The following is a guest post from Heidi, an adoptive mother who resides in Oregon with her family. Heidi’s personal story includes a great deal about her and her husband’s faith. As a reminder, Oregon Right to Life is a nonsectarian organization. We are so thankful for people like Heidi who open up and let us look into their lives and experience their advocacy!
When she took her first breaths of air in the wee hours of the morning, my husband and I were unaware that our daughter had just been born in a busy hospital across the country. We were unaware that her sweet birth mama had chosen and entrusted us to love the child she had sheltered in her womb for the last 9 months.
We had always thrown around the idea of adoption as a potential means of growing our family. We both have family and friends who are adopted, as well as family and friends who have adopted both domestically and internationally. We dove into the crazy world of adoption not with the desire to “save” a child but with the conviction that all life is valuable and the desire to support another woman’s decision to protect the sweet, precious life she could not continue to care for.
After deciding to follow the private domestic adoption route, we signed on with Christian Adoption Consultants in January of 2016. CAC provides financial advice, education, and experience in the confusing and overwhelming world of adoption. They were excellent at answering all of our many questions and recommending options that best fit our needs. A few benefits included in their services are their multiple agency networking (agencies and attorneys located in more adoption-friendly states who are both ethical and often in need of adoptive families), as well as their shorter wait time. On average, adoptive families working with them often adopt in six to ten months!
We started the home-study process in February and I began to research family profile books to introduce our family to potential birth mamas. I couldn’t find the clean, modern design layout that I was looking for in a family profile book design, so I ended up photographing my family, designing my own, and printing it using Blurb. I thoroughly enjoyed creating our books, which ended up as beautiful testimony to our family story.
My husband, Luke and I both had heard so many negative things about the home-study process in general, but we were relieved to find those negative things completely untrue in our situation. We certainly didn’t enjoy the seemingly never-ending busy work, however we did actually enjoy working with the social worker who wrote up our home-study. We also greatly benefited from her wisdom after placement for our required post-placement visits. She felt like a personal cheerleader in our adoption endeavors and her help was truly invaluable!
Our family was home-study approved by the state of Oregon in March, our family profile books printed, and we applied to about six different agencies through April. The call about about our daughter came the end of May. Crazy fast. At the time, however, our wait felt far too long. I personally felt emotionally pregnant in knowing there was potentially a child somewhere out there, yet unlike in pregnancy, I did not have the assurance of a due date in sight. Patience was the last thing I wanted to think about and my single-mindedness was proving difficult in the time waiting. The paperwork and many details that must be worked through require perseverance, but the rewards are tremendous. Luke and I have always agreed that good things are often difficult to achieve and yet worth pursuing. Adoption is no exception.
Each state has different requirements for adoptive families, and most require classes on important issues surrounding adoption such as openness, attachment and bonding, and trans-racial adoption. Because we were very open to any child of any gender and race, we took particular interest in the plethora of issues regarding transracial adoption. Because I was especially interested in transracial adoption, I also began reading books and blogs of transracial families and adoptees, and talking with friends who had adopted trans-racially. This all seems silly to admit now, but I felt strongly that if there was a need for families to adopt trans-racially, I knew we would absolutely love to help meet that need. Why not us?
We ended up adopting through An Open Door Adoption Agency based in Georgia. I took the idea of applying to different adoption agencies throughout the country with lower sign-on fees (with the majority of fees due at placement as opposed to huge, initial fees that prohibit signing on with multiple agencies) and ran with it, albeit a bit obsessively (waiting for a baby after all the busy work of the home study, family profile book and agency applications proved to be difficult!). An Open Door Adoption Agency was one of the agencies I had stumbled across in my own research. They needed families and I signed up.
After different potential situations with multiple agencies and attorneys, and only a month and a half after signing on with that agency, an expectant mama in Georgia chose our family to parent her child. I got the call on a Wednesday afternoon in May, with news that a baby girl had been born that morning. My husband and I dropped the two older kids off with my parents in eastern Washington, drove to Seattle, and caught a flight across the country. I showed photos of our precious little five pound pumpkin on my phone to anyone and everyone within earshot in the airport, on the plane, and even at the car rental place. We had a baby to get to already!
The agency was kind enough to let us sign papers that evening. We rushed from the airport, too excited to even stop for dinner and ended up sitting in crazy evening traffic. An accident actually occured right in front of us on the highway but thankfully, no one was hurt, and we made it safely to the temporary caregiver family who was watching our little one for the afternoon. When our daughter was finally placed in my arms, I was bawling my eyes out, and thankfully my on-the-ball husband caught it all on camera.
It was a bit surreal sitting down to sign papers and then driving away with a newborn! Because there is a revocation period of 10 days in Georgia, it was a bit of an uneasy time. We loved on a precious little babe we had no guarantee would make the trip home with us (and rightly so-her birth mama had every right to change her mind about such an important decision). I remember one long night specifically, attempting to soothe our daughter’s crying and convince her to take a bottle while wondering what in the world we had gotten ourselves into. Who was this tiny, screaming person I was holding? We didn’t know each other and and had no assurance that our relationship would continue. Luke and I also caught the flu and had to constantly wear masks while taking care of a newborn and praying she wouldn’t catch it. It was a rough 10 days!
We were able to meet our daughter’s brave birth mama before flying home and before the 10 days were up, and were immediately blown away by her graciousness and the bond we now shared. There was definitely a bit of anxiety on our part that she would meet us and change her mind. She did not. And we are thankful everyday that she didn’t. There are so many precious moments in our story, but most importantly, Luke and I now consider her birth mama to be forever family. We are overwhelmingly grateful that she chose life and unselfishly gave us the ultimate gift of raising her daughter. My husband and I are not our daughter’s rescuers, and we have done nothing to deserve the awesome responsibility given to us. Her birth mama is our hero, our family, and we will be forever connected in our shared love of the amazing child she brought into the world.
Although we had educated ourselves about becoming a conspicuous family, it has been fascinating to watch others reactions to our little family beginning the very day we picked our daughter up. Wherever we go, people notice us. They notice our two blondies smooching their chocolate baby sister in an attempt to make her laugh. They are curious, smile, or strike up a conversation, and we are more than willing to convey the joy we have found in adoption. We practice taking the spotlight off our daughter and putting it back on our family as a whole (where it belongs). Luke and I desire to protect her story, and yet also answer questions as graciously as possible. We continually are given opportunities to educate others, and to hopefully help dispel many of the myths surrounding adoption. Our family has been encouraged with how many positive conversations we have had with complete strangers about adoption, especially within the black community. Their encouragement is assurance of something we already know: it is love that makes a family, and not skin color.
Every adoption is born in great grief and brokenness. Every adoption is inherently full of brokenness and deep grief. As parents, our love, parenting, or education will never fully be able to heal all wounds. Ultimately, we cannot meet our children’s deepest needs-adopted or biological. Christ alone is the great healer, deliverer and redeemer. Our children need the gospel and we need the gospel-before the adoption process, during the adoption process and after the adoption process. Although a practical response to the love God has lavished upon us, adoption is also a reminder of our own inadequacy and of Christ as our all-in-all, day in and day out-through great delight, great sorrow, and great hardship. Although we are still toward the beginning of our journey as parents, I am realizing parenthood, adoption, and transracial adoption all require a humble spirit and a lifetime of learning and relearning.
A few practical tips from Heidi to navigate the often confusing world of adoption:
- Really do your homework while researching agencies and/or attorneys. Talk with other families who have adopted with them, and ask around about their reputation and how they work with and support birth mamas (pre/post-natal counseling ect). Find out the number of families they are currently working with, and average weight times. Get a detailed list of ALL adoption expenses. If an agency is difficult to work with or not completely up front before receiving your money, they most definitely will be after they have your money. Ask ALL the questions. If adopting in a different state, find an attorney well-versed in interstate adoptions.
- Each state has different interstate requirements, and consent and revocation time periods. If interested in interstate adoption be aware of the consent and revocation periods in the state you will be adopting out of. For example, in our adoption, the revocation period was 10 days and we had to wait for all the interstate paperwork to go through before we could leave the state.
- Adoption consultants are a referral service and are NOT facilitators (which are illegal in most states). Adoption consultants have no connection with birth families and do not match adoptive families with birth families. There is always a middle person. Facilitation is legal in California and many facilitators are based out of California. If working directly with birth families, they are facilitators, even if they use the word “consultant.”
- Be thinking from the beginning of the adoption process about what kind of health concerns you might be willing to consider (special needs, babies born to drug-addicted women for example).
- Invest in professional photos of your family for your family profile book. Cell phone photos just won’t cut it. And no selfies!
- Check out the adoption tax credit for the year you finalize your adoption.
- Be proactive! I found the agency we ended up adopting with through social media. However, on the other hand be very cautious with potential adoptive situations that get shared and passed around on social media. Mention to potential agencies and adoption attorneys that you are interested in working with multiple agencies and ask for lowered sign-on fees (with the majority of fees due at placement). It doesn’t hurt to ask!