When Adopted Children Test Your Love

A little boy with arms raised in anger, yelling and standing in front of a blue background

By Marcellus George



“Your sons behaved like angels!” the woman said about our adopted children. We were delighted our children didn’t act out in front of other people. But we also knew they were acting out around us, pushing boundaries to see how far they could go. One time they took our keys and drove our car straight into the neighbor’s fence—then got upset because they got caught!

Children test boundaries primarily for two reasons: They’re searching for security and a sense of attachment. Both are special concerns for adoptive parents because our children don’t automatically sense security or our love. That’s why, as our relationship with them grows, they continue to test whether we will provide these essential needs.

How do we get our adopted children to stop acting out? We apply the steps for when your clothing catches fire — stop, drop and roll.

Stop and be a good observer

Discern their motives. Is it typical childish misbehavior or something deeper? Ask questions: “What was going on?” and “What were you thinking and feeling when it was happening?” The age of your children will determine their ability to answer in a meaningful way. Sometimes you’ll need to interview siblings to get a complete picture of what happened.

More than a decade later, our grown sons recall their misbehavior and claim we were clueless. Don’t assume your child is too young to know what they are doing.

Drop to your knees

Look directly into your children’s faces at their eye level and reassure them of your love. Listen to what they have to say. This is also the time to pray. Ask God to teach you what the correct disciplinary response should be. We prayed proactively with our sons, and we also prayed after every disciplinary incident.

Roll on from the incident

Too often we become emotionally tied to the incident, rather than forgiving the child and moving on. Just as God has forgiven us, we must forgive them. They need to know that our love for them is secure even when they misbehave.

What our boys feared most was that we would return them to the orphanage. But we talked openly about forgiveness and showed them unconditional love — helping them understand that we may not accept their behavior, but we always accept them. Gradually they came to realize that, even when they acted out, we would never send them back.

Marcellus George is a physician. He and his wife have two adopted sons who are now grown.


Narrow Path Ministries is in the process of opening an orphanage. An Endowment fund has been established  to fund the orphanage.

Preparing Your Family for Adoption

Illustration of diverse family welcoming a little boy into their home


By Natalie Nichols Gillespie


Six years ago, my husband, Adam, and I had a bustling, blended family of six kids – his, mine and ours. Our quiver was full, not to mention our bathrooms. So when my husband and I felt unexpectedly drawn to adopt an orphan girl from China, we knew that the real test would be getting our kids on board. They had already made lots of adjustments being part of a big stepfamily. Would they want to share their time, parents and bedrooms with yet another sibling?

Surprisingly, most of our kids were captivated by the idea. “When can we get her?” they asked. But there was one holdout: Our youngest, Justin, was less than excited about the idea. We tried telling Justin that he would not lose any of our love or attention if another child came into our lives, but he seemed unwilling to give up his spot as baby of the family.

Adding one

Over the next 18 months, we met other adoptive families, ate lots of Chinese food and learned all we could about Chinese culture. We prayed every day for our new family member, and as we trudged through the mounds of paperwork, we began referring to this new child by her name – Amberlie Joy. As we moved forward, Justin’s heart warmed to the idea.

pan>Finally, in July of 2006, we brought Amberlie home. The wide smile on Justin’s face when he first held his baby sister made it clear that he was going to be a fabulous big brother.

A growing family

Amberlie was such a joy to our family that my husband and I decided to adopt from China again. We made plans to adopt 4-year-old twin girls, one of whom had cerebral palsy.

Adam and I decided that our kids needed a clearer picture of what this adoption meant, so we brought our four youngest children to China with us. As we met the twins in Nanjing, my husband and I watched in awe as our children forgot about their concerns and comforted two scared little girls who were leaving behind everything they’d ever known. If not for our children, I don’t know that Axi Grace and Addixian Hope would have so quickly accepted us. It was a miraculous trip, filled with warmth and laughter.

Open hearts

Today, I love watching my 16-year-old son toss his sister Axi into the air and catch her, as she dissolves into giggles. He only sees his little sister, not her disability. I also enjoy watching the kids chat and play outside and tell stories to each other at mealtime.

Yes, sometimes our kids have arguments, competing for our time and resources. And they’re not fans of cramming into the minivan on family outings. But I know my kids’ hearts are more open to loving people now. They have compassion for those who are different and a better sense of teamwork. Most of all, I see that their lives will be blessed with flexibility and a sense of adventure whenever God asks them to do something new.

Natalie Gillespie is the author of several books, including Successful Adoption: A Guide for Christian Families. She speaks extensively about adoption and stepfamilies.


Narrow Path Ministries is in the process of opening an orphanage. An Endowment fund has been established  to fund the orphanage.


It’s Another Thing To Be Pro-Life

by Benham Brothers | March 11th, 2019

We’ve said for years that it’s one thing to be against abortion, but it’s another thing to be pro-life. One of the best ways to be pro-life is to foster or adopt, like our friend, Peter, out in California.

Peter and his wife have fostered more than 25 children and adopted one. They’re an extraordinary couple, and their story is a beautiful picture of what it looks like to be a bridge between heaven and earth in a child’s life.

Check out some of their story, taken from our book, “Bold and Broken”:

Fostering has been an emotionally hard time for us, but we would never trade it for anything. Since we began, my wife and I have had the pleasure of fostering more than twenty-five children, and we actually adopted one little boy who came into our home at three months old. It took 790 days for his adoption to be final – but we got him. Praise the Lord!

Fear – selfish, protective fear – almost kept us from being a bridge of grace for these kids. Foster care and adoption are scary things because you put all of yourself out there, all your emotions and resources on the line, and to be honest, you get hurt. You get crushed.

One set of kids we fostered was especially hard for us. Foster care forces you into situations where you fall in love with them, see them in your homes, begin to imagine a future with them, and then suddenly they’re torn out of your lives, like the first child we fostered. But despite our hesitation to foster again, we strongly felt God wanted us to help one more time.

Three sisters showed up at our house one day – a twelve-year-old, a four-year-old, and a two-year-old. Beautiful Hispanic girls with long, flowing dark hair. We immediately fell in love with them. The twelve-year-old was tall. The four-year-old was a little chubby, adorable, and always wanting to be picked up and held. The two-year-old had big, beautiful eyes, but she didn’t speak and always cried. We couldn’t imagine the emotional pain she must’ve been experiencing.

So we decided to have a little welcome dinner that night to make them feel comfortable and loved. After dinner, I asked if we could take a picture, and what the little four-year-old girl did next shook me to the core.

She said to me, “Sure – we can take a picture. Gimme one minute.” She then went into the bathroom and came back out in her underwear, saying, “I’m ready for my picture.”

My wife and I were horrified. What on earth has this child been through?!

Then her twelve-year-old sister told us the story of what happened five hours before they arrived: They were rescued out of a child pornography ring. Here was this little twelve-year-old girl, who should’ve been playing with friends and enjoying her childhood, describing to us every gross detail you can think of about what one man was doing to her sisters while she had to watch. It turns out the guy had one of the biggest child pornography rings in our area, selling child pornography out of his home.

The twelve-year-old said, “This is why my sister took off her clothes. She understands pictures as ‘picture time.’” We couldn’t keep the emotions in any longer. We sat there bawling our eyes out. Now we understood why this two-year-old girl didn’t speak. Her little mind was traumatized. We called the social workers, who said they knew about the situation (failing to tell us first), and the authorities had arrested the guy.

Right then I felt the Lord say to me, “I am calling you and your wife to be a father and a mother to those who don’t have fathers and mothers in their lives.” It completely broke me.

If Christians get involved in the foster care and the adoption system, we have a chance to show these kids – these abused, forgotten, discarded kids – a God who will never hurt them, forget them, or forsake them. For me, that’s what being a bridge is all about.

Wow, thank God for all the couples like this out in the world who are connecting heaven to earth for the most vulnerable among us. You can read more of their story in our book.

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Narrow Path Ministries is in the process of opening an orphanage. An Endowment fund has been established  to fund the orphanage.

Hands make heart shape

Being the Church: Four Keys to Supporting Adoptive and Foster Families

Family talking

By Jenn Ranter Hook


As I finished up my counseling session with Marisa and her adoptive parents, Eric and Michelle, I felt sad and frustrated. Theirs was a story I had heard many times before: Eric and Michelle’s support system, including the church they had attended for years, was very excited about the couple’s plans to adopt. In fact, the church made a big deal about Adoption Sunday, exploring the global orphan crisis and encouraging congregants to prayerfully consider whether God might be calling them to adopt or foster.

Eric and Michelle’s family, friends and church community were all eager to help, and there were quite a few meals and visits during the first few weeks after they brought Marisa home. But after the initial “honeymoon period,” the excitement waned. And now, a year into their adoption journey, all that support was nowhere to be found.

Eric and Michelle loved Marisa deeply, and being her parents filled their life with much meaning and joy. Yet they were completely blindsided by the struggles she faced. Marisa had some serious challenges related to the abuse and neglect she experienced during the first year of her life. She had trouble bonding with Eric and Michelle, and many of the things people love about parenting – the hugs, kisses, cuddles and “I love yous” – were few and far between.

Marisa’s demeanor was often unpredictable. Sometimes she was kind and playful, other times she would lose control for long periods and struggle to calm down or be comforted. Play dates and babysitting options began to dry up once the extent of Marisa’s erratic behavior became apparent.

The folks in the church nursery were kind, but eventually they said either Eric or Michelle would have to stay with Marisa because they weren’t equipped to handle the girl’s behavior. The couple was thoroughly confused – their daughter was precious to them, but Marisa was struggling because of the trauma she had experienced early in life and they didn’t know how to help her.

Isolated and Alone

I’ve encountered similar scenarios time and time again in my work: first as a therapist in the foster care system and later through Replanted – a small group-centered ministry that provides hope, encouragement and support to adoptive and foster parents and their children. Friends, family and fellow church community members have an awesome opportunity to play a role in an issue we know is dear to the heart of God – the plight of children without families – but we often fail to understand the trials of the adoptive and foster journey. More importantly, we fail to recognize how those trials impact both parents and children, especially when we fail to support those adoptive and foster families for the long haul.

Simply put, Eric and Michelle were worn out. They were trying their best, but the challenges they were facing with Marisa were far greater than they had expected. It didn’t help that they felt isolated and alone – that no one understood what they were going through. On those rare occasions when they did open up about their struggles, they usually got a boatload of advice that they had already tried (and didn’t work). Eventually they stopped reaching out entirely.

My own sadness and frustration over their situation was related to the lack of support that Eric and Michelle received. I kept thinking, Where is the church in this? If we really care about serving the needs of vulnerable children and their families, we have to do more than just encourage people to adopt and foster. We have to keep doing the hard work of supporting those families – day in and day out.

Not everyone is called to adopt or foster. But everyone can play a role.

Four Ways to Help

How can we provide assistance in ways that help without hurting? Below are some important things to keep in mind when we reach out to support the adoptive and foster families in our church communities.

Offer grace and presence. Adoptive and foster families need grace-filled, safe relationships in which they can be vulnerable and share what’s really going on in their lives. One of the best ways to truly support adoptive and foster families is by offering them grace and unconditional acceptance right where they are, just like God offers grace to us. That means loving and accepting these families no matter how their kiddos are behaving. Many, if not most, of these kids are fighting battles that you might know little about. Be a source of safety: Don’t judge, criticize or offer advice. Instead, offer your presence and a listening ear.

Become “trauma informed.” Adoptive and foster children often have a history of abuse and neglect, which in turn impacts their future relationships and behavior. Some kids may have physical or developmental disabilities, or have been exposed to substance abuse in utero. These experiences impact their ability to connect with others and regulate their behavior.

Most of those in support roles have little experience with the specific challenges facing adoptive and foster children, so they end up suggesting the same tips that worked with their biological kids. If you really want to help, begin by learning about abuse, neglect, trauma and attachment. The books Replanted: Faith-Based Support for Adoptive and Foster Families and The Connected Child provide a good base for understanding trauma and trauma-informed parenting. There are also conferences and events such as ReplantedEmpowered to Connect and Refresh that offer a wealth of information and resources. Another important step is to make sure all the childcare workers at your church are trauma trained and informed.

Support both parents and children. When I started Replanted, most of our efforts were geared toward adoptive and foster parents. This was important – those parents need support! But I soon realized that children who are adopted or are in foster care need attention, too. I remember counseling one child who was ashamed about living in a foster home. She didn’t want anyone to know about her situation. Kids need to be in loving, grace-filled communities with other children who understand the journey they’re on. When you offer support to foster and adoptive families, don’t forget about the kids.

Be consistent. Eric and Michelle’s story is a common one. Many folks offer help and support early on, but disappear after the excitement of the new placement wanes and the reality of daily life sets in. If you’re going to support adoptive and foster families, do your best to be in it for the long haul. Take stock of your capacity to help, and be realistic. If at all possible, try to make a long-term commitment (i.e., six months to a year).

So, how can you be a part of a family’s support system? Try starting small: Begin by thinking of just one way you could begin to provide help on a regular basis to the adoptive and foster families in your community. What is one way your church could begin to offer support?

People like Eric and Michelle – and Marisa, too – could really use the help.


Narrow Path Ministries is in the process of opening an orphanage. An Endowment fund has been established  to fund the orphanage.

5 Reasons to Consider Adopting A Foster Child

By: Caroline Bailey June 23, 2018

Adopting a foster child might seem daunting. There are more reasons and rewards to adopting from the foster care system in Arizona than there are reasons to fear it.

When people begin to express their consideration of adoption, they might hear things like, “Whatever you do, don’t go through foster care,” or “I hear that kids in foster care have big problems,” etc. Sure, there are many factors to take to heart when choosing the path of adoption. One of those, in particular, is whether to include foster care as an option. However, instead of listening to the reasons why one should not adopt from foster care, here are a few reasons why adopting a foster child matters.

1. Children are in the foster care system due to no fault of their own.

They have no control over their situation. If the goal changes to adoption, there needs to be families who will step up and commit to providing a lifetime of stability and love for these children.

2. If parental rights are terminated and an adoptive home is not established, foster children and youth are at risk for aging out of care.

In essence, they become legal orphans. Once they exit the system, they are at a higher risk for homelessness, impoverishment, substance abuse, victimization, pregnancy, and criminal activity. All of these things can be greatly reduced if families would adopt older youth before they exit the system.

3. Sibling groups are at risk of being separated once they enter the system and even in adoptive homes.

While the goal is always to keep sibling groups together, it is difficult due to the lack of families willing and able to consider fostering and adopting a larger sibling group. Sibling groups deserve the opportunity of finding permanency together, through adoption.

4. Once an adoption out of foster care is complete, all legal authority is given to the adoptive parents.

The myth that “birth parents can change their minds” is just that—a myth. Even though the case is closed, most states offer after-adoption services and support, including financial support until the child is 18 years of age. This assistance helps families tremendously and is a great incentive for families to consider adopting out of care.

5. Through efforts made towards the primary goal of reunification with biological family members, many children and youth are able to return to their families of origin.

Despite many successes with reunification, far too many children and youth become eligible for adoption and linger in the system without an identified adoptive family. These kids are just like other children, except for their history of abuse and neglect. They are unique, have their own set of talents, and aspirations, and desire to belong somewhere. In order for foster children to begin on a path that leads to personal success, they must have a solid foundation of being in a family. Adopting a child from foster care lays this foundation down.

The hope of ending the scourge of child abuse and neglect is never-ending. Reunification and working with biological parents make great strides towards this. Adoption does this as well. When considering adopting a child out of foster care, remember, it is not just the one child whose life will be changed, it potentially could be a generation of children whose lives are untouched by abuse and neglect.

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Narrow Path Ministries is in the process of opening an orphanage. An Endowment fund has been established  to fund the orphanage.


Supremes asked to defend faith of foster parents

City requires church organization to change beliefs to meet LGBT demands



The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to overrule Philadelphia’s demand that Catholic Foster Services place children with gay and lesbian parents.

A petition filed Monday by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty argues the church non-profit has a First Amendment right to place children according to its religious beliefs about family.

“As the city of Philadelphia attempts to shamelessly score political points, dozens of beds remain empty and children are suffering the consequences,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, which is defending Catholic Social Services.

“It’s time for the Supreme Court to weigh in and allow faith-based agencies to continue doing what they do best: giving vulnerable children loving homes,” she said.

In April, 3rd Circuit judges Thomas Ambro, Anthony Scirica and Marjorie Rendell endorsed the city’s policy.

The case is on behalf of foster mothers Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, who say they are standing up for faith-based foster agencies and foster children in need of a home.

“Catholic Social Services has been serving the foster children of Philadelphia and their families since 1917, long before the city got involved,” said Becket. “Ms. Fulton was a longtime foster parent who fostered more than 40 children with the help of Catholic Social Services, and Ms. Simms-Busch is a former social worker in the foster care system who recently decided to become a foster and adoptive parent herself.”

Simms-Busch said that as a social worker, she evaluated the quality of care provided by the foster agencies in Philadelphia.

“When I decided to become a foster parent myself, I chose to go through the agency that I trusted the most,” she said. “The consistency, integrity, and compassion of Catholic Social Services has made all the difference in my journey through the foster care process.”

WND reported the city cut off the foster homes in the CSS program even while it was making an urgent call for 300 new foster parents for the more than 6,000 children in Philadelphia foster care.

The request to the high court for review explains, “The city of Philadelphia chose to exclude a religious agency from the city’s foster care system unless the agency agreed to act and speak in a manner inconsistent with its sincere religious beliefs about marriage.”

The case centers on whether or not “a government violates the First Amendment by conditioning a religious agency’s ability to participate in the foster care system on taking actions and making statements that directly contradict the agency’s religious beliefs.”

The petition explains: “On any given day, over 400,000 children are in foster care nationwide. More than 100,000 of those children are awaiting adoption. Because the government cannot find enough foster and adoptive families on its own, it has historically relied on private groups and faith-based agencies.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the decision below threatens the future of Catholic foster and adoption agencies throughout the country. In Boston, San Francisco, Buffalo, the District of Columbia and the state of Illinois, Catholic charities have already been forced out of foster care and adoption.”

The dispute provides “an important opportunity” for the Supreme Court to “apply the First Amendment to a post-Obergefell system in which same-sex marriage co-exists with the ‘proper protection’ owed to ‘religious organizations.’”

In the 2015 Obergefell case, the justices created same-sex marriage, even though the ruling was described by the chief justice as being unconnected to the Constitution.

The high court previously declined to intervene on an emergency basis in the case.

It said last year it would not immediately order the city to resume placing children with Catholic Social Services while the litigation continued.

Three justices dissented: Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas.

It was U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker who originally said the city could order the Catholics to place foster children with same-sex foster parents in violation of their religious beliefs.

CSS argued in court that the city’s “vindictive conduct will lead to displaced children, empty homes, and the closure of a 100-year-old ministry.”

WND reported when CSS explained to the lower court the city made clear that the religious beliefs of CSS “would not be an acceptable basis for Catholic’s unwillingness to provide a written certification regarding a [same-sex] couple’s relationship and to approve that couple for foster care.”

“The city’s rhetoric further reveals that the goal of its actions is to force Catholic to change its beliefs such as the statements that it’s ‘not 100 years ago anymore’ and ‘times are changing’ and Catholic’s religious beliefs should change, too,” the court filing said.

CSS charged the city’s policy is motivated by religious hostility.

“What justice is there in taking stable, loving homes away from children? If the city cuts off Catholic Social Services from foster care, foster moms like me won’t have the help and support they need to care for special-needs kids,” said Fulton. “I have relied on Catholic Social Services for support for years, and the city is taking away this help and causing harm and heartache to countless families like mine.”

CSS said the dispute appears to be personal.

“The city has targeted Catholic Social Services because of its religious beliefs. City officials have been open about their disagreement with Catholic teaching on marriage and their personal animosity toward the archdiocese,” the complaint stated.