How Will We Know if Adoption is Right for Us?
Part One of Our Adoption Journey
Read part 2 here.
I remember the evening well. The crisp air of early fall was still pleasant enough for outdoor visiting as long as we had cozy sweaters on. I was chatting casually with a friend whom I had not seen for quite some time. We were both attending a conference together and were enjoying catching up on each other’s lives. But I had a burning question that I was trying to get the courage to ask. My friend and her husband had recently adopted their first son. I knew that they had struggled through infertility and had come to peace with moving forward with adoption, but I wasn’t sure how to ask my question without prying too deeply into a personal, and perhaps painful, area.
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But I’m glad I finally did. Not so much because I gained great wisdom from her response, though hearing her story and gaining some more perspective certainly was helpful, but because it helped me to put into words to another person what my husband and I had been wrestling through for months:
“HOW WILL WE KNOW WHEN AND IF ADOPTION IS RIGHT FOR US AS A COUPLE?”
Of course, I’m sure my words didn’t come out so concise as that, seeing as my tears started as soon as I broached the subject, and I’m not one of those fortunate people who can cry and talk simultaneously. My emotions were so raw at the time. My husband and I had visited with a specialist earlier that year and were told that we would probably never conceive naturally, and in many ways, we were at peace with that. We enjoyed being just the two of us and were living busy lives between full-time ministry, my husband’s part-time farm job, and my part-time work as a nurse.
For us, though we were certainly still grieving our infertility, the struggle at that point in our lives was more about knowing whether God had a purpose in us spending our lives as just the two of us, or whether we were supposed to build our family through adoption. If we had been able to conceive a child, we would obviously know it must be God’s will for us to start building our family, right? But it seemed like it would be such a daunting step of faith at best (or reckless self-will at worst) to proceed with pursuing adoption before we both knew with absolute certainty that it was the right thing for us to do. We both loved children and longed to be a daddy and mommy, but what if that just was not God’s plan for us? How, oh how, would we know?
Through that winter of 2011/2012, we continued to cry out to God for wisdom. During that time, we read books on adoption (looking back I wish I had read more!), while continuing to seek out and talk with others that had been on that journey, and beginning to research adoption options in our state. We staggered at the high cost of private adoption. While we trusted that God could and would certainly provide for us to go that route if it was His will, we also began to consider the possibility of foster care and adopting through the state.
Note: It is important to bear in mind that adoption and foster care are not the same things. The initial, primary goal for a child in foster care is always to be reunited with their birth family. Because our family transitioned directly from fostering to adoption, that is how I relay our story, but I want to make that distinction clear as you consider your options. I would also note that many, if not all, states have children who have been in foster care and are now ready to transition to adoptive homes. However, the process for becoming a licensed foster parent and the process of becoming an adoptive parent of a child currently in state custody are not the same, although there may be some overlap. You may find this resource helpful: North American Council on Adoptable Children.
I came across an ad in my nursing magazine that advertised medical foster care. That struck a chord with me, so I clipped the ad and stuck it on the fridge, and we prayed some more. As it turned out that agency operated in our neighboring state, but not in ours. Then, looking online I came across an agency in our state that provides treatment level foster care, for kiddos that require a little higher level of care due to their needs. One day, in the spring of 2012, I nervously picked up my phone and dialed the number for the foster care agency I had researched. The friendly receptionist asked a few questions, took my address, and told me a packet of information would be in the mail soon, and after we had some time to look it over, I would be put in contact with a social worker in our area if we decided we wanted to move forward.
We still weren’t certain exactly how or when God was going to bring children into our home, but by then, we were pretty sure it was indeed a when and how not an if. Little did we know all the pieces that God was carefully moving into place to bring things about in His perfect way and timing; a beautiful design that would leave no doubt in our minds that this was when and this was how. I can hardly wait to share the rest of the story with you in the next post!
Note: I own a shelf full of adoption-related books, but I have not read most of them through cover to cover in several years. Because my perspective on adoption has grown and developed substantially since becoming an adoptive parent, I feel that I need to reread through my stack of books before I can wholeheartedly recommend them. However, one book that I have read more recently and believe is essential reading is the book The Connected Child, by Karen Purvis. You can find it on Amazon or ChristianBook.
If You believe God May be leading you towards Foster care or adoption, here are six steps you can take as you determine whether adoption or foster care is right for your family:
- Pray, pray, pray! God promises in James 1:5-6 that if we lack wisdom, we can ask God for it, and He will give it liberally. Ask in faith, and be ready to courageously follow the wisdom that He provides.
- Read, read, read! When we were considering entering into foster care and or adoption, we searched out books and read a lot! Reading other people’s stories and general books about the ins and outs of adoption will open your eyes to both the blessings and challenges that you may never have considered so that you can gain a realistic idea of the road you are considering. Stay tuned for my upcoming list of adoption-related books that I recommend. There are also several great online resources and organizations such as Wait No More https://www.waitnomore.org/ that have loads of helpful information.
- Talk to others who are on the journey. My husband and I were blessed to know many people that were either adoptive parents or adoptive children. Even if you don’t personally know many people who fit that description, the chances are that when you start to let some trusted people know what you are considering, they will be able to get you in contact with others who do fit that description. And no need to feel as shy to ask people about their story as I initially did: most people are eager to talk about their experience with others who are considering adoption for themselves and not just being nosy!
- When we were starting out, something that was not readily available was social media accounts dedicated to the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents). There are more and more of these all the time, and there are certainly some helpful ones out there. Ask around for favorites that other people follow. One caution is that discussions around adoption can be extremely emotionally charged, as there is so much brokenness, loss, and trauma that has likely been experienced on some level by everyone involved. Because of that, the discussions can be raw and painful, so approach with open minds and hearts, but also try and find accounts that take both an honest and a hope-filled look at adoption.
- Research the options available to you.Private or through foster care, domestic or international. Young children or older children? One child or a sibling group? Healthy or special needs? Do you want to go directly into adoption or start with foster care? For us, we knew that we definitely wanted to adopt domestically and that since we were still a young couple, we wanted to adopt children similar in age to what our biological children would have been (we didn’t really want to jump right into the tween or teen years!).
- Once you have a basic idea of the direction you want to go, then you can begin to research specific agencies until you find one that is the right match for you. Each state does things a little differently, so your state’s Department of Human Resources website may be a good place to start, especially if you are planning on domestic adoption. Always do your homework to make sure that whatever agency and professionals you are working with are doing everything ethically and with integrity.
One thing to keep in mind is that the process of working towards becoming an approved adoptive family or a licensed foster family is lengthy. If you are feeling a tug in your heart towards adoption or foster care, I would recommend that you begin today on the steps I’ve outlined above. My experience and the experience of others who I have talked with is that as you begin the first step of faith, God will clearly guide you to your next step along the way. You are not committing to adoption or foster care at this point, but you are doing some groundwork that will prepare you for whatever God has for you in the days and years to come.
In my next post, I’ll share some more of our adoption journey, and some keys for knowing if and when you are ready to move with the intention towards adoption and or foster care. See you there!