When Church Becomes A Negative Experience For Adoptive Families.

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One of the biggest places we've felt the least amount of support and understanding is the church. But this needs to change. It begins by honestly communicating the reality of our "church" experience...

I hate going to church. I’m not one to beat around the bush. So yes, I hate it! It sounds shocking, I know. Especially since my husband’s a pastor. Not just the Sunday morning kind of church either. I hate all church functions. Bible studies. Small groups. That kind of church.

So I don’t do it. It’s too much. Too much for them, and therefore, too much for me. Although not all of my kids have a diagnosis, I’ve come to learn that all adopted children have “special” needs. And this has made me very aware of other families who have children with special needs. I’ve had lots of negative experiences at school and Target. Costco. Restaurants. You name the place. If I took my kids there, it was bad at some point with one of them or all of them. And I got looks and offers of help and advice. Chances are, I probably won’t see these people again who judged us.

But I’m going to see my church people again. THEY are MY people. And that is why I hate it. It hurts more to have negative experiences with MY kids at MY church with MY people.

One time I was visiting a church with my two newly adopted kids who were both 2 at the time. I hadn’t put them in childcare yet because it’s best to keep them close to their new mommy and not let others care for them until they know the difference. Childcare is like putting them right back into an orphanage setting. I know it’s not the same. You know it’s not the same. But they don’t know it’s not the same. So I always found a cry room and kept them with me for a long time after they came home. YAY for cry rooms!

I found a cry room at this church too. I was amazed at this cry room! Unlike most church cry rooms, it was huge. And had a sink. A sink! Lots and lots of chairs. Did I mention it had a sink? They thought of everything to make momma and baby’s church experience blessed. The guest services lady even opened the door for me, struggling to push my big, bulky double stroller through. And then another momma followed me. So 2 of us mommas were in a great big room with a sink and lots of chairs. And then that nice guest services lady opened her mouth.

The cry room is for nursing mothers and their infants. If another mother comes in, they get priority. We have good childcare for children if you’d like me to show you where to go.

That lady didn’t know who I was. If she knew I was a PW, she probably would not have said that out of politeness to a pastor and his family and would let me sit wherever I pleased. I’m building a case for the title so bear with my bragger-esque tone.

A title should never matter.

But neither should this have been her response to a mother who wants to attend church and is trying to find a place so her toddlers don’t disrupt the service. I walked out knowing my toddlers were not welcome in that church’s cry room. I’m a seasoned church-goer. But there are a lot of moms out there that if THAT was their first church experience, they would NEVER go back. We’ve been hurried along in the hustle and bustle at “fun,” spiritual, NORMAL family-friendly church events. Seriously. Hurried along by the volunteers. Rudely hurried along. Again, they didn’t know who we were. Probably would not have hurried us along if they knew this family belonged to one of their new pastors.

I’ve been snapped at because I went to the wrong door when I dropped my kids off. Snapped at because I tried to put my 3 and 4 year olds in the same room to keep them together once I did finally put them into childcare at church. Keeping them together lessens the trauma. Certainly can’t break the rules. 3s go on THIS side. 4s on THAT side. And I’ve watched as a volunteer in an adjoining room eyed my son who I admit was having a super hard time with his self control. Going to church stresses him out and he struggles because of it. This man didn’t know I was Mom because…well our eyes don’t match…and neither does our skin.

I watched. He eyed. And then I talked to my son. And then he was eyeing me. Like a long time eyed us to let me know of his disapproval.

And then I heard Bible verses coming from his side of the room.

I wanted to vomit.

I know a kid with Asperger’s who has been kicked out of church every single Sunday. The “normal” kids know it and pester him. And this kid can’t take it. So who gets in trouble? What may seem like poor parenting…or if only his parents would just give him medicine to calm him down…is NOT the case of some, and they should never be turned away because our churches can’t handle their behaviors. So if this pastor’s wife hates going to church, how much more do non-pastor wife kind of moms of kids with special needs hate it?

I WILL go to church again. I just might even enjoy it at some point. But will others? Church leaders, empower your volunteers by training them to care for kids like mine. Kids with special needs. Kid’s who have FASD, RAD, or behaviors that stem from major trauma. They shouldn’t have to stay home or be sequestered to “the special needs room.” I hope someday I’ll hear my kids say they love going to their church. Not because of Daddy’s title. Not because of favoring from volunteers because of Daddy’s title. But because their pastor and volunteers showed them, as kids with “special” needs, the kind of grace and love that Jesus would.

Have you faced rejection or judgement from your church because of your children? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.