"Things not helpful to ask an adoptee"
1 Peter 4:10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
I wanted to start out with this verse as a beautiful reminder to be faithful stewards of God’s grace to everyone in any situation. There have been times in my life that things have been asked or said about adoption to me that have caused some pain or hurt feelings. But I constantly remind myself that almost always, people are not intentionally causing hurt with the questions they ask, but genuinely want to know about the life of an adoptee. This is where grace comes in. I find it beautiful when people ask me about being adopted because it shows that they really truly want to know my story and reminds me of how God handcrafted my unique life.
For those of you who are not adopted—keep asking questions about adoption stories. You will see the power of love, courage, strength, hope, and many other qualities in adoption journeys—you may even shed a few tears. Included below I have a few helpful tips on how to ask questions with adoption friendly language and a few examples of questions that have not been the most helpful.
Have you ever met your “real” mom?
This question is completely valid and one that I get asked quite often. To reword this question, I would say, Have you ever met your birth mom? Both my birth mother and my mother play a role in my life in helping me shape the woman that I am today. Using the word “real” takes away this importance role that my mother plays. Both these women play real roles in my life and both deserve the respect of the part that they have played in my life. I always distinguish the woman that gave birth to me as my birth mom, and the woman who adopted me as mom. One word of encouragement is to always ask the adoptee how they would like you to refer to the individuals in their adoption story—this always means the world to me when people ask this simple question!
Is that your “adoptive” family?
This question once again is a valid but adding the word “adoptive” makes it seem as though my family is different than others. I don’t view my family as my “adoptive” family—they are my family despite that our DNA and genetics are different. Love is what creates our family and I have never felt different or out of place in my family. I have the same relationships with my parents and sisters like any other typical family that had their kids biologically. To distinct the two, I call the family that adopted me simply as my family or the family that adopted me and my biological family as my birth family. The simple switch of words from “adoptive” family to family that adopted me really makes a difference.
Why did your birthparents “give” you up?
I believe that my birthparents didn’t “give” me up. I believe my birthparents instead gave me the gift of love and life. They put my needs above their own wants and desires, which gives me the upmost respect for them. After meeting with my birthfather for the first time, he made certain that I knew how hard of a decision it was for them to place me up for adoption. By saying that they simply “gave” me up, makes it seem as if they didn’t want to keep me as their own—which was one of the hardest choices in their life. They wanted me to have the best future possible; which they knew wouldn’t happen at this time in their life. I have nothing but love and respect for the birth family that loved me. Removing the words that my birthparents “gave” me up, validates the tough choice that they had to make. Instead this question could be asked, Why were you placed for adoption?
I know that every adoptee may feel different emotions when questions are asked about their adoption story. In the moments when questions are asked that may cause pain or hurt; I encourage the adoptee to respond first with grace and help explain to the one asking questions what examples of positive adoption language. By implementing adoption friendly language, all people involved in the adoption journey will feel valued, important, and loved for their role in the journey. The adoptee, birth family, and adoptive family equally play an important part in the adoption story—the story simply wouldn’t exist without each of them.
Your story matters,
1 John 3: 1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God…”
I recently listened to this episode from a few months back. I love when I get to hear how the adoption journey has been from those who are many years into it. In this instance, the host April Fallon got to speak with both the birth mom in this first episode and then the daughter as well in the second episode.
As CAS launches the fall Birth Mom small group, the quote above is what really stood out to me in this episode. Even in a healthy, open adoption, it is so important for birth moms to have others to relate to and share with. Facing our feelings, especially grief or sadness, isn't necessarily something many of us are eager to do. However, when we share, it is a blessing to have others help carry the burden and lighten our load.
We recommend the Adoption Now podcast to everyone! These two episodes are a great place to start.
S3E16 "A Birth Mother's Journey Through Open Adoption"
S3E17 "Open Adoption from the Adoptees Perspective"
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we are sharing a few resources for adoptive families interested in pursuing this. This is not for everyone and definitely a conversation would need to occur with your doctor, but it is amazing what our bodies can do. We have seen birth moms freeze and send milk to the adoptive family, and other nursing mamas donate their breastmilk. There are many resources and avenues to explore when preparing to welcome your child home, and we are happy to connect clients to any information that we know about.
When Ryan and I first started in the adoption process, we heard it could be a difficult journey. I thought, "What could be so hard? I know there's a lot of paperwork, but adoption ends in a baby! What better motivation is there to keep going?" It was only after we had begun receiving "Not yet" responses again and again that I wondered, "What if we never end up with a baby after all?" I even started asking God, "I know you called us to this, but why aren't you using us? Is this still your call for us?"
Just when I wasn’t sure if I could continue to say yes and receive a no, we got a call from Susan. We had matched! We were ecstatic! Over the next two months, we announced, we prepared, we traveled. We wanted to be at the hospital when baby was born even if we never got to meet baby’s birth mother since it was a closed adoption, so we went to Arizona and we waited. Several days went by, and on baby’s due date, we got a devastating call. Baby had been born, and his mother decided to parent. We were in shock. We cried, we packed, and we traveled home with an empty car seat. The day after we got home, I prayed. I asked God, “What do we do now?” I wrote down two things I felt God telling me: 1) Don’t get rid of those clothes, and 2) Don’t worry so much about the money.
Throughout the week following our disruption, Ryan and I prayed about how to move forward. We considered accepting another match opportunity with the same agency, but after visiting with Susan, I simply told them the same words that Susan emailed to us: "What we are really praying for is a really quick match or a stork drop.” After such a recent disruption, we were still grieving, and we honestly did not have high hopes. Unbeknownst to us, at the same time I was sending that email, an expectant mother came for an intake at the same agency. Because she was at the very end of her pregnancy, she asked to see family profile books right away which was different than the agency's usual protocol. I will never forget the call I got that same morning. “Kacie, there is a situation I want to tell you about. I don’t have a lot of information, but we still have one of your profile books, and I need to know within the hour if you want it shown.” We said yes. So did she. We got the call we had matched again. We were hopeful, but so nervous because of having our recent heartache.
This time, the adoption was to be open. We were fortunate enough to FaceTime the expectant mother shortly after matching, and 12 days from when we got the call, we were on a flight to meet her prior to her induction. When we met her, one of the things she said was, “I asked my mom to research adoption agencies my whole pregnancy. She never did until two weeks ago. I am so glad she waited, or I might never have gotten to choose you.” The match with this amazing woman led us to our son, and we are fortunate enough to now be parents to a beautiful baby boy! We praise God for giving her the strength to grow our family with part of hers, and for letting us be there when he took his first breath. God truly writes THE BEST AND MOST AMAZING of stories.
As I reflect on our adoption journey, I know that God gave us the pain of a disrupted adoption to build our faith in Him. That shock and heartache reminded us to better cherish the blessings we already had, and most of all, to remind us how it feels to TRULY let go of our plan and submit to His. My hopes for a baby had turned in to expectations, and my expectations needed to be shattered to see His perfect plan.
The practical advice I have for anyone struggling with the matching process or with a failed match are these:
1. Take special care to nourish and enjoy relationships with your current family members, whether it is your spouse, child, or pet. When God does give you your baby, you'll be grateful for the memories you made during the wait.
2. Try not to worry so much about the money. I know it's hard, because adoption is expensive, but if you are $800 more in debt, for example, when your adoption is done because you had weekly date nights, went to that concert together, or took a weekend getaway during the most difficult part of the journey, wasn't it a good investment?
3. Continue to make commitments unrelated to adoption. During part of our wait, I mistakenly said to myself, "I can't commit to that. We might have a baby." It is hard not to get depressed if you clear your calendar and have nothing else to do than think about adoption 24/7. This goes back to giving it up to God. God doesn't make mistakes. Sometimes His plan takes longer than we want or looks different than we thought it would, but in the end we understand why.
Previously published on Christian Adoption Consultants. Used with family's permission.
Some couples are working with not just a local agency for their home assessment, but a national adoption consultant. We see pros and cons to this option, and this article shares some of the things we see in those cases. Each couple's journey is different, but if you are considering adopting out of state, you will still need a local agency to conduct the home study and post-placement services for you.
Two years ago, the *Olsons were preparing to grow their family through infant adoption at Christian Adoption Services. They kept a video journal of appointments, excitedly walked through each step of the process, and had a great community support from friends and employers as they raised funds to cover the costs of their adoption. Little did they know that the following spring, they would learn of 4 kids in foster care that needed a permanent home, and God would redirect them.
The bumps in the road made this month's finalization hearing an even sweeter celebration. A year of meetings with social workers, biological extended family, the previous foster family, and therapists displayed the Olson's investment of love & care. After about a year of the joys and trials inherent in parenting 4 children, the Olson's adoption was finalized with 27 people in attendance.
We have been honored to be part of their journey. During May, we are celebrating Foster Care awareness month. We are grateful to serve families whose path takes them towards foster-adoption.
*Name changed for confidentiality.
Today's surprise office visit was one of our clients who brought gifts for the next several adoptive families in honor of the child whose placement in their home fell through. My eyes welled with tears when she explained they wanted to do something in honor of the child they expected to have in their home this Christmas. This act of generosity is exactly what God calls us to. His unmerited gift of the Christ child was different than expected, and full of grace for people who were planning for their Savior King to show up under very different circumstances.
In this season of giving, I'm reminded of the many biblical examples of giving - gifts from the lavish treasures presented by the Magi to the sacrifice of the woman who gave all she had. Each sacrificial gift has value to Christ. When we think about 0ur motivation in gift giving this Christmas, let our focus be generous giving as God gave to us and think less of what we might receive.
...Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.
You can pin the list below as a helpful *hint, hint* or just a reminder for future birthdays, placement gifts, etc. Here is our article from last year with all the helpful links to each of these gifts. Happy shopping and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
son’s birth mom who was going into labor and considering placing the baby with their family so the siblings would be together. Everything happened quickly and communication was flying back and forth between the Rinns, our agency, and the birth family as mom was making last minute decisions rather than connecting earlier with our agency. As the hours and days went by and the fog of unanswered questions thinned in the light of day, light of day, mom solidified her decision to parent and the Rinns were left with a sense of loss over a child that was never theirs. They were understandably frustrated as emotions had gone from high to low and our agency was in a bind when the birth mom did not connect with us regarding her wishes. What felt like an unnecessary trial turned into a refining fire clarifying their desire to grow their family through adoption yet again. These few days were a catalyst bringing the idea of infant adoption back into focus.
When Josh & Amy stepped through the doors of Christian Adoption Services in late winter, they had hope for the spring and the new life that would come into their family. They were joyful about their future family of four and knew it was time to pursue that dream. The loss during the previous summer shifted the Rinn’s vision of their family composition and their son was eager to become a big brother. The conversation with our staff was highly anticipated as they had only spoken with these workers during their frustrating possible match with their son’s birth mom. With a huge life decision involving the deepest emotions of parents and significant financial investment, trust had to be built for social workers who would lead them in navigating the blurry yet exhilarating path toward their unborn child. Leaving the CAS office, Josh & Amy were taking their first step into home study approval and the waiting period until expectant parents would choose them to raise their child.
The Rinn’s journey started to weave together with the birth parents six months later. Their lives would become intertwined in a beautiful image of love for the son they all cared for deeply even before his life began. It was autumn when CAS received a text from an expectant woman, *Julia, who was 20 weeks pregnant. She and her long-term boyfriend, *Tony, were in their 30s and 40s, lived in separate towns, and already had children from previous relationships. The thought of starting over with a new baby was not something either felt prepared for – emotionally or financially.
After much counseling and tears, Julia & Tony concluded choosing an adoptive family was what their child needed the most. This decision never comes easy to birth parents. Adopted children are wanted and loved by their birth parents, and allowing someone else to be mom and dad is a sacrificial decision!
While looking through profiles books, Julia & Tony felt a sense of peace and connection when picturing the Rinns as parents to this baby. The next months were an emotional flurry as Julia & Tony and Josh & Amy planned to meet each other and carefully consider the future of the precious unborn baby boy. In December, CAS held a “Match” meeting for the families. During this meeting, Josh & Amy saw the vision of becoming a family of four a little clearer.
A short month and a half later, Josh & Amy brought their beautiful baby boy home! Today the Rinns remain in contact with Julia & Tony. They share emails, pictures, and visits. Even though individuals walking through the adoption process experience loss and grief, all parties can celebrate the new life that comes forth by providing a child with a forever family.
*Names changed for confidentiality
Brave Love is an organization we have been blessed by through their video content and beautiful stories shedding light on a birth parents' loving decision. We use their videos when we speak about current adoption practices and positive language. Some of our adoptive families have purchased gifts from their shop and we are grateful for this pro-adoption movement. We spoke with Laura, their executive director, about being an agency partner. If you look at their map, North Dakota is not represented and we would love to be that beacon of hope for pregnant women who stumble across Brave Love looking for another option for their child. This partnership includes an annual fee of $600 and we would love to make that commitment, but we need your help. Would you consider coming alongside us in this partnership with Brave Love? Co-sponsors investing up to half the cost would really help make this commitment possible for our ministry. Donate now or contact us at 701-237-4473 if you have questions.
Our Journey to Parenthood blog segment reprinted with author's permission. The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Christian Adoption Services.
To my 12 remaining embryos,
The day we learned there were 14 of you we instantly knew our story of hope wasn’t just for us. You have been frozen now for almost 3 years. Sometimes my infertility feels like a distant memory and other times the pain and anguish of an empty womb floods my heart like it was just yesterday. My body went through a lot just in hopes that God would give me one of you. So when the Doctor called to tell us there were 14 of you, we were in shock.
I have been thinking about you a lot lately.
I don’t really know if we will be going back for another round of IVF. Your siblings are triplets and it is kind of a lot right now. And if we decided to have another baby and had the opportunity to bring one of you into this world, it wouldn’t be for a few more years and we know we could only take one of you. I wish we could take all of you, but I know deep in my heart that God didn’t make you so I could keep all of you just for myself....
However, the truth is, as much as I call you mine, or even one day hers, you are God’s perfectly made little snowflakes. And I have to trust in what God told me in the very beginning: “You are hope, hope for many.” Deep in my heart I know that your Mama will love you like I love you. And even though it is hard for me to fully comprehend that right now, I know, one day, He will prepare my heart for her to be your Mom, but I will always be connected to you. I will be apart of you. I will always be loving you.
Your first Mom.
CAS conducts home studies for families in MN & ND pursuing embryo adoption. If you are interested in learning more about this process, please check out these other resources:
The plus side of this podcast is that the guests vary regarding the type of adoption journey they have had (domestic, international, foster-adopt..) and it is a good survey of the many different situations and challenges facing adoptive families, along with some stories from the adoptees personally. I would say the negative thing** for our CAS clients is that of all the episodes I've heard so far, the birth parents are not integrated into the conversation as much. Since many of the stories I have heard so far are not domestic infant adoption, conversations about openness and navigating the relationship with birth parents haven't been as prevalent. I'm hoping to hear more of these themes as I listen to more episodes. Even in the host's personal domestic infant stories, unfortunately the birth parent perspective is not well-represented. Since the audience is definitely adoptive families, I can get past some of my misgivings when I think of the encouragement this podcast can be for families in many different stages of the adoption journey. The host, April Fallon, is very faith-centered and intentional about approaching each story with grace and support. There is an awesome segment in their first episode (AJ's Adoption Story) about their personal adoptions that April and Noah discuss what God taught them through their first adoption....
"It reminds us of God's adoption for us...God changes you.
I recommend checking it out for yourself and I hope you find stories that you can relate to and receive encouragement from.
Office Manager @ CAS
**Post Update: I was pleasantly surprised to have a response from April Fallon, host of Adoption Now, within 24 hours of our post. She gave some suggestions of what stories to listen to with more focus on open adoption and birth parents. She also invited our families to share their stories as guests on her show, so if you are looking for ways to share positive adoption stories, get in touch with Adoption Now. I can't wait to give these a listen...
From April Fallon, Host of Adoption Now:
Lauren Stokes is an adoptee that was adopted in Denver 37 years ago into an open adoption. She is now a therapist and speaks on the value of knowing her birthparents and having a relationship with them while she was growing up. Corrine Christian is an adoptive mom of 5 kids (3 adopted). She shares about open adoption and how she takes the birthparents on trips, she just took a birthfather to Peru. She shares how much she loves open adoption and the healthy benefits her children experience through knowing their birth parents. She also holds birth parent retreats to help in their healing after placement. In Ashley Mitchell's story, she is a birthmother that shares what it was like to place her baby into adoption and how she has a relationship now through open adoption with her son. My husband and I have adopted 4 children and two of them have the same birth parents, we also have an open adoption. We have discussed having boundaries due to the birth parents drug addictions but the wonderful benefits of knowing our children's birth family. This week we will be interviewing Ashely again who is now writing curriculum for agencies on birthmother care. She is teaches adoptive families how to have healthy open relationships and how to interact with your birthmother. This is a topic it sounds like you are looking for and we hope you will check out some of these recent ADOPTION NOW podcasts! If you have a family that would like to tell their story, we would love to hear from them. Thank you so much taking the time to listen!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.