Advice on Adoption from a 5 time Adoptive Mom
The complex makeup of our family
Our family is a large, complicated, much loved, and diverse one. We have a total of 8 children – 5 are adopted and 3 are biological. Each one of these childeren were meant to be in our family. God has gifted our family with all its highs and lows. His fingerprints were over each and everyone of their stories. It has been 22 years since we adopted our first child and 11 since our last.
How we became a family:
Caleb is our oldest and born with the help of months of infertility treatments. (Please ignore the HORRIBLE quality of the pictures….BAD cameras back then! :))
Grace is our first adopted child. She was born in a nearby town and we adopted her when she was 13 days old.
Abby was also born with the help of infertility treatments – although not as many as with Caleb. We got pregnant with the first round of treatments and that’s why there are only 18 months between Grace & Abby! We thought it’d take alot longer 🙂 God’s timing is always best eh?! 🙂
Seth was born in Russia and we adopted him at the age of 4 along with his brother, Luke.
Luke was also born in Russia and adopted at the age of 3….we brought both boys home at the same time.
Andrew was born in Russia and adopted at the age of 4. He is not related to Seth and Luke biologically.
Lydia was born in Guatemala – God thought we had enough of the Siberian weather and sent us to somewhere WARM this time! She was 2 ½ when we brought her home.
Ben….well, Ben was our WONDERFUL surprise child. Born without any infertility help and a total gift – as all of them are!
8 Tips for those thinking about adopting
WIth our experience of adopting all these kids, we were trying to think of the top tips for those who may be contemplating adopting. These are only our opinions based on our experience. There are several more pieces of advice, but these are our top 8.
Tip #1: Choose your adoption agency wisely
It is so important to choose the agency who will help you adopt a child with careful consideration. Many agencies will help you adopt your child, but after bringing that child home the agency disappears and does not offer any help. It is imperative to find an agency that provides pre-adoption counseling, but just as important provides post-adoption counseling. Counseling is needed not only for your child throughout their life, but it’s also beneficial for you as parents to be able to talk with specialists in the adoption field to help you navigate life with your adoptive child.
When choosing an agency, specifically ask what type of services they provide post adoption. Locally, we worked with an agency called Bethany Christian Services. They have been MONUMENTAL in helping us raise all of our children. They are a nationwide agency with several offices throughout the United States. We could not suggest this organization more highly.
Tip #2: Have a good support system in place
Getting your family and friends excited about your adoption. It not only supports you, but also will help when you experience difficult times. Some families help out financially and most will help out emotionally. Adopting a child not only affects your immediate family, but also your extended one as well. Getting them involved from the beginning is a HUGE support.
Tip #3: Be open for an open adoption
We have experienced both open and closed adoptions with our children. With Grace, her biological mom wanted (as did we) a relationship with us as Grace grew up. The type of openness is completely dependant on your comfortability with the situation. Grace’s birthmom was 15 years old when Grace was born. Initially, she wanted very frequent visits (once a month) and to be completely honest – that made us slightly nervous about our ability to comply with that request. Life gets busy and Grace also experienced severe medical issues when she was born so monthly visits weren’t practical.
Having a relationship with their birth family can be very beneficial for everyone involved.
If I remember correctly we tried for visits every 3 months or so. Grace is now 22 years old and I can confidently say that I am so glad she has a relationship with her birthmom. I think it’s important for Grace to have that relationship so her questions can be answered, health history can be obtained, and Grace’s sense of identity can be more intact. Unfortunately, with our boys and Lydia, they were born in different countries and we were unable to have a relationship with their biological family. I believe that makes certain things in their lives more difficult to process for sure.
With any type of adoption it’s crucial to be supportive of your adopted child and their needs both emotionally and psychologically. It’s the same with bio kids, but adopted children have an added layer of identity they need to process.
Tip #4: Talk with your adopted child about how they would like to acknowledge their adoption
I wish we would have done this one differently. When an adopted child is old enough, perhaps middle school years, it may be wise to have a discussion about how and what they would like to have people know about their adoption. Some kids may prefer to not have it acknowledged whatsoever. They don’t want to be different than anyone else. Other kids may want people to know they’re adopted. The only way to know is to have that conversation with them – perhaps multiple times throughout their development as their wishes may change as they mature.
For example, people would always comment on how pretty Grace is to which we would frequently reply “Yes, she is! We can say that because we can’t take any credit for it because she’s adopted”. I wish we would have asked her if that made her feel uncomfortable. Maybe she would have rather no one know about her adoption. Having these discussions would enlighten you on your child’s wishes.
Tip #5: Don’t let finances deter you from adopting
One of our biggest pet peeves people assume is that “well, your husband is a doctor – of COURSE you could afford to adopt all these kids!”. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most of our adopted children were adopted early on in our marriage when Greg was either in residency or early in his practice years (while we were paying med school loans!!) Both of which we had absolutely no discretionary income! We had NO clue how we were going to pay for each of the adoptions. The one thing we DID know for certain was that God was calling us to adopt each of them!
If God calls you to it, He’s going to call you through it!
A wise man told me at one point when we were contemplating adopting and not having a clue as to where we were going to get the money from, his advice was “Jolynn, if you know that God is calling you to adopt – you really have no other choice except to obey. Let HOW He brings you the money be a part of your story” wow was he ever right!! I cannot tell you how many times we experienced a miracle at just the right time. Again and again it happened when unknown amounts of money would make its way to our hands. It was the affirmation that we needed then and still today.
Tip #6: If you have other children at the time you adopt, expect a disruption/transitional time.
Each time we adopted, the children at home had to adapt to their new sibling(s). The most striking example of this were the boys. All three of the boys were housed in an orphanage and demonstrated orphanage behavior (hoarding, eating everything in front of them for fear of not having enough food, stealing, lying, etc.) when we brought them home. It took several months and sometimes years to tap down on these behaviors. When we brought Andrew home, Seth and Luke reverted right back to the hoarding and stealing – we were back to square one. It was actually quite fascinating looking back at how that occurred. At the time though – fascinating would NOT have been my word of choice!! 🙂
Tip #7: Find other adoptive families for support
This is a huge one. There are so many times where you feel like a failure – not only as an adoptive parent – but as a parent period. Having the support of other families who may be experiencing some of the same situations or behaviors you’re experiencing is hugely beneficial! There may be several support groups available in your community if you look for them.
Tip #8: Be an advocate for your child at school
Several of our children required special attention at school – especially since we adopted several of them at school age. Many of them needed occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical therapy that we needed to advocate for them. School related issues can be mammoth in adoptive families. Dealing with their school’s teachers and administrators will be needed to help your child be be successful in school.
I hope these have been helpful to you if you are contemplating adoption. Have you experienced adoption in your family directly or indirectly? Any other pieces of advice that you would like to share? Comment below and let’s have a conversation!