A Host Mom’s Perspective

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Our story may be a side and perspective though that rubs some people the wrong way as we don't believe that "love heals everything". It doesn't... but it is a great place to start. If your family has to look and act a certain way and be ties up in a nice bow... hosting and adoption may not be for you.  This is because these kids come with their own likes/dislikes and personalities and baggage and most times do not fit in a nice tidy package. But, if you are willing to be used by God, to give up your idea of a "perfect family" and be willing to walk into someone else's messy life, then welcome to the family!  God doesn't want you to know it all, he wants willing participants. On the side note, the movie "Instant Family" should be a requirement to watch!

His name was Valik and we hosted him 5 years ago through P143. It was a horrible summer. During the hosting, P143 volunteers were fantastic, but Valik was awful! He ran away, kicked out windows, and on and on…. We wanted to throw in the hat so many times but God wouldn’t let us.

We adopted him 2 and a half years ago, and after visiting him in between another hosting, in his orphanage, all of his behaviors suddenly made sense. It was an awful place and he trusted no one, including us. It was just how he survived.

He is now 18. It has not been easy, as no worthwhile things are, but it has been neat to see God work in him and “peel back the layers”.

I asked him if he had only come once and we had never adopted him how would he have felt? He said, "I still learned what a family was like. And I knew you would always call me and try to help me."  I asked him "But would you have been sad to have seen America and never lived here?" He said, "but I would have had memories! And they were good memories!". 

Valik says he is "80% comfortable" in America now. So funny he uses percents to gauge. Mind you, he is like every other teen - if he gets mad or frustrated, "why did I come here?" would pop out a lot.

One way he said that what helped him adjust was "hugs". He said when we kept gently loving on him it clicked that we were safe. And he needed that safe hugging to help him not feel so sad.  He would literally flinch If we touched him (even up to a year ago). He said it helped him trust us to know we wanted good for him and not to hurt him.

He also said knowing that by becoming an American citizen, it meant he could one day travel back home, which made him feel better about missing some things in Ukraine. But he knew that he could never go back and forth if he wasn't adopted.

Here are some things to think about when having a host child in your home.

  • Laugh...A LOT. After a particularly hard day of hosting, we would fall into bed exhausting and say..."what was that all about??" Just laugh and know you are not alone.
  • Find your tribe. Everyone will not understand why you would put your family through this for a "stranger". That is okay, because it's not their calling. Find your tribe, whether in person or online, and do not isolate.

  • Prepare your kids at home! This involves and affects the whole family. Prepare them for the good but the bad also! The host kids may not respond to them the way they like. Remember, in orphanages, peer groups are usually a competition. Show your kids at home how Jesus wants us to love and forgive, because they will have a lot of practice. But also, if your kids need a break, it's OK! Let them stay with a Grandparent or a friend for a few days to recharge.

  • Don't cram pack your summer. You will not be able to give a lifetime of experiences to a kid in a few weeks. It will wear you out and cause you to resent the child. They need normal family life, not a Disney World Summer. It just sets them up for disappointment. They will say they are bored, just like your other kids, but guess what? They are bored at the orphanage too so don't feel bad. They will be fine.

  • Keep your expectations low! Let it evolve. It takes the pressure off. Think about if your child went to stay with another family for the Summer, what would go down? These are kids, they are not always thankful because thankfulness must be taught. So keep it light and use teaching moments.

I'll be honest, we have been through periods of questioning if this was right for some kids. And I would say No. It isn't for every kid. Some just won't adjust and thrive just as some of our bio kids are going to walk away and walk through hard times. I believe a lot depends on expectations, both the parents and the kids. We were very up front with Valik at first when we were going to adopt him. No phone until he can drive. He can use mine some for Viber but no VK etc... Our other kids don't have one and I knew that he would cocoon and isolate and some friends might be jealous and be a bad influence and make him miss Ukraine even more. He agreed to that and it has been a blessing. He also knew up front that we weren't an ATM. We would pay for food, shelter, doctor and basic clothes but the other was up to him to get a job. He is the hardest worker I know.

Also, my husband and I knew that walking into someone's story was going to be messy. We were going to be pulled into their hurt. It could not be an ounce about us and our feelings or we would be out as soon as we got hurt. It had to be about God wanting us to walk beside this boy and take his hurt on and help him heal. We don't force him to call us mom and dad. When he is using a term of endearment he uses our first and last name together, which may be weird for some but his birth mom is alive and we honor that. If someone is looking for a "move that bus" moment then in my opinion, hosting and adoption is not for them.

We have been blessed to have 5/6 successful Ukrainian teen adoptions  in our community. They are wonderful, hard working kids. Yes, some still have some luggage to unpack but they have adjusted so well. Of course, we have some others that were not "success stories", but, if it is lead by the Lord, even what we don't call a typical "success story" can still be used by him. Having one person love you in the world can make all the difference. 

Thank you Martha for sharing your story and advice with us! To read Valik's story and advice, click this link: A Host Child’s Perspective!

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