April 21, 2016

[Disclaimer: I am only speaking in reference to U.S. Domestic adoptions done through the foster care system and not private adoption. I have not done as much research on international or private adoptions so I am not speaking about those processes. If you would care to share about your experience, please do so because I love learning about other peoples journeys. Leave a comment below.]

Adoption has been on my heart since high school and I look forward to the day when Lord-willing we can adopt a sweet child. Throughout the past year though I have seen some crazy flaws in the adoption system/process that makes me not only upset but sad. You may or may not know that the average U.S. adoption takes about 12 months and that is from the time a home study is completed until placement. This time frame does not include how long it takes to finalize the adoption. In 2001 there were around 1.5 million kids in the U.S. waiting to be adopted. 1.5 million!!!!!! What really gets me going is that these are children who do not currently have a stable home environment. There are many great foster families out there (shout out to all my foster moms), but in many cases these are just temporary homes until they are reunited with their birth family or adopted family.

One of the problems is that there is a shortage of case workers and CPS workers to take care of the huge number of children who need help being placed in foster families or adoptive families.  Why doesn't the government increase employment in those areas? These are kids we are talking about. The future of America. 

Another problem that I have seen in the little time I have spent researching and exploring domestic adoption is how long it can take to complete all the paperwork and classes needed to even be considered for placement. For example, Nick and I went to a introductory class  which was 2 hours long and happens only every 6 weeks or so in our area. We learned we needed to complete 27 hours of classes before we could get placed with a child on top of lots of paperwork, a home study, a few immunizations, back ground checks, etc. The classes needed are held over 40 minutes away from our house and both of us would have to attend. Since we have kids this means we would probably have to alternate times we went if we did not have a sitter which could prolong the process. I understand they want to make sure that all of the children are being put in safe, loving, and prepared homes but the amount of time and inconvenience of location makes it almost impossible for a working Dad and full-time stay-at-home mom to complete. Can't imagine how hard it would be for two working parents, or a single mom or dad for that matter. 

On top of that you cannot move to another county (like Orange County) because the counties typically do not speak to each other. This means you would need to start all over with the process if you move. This is a big reason why we have stopped for the time being on our process of adoption. If we decide to move to the OC anytime within the next year we would have to start all over again and would have completed all of those classes for nothing. Another sad thing I picked up on while at the intro class was the type of people who wanted to either foster or adopt. There were about 4 other couples who looked "normal," but most of the people there had many questions about the compensation they would receive, seemed to have completely lost their minds (based on their questions), or knew little to nothing about children. I am only saying this out of observation. I obviously did not know these people, but let's just say I would never let them watch my boys or any of my friend's children.

There are so many great foster families out there who make a difference in many kids lives, but being in that room also reminded me of how many people out there are not looking out for the best interest of the children. Frankly, this scared me a little. With so many obstacles that can get in the way of a domestic adoption through the foster care system, I can see how much easier it could be to have another one of your own (if that is an option), or to go international, or to simply ditch the dream. I often find myself questioning when we can commit to the process and dreaming of the day we can call another sweet child our own. My prayer is that the government and voters will find a way to help speed the process up for domestic adoptions. That we would see the need for these children to be in loving homes so they can grow and thrive. That we would use all resources necessary to make sure that the child's best interest is always first and that money would not be an issue. 

Sorry for this long rant. I know there are many routes and journeys to embark on when deciding to adopt, but it is hard to not get discouraged. I am thankful for the many friends I know who have persevered despite the many trials they faced and are now united with their beautiful kids. Since I was able to get pregnant pretty quickly with both boys and did not have complications it is hard to wait and to be okay with the unknown. I hope that my fears (whether they are legitimate or illegitimate) about the system breaking my heart or failing our family does not get in the way of us starting and completing our journey. If you have ever adopted or are in the process of adopting I would love to hear more about your story. I have interviewed a couple of moms who have already gone through this and am learning something new each time. 

I have been adopted in Christ in spite of my sinfulness. I am a co-heir with Christ, having done nothing to earn or deserve His unconditional love. It is the love that Christ has bestowed onto his adopted children that encourages me to want to adopt a child. It excites me to have the opportunity to love someone unconditionally and to raise them in the fear and knowledge of the Lord. To share the Gospel with someone who may have otherwise never had the opportunity to hear it. 

1 John 3:1-2 "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is."

Ephesians 1:5 " He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will"

Psalm 127 "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord" 

just like that.

Guest Post by: Joanna Hodges

When did you know you wanted to be a mom? I remember a sleepover in junior high with some of my friends. Everyone was going around the circle, telling what they hoped their husbands would be like and how many kids they wanted to have. When it was my turn, I looked at everyone and said, "But how do you know you're going to get married, and how do you know you will have kids?" Everyone stared at me for a few minutes as if I had two heads. Then one of the girls laughed and said, "Why would you ask that? Of course we'll do those things!" The other girls giggled and conversation turned to new topics, but the question in my mind still remained.

When I thought of my future, I didn't necessarily see myself as a wife, or even a mom. I don't know why, but I always thought even as a young girl that my life wouldn't take the traditional route. Fast forward a few more years, and I continued to wonder what God had in store as the doctor visits began to point to the fact that bearing children might not be in His plan. Then I met and married my amazing husband who has wanted to be a father from the age of 9, and he said he still wanted to spend the rest of his life with me even if I was infertile. What a guy. We put the whole idea on hold so we could finish seminary, but began to revisit the issues once we moved to a settled place and Ross became a pastor.

That was the beginning of poking, prodding, doctor visits, a lot of tears, and a lot of prayers. Although we considered fertility treatments, we never felt at peace about the decision. We prayed and prayed for God to give us direction, and then the idea of adoption continued to pop up on our radar. All along, I was very honest with Ross that I still didn't see myself as a mom, and that the desire for me wasn't strong even though the infertility diagnosis was tough. I was honest before the Lord about all of this. We prayed together that if God did want us to move forward with fertility treatments or adoption, he would change my heart.

And then I attended a baby shower for a fellow church member. Boom. Seeing all those tiny little outfits and blankets tapped into an area of my heart that had previously been closed up. In fact, I lost it. Thankfully in God's providence, I was sitting next to a dear woman who was going through her own grieving process. She saw me crying, and I whispered my pain in her ear. She held my hand throughout the rest of that shower. I don't think I could have made it through without her. I remember bursting through the door of our apartment afterwards, and crying, "Ross, I just completely lost it, and I'm so sad! But I'm so thankful because I want to be a mom!"

And so began our research. We met with a dear couple at our church who had adopted their three children, and hearing them talk about it got us so excited. For the first time, this felt right. When my husband and I finally made the formal decision to start the adoption process, I had been leading our women's group at church through the book of Ephesians. In the very first section of his letter, Paul breaks out in a doxology of praise to the Heavenly Father who chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be His. Paul says that in love, God "predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (1:5)." Adoption is part of who we are as Christians. We knew that as our mentors explained to us, our children would have the benefit of being adopted twice! Our prayer regarding adoption was to our Father, "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (3:15)".

Over the course of the next seven months, we went through seven situations with potential birth mothers that didn't work out for various reasons. The long wait for our child was probably the hardest and the best thing that could have ever happened to us as we relied on prayer and calling to mind God's promises to us through it all. Finally, the call from our lawyer came that we were chosen, and in fact we could pick up our son the next day! Words cannot describe the feeling of euphoria. It was time, God's appointed time, for our son to come into our lives.

You may wonder what it's like to adopt because it seems so very different from the way God brought your children into your life. Although I didn't go through nine months of pregnancy, I went through many aching months of waiting for our child. I went through my own kind of labor: paperwork, policies, plenty of sleepless nights, promoting ourselves through a photo book, pushing forward to the arrival of our son. Just like you, I waited and waited until that amazing moment when I held him in my arms for the first time and all the previous pain faded away. And just like that, I was Mom. What an unexpected and indescribable joy.