After over a month of waiting for the referral we were told about, it came last Monday afternoon. A referral is essentially a brief history of the child including, most importantly, their medical information. It also includes their birthdate, name, and most often a picture of the child. When the agency representative called and said she had the rest of the information on our referral (previously we only had a rough age; 37 months), my heart leapt. But she would continue to tell Josh and I that she was *very* concerned about this child fitting our stipulations.
We found out that this child’s brain never fully developed. Her head is, as it was put to us, “tiny.” She is in a state of needing full care and she is never expected to be able to function well enough to be able to care for herself. We had over a month to think about the referral that was coming to us. What would she look like? Would she be smiling in her picture? But with this blow we requested that our representative withhold sending us the full picture and information until we could talk and pray about it. We didn’t want to make a skewed decision based on seeing an angelic face. So with one heartbreaking fact in hand we proceeded to discuss our feelings and options. We both had previously discussed whether or not we would be able to handle adding a child with severe needs to our family. The agency makes you talk about this and decide up front in case you are faced with a referral like ours. The worst thing ever would be to take on a child outside of your ability to care for him/her and then face having to reenter them into the system so they could get adequate care. So we were armed with earlier decisions about our ability level when it came to care for a special needs child. And we had decided, without a doubt, that we couldn’t do it and still offer adequate care to our own three children. But still we talked about it and re-visited that decision. Could we do it? She needs a home. Who’s going to adopt her? We had felt *so* sure that God had rushed us our meant-to-be child that this whole discussion became utterly excruciating. Neither one of us wanted to be the first to say aloud, “No. We can’t adopt her.” But it had to be said. *** I just had a whole paragraph on our life and why this wouldn’t work, but I deleted it. I don’t need to tell you any of this. The decision is private and personal. But I fear that anyone might think we took this decision lightly or simply didn’t want to have to work harder at having a special needs child. Please keep in mind that in our hearts, for weeks and months prior- since the start of this process three years ago to the month she was born– we thought that this first referral would be God’s perfect choice for us. In our two days of stillness and prayer after we made what we thought to be the right decision, God upheld it for us. We felt free of guilt and shame. We felt sure that we were doing the right thing for our family, but also for this little girl who deserved so much more than we could give.
I got a call from our social worker the day after I wrote the email to our agency turning down the referral. Our social worker called just to see how we were doing emotionally. This stuff happens sometimes and she’s watched it rip people apart inside. To not be able to help a child in need- it’s like looking them in the eye and telling them you won’t help them… It sucks. It makes you feel an inch high. Our social worker expressed great concern for us and likened it to a miscarriage. She said she’s had two and also watched people go through a turned-down referral and that the emotions you go through are very similar. A lot of adoption is so easily related to pregnancy. And in this situation, having a child in your heart for three years and praying for her every night only to have to turn her away and never see her… well it sucks. (I can hardly type) And I agree that the analogy is probably a good one. Though there is still hope for her to join a loving family somewhere someday and be taken care of. We may never know her, but it doesn’t mean she will be suffering.
All of this to eventually say that we have been given peace about it. Spiritually speaking we know she is in God’s hands and we will pray for her our whole lives. It was this thought that revealed to me what it meant when the orphan boy (Zhenya) I met at camp in Russia in 1996 contacted me *the day after* we heard about this 37 month-old girl in October. I still am amazed and surprised that he found me and thought it was an absolute miracle. But what was more- I found out he has gotten along great in life, has a job, and is well-adjusted. He has beaten the odds. And I’ve thought since he found me back in October that God answered my prayers as I prayed for him constantly over the 14 years I hadn’t seen him. Him finding me the day after we heard we’d be getting a referral may have been God’s way to prep me for fully understanding that even though we couldn’t adopt her (as I couldn’t adopt Zhenya back then), we can pray for her and still be “spiritual parents” to her. And we can resolutely know that God will find her the support she needs. Just like he did for Zhenya.
We never did see her picture. We never did find out her name. But we will be praying for our little-far-away-thirty-seven-month-old girl forever.
And please be praying for us to continue in closeness to God and faithfulness that He is in control. It’s been a rough week.