"For in you the orphan finds mercy." - Hosea 14:3

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Did You Know?


Did you know . . .?

Foster kids show up at their foster homes with their few belongings in trash bags.

What message does that send to them?

How does that impact their idea of themselves?

Did you know . . .?

There are over 408,425 kids in foster care.
50% of girls in foster care end up pregnant by the age of 19.
74% of former foster kids end up in prison. 50% of those end up there within 2 years after aging out of the system. 80% of those on death row had been in foster care.

Did you know . . .?



Did you know . . .?

Foster youth move schools on average one to two times per year - and are two times more likely to be absent than other students.

Foster youth lose an average of four to six months of educational attainment each time they change schools.

Foster students have lower enrollment rates in community college, and have a lower rates of persistence for a second year of community college than other disadvantaged students.

Less than half (49%) of foster youth complete high school or get their GED.

Median earnings among employed former foster youth were just 59% their peer's income. Foster youth are also several times more likely to rely on public assistance.

Did you know . . .?


If you didn't know these things before, you do know them now. So what are you going to do about it?

"You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know."
- William Wilberforce


Here are just a few places where you can go to get involved:

Least of These Carolinas:

Gaston County Guardian Ad Litem:

Adopt Us Kids:

Family Care Network:

Child Welfare Blog:

Foster Club. Com:

Foster Care.Com:

Guardian Ad Litem - North Carolina:






Friday, May 22, 2015

Questions, Prayers, and Gratitude


Ever since we told people that we were going to be hosting this summer, we have been fielding a lot of questions about what exactly hosting is. "Is it just to show them America?" some have asked. No, it's so much more than that.

Our family will be hosting a young girl for 5 weeks this summer. While she is here, we hope to show her not only the love of a family, but, more importantly the love of God. We want her to know that she is, indeed, greatly loved, that she has worth and value, that she is important. For two years we have prayed for her and she has never left our hearts and thoughts.

While she is here, we plan on taking her to the beach and do other fun activities with her. These are all things we take for granted but will have a huge impact on her.

She will arrive with little to nothing, so we will buy her clothes and shoes. We will take her to the dentist and to have her eyes checked. We have already ordered her a Bible in Ukrainian. The money we raise over and above the cost of what it takes to fly her over here will all go to these things. Know that when you donate to our hosting fund that it is not taken lightly by our family, but is a true answer to prayer. If you would like to donate, use the donate button in the upper right hand of our blog (beneath our family photo) and it will take you to a secure Paypal site. All of the money will go towards this young girl. Our family plans on having a huge yard sale on June 6th to also raise money (Thank you to those who have already begun donating items for it).

For those of you who have donated, thank you so much. Our family is grateful for your generosity and kindness.

So why are we hosting?

God has clearly called us to. For us not to act would be like telling Him to shut up.

Why are we doing this?

Because this girl is a precious child of God and we want her to know that.

If you are interested in hosting a child, either during Christmas or next Summer, please go to New Horizons for Children. Here is a link to their site:
http://nhfc.org/

Psalm 82:3 tells us, "Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed."




Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cava's Owl Adventure


After dinner tonight, the boys went outside to play. It wasn't long before Cava came running in to tell me that there was an owl on the ground. I dashed out and discovered that, sure enough, there was an owlet hopping around in one of our flower beds. Seeing that this poor baby owl couldn't fly, we called the Carolina Raptor Center.



As we waited for them to arrive, we watched over Soren, the name Cava gave to this owlet after the main character in Guardians of Ga'Hoole the book series he is currently reading. We weren't the only ones, as we noticed that Archie was always somewhere above us, keeping a close eye on his owlet.


When the man from the Carolina Raptor Center arrived, he gently gathered the owlet up in a blanket so that he could check and make sure that the baby owl had not gotten hurt from the fall.



And Cava was right there, closely watching what he did.


The volunteer confirmed what Cava and I had looked up - that Archie and this owlet were a Barred Owl. Cava then began to tell him facts he had learned from reading about them.

Then he and Benjamin were thrilled when they got to touch Soren, who they said was "very soft."


After they had touched the owlet, the volunteer returned him to safety in a tree.  We promised to keep a watch on Soren to make sure that he doesn't fall again. This won't be a problem since Cava loves watching for owls even more now.  

We are definitely going to have to take a trip to the Carolina Raptor Center.


To learn more about the Carolina Raptor Center, use the following link:






Monday, May 18, 2015

Parental Frustrations


There are two parents: the one I imagine I am in my head and the one that too often diverges from that one. The one in my head is full of patience, wisdom, and humor. He resembles TV fathers of the 50's who wear sweaters and smoke pipes, like Fred McMurray on My Three Sons, or Robert Young on Father Knows Best.


No matter what the situation, it doesn't phase me and I know just what to say to fix the situation or to help my son do the right thing. My voice does not get raised and I can express my disappointment or disapproval with a firm tone that strikes remorse into my child. When I dispense punishment, usually a grounding, the child answers with a remorseful, "Yes Dad." They see the error of their ways and all is right with the world as I go back to smoking my pipe and reading the paper.

Alas, this is not the reality. 

James 1:19 says, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." 

Reading this verse, I had to ask myself: Am I like this?  

Too often, I don't want to answer that question. I immediately defend myself with whatever disobedience my child has just committed, whatever infraction, or whatever breaking of the rules (whether at home or at school). 

Would my family say that I was like James 1:19? Would I even want to ask them?

Cava had a bad day at school today. When I went to pick him up, I was met by two teachers. Not exactly how I wanted the second-half of my day to go. It's hard when you listen to teachers recount what had happened. It's not easy when your child is angry and they are more defensive than remorseful. It's hard when that child is lashing out at me in the car ride home. My buttons are getting some serious pushing.

I'm angry. I'm hurt. I'm embarrassed. I am feeling like I have failed somehow. 

So how do I respond?

Like this?


Or like this?


Once Cava said, "Papa, you and I are like Beast from Beauty and the Beast."

"Why is that, Cava?" I asked, thinking he is going to say it's because we love books just like Beast, who has that huge library.

Instead, Cava's answer cut me to the quick, "Because we can have bad tempers sometimes."

From the mouths of babes.

Today, I found myself headed toward "Beast" mode instead of "Atticus" mode. But I stopped myself and asked, "Which one is going to get me to where both of us need to be?"

Cava was already angry and ready to fight. His guard was up. If I didn't stop myself, things would only escalate and become worse. I needed his wall down.

"Cava," I said, "you are very angry right now, aren't you?"

He admitted he was.

"You are angry because you are afraid," I continued and his defenses went up with, "No, I'm not!"

"Yes, you are. You are angry with your teacher for telling me because you are afraid that if you get in trouble that I will love you less."  He just looked at me.  "You think that my love goes up and down depending on your behavior. You think that if you do something wrong or if you get in trouble that my love for you will go down or that if you have a good day then my love for you will go up.  You see love like this," and I made motions with my hands moving up and down like elevators. "But that's not love. Not real love. No, my love is not an elevator love where what you do pushes the button up or down. I love you no matter whether your day is really good or if your day is super bad. I love you no matter what. It doesn't change." 

I knew he didn't grasp this because how could he? He has certainly never been offered this kind of love - ever. So just over two years was not going to suddenly change eight years of instability and fear. He admitted that his first goal was to protect himself and guard himself from being hurt, that it was his natural instinct. Of course it is. I have to help him start the process of lowering his guard so that he can see we are here to help him heal and learn. 

My anger could have gotten in the way of working towards that goal. And it wasn't easy. At all.

And it won't be. 

Any time we come to behavioral problems, especially at school, it is going to be hard for me to not unleash all of my frustrations not only with his failures, but with my own. I'm not the dad I want to be. Why? Because I am not God. I am not perfect. I am full of mistakes and my own hang-ups. But I can't just say, "Oh well, that's just who I am," anymore than I can allow Cava to remain as he is. No, I need God's help and healing just as much as Cava does. Only our heavenly Father's love will truly transform either of us.

It's a process - for both of us.

And we are both going to screw-up and mess up and make mistakes. Cava isn't always the child I want him to be. Neither is Benjamin. But I'm not the Papa I want to be either. All of us, in our moments of utter exasperation, need desperately the love of God. As Cava's father, I have to be an example of that. How a child sees his earthly father often impacts how he sees his heavenly one. That's a huge responsibility. One that I will strive towards but often fail at. But failing does not mean stopping. It means that God still has a work to do in me just like he does in Cava.

So, today I feel tired and defeated and sad and wishing I had some magic wand that could change how Cava's day went. I want to pull up at his school and see his smiling, happy face as he gets into my car and greets me with how his day went and what he accomplished. 

That wasn't today. 

I pray that it will be tomorrow.

Yet no matter what tomorrow is like, I pray that God continues to do a good work in me that I might better reflect Him to my sons.  




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fitting In


Cava loves to do puzzles. The bigger, the more the challenge, the more he loves them. He will sit there for hours figuring out which puzzle piece connects with another. Typically, he starts with the outside pieces first and then works his way inward. While I get tired of working on puzzles rather quickly, I do love watching Cava at work on them. He is really good at putting puzzles together. 

He will dump the pieces out onto the surface where he is going to work on the puzzle. It all looks like a jumbled mess of confusion. Nothing about it looks like anything. Just a pile of colors and shapes. 


To put together a puzzle takes time and effort. It takes patience. Cava has that - for puzzles.  

Since he arrived here just a little over two years ago, he has already put together almost one hundred of them ranging from 40 pieces to over 2,000. He has been proud of each one and always comes to get me when he's finished so I can take a photo of him with his finished work.  Cava is confident in his puzzle skills. It's something that almost came natural to him. Making friends, however, hasn't.

It has been one of the biggest struggles and one of the most painful, as a parent to see him going through because there is nothing I can do about it. He has a very hard time with his social skills with kids his own age and often prefers to hang around us and other adults. I think part of this is because the adults he knows offer him encouragement and approbation. 

As with many adopted children, he is developmentally younger than he is in age. Because of this, he often doesn't feel at ease around kids his own age. He is insecure and is different from other children due to his background, of which he is very aware, and struggles with fitting in and being like other kids.  There have been times when he tried to make a connection and play with boys his own age at school (such as wanting to play football with them) only to be rejected. He came home hurt and wants us to play football with him so that he can know how to play in the hopes that he will one day get to play with the other boys. I'm proud of him for trying. Like in his puzzles, he is trying to put the pieces together that form friendships. 

It is common for adopted children to struggle with their social skills. According to Dr. Julian Davies, these problems stem from:
- Lack of early secure attachments leading to more anxious/controlling behaviors in later relationships
- Rough and unsupervised early interaction with peers
- Poor social boundaries and judgment, difficulty reading others' social cues
- A higher prevalence of impulsivity, ADHD, and externalizing (acting out)
- Poor emotional regulation (quick to anger at perceived slights and rejection)
- Delayed social / emotional development
- Challenges in social communication and language, making it hard to keep up with the increasingly fast-paced world of their peers

As I read over this list, I could see connections to my child and the struggles he's having. But what can a parent do to help them with this?

Dr. Boris Gindis has this list:
- Understand the major causes of difficulties in social interaction 
- Teach social skills and values
- Use IEP goals as a social skill tool

Dr. Davies would add to that list by suggesting that parents help children have frequent, successful play dates. This means a more structured play date with planned activities the kids will enjoy. She also stresses that, as parents, we should be there to help our children deal with the pain of rejection. 


While we work with Cava on his socialization skills (including teaching him that to be a friend to somebody can often mean playing something they want to play even if you don't want to), we know that this, too, will take time. This continues to be one of the hardest areas of adjustment for him. But he wants to have a best friend. I can't help but think of Anne of Green Gables as she talks with Marilla and asks her, "Do you think I shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?"
"A-a what kind of friend?"
"A bosom friend - an intimate friend, you know - a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I've dreamed of meeting her all of my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too. Do you think it's possible?"

Like Anne, Cava longs for a true, best friend. One he can not only play with, but be himself around, feel accepted by, and share things with. I cannot wait for the day when this finally happens because it will be an answer to many, many prayers. To see him with a best friend will be like seeing one of his large, finished puzzles because all of the pieces will finally be together and a work of art will now be seen.


To read more, you can go to the following resources:

Friendship, Social Skills, and Adoption :

Advice on Socialization for Internationally Adopted Children:

Long Term Issues For The Adopted Child:

Psychological Issues Faced By The Adopted Child:


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cava On His Mom




I love my Mommy because she takes care of me. I am her baby. She called me her baby back in Ukraine. She said she could not leave her baby behind. At first I was scared of her but she was so nice to me that I loved her. She reads to me. She makes me kasha and egg toast for breakfast. Mommy plays with me. We play games like Uno or Skip-Bo. She does puzzles with me. Mommy gives me hugs and kisses. I am glad to have her as my Mommy forever.

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!

I love you.

Cava

Friday, May 8, 2015

Cava's Third Grade Field Day


After Cava had a bumpy week at school, I was happy and relieved that today he could let off some steam at his third grade field day.  It's funny, after Benjamin finished elementary school I believed my field day days were over, but I was thrilled that I get to enjoy them again with Cava now. And he had a big smile for me when he saw me arriving.

First up, the potato sack races.


The boy hopped so hard he hopped out of the bottom of his potato sack.


Next up was the egg on a spoon race.


You can see from his expression that he was taking it very seriously.


After a couple more races, Cava was ready for the inflatables. Despite his expression, he loved it!


See . . .



He also loved it when his teacher and his principal raced each other down the slide.


But he was ready to race her himself . . .


Once again, he became very serious as a waiter who had to race without dropping his cup off his tray.


There were more inflatables . . .


 . . . and more races.


After field day was over, I signed Cava out and we had lunch as just the two of us. I enjoyed talking with him, listening to him, and, most of all, seeing that big Cava smile again.


I'll gladly take the joy of this day that ended our bad week and pray that he has a better one next week.