Story of the American Orphan

Have You Ever Seen a Heartbreak?

During my life I have seen many sad events in dealing with abused and orphaned children. As I look back the hardest thing I faced was not when my heart was broken, but when I watched a little heart break right in front of me. I truly do not know what an abused orphaned child goes through and the pain their little heart endures. This is what the thirty-four abused children that have lived in our home has taught me about heart break. Have you ever sat with a foster child waiting for their Mom and Dad to come for a visit? As time passes, you watch the tension mount in the child’s heart. The child looks at you with tears creeping into their sad eyes, “Please can we wait just a little longer? “Mommy is just running late.” We wait and wait and no one ever comes. Finally, you find yourself making excuses for the parents in an attempt to comfort their little broken heart.

Have you ever seen a heartbreak when you have to tell a child her Mommy and Daddy are never coming back again? Have you ever looked into an orphans eyes and tried to explain to her she will never go to Grampa’s and Grandma’s house again? Have you ever held a child’s hand and told him he will be separated from his brothers and sisters, and you’re not sure if he will ever see them again? Have you ever hugged a child and told her she has to make new friends, and just maybe, someday she can get a new puppy or kitten? Have you ever told a child to pack up her entire life and memories and put them into a black trash bag? Then explain to her she has to start a new life, move into a stranger’s home and just pretend her old life never existed? Have you ever tried to comfort a child that is begging and pleading with you to just let him just go home. She is crying “Why can’t I see Mommy and sis?” All you can do is just hug them in a desperate attempt to put all the broken pieces of their heart back together. Over time, you pray you have enough hugs and kisses to patch the cracks life has left in their little heart, and just maybe, someday that little heart can find the beat of happiness that every child deserves. So once again I ask, “Have you ever seen a heartbreak?”

“You're Gonna Miss This”

My wife and I were both in our fifties when we adopted our four small children. On many occasions, I think we have lost our minds taking on such a challenge. I joked with my wife that by the time Miranda moves out, we may have only one golden year left. On many occasions, it has been very difficult, but I have no regrets. As an older parent, I truly believe that I have become a better parent. I appreciate the little things a lot more. I cherish the moments when we are sitting at dinner, and everyone is talking about their day. I enjoy the kids wanting to sit in my lap and watch T.V. By the way “America’s Funniest Videos” is our favorite family show. It makes me miss my biological children when they were small. If I had only one wish, I would wish I could do it all again. I wish I would have hugged my children more and just took more time to play. My advice to all parents is to cherish every moment and savor even the sleepless nights, and that you still have the power to hug and kiss their hurts away. Lock away in your heart their first day of school, watching their school plays, and cheering for them in the games they play. I do not think there is a greater feeling than just simply holding your child’s hand for just no reason. The one single greatest thing about being a parent is just the feeling of being needed by someone and trying to be the hero they see in you. My advice to all parents is to hold on to the little things as long as you possibly can because someday memories is all you’re going to have. In one of Trace Adkins songs, “I can promise you someday, “You’re gonna miss this.” This story is dedicated to all the orphans and abused children seeking a forever home.

“Saving one child will not change the world, but surely for that one child, the world will change forever.”

Michael and Miranda were 6 and 3 when we first met them. They were in foster care when we agreed to adopt them. The children were picked up by C.P.S. when the father was stumbling down the street drunk and attempting to fight anyone whom he came in contact. While the children were in care the father was sentenced to prison and the mother tested positive for drugs. We learned about Michael and Miranda from their CASA worker. A CASA worker is a court appointed special advocate who volunteers to track and protect the children while in foster care. The CASA worker told us that when she visited the children in the foster home she had a feeling something was not right in the home. The children seemed submissive, and Miranda almost did not speak at all. Once, Miranda tried to crawl up onto the Casa workers lap, and the foster Mom scolded her and told her that was not allowed. The foster parents told the C.P.S. workers they believed Miranda was autistic because she did not talk and could not be potty trained. Suspicions grew even more when, for religious reasons, the foster parents placed Michael and Miranda into another home for Christmas. The couple that took Miranda in for Christmas were able to potty train her in one day. They learned that she did act like a normal child and loved to talk and play. After hearing this, Terri and I asked to meet Michael and Miranda because the first two children we adopted were abused and almost killed in foster care. After several visits with the children, we decided to adopt Michael and Miranda. It is sad enough that these children were neglected and abandoned by their parents, but now it was very obvious after meeting the children that there was some type of abuse in the foster home. Sadly, many people foster only to receive the government check given to them to house the children. In many cases, the children are just a paycheck to their foster parents.

My Little Sailor

The Arrival          


The day finally came when Michael and Miranda would move into their new home. Miranda was even cuter than described. She had the prettiest brown eyes and chubbiest little cheeks. When you first meet an abused child, they will seem perfectly normal and signs of their abuse will stay hidden. This is called the honeymoon stage. During the honeymoon stage, the children seem very happy and well behaved, but then the honeymoon stage, after a few weeks, will end. Then you will start seeing signs from their past. It could come in an anger outburst or just crying at a drop of a hat. Our first challenge was to help our two new children assimilate with our other two adoptive children Kylee and Camden.  Kylee and Miranda did not seem to have a difficult time bonding mostly because of Miranda’s sweet submissive personality and Kylee’s sweet nature. One time in church, our preacher was talking about all the orphans needing to be adopted; Kylee was coloring, and I thought she was not listening to the preacher. After church Kylee handed me a picture she was coloring, and I asked what it was a picture of. She said, “It is our new house with twelve extra beds so all them children the preacher was talking about can come and live at our house.” Some days I wonder if my home is just a vehicle for God so that Kylee can someday do something great.

My Little Sailor

Miranda’s story is one that will make you angry and break your heart. Once in our home it did not take Miranda long to start talking. Her personality began to blossom into the little girl that God intended her to be. Her speech was very difficult to translate. I believe this was due to her withdrawing into a quiet shell while living with her biological parents and her foster parents. The few words we could understand clearly was the foul language she would often repeat. The F-word and A-word were often blurted out. These words were not in anger but just the way she was taught to talk. A social worker stated she was probably doing this for attention but I believed this not to be true because Miranda would be by herself and use foul language while just playing. Her foster parents tried to blame her biological parents which is impossible since Miranda had not been around her parents in almost two years. Even if she did learn it from her biological parents they had plenty of time to retrain the behavior. My wife fixed the problem in two weeks. The first time Miranda went to Sunday school class she, unfortunately, she taught all the children a few new words.

Tickle Daddy

The most troubling of Miranda’s behavior was her fear of men. She was afraid to be alone with me. She was constantly asking my wife if she was going with her as opposed to going with me. Her fear of men could have come from her biological father or her foster Dad. Michael told me his father would scream and hit his mother. She may also have learned to fear men from her foster father who would yell and curse at the children. Miranda would often wake up in the night crying and my wife would go into her room. Miranda would open her eyes and say, “I love you” and drift back to sleep. I think she needed to know Mom was around and she was safe. If I ever had to take Miranda, she would cry and plead to go with Mom. As time passed, Miranda became more and more comfortable with me around, but she still lacked trust. Miranda had lived with us for almost six months, and I never pushed the issue of bonding and hoped in time she would build her trust in me. Each night I would tuck the kids into bed. On many nights I would pick the kids up throw them on the bed and tickle them. When I would tickle Kylee, poor little Miranda would watch and pull the covers up to her eyes. Her sweet little eyes would tear up and beg me to please not come near her. I knew she wanted to tell me, “Daddy some man hurt me once I am just scared so please just give me time.” I would walk out of the room and say, “I love you Miranda.” This went on for about seven months. Then came the night that this Daddy will never forget. After tickling Kylee and leaving the room I heard a little whisper from Miranda. It said, “Daddy tickle.” I turned around and said, “Miranda do you need me?” She propped up in bed and opened her arms and said, “Daddy tickle”. After seven long months, Miranda took down her wall. I do not know if I will ever know what happened to Miranda, and sometimes I hope I never find out.  Now she gives me hugs and sits in my lap. Almost every day she will ask if she can help me or go with me. It’s amazing to see Miranda’s personality just blossom into a bundle of sweet energy that lights up every heart she comes in contact with. Both Michael and Miranda’s life shows the hidden potential every child has if given unconditional love and a forever home. Terri and I now have six beautiful children to love. Many people wonder how can people take on such a job, it is easy when God has filled your tool box with love.

The boys were a different story. At first the honeymoon was great, and then suddenly the honeymoon came to a screeching halt. Getting them to get along with each other was going to be one of our greatest challenges. Michael can be described as a child with low self-esteem starving for attention. He wanted you to praise him so much it annoyed everyone in the house. If you ever praised another child in the house he tried to jump in front of it and intercept the complement for himself. He would try to convince you his accomplishment was much greater than the other children and that he deserved the praise. Michael would constantly count his food to make sure he had the same amount as everyone else, and if he got one more potato chip than everyone else, he would boast about his extra chip to the household. Michael’s behavior can only be explained by his sad past. One time I was taking Michael to the doctor, and I asked Michael to tell me about the greatest day he ever spent with his parents. Without skipping a beat, he said, “That is easy. “When my Dad used to scream and hit my Mom, my Mom and me would go to 7-eleven (a convenience store) and buy a Lunchable, and we would sit outside all night.” This makes Michael’s behavior easy to understand when at age six this was the highlight of his life with his parents.

Michael and Camden started out buddies, but soon turned into arch enemies. They were constantly telling on one another. It got so bad we would not even let them play in the same room. I know many of you think it is normal for brothers to fight but not to this extent.  We even got outside help from a psychologist but that did not seem to be helping. Many times I would come home from work and my wife would have both six year old boys sitting on the porch arguing out their issues. This feud was fueled by Michael’s need to get Camden in trouble so he could elevate his status in the house; but Camden was not innocent in this war of brothers. Camden is extremely immature for his age. He has trouble sharing and always thinks everything should be done his way. One thing I have learned is that abused children are almost always immature and are very emotional for their age, especially if their abuse came from malnutrition when the brain was developing. One of the side effects of being malnourished is emotional immaturity and lack of short term memory. Another contributing factor is the way you discipline a foster child. It is different than the way you can discipline your own child. You are required to discipline a foster child following state regulations. Having two sets of rules for kids staying in the house is tough on the children and the parents. After about eight months of six year olds at war with each other, a peace treaty was negotiated. I must give the credit to my wife and their psychologist for their persistence.  We still have a few outbreaks, but as each day passes it seems to get a little better. Each day you can see a bond growing between the two boys.

Crusade for the Invisible Foster Child