Legacy of Adoption

Here’s another story of adoption!

Sheridan and Julian

In love He destined us for adoption to Himself – Ephesians 1:5

It was inevitable that Kenny and Allison would end up being adoptive parents.  Both were adopted as little ones, and it just seemed that adoption was the path their lives would take.  After struggling with infertility (they did eventually give birth to a baby girl), they decided together that they would pursue becoming foster/adoptive parents.  They believed strongly that they had much love to give to a child in need.

They decided to adopt out of the foster care system after researching the financial aspects of adoption.  In most cases, there are no legal fees attached to the adoption of children out of the system in the United States.  Some of their concerns about adopting out of foster care were not knowing all the information regarding a child’s background and medical history.  Also, the child’s history of abuse and neglect should always be taken into consideration when exploring foster care adoption.  Their daughter, Sheridan, was only 3-years-old at the time and was very excited about becoming a big sister.  Kenny and Allison had to keep her in mind when considering children in the system who were in need of adoption.

They were licensed in 2005 and matched with Julian in April of 2006.  He was 18-months-old at the time of placement into their home.  They had considered other children, but decided not to pursue them.  This, according to Allison, was one of the hardest parts of the process.  She found herself thinking, “Who was I to decide which children to pursue or not due to their family history?”

Julian, now 8-years-old, is described as being a “rough and tumble” Momma’s boy. He is happy, loving, and very inquisitive about how things work in the world.  His background leans to him being impulsive and having some challenging behaviors.  Allison is a special education teacher and admits that it is hard to parent a child with special needs.

They have learned though that advocating for Julian’s needs is a priority and not to compare him to their daughter.  Sheridan is a gifted, respectful, and well-mannered young lady.  Others may expect Julian to be just like his sister, but Kenny and Allison recognize that their children had very different starts to life.  With that being said, their children have many similarities and are brother and sister through and through.

Their family joke is that their daughter Sheridan is the only living being in the house who is not adopted.  They even adopted their dog!  It is evident that the Lord ordained adoption for the lives of Kenny and Allison from the very beginning as babies who were adopted to their journey as parents now.  They too are passing along the blessed legacy of adoption to their children and have played a vital role in giving one little boy a family and love that will last a lifetime.

Adoption is Love!

A– Act of love

             D– Decision of love

                   O– Opportunity to love

                   P– Purpose-driven love

                   T– Teacher of love

            I– Intervention of love

                  O– Offering of love

                  N– Natural kind of love

In other words, ADOPTION is LOVE!  

A Blessing from Above

A Blessing From Above is probably one of the Little Golden Books that is not well-known.  It is a sweet story of adoption and a fantastic way to introduce the idea of adoption to young children.

Written by an adoptive mother, it tells the story of a Kangaroo who prayed for a baby.  While under a tree, a baby bird fell out of its nest and landed right in her pouch.  I looked all over for it in various bookstores and finally settled on ordering it from Amazon.  I’m so glad that I did because I have read it several times to my children.

Recently when reading it to my son, we came to the part of the story that talks about how the mama bird noticed she had too many babies in her nest and decided to give the baby bird to the kangaroo.  My son stopped and said “Wait!  So….she gave her baby away?”  I sat there for a second trying to read his expression.  It appeared that he was not just asking a simple question about the story, but processing it as well.

I said to him, “Well, she decided that she could not give the baby bird all the attention that he needed and when she saw how much he was loved by the mama Kangaroo, she decided to let him stay with her.”  I do not know if I answered it the right way or not, but he seemed okay with the answer.  We finished the book, put it back on the shelf, and he returned to his usual routine of playing with Legos.

I have found it a little difficult to fully explain my children’s whole stories to them.  This book helps in some way to promote positive feelings about adoption, but I have not been able to find a book suitable for young children that helps them understand foster care adoption.  The truth is that both of my children were taken from their birth mothers involuntary for reasons of serious safety concerns and other issues.  Their stories are not as easy to explain.

They did not just fall out of an overcrowded nest.  Their birth mothers did not choose us as their parents.  My son’s birth mother did sign away her rights voluntarily, but only after nearly 12 months of efforts to get him back.  She did say that if she could not have him, she only wanted us to have him.  But still…it is not the same.  My daughter’s birth mother never made one effort to be reunified with her baby girl due to instability and other factors.  It is hard to put drug abuse, chaotic home environments, and instability into kid friendly terms.

I have heard of books for older children adopted out of foster care, but none for young children who were taken into care as newborns and placed with the families they eventually were adopted by.  All of this being said, I still do love A Blessing from Above, and have suggested it to numerous foster/adoptive families.  It speaks of the goodness of adoption, of the love of birth mothers and adoptive mothers, and of the ultimate blessing that comes only from above.

Do you know of any children’s books that talk about foster care and foster/adoption?  If so, please let me know!  

The Chosen Heart

THE CHOSEN HEART

Longing for a child to love,
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew,
A part of me was meant for you.

I think how happy we will be,
Once I adopt you, and you adopt me.

I dream of all the joy you’ll bring,
Imagining even the littlest things.
The way it will feel to hold you tight
And tuck you in every night.

The drawings on the refrigerator door
And childhood toys across the floor,
The favorite stories read again and again
And hours of fun with make believe friends.

The day you took my outstretched hand
A journey ended but our love began.
Still mesmerized by your sweet face
Still warmed inside by our first embrace.

I promised to give you a happy home
And a loving family all your own.
A house you’ve now made complete 
with laughter,smiles, and tiny feet.

A parent is one who guides the way
Know I will be there every day
Rest easy as each night you sleep
A lifetime of love is yours to keep

Longing for a child to love
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew
A part of me belonged to you.

-Teri Harrison

This is another one of my favorite adoption poems.  I especially love that it speaks of the sense of belonging between parent and child, and of being meant for each other.  I know that I was meant to be the mother of my children, and they were meant to be mine.  They just traveled their way to me in different vessels!

Have a wonderful day!

The Love of A Family

Here’s another amazing story of the blessing that is adoption!

Johnovan, TJ, Valery, Addelyn, Arianna, and Deandre

This is the story of TJ and Valery, along with their children Arianna, age 9, Johnovan, age 8, Addelyn, age 6, and Deandre, age 6.  Their family has been enlarged and enhanced by adoption out of the foster care system.

TJ and Valery had 2 biological children when they decided to consider adoption.  Both pregnancies were extremely difficult. Valery was on bed rest for 22 week for their first daughter, then 6 weeks for their second daughter.  Their third pregnancy sadly ended in miscarriage.  It was during this difficult time that they realized their longing for more children.

They decided to pursue international adoption and did a tremendous amount of research   They kept hitting road block after road block and felt that perhaps their path needed to change.  After coming across websites about foster care and adoption, they chose to sign up for fostering classes.  Within a month, they were well on their way to becoming a licensed foster home.

Shortly after being licensed, Valery learned of 2 boys possibly in need of an adoptive home.  Valery was able to speak to the foster-mother of the boys and decided to become their primary respite provider.  Respite is a service that foster families do for each other – like babysitting.  The family provided respite for several months and enjoyed getting to know the boys.

In July of 2011, TJ and Valery were invited to attend an adoption staffing for the boys.  There were 2 other families that were interviewed as well.  Adoption staffings are part of the selection process through the foster care system.  A staffing is a formal interview with potential adoptive homes and the team members who have been involved with the case from the beginning.  Two days passed until they got the phone call they had been waiting for.  TJ and Valery were selected as the adoptive family for the boys!

The family finalized their adoption in June of 2012!  The boys now have a family to call their own and a place to grow their wings.  This is what all children deserve.  The family did not stop at adoption though as they continue to provide foster care to children with higher level of needs; such as emotional and behavioral issues.  Even before being matched with Johnovan and Deandre, they provided foster care and helped reunify children with their birth parents.

Growing up, Valery had the goal of eventually being a foster/adoptive parent.  She had friends in the foster care system and hoped one day that she too would provide a home to children in need.  TJ was a little more slow to warm up to the idea.  However, with the wonderful support of their extended family, their decision to become foster/adoptive parents was one that they do not regret.

The biggest joy they get out of parenting their children is watching them achieve milestones in their lives.  One of the boys struggled immensely in reading and had fairly severe behavior problems at school.  Through the efforts of Valery advocating for his needst, he is doing very well and has made tremendous strides.  She believes that love, attention, security, and “good ole’ fashion” mothering have played parts in his success.

The biggest challenge of their experience so far has been understanding and parenting children with behavioral issues that are directly tied to the chaotic home environment and/or abuse and neglect the children have experienced.  They have learned that progress may be slow, but at least it is progress!  Plus, a sense of humor is key to enjoying each other’s diversity and the unique factors that make up their family.  TJ and Valery urge others to consider taking in older youth who are in the foster care system.  They love babies, but have found that older children add so much to a family, and need stability in their lives.

Foster care and adoption has taught them to be more open-minded about people and to empathize a little more with parents whose children are throwing tantrums.  Valery knows now that one’s experience as a child may shape his or her approach to parenting as an adult, and one really never knows what someone else has been through in life.

TJ and Valery believe they are like most families.  They are busy running the kids back and forth for their extracurricular activities, and breaking up fights between siblings.  They have those parenting moments of praising each other for tasks well done, and getting on to each other for tasks undone.  They look different and come from different pasts, but they are family.

In Valery’s words, “We’ve got our ups and downs and sometimes the downs feel really down, but then something wonderful happens and the love of our family pulls us all back together again.”

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  -1 Corinthians 13:7

Orphan Sunday

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. -James 1:27

Today is Orphan Sunday.  When I read and think about the Scripture verse above, the key words that jump out at me are pure and faultless.  When I consider the efforts made to care for and take notice of orphans, I believe wholeheartedly that there is authentic pureness in the energy put forth.  I do not know of anyone who sets out to care for children orphaned and abandoned on the streets in a far-off country that does it for money, glamour, or anything else really.  They are motivated by pure love, genuine passion, and an eternal calling.

The words pure and faultless are absolutely right on in describing these actions.

So, today, will you join the cause for orphans?  Will you reach out to a widow?  Will you pray for the millions of orphans in the world and the 100,000+ in the US foster care system who are in need of adoption?

Here are a couple of websites regarding children in need of adoption and orphans around the world.  Perhaps, the first step to understanding the plight of so many children is to gain knowledge of them.  I hope you find these website informative. (Of course, there are many more on the web!)

Christian Alliance for Orphans

Show Hope

AdoptUSKids

May the Lord bless your day!

The Gift of Life

The Gift of Life

I didn’t give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.

For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn’t give you 
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.

— Unknown

This is probably one of the most well-known poems about adoption.  It is simplistic,yet, speaks great truth in just a few words.  Have a wonderful day!

Their Greatest Joy

This blog has been mostly devoted to my own personal journey from the valley of unknowns and barrenness to the glorious mountain top that is adoption.  I know that my story is not the only one out there.  There are many families whose stories include answering the call to care for children in need.  This is one of them.

In 1999, when Tamra was just 23 years of age and finishing college, her heart was deeply touched by the foster children who attended her daycare.  She was moved so much that she decided to become a licensed foster care provider through the state.  Tamra asked to be put on the so-called openings list for placements.  This list is how workers know that families are available to take children into their homes.  A few days had passed before any calls were made to her.  That all changed though on July 24, 1999.

Imagine, if you will, running into your home to change clothes after a wedding so that you can head out for the reception, picking up the ringing phone, and being asked “Would you be available to take in a two month old baby boy?”  That is exactly what happened.  Tamra excitedly got off the phone, grabbed her friend, and made their way to the hospital – so much for going to the wedding reception!  

This 8 week old baby boy had been intentionally thrown out and onto some lawn furniture and needed to be checked for injuries.  As Tamra was waiting to meet him, her mind was racing with thoughts of “What have I done? I don’t know how to take care of a baby!”  She also wondered if the nursing staff thought of her as being too young to be a foster parent. Tamra was not prepared, but felt the calling to say “yes”.  She did not have a crib, car seat, or anything really for a newborn, so after they left the hospital, they made their way to Wal-Mart to pick up all of the necessities for taking care of babies.  Foster families very rarely get a lot of time to prepare for placements, so they must think and act quickly.

It was very natural for her to fall in love with the little prince that came to live with her on that fateful night in both of their lives.  Tamra’s fiance, Shane (now her husband), also fell in love with him.  Their extended family worried that they would get their hearts broken, but they were also supportive and realistic about the primary goal of the foster care system in working towards reunification with birth parents and their children.  Although adoption was not their first intention, Tamra and Shane were very happy when it appeared that adoption would be the goal for him.

Things were moving along and then…new case worker….new ideas…a relative stepped in.  This little boy had been placed with her since age of 2 months, had been visiting his birth parents the entire duration of the case, and now was potentially going to be moving in to a relative’s home.  After 2 weeks of nail-biting anxiety, a decision was made to keep their boy where he was.

After 4 years and one month of loving and fostering him, their dream of becoming his forever parents came true.  Their adoption was finalized by the courts.  Their son is an amazing child, is in a gifted program and in advanced math classes.  They are very proud of him!

Despite the long haul through the system with their son, Tamra and Shane decided to pursue another placement of a foster child.  They really hoped for a girl and were blessed by the placement of a 12 week old baby girl. This precious girl only weighed 9 pounds and the 3-6 month clothing Tamra picked out for her swallowed her up!

Tamra and Shane fell in love with this little girl immediately; yet, they were realistic about foster care as they had just experienced a long journey with their son.  At their very first team meeting, they were asked if they would consider adoption of her!  They were so surprised and felt incredibly blessed!  Their adoption was finalized in 2004.

Their daughter has had some challenges.  She is autistic and has a seizure disorder, but she is an amazing joy in their lives.  They feel so blessed to call her their daughter.  Life would not be the same without her “sassyness” and her personality.  She has made great strides and they have great hope for her continued progress and well-being.

Tamra and Shane want those who are considering foster care and adoption to know that you have to give the children your all.  Foster parents have the opportunities to help set the foundations for these children that can last a life-time.  It is a risk and you can get hurt, but the impact you can make on the lives of children is worth it.  Perseverance, consistency, stability, advocacy, and trusting your knowledge about the kids you are caring for are attributes that Tamra and Shane feel are necessary when fostering children.

They believe that the Lord had His hand in forming their family through foster care and adoption.  Tamra and Shane do not regret a single thing and feel extremely blessed to call their children their own.  Their greatest joy is raising the children, witnessing their triumphs, and experiencing life that is free from abuse and neglect.  

In Tamra’s words “Adoption is a beautiful thing!”

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

National Adoption Month 2012

November is National Adoption Month here in the U.S.  Local, state, and federal government offices, organizations and churches devote their efforts during the month of November to focus on the awareness, education, and advocacy for adoption.  While the emphasis of this month tends to be more focused on foster care adoption, ALL forms of adoption are recognized as being equally important in the lives of so many families and children.

My desire this month is to write a post each day regarding adoption.  I am hoping to share some personal stories of non-bloggers who have adopted or are adoptees. My goal is to share links to websites, post quotes about adoption, and share Scripture verses that relay the tenderness that our Heavenly Father has for children.

For starters though, please click on this link National Adoption Month 2012.  This is the US government’s website regarding child welfare and adoption.  It has some very good information and links to various websites.  Thanks for reading and here’s to hoping that the month of November will stir the hearts of many to consider adoption. Children deserve permanency in their lives.  After working in child welfare for so long, I have learned that once families open their hearts and homes to a children, they have opened up a new world of fresh beginnings, safety, stability, and that crucial feeling of belonging to a family.

Blessings!

Kelly

Kelly

Gosh, this was a hard post to write.  I stopped, stared at the image of my cousin above, typed a little, and deleted a lot before finally deciding on how to write about her.  My cousin has been gone now for quite some time.  This week marks the 16th anniversary of her death.  It was an extremely painful experience to lose a best friend and someone who I essentially grew up with.

Most of my friends and co-workers do not even know.  It is not that I have forgotten about her…I just cannot “go there” very often.  I am extremely blessed with amazing friends, but there will always be that space that only Kelly filled.  The vast majority of my early life memories involve her.  Cousins really do become children’s first friends.

She was only 23-years-old; yet, had many sorrows and troubles.  Addictions and sadness plagued her, even though, there was a tremendous amount of sweetness, tenderness, and love buried underneath all of the dirt of life.  She battled addictions for several years and though she wanted to live a full, healthy life, I think that the struggles she had were just too great for her.  So much life has happened since hers ended, but she is never really too far from my thoughts.

My last words to her, while she was conscious, were “baby steps, Kelly, baby steps.” I was trying to get her to slow down with her eagerness to get out of the hospital.  I knew she needed to just put one foot in front of the other and that starting a new, healthier life would be much more difficult than she probably imagined.  “Baby steps”….I regretted those words.  If I had known those words were my last to her, I would not have chosen them.

Moments before her death, I ran to the chapel at the hospital and pleaded with the Lord.  I was not an active Christian at the time and had a lot of confusion, but I still believed in a Heavenly Father who heard our cries.

“Lord, please God, I will do anything. Please let Kelly live.  Please God….she needs a miracle.”  

These words stumbled off of my clumsy lips that were quivering and drenched with tears.  My broken and trembling body laid over the back of the pew.  My hands were clasped together and I was reaching out to the cross before me.  I was alone in the chapel begging….it was just me and God.  It was me bargaining for Him to deliver a miracle to my near lifeless best friend.

Soon after, this I heard my name and turned around.  In the doorway, my aunt stood there shaking her head with tears rolling down her cheeks.

“She’s gone”

….silence.

….numbness.

I got up and nearly ran right into a lady wearing a white jumpsuit.  I remember her brown hair for some reason, but I do not remember her face and did not know she was even in the room.  She said to me, “I heard you pray and wanted to let you know that your cousin is going to be okay.  It is all-Saints day.”  She hugged me and I walked out of the chapel.  I was not Catholic (still am not), so I really did not know what she meant, but something about my encounter with her felt good.

Several months after my cousin’s death, I prayed that God would allow me to see Kelly one more time so that I would know she was okay.  My prayer was answered in a dream.  We were driving around in a car listening to music just like old times when she was breathing Earthly air.  No words were spoken, but I could “hear” her say “I’m okay Caroline.  I’m okay.”  There she sat glowing in all white with that beautiful smile on her face.  There was great peace in the car and I remember not wanting the ride to come to an end.  I woke up and even though it pained me to realize she was gone, I just knew that she was at peace and with the Lord.  I have not dreamed of her since then, but that is okay.

I believe the Lord did grant her the miracle I so pleaded for on that fateful day.  You see, Kelly had been rendered unconscious just a week or two prior to her death.  She miraculously came to, asked for forgiveness, recommitted her faith in the Lord, told her family and friends that she loved them, laughed, hugged, and then passed away.  That was her miracle.

I too was touched by a miracle on the day Kelly died.  My aunt who ran into the chapel to let me know Kelly passed away does not remember the lady in the white jumpsuit.  She told me there was no one else in the chapel with me when she came in.  In other words, I believe my miracle on that day was an encounter with an angel telling me that my sweet cousin was going to be okay even though she would be leaving the Earth.

Kelly never had the opportunity to become a mom, graduate from college, start a career, own a personal computer, use a smart phone, or travel to some far off exotic place.  She did not get to stand next to me at my wedding, attend my adoption hearings, and watch how my story of infertility unfolded.  I know she would have been so in love with my babies and would have cherished them as much as I do.  I believe a part of her will always be with me during all of the moments I share with my children.

I look forward with great anticipation and joy at the reunion I will have with her in Heaven.  I look forward to breathing in the same celestial air that she is breathing and to shine with her in the glory of the Lord.  But, for now, I will continue to hold her in that quiet space that belongs only to her.  I will continue to think of her every time I see tulips and daisies.  And, I will continue to rejoice in the miracles that occurred during that week when Kelly danced her way into Heaven.

Love You, Kelly