I get a lot of emails from excited friends and family who are wanting to start this exciting adventure of adoption!! “Where do we start?” is probably the number one question they ask me. So I wanted to just write a post about things that I’ve found helpful and to also address a lot of the issues that will pop up fairly quickly in the process. I could probably write a book on the various processes of adoption… and definitely would need a whole other blog post in dealing with international adoption and even fostering to adopt. This post is primarily dealing with domestic adoption although some of the wisdom can be applied to all beginning adoption processes. This is written out of my experiences, friends experiences, and many other adoptive families experiences. So as you are reading know that these are things I haven’t written thoughtlessly but at the same time they are just my words…. I’m not the final say in all things adoption. I hope you find this helpful and encouraging.
Here are the top things that I’ve learned over the years…..
1. Make it public. Tell family and friends, write an email…. write a letter… post to facebook… start a blog… just get it out there in general. I can’t tell you how often this results in an adoption. Zoe, Jack and Abel were all brought to our attention through word of mouth by people who knew we were looking to adopt. Also… join a local facebook group that’s there to support those wanting to adopt. It’s likely that once you go public with your desires that someone will add you to one. Yahoo groups can be helpful but can also overwhelm your inbox if you’re not careful.
2. Start a folder of important documents. Go ahead and order extra birth certificates for everyone in your family, order a marriage license, social security cards if you don’t have them nearby. The more organized you are in the beginning the less stressful the paper chase will be. Also make sure you have a recent photo of your whole family together. Now might be a great time to have a professional photo session done as a way to have great photos to show future birthmoms and agencies but also a way to mark this special time in your family before the next child comes.
3.Write out a birthmother letter. Keep in general and you can always edit in the specifics if needed. It’s just something that you don’t have to do when everything is in a whirlwind around you if things start to happen fast. And it’s also a great way to order and process your thoughts and align your heart as how to be praying for this woman who might be carrying your child…. or already caring for your child. We had already written out a birthmother letter plus a whole page on why we felt like we could parent a down syndrome child because the CHASK and NADS application required us to. (which are just two organizations that help parents connect with families needing adoptive parents for special needs kids) but when the opportunity came to adopt Abel then all I did was email the agency those two things and in a matter of minutes they could read over it and see that we were serious about adopting and felt ready to adopt a child with down syndrome. Put your heart into words!
4. Get a home study done. THIS probably should be my #1 because I think It’s SOO important and such a great way to be ready and get ahead. Don’t be intimidated by a home study!! It’s not near as hard as some people make them out to be. Remember social workers who do home studies are PRO adoption… many of them became social workers because they are passionate about adoption. There are many social workers (googling, facebook asking, and nearby colleges with that degree program are all great resources) who work independantly and will do your homestudy for a reasonable fee. ($1,000-1,500) This is the FIRST official big thing I recommend people doing. It’s amazing the opportunity that is provided a homestudy ready family when it comes to adoption that those who are waiting aren’t able to benefit from. A homestudy ready family can adopt very quickly when the right child is in need of a home. That’s usually what I hear parents kicking themselves for as children are in need of families is that they aren’t homestudy ready just yet. DO IT!!!!! And I don’t want to hear “I can’t afford one” as a reason you haven’t done one yet. I’m SURE you have something you can sell…. some savings perhaps…. do a garage sale, a bake sale, Let your church small group know and pray with you about helping you in this first step. Do you have a skill? Have a few classes that you offer to teach that skill in your home and charge a small fee. Start a money jar… it’s amazing how fast you can save when you’re super intentional. Do you have a birthday or Christmas coming up? Ask your family to contribute to the cost of the home study instead of getting you gifts. The possibilities are endless. But don’t waller in this cost…. it’s actually a pretty small cost relatively…. Just get going and do something! You’ll be shocked how quickly you can come up with it when you’ve set your mind to getting this step DONE!
5. Get specific. Sometimes people spend more time figuring out what breed of dog is best fitted for your family than thinking through what type of child/adoption would fit into your family best. Trust me, researching the kind of dog that best fits your family is super important and any loving dog advocate will tell you to throughly do that. Kids are WAYYYY more important than dogs….. so let’s apply even more wisdom in how we go about bringing them into our forever family! I’m not talking about being picky here or demanding. I’m talking about narrowing options so that you will better be guided over time as options come available and children need homes. Do you have 2 boys already and have always wanted a little girl? Then request a girl and don’t feel guilty about it. Maybe you have 2 boys already and you love raising sons… request a son and be confident about it. Do you really want to keep the birth order in your family? Then know that while an agency might tell you that younger ones take longer to wait for trust that God put this wisdom in your heart for your family and that your child might not even be born yet… but when they are you will be ready for him or her! Some of the best adoptions I know of were ones where a child or more were turned down before finding the right fit because the other children wouldn’t fit into the prayerfully considered guidelines the family had decided on. This sounds harsh, I know….. but it’s really just utilizing wisdom and honestly is loving. You need to talk about things like special needs, age of the child, sibling groups, how age/sex of child would fit into the age/sex of your other children.
Your family is gifted with certain skills and gifts and abilities…. use them to best provide a child a home and a family! MOST of the time I’ve found that adopting children the same age as children already secure in the home (sometimes referred to as artificial twinning) usually isn’t a great idea and can have many negative consequences. Not saying it can’t be done… just use wisdom in this area and go into it eyes wide open. Also, if you have little ones (age 3 and under)…. then really Really REALLY think twice or 100 times before adopting older children. (age 3 and over) Seek out families who have done this and gain perspective and ask yourself the really hard questions about things concerning abuse, especially sexual abuse and the impact that can have on your little ones, bonding, consistency, birth order, discipline and safety. It’s okay to say that right now you aren’t at a place to adopt older children. I WISH with all my heart that there were MORE moms and dads who have pretty much raised their children and have the wisdom and experience to bring in older kids and give them a place of security and also have such a support system in their grown children as they love and come along side their new brother or sister. Again…. this is spoken from many years of being around adoption and adoptive families and applying wisdom to a situation ahead of time. This is NOT saying it shouldn’t ever be done or that you’re wrong for doing it. This is only saying that parents considering adoption need to be aware that certain situations need extra wisdom and more special care applied to them than others. Please don’t leave comments about how off base I am with my opinion on this if you have seen it done right. I’m only saying that the real life hard “worst case scenario” questions need to be brought up, talked about and prayed through and that it’s okay to get specific and have limitations on the child(ren) you feel God is leading you to adopt.
Think outside the box…. what are some situations or issues that a child might have that you and your family would be great at dealing with. Do you have medical professionals in your family or church… then maybe consider adopting a child who was born with medical issues. You’d also be surprised that some medical situations really aren’t that medical in the long run. A child born without an arm or a leg seems HUGE at birth but really with determination and a lot of encouragement and support they can grow up to do just about anything!! And those are kids who the majority of those wanting to adopt will pass on at first glance. TAKE the second glance!!! Do you have a farm or land in the country… consider adopting a sibling set of boys! Talk about a group that often goes unwanted. What are the gifts and resources God has given you? How can they help guide you to your son or daughter? You might be surprised that a child is waiting that perfectly fits what you are asking God for and you might be the only parents looking for him/her specifically thus making it the perfect match!! When I write Abel’s story sometime you’ll read how he was a huge answer to a specific prayer making us the perfect parents for him.
6. Connect with local adoption agencies. Even if you’re not ready to commit to 1 adoption agency just yet (which I’ve found is better to do that later in the game) start calling or emailing those who are over the programs you’d be most interested in. This is especially helpful if you have a very specific request because if they were to come across a child with those qualities you’d be fresh on their mind and most agencies are great at working with a family who is the right fit for a child but not yet signed on as their client yet. In researching adoption agencies when we were planning on adopting a child with special needs…. I think I looked at 30+ and emailed at least 12 of them. Some of the agencies are great to talk with and even can be resources for you if you don’t go with their agency…. some will be pretty vague unless you’re a client of theirs. Some are going to be WAY too expensive for you… and by that I mean, not more money than you have because probably every agency will be that. For me, the program fee is what I tend to look at… if it’s north of $,15,000…. I’m probably going to think twice about considering them. (not because they are bad… it’s just something that I don’t want to pay that much for, you might have other stipulations.)
Sometimes using a big well known agency is helpful and they work like a well oiled machine and are often very good at caring for their birthmothers. but sometimes they can really be less personal and you’re one of many families of theirs. Smaller agencies can be great because it’s more personal, perhaps less expensive but they might be less apt at dealing with complicated adoption situations as they arise. Again, it’s something to research, ask around about, and pray through!! Also, I’ve found that when getting your homestudy done first then often your social worker who by then will know your family well can help greatly in advising you in agency choices (if you decide to go that route) because often they will have connections and also at times the inside scoop on the agencies near you.
7. Go in eyes WIDE open. This isn’t pretty but if you’re wanting to adopt a child that’s older than let’s say…. newborn, then learn about sexual abuse and the side effects and signs. PLEASE do this. Go into adoption with eyes wide open to the dangers children face in homes that aren’t safe or even ones that may appear that they are. The statistics of older children having been molested is very very high when it comes to children that are needing to be adopted. These children NEED homes and families who will protect them and let them heal. However you need to make sure that again, this is something that you use wisdom in, do you have younger children already? are you ready to walk a child through this traumatic ordeal? are your other children prepared to deal with a child that will most likely act out sinfully because they have been sinfully acted upon? Do you have a game plan for protecting them from future vulnerabilities in this area? Are mom and dad BOTH on the same page with this? Please don’t just take someone’s word on if a child has been abused or not…. often it takes months and years and discoveries of unknown triggers for a traumatic abuse to surface. And while that healing process is hard…. it’s also wonderful. Just be prepared, proactive and protective.
8. Start living as though the future adoption is a reality. Buy a baby outfit or get a toy or clear out a closet or dresser one shelf or drawer at a time. This will not only motivate you and cultivate your hope it will also go a long way in getting your heart and home ready for a new child. Sometimes waiting to adopt can make a mom feel crazy in the head like it’s never going to happen or that she can’t relate to all the pregnant expectant moms she sees in public. Doing tangible things like buying things needed or gathering things from garage sales or making room for what’s next really helps to meld the reality in your mind with the same ol’ same ol’ reality that exists outside of it. For me, sometimes it was as simple as parking in an “expectant mom” parking spot at a children’s store or buying something I know I would need eventually but because it was on super sale it was worth the purchase now.
9. Talk about it. Pregnant moms and moms alike love to get around and talk about their birth/pregnancy stories. This is yours! Yes… it’s just the beginning and there isn’t much to tell yet. But it’s still exciting and filled with great anticipation. So jump in there with other moms…. talk about cute baby/kid items that you like or think you’ll like. Ask moms what their experience with _____ as they parent their child. Be a sponge. Don’t feel like you don’t have to actually have a child within you or without before you start acting like a mom. This also helps bond other moms to you and your experience and your future child. Let them share in the hardship… the waiting… the experiences…. the hormones (yes, you’ll have them go crazy on you as well) and then once the fulfillment happens they will share in the joy and celebration of that all the more. Adoption takes up a lot of mental/emotional space so be open and honest with your friends/family about this…. ask them for grace and understanding as you ride the waves of this journey knowing that once your son or daughter is in your arms… sure it’s exhausting but it’s a different kind of tired and weary…. one I much prefer over the actual adoption process kind of tired and weary.
10. Men bond at birth. Still true with this. You might ask your husband a question about the future adoption and don’t be surprised if his answer is very logical and not emotion laden. Well I take that back… of course you will be surprised because we can’t help but to think/feel a certain way and are generally shocked and even hurt when the one who is our partner and walking side by side with you in this journey doesn’t respond the same way we do. So just give yourself…. and him a heavy dose of grace. Talk things through and share with him how all this adoption stuff makes you feel…. tell him about how you feel like your emotions/hormones are taking you captive and let him know the areas you are struggling in. Sometimes just saying… “I’m struggling to keep hoping this will turn out” or “so and so hurt my feelings the other day and this is why” “I’m scared” “what if…..” “can you help me not believe the lies that I’m telling myself right now” “is this ever going to happen” “I feel like your family doesn’t understand me or this adoption” are all things that are okay to be voiced out loud and need to be shared with your spouse. Don’t just keep them inside and hope he draws them out of you or feels the same way. Just tell him.
11. Do you feel called to Foster? This one might be somewhat controversial…but I felt like I should include it. Don’t just become a foster parent or want to adopt through the foster program because you can’t afford to adopt privately. Those wanting to adopt through the foster system need to be and should be passionate about restoring children to their birth families and in dealing with children who are in great need of individual attention and healing. Sure you can request those with low-risk of returning to their parents but that doesn’t mean that the risk isn’t there. There is also a lot of “red tape” in going through the state. You may have to change/adapt how you normally parent a child in order to align with the rules set forth by the foster/state agency you are with. You will have to keep more diligent records and things may look differently medically if you are going through the state. I am a HUGE advocate of families becoming foster to adopt families. I just think that a lot of people go this route for less than ideal reasons…. the first and most common being they can’t afford any other option. Think long and hard if that qualifies you to take on all that is asked of and required by foster families. Are you being called to a special needs adoption? If not… then don’t go this route. These kids need parents and homes that are going in eyes wide open and who are passionate about doing what’s best for them not ness. who are in it just to end up with a child to call their own at the end of the process. I know this sounds harsh… it’s not meant to be. I know that God can and will equip you to foster and parent whatever child He puts into your home. I just want to again utilize wisdom and understanding when approaching this option of adopting.
I LOVE fostering and adopting from the foster system!!!MORE people should. I just think that a lot of people who are wanting to adopt get into it for the wrong reasons and find it to be overwhelming, disappointing and even at times devastating because it’s not what they were expecting or desiring in the first place…. but they went that direction because it was “free”. I’d love to write a whole blog post on fostering and the joys and challenges parents face in taking part of that incredible blessing!
12. Consider the cost. “I would adopt if it weren’t so expensive” If I had a dime for everytime I’ve heard that I’d be well… I’d be able to pay for another adoption. 😉 Yes, adoption is expensive in way. I find it very helpful to take the overall cost and break it down into line by line items. I think when you do that not only does it make more sense it’s also not near as overwhelming to consider. I do have a hard time with adoption agencies charging high agency/program fees, but I also know that they have a business to run, lights to keep on, people to payroll, etc.. but I also know that I have a choice in the type of agency I can sign on with. Usually when you save money in regards to agency fees you end up doing more of the legwork when it comes to paperwork, appointments, information gathering, etc… But for us it was worth it to save money. (when you’re in the middle of it however you’re willing to pay whatever for someone else to be doing it… 🙂 Kind of like having an epidural…. it’s more expensive but for a lot of people it makes the process a lot more pleasant and bearable.
“God’s work done God’s way will never lack for God’s provision” My dad said that often growing up… it’s a quote by a great missionary and it’s never been more true than in the case of adoption. God cares deeply about the fatherless and the oppressed and hurting. He cares about your adoption needs. He will provide. And He will often provide in a way that you never imagined or saw coming. He may provide by letting your efforts to raise money fall short of what you were hoping for in order to show you that He has other plans and ones much greater than you ever dreamt possible. Here is a blog post I wrote about the financial provision God so powerfully provides.
Don’t expect to have the funds and THEN adopt. In all my experience and countless others I’ve seen usually it doesn’t work that way. Take the leap of faith…. and then watch as God blesses and comes through mightily on this childs behalf. It might be through unexpected funding through friends you haven’t seen in 20 years…. It might be through $5 donations one at a time….. It might be through the prayers and gifts of your small group all whom are just as not rich as you are….. It might be through the creativity of you and others as the God who is the master creator gives you ideas that are able to be generated into funds for the adoption… It might be….. Go read this post! http://caseychappell.com/2012/03/we-only-need/
13. Fight Fears by thinking Biblically. Know that when God is leading in a big way…. often the enemy attacks with fear after fear in the form of questions. Now… I’m ALL for asking the hard questions. I’m all for talking through difficult subjects. I’m all for thinking long and hard about things. BUT when questions come and you dwell on them and let them spiral into unknown fears…. irrational scenarios… then you have a problem. There are a lot of unknowns in adoption… even in the most simplest of processes there can be a lot of unknowns. We can prepare all we want to and yet in an instant things can change. So this is what I’ve found to be super helpful. What does God say? As a mom… a woman… I know how much we talk to ourselves throughout the day and that can be very dangerous and lead to all sorts of Fear based thinking and actions. You have to take each thought captive. Then filter it through what God has given us as a guide in how to think. Is it true? Can we know if it’s true? Is it noble? we are daughters of the King… are we acting as though we have a Father who commands a whole Kingdom? Is it pure? Yes… there could be sexual situations to consider but don’t let your mind dwell on the evil that was done or might be done. Is it Lovely…. Praise worthy…. Excellent? Adoption is filled with loveliness and excellence…. are you spending more time focusing on the hurdles or obstacles or more time on the amazing things God is doing in your heart to lead you to this point of desiring to adopt? Phil 4:8….. Read it… post it on your walls…. write it on your hand….THINK ON THESE THINGS!!!!