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.

Siblings

“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, quite often the hard way.” 

-Pamela Dugdale

My husband and I are learning the hard way that nothing causes more trouble in the home than when the kiddos are mad at each other.  

The words I say to them are “You are brother and sister for life, so work it out.”

Let’s just see how that works for us…..

Around the Fire

Last night we had the privilege of spending the evening around a bonfire in the country.  Hot dogs, roasted marshmallows, the sound of crackling wood, a gorgeous full moon, the chatter of folks, and gleeful screams of children playing in the field next to us made up our evening.  Fires are so good at catching one’s eye.  I sat and stared for a long time at the majestic wisps of flames as they flickered their way up to the heavens.

With the scent of fall in the air and the comfort of a blanket over me, my thoughts immediately went to the reason why we were all out there under the stars.  Out of the eighteen or so children present last night, around thirteen of them were adopted out of foster care.  Let me say that again….13 out of 18 or so children present last night were adopted out of foster care.  Most of the children were siblings of some sort, but not all.  A handful of families adopted the siblings.  Honestly, it was kind of nice to be at an event where my children were not a minority.  Usually when we go to “get-togethers”, or anywhere in general, my kids are typically the only ones adopted; especially out of protective services.

There is something comforting when being around fellow parents who have experienced the journey of being a foster parent and adopting.  We are able to swap stories of our experiences and compare notes.  We can relate to the challenges sometimes experienced when raising children with histories of abuse, neglect, prenatal exposure, or separation from family of origin.  We can also talk about resources that may come in handy if future issues should arise.

Last night, I took a moment to look out in the field at the children playing.  The image of glow sticks in hands, glow-in-the-dark balloons bouncing up and down, and the sounds of laughing children running freely through the field filled my mind and my heart with gratefulness.  I thought about how their young lives were interrupted by the ways of the world and the poor choices of their  birth parents.  I thought about the losses every single one of them has endured already in life.  I thought about the adults around the fire who took them in.  I thought about the opportunities they have because of permanency in their lives.

I thought about how they get to have a childhood free of abuse.  I also thought about how lucky we are to be a part of this.  Adoption out of foster care is not a second best choice.  It is not reserved for only those who cannot afford private adoption.  It is not just for couples who are unable to have biological children.  It is a blessing to parent a child whose beginning to life automatically put him or her in the category of the “least of these”.

It is a blessing to meet other adults whose lives have also been impacted by the decision to become foster parents.  We are all connected in some way to each other by the children playing in the field.  We are all a part of something bigger, something more eternal, and something better planned for these children.

As I watched the fire burn and looked around, thankfulness filled my heart.  We were all brought together by the one true God who brings light into dark places, hope into hopeless situations, and love into the lives of all of us.

Any questions?

After my son’s adoption in 2008, a neighbor asked me, “Are you concerned that you didn’t connect with him since you did not carry him?”  I was only briefly stunned by her question.  I knew that I needed to think quick and give her an answer.  After all, she asked me in front of a group of neighbors during our block party and I did not want to be standing in the middle of an awkward moment of silence.  I replied, “No, not at all.  Loving him is very natural…as if I gave birth to him.”  All she responded with was “Oh”.

When I told my husband about the conversation, he said, “She didn’t carry or birth her husband.  Does that mean she is not bonded or connected to him?”  (Good point honey, good point)  He has always had a great way of simplifying things.

Her question has stuck in my mind through the years.  I really cannot blame her for her lack of knowledge about adoption.  After all, she had only given birth to children.  She had never experienced the incredible richness of becoming a mom through adoption.  I am still not sure what she meant by the word connect.  Perhaps she meant to say “Are you worried that you have not bonded with him because you did not give birth to him?”.

Looking back on our short conversation, I wished I would have said to her the things that have been revealed since becoming a mother through adoption.  I have realized that my expecting was not in months, but years.  My labor was not in hours, but years as well.  I did not carry my children in my body.  I carried them in my imagination, my prayers, my hopes, and my dreams.

I carried them in that quiet space where it is just myself and the Lord.

Foster and adoptive families usually get asked all kinds of random and often insensitive questions.  When we were going through the licensing process to become foster parents, someone said to me, “You are not going to take one of those meth babies, are you?”  Was that a question or a directive?  I was not quite sure.  The truth is that many newborns who come into protective services in the state I live in have been exposed to prenatal drug and/or alcohol usage.  To call them “meth babies” though felt very cold and calloused to me.

Here are some more questions that I have been asked:

  • Are your kids “real” siblings?
  • Are you scared that their “real” parents are going to take them back?
  • Are you sure it is okay to tell them that they are adopted?
  • Do you plan on having your “own” child in the future?
  • Do you know their “real” parents?

I answered the first two questions with a “no” and a “yes”.  No, I am not scared their “real” parents are going to take them back….that would be considered kidnapping.  Taking them back is not an option.  Adoption is legally binding and permanent.

Yes, I am absolutely sure it is okay to tell them they are adopted.  It is a travesty for children to not know their history and to be lied to.  It damages every ounce of trust and relationship built through the years.  It also gives glimpses of the thought that adoption is something that should be kept secret, as if it is shameful.

As far as the kids are concerned, they are real siblings.  Trust me, if you spend any amount of time in our home, you will notice that they fight like cats and dogs, yet are inseparable.  There is nothing fake about their relationship as a brother and a sister.

The last two questions can be answered by this fabulous quote I found.

“Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.  Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.  Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else’s child.  Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all your own.”  -Rita Laws, PhD

 Any questions?