Adoption: The Faces.

MEET ELIZABETH and ABRAHAM

Photo credit: Chris and Amy Messenger
Photo credit: Chris and Amy Messenger

After having two biological daughters, we decided to grow our family through adoption for any subsequent children. I had known since I was a little girl that I wanted to adopt, and my husband knew when he married me that adoption would be part of our story, so it wasn’t a big or hard decision for us. We originally planned on adopting internationally, but the current climate of international adoption actually led us to decide to adopt domestically instead. After completing our home study, we went active with several agencies in January of 2012. In May, we were matched with our son’s birth mom, and in June, he was born! We finalized his adoption in March of 2013.

What is the greatest challenge of adoption?

I’m not sure that there are many parts of adoption that aren’t challenging. Interestingly enough, the parts I find the least challenging are the ones we are most often asked about with the assumption that they are the hardest! Loving a child that I didn’t carry or birth, having open contact with our son’s birth mom, and handling comments from strangers are actually some of the easiest parts of the adoption process. The expense, the paperwork, all the hoops you have to jump through, and the waiting were all significantly harder!

What is the greatest joy of adoption?

Our son. He has brought so much joy to our family and those around us that we can’t picture life without him?

In your opinion, what is the most misconceived idea about adoption?

There are so many misconceptions about adoption, particularly open adoption. Some that I’ve heard just lately are that open adoption will be confusing for the child, that open adoption is similar to co-parenting, that our son’s birth mom is a teenager or used drugs, and that we should be worried that she will try to take our son back at some point. None of these things are true!

Do you have any advice for families wanting to adopt?

My best piece of advice when it comes to adoption is to become a researcher. It starts by doing your research about what type of adoption is right for your family as there are many ways to adopt: through foster care, through an agency or facilitator, privately through networking and finding an expectant mom on your own who wants to place her child, or internationally. If you decide to use an agency for domestic or international adoption, it’s then critically important to fully research what agency you want to use; there are some amazing ones out there and there are some truly horrible, unethical ones out there. There’s also a lot of research that goes into what type of situation is right for you. Are you open to special needs? Drug or alcohol exposure? History of mental illness in the birth family? What age of child are you looking for? Exposure to disease such as HIV or Hepatitis? What racial background? While going through the adoption process, I felt like Googling and reading were, at minimum, a part-time job!

Anything else you want moms in Kansas City to know about adoption?

That it’s possible. It will most likely be a challenging experience that will stretch you in ways you didn’t think it would or could, but in the end, it will be infinitely rewarding.

MEET SUSAN

Photo credit: Jami Nato
Photo credit: Jami Nato

I’m a wife to a great husband, mama to two amazing kids, and am blessed to work in the field of adoption. I’ve worked in some aspect of adoption for over a dozen years as a birth parent counselor, adoptive family social worker, and currently as an Adoption Consultant for Christian Adoption Consultants. I help families across the country navigate what can be a very overwhelming process and work as a sort of “adoption coach” to help families adopt. I have a real heart for birth parents who choose life and adoptive families willing to open their hearts and homes. I’m also a Certified Lactation Counselor and counsel adoptive mothers desiring to breastfeed.

What is the greatest joy in getting to work with adoptive families? 

I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of a family’s journey to their child. My days are full of creating profile books for birth families to look over, advising families on fundraising for their adoption, celebrating with parents when their little one arrives, and my Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of sweet faces in their forever families. I see up close how families dream, wait, plan, save, work, and pray to bring their little one home. I cry with them over losses and pray with them for birth mamas and babies. We laugh together at the crazy timing and blessings of adoption. It’s a joy to walk with families along the way to provide guidance, support, and prayers. I have ongoing relationships with birth mamas and adoptive families and have the opportunity to watch their children grow up.

What do you wish more families knew about adoption? 

I wish families knew that there’s a real need.

Babies go into foster care daily because there are no adoptive families available. Although many families might be willing to adopt, they haven’t positioned themselves to be ready and available when there’s a need.

I wish families knew that adoption is “doable.”

In the US, one in two couples talk about adoption but only 2% actually adopt. Finding the right adoption professionals to be in your corner is invaluable. They can walk you through the process, direct you to quality and ethical agencies and attorneys, and ensure a higher level of security. Someone to help you determine when to take each step and how to complete them is invaluable.

 I wish families knew that adoption can be affordable.

Although adoption is expensive, it’s not impossible to afford. There are grants, low- or no-interest loans, and even tax and employer credits that can allow you to have the resources necessary to fund an adoption.

I wish families knew it’s not like the movies.

There are an incredible amount of myths related to adoption, and I’m convinced most come from Lifetime movie dramas and simply being uninformed of the realities of adoption. Birth parents are, by and large, amazing, self-less, and brave people who have given up much to make an adoption plan. I have yet to hear of one of my families whose birth mother demanded their child back. Adoption brings unique challenges in terms of openness, multi-racial families, and grief and loss issues but also tremendous blessings, joy, and bonds.

What advice do you have for families who are considering adoption? 

Don’t go it alone; adoption requires community. Adoption is a complex process of home studies, profile creation, legal paperwork, and applications. Finding the right professionals to help you is crucial; the right adoption consultant, home study and placing agency, social workers, and attorneys often means the success or failure of an adoption. But on top of having the right adoption professionals, also surround yourself with a team of friends and family who will help with the emotions, finances, and logistics of your adoption. Going down the road with others who share your vision and support you will enable you to confidently walk out your adoption journey.

Can you tell us about the support that birth moms can receive in the adoption process and how a birth mom who sees this post and is considering adoption could get help or services?

Quality birth parent support is critical in the adoption process. Ongoing counseling for the birth mother, father, and others involved in the adoption is crucial to help the expectant mother make the best decision for her and her baby. Good counsel and support is necessary both during the pregnancy and for an extended time after the baby is born to work through the decision making and natural grieving process. Also included in good support are things like ensuring excellent prenatal care, basic needs such as housing, clothing, and food, and having someone to educate and walk with her in choosing an adoptive family and to be available during labor and delivery.

For any expectant mothers thinking about making an adoption plan, don’t stop until you find an agency that provides this kind of holistic approach. Finding a birth parent counselor who encourages you to make decisions in your own timing, offers care and compassion with no strings attached, and cares for you just as much as your baby will be the key to ensuring you make the best choices.

MEET NICOLE and GRACE 

imageTell us a little about yourself and why you are passionate about adoption and foster care.

I am a mom of a nine-year-old little girl named Grace. My husband and I have fostered eight children. I made it through my childhood with an alcoholic, abused mother who abandoned us daily. I became a mom at four … I used to put my baby brother in a backpack and cross a street like Metcalf to get us groceries. I grew up in KCK and moved from a condemned apartment building to other (even worse) places. When I was nine, my mom tried to get sober again so she gave my little brother and I to his father. He molested me, so I then went to live at the Salvation Army’s Children’s Shelter. I learned very early on why it was important to look out for children. After a year, my brother and I were taken by his aunt and uncle; they were our new family. Even as a little girl, I thought that I wanted to do that someday – I wanted to build dreams and lives with love and happiness.

What do you think moms in KC need to know about foster care?

That the children in foster care have been thought tragic situations that could never be imagined; HOWEVER, they are children – so they JUST need to be loved! To be valued, to feel special and to be able to call someone “family.” We ALL can play a part in inspiring a child.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a foster parent or about adoption through foster care?

I think people think the child will harm their biological children or are truly “broken.” However, I disagree. There is a quiet strength possessed by these children that makes them a fighter. I had a friend say all the brokenness is like stained glass – with a little light behind them, they can be radiant! I hope to be the light for a child! I have also heard people comment that we must “foster for the money” which is a riot! Most children come to your home in the clothes they have on – nothing more. It is solely a heart-driven job. No amount of money could be placed on the heartbreak and joys that occur throughout each process.

What is the greatest joy of being a foster parent?

Watching the children become comfortable, get mouthy and laugh with me! You can almost see them shed the hurt, pain, and bad memories – even if only for a little bit. There is an incredible responsibility and moment of humbleness that comes with children and being a parent.

Do you hope to adopt through foster care someday? If so, what excites you most about that opportunity?photo 3

I would love to adopt a sibling set of two or three! That is our dream … we even bought a house with the expectation that it would be filled with laughter, yelling, dogs, cats and chaos! Happy chaos, that is.

Is there anything else you want to share with moms in KC about adoption or foster care?

I’m blessed! Someone believed in me, prayed for me, and it is my duty to pay it forward! In the movie “The Blind Side,” the quote was “you are changing his life”; the mother’s response was “no – he is changing mine.” That is how my husband and I feel!

(Note: Nicole would love to talk more with anyone at all interested in her story, or in the adoption or foster care process itself; please reach out to us via our “Contact Us” page and we can put you in contact with her.)

HAPPY NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY! THANK YOU TO ALL THE FAMILIES WHO HAVE SUPPORTED ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE IN OUR COUNTRY!

"Jenn is a Special Education teacher turned health enthusiast. Most days she can be found chasing her three kids (4,2, and 8 months) around some park in Kansas City wearing workout clothes and sweaty hair. Jenn is an ACE Certified group fitness instructor and loves teaching group fitness classes around KC. She is also a NETA certified Wellness Coach. You can visit Jenn's wellness coaching website at http://www.jennmarasco.com .Jenn is crazy in love with her husband of seven years, Matthew. Their idea of a great date includes playing or attending some type of sporting event followed by a delicious meal from a local KC restaurant. Jenn and Matt lived in the Midtown neighborhood of KC for four years and recently moved to Overland Park."