May 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Posted in adoption issues, adoption resources | 1 Comment

CBN has, thankfully, removed the troublesome commentary by Pat Robertson that came at the end of the news segment.   Part of me is so happy.   Part of me is still very sad for the reality of what was said.

Mostly, it’s a relief.

Hardings are truly grateful to get to be a door keeper in the house of God, especially when it comes to vindicating the Fatherless!   So when someone treads on adoption or uses a big ugly brush to paint orphans with, I get all ‘mother-bear’ and hot headed passionate and start emailing everyone.  I obsess and stew dive in full force and get in my defense-attorney mode.

Not a pretty sight ~  I promise.

The Christian Alliance for Orphans does such a calm, reasoned, and winsome job of offering a Biblical perspective on adoption.   In the wake of the Robertson comments they wrote a piece that further explains five core truths about adoption that need to be better understood and communicated.   Check it out!

Also, Dan Cruver added the CBN interview ‎ at the Together For Adoption ‎ site.

Ahhhh….. I can now remove my blood pressure cuff and get back to the business of making chicken noodle soup for lunch and breaking up the battle over who gets to play with the red matchbox car. ‎


certainly not what I expected…

May 20, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Posted in adoption issues, adoption resources | Leave a comment

The CBN interview that we got to be a part of a few weeks ago aired today.

The reporter and her crew did such a fantastic job on the story and Tague and I are very excited about the message that was sent through her dedicated work.


After the video piece was over, Pat Robertson added his own (almost four-minute) commentary.    At no time was he an advocate for the orphan nor did he give a rally cry to the church to step up to the plate to care for orphans or vulnerable children in any way.   We are profoundly disappointed in the way he used his influence and are grieved over  his counsel to potentially adoptive families.     Thankfully, his co-host Terry, spoke patiently and graciously to correct and exhort through the troubled commentary.

Praise God that His purposes will stand.   He will set the lonely in families.   He will continue to call AND equip families to embrace children that they did not conceive.  Praise God that He prepares some families to love and raise kids who struggle to adapt to their history.   Praise God that He knows every detail on the planet and one negative review doesn’t slow Him down as He works on the behalf of His children!

Watch it for yourself……What do you think?

CBN interview

The Christian Alliance for Orphans (who hosted the conference) made a very well thought out  response.    They clearly reflect our hearts and do it in a winsome way.

mixed race families – part 3

April 24, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Posted in adoption issues, race | Leave a comment

What follows is Part 3 of the continuing conversation regarding some things we are doing as we raise our kids in a mixed race environment.


We have loads of African art in our home.   Now that I think about it, just about all of the paintings hanging on the walls feature black faces.   We have black dolls and books with illustrations including children of color and books that show mixed race families .   We talk about Uganda.   We pray for friends in Uganda.   We thank God (out loud) that He allowed our boys to be begin life in such a wonderful country and from such a wonderful people.

And last week, I did something that made me really nervous.    I wandered over to the information booth at the church we were visiting and waited in line to ask a question of a handsome black man behind the counter.    I said (wondering if this was a ‘stupid-white-person’ question),  “Since I have black children, I’m wondering how you, as a black man, feel about the racial climate in this church?   I mean, when i go to the Mall of America, it’s really diverse.   But when I go to churches, not so much.    What’s it like for you as a person of color being a part of this church?”   (Thankfully, he was more than happy to answer my question and even told me it was a really good question.)

It’s important to us that we raise our boys in such a way that when they look at their world, at least some of it looks like them!

I’m really new at this.   So I’m still hoping that these are good racial awareness moves and not bad (racist) moves.    Hard to know when all I’ve ever been is white and all I’ve ever known is my own culture through  my own eyes.   It’s that old question of, ‘does the fish even know he’s wet?’

mixed race families – part 2

April 18, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Posted in adoption issues, race | Leave a comment

My boys are black citizens in a primarily white place.  I need to be very aware of that, otherwise my own obliviousness to the world I live in may allow their perspective to be overwhelmed and swallowed up.   Since statistics say that Minnesota is 85% white persons  and less than 5% black persons, we’re going to have to make an effort to ensure that P & Z don’t end up being the only brown faces in every environment they find themselves in!   And around here, that doesn’t ‘just happen’.

Just like it’s my job to make sure they are given nutritious foods and it’s my job to create a safe environment for them to play in and it’s my job to ensure their health is regularly evaluated, it’s also my job (because I’m the grown up and they can’t do it for themselves yet) to help create a racially diverse  experience for us all.    Regular ole ‘default settings’ in the area of race aren’t good enough.

So ~ Here are a few things we’re doing to try to darken the complexion of the world we live in.  They are not spectacular.   They are just faithful ~ faithful to the effort to be consistent and comprehensive in the best way I know how to be.

1) As we look at preschools we ask is, ‘How many non-white children do you have per class?”      And, “Do you have any non-white teachers or staff members in your school?”   I think my little guys can learn their ABC’s just about anywhere.   But they need to do it in an environment where they will not always feel the constant awareness of being different.

I’ve had some people question me about this one.   In response, I’ve simply asked them…. ‘would you put your white child in a school where he is the only white child in the whole building?  How might that make him feel?’  Funny how when it’s flipped, it opens a different level of understanding.

2) I’m looking for professionals in our lives that are non-white people.    Our pediatrician our dentist….. etc.

3) The town about 10 minutes north of us is much more racially diverse than our own town is.    There’s a very large Somalian population there so, as often as I can, we choose to go to that Target instead of the one closest to our house.    When we’re there, we are surrounded by other shoppers of African decent.

more to come………..

mixed race families

April 17, 2010 at 7:40 am | Posted in adoption issues, family, race | Leave a comment

An old high school acquaintance recently looked me up to reconnect and to ask some questions about interracial adoption.   Here’s what he asked me to explain:

…… how will you approach the mixed race issue with your boys as you raise them?

Truth is, I wish I had more of a plan.    I wish I’d spent years living in a mixed race community or doing more to be aware of racial arrogance than just watching Roots or reading Martin Luther King Jr. speeches or enjoying Corina, Corina .

But, it is what it is.   At least for now.

What I AM trying to do is to celebrate Philip and Zach  ~  their history, their color, their ethnicity, their previous citizenship and their current citizenship.    I want to do the mixed race family thing well, but I think we’ll have to figure a lot of it out as it comes.

Sometimes I forget we’re ‘mixed race’.   I look at them and just see my sons.   Yep, they’re dark.   It’s their look.   Just like our other son looks pale with a shock of yellow hair on top.   When I see P & Z, I see expressions and personality and runny noses and long eyelashes and soggy diapers…. just baby stuff.        It’s not until we’re all out in all mall or a restaurant that I actually remember that we don’t all ‘match’.   And that’s only because as a conspicuous family, other people notice us and then I notice them noticing us.   And then I remember.   It’s a non-issue at home.   And it seems like a ‘others-issue’ when we’re out.  (Which is why we need to have intentionality about this in the first place.)

So, raising my boys as minority children in majority culture seems like the real question to respond to.

I’ll add to these thoughts over the next few days, but I’m wondering about you…..

What have some of you done to be more intentional about raising children in a mixed race family?   Anything?

broken hearts

February 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Posted in adoption issues, Prayer, secure relationships | 1 Comment

When the cupboard is empty, I go to the grocery store and within minutes, I’ve fixed that problem.

When a kid needs their school uniform ready, I get it spinning in the machines and …. Voilà!…. it appears folded for them shortly.   Problem fixed.

When the teenager is running errands and realizes her bank account is empty, a few clicks online put her back in shape.   Problem fixed.

From rides to project-poster-boards, from bake sale brownies to late night counseling sessions, I’m the go-to person around here.   And, frankly…. I deliver just about all the time.

But I’m finding that there are some problems that I just can’t fix.   Specifically:  Broken, fearful little hearts.

Children who have experienced early childhood risk factors (such as neglect or living in an orphanage setting, etc)  sometimes come with lingering issues that are very present and real.   So real, in fact, that these kids are classified as ‘special needs kids’ by developmental experts.   They’ve been harmed by their early circumstances and they’ve suffered losses.   Even if a child was pre-verbal at the time of the harm, the impact of these risk factors is profound on his brain chemistry.

Tender hearts learn the unspoken rules about what it means to live on this planet very early on.

We see this often as tears and frustrations continue to be part of the daily rhythm of our son’s life.   Without being able to articulate why,  disappointment lands on him like an avalanche of pain and distress.   He wails and seemingly overreacts to almost every situation.   There’s a ‘sense’ of uncertainty in his experience, even though he IS secure now.     There’s a ‘sense’ of danger, even though he IS very safe and very loved.   There’s a ‘sense’ of helplessness that informs his perspectives and shapes his responses to the regular stimulus of daily life.   He gets these inaccurate, but powerful perspectives from a deeper place that imprinted on him long before we ever met.   It’s a message that repeatedly tells him, “Life is not safe.   Life = despair.   It’s hopeless.”

How great it would be if I could just go to a psychological ATM and withdraw the amount of security and confidence that he needs.  Or if I had the right pills or better yet, a time machine to go back and eliminate the issues to begin with!    How I wish I could fix what ails him.

What I can do, is coach and reassure and walk with him through it, praying that the ‘sense’ he has will eventually shift to one of peace.  I need to be reminded often that God:

“heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”  Ps 147:3

I can’t fix my little guy’s problems.   (and I’ve been trying for a while now..)   But my maternal heart rests more knowing that even as I type this, God is on the case.   He’s healing and He’s binding up the broken, cracked emotional and psychological places deep below the surface.    There’s hope in that.

Steven Curtis Chapman and Orphan Sunday

November 17, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Posted in adoption issues | Leave a comment

If you didn’t have a chance to be part of the Orphan Sunday live broadcast last week, you’ll want to carve out some times to watch this.

It was ALL great!   ALL of it.   But one part really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

In it, Steven Curtis Chapman talks about their tremendous loss a year and a half ago when their precious daughter Maria passed away.    He talks as a father but more importantly as a follower of Jesus.   He talks about the journey and the questions that the soul asks when it is pierced at it’s core.

Start the video at 1:29:50 to hear him sing an amazing song about the deep reality of God’s ownership over all things.

SCC talks in the middle of the song with a authenticity that caught my breath in my lungs and brought stinging tears to my eyes.   Would my faith survive the way his has if I faced this terror of the heart?

Watch the video…. all of it, if you can.     Accept the invitation to be part of God’s plan for the children of the world who need your partnership…. your parenting….. your prayer.


September 9, 2009 at 7:25 am | Posted in adoption issues, adoption resources, secure relationships | 2 Comments

I’m reading the book The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis …… again.  It was recommended to us about a year ago but when I read it the first time, we hadn’t yet brought our boys home.   It was all theory.   Now I’m reading it with open eyes and almost a year of experience.

There have been lots of hurdles in our adoption ~ most of them paper hurdles and most of them chronicled here.   But the hurdle of forming a deep connection with a child may prove to be the biggest one.

The whole thing is a little like entering into an arranged marriage.   Neither partner knows the other person and it takes a while…. sometimes a long while….. to form trust and to relax into each other’s life and into each other’s arms.

Except in an adoption, one party (the parent) completely knows what’s happening in advance and pours themselves into it in every way.  The nursery is painted and clothes are bought.   The parent has pictures and makes plans and takes trips and writes a blog and enlists prayers and holds fundraisers to flesh out the calling God has initiated in their hearts.    The other party (the child) has no idea what’s happening in his life and so makes no emotional preparations or celebrations and has no anticipations of what is to come for him.   He is just trying to adapt to his ever-changing world as an orphan.    He’s just playing ‘dodge-ball’ with life and trying to NOT get hit.   So, if anything, when the big day arrives – as the parent rejoices and celebrates the culmination of a long process, the child sometimes cowers and trembles at what seems to him to be in instantaneous (and maybe unreliable?)  change in his reality.

But that’s autobiographical enough for now.

I’ve wondered whether I should write about this topic here at all.    Maybe it’s too much candor and exposure.  Honestly – I don’t hear it being talked about by my other adoptive-mom friends.    (But, then again, it’s not really facebook status material, is it?)    Maybe it’s too much candor for my son, who’s journey and story I intend to protect.

BUT, since it’s not an indictment and since I don’t have any particular pretense to try to uphold, this is my latest reading material…. again.   If I have the courage, I’ll continue to write about it.

A response (Part 2) – let’s get more personal

June 11, 2009 at 9:56 pm | Posted in adoption issues | 3 Comments

The writer of the facebook comment accused us of cultural genocide:  The deliberate destruction of the culture or heritage of a people. Clearly, that was neither our intent or the result.

Back on November 19th I wrote these words from my guest room at the orphanage:

I am more convinced than ever that this adoption is of God.   The longer I’m here, the more I see that He has created a situation in time (in the Ugandan government) and in the general process here that is just a slip of an opening.   We are squeezing through the crack for these two specific children and are squeezing back out.    It’s a little like a parting of the Red Sea, actually.    Something incomprehensible and unreasonable and yet, it’s happening so that God can rescue His people and get them to the land of His choosing.

Today I still have no doubt whatsoever that Philip and Zachary are in the country and the culture of God’s choosing.   With only 55 children leaving Uganda last year to live in American homes, it makes the reality of their presence here all the more amazing.   But let’s get beyond the statistics and talk about it on a more human level.

Africa is a land of sweeping paradox.   Beautiful landscapes, exotic animals, a rich history and intoxicating music are all part of the African experience.    So is the unavoidable reality of limited educational opportunities, inadequate health care, a skyrocketing culture of AIDS and poverty,  disease-infested water and a host of other ills.  To let the preservation of their culture trump everything else would mean leaving Philip and Zachary to experience all of Uganda…..the beauty and the pain.

Perhaps it’s a matter of looking at the very corporate issue of ‘culture preservation’ from the other side of the coin.

I believe that anyone, if they saw a child lying limp in the street while a giant semi-truck was roaring towards them, would do what he could to shove that child out of harm’s way.     The semi racing towards third-world orphans is devastating.

No one gets to decide what hand you’re dealt.   My boys didn’t ask to be orphaned and only survived that status because they were brought to  Amani Baby Cottage. Many orphans aren’t as lucky.   Some die in trash heaps or are drowned in pit latrines or are left to wither in the tall reeds of a sugar cane field.   Some are lucky enough to be put directly into ‘orphan for life’ group homes.  Older children who are orphaned often live on the streets begging, selling small items, offering simple services or selling themselves to stay alive.    So what can we do to ‘shove a child out of the way’ of an impending catastrophe?

Surely, there are the legitimate macro concerns regarding the protection of a nation’s culture.  And it’s obvious that you need children around to preserve any country’s future.   But look into the eyes of a 2 year old orphan who has no family, who’s health is compromised by malnutrition, disease and neglect, who has no idea how to care for himself and no prospects of an adult to care for him, and suddenly the issue of ‘culture preservation’  drops a lot lower on the list of important things to debate.

When we looked into those eyes, all philosophical arguments paled completely out of view.

As we, personally, recognized Africa’s vast needs and pondered ways to best assist, we could not forget ~ The micro issues that involve real human beings are at least as important as the macro issues that surrounding culture protection.    Protecting the most vulnerable is absolutely necessary – and, with the blessing of the Ugandan government and the careful eye of social services in the US, adoption offers a beautiful and deliberate means to do just that.

A response (Part 1) – the cold, hard facts

June 9, 2009 at 7:16 pm | Posted in adoption issues | 3 Comments

Our previous post referenced a quote that I received on facebook not long ago. The writer condemned our adoption calling our actions “horrific” and accusing us of committing cultural genocide in Uganda.

As promised, here’s our take on international adoption and it’s effects on the culture of Uganda. (Part 1)

We are well aware that we have intentionally removed two citizens of Uganda from their country and their culture. Uganda has lost Philip and Zach. And Philip and Zach have lost Uganda. That’s a reality. While we honor and celebrate our sons’ origins in Africa, we live in America and Philip and Zachary will become Americans in every way – including culturally.

Is that bad for Uganda? Does international adoption wound a culture and rob it of it’s rightful citizenry and hope for a future? If children were leaving Uganda by the hundreds of thousands, I would answer, “Yes”.

But that is not the case. The immigration and adoption statistics for 2008 were recently released by the U.S. State Department revealing that last year a total of 2,399 children were adopted into the US from the continent of Africa.   Of those, 55 were Ugandan.  Only fifty five!

In 2005 UNICEF reported the number of orphans in Uganda to be 2.3 MILLION .   55 children out of 2.3 million is a percentage almost infinitesimal in regards to its impact on the overall culture.

With an orphan population as staggering as Uganda’s (roughly the same as the population of America’s 4th largest city ~ Houston Texas) the nation’s infrastructure cannot possibly handle the demands it is faces in orphan care. There are church-run orphan villages , local ministries such as Wototo and ministries from the US such as Our Own Home that are doing a great job in ministering to orphans. There are good men and women working in the social welfare department and good government-run baby homes.  There are Ugandan families that adopt children and keep them in their culture. And there are international families that adopt children and remove them from their culture.  ALL of these efforts combine to make some difference in the lives of these most vulnerable children.

Fifty five internationally adopted children hardly constitute a death-blow to the culture and the future of Uganda.  Those who oppose international adoption because of the cultural damage it does to the birth nation suggest that adoption removes Africa’s brightest and best and, therefore removes the nation’s hope for a future.

While I agree that Philip and Zachary are some of the brightest and best, as orphans in their homeland they were not in a position to ever have a major influence on their culture. They were not in a position to stay alive long enough to do that. The trajectory of an orphan’s life in a third world country isn’t like a Hollywood movie.

Cross cultural adoption is not the only solution for Uganda’s orphans, but it is ONE solution that will, in fact, help to preserve the Uganda by reducing the number of orphans that need help from an already overwhelmed system.

Next post: the reasons supporting cross cultural adoption from a personal point of view.

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