The first time I heard the word “unadoptable,” I was in disbelief. Questions and concerns raced through my mind. How is any child unadoptable? Who came up with this label? As I dove deeper and started seeing life through the eyes of children in our foster care system, answers to these questions also became clearer. This word was not created by foster parents, agencies, or friends; it came from within. Adolescents in our foster care system identify themselves as “unadoptable,” and they build their identity on unfathomable wounds from trauma. I saw this first-hand when I was a house parent in a group home here in Fort Worth.
My role as a house parent was simple: identify a need and meet that need. Every day brought different needs, some easier than others. Some days children NEEDED Goldfish and other days they NEEDED to know where they would call home in three months, or even three days. One day in particular, an adolescent needed to dream about his forever family. So, we started dreaming. We played catch in the backyard and every time he threw the ball, he named a quality he hoped his forever family would have. He hoped they would let him play on a football team, he hoped he had younger siblings, he hoped they would let him eat junk food whenever he wanted, and he hoped for a strong dad. When our game ended, I told him I would be praying over every quality he named. He shook his head and without hesitation, he looked up and told me none of that was real, it was just a game. When I asked him why those dreams could not be real, the words “I’m unadoptable” rolled off his tongue as if he had been saying them for years, which he likely had.
Adolescents in our foster care system live in a works-based world. When they exhibit extreme behavior challenges, it directly affects their chances for adoption. The fear of becoming unadoptable is haunting and follows them from one failed placement to another. However, underneath the rough surface of these adolescents are young children with a desire to be truly heard, known, and loved. Sadly, these desires become complicated when trauma is wrapped tightly around them. Trauma has the power to change a child’s brain. It can inhibit their ability to reason, emotionally regulate, and express their needs in an appropriate manner. An adolescent rooted in trauma might expresses a longing to be loved in a different way than we imagine. It can look like violent behaviors, verbal aggression, or extreme isolation from those trying to care for them.
These children may be currently rooted in trauma, but “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” [Psalm 147:3]. Our world may label children as “unadoptable,” but our God sent Jesus “to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons” [Galatians 4:5]. These children may express unimaginable behaviors out of fear, however “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” [1 John 4:18]. Let us not be fearful of what trauma looks like; instead, let us ask God to work through us to restore what is broken in these adolescents’ hearts.
“While many children may still not have a forever home, there is a forever hope.”
I had the privilege to watch our Lord break chains in this adolescent’s heart. He still carries scars from trauma, but he grew to know his identity as a son of the King of Kings. While many children may still not have a forever home, there is a forever hope. No child is “unadoptable” in God’s eyes. Jesus says in Matthew 19:26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
We see this word “but” woven throughout scripture to signify the hope that Jesus brings. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 6:23]. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps even for a good person one would dare even to die – But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5: 7-8]. Let us not place the pressure on adolescents to “fix” their behaviors before we are willing to love them.
Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Jesus calls our hearts into prayer. Prayer for all His children, prayer that He will provide us a heart ready to serve in His strength for these adolescents’ sake. He is the father to the fatherless; we should be the voice for the voiceless. Those adolescents’ dreams can become reality. Church, let us unite and ask our heavenly Father what our role is. We all have a role. With Jesus as the King of the world and Lord of all, no one is unadoptable.
Paradox Partner & Member of the PRDX Orphan Care Team