To the Friends and Family of Adoptive Parents

One of the most challenging aspects of parenting older (pre-teen and teen) former orphans is teaching them to rely solely on their parents for all of their needs.

A kid with attachment problems will do crazy stuff to maintain control of themselves. They will refuse meals and choose to steal instead – even garbage and animal food. And after accepting meals because they are so hungry, will steal even more later because they are angry that they accepted “help”. They will refuse to bathe, wet and soil their clothes (meaning urine and feces). They will destroy the clothing and belongings you give them. They will stand for HOURS not moving because anything else would mean that they are accepting love and hospitality from you.  They will reject offers of friendship from your other kids. They will injure themselves to gain pity in hopes that someone will take them back to what they used to know, or to where they came from. You see, they had the whole system mastered “there”.  They knew whom to manipulate and how and when.  They will do anything. You can’t even imagine.

They’re thinking “F%^& you. I don’t need your help. I’ll do it myself. I’ll take care of myself”.
Deep down, they want and need that connection. They are at constant war with themselves. When they allow themselves to trust even for a moment, the negative behaviour escalates as they fight to regain their autonomy.
Dear friends and family of adoptive parents, these kids will manipulate you, too.
If they think they can manipulate you to get what they want, they will do it. They don’t trust you. They are using you. This is how they “take care of themselves”. Don’t offer adopted kids anything unless you have run it past their parents. This includes gifts, food, and even physical attention.  Don’t offer them ‘extras’ of anything because they look like they ‘need’ it, or because she’s breaking your heart. If you show them pity and special attention, you are undermining their parents and tearing a rift in families without even knowing it. Even though it comes from a place of love. DON’T do it.
As friends and extended family, you can do your part by not playing into the drama. If the kid is looking sad and forlorn, if her face is covered in scratches or bruises, if she looks hungry or dirty, if she smells terrible, if she wears exactly the same outfit, if she keeps apart from the rest of the family… Assume FIRST that it is part of her control issues.
If you know an adoptive parent with a child like this, pray for that family. Especially for the bio kids who have taken on this kid’s trauma, and the other adoptive kids that are working so hard to leave trauma behind them. It rips the rug right out from under their secure lives and it’s a job to set it back to rights.  Come to their home ready to give… to everyone.  Come to organize playtime outside, make a meal, help with chores or home maintenance or a project.  Help the family as a whole.  And if that one kid sulks in a corner, just pretend you don’t see it.  They’re going hard for manipulation.  They must be enticed to join because they want connection with the entire family.
You can’t fix these kids. In the end, they have to *decide* to trust and become part of the family. As adoptive parents, we provide them with all that they need – physically, spiritually, and educationally. It is up to them to accept it.
It is a ministry, caring for kids with attachment issues. It’s hard. We give them stability when they need it but seem to thrive on upheaval. They may never have fond affection for us… we may never develop that for them. But we will take care of them for as long as they are here.  And you can be part of that life-giving ministry alongside your friends or family members if you know exactly what is needed.

On a positive note, this is not the majority of older adopted kids. These issues seem to run on a continuum.  Many, many more kids are adaptable and receptive. And we have been blessed with one of those, too. Thank God. Because we know we are actually making a difference when the other child can make us feel like abject failures.


New Life

It’s a miracle to behold, whether vegetable, animal, or human.  It is proof positive of God’s love for His creation.  He puts so much care into the unfolding of each creature’s development. 

William came in to let me know that three of the four robin’s eggs had hatched.  By the time I got up there with my camera, all four had finished hatching.

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

We have been watching another sort of unfolding here – that of our adopted daughter.  She has had a terrible adjustment.  Learned behaviours die hard for some kids.  But new behaviours can be learned.  She is learning that she is capable, that she is smart, that she can be and do whatever she wants.  Slowly, she will learn her own self worth. 

Some little chicks hatch later and with more difficulty.  They may take a bit longer to gain strength and confidence until eventually, they are fledging.  But one day, they’ll fly just like their brothers and sisters.


and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves


Play mends hearts… knits them together.  I love watching our children play together, especially with their two new siblings.  They have done more in their innocence to bond N and O to our family than all the grown-ups with their supposed wisdom and education in the wide world.

There And Back Again

When we left Bulgaria on our first trip, we knew that we would be going back.  I don’t mean going back to pick up Nicholas and Olivia.  I mean going back for more children.  During our second trip, we spent a lot of time with a man who works as an orphanage psychologist.  He told us so much more than we ever imagined about orphanage life and what happens to these kids when they are released from care at age 16.

It is shocking.

Sixty percent of girls will be trafficked.  Seventy percent of boys will become criminals.  Fifteen percent will be dead of suicide by age 18.

There are 25000 kids in the orphanage system in Bulgaria alone.  Many of these kids are healthy and have average or better intelligence.  They are talented kids, kids who are so full of potential.  They cling to the hope that someone somewhere will see them, will want to make them theirs.  They hope for Hope.

So we are going back.  It is part of our family-life ministry.  We need to raise $30000 in order to give a new life and hope to two more girls.  Without us, they will likely age out and be alone on the streets rather than writing stories, performing plays, singing, one day teaching.  For that is what these two girls dream of. 

They need this chance.  And we need you to help us offer it to them.


Art museum, Silistra, Bulgaria:

Silistra, Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

Baba Yaga House, Tutrakan, Bulgaria:

Tutrakan, Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

Chess Along the Danube.  Silistra, Bulgaria:

Tutrakan, Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

Linden Tree.  Silistra, Bulgaria:

Silistra Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

Alexander Nevski Orthodox Cathedral.  Sofia, Bulgaria:

Sofia, Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church.  Sofia, Bulgaria.

Sofia Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

Sofia Street.  Sofia Bulgaria:

Sofia Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

One Year Ago

One year ago today, we met Olivia and Nicholas for the first time.  The drive to the orphanage seemed to take forever from our hotel in Silistra.  I remember rounding the corner in the village of Malak Preslavets and waiting there on the road for a flock of sheep to cross.  It was a beautiful memory and helped to break the tension of anticipation.  A few moments later, we pulled up outside the door of the orphanage and out they ran.  They had been waiting for us.  Waiting for their new parents.

We spent the afternoon walking in a park along the Danube and taking lunch at a pretty café in the town where they were born.  Across the river, Romania. 

We walked the social worker back to her office.  As we said goodbye, she took my face in both her hands, and smiling warmly, looked straight into my eyes and said, “Blagodarya “, “Thank you”.  She wasn’t thanking me for lunch.  She knew all too well how desperate the situation is for older kids… MUCH older kids. 

Sometimes it seems a lifetime ago, sometimes it feels like yesterday. 

Tutrakan Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois


Tutrakan Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

Tutrakan Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois



Tutrakan Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

Tutrakan Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

Tutrakan Bulgaria ©Nissa Gadbois

God willing, we will return to Bulgaria within a few months to meet two new daughters – two girls for whom the future is grim without us to rescue them.  If you feel moved to help bring them home, we would be so blessed.  Follow this link to read more, to share, or to make a gift.  We treasure your prayers!

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