Attachment Struggles with an Adopted Child

Throughout November we're discussing adoption and foster care. Here is what we've covered so far:
Intro to This Month's Adoption Focus
God's Heart for the Orphan
God's Heart for the Orphan: Our Response
Fears About Adoption and Fostering

* * *

Many of you have expressed concerns about bonding/attachment with an adopted child, and I would be remiss not to write about it, but this is by far the topic I feel the least qualified to be writing about. Wow. I'm going to tackle it, here, to the best of my ability and understanding.

I think all adopted children have attachment issues on some level. This is my general understanding, from what I've read. When the attachment/bond between a child and his/her birth mother is broken-- at any age-- it wreaks havoc on a child. It's as if they know, inherently- that they've been rejected, in a sense, by the one person who should love them the most-- and it affects them deeply. That hurt is processed and expressed differently, depending on the child. While we have not experienced this with Adelia on any level to date, this is something have experienced with Isaias.

Isaias, 9 months old~ Guatemala City

I don't want to go into the specifics of our experience with our son here on the blog- but I will say that it has been very difficult at times. Those who know us well can attest to that. I have made many, many mistakes-- mainly by reacting to him in anger, oh-so-often, and by being cold and distant to him in response to his lack of affection to me. I believe I could write an entire book on how not to parent, dear readers. I am thankful that God has used this experience to humble me (don't ever pray for humility unless you want God to truly stretch you!), and to teach me so much along the way.

God is ever faithful, and Mark and I have seen changes in our Isaias, and God has answered many prayers. When we look back at some of the issues that were going on a couple years ago, many of those are not even present anymore. And those that are are much less frequent. We can genuinely see fruit in him and in our relationship with him. I have no idea what we'll face in the future with him or with Adelia, but I rest in God's faithful instruction to us as we parent.

Here are a few things I am learning in the midst of this:

I must cling to God's Word

When things seemed hopeless, I just held onto the truth of God's Word. I hung onto this one, especially:
Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
"Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert.

(Isaiah 43: 18-19, NAS)
I'm ashamed to admit how often I dwelt on the difficulty of our interactions. (More on that in a minute.) But here God is, saying, "Do not call it to mind; do not ponder those things... I'm going to do something NEW." So I just hoped and trusted that this was true; that God *would* do something new in our son and in our relationship with him; that He would make a roadway in the wilderness; rivers in the desert.

I must take captive every thought (to make it obedient to Christ)~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

Due to the nature of our struggles, and in comparison to the relative ease it has been to parent our biological children, it was easy for me to view Isaias as The Problem, and become frustrated at him (outwardly or inwardly) because of it. I had to purposefully, actively choose to think otherwise. One of the ways I have done this is to write down all the whatevers I can think up about him. By "whatevers" I mean this verse from Philippians:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
So I would just write them down in my journal, everything he did that was praiseworthy that day or week. Even if I could only think of one thing, I wrote it down.

The first part of that verse says "whatever is true... think about such things". This is another thing I did (and still do. I did this just today in my journal!) I will sit down and just write out truths; what I *know*. This was especially important for me to do when I found myself sinking into this line of thinking: "I can't do this... I don't want to do this... I cannot muster up _____ (love/patience/kindness, etc.) for this child today." And then I get to thinking of all the ways that I have screwed up, culminating in the fear that this broken little boy came to us and I have just done him the disservice- through my own sin- of making that hurt in him so very much bigger than it was when he arrived. I recognize that those are lies of the enemy. But I *know* better (even if I don't always feel it) because of the truth. So I list truths:
  • You chose Isaias for our family.
  • You chose *me* to be Isaias' mama.
  • You know what Isaias needs, even when I do not.
  • You are my Helper.
  • I can do all things in *Your* strength.
Things like that.

I must be prayerful

John 10:10 says "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." We know this about Satan: he wants to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus came that we might have life, and life abundant!

So we have prayed over areas of Isaias' life that we see Satan wanting to steal, kill and destroy: (love, affection, acceptance, worth, trust, security, etc).

And we have prayed- often- for wisdom for us as parents; that God would grant us wisdom beyond our years; that His Spirit would guide us in every situation we face with *each* of our children.

Finally, I often think of this passage of Scripture, from Isaiah 61, because I think it encapsulates what our adopted children need from us, as extensions of God's great love for them. Here's my own little paraphrase of the above linked-to actual Scripture:
He has anointed us, as adoptive parents,
to preach good news to the poor (our adopted children),
to bind up their broken hearts,
to proclaim freedom for them...
to comfort them when they mourn,
to provide for them when they grieve,
to bestow upon them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They *will* be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

I feel convicted all over again as I read that anew. Please understand that we are so far from having it all together. I am so, so thankful that our children belong to Him. He is working in their hearts and we, as parents, are just coming alongside of the Holy Spirit's work in them. It is not up to us; it is up to Him. He alone has the power to bring healing and restoration to our adopted children. As for us, I am thankful that His mercies are new every morning.


  1. Hi :)
    I have 7 kids, all biological. My mother and her siblings were adopted. I have a child, my oldest, who is the "problem" child. This is how we view him when we are beat down, exhausted, worn thin in dealing with this child. But he is also full of talents. Of charm and charisma. He breaks our hearts, often. And we have, at times, broken his.

    Thank your for your post. It really helped me today. :)

  2. Lorien~
    Thank you for your honest words, Lorien. Blessings to you as you love your son. You can do it!

  3. My husband and I have been praying about adoption over the last year. We have taken the PRIDE foster/adopt training that our state requires... we continue to pray... read the Word... We've met with a Christain adoption agency. We are currently working through that paperwork and casting our cares...seeking and strugglying to lay down our lives. We have 5 bio children. The youngest 1 and oldest 7. We have lots of questions and doubts, but this is truely something the Lord has put on our hearts. I'd really be curious if you chose to adopt through the state or a private agency? Also if it is not too personal to ask, are you planning on having any more biological children? I appreciate what you are sharing. I came across your blog Saturday, almost at the point of wanting to back out of adopting and perhaps choosing instead to having more bio children. I feel like we are standing at a crossroads. Your words are good to read. Blessings, Megan

  4. Megan~
    I am seriously so blessed to read your words~ and to read of the steps you've taken to move forward in this. YAY for you! I will pray for you guys, too!

    To answer your questions...

    With Adelia, we adopted through the state, but we did have an agency that worked as an advocate for us within the system (basically, they examined referrals on our behalf so that we could find a child that would truly be adoptable, since that was our end-goal). They were also free.

    [We worked with Antioch Adoptions for anyone local who is interested, or for those who are curious about their ministry].

    We would love to have more biological children!

    I'd love to hear more from you, Megan. Please feel free to email me at any time...I'd love to hear more of your story. (The email link on my sidebar isn't currently working... but it is


  5. You brought me to tears friend.

    I have struggled so hard in similar ways with my middle man. I so loved the scripture in Isaiah not rehearse the former easy it is to camp there. And fear can grip me at times for the future. And then telling myself truth (or others like you sharing truth)and rehearsing whatever is true....
    Thanks for this. New mercy's tomorrow and grace and strength await me.

  6. wow, this is so good, stacy. it really ministers to me, right now, today. i have been working on a post about rejection and trying to think how to get to the next step and here you have written it all out beautifully and humbly.

    thanks for ministering to me today, dear girl.

  7. Sandi~
    Oh, don't I know it, Sandi-- about camping there. I so need to NOT. It is a daily, hourly- sometimes- choice-- and one I don't always make. I love you and pray for you!

    Oh, I'm so glad, Tonia, that God allowed this to minister to you today. Love to you!


  8. Just what I needed to hear today. Thanks!

  9. Revisiting this morning...much needed and it's only 8:10 am :o)

    Rehearsing whatever is true...true...true!

    I am printing this one out and sticking it in my journal.

    Love to you too friend.

  10. Stacy ~ God is using you in so many ways, my friend. I've been so busy, but am now just sitting here to read through your posts. Love to you and your beautiful family, and thank you for your honest post. Your loving heart shines through.

  11. Stacy -- thank you so much for sharing your heart and your struggles. The passage from Isaiah 43 is so powerful. No matter what "hard place" our children have come from, God is able to make them make "rivers in the desert"......what a beautiful picture. But at times it feels like we will never even see a spoonful of water let alone a river! Thank you for the encouragement!


  12. Tammy~
    I'm so glad. Blessings to you and yours...

    I like your mantra: Rehearsing whatever is true... true... true. YES!

    Thank you, sweet Bev, for your kind and encouraging words.

    Thank you, Sarah. And- a hearty yes! to your words, too. No matter what hard place they've come from, God can make them new. Amen to that! :)

    (((Love to you, sweet commenters.)))

  13. Stacy--I think this is one of your best posts, sincere, honest, & genuine. Those feelings you've felt (and still work through) towards Isaias, as you wrote, "that he is the problem," yet God has been transforming your heart. Isn't that the true beauty of parenting? We come just as broken before God, he reshapes our little finite minds & hearts to match his. Yet, what I love about God more than anything, he is constantly redeeming, constantly breathing out grace, even when I feel like my post as mother is nothing but failure. I see inside my heart--much the same as your post--how God has appointed me as mama over these girls. I've failed miserably and Satan definitely would want to crush my spirit with those memories of failures. but then there's Papa God saying, "Oh child, yes you did mess up, but let me clean up and show you how to love these daughters of mine."

  14. Stacy, Thank you so much for this post. We struggle with attachment issues from time to time with Harry. People tend to dismiss the pain our children have experienced, because they experienced it at such a young age. But I see it so clearly all over my precious one. I can so relate to everything you wrote. Sometimes it seems his issues have a way of pressing my every button and bringing my weaknesses to the surface like nothing else. I think, God rescued him from all of that, just to bring him to ME and so that in my sinful impatience I can hurt him further??? But God is so faithful. Nothing has brought me to this place of knowing how desperately I daily need grace, like this divinely appointed relationship. Because you have shared bits and pieces, I have suspected we have dealt with a lot of similar things. Truth be told, several times when things have gotten really hard, I have thought of you and Isaias and told myself God has gotten Stacy through it for a whole year longer than me, He'll get me through too. :) I appreciate you!

  15. Kamille~
    Oh, thank you for your kind words, Kamille. And your description here is beautiful; that He continually breathes grace... YES!

    Hello, sweet Charlotte. Thank you- so much, for taking the time to comment. I didn't know that about your Harry, and I will definitely remember to pray for you. I love what you said: "Nothing has brought me to this place of knowing how desperately I daily need grace, like this divinely appointed relationship." Yes. Such grace is needed with these sweet boys, and He *will* get us through! Love and hugs to you and yours, Charlotte.


  16. Thank you for sharing this, I know it couldn't have been easy.
    You have certainly not lost me along the way. I just happened to be so busy this last week, (baby, homeschooling, out of town guests, etc) that my computer time has been so limited.
    But back to this post, you brought tears to my eyes. I too, have made so many mistakes in our struggle through attachment/bonding issues with our son N. WE have come so very far but our issues are not over, and we continue to work through issues we thought we had conquered. Thank you for the reminder to write down praise worthy things. It is well taken and I plan to specifically do that this week.
    The scripture was wonderfully encouraging and I hope to come back and read this with dh later tonight. Thank you for what you are doing here this month, and though I wish I could comment on every post, time may not allow that. Know that I am reading, praying and learning too. Thank you dear one!

  17. Dear LeAnn,
    I am praying for you and your son. I can relate to your words that you continue to work through issues you thought you'd conquered. (Us, too!)
    Thank you for taking the time to comment, and to share a bit of your story~ it helps me to pray, and I will continue to do so for you and N.
    (((Big hugs to you for all you face, every day.)))


Thank you for commenting! I love hearing from you, and I will do
my best to reply back to you in the comment section.