our home and into our lives.
The questionnaire is extensive. It is pages were long and listed hundreds of possible scenarios to which we had to answer: would accept, would not accept, or would consider. The intensity and severity of the situations increased as we worked our way from question one to the end of the form; beginning with simple, shallow questions like, “Would you accept a boy,” or “Would you accept a child who has acne?”
It then progressed to questions regarding levels of disability and what we thought our family could handle from disabilities as silly as, “Would you accept a child who wears glasses,” to situations as challenging as, “Would you accept a child with a feeding tube,” or “Would you accept a child that is HIV+?”
From there the questionnaire moved into presented behaviors, moving from the easy to address, “typical” childhood behaviors, into a list of extreme behaviors that can be seen in children with Reactive Attachment Disorder… Behaviors like: fire starting, hurting animals, false allegations of sexual abuse against previous foster parents, sexually acting out with other children, running away, stealing, compulsive lying.
As we moved toward the end of the questionnaire the scenarios became more and more intimidating and the reality of what we could be stepping into, as we considered adopting from foster care, hit us. But we knew God was calling us to walk down this unfamiliar and somewhat frightening road. We had to trust that He knew what our family could handle, and what children were meant to be ours, and most importantly I had to trust that he would protect my children who were already in the home and preserve our family through whatever challenges would come with this decision.
Toby and I didn’t enter adoption with the intention of finding a “perfectly unflawed” child that would be a beautiful and easy addition to our family. No, we weren’t THAT naïve. We had read enough books and attended enough training classes to know it wasn’t going to be all sunshine and roses, we just didn’t realize how very trying it would be. We took a step of faith and trusted that God had a plan for us, and for the child we were opening our home to, and walked toward that calling.
On that questionnaire we said yes to every scenario except 3 of them. We felt that God could not work His miracles if we put parameters on His work. So we said “Yes” to a lot of scenarios that made us uncomfortable. There were only three scenarios we felt were beyond our capability to handle as a family, so out of a list of hundreds of “Yes, we will accept,” there were 3 “No, we won’t” answers.
Then we stepped back and waited on the Lord to work.
During the waiting process families are presented with potential matches. In these emails you can read through that child’s file that lays out their history and past trauma, reveals medical history and behaviors, and often contains a photo. After reading the file you can respond back to the agency whether you are interested or not. If you are then your family’s profile is added to the stack of other interested families that the social worker will read through, interview, and pick from. The survey filled out at the beginning of the adoption journey plays a role in what children’s profiles get sent your way. Because we said “Yes” to so many scenarios, we were sent many child profiles to consider.
The interesting and miraculous part of our story is that Tyler and Ozzie’s profiles should have never been sent to us. There were only 3 things we felt ill-equipped to deal with and our two boys’ profiles both contained those three non-negotiables. They were “broken” in a way that we felt ill-equipped to “fix.”
This was an important part of the journey. Heavenly Father was teaching us about trust, faith and surrender. He was teaching us about His power to heal. If He had sent us a child whose struggles were manageable with our own skill sets and strength then we would have missed out on this amazing journey of growth, and trust, and dependence on Him.
One of those non-negotiables that terrified us was RAD. We had attended the classes. We knew the symptoms. We had heard the horror stories. And nothing short of God calling would have convinced us to say, “Yes.” But we did, because we were called to.
Reactive Attachment Disorder is a brokenness unlike any other.
And living with a RAD child can often feel like Hell. It is a journey no one in their right mind would sign up for willingly. This journey can only be survived if propelled by a force far greater than a “desire to grow your family,” a “desire be a mom,” or a “desire to save a child.” It is a journey that must be led by a living God if one is to keep moving forward. There are some days that the only force keeping me from running away and not returning is the undeniable knowledge that this is my child, that God is driving this ship, and that He has the power to heal…the power to heal Ozzie’s wounds that were inflicted by the abuse of his birth parents, but also the wounds caused by the abuse inflicted on this family at the hands of Ozzie.
There is a brokenness in our home that comes with adopting a child with RAD…a reality that I never thought would be my life. I never thought I’d have to call the police to come and restrain my child so as to protect the other children in my home. I never thought I’d be walking the streets at 10:00 at night searching for my child who has run away for the second time this week. I never thought I’d be feeling the spit hit my face as that child screams “F*** You,” as he stand nose to nose with me. I never thought I’d live in a home where knives have to be locked up for everyone’s safety. I never thought I’d have a child maliciously threaten to make up false allegations of abuse if I didn’t let him quit school for the day. My life is spent dodging flying plates, holding my child down until he is done raging, and locking the dogs in my bedroom because that child keeps hurting them.
This is the dark world RAD families live in.
This hell is a reality hidden from family and friends who can’t fathom the idea that our “polite, respectful, calm and obedient” son could ever cause a bit of trouble. Instead of support and empathy I all to often hear from unknowledgeable acquaintances , “Maybe you are just too hard on him. Maybe you just need to be more patient.”
This is reality for RAD families. We suffer in darkness, putting on a show of stability and fulfillment for our neighbors, family members, friends and strangers, while being held captive by a pint size abuser in our own home.
And the greatest heartbreak in this whole thing is that these broken kids are only acting this way because of horrors and atrocities that have happened to them at the hands of the people that should have loved and protected them: their birth parents.
They learned from an early age that “love” hurts, and “love” leaves scars, and “love” is terrifying. The thing they fear more than anything else in the world is attaching to a family, and they will do EVERYTHING in their power to drive you away and keep you from loving them.
I have never fully articulated the reality of our life here on the blog but feel compelled to bring the reality of RAD into the light. You see, RAD’s power perpetuates and grows in the darkness. The power to manipulate and control only works when the reality is kept hidden. Like with many mental health disorders, there is a shame associated with the struggle. I think perhaps the additional stigma connected to adoption, and the scrutiny adoptive families are under, add to the struggle.
Being a family struggling to survive while being held hostage by Reactive Attachment Disorder is an isolating and lonely life.
I am tired of trying to sugar coat the struggle. I know too many families that have been destroyed by RAD, to many marriages that fell apart at the hands of RAD, to many adoptions dissolved by RAD, that I can’t keep quiet any longer.
There is no brokenness more devastating than RAD brokenness. One might look at the scattered, shattered pieces and think,
“This is hopeless.”
“This child is too far gone.”
“The damage done by the abusive birth parents is unfixable.”
It is easy to feel that way. I certainly have. But when I start to head down that road of thought I am reminded by my God who is bigger than any brokenness, that His power to heal exceeds the destruction. He raised men from the dead, and He can raise this family from the grave as well.
In Japan there is ancient art form that celebrates brokenness. This art form is called Kintsugi.
Kintsugi is said to have originated in the 15th century when a Japanese shogun broke a favorite tea bowl and sent it back to China to be fixed. But the repair job, which was done with metal staples – being the standard for repair at that time – detracted from the beauty of the bowl. Disappointed, the shogun enlisted a Japanese craftsmen to come up with a more aesthetically pleasing solution, and kintsugi was born.
Most people would like damages to their broken items to be concealed and hidden by repair making the object look like new. But the Japanese art of Kintsugi follows a different philosophy. Rather than disguising the breakage, kintsugi restores the broken item incorporating the damage into the aesthetic of the restored item, making it part of the object’s history. Kintsugi uses lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver, platinum, copper or bronze, resulting into something more beautiful than the original.
My friend, Tauni, recently gifted me with a stone that had been broken into pieces and repaired using Kintsugi. The small smooth stone’s beauty is highlighted by veins of gold.
The stone was wrapped in a beautiful card that that shared the history of this art form, that I had never heard of before, and also included her words of encouragement. Her words touched my heart, and the lesson to be found in this ancient art form, moved me.
Through this especially hard week I find myself carrying that stone around in my pocket, rubbing it between my fingers as a form of mindless meditation, and pulling it out of my pocket to examine the veins of gold and ponder on the message found there.
So often when confronted with brokenness in our life it seems that the solution comes down to one of two options: Either the broken object is disposed of, or the brokenness is hidden. With powerful super glue we piece the broken parts together, praying no one looks too closely and sees the flaws. The art of Kintsugi offers an interesting alternative to the brokenness of our lives. What if instead of discarding those things, people, and relationships that are broken,
Or instead of trying to hide the cracks or brokenness,
We instead, reveal them.
We bring them into the light.
We offer them as a living sacrifice to an Almighty Artist and allow Him to mend the brokenness in a beautiful way.
What if we use them to showcase God’s ability to mend and heal…
For His healing of our brokenness is far more beautiful than an untouched, unmarred, perfect life.
Only comes from brokenness.
And it is by bringing those broken pieces into the light, and humbly offering them to the Master Potter, that healing happens and the real beauty of this life is revealed.
We are a hurting family, a suffering family, a broken family. We are shards of glass scattered across the floor, but that is not where we will remain. My Heavenly Father has shown me what he will create with our brokenness.
He is a master potter,
The MASTER Kintsugi artist,
And through our brokenness He is creating a magnificent work of art.