I am both the daughter of an adoptee and the parent of adopted children, making my journey with adoption long and complicated. Although I am now an advocate for adoption, I haven’t always felt that way. There was a significant part of my infertility journey where I would have chosen to remain childless rather than consider adoption. To say I’ve come a long way is an understatement! This story is spelled out in my book (link) and in a number of my blog posts (link) if you want to know more about my perspective.
Adoption is not without its heartaches and is not an easy journey for either the parent or the adoptee. Going into the experience with eyes wide open makes such a difference in the process. However, I can tell you personally that parenting any child is full of its challenges, whether or not that child comes from your womb or your heart. Being willing to admit you are not enough while pointing your little ones to Jesus is the biggest key I have found to parenting all of my miracles.
This page is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to adoption, foster care, or advocacy. I only hope to pass on some broad knowledge I have gained and offer helpful “starting points” for those interested in learning more about any of these topics.
If you find your heart being focused on adoption, then welcome to an amazing journey! I truly believe adoption is redemption in action. There are many options and directions ahead of you if you are considering adding a child to your family through adoption. The three main avenues to pursue are private domestic adoptions, the adoption of waiting children through your state of residence, and international adoptions. There are pros and cons to each pathway, but each offers amazing rewards. Choosing your path seems complicated and overwhelming in the beginning, but seems to become clear with education and knowledge.
An important note: foster care can be a pathway for adoption, but adoption is not the purpose of foster care! Foster care is about helping others reunify their family. To learn more about foster care specifically, click here.
There is nothing quick or easy about adoption. It is a long process that is just as difficult and heartbreaking as infertility (link to my infertility page) treatment. While it certainly can be done, I don’t recommend walking through treatment and adoption concurrently. I think it’s best to close one door and resolve your feelings about building a biological family before starting the adoption process.
There is no shortage of complicated issues to work through when it comes to adoption. Once you determine the type of adoption you want to pursue, you will need to consider issues such as the age of the child, sibling sets, race, closed adoptions, open adoptions, children with disabilities, or any combination of these factors. These topics will all come up during the home study process, but it’s good to begin talking, praying, and thinking about these decisions now.
Research, research, and more research is the best thing you can do as you begin this journey. I encourage you to begin reading -whatever you can get your hands on – to see which direction is the best fit for your family. Thankfully, the internet has no shortage of resources for adoptive parents. Find some adoption discussion groups and jump right in – adoptive parents are always willing to share their stories and help someone beginning the journey. Finding a support network is a huge key! I’ve also included a list of my favorite books and publications in the resource of this page.
PRIVATE DOMESTIC ADOPTIONS – If you want to adopt a newborn, the only real option is through domestic private adoptions. Domestic adoptions can either be handled through agencies or attorneys. These are typically expensive and difficult for families who already have a child, but certainly not impossible. I would go with larger agencies or attorneys; my personal experience with a smaller agency was disastrous. I recommend you research at least 5 adoption agencies or attorneys and find out:
– How many babies have they placed in the past year?
– How long do typical adoptions take/ what is their waiting list?
– How much do they charge/ their anticipated total cost for adoptions?
– Gather referrals from each agency/ attorney
– Check them out online and with the Better Business Bureau
– Check them out with your state’s Department of Children and Families
DOMESTIC WAITING CHILDREN – If you are interested in adopting waiting children from the U.S. system, the best place to begin is the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for your local state. According to Adopt US Kids, there are over 120,000 children available for immediate adoption, including older children and sibling groups.
I don’t want to reduce the compassionate and redemptive act of adoption down solely to economics, but the truth is adoption can be very expensive. Adopting waiting children whose parental rights have been terminated (referred to as TPR) offers financial support and solutions not available with the other adoption options. This is a great direction for those who cannot afford private or foreign adoptions and those not interested in waiting years for infants. I also highly recommend research through the Dave Thomas Foundation, a leading advocate for foster care and adoption, as well as the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in your state to view galleries of waiting children and to learn more about your options.
INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS are also long and complicated, with the number of children adopted declining each year. This type of adoption is in a free-fall decline today with only 2971 foreign-born children brought home in 2019, the lowest level in three decades according to the Department of State’s (DOS) adoption statistics.
Fewer and fewer agencies are engaging in international adoptions each year, as can be seen by the decline in completed adoptions. This is due to several complicated reasons, but primarily because more governments and NGOs are supporting the development of in-country solutions that will serve more children than international adoption could ever support.
We pursued this path for a number of reasons I won’t get into here, but it was clearly the right destiny journey for our family. If I were to begin an inter-country adoption today, I would follow roughly the same process as listed above to find an agency. Money is a huge issue; international adoptions are expensive and can easily spiral out of control. Our two adoptions cost in excess of $70,000 which was much more than we ever expected when started the process. Do your research and be cautious! There is nothing more painful than falling in love with a child that evades your grasp. Here’s a starting point of items to research as you begin this path:
– Find out which countries are still open for adoption and make sure the country you select has a strong program. For instance, don’t pick an African country where only 2 adoptions are completed a year.
– Thoroughly read, research, and understand the DOS information for your country of choice at http://adoption.state.gov/
– Get connected with an advocacy group and stay informed of current issues related to international adoption.
– Cautiously research international adoption agencies to make sure they are Hague approved and have a credible reputation. One agency I could safely recommend is Lifeline Children Services.
Although my personal story is about infertility and international adoption, my role as an advocate for vulnerable children has led me to become passionate about foster care. There is a tremendous and urgent need for foster parents everywhere. According to Adopt US Kids, there are over 400,000 children in the foster care system in our country and over 120,000 of these children are available for immediate adoption. Ranging in age from infants to 18 years old, these are children who have experienced abuse, abandonment, and neglect. They are children who are suffering, through no fault of their own, and desperately need families to provide love, stability, and support. Simply, foster children need foster parents to give them normalcy and to give them HOPE.
Many people turn to fostering as a pathway to adoption, but this is a largely misunderstood concept. Foster care and adoption are not the same thing; there is officially no such thing as “fostering to adopt.” Foster care is actually a pathway for ministry! Foster parents are agents of reconciliation in a child’s life, as well in the child’s parent’s life. The goal of foster care should always be family reunification! While children are in foster care their families are working to overcome the problems that caused the children to be removed from the home in the first place. The foster parent’s role is to provide stability and support to the children during this difficult season in their lives.
I believe the ideal foster parents are either couples who decide to foster before trying to build their own family or the family whose children have one step out the door. Grandparents in good health also make excellent foster parents. However, as a woman who has endured a 23-year infertility journey, I would not recommend foster care as a pathway for infertile couples. Children who come into foster care are hurting and broken; they need unconditional love and they need professional parents who are wholeheartedly assisting the reunification process. Empty arms can make for a heavy burden, and while that is a legitimate hurt and pain for the parent, it’s not a burden that foster children should have to carry. They need advocates who are fighting for them to be reunited with their birth parents, not broken hearts trying to build their own families. Foster care may lead to adoption, but it should not be the primary reason that foster parents step into the role.
If you feel called to foster care and would like to learn more about this ministry, the best place to begin is with your local DCF office. They should be able to provide you with a list of licensed agents in your area that can help with your training and foster parent licensing. There are often faith-based groups, such as Baptist and Methodist Children’s Homes that can license and support foster families, so be sure to check around before you begin classes held by DCF.
I also recommend connecting with your local foster care community and letting your church know you plan to begin fostering. Fostering is a tough hands-on ministry and foster parents need support through prayer, respite, and resources. There are many wonderful support networks, continuing education, and community resources available to foster parents that can make all the difference to being successful in this hands-on ministry. Make sure you take time to get these pieces figured out before you take that first placement!
Here’s a list of books that I recommend because they highlight the positives and negatives of adoption. Please email (insert link to email) me any titles you feel should be added to list, I’m always looking for more adoption and foster care resources.
- A Passion for the Fatherless, Developing a God-Centered Ministry to Orphans – Daniel J. Bennett
- Adopted for Life, The Priority of Adoption for Christian and Families and Churches – Russell Moore
- All in Orphan Care, Equipping the church to help kids and streamline families – Jason Johnson
- Becoming Home, Adoption, Foster Care and Mentoring – Living Out God’s Heart for Orphans – Jedd Medefind
- Both Ends Burning: My Story of Adopting Three Children from Haiti – Craig Juntunen
- Faith & Foster Care, How We Impact God’s Kingdom – Dr. John DeGarmo
- Fierce Love – Kim Gjerde
- Fostering Families Today Magazine, A Foster Care and Adoption Resource for America, subscribe here: http://www.adoptinfo.net/catalog_g2.html?catId=55347
- Healing Trauma Through Loving Relationships, Hope for Foster and Adoptive Families, Abridged Version – Nancy Fisher
- In Defense of the Fatherless – Sara Brinton & Amanda Bennett
- In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence – Philip Darke and Keith McFarland
- Journey to the Fatherless – Lawrence E. Bergeron
- Loved by Choice: True Stories that Celebrate Adoption – Susan Horner & Kelly Fordyce Martindale
- Ready or Not: 30 Days of Discovery for Foster & Adoptive Parents – Pam Parish
- Small Town, Big Miracle: How Love Came to the Least of These – Bishop W.C. Martin
- The Connected Child – Dr. Karyn Purvis
- The One Factor: How One Changes Everything – Doug Sauder
- The Primal Wound, Understanding the Adopted Child – Nancy Newton Verrier
- The Waiting Child, How Faith and Love of One Orphan Saved the Life of Another – Cindy Champnella
- True Stories that Celebrate Adoption, Loved by Choice – Susan Horner
- Twenty Things Adoptive Kids Wished Their Parents Knew – Sherry Eldridge
- Two Little Girls, A Memoir of Adoption – Theresa Reid
- Until We All Come Home – Kim de Blecourt with Ginger Kolbaba