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When Linda Greene and her husband Les married, they knew they wanted to start a family right away. After countless doctor’s visits and tests, they learned some disheartening news — they would not be able to conceive. Linda’s heart ached as she watched mothers push their babies in strollers at the mall. Would she ever hold a child of her own in her arms?

Linda and Les decided she would quit her job as a physical education teacher to reduce her stress. And so, after nearly 20 years in her field, Linda left her job to stay home full time. The decision proved difficult at first. Accustomed to a busy lifestyle, Linda found herself forced to slow down. She and Les began discussing adoption and grew excited about the idea.

Linda and Les both agreed they wanted to adopt more than one child. Growing up with four brothers, Les hoped to adopt a girl first. The couple researched different agencies and decided to adopt from China. They then began the lengthy process, filling out extensive paperwork and undergoing fingerprinting and background checks. After completing all the steps, they sat back, waited and prayed.

“With adoption, sometimes you wait and wait, but when you get that referral, you have to be ready to go right away,” Linda said.

In March, 2002, Linda and Les received the call they’d been praying for. There was a baby girl in China who could be theirs in a matter of weeks. They saw a photo of the darling 10-month-old girl, and they immediately fell in love. The following month, they were on a plane to China to meet her for the first time.

Linda and Les made the trip with three other families, all who were planning to adopt, too. They arrived with butterflies in their stomachs, unsure of what to expect. Though they’d seen photos of the little girl, they had no idea how big she was, so they brought outfits in various sizes for her to wear. Over the next 12 days, the couple bonded with the other families, sharing their stories. After much anticipation, they were presented with a perfectly healthy baby girl. They named her Ashley.

From the start, Ashley was an easy-going baby. She slept much of the time, allowing Linda and Les to sleep, too. They heeded the advice of other families who had adopted, limiting company in an attempt to bond with their daughter during the first critical weeks. Linda embraced her new role as a mother, thanking God for filling her arms and her heart.

Not wanting to wait too long before adopting a second child, the couple began looking into a boy from Japan. But the agency’s contact in that country did not have any babies up for adoption, so Linda and Les researched other potential countries. They looked into Kazakhstan and were told adoptions from that country would take between six to nine months. But halfway through the process, the country changed some rules, making adoption more difficult. A year passed, then two, then three. Linda and Les kept busy with Ashley, all the while praying and anxiously waiting. Linda’s father was diagnosed with cancer, and she prayed he would get to meet their new child. He passed away in September, and in January, four years after beginning the lengthy adoption process, they finally received some good news. The country had a little boy for them. The news was bittersweet, as Linda’s father would never get to meet his grandson.

With Ashley in tow, Linda and Les embarked on their trip to Kazakhstan, excited and nervous at the same time. They had not seen a photo of their son and did not know what to expect. When they reached the orphanage, known in Kazakhstan as the baby house, the workers presented them with a 2-year-old child. But they decided they wanted to meet the 10-month-old boy they’d been initially referred to.

The workers brought the infant into the room and sat him on their lap. “Do you like him?” they asked.

“Yes!” Linda and Les cried.

The couple spent a few minutes bonding with the baby and agreed to adopt him. A few weeks later, they hired an escort, who flew the baby to them. At last, the wait was over. God had answered their prayers. Their family was now complete.

Linda and Les named their son Cameron. Unlike Ashley’s early days, Cameron’s proved more challenging. Red bumps that looked like flea bites popped up all over his skin, and doctors diagnosed him with eczema. But the new parents soon learned he had scabies, a highly contagious condition. Cameron then developed pneumonia and landed in the emergency room. After a lengthy recovery process, things settled down, and the newly united family fell into a routine.

While Linda and Les loved being parents, their journey did not come without difficulty. Ashley remained easy going, but Cameron struggled with sensory issues, resisting any type of affection. As he grew older, other behavioral problems emerged. Linda, now a full-time stay-at-home mother, sometimes found herself at her wit’s end. She read countless books and took Cameron to therapists, but those doctors only encouraged behavior modification. Linda knew her son needed something more.

“I felt so alone,” Linda said. “I was really struggling.”

She then learned about the adoption support groups through Saddleback Church and decided to check one out. To her relief, she met other parents who were struggling just like her. Together, they shared stories and ideas and prayed with one another. For the first time, Linda did not feel so alone.

“It was so nice to go to a place where people knew what I was going through,” Linda said. “There is power in that. They could extend empathy because they had been there themselves.”

Through the group, Linda stumbled onto new resources, including the very insightful work by Dr. Karyn Purvis. Her book, The Connected Child, helped Linda tremendously. In reading the book and watching accompanying videos, Linda learned that traditional methods of therapy would not work with her son because of the trauma he’d endured as an infant. He faced unique challenges as an adopted child and would require a unique approach.

“I learned the behavioral issues stemmed from the trauma and disconnect Cameron faced early in life,” Linda said. “This approach taught me how to reverse and rewire his brain, allowing him to connect and letting him have a voice.”

Linda began changing her parenting techniques, approaching Cameron with newfound patience and unconditional love. She reminded him repeatedly that he was safe in their family. She continued attending the adoption support groups and reading up on how to connect with her child. Through this process, she also received healing from her own childhood, recognizing areas where she’d never connected with her family.

Today, Linda and Les enjoy a busy life with their two adopted children. Ashley, now 16, loves drawing, playing tennis, and spending time with her friends. Cameron, now 11, is a typical active boy and loves baseball and football. He also enjoys attending Kids Small Group 401 at Saddleback and learning about Jesus. As a family, they love hiking, camping, and visiting their cabin. Linda attends the Saddleback adoption support group every Tuesday morning and also a group at the Saddleback Rancho Capistrano campus on Saturdays. She is beyond grateful for her new friends who continue to pray for her, share stories, and encourage her even on the most challenging days.

Linda and Les recognize that adoption — from start to finish — is not an easy journey. But it is a gift, and one for which they are eternally grateful to God. They love telling the children the story of how God brought them into their home and into their hearts.

“We wanted to be parents so badly,” Linda said. “To know you are raising a child who could have endured a very hard life, and to be able to be a positive influence on them and show them God’s love, that makes it all worth it.”

Learn more about adoption and foster care support at saddleback.com/supportgroups.

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A recently released proposal for US tax overhaul included plans to get rid of the adoption tax credit, support for adoptive families that has been on the books for 20 years. The credit provides adoptive families up to $13,570 in tax savings per adopted child.1 Adoption advocates are rallying for the continuation of the credit as it exists for families who may not be able to afford adoption otherwise, a helpful tool in helping children find permeant families of their own. (The amount of the credit, as it stands right now, starts to phase out when families have an adjusted gross income above $203,540 and is off limits once that income exceeds $243,540.2) Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth Chapman, are adoptive parents - this op-ed from them regarding the proposed changes recently appeared in the Washington Post:


In 1997, the fabric of our family was forever altered after Mary Beth and our 11-year-old daughter, Emily, visited Haiti. Emily was profoundly moved as she began to understand the impact of poverty in new ways. She met children in Haiti who, for many heartbreaking reasons, were unable to be cared for by their biological families and had been orphaned.

For Emily, these children were her peers, and imagining life without the family and support systems she knew felt overwhelming and unjust.

That trip was the beginning of our family’s journey. We would soon welcome home three daughters through adoption — Shaoey, Stevey Joy and Maria. Each has brought immeasurable joy, and we are forever grateful to be their family. As the parents of six children, it’s impossible to overstate the profound impact that adoption has had on our family. The journey has been a hundred times harder than we ever imagined, but a thousand times more enriching than we ever dreamed.

It’s one thing to hear that there are 15 million children worldwide who have been orphaned, abandoned or relinquished. But when you are face to face with children who can’t be reunited with their biological family or find a family through adoption, statistics give way to a personal connection — a child with a name and a story, with a desire to belong and be loved.

We have met hundreds of families who want to adopt, but can’t do so because of the significant costs. The average adoption costs between $25,000 and $40,000, and for many families, this is an insurmountable barrier. Additionally, the ongoing expenses of providing adequate services and therapies in post-adoption support can be extensive.

In 1997, with bipartisan support, Congress did something remarkable to address this by creating the adoption tax credit. By providing a one-time tax credit of up to $13,570 to offset adoption costs, more families are able to adopt, helping address the great injustice of children living without permanent, loving homes.

But the adoption tax credit is in jeopardy. The recently unveiled House tax reform proposal would eliminate it.

Losing the adoption tax credit, a vital and practical approach to overcoming the financial cost that prohibits many families from adopting, would be catastrophic for thousands of American parents hoping to adopt and the precious children waiting for a family. 

Thousands of children have been adopted by American families who have used the adoption tax credit, and to these families, this credit has made all the difference. As adoptive parents, we want other families to have the opportunity to provide waiting children with loving homes.

In a divided political and cultural climate, issues like the adoption tax credit should unite us. The adoption tax credit can mean the difference between a child being adopted or remaining in foster care. One thing every American should agree on: We must prioritize anything we can do to help children enter loving homes where they can grow up, learn and thrive in an enriching environment. Without continuing support for this credit, children, families, communities and our society will certainly carry the loss.

If Congress truly wants to reform our tax structure to benefit American families, preserving the adoption tax credit is an obvious step in the right direction.

 

If you are an adoptive family, learn more about the adoption tax credit here, and access community and support for your family by emailing orphans@saddleback.com. If you are considering adoption, visit https://zeroby2020vision.com

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Mike and Brenda Crary are ordinary Saddleback members who have stepped out in faith to help churches in Baja, Mexico build healthy churches that can be mobilized to care for the orphan and the sick in their communities. The couple originally was anxious to see how the local churches would react to Pastor Rick’s teachings, but God has greatly exceeded their expectations.

According to Brenda, Purpose Driven Church concepts provided the foundation of what a healthy church should look like. It expanded what the church leaders and pastors thought their roles were into what they could be, to grow the church and the kingdom. It gave them principles and strategies to do it and provided hope for pastors and leaders who had been doing the same thing, basically offering a church service, with little success. I believe it also reignited the passion for many participants as they remembered what Jesus asked us to do and how we could really do it. As these churches learned about their 5 purposes God has given us, they are more equipped and are more willing to love their neighbor by serving them in ministry within their church and in their community, then they were before. They were transformed and are now operating systems for healthier communities by creating ministries to serve their felt needs such as orphans and vulnerable children and neighbors living with HIV.”

Ordinary church members being equipped and trained to meet the needs of their community is the PEACE Plan in action. Our Baja PEACE team, alongside local church volunteers, have begun visiting orphanages to meet their needs with the shared vision of the Orphan Care Initiative—that the best and healthiest place for orphans is in a loving, lasting, legal family of their own.

The PEACE plan has been a catalyst for change, and we can’t wait to see its impact in Baja, Mexico. If you are interested in learning more about the serving globally, or are interested in signing up for a PEACE trip to Baja, email us at orphans@saddleback.com or call 949-609-8555.

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Many walk into an orphanage expecting to find rambunctious and lively children. However, they are surprised to find something quite opposite. The quiet and still environment causes many to exclaim, “These children are so well behaved!”

Unfortunately, what we deem as “well behaved” can actually be a result of severe neglect. When a child is born, they quickly and instinctively discover an attachment pattern with parents. When a need arises, the child feels the need and expresses the need, crying for mom or dad comes to help. In a healthy attachment cycle, mom or dad meet the need when the need is expressed – whether that need is feeding, changing a diaper, giving a hug, etc. For many children growing up in orphanages, however, this healthy cycle did not occur. Needs were not met. When the child cried mom and dad or a caretaker did not always come.  Crying ceases because “a child without a voice quickly learns he will be ‘on his own’ in getting his needs met. Survival skills emerge in the absence of nurturing care that will later put him on a developmental trajectory of harm. Without a voice, this child will learn not to trust others to care for him” (Adoption).

According to studies performed at Harvard University, “children who experience severe deprivation typically need therapeutic intervention and highly supportive care to mitigate the adverse effects [of trauma] and facilitate recovery” (Neglect). This is why TBRI, or Trust-Based Relational Intervention, is such powerful knowledge for those caring for foster or adopted children. This form of attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention encourages parents to use a balance of nurture and structure with their child in order to repair the losses their child has endured – including the loss of their voice. Children from hard places were taught by their environment early on that their voice has no power to get their needs met. In order to disarm fear and survival strategies, parents teach children three important truths:  You are safe, you are precious, you are heard.

You’ve heard the phrase many times, communication is key. Often a child will misbehave and it is our responsibility to ask ourselves, what is the need behind this behavior? Giving children a voice helps them to convey their needs without acting out and resorting to behavior to communicate. A healthy parent-child relationship has secure attachment and attunement to a child’s emotional and developmental needs. Repetition in completing the Attachment Cycle helps to rewire the brain with trust.

 

To learn more about how to promote connection with your child, check out The Connection, a 13 week small group study to equip families with practical skills, or join us at our next Connection Seminar: http://orphancareinitiative.com/event/.

 

Sources: 

https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/publications/2013/07/adoption-advocate-no-61

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/deep-dives/neglect/

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It is extremely important to remember that a foster or adopted child’s beginnings may be vastly different than those of a child who did not come from a hard place. Harvard studies indicate that children who have experienced abuse, severe deprivation, and neglect often “need therapeutic intervention and highly supportive care to mitigate the adverse effects” of trauma and facilitate recovery ( Neglect). In order to combat damage done in early childhood, knowledge of TBRI, or Trust Based Relational Intervention, is helpful for providing parents practical skills for healing. This form of attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention encourages parents to use a balance of nurture and structure with their child. In order to disarm fear and survival strategies, parents teach children three important truths:   You are safe, you are precious, you are heard.

As we continue our TBRI series in preparation for our TBRI seminar happening July 15, today’s post focuses on letting your child know they are precious. Every person has the need to be known and to be loved. Connection principles can be used to show a child just how much they are valued. Connecting principles describe “ an interaction between child and caregiver that produces warmth and trust. It disarms fear, promotes attachment and builds social competence.  Even adolescents who seem resistant and challenging actually love the opportunities [these principles provide] for joyful, silly connection” ( Fleming).

Connecting with your child means being engaging, making time for them, and being attuned and mindful to their needs. Prove you value your relationship with them by investing in it. This could look like stooping down to eye level to have a conversation or setting aside other tasks for time dedicated just to listening and playing with your child. According to Pastor Rick Warren, “It is not enough to just say relationships are important; we must prove it by investing time in them. Words alone are worthless. ‘My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.’ Relationships take time and effort, and the best way to spell love is T-I-M-E.”  

Take time to invest in your child. Show them they are precious to you.   “The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.” -Rick Warren

To learn more about TRBI, check out this new animated video:


Join us via webcast or at the Saddleback Lake Forest campus on July 15th to learn more TBRI strategies for parenting children from hard places. Click here to watch or email us at orphans@saddleback.com for more info.

 

Sources:

http://www.jennaflemingcounseling.com/blog-post/tbri-connecting-principles/

http://www.gracewood.org/blog/2015/09/08/teaching-self-control-with-tbri-guiding-your-child-with-discipline/

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/deep-dives/neglect/

Warren, Rick.  The Purpose-driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016. Print.

 

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