July 30th, 2008
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Categories: Transitioning

Here’s the scenario – Your case worker has presented you with the profile of a child available for adoption. You read the profile and fall in love with the child. One look at the photo and you are head over heels and think this child is meant to be in your home. I know the feeling. I went through it with Sammy.

When I read Sammy’s profile I thought, and yes, this was my actual thought, “This is a ‘normal’ kid just kicked up a few notches.” I couldn’t have been more wrong, but we wanted a child so badly that we eagerly agreed that he was the child for us, and we continued forward. I’m not saying Sammy shouldn’t have joined our home, just that my eagerness blinded me to the facts.

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I am not criticizing any parent for this. It’s a fact of life. However, sometimes it makes us try to make a child “fit” into our family that would be better off in a different family.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about transitioning one of our respite kids into my friend, Elaine’s, family. Yesterday I had the opportunity to observe this child in her new family setting. We met for a day of fun in the sun complete with swimming. None of the kids knew what I was watching for, so I observed them in their natural relationship. I could not believe the change in this young woman.

She naturally fits into this family. She is at ease with them and has opened up to show her “true” personality. When she was in my home for respite, she simply existed. She rarely engaged in conversation, and a true smile did not cross her lips. I saw the complete opposite yesterday.

This child did not “fit” in our family. It only took me a few days to make that assessment, and I wasn’t looking to add her to our family, so the assessment was made very objectively and with no emotion.

As a prospective parent, it is hard to be objective and emotionally detached when doing this evaluation about a child who may potentially join your family. However, in order to do what is best for the child, we must step back and look to see if this is truly going to work, or if we are trying to force the fit. Trying to make a child fit into your family will hurt both the child and the family. You cannot make a child become something that is not in line with their personality. It’s about like going into a marriage thinking that you are going to make your spouse be what you want them to be. How does that usually work out?

This young woman is thriving in a large family. Hannah was in a larger family prior to us and she did not do well there. She needed much more one on one time. There is no checklist to easily assess where a child will do best. It is simply observation, and sometimes trial and error.

One of the most important things to remember when evaluating a child to join your family is that every move on a child is hard, and the more moves, the more they learn to distrust adults. Trying to make a child fit into your family if it’s not the right fit can cause a great deal of emotional damage.

Photo credit – Kelly L. Killian

2 Responses to “Forcing a Fit”

  1. hannah_rae says:

    Kelly,
    Thanks again for the honesty. We are trying to figure out what to do about the 13 year old boy we were planning on taking into our home. Something just doesn’t feel right for Kaleb, and I definitely don’t want to force a fit. There is some guilt though that if we don’t take in this child, he may never have the chance for a family. He’s not more trouble than we can handle, but Kaleb is just not quite sure. We’ve been praying about it, I just don’t know how to make the final decision.

  2. Kelly says:

    One thing we always ask parents to sit down and honestly think…

    If nothing ever changes, will you be able to continue parenting this child? If the answer is no, it’s not the right fit for your family.

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