Hi! I’m Joy and I’m doing a 31 day series on this blog as part of a writing challenge at write31days.com. Today is Day 2. Yesterday, I introduced myself and gave a little bit of my purpose for writing this series. You can find it here. Today, you get to hear my background with adoption. I love to read adoption stories, hope you do, too. Other days will be lighter adoption topics, but the background should come first.
My husband and I have two biological children. Both pregnancies were rather miserable and both completed in a C-section delivery. After our son was born, we decided, “This is it, no more kids…if we change our minds later, we’ll just adopt.” It was not motivated by a great desire to adopt or love orphans at that time, but God has grown our hearts in the past 6 years. In fact, now, we sometimes cringe that we said, “we’ll just adopt”. It makes adoption sound like a lesser choice or back up plan and we’ve have really come to think of it differently through our experience.
When we moved to Georgia, we found out our new small group leaders were struggling with infertility. What a hard thing to watch and walk through with them. They decided to start taking the adoption/ foster training with the Department of Families and Children Services (DFACS). We decided to take the training along with them to support them and thought that would help us really decide if adoption was something we wanted to do. The training did not deter us and we proceeded to get certified for adoption only of a white (we will talk about race later this month) child under 5 years old (younger than our youngest). There are many adoptive families in our church and talking to them and watching others foster/adopt began to soften our hearts.
After we got certified to adopt through DFACS, nothing happened. For over a year, nothing happened. Then in October 2011, we were invited to a paper matching meeting. This is where fliers of available children are available to potential families and fliers of potential families are available to case workers. Walking around, looking at the fliers was so discouraging, because there didn’t seem to be any children that fit our family. But then one caseworker showed us a flier for a sibling group that might fit and that changed everything. Before that point, we weren’t really committed to adoption, it was just a nice idea. Once we began to consider these kids, we really started asking ourselves the hard questions….Are we committed to adoption? What types of situations are we willing to accept? How many children? What genders, ethnicities, etc….
While pondering these questions, my husband and I sought counsel. We spoke with our small group leaders, who by this time had adopted two boys. We spoke with one of our elders who has adopted four children. My husband began listening to “Adopted for Life” by Russell Moore on audio book and encouraged me to do the same. These things opened our minds and moved our hearts. We began to see adoption not just as something nice to do, but as pleasing God and one way of living out the Gospel – pure religion (James 1:27). By adopting children, we have the opportunity to affect their lives not just on this earth, but for eternity. And as we considered those two children, we found ourselves praying, not just for them to be placed in a good home, but that they would be placed somewhere where they would hear that Jesus loves them.
Well, the children did not get placed in our home. The oldest one was 5, same age as our youngest at the time and had very aggressive behaviors. DFACS felt a different placement would be best for him and we were okay with that. But then we had to ask ourselves questions like….Where do we want to go from here? After much discussion, prayer, and counsel, we decided that adopting was something our family wanted to continue to pursue. This is one way to be on mission with God and show His love.
In January 2012 we decided to change our status to foster-to-adopt. This is what several families had done that we knew. It means that you take in children who are not yet legally free for adoption, but that is the goal of their case plan. So, until the birth parents sign a termination of rights or a judge terminates their rights, the family that takes the children in is a foster family, not an adoptive family. However, the children are usually placed with a foster family who wants to adopt them. We knew two families who did foster-to-adopt and successfully adopted the children placed with them within a year or so. In our naivety, we thought all foster-to-adopt cases would go this way, even though we knew that this was a riskier way to do things. At this point, we also started looking into private agencies as a back up.
In looking into private agencies, we really wanted one that would accept our DFACS home study. We had a personal connection with a FL agency and when we looked into that agency, we loved what we saw. They are a Christian agency, they would accept our DFACS study, they would allow us to do our training through Skype, they didn’t require us to pay adoption fees until we had a match. So, we began applying with them.
In April 2012, the Thursday before Easter, our DFACS caseworker called us with a possible foster-to-adopt placement of a newborn baby girl. We were told that the mother tested positive for marijuana. We were also told that a biological sister was already in the system and was being adopted by another family, but it wasn’t practical to put the two in the same family because of some disabilities of the older sister. We sought counsel from a family in our church who had adopted two babies who had been exposed to drugs in the womb and decided we could do this. That was a crazy night! We ran around picking up stuff from friends like a car seat and clothes and buying diapers and wipes. We celebrated the upcoming arrival of our new family member with a trip to Baskin Robbins.
We picked up baby Hope on Friday morning at the hospital. She was absolutely beautiful. We asked the nurse about feedings, etc and when we asked her about any marijuana withdrawals, she looked at us like we were crazy….the baby had no evidence of marijuana in her system. We loaded her in the van and went over to the DFACS office to sign papers. It was the Friday before Easter and it was like everyone was heading out the door for vacation. Our caseworker passed us off to someone else who helped us sign papers indicating that we understood this was a high risk placement. That worker mentioned that one of Hope’s parents had already signed termination papers.
We brought the baby home and loved every minute with her. She fit right in and our kids warmed up to her quite well. We kept reminding them and ourselves that she could go back to her family any day. We spent a whole week with her without any calls from DFACS and then on Friday we checked our answering machine. (We kept it up in the guest room for emergencies.). We never used that thing and DFACS had always called our cell phone. Well, that day we had a message from Hope’s caseworker arranging a family visit for Monday. We called her to ask why we had to do a visit if one of the parents had already signed termination rights and then we found out neither parent had signed them. Not only that, but the family had called every day that week wanting to know when they could see their baby. This was a shock to our system since we thought the parents were looking to terminate their rights.
We took Hope for her family visit on Monday. We got a little more background that day about the family from the director. We found out that the mother was developmentally delayed and the father used drugs. Because of those two reasons and the fact that they already terminated rights on the older, biological, disabled sister that the case would most likely lead to adoption. We were told other relatives were not an option.
We took Hope home with the understanding that we could attend her first hearing before the judge on Wednesday. My husband had to go out of town for work, but I decided that I wanted to go to court to hear every detail of Hope’s case plan. The hearing was a shock and surprise to everyone. The biological grandmother was given custody of the baby even though she had criminal charges against her because the charges had been dropped. On top of that, the birth parents lived with her. The short story is the baby went home with them from the courthouse. It was such a dark day for our family. I had never experience the grief and anger I experience during that time.
We had such amazing experiences following that dark day. Friends and family rallied around us with support and prayer. Coworkers and friends opened up to us about their connections to adoption. We both were challenged in our beliefs about the sovereignty of God and the Gospel was shared. After waiting a month or two to see if Hope would come back, we decided to put DFACS on hold for awhile and pursue adoption only with the private agency in FL. Grieving over the loss of that baby meant we wanted our next adoption experience to be a sure thing.
We really felt a sense of urgency to adopt soon because our oldest child, “A”, was eight and we did not want there to be a large age gap between our biological children and our adopted children – especially if the next one was a baby. We wanted our adopted children to feel like a part of our whole family, not a late addition. So, we worked really hard with our agency to get all our paperwork and our training done quickly. In late August 2012, we found out that our DFACS home study was too old for the state of Florida and we had to do an entire new one which meant more money and more time.
We had a few calls from our agency during the time we worked on our new home study. These were calls of possible placements, but the birth families backed out or chose another agency before we got very far in the process.
Our story doesn’t end there…please check back tomorrow for part 2!