Adoption: Is It an Option for You?
Adopting a child was not something I dreamed about my whole life, and it wasn’t something that my husband and I ever even talked about until seven years ago. We had heard a lot of adoption stories and were always very touched, but we weren’t considering it for ourselves. God was, though. And when we began to realize that this might become part of our family’s story, a great adventure began.
As with all great adventures, however, there were many twists and turns along the way. Also lots of waiting. And dead ends. And lots of waiting… The adventure is not a short one and is definitely not for the faint of heart. But I won’t go into all the details of our personal story right now. Instead, I’ll share with you some things we’ve learned along the way, in order to help some of you who might be in the beginning stages of the process.
Know your agency.
Don’t commit to an adoption agency without doing your research. If possible, talk to someone you know personally who has gone through the process with the particular agency that you are considering. Ask lots of questions. Know what things are most important to you. For us, continuous communication was very important, and we were so pleased with All God’s Children International, which is based in Vancouver, Washington. We had some friends who had adopted through AGCI, so we also had a personal connection to this agency. But there are many great agencies across the nation, including some that are based here in Mississippi. And I’ll just go ahead and say it– Yes, adoption is very, very expensive. That is just part of it.
Be honest with yourself.
When you start looking at pictures and profiles of children in need of families, you will feel overwhelmed. The need is mind-boggling. You will find yourself wanting to take every child into your home, no matter how significant their needs are. You will imagine all the good you can do in the lives of these countless children. “Yes! We can do this!” is the mantra that will beat in your heart and mind. But it is important to take a step back and be realistic about what you and your family can do. Thankfully, the adoption agencies help you with this. One of the hardest things my husband and I had to do during the paperwork process was to fill out a checklist of special needs that we felt like we could handle and those that we didn’t think we could handle. Ugh. It is a terrible feeling to answer those questions–especially when you know that there are millions of families who don’t get the luxury of choosing “what they think they can handle.” Nevertheless, it is an importantstep in the adoption process to be able to be honest with yourself about this. And it’s not just with special needs; it also involves matters of age, gender, race, sibling groups, and a host of other elements. Be ready and be honest in making these decisions. And one more very important thing: Be sure that you and your spouse are in agreement on every decision. This is crucial.
Flexibility is necessary.
Just as no one’s birth story is the same, no one’s adoption story is the same. I know families who waited many years longer than we did, and I know families who welcomed a child before they had even completed the first steps of the adoption process. When you are in the midst of the process, it is really easy to compare yourself to others and to start looking for someone to blame for your incredibly long wait. My advice? Ignore any and all timelines that you are given. The thing is, there are so many different moving parts involved in the process–many different people, papers, agencies, etc.–and when one part gets stuck, every other part stops moving, too. And if you are pursuing international adoption, the number of people and agencies involved (and, therefore, the number of potential delays) greatly increases. I don’t tell you these things to discourage you; I just think it’s better to forewarn you–especially if you are a planner and scheduler like I am. The adoption process is particularly difficult for people like us.
You will need support for every step of the journey. Find like-minded people who are in the same stage as you are but also find people who are a few steps ahead of you and can offer insight and encouragement. If you don’t know of anyone who lives locally, you can find all kinds of groups to join through Facebook or other online forums. (Caution: Be very selective in choosing your group(s). They aren’t all alike. Do your research to see which one(s) best fit your personality and needs.) Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help during every stage of the process. My adopted children have been home for a year now, and we still very much need help.
Adoption is not for everyone.
I strongly believe this. Yes, there are millions of children who need families, and it is easy to feel that we should all be doing something about it. But if you don’t feel called to adopt or if there are reasons that your family just cannot do it, there are still plenty of other ways that you can help these children. You can donate money to families who are adopting; you can support adoptive families by taking meals or running errands or offering babysitting services; you can help bring awareness about these children in need and can get involved in organizations that are working to make a difference; or you may feel led to become a foster parent, which is indeed a special calling.
You may have always dreamed of adopting a child, or you may be like me and gradually start feeling led to do so. But even if you have just a tiny bit of interest or curiosity about adoption, I encourage you to look further into the possibility. You never know where it might lead.
Carrie Bevell Partridge and her family welcomed two Colombian brothers into their forever family a year ago. You can read more about it in Carrie’s monthly “Growth Spurts” column in this publication.