Are you familiar with the term “adoption triad”? It’s a phrase used to describe the network of relationships between a child who has been adopted, the child’s birth parents, and the child’s adoptive parents. Recently, I was introduced to a difference phrase used to describe this network of relationships: “adoption constellation.” Coined by Michael Grand, an adoption specialist, the phrase seeks to represent the vast breadth of relationships in adoption. Instead of limiting the child’s network to parents alone, the adoption constellation takes into account many other important people in the child’s life.
As a foster parent, I was immediately drawn to this phrase. The number of people surrounding each child in foster care is astounding: parents, foster parents, siblings, foster siblings, extended family members, potential adoptive parents, social workers, supervisors, judges, attorneys, probations officers, transportation helpers, therapists, and educators to name a few. A shape with only three sides could never fully describe this complex network of relationships. A constellation makes much more sense!
Now, let’s get a little philosophical:
I believe foster parents need to be the pole stars of their child’s constellation.
What is a pole star? It’s the star most closely aligned to a planet’s rotational axis. A pole star is important, because it’s position remains virtually fixed in the sky, providing a guide for travelers and explorers alike.
Polaris, known as the North Star, is currently the Earth’s pole star. The North Star is part of Ursa Minor, the constellation more commonly known as the Little Dipper, and it is an essential resource for those journeying on Earth. Whether a person is hiking through the mountains, traversing across the dessert, or sailing across the seas, they can see the North Star and find their bearings. When everything else around them goes crazy, the North Star remains constant.
During a child’s time in foster care, foster parents are the most influential presences in that child’s life. We are the people who greet them first in the morning, take care of their daily needs, and tuck them in each night. Through their turbulent emotions, we can be the constant, stable guides in whom they find their bearing. Given enough time, our foster children will depend on us to lead them toward their destination.
It’s a great honor and a monumental responsibility.
It’s also temporary.
Did you know Polaris, our current pole star, has not always been and will not always be our pole star? It’s role and prominence in our solar system is great at this time, but it will eventually fade as Earth’s rotational axis slowly changes its orientation. What a fascinating phenomenon!
I pray this phenomenon will be mimicked in our role as foster parents. Our children haven’t always had us as a guiding force. Of course, our role and prominence in their lives are great at this time. In the future, however, we hope they will be reunited with their birth families and no longer need us to serve in this capacity.
When we keep a keen sense of our temporary position in the constellation, we open ourselves to viewing other members of the constellation with greater clarity. We can see how the birth family was a guiding force in our child’s life long before us and will likely be a guiding force in our child’s life long after us. We can see the importance of the social workers and judges who hold the power to decide our child’s future. We can see educators, therapists, and other professionals as partners who have the ability to improve our child’s experience. With this greater understanding we can leverage our position to guide our children’s path toward healing and wholeness.
As the stars align, the constellation will take its most beautiful form, and our children will sail steadily into the future God has planned for them. What a privilege to be part of that phenomenon!