So… You Want to Adopt?

Since we have been in Eastern Europe I have had lots of people confiding to me about their desire to adopt one day.  Old friends I thought I’d never hear from, completely strange people, acquaintances, close friends whose thoughts I’ve known for a while have started up the conversation again.

What really struck me is one person in particular who felt that we had something in common because she and her husband had discussed adoption previously.  Not to sound dismissive, but I think this dear woman has something in common with far more people than she knows!

I have heard the statistic several times, about one third of Americans think about or consider adoption at some point in their lives.  That is a whole lot of people!  Yet, only 1-2% of those actually go on to successfully adopt.  The reality is, if you have thought about adopting, chances are… you’re not going to.  If that is discouraging to you, keep reading; I promise it gets better.

But I do think it’s important for us to all to come to terms with this reality.  Why do so few families end up adopting if it is so widely discussed and considered?  There are potentially multiple correct answers to this, but I think it generally comes down to two factors:

  1. Adoption is hard.
  2. Most people don’t really want to adopt.

The first one is pretty self-explanatory, the process is long and arduous, sometimes expensive, and there are multiple levels you must be approved on in order to continue.  The second factor is desire.  There are plenty of people who talk, discuss and consider adoption who don’t really want to adopt, per se.  I think there are also a lot of people who honestly believe that they want to adopt, but what they really want is some other (equally good and worthy) end, and adoption happens to be one avenue with which they can accomplish that end.

I don’t want to insult or minimize the gift that these families are to children in need.  God uses many of our desires and dreams for good and honorable works, sometimes that we never even realize.  There is no shame in adopting because you want to grow your family or adopting because you wanted to help a relative going through a difficult time or adopting because you saw a sweet little girl on a photo list and just knew she was yours or adopting because you have a heart for a certain special need and would love a child like that in your family to love.

Those are all perfectly acceptable and laudable reasons to adopt in their own right!  But if I may be so bold, desiring to adopt for these reasons, is not exactly what I’m talking about when I use the phrase “I want to adopt”.  What does it mean to want to adopt, to have adoption as the desire of your heart?  For me it means just that.  Wanting nothing more and nothing less than to bring a child into your home and family who has none.  No caveats, no exterior reasons, no specific requirements… just the plain desire to turn an orphan into a beloved son or daughter.

If this doesn’t describe you, don’t sweat it!  I am sure that there are plenty of lovely, God-fearing people who don’t just have the burning desire to adopt for no other reason than they really, really want to.  And that’s ok.  Really.  On the other hand, it is a good and godly desire to have, and there is no harm in praying for our Lord to instill such a thing in you, for adoption is very much the heart of God.  After all, it’s only because He adopted us into His family that we can be a part of His Kingdom all!

On the other hand, if this is you, if you truly do want to adopt… how do you get there?  Where do you start and when?  This will look different for every person and family, but I caution you on waiting.  Waiting for the “right time” to adopt is very often what prevents us from ever taking that leap of faith in the first place.  When is there ever a right time to put your life totally on hold?  When is there ever a right time to let chaos in to your perfectly molded and carefully crafted home?  When is there ever a right time to spend oodles and oodles of extra money?  For most of us, there’s never a really good time to do any of that!

I think the mistake many people make is to push the desire for adoption off to the side until a better time.  Don’t do that!  If you truly, truly want to adopt – start now.  I don’t mean hand over $5000 to a social worker near you and attempt to fit all your square pegs in circle holes right this second.  But do start.  Start preparing yourself emotionally and becoming informed.  Below I’ve listed a few ways that you can “start the process” right now, so that when God does open those doors for you, you will be aware of them and ready to walk on through!

1. Pray for your adoptive children.  This may seem a little strange at first.  You don’t even know what the future will bring or if your children even exist yet… pray for them?  And it’s true, I’ll admit it was hard for me to do this with no information at all, and I really wish I had done it more often!  But there have been many times over the last ten years I have just been overwhelmed with the urge to pray for my unknown little ones.

Now that we know who our children are, I am so glad for those times I did pray.  Praying for your child will keep your heart soft to God’s calling and it is one practical gift you can give your child before even meeting them.  And don’t think that your adoption is too far off to begin praying!  God put the desire to adopt in my heart when I was fifteen years old, that very month, halfway across the world, Hope’s birth mother was newly pregnant with her.  It’s never too early to start praying.

2. Don’t put adoption in a box.  I have heard so many adoptive parents talk about the “boxes” they used to put adoption in, or what they thought their adoptions would look like, until their plans were totally shattered or veered “off course” to something they never would have expected or sought out initially.

I’ve had other people who hope to adopt claim they can’t adopt right now because it’s too expensive, or they don’t own their own house, or they have young children, etc.  (All things that apply to our family by the way!)  And yet… here we are.  There are so many, many kinds of adoption!  Free adoption, domestic, international, special needs, healthy, foster care, etc… you just never know to what or to who God might call you.  Keep an open mind!  Do your research on all the options for adopting and know that you will be much more likely to adopt if you are open to whichever doors God opens along the way.

3. Figure out what you qualify for.  The next thing I would counsel any hopeful adoptive parent to do is to (after researching the kinds of adoptions) look to see what kind of adoption you qualify for.  If you don’t qualify for a specific type of adoption, why not?  Will you qualify in the future?  Keep those things in mind.  If there is a process you qualify for, talk to social workers, agency representatives, organizations, etc. and figure out what your next step would be.  Even if you can’t take that next step right now, at least you know what direction to go in!  And you can start praying for things to change to make it possible.  If you can take that step?  Go for it.  God is opening a door.

4. Learn from other adoptive parents.  Reaching out to those who are farther down the path than you is a goldmine of wisdom and information.  Most adoptive parents are super busy but still so willing to help those desiring to walk the same path.  We are stronger together and you will be stronger gleaning experiences from other adoptive families.  You will be more prepared for what you are facing and it will make taking that leap of faith So. Much. Easier. when the time comes.

A book I highly recommend is Adopted for Life, written by an adoptive father. Adoptive Families is a great resource for short stories and wisdom about different types of adoption.  And don’t forget the blogosphere!  There are plenty of wonderful blogs written by adoptive mamas.  Here are a few of my favorites in no particular order…

The Blessing of Verity
No Greater Joy Mom
One Thing I Know For Sure
Building the Blocks
Boss Your Heart

5. Start saving… yesterday.  Man I had so much spending money in high school!  I never really spent it though, I was always “saving” it for something.  When I got to college it all quickly got eaten up, but I always had this feeling that I should be saving for something important… I just didn’t know what.

Oh if I could go back in time and tell my fifteen year old self how expensive her adoptions would be!!  I would have set aside a special bank account and spent the next ten years putting money into it!  Wouldn’t that have been lovely?  Yes… it would have.  We did save for a few years before starting the process, but I could have done so much more if I had started as soon as I realized the desire I had to adopt.  Just start now. :)  You will be glad you did.

6. Look for your child.  I don’t know how people will feel about this suggestion, and perhaps it’s not for everyone… but photo lists are a blessing.  They put a real face to the orphan crisis.  They make you realize, this isn’t about statistics… it’s about real children in real need of real help.

I gushed over cute pictures, lamented over difficult pictures, prayed over many and for a few… hoped that God might make them mine.  (Those few I refer to as my heart babies).  Yes it was emotionally draining and I could have done less of it.  There are times I stepped away because I couldn’t handle it while taking care of my young family.

But eventually those lists did help to guide us to our children.  We considered blind referrals and were totally open to that, but if you do have a child out there somewhere… don’t you want to start looking?  You never know who might be trying to find your child a family.  And even if you never find your children this way, it keeps your heart soft to the need.  There are domestic photolists and international photolists.  Look at both!

7. Allow God to use this time for His purposes.  The time waiting to start our adoption process was sometimes excruciating.  Waiting is hard.  Knowing your children are probably alone, hurt, hungry or cold without you is impossibly difficult.  Going through that time it was so hard to see the silver lining in the years without these children who I longed to love.  But looking back, God used that time to do so much good.

Because I couldn’t adopt yet, I spent most of my extra time fundraising, advocating and walking alongside orphans and their adoptive families.  I made great friends, priceless connections, and more importantly, I helped other children find their homes.  God allowed me to be his tool in raising thousands and thousands of dollars for dozens of orphans and families.  He gave me the great honor to share the orphan crisis and the beauty of adoption with so many people.

A Hug for MamaIf I had been blessed to adopt right away I may never have had the time or the inclination to do such extensive work on behalf of these other little ones in need.  But now I have friends and a support network that will be invaluable.  And I have the knowledge of these children and their plight.  I know enough to pray, especially for my heart babies who still haven’t made it home.  And I also have some wisdom to share with others on how they can help.  God’s timing might be hard, but it is perfect.  Believe and trust that He knows what He is doing, and look for ways to bless others while you and your little ones wait for that day you can be together forever.

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