It is not rare for messages to pile high with questions regarding our adoption journey, how we paid the legal fees, what route we chose and why, AND ALL THE THINGS.
Adoption is a big and complex piece of our big and complex world. It is not cut and dry, it is not black and white, and truth be told: it is a mess.
Adoption is born out of loss and tragedy and this is something I refuse to shy away from. But I also believe adoption can be extremely beautiful, pain and all. I believe beauty can absolutely be born out of ashes, but that doesn't mean the ashes magically disappear (from This Undeserved Life).
During the month of October, I opened up my inbox and social media messages even further for questions regarding our adoption journey. They poured in! Yay! People want to know and understand and learn more about adoption.
I truly believe if we chip away at the stigmas and tear down the myths, maybe more people who could be adopting and fostering will step into it. I don't believe everyone should adopt or foster, but I do believe we all play a role in it somehow.
There are far too many unethical adoptions and it grieves me to know this happens on a regular basis. It makes me sick. I hope to always, always continue learning how to participate and spread awareness about how to pursue ethical adoptions. I want to always have the confidence to let my children know I did my very best with what I had and what I knew and I pursued ethics in bringing them home.
If I haven't experienced or talked with someone directly pertaining to the question (whether that be a birth mother, an adoptee, or an adoptive or foster parent), I always do my best to reach out and interview and share resources.
I am incredibly aware that I am only two and a half years into our adoption journey, and therefore, I still have an immense amount to learn. But I do my best to take the stance of a student when talking to and learning from adoptees and birth family members, humbly hearing the perspectives I want to honor with my whole life.
I am a huge fan of Jesus. He is the driving force behind everything I do, the way I view the world, and the confidence in which I live. He is my confidence. I believe Jesus asks us to humbly sit at the feet of other people in the adoption triad, especially those who have been hurt, and hear their heart. I believe He invites us to put down our defenses, and simply listen to learn, not defend and explain away. I believe He asks us to hear these stories to see how we can love our children and their birth families (and all of the adoption community) better.
All that said, here are the most frequently asked questions and the answers I will give, based on our journey thus far:
What adoption agency did you use? Did you use a a facilitator or consultant?
After quite a bit of research, we decided to hire Susan from Christian Adoption Consultants. There were reasons we chose CAC over FAC.
Our state does not allow for facilitators, so to be quite frank, I am not even entirely sure what that is or if it's ethical. I have simply not done research on it.
Through CAC you are able to apply and work with multiple agencies and even an attorney or two throughout the United States (if you do their domestic infant adoption program). We felt at the that was beneficial, because we wanted as much exposure to moms making adoption plans.
Is the primal wound real? When babies are separated from mothers at birth, will this wound last forever? How do you comfort a baby through such a traumatizing period of time, is it hard, and does it leave lasting marks?
I believe this is a "controversial" thing right now, though I don't really understand why. The reality that my son was removed from his biological mother and roots does not take away from my identity or worth as a human or mother...so denying that reality helps no one.
From the adoptees I have spoken with, listened to, and read from...yes, this wound or scar or void is absolutely there while they walk the earth. How could it not be? This reality is a reality I refuse to diminish or ignore. That doesn't mean my son will walk around all day every day wishing me away and operating out of woundedness. It means there are ebbs and flows to his journey and sometimes that requires processing through the hard questions, wondering why, and navigating what it means to have been adopted.
For us, it was incredibly important to do skin to skin, so he could smell us, hear our heart beat, know our voice. There is scientific evidence that skin to skin contact actually helps further the healing process.
The reality is, there is often some prenatal trauma (whether that is disconnect between mama and baby, high and constant stress, physical abuse, substance abuse, etc) and this contributes greatly to their development as well. Again, skin to skin, soothing voices, calm surroundings, and simply being your child's cocoon will help. This is hard to push through, but certainly not impossible and entirely worth it.
How do you bond with an adopted infant? Is bonding and attaching different than with biological kids?
Our experience is different than many, but we "bonded" to our son pretty much instantly. Attachment is something that is constantly being worked on (or torn at) and is a never-ending process.
It was incredibly important to us to do as much skin to skin with our son as possible. We each took turns wearing him in the moby wrap, skin on skin, for 24/7 as we waited out ICPC for about a week.
It is incredibly important to be intentional about this, because your baby is just now meeting you! It is good for both of you, but especially for a baby who was living in his birth mamas womb for 9 months and possibly with her the first few hours or days.
I only have my experience to share about, but I will honestly share that it took me more intentionality to bond with our biological son. I love him to pieces and will do anything for him. I often hear and have read that some biological children are hard to bond and attach to, others are easy, and it is the same through adoption. Every parent-child relationship is different, regardless of how they joined our family.
What is the financial risk of infant adoption, if parents decide to parent? "Failed adoption."
This varies for so many reasons. Every single attorney and agency works differently. But yes, there is absolutely financial risk to international or domestic infant adoption.
I've also stopped using the term "failed adoption" and started thinking of it instead as "the mother chose to parent." This isn't a failure. Yes, you may have lost an adoption plan, and that is absolutely worthy to be grieved. I have heard it is a similar grief to miscarriage.
But a parent choosing to parent is also worthy to celebrate.
I wrote an ebook, free here, Financing Adoption With Fundraising. I included many fundraisers with exact amounts raised, by me and other adoptive parents. Fundraising is often essential when it comes to these adoptions, especially after a disrupted match pr placement.
How long were you active with your adoption agency before you were matched and then placed?
We were homestudy approved the last week of September, 2015.
Our son was born January 6, 2016.
His birth mom chose us to be his parents January 7, 2016.
We flew to meet and hold our son, have him placed in our arms, January 8, 2016.
Less than four months.
Your son is biracial: what is your hair care + routine?
This is something I always want to be very careful when talking about online. First: I am very knew to hair care for curly hair. My son doesn't have a ton of texture in his hair but if I'm not careful, it dreads quickly.
I have learned everything from other black moms or mamas parenting black children.
For Sage, we only wash his hair with actual shampoo 1-2 times a week. We currently are using the coconut and hibiscus curl and shine by Shea Moisture. I used the Shea Moisture for baby with lavender when we brought him home, Mixed Chicks leave in conditioner, and many of my black mom friends choose Cantu products.
I comb through his hair about 3 times a week during bath time, using coconut oil or his conditioner and a wide toothed comb.
Every single bath time, we end with a bit of conditioner, run through my fingers, and leave it in. I also always get his hair wet in the morning or before we go out, and sometimes spray it with a bottle mixed with conditioner and water. I do my best to keep it looking great.
What are your thoughts about transracial adoption?
As a white mom raising a biracial/black son, I want to stay in my line with what is appropriate to share online. So I will say this: I am a student, I am a learner, I am listening to friends of color, pastors of color, podcasts by people of color, and reading books like The New Jim Crow and Inside Their Voices. I watch documentaries like "13th" and "I Am Not Your Negro."
We work hard to be extremely aware of what and who our son is around, the people he sees in his life, and the church culture he is growing up in. Representation is HUGE, all the way from the first books he reads to the doctors or dentist he sees, to his pastor or youth pastor, friends, and parent's friends. We are already working hard at growing our community and diversifying it, being very intentional about friendships and church.
I absolutely do not think you should check boxes on adoption application forms for other races if you are not ready to silence your thoughts/assumptions/views, sit on your hands, and integrate that culture into your life without appropriation. If you believe love is enough and we should be a culture of colorblindness, please do not adopt transracially.
Our children cannot be our first black/latino/asian/other-race friend.
Here's an article I did with Angela Tucker regarding transracial adoption (she is a black adult adoptee, adopted transracially).
Foster care — what are your thoughts?
This is a giant question, with complex realities, and a whole bag of emotions and thoughts. But, all that said, we will be pursuing to parent children through the foster care system. Oregon (I'm sure the entire US?) is in crisis and there are hundreds of children sleeping in hotel rooms with case workers due to the shortage of families as resources.
However, I most definitely do not think every one should be a foster parent. I do think way more people can be than are. But it is certainly not for everyone. I think if you are thinking about pursuing it, you need a really good community support who understands what you're walking through. You need a village who you can call when you're falling apart and people who understand why you say yes to this very hard road.
I also think as we prepare to be foster parents or adopt waiting children who have been in the system, we need to educate ourselves on trauma and the effects it has on the brain. I believe God is a big, miraculous God. But our big God created science and trauma is absolutely a science we must study and learn. Parenting children with trauma is extremely different than parenting children without it.
How do you talk to your toddler about their adoption story in non-confusing ways?
I don't have clear cut answers and am by no means an expert.
But in our home, I have framed photos of our son and his birth mother from the hospital as well as from our last time together (we unfortunately haven't seen her since he was a week old). I often times pull down the photo of the four of us (bio mom, Loren, me, Sage) and say, "That's Mama R. Can you say _____?" And have him practice saying her name, which is super adorable, but also I want him to know about her.
He's only 22 months with a general speech delay. I sometimes say, "You were with Mama R before you were with us," or "Mama R loves you and was your first mama," but honestly, it's more for me and practicing these phrases or conversation starters. At this point, he is busy and studies the photo for 30 seconds, then keeps playing or wants to read a book.
We do have a TON of books that either parallel or talk about adoption. And sometimes say, "Oh that's like you, Sage!" or something to help make those connections simple and easy in our conversation. Again, I am no expert and we are all learning here.
What is the #1 thing you WISH someone would have told you about adopting or that you would tell someone to do to “prepare?”
Someone did tell us this and I am so thankful; it is the piece of advice I want every single potential adoptive parent to have:
Start studying prenatal and early trauma, start listening to voices of adoptees and birth families, research the effects of transracial/interracial adoption, listen to the stories and voices of transracially adopted children who are now adults, expand your community to include (if it doesn't already) a diversity in families and people—especially foster and adoptive families.
Our children need friends and mentors who understand them in ways we cannot and we get to start building their village before we even meet them.
Address “if you can have bio kids, you should not adopt. Leave the adopted kids to infertile families.”
I'm staring at the screen with that emoji where there are three lines on my face.
I mean really? What in the world? There are hundreds of thousands of children needing permanent homes and families. Adoption is not a cure to infertility and not every one who is infertile adopts. So no, absolutely not. These two are not mutually exclusive and should never be.
There are innumerable vulnerable children who are without a permanent family. We need to step up and stop inferring adoption is only for people who battle infertility.
Number one piece of advice for couples (first time parents or first time adopting) as we begin process? Open to transracial..what do you wish you knew in the beginning?
Research. Read. Listen. LISTEN.
I am so thankful for the voices of adoptees and birth parents. These are the people we will be integrating into our lives, and these are the stories we need to attempt to understand.
If someone has been hurt deeply...to the point where they seem bitter and even anti-adoption, there is an absolute reason we need to listen to them. Don't push away because it's uncomfortable and even painful for you...press in because of your future child. Press in and learn what not to do or what to do better.
Learn. Listen. Research. Read.
Where do you start?
There are multiple ways to build your family with adoption. We chose the domestic infant route to start with. There is also foster care, adopting already waiting children through the foster care system, international adoption, and domestic (US) infant adoption.
I recommend the book Adopt Without Debt because the first half or so is all about the different routes of adoption.
You can start by attending a local adoption agency's or foster care forum/coffee night. Our local Embrace Oregon hosts a monthly open event called Exploring Fostering Coffee House. What I love is the ability to attend these events for free, ask questions, get information, and really dig into what would best fit our family and what are we feeling called to.
We simply took one step at a time, filled out applications, paid a fee here and there, got our home study done, etcetera.
You guys. SO many. Here is a page of adoption resources I have been creating.
Some of my top choices and recommendations right now are:
- Inside Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption by Rhonda Roorda
- Honestly Adoption Podcast with Mike Berry
- Adoptees On — this is just...phenomenal and sacred in many ways
- The Adopted Life Series by Angela Tucker
- Adoption 101: Positive Adoption Language
Adoption through foster care? Do you foster children with the intent to adopt? Or can you adopt without fostering?
Again, just a quick note that I am not experienced with this so you need to research and ask friends in your community.
I do know every single state—and sometimes even by the county—are different with the way they operate as well as their laws.
I know for our county and state, you are not to enter fostering with the hope to adopt the children placed in your home. The first and original goal—Plan A—is always reunification with the birth parent. Sometimes cases lead to adoption and if the child has been placed with you for a certain amount of time (Oregon is 10 months I think), and if there are no biological relatives available to adopt, you become the first choice, if you'd like.
I know there is also a waiting list of children who have been or are in the foster care system, waiting to be adopted. You can reach out to your local DHS agency to ask about that.
Adopting through the state is free and you sometimes receive financial help due to high needs.
Why connection and openness with birth family? Seems messy and weird.
There are a number of research studies revealing the importance and benefits of having openness and some form of communication about and with birth/biological families.
Every single adoptee I have talked to has shared either how it hurt not to have openness or even conversation around their birth families...or how it was a blessing and helped their identity form healthily.
Aside from that, we have been so grateful to have connections and a relationship with our son's biological aunt (and therefore his cousins and uncle), biological mom, biological dad, biological grandma, and even his biological brothers. I wrote this post: How To Go From Fearing to Celebrating Open Adoption.
I hope I answered these well and helpfully!
If you haven't seen our video, I hope you'll take 15 minutes to do so. It is a mini-documentary style video: