Considering Adoption? 3 Things You Can Do to Prepare
I was recently approached by a friend who is considering walking down the path of adoption, and she asked me some really thought-provoking questions that I thought might be helpful to share our answers (I conferred the hubs on this one) with others who are considering adopting.
What's one thing you wish you knew when you started your journey?
Most people think of an adoption journey starting when you decide to start researching adoption and ending when you bring your child home. But really your adoption journey is just beginning when you bring your child home for the first time. So although our adoption "journey" began 4 years ago, we are still so early on in it. Adoption is lifelong journey of learning, and although I know so much more than I knew when we first began considering to adopt, I still have so much to learn.
In regards to the application, homestudy, profile book, and waiting part of the adoption journey - the one thing I wish I really fully believed was that the timing is totally in God's hands. I heard from people that "it will happen in God's timing" and to "trust and wait" and all the cliches that people say when they don't know what to say - but looking back I didn't fully release it into His hands. I still wanted control over how quickly we completed the trainings and when we could get our home study visits scheduled. I would get frustrated with my husband for taking too long to write his autobiography or worry when we didn't hear anything for nearly 5 months after submitting our profile books.
But now looking back, I know that each of the hurdles we encountered and every time my husband would "throw the anchor" as he liked to call it happened because our babies were not ready for us. I didn't understand this at the time - because honestly I would have been happy with any baby - but God had already specifically chosen a child (or two in our case!) to be part of our family. All the things that happened leading up to us meeting each other happened so that we could be Camden and McKinley's mom and dad, and I am so thankful God made us wait so we got the privilege of specifically being their parents.
In regards to the overall adoption journey we are on with our daughters and their birth family, I wish I knew earlier on in our journey how beautiful (and also sometimes complex) open adoption could be. Going into the adoption process, we thought we would adopt internationally - so the idea of an open adoption didn't even cross our minds. Then as we felt God leading us towards domestic adoption, the concept of open adoption kind of freaked me out. I didn't understand it, and I didn't like the idea of "sharing" my child. I didn't realize it wasn't co-parenting, and if I'm being really honest, I sort of worried that if my child knew and loved their birth mom that somehow it might take away from their love for me, as their adoptive mom. BUT you know the amazing thing about love? It's not an either/or equation, and a child's heart is big enough to love both of us. Having an open adoption allows my daughters to be loved by even more people. It allows them to know where they come from, who they get different quirks from, know their family history, have access to medical history, and so much more. Open adoption encourages them to find their identity in Christ and not the questions they have about their biological origin because they have those answers.
What advice do you have for someone considering adoption?
This is such a big and broad question, so I decided to talk it over with the hubs, and we decided if we had to boi it down to three things we'd recommend doing when considering adoption for your family, this would be our advice.
(I tried to sum it up briefly here, but if you're interested in learning more scroll to the bottom and listen to my full interview on this topic at the bottom of this page.)
1) Evaluate your motives. You have to be really honest with yourself here. Why do you want to adopt?
Is it because you want to rescue a child?
Is it because you think God calls all Christians to adopt?
Is it because you want a cute Christmas card?
Is it because you want to grow your family and bring another child into your home?
You can read more on this topic in an blog post I wrote for Arrow & Root titled "5 Reasons You Shouldn't Adopt". To sum it up, you should adopt only if you feel God is calling you and your family to adopt AND you and your spouse want to be parents to another child. If either of these pieces don't line up for you right now, it probably means you should table the discussion for now and revisit at a later point.
2) Find an ethical adoption agency that focuses on training and education with adoptive families and honors birth moms. With the world wide web and so many agencies and consultants and the idea of self-matching at your fingertips, this is easier said than done - but it's SO important to trust the agency you decide to work with to do the hard work of educating expectant moms on all their options, and in no way coercing women to place their babies - either advertently or inadvertently.
Many agencies lure expectant moms to work with their agency by offering high levels of "living expenses" to be paid by adoptive families, and then these women can feel trapped into placing their child OR if they do change their mind, the adoptive parents have now footed these large bills and are out thousands of dollars and no closer to bringing a child home. Although it is common for adoption agencies to help expectant moms with reasonable living expenses, listen closely to how they answer the question, "do you pay for living expenses for expectant mothers, and do adoptive families pay those or does the agency?" Another thing that seems small but can be telling of how they view the pregnant women interested in their services. Before a woman places, are they already referring to her as a birth mom? If so, I would say that's a red flag - she can't sign papers until the baby is born, so until the papers are signed, they should be referring to her as an expectant mom - and if they aren't, it could be another sign of coercion. Another question to ask is if the agency provides resources or referrals to expectant moms if they choose to parent their child.
Another trend that has become extremely popular recently is the idea of "self-matching" where a family creates a Facebook profile or website and advertises either via Google Ads, Facebook/Instagram ads, or by word of mouth in hopes of their profile finding it's way to an expectant mom who might want to place her child with them. The problem with this approach is that there's nobody there guiding them - telling them what is legal, normal, or healthy in an adoption relationship. I think back to all of the things that happened in our adoption - before we met our girls' birth mom, after we met her but before finalization, and even after finalization. They gave us counsel and provided her with the resources she needed, and I don't know how you go through that process without someone who has experience helping you along the way. So much can go wrong with self-matching... it might look like a cheaper option, but I would argue that in this case, cheaper is not better - that goes for self-matching and with agencies.
Ethical agencies might cost a little more (but they also shouldn't be asking you for exorbitant amounts of money either) because ethical agencies care about what's best for #1 the baby #2 the expectant mom and finally #3 the adoptive parents - in that order. That's the way it should be, and when agencies have the prioritization there will be women they work with, help support, and ultimately who decide to parent. What they invested into that relationship that ultimately didn't result in the placement of a child has to has to come from somewhere. So you might look at the price tag of using a private agency and think "how in the world is it that expensive?" Well because there are SO many expenses to provide the services of an ethical adoption - lawyers, counselors, caseworkers, expectant mom living expenses, post-placement care, overhead costs, and more. The agency we use even puts on an annual retreat that they invite all the birth moms they have ever worked with - some women go who placed 20 years ago!
3) Have an open mind and trust the process. When you go into the adoption process, you probably have an idea of what you think the process will look like or what your family may look like in the future, but I would urge you to keep an open mind - try not to have expectations, as much as you can. Our agency told us all the time “expect the unexpected” and that was SO true in our story. Here are just a few examples of how this was true for us...
I thought we would have some time to prepare and get to know the birth mom and go to doctors appointments and be there fore the birth - our daughters were 3 weeks old when we found out about them.
I thought it was going to be one baby - we were blessed with twins.
We thought our child might not look like us/might be a different race than us - and our daughters actually look a lot like my husband!
I thought we would prefer a closed adoption, and I am now SO thankful for an open adoption.
Trust your agency and the process - it seems like a lot of paperwork and training, but it is preparing you. They have way more experience in adoptions than you can probably even fathom, so listen to them! There were times during the application process and the wait when I was frustrated with setbacks or hurdles that came up, but looking back God’s hand was on the whole process. There are so many things in our story and our daughters’ birth mom’s story that if one detail was different, our precious little girls wouldn’t be our daughters.
How can we best prepare ourselves?
Honestly, I would say 1) Make your request known to God. 2) Pray and ask God to lead you down the path He has for you. 3) Start listening and learning. There are SO many resources out there on social media, podcasts, blogs, books, not to mention talking to people you actually know who have gone through the process. A lot of churches have foster and adoption groups - we went to a few different informational meetings/education sessions before we ever even started the application process with our agency. Take time to educate yourselves, get on the same page as your spouse, and listen to God's leading. THEN you can go out and start walking through doors - researching agencies, making decisions about what type of adoption you want to pursue, what your timeline might look like, how to fundraise, etc.
Also community is so important, so let a small circle into your journey early on - a group that you know will lift your family and adoption journey up in prayer and you can go to talk through and process things together. It's even better if you can find a family or two who has walked through the adoption process before and can provide additional perspective and experience.
It's a journey - there will be times of smooth sailing and probably quite a few bumps and turns. My advice is to trust God, listen to your gut (also called the Holy Spirit), and start walking through doors until God closes them. Don't be mad when He does - just look at it as Him saving you from something else down the road - and turn and keep going.
Listen to my full interview with Natasha Smith of the Lovely You Blog where I share our adoption story as well as even more advice for those considering adoption.
I'd love to hear from you - whether you are just starting out in the adoption process or maybe you're waiting for a baby, or adopted several years ago! I'd love for you to share something you have learned along the way in the comments below!