Adoption Takes Teamwork
Did you know that adoption takes teamwork? It seems like an obvious statement, but once you get into the process of adoption, you will find just how true the statement really is. When my husband and I ventured out on our journey to adopt our daughters, we knew we had a great support system in place. We both had family nearby. We were active in our church and had started attending a monthly support group for foster and adoptive families. Knowing that adoption takes teamwork, we set our sights on surrounding ourselves with people who understood the world of adoption and started listening to everyone we knew who had walked the road before us. It was really important for us to not only build a team who would help us along the way–but a team that we could help support as well. One thing that I have grown to love about the adoption community is the amount of love and support we have constantly found there. I will try to share just how important having a team of people to help you navigate the murky and often uncertain waters of adoption really is. I will share parts of our story along the way with the goal of sharing how a team helped us adopt two beautiful girls from the foster care system.
Our Adoption Team:
1. Experienced Teammates
It took no time at all for us to realize that we were completely at a loss as to where to start our adoption journey. We had so many questions and had no idea how to even start. It was like looking at a map of the U.S. that was made of the shapes of the states without any indication of roadways and trying to plan a cross-country road trip. It was a deer-in-the-headlights feeling and we just had no idea where to start. We were armed with a heart for our community and we knew our hearts were set on a younger child, not necessarily an infant. We felt led in the direction of adoption from foster care. We just had no idea how to do that. If you have walked this road, you likely know what I am talking about. It is completely overwhelming. I started making calls on my own. I literally googled my hometown name followed by “adoption.” So, one by one, I cold-called the list of agencies that I had compiled from my internet search. I just had no idea. Looking back at that time and the questions I asked the people who answered my phone calls, I realize just how unsure I was of the entire process. One call stands out in my mind. I was under the impression that people only desired to adopt babies. I remember starting the call with a statement about how we were looking to adopt a toddler because we thought people would not be considering that age group. The patient woman on the other end of the phone call gently told me how there is a huge need for adopting older kids, but adopting a younger child, birth to 3, would be a bigger challenge.
She then explained how the adoption arm of their nonprofit organization had come to an end and she didn’t have anywhere to refer me at the time. I hung up the phone and cried. I felt embarrassed and defeated. I just didn’t know where to turn and who to ask. If you are new to the process of adoption, you will find that growing in humility is part of the process. It is really important to walk humbly as you really don’t know what you don’t know. This part of our journey also made us realize that we were not going to be able to walk this road alone. It was the beginning of relying on the knowledge of others who have walked the road before us.
My husband and I were part of a church that values adoption. The heart for the kids was palpable and from this desire to help families, a foster and adoptive support group arose. We would meet once a month and always welcomed new people. Our group was made of people from all areas of adoption. Some parents who were now empty nesters wanted to foster. Families who had raised adopted children and were there to impart the wisdom of lived experience joined. Families who were only fostering participated. Families who were internationally adoptive homes were present. There were also families who had adopted kids from the foster care system. And, like us, there were families who were just starting out.
It was a beautiful, safe place to connect, learn, and pray. There was tons of support. We started classes to become foster parents and quickly realized that wasn’t the right choice for our family. We stopped that process and waited. We eventually ended up partnering with an agency that placed kids who were in foster care, but they were waiting for adoptive placements. We successfully adopted our daughters through this agency. The beauty of our agency is the weekly support group that was an invaluable place of stability where families navigated the ups and downs of adoption together. Again, learning from those who have been there was such a beautiful part of our journey. There is just so much to learn when you are walking this road—so much you just don’t know. It is crucial to become part of an adoption community to help you along the way. In April, we celebrated the 6th anniversary of our daughter joining our family. We have lived a lot of life in the last 6 years. It has not been easy, but knowing we have people who have walked this journey before has been a gift.
When you share the news of your desire to adopt and your commitment to start the process, you will find that there are people who would love nothing more than to support you on your journey. This was certainly true in our case and we have seen this in every one of our friends’ adoptive journeys. Some people want to bring you meals. Some people want to pray for you. Some people may want to help with grocery shopping or offer to clean your house! Some people want to offer financial gifts. There are a million ways in which people want to help. The beauty of this set of teammates is they often offer to help or pray however you need it.
I know it can be really hard to accept help, but so many people understand the value of adoption and how important it is to care for children who cannot stay in their biological homes. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they would love to adopt, but they just can’t, I would be a wealthy woman. Understanding that adoption is beautiful to many, but not everyone is supposed to adopt, opens your eyes to the importance of allowing others to support your journey. The truth is people will genuinely want to help you along the way and they will offer to help in ways that they were designed to support. There will be times when people will, for instance, want to make a meal for you. You may be in a place where making a meal yourself is an important part of your day and the only thing that keeps you sane. It is important to be honest with them and let them know that you are good with the meals, but you will let them know when providing a meal will be helpful.
Your life as an adoptive parent will ebb and flow through times of high need and times of calm. It is true of all areas of life, but adoption is different. It is important to remember that you do not have to feel bad for being honest with your support team and it allows those who care about you to peek inside the window of your heart. Accepting help can be hard, but it is a very important part of the journey. When I realized that it was important to say yes, things changed. As much as it was our calling to adopt kids from foster care, it is the calling of other people to support children in need of forever homes in tangible ways as well. I firmly believe that we are meant to live and learn together. I believe that each person has a purpose and community—it is crucial. We aren’t meant to live life alone. Saying yes to the generous offer of support, whether financial, physical, or prayerful is a beautiful part of your adoption journey.
If you find you are in a place where you are isolated and unable to find support, look for it. Reach out to those who know how to find help: agencies or nonprofits that help with adoption or foster care. There are likely resources that you don’t know about. Don’t lose hope! You are not alone!
3. Agency Teammates
This one seems obvious, right? When you are looking to align yourself with an agency to help facilitate your adoption, you will want to make sure you are on the same page. It is a good idea to call around to the different agencies at your disposal and research the way in which they approach adoption. Whether you are looking to adopt internationally, through the foster care system, or via domestic infant adoption, it is imperative that you understand what your agency offers, how they work to accomplish your placement, and how they align with your values. You will be working intimately with your team and rapport is very important. You are often able to schedule a meeting, online or in-person, where you can ask questions and meet the staff. When we were looking for an agency, as I mentioned I had called around and spoken with many agencies in our hometown, we were led to our agency by a friend who messaged me on Facebook about an agency her friend had partnered with and successfully adopted three boys.
When I called this recommended agency, I was invited to visit the very next night and sit in on a support group. Unlike all of the other agencies I had called, and there were a lot of agencies, this one checked all our boxes and I felt immediately at home there. There was a feeling of peace and we knew we had found the place that we wanted to partner with on this journey. For us, the difference was being offered honest answers and the warm welcome of joining a support group of people who were where we wanted to be. It was clear to us, me more so than my husband, that we were in the right place. We wanted something that we didn’t know was an option. We wanted to adopt a child (who turned out to be two beautiful girls over the course of a little less than two years) from foster care without fostering. Our agency specializes in facilitating the adoption of kids in foster care who are waiting for forever adoptive placements. Had we not kept looking for an agency that offered what we were looking for, I am not sure how our journey would have gone, but I am so grateful for the gift of same-mindedness from our agency.
I know there are more than three teams of people who support you on your adoptive journey. Adoption takes teamwork and this list is not exhaustive. However, if you start by building your team with these three groups of people, the rest will likely fall into place. Adoption is a journey walked by taking one step at a time. I have found that each step leads to the next step. Doors will close and others will open. Learning to sit in the uncomfortable place of not knowing how things will unfold has many gifts along the way. Just keep walking.