Thursday, October 19, 2017

Questions to Ask When Hiring An Adoption Consultant

There are a lot of critical decisions to make when it comes to adoption. Domestic or international? What about foster care? Agency or private adoption? Go it alone or hire a consultant to help guide you on your journey?

But once you decide on domestic infant adoption and that you want a consultant to walk with you, how do you decide which consultant group to work with? With several consultant firms to choose from, how do you know which one is the best fit for your family? 

I've compiled a list of questions to ask when you interview potential consultants. Use this list to get the most information, educate yourself on the specific services available, and how things work with each consulting firm.

  • How long is your contract?
  • Do you offer profile creation or review services?
  • What kind of ongoing support and communication is available throughout the length of our contract?
  • What are your stats: number of successful adoptions, percentage of failed adoptions, average wait times, etc.?

Recommended Agencies and Attorneys
  • What are your standards for the agencies and attorneys you recommend?
  • What kind of services do the agencies and attorneys offer for expectant and birth families?
  • What kind of vetting does an agency/attorney go through to be a part of your recommended agency list?

  • Are there requirements to saying yes or no to presenting?
  • How much time do we have to decide if we want to present?
  • Do we need to pay a fee to present to situations?
  • How much information are we given to review for each situation? Do we have access to social/medical history, information on the birth father, prenatal records, etc.?

A few other things to consider:

  • It should be easy to get a hold of a consultant. Communication is key when you're adopting and being able to easily reach someone in a timely manner matters!
  • In the same vein, you should feel like they are happy to answer your questions and knowledgable about the entire adoption process. Ask about their professional and personal experience in adoption.
  • Don't hesitate to ask for references of other adoptive families who have used their services.

Ultimately, you want to feel confident and comfortable with the consultant you choose. They will be walking with you during your adoption journey to guide you, advocate for you, and educate you. But they will also be there to be a listening ear, possibly a shoulder to cry on, and to pray with you as you work to add a baby to your family. Finding someone you trust will be invaluable.

If you want to find out more about Christian Adoption Consultants and our consulting services, feel free to email me for a info packet. I'll be happy to answer these (and any) questions you have! 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Adoption Resources

In an effort create an easy "go-to" list of adoption resources, I've compiled this list of some of my most popular blogs on the topic. Find a topic you're interested or use it as a guidebook or roadmap to help you navigate your adoption journey!

Getting Started
The Steps to Adoption 
Keys to a Successful Adoption
Who Is Called to Adoption?  
The Cost of Adoption

Hiring an Adoption Consultant
Why Hire An Adoption Consultant
A New Approach to Adoption
Is Hiring a Consultant Worth It? 
Why I Recommend Hiring a Consultant 
So You Want to Hire An Adoption Consultant 

The Home Study Process 
Your Home Study Survival Guide
Preparing Your Home for an Adoption Home Study

Infertility and Adoption
What I Wish You Knew About Adoption and Infertility {Part 1} 
What I Wish You Knew About Adoption and Infertility {Part 2}  
What I Wish You Knew About Adoption and Infertility {Part 3} 
In Their Own Words: Mother's Day
What to Expect When She's Not Expecting

Waiting in Adoption
What To Do While You Wait
What I Wish We Knew While We Were Waiting
Truth To Cling To in the Wait 
Dear Mamas in Waiting 
What if We Never Get Chosen (Every Adoptive Parents' Fear)

Openness in Adoption
Open Adoption 1.0
5 Myths of Open Adoption
Navigating Openness
Making Promises in Adoption
Silence on the Other Side 

Expectant and Birth Families
For Birth Parents: A Guide for Your Adoption
The Truth About Birth Parents
Dear Adoptive Mom: What Birth Parents Wish You Knew 
The Perfect Adoptive Family {What Birth Parents Are Really Looking For}
Adoptive Mamas Talk Candidly About Birth Parents 

Raising a Child Who Was Adopted
Extending Grace in Adoption 
A Letter to My Real Son 

Other Adoption Resources 
Positive Adoption Language
Creating An Adoption Hospital Plan
Creating Your Family Profile
Your ICPC Survival Guide

Read hundreds of family's adoption stories here

Monday, October 2, 2017

Adoption Story: Zach and Danielle (again!)

Sometimes when God asks you to step into something new and unknown it feels exciting and adventurous. Sometimes it feels hope-filled and thrilling. And other times it feels scary and almost impossible. Crazy even.

This was Zach and Danielle's story when God asked them to put their "yes" on the table for a second time. After the most hard and beautiful first adoption (if you don't remember how Isaiah came to be their son you don't want to miss it), they never anticipated adopting again.

But then, God changed all of that. Today Danielle shares the details of how her family unexpectedly grew their family of seven to EIGHT with sweet Ezekiel Benjamin.

When we brought our son Isaiah home a little over two years ago we thought we were done adding children to our family. The adoption, like many, had been terribly difficult and we were thankful to have the five amazing kids we’d been given. Little did we know God had different plans. It’s kind of incredible the way He moves us to do things we don’t want to do and then gives us the heart to do it.

In the spring of 2016 some close friends invited us to an Adoption Agency fundraiser. I was fitful about attending because I had a sense God would use that time to reveal something important to us. I even started stating my case to God in my mind: “We don’t have enough seats in the van or chairs at the table,” “We’ve already done our hard thing,” “I don’t think I can go through another adoption process.” We hadn’t even made it through the opening prayer that evening before we knew exactly what God was asking of us. Step back in. Say yes again. Even though it seemed impossible and crazy, we did. We weren’t without fear but we knew WHO was holding the future.

We were home study ready and signed back up with our amazing consultant, Susan, by September a year ago. We knew how crucial it was to have Susan’s insights, encouragements and connections in our first adoption and did NOT want to move forward without her. Plus, she had become a trusted friend and confidant.

The months that followed were very quiet. We gave our “yes” several times; we received “no” back every time. There were long periods of time we had no situations at all. We definitely didn’t feel confident the process would end with a baby but we prayed over each birth family and baby. At times we thought this might be why we were back in the process. But as time went on we were finally able to admit to ourselves and to God that we really wanted this little person. That revelation made us feel vulnerable but we kept stepping out, putting our “YES” in the mix.

Mid June we got a call late one night from Susan, “Your family has been chosen!” It was very surreal. The expectant mama was due later in July but at her 38-week appointment they decided to induce her. We flew out to her state and were there at the hospital when baby was born. We met her and her son just hours after he had arrived.

We connected immediately with mom. She referred to us as his parents, every medical question she deferred to us, when the time came to put a name on the birth certificate she put ours on it. She made it very clear that she wanted us at the hospital with her as much as possible and for sure through the nights. We cared for mom and baby with everything we had. It was an extremely exhausting and emotional few days. I don’t honestly know how we did it aside from GRACE. Our kids kept asking, “Does the mommy still want us to be his family?” It was a question we weren’t daring to ask ourselves.

When the time came for mom to be discharged, she signed a temporary custody agreement allowing us to take him from the hospital and she’d sign consent the next morning. We enjoyed every moment with him, wondering over his gorgeous face and sweet dimples. We were cautiously optimistic that the prayers we’d prayed were being answered the way we asked. And then one of our worst fears became a reality.

The baby was asleep on Zach’s chest late that night when my phone rang. Mom had chosen to parent and she, along with her agency counselor and the administrator were on their way to pick up the baby. When the agency arrived they asked if we’d be willing to see mom. She walked in the room sobbing and saying “I’m sorry”, I opened my arms and held her a long time. “We love you. We will always love you and pray for you both.” The pain was searing but there was beauty in it somehow. She couldn’t do it, and I can’t fault her for wanting to parent her son.

It was the gospel holding us together, plain and simple. He saved and sanctified us for that moment in time and only because of His love, we were ready.

We flew home the next morning, devastated. And when we landed in our home state we both had messages from the agency on our phones.

Another baby boy. Born the day after the first baby. And he needed a family. Were we willing?

It was unthinkable. Our hearts weren’t even over the loss that just occurred. It felt dizzying, stressful, and not even right. At first we said we thought this baby belonged to another family.

But then.

We. Said. Yes.

It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t feel right. It was stressful and awful and scary beyond belief. Adoption is risky. Adoption costs. Adoption is incredibly painful and hard. And it takes its toll in many ways.

A week later we flew back to the state we’d been with the first baby. Oddly enough it was the due date we’d been given with our first match. People close to us kept telling us how brave we were. I can tell you that I felt anything but brave! I felt like a coward but we kept moving forward, doing the next thing, signing the next paper, driving the next road. My heart was faint and I’m ashamed to admit that fear and anxiety crouched near me at every turn. If not for our friends and family we wouldn’t have been able to endure. The loved us in so many ways during that time! Even now I can’t begin to unwind how tightly their prayers and support bound us together.

Everything that followed has been a crazy series of events that we still have a hard time believing. We met another beautiful baby boy, cared for him in the Special Care Nursery (his nurses were amazing), and in less than two weeks a second baby was released from the hospital to us. It was terrifying to think he might actually be our son.

I remember a moment in time when I was reading my bible and I looked at this tiny baby still in the hospital and this thought came: You came for me, Lord. I was in desperate circumstances. No one was coming for me but YOU CAME. I was alone and had no hope but YOU CAME FOR ME. His word and His people carried us.

He was welcomed with unhindered joy by his sisters and brother and they have been cuddling, kissing and cooing every chance they get. The way they walked through this with us taught us a lot about freely loving people.

We are humbled. We are amazed. We are incredibly grateful and in awe of the great gift God has given even through the pain.

Ezekiel Benjamin is the answer to so many prayers. It’s amazing grace that God would write the story the way He did, although it didn’t feel amazing at the time! “But God, who is rich in mercy…” He strengthened us, gave us truth in His word and surrounded us with people who’ve supported us in ways we will never forget. After all, it was His love that compelled us to adopt in the first place.

“I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick.”           Ezekiel 34:16

Beautiful pictures credited to LoK Photography.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Is Hiring an Adoption Consultant Worth It?

It's not hard for people to see the benefits of hiring an adoption consultant with Christian Adoption Consultants. Having an adoption professional walk with you and help you navigate your adoption? Yes! But adding the extra cost of having a consultant to an already costly venture could seem unnecessary, even unwise when you look at your budget. How can you justify additional funds that you have painstakingly saved?

It's a fair question. And one I hear often when families are deciding whether they can afford to hire an adoption consultant. So I thought today I would walk through what I share with families who ask if hiring a consultant is really worth it.

An adoption consultant saves you time

Adoption is complex. Anyone who has weighed the idea for awhile, spent any amount of time googling adoption agencies, or started the task of taking the first step knows that there's a lot to navigate in an adoption. What kind of adoption is right for our family? How do we find an ethical attorney that specializes in adoption? What about an agency that really cares about expectant and birth families and will care for them long after the adoption is final? What should we think about when it comes to adopting outside of our race? What is open adoption and are there any benefits?

These questions are just a few of the dozens, hundreds even, you will have during your adoption process. And the good news is you don't have to go it alone. An adoption consultant can provide a personalized road map for your family and is there every step of the way to answer your questions, direct your process, and offer resources and education.

An adoption consultant saves you money

It's no secret that adoption is expensive. Ensuring you have the right professionals caring for the expectant/birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the child all entails legitimate costs. (For more information, see this post on The Cost of Adoption.) While some agencies are able to lower their costs through donors or funders, most agencies and attorneys doing more than a handful of adoptions a year apply the full costs of these services to the adoptive family.

So how does a typical family afford the costs of adoption? There are actually a lot of resources out there to help! An adoption consultant can help with creative financing for your adoption. There are grants and low to no interest loans available, the Adoption Tax Credit, and employer benefits you may be able to take advantage of. And there are many other ways to fundraise other than hosting a bake sale or crowdfunding. Having an adoption consultant help you personalize a plan to finance your adoption can make affording adoption much more attainable. An adoption consultant can tell you where to spend your time and efforts in financing that would be the most beneficial and the best fit for your family, friends, and community. Most of the families we work with are able to add on average $10-15,000 to their adoption budget!

An adoption consultant saves you from pitfalls

While there is a lot of great information out there on adoption, there's also a lot that is sub-par and even unethical. Not only does an adoption consultant guide you toward excellent resources and professionals, but also away from agencies, attorneys, and information that is not. After years of adoption experience, an adoption consultant can help identify important red flags and warning signs and offers protection against adoption fraud.

This can not only save an adoptive family time and energy, but also finances and heartbreak. Avoiding situations that are especially risky and ensuring you are working with ethical adoption professionals who offer real care and counseling to birth and expectant families is imperative in domestic infant adoption. So not only are families often able to increase their budget with the help of a consultant, but they can also save thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) avoiding certain agencies or situations. 

I firmly believe that every hopeful adoptive family has to find the best fit and the best route for them. But is hiring an adoption consultant worth it in the end? Many adoptive families have shared that they couldn't afford not to.

Interested in finding out more about hiring an adoption consultant and information on our consulting packages? Email me at and I can send you an info packet!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Book Shelf: This Undeserved Life

Natalie is one of my clients-turned adoptive mama-turned dear friends. If you talk to Natalie for more than five minutes, or sit down to read a bit of her writing, you can't help but notice her huge heart for others, her passion for justice, and her desperate love for her boys and being their mama.

You've met her here a few times: when she shared their adoption story, her thoughts on adoption and pregnancy, and her "letter to [her] real son." And today you get a sneak peek into her new book, This Undeserved Life (and some goodies if you decide to pre-order this week!).

I spent some of my vacation last week by the pool diving into this book. Honestly, I thought I would read just a few pages but ended up not being able to put it down. So often, when an adoption story is told, the glamorous side is the easiest to see. The family pictures of a couple with a beautiful baby, the stories of answered, prayers, and the beauty of redemption.

These are all parts of the story that should be told. But what about the other, hidden, harder parts? The prayers that went unanswered. The waiting. The infertility. The heartache. The struggles.

In her new book, being released September 18th, Natalie gives you the real and raw insight into their adoption journey. In it she talks candidly about their struggle with infertility and a heartbreaking loss and a job loss that also meant losing a faith community. She honestly and transparently shares the impact all of these things had on her heart.

Today you get the chance to get a little glimpse from her book:

(Fall 2015)

I checked my inbox every hour, waiting to see emails from our adoption agency about expectant moms and parents making an adoption plan. It was a nice distraction from our traumatizing church situation. We received about four each week; some weeks as many as seven and other weeks as few as none. These emails were sent to multiple potential adoptive families working with said agency. Included are invasive details about expectant mothers’ (and sometimes fathers’) medical history. Often times we would read about their jobs, favorite music and foods, weight and height and race, whether or not they are married. Sometimes pictures were included. We had the opportunity to take each situation and decide whether or not to present our family profile book. Presenting incited so much anticipation. When we chose to present to an expectant mom making an adoption plan, this meant she could choose us to parent her child and our family would grow an entire extension.  
We had said “yes” to four different potential adoption situations. Four yeses only to receive four “noes” by November of 2015. In the grand scheme, this is very few; it was a wild emotional toll, though.  We continuously did our best to breathe in and out, trusting Jesus had the adoption story in His palm. He was writing the story, and we needed not worry.  
Yet, saying "yes" to a situation was much more than a verbal agreement, or typing words into an email. Saying "yes" was allowing our hearts to be at stake—open and vulnerable—loving strangers we had never met face to face. 
We were not only saying "yes" to potentially parenting each baby or set of babies, but we were saying "yes" to all the unknowns; the hidden baggage and tragedy inevitably accompanying adoption. We were saying “yes” to a history we had no information about. 
We may have said "yes" to staying in the NICU for weeks to months, watching our baby be weaned off cocaine or meth. We may have said "yes" to risking transferring Hepatitis C from mama to baby. We may have said “yes” to an unknown father.  We could have said "yes" to any unknown medical or substance histories; someone for whom we could only trust Jesus with. The fees due for any adoption would be thousands of dollars we didn’t have, but we remained confident He would provide for us perfectly.  
Hearing "no" wasn’t the end of the world, or our adoption journey. I found myself confident, this is the one, situation after situation. I imagined meeting expectant mamas and how in the world I would walk the tension of grief and joy.  
We received such invasive details about expectant mothers making adoption plans; my heart cracked wide open to love deeper than ever before.  
In crying out to Him and praying for these parents with unplanned pregnancies, I was reminded over and over this isn’t about us. For every no we received, it meant someone else receiving the blessing of a baby; whether that be expectant mom choosing to parent or another hopeful adoptive family. We continued saying yes to presenting, holding our hands open and clinging to His closeness in all the uncertainty.  
We were not chosen to parent this precious set of twins, due in January/February. Though we were not chosen to parent those twins, due in the next three months, we hoped our "yes" would one day be responded to with another "yes." We trusted whoever that expectant mama chose to parent her twins was exactly who her twins needed. That family will be very, very blessed to grow by 4 feet. In this truth, I rejoice and move forward. Rejoicing comes easy when I make the journey less about me and more about Him. 
2015 was scraping me thin and punching me in the gut. Loren experienced it too. We were growing soul tired. And though we were soul tired, weary and thinner than thin, adoption was forcing me to lean into Jesus in a different way than anything else ever had. During a time of complete unrest and chaos (jobless and without our community, a high-risk pregnancy), we had been given an amazing opportunity to pray for expectant families and in-utero babies. Knowing such intensely intimate details about these expectant mamas and families made praying for them an immensely powerful journey. 
Despite the continual “noes,” we continued waiting and praying. We knew we were meant to become a family with the birth of a baby. We continued saying "yes," even at the risk of what felt like rejection. Adoption isn’t about us.  

I'll give you a spoiler: this book isn't just about adoption. Or even just about Natalie and her family. It's a book about grief and brokenness. A book about a God who meets us in the messes. A book about grace and grit. In it, you'll find an invitation to honestly grieve the losses you've faced and meet the God who can heal and restore.

I guarantee, no matter where you find yourself in life; wading through infertility, waiting in adoption, working through messy relationships, you will find truth and glimpses of grace meant for your heart in these pages.

Want to read the rest of the book for yourself? If you preorder here (before September 18th) you get a discount and these freebies!  Grab a mug of something hot, curl up by the pool or a fireplace or the patio of your favorite coffee shop, and read along. Come back here and let Natalie and I know how you liked it!

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty. You can love Jesus or not, go to church or not: she'd love to have coffee with you. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a wanna-be runner. Connect with her at and join her popular email list. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Adoption Story: Brian and Krissy

Today, instead of a family sharing their story in the typical format here, you get the treat of watching it! Krissy shares their adoption story in this little video. You can hear directly from the heart of an adoptive mama why they stepped into adoption, the highs and lows of their journey, and the dozens of details God worked out in the process. Then, you can actually watch as they meet their daughter for the first time.

*This story comes with a Kleenex warning. Just after the ten minute mark I completely lost it!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

repost: open adoption 1.0: a [mini] tutorial

One of the most common questions and concerns I get from adoptive families has to do with open adoption. Can it really work? Are the horror stories true? How does it work for the child? Today I thought it would be helpful to share again the most common questions and my responses about openness in adoption, what we've learned over the years, and what it's REALLY like...

Those two words are enough to strike the fear of God in people: "open adoption." No matter who you are, I've found that nearly everyone immediately goes to the most recent Lifetime movie of the "big bad birth mother" who shows up on the doorstep of the adoptive family with a golf club demanding her baby back. Or the crazed tabloid story of the father that took the baby to the forests of Digibuti and never returned.

I've had this discussion with dozens and dozens of adoptive parents. And other mothers. And friends. And strangers who find out what I do. Because everyone wants to know what it really looks like and if it really works.

So let me just talk to you about open adoption like I would with one of my adoptive families. We're in your living room and you've brewed me some Starbucks to win me over. Done.

I would say this: "Get over it." (OK - I don't really say that.) But this is something like what we would chat about...

Years ago almost all adoptions were closed.  A young woman got "pregnant out of wedlock" and went to "visit Aunt Jean in Oklahoma" for several months. She would deliver, most likely not be given a chance to even meet her baby, and return never to speak of the life-changing event again. Then a sweet young couple dealing silently with infertility would be notified that a baby who matched their skin tone and hair and eye color was ready and waiting for them. Only close friends and family knew the baby was adopted and they would never speak of it again either. Until that sweet baby got to be an adult and they discovered the truth: "Happy 18th Birthday! Here's your original birth certificate - you were adopted [insert super awkward pause here]..."

OK - the story didn't always work out that way. But more often than not, this was a typical plot line. And you've heard it because many of these people ended up on Oprah or Regis and Kelly with tearful and dramatic reunions.

Today we know better. We know that closed adoption is usually not the best for anyone in the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptee). For the birth parents, openness offers incredible closure and solidifies their choice for adoption. For the adoptive family, they have important information (social and medical) that make up a huge piece of their child. And for the adoptee, they've heard first-hand from the source the reasons their birth parents made an adoption plan. The child also has more of a sense of identity (I got my brown eyes from my birth mom and my love for music from my birth father's dad) which is invaluable for their sense of worth.

Many people think openness will lead to second thoughts, confusion, and Lifetime movie drama on their own doorstep. Instead, it leads to honesty, insight, closure, and genuine relationships.

Openness is a continuum. For as many different families who have adopted there are just as many variations to openness.

  • Open adoption is typically when the birth parents and adoptive parents have open communication after the adoption of the child.  First and last names including contact information are shared openly between adoptive and birth parents. An ongoing relationship is developed.
  • Semi-open adoption allows the adoptive parent's contact information to remain completely confidential, but allows a meeting between the birth and adoptive parents prior to or at birth. A semi-open adoption also often involves emails or letters and pictures sent periodically throughout your child's life. 
  • Closed adoption is when the birth parents and adoptive couple typically remain completely anonymous.  Only a social and medical history is shared concerning the birth parents. They do not meet or even know first names. 

Here's the concerns and questions I'm asked almost every time I get into a conversation about open adoption:

We don't want to confuse our child.  We want them to know we are their parents.
Usually we're the ones that make things confusing. If the birth and adoptive families are clear about their roles and aren't rivals, the child won't be confused. Just like some of us know and have unique relationships with two sets of grandparents, it doesn't mean we don't understand the important and often different relationship we have with each of them. Ignoring or undermining the significance of a child's birth parents can undermine the child's identity.
We don't want the birth parents to change their mind.  What if they see us and have second thoughts?
Open adoption actually solidifies a birth parent's choice for adoption.Rather than wondering "did I make the right choice? Are the adoptive parents really who they said they were? Do they love him as much as I do?" - the birth parents actually get to SEE their child being loved like crazy and know they made the right decision.   
What if the birth parents are intrusive or don't approve of our parenting style?
The birth parents have chosen the adoptive family to raise their child. Usually, they have received excellent counsel and fully understand the adoption process.Birth parents recognize that they are not in a season to parent and are giving up the ability to parent their child in the traditional sense of the word. After consent is signed and the adoption is finalized, it's understood that the adoptive family is the legal parents in every sense of the word.
So what does openness look like, really?
I've seen families walk this out literally hundreds of ways. I know a family who has set up a private blog and they update their birth parents (and the birth grandmas!) with picture and video updates. Another family sends pictures monthly to add to a scrapbook they made for the birth mom. Many families text updates and pictures. Most families send picture and letters through email. Some celebrate holidays together. I know one couple even who babysit for their now 3 year old daughter! 
Here's the crazy thing: these same fears that adoptive families have are the exact same fears birth families have. I've sat in numerous coffee shops with mamas saying they want to be sure not to overstep boundaries and want their child to know they've chosen an adoptive family to be parents. Big bad birth mama complex?  Right out the window.

You see, these are women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. They are the antithesis of selfish women who only want what's best for themselves. In an open adoption, they have hand-picked a family to raise their sweet baby. Birth parents aren't baby-snatchers. Because of their immense love for their baby they have chosen adoption. Is it hard? Yes. Do they waver and second-guess? Almost always.  But they are the heroes that deserve more than our questioning raised eye-brows. They have chosen LIFE when the world tells them otherwise. They deserve our awe, respect, and honor.

Bravelove, one of my favorite adoption resources, specifically for birth families has several stories of open adoption on their website. Here's one of my favorites that gives such a beautiful picture of the kind of strong love it takes for a mother to make an adoption plan and the joy that open adoption can be.

Really, openness happens best when it's organic. I didn't sit down with my best friend at a coffee shop the first time I met her and chart out our friendship: OK, I need email updates from you every three months, pictures of your family every 6, and these are my plans for celebrating your birthday... Real relationship  is a gradual and slow process. I can't tell you how many families I've worked with who were scared to death at first at the thought of an open adoption, and then met the birth mama and fell in love with her. I've had many families who feel like they've also adopted the birth family and all become like extended family.  

My only caution is this: it's much easier to slowly open the door than to need to slam it shut. Openness happens in a healthier way like other relationships: gradually and slowly.  

I was reading my twitter feed awhile ago and came across this: "I woke up this morning and heard my son's mother reading scripture to him." I immediately had tears in my eyes. It was Mother's Day and one of my sweet birth mamas had traveled across the country (as she has several times now) to visit her son and his adoptive parents. And she was celebrating her first Mother's Day with the mother she had chosen for her son. They are like family now. I can't think of a more beautiful picture of open adoption.

Here's the bottom line: is open adoption hard? YES. But what relationship that is truly valuable isn't. My only "easy" relationships are with the barista and the grocer. Hard, messy, genuine, and worthwhile relationships usually happen in my living room.  

Want more adoption [mini] tutorials? Click here for more resources!

Friday, August 18, 2017

repost: what I wish I knew while we were waiting

There's no doubt that the wait in adoption is one of the hardest parts of the adoption journey. Your home study is done, profile is created, and now you sit, waiting to be matched. I thought today I would repost some practical encouragement from adoptive families who have been in the wait and what they wished they had known during that time...

In the midst of the wait of adoption, it can be easy for discouragement and hopelessness to creep in. Doubting what God has called you to and feeling overwhelmed with the unknown, it's easy to forget that God is working even when we can't see it. It's hard to cling to the truth in the wait.

Recently, I asked some of my families who are on the other side of their adoptions what they wished they knew while they were waiting. Each of them who are done with the wait of their journey and have little ones in their arms. Here's what they said...

God writes the best stories. Better than we could ever imagine. Once you see it all unfolded you realize all the frustration and waiting and delays were not in vain and served the perfect purpose of guiding you to the expectant mom and baby that you were meant to be with.  - Leigh

I read or heard somewhere that we shouldn't put our hope in something that we can lose. I could lose my marriage, I could lose my job, I could lose my child. I had thought, "If only I had ____, THEN I would be okay." Usually the answer was a baby. I thought that when we finally "got" a baby, I would be okay. But then I wasn't. Becoming a mom didn't solve all my problems, in fact, it created some new ones. It's so hard, but that's why we repent and ask God to help our idolatrous heart. Ask him to give you joy and peace…That’s near impossible without God's help. Ask him!  - Stacey

I wish I had realized that God didn't expect all the disappointments, the frustrations and even the no's we experienced to make sense to me at the time but that in the end He would make it all plain and his plan would make SO MUCH sense!  - Gayla

I wish I had known that God hadn't forgotten about us. That His hand was in every detour navigating us to our daughters in His perfect timing.  - Shelley

I wish we had realized just how God loves us...I think about the love my earthly father has for me and I know he would do all in his ability to give me my hearts desires and keep me from tears BUT he can't do God loves me even more than that and He CAN do all of that and more! AND He is faithful...He restored everything the moment we held our son. (And as hard as it was, I had to come to truly realize that God was sufficient even if a baby never came. It was a correcting of my perspective that led to peace throughout the process.)  - Katie

God has a plan and it's better then yours! And once the wait is over, the sadness, longing , and pain seems so short and insignificant!  - Becca

That God would be enough to see us through. That there are GOOD and BAD people in the adoption world and you have to forgive the bad and keep going and trust somehow that it was for a purpose... That God would provide financially when the debt seemed insurmountable. (God knew, I suppose, that I need a lesson in trusting when it came to money!) And in the end, although it was very hard the wait would be worth our little man.  - Rosie

That it's out of our hands, God is in control. Just breathe!  - Michelle

I wish I had realized how very precious every day of the wait is - God needs every second of that time to orchestrate the massive butterfly effect of adoption. To wish it differently is to idolize my own situation and wants. It's not just my family, but the timing of the birth family, the timing of the extended family's experiences (on both sides), the timing of the people you will spontaneously meet along the way who needed to hear your story or whose story YOU needed to hear or who needed to even just see your family from afar and have that work in their hearts, who needed to have an adoptive family's presence in the community or church, the timing of where God needs our adopted children to be as they grow up in order to accomplish his work...I could go on and on. The effects of adoption are far reaching and profound. The timing is NOT just about the right child for our family. Actually, I know for sure I don't deserve such a precious gift at all. The fact God has answered that prayer for us means that we have received INFINITELY more than we deserve.  
- Meagan

It was so good to remember that we weren't waiting on an agency, a situation, a "yes", or even a baby. We were waiting on God alone. And to continually remind ourselves of God's mercy especially in the moments we felt He was an unkind Father. Just as He had compassion on those grumbling Israelites in the desert, He continually had compassion on our faint hearts. Lean into the family of God, and hold tight to the promises of Jesus.  - Danielle

For more in the series, "In Their Own Words," visit here.

More on waiting:
What To Do In The Wait
Dear Mamas In Waiting

Thursday, August 10, 2017

adoption story: lynn and alisa

Lynn and Alisa were such a joy to work with! Their steadfast hope and faith in God were so evident throughout their entire adoption journey. They had walked a long, hard road before they called me in September. But is was just three months later they were matched and one month later when their son was born.

Adoption has brought us to a higher level of trust in God. We often have a false sense of being in control of our lives and for us, adoption emphasized our need to let go of our idea of what should be and let God work. There were many times along the way that we seriously questioned whether we had mistaken His calling to adopt: when we waited and waited and waited…and waited some more.  When we finally matched only to experience the disappointment of a failed match. When we presented time and again thinking: This is it…the timing is perfect/the situation is in our comfort zone/the location is ideal. Surely this is THE ONE God has planned for us, but finding out that is wasn’t when we experienced a second failed match. But each time, God gently admonished us to trust His heart – He had called us on this journey for a reason. When we matched again, we admit to doubting from time to time because there were many kinks in the process from our first call with the birth mother until our clearance to come home, but God worked them out in His time – often at the last minute (which was hard on our emotions, but strengthening for our faith). 

After grieving our second failed match, we decided to broaden our options and stumbled across Susan and Christian Adoption Consultants. We had fresh hope and more importantly, an experienced, compassionate, unbiased consultant to guide us. As it turns out, our successful adoption came through our original path and wasn’t a direct result of our hiring Christian Adoption Consultants. But we were extremely grateful for Susan as the situation took some unexpected turns and had some risks that made us appreciate Susan’s experience with all involved in the adoption triad.  In the end, the decisions were up to us but she did help us view the whole situation rather than just our side of it. Having her support during those stressful times of decision making was a huge blessing for us.

While we often wondered why things were going the way they were, in the end, we don’t have to know why. The joy of loving our son dims the heartache and stress of the journey. From the bottom of our joyful and thankful hearts, we can testify that God is faithful.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

adoption story: nathan and ashley

Nathan and Ashley spent years on the road to parenthood. Nothing went as planned. Nothing seemed to be working. Until everything seemed to come together exactly the way God had planned from the very beginning...

Our journey to parenthood was nothing like we had dreamed or imagined it would be. Years of heartache, brokenness, and daily struggles filled our lives as we tried to grow our family. After several doctor visits, multiples procedures, and one failed fertility treatment after another, we knew God was telling us to close that door, and another one would open. Many days and months of prayers led us to adoption, specifically leading us to Susan with Christian Adoption Consultants. From the moment we spoke with Susan, we knew that this was the path God was leading us to grow our family. Susan answered any questions we had, and gave us a sense of security as we embarked on our adoption journey. For the first time in months we had a feeling of hope, and truly felt God’s story unfolding.  

We signed with CAC late October, were home study approved in December and began presenting our profile book in January. After two heartbreaking “no’s” we were matched with our sweet Mama B in late February, who was due in late June. Over the next few months we spent our time building our relationship with her and the birth father. We developed a love for them both that is indescribable. They are the two individuals who chose life for their sweet baby, made the most selfless decision, and made us parents. 

On June 15, ten days before Mama B’s due date, we got the phone call that would forever change our lives. Mama B was in labor, and was headed to the hospital.  After driving through the night, and 17 hours later, we arrived at the hospital where Mama B and our sweet baby boy had been born hours before. We got to spend quality time with her while she shared the story of our son’s birth with us. We then were able to go to the NICU, where the sweetest nurse met us at the door, and handed us the most precious, amazing, little boy. The moment we laid eyes on him, our lives were forever changed.  We cried, laughed, and simply couldn’t stop smiling. We knew at that moment that those months and years of heartache were all worth it. 24 hours after his birth, papers were signed, and Mama B was discharged and would go home. It was one of the most bittersweet feelings that we’d ever felt. Our greatest joy, was one of her toughest and saddest moments. We hugged her, loved her, and prayed for her as she had just made one of the toughest most selfless decisions of her life.

At that moment, Calloway John Cohee became ours, and we were finally a family of three. The tears we had cried, the days we had asked God “why”, the heartache we experienced was all worth it.  God’s timing is always perfect, not always easy, but perfect indeed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

adoption story: kristie

It's an honor to share this story on the blog today. Kristie and her sweet daughter hold a special place in my heart. I can still remember the first time I finally met Kristie and Bria for the first time face to face. When they walked into my living room for one of my family reunions, it took one look at each other to both break down in tears remembering God's goodness to bring Bria into her life...

My adoption journey began in June of 2015. That’s around the time I sent Susan an email. I was ready to start the journey. Adoption was a big step for me. I had always believed I would be a mama and for a long time I knew adoption was the plan. When I started the adoption journey, it was a new experience. I didn’t know what to expect and the situations were hard to navigate. I wasn’t sure what factors I could handle. I kept passing up situations because they just didn’t feel right or there were things about the situations I just didn’t know if I could handle. 

So… I waited… 

The school year came and went. I presented to a couple of situations that I was comfortable with. However, they just didn’t feel certain. In July, Susan sent a situation via email. I prayed. It was a situation I probably wouldn’t have presented to in the past. I knew God was telling me I needed to step out if faith. I emailed the agency and asked a few questions. There wasn’t a response for several days. I knew they were presenting profiles to this expectant Mama on Friday. I got an answer to those questions on Friday. I felt I was being called  to have trust Him and start considering factors I wouldn’t have been open to before. I emailed the agency back and said I definitely wanted to present. They needed all my information. I scrambled around all morning emailing my profile and my home study. I was confident this might be my daughter. No less than two hours after getting all of that done, the phone rang. It was a different agency in a different state. I answered the phone and the woman on the other end said, “Kristie, this is Katherine. I wanted to let you know you’ve been matched.” I shook… I cried… I didn’t even really hear the rest of what she said!

You see, I didn’t even know my profile was being presented that day. I remembered the situation. Susan had sent me an email and I had asked to present, but was not able to as the expectant mama would deliver in her home state. For legal reasons I was not able to present to her. Somewhere in between, things changed.  I remember Katherine saying, “Your profile just kept coming across my desk. Before I took the profiles over to the expectant mama’s apartment on a last minute feeling, I put yours in the stack. There were fifteen couples along with yours in the stack. She was very adamant: she wants you!” 

That was July 8, 2016. The day I found out I was going to be Bria’s mama. What a journey! It was a journey that strengthened my faith. All through the wait, I had a sense of calm. Everything was going to be okay. I knew when I was matched, it would be perfect. I have not been disappointed. It was such a privilege to meet Bria’s incredible, spunky, and courageous birth mama. To hug her around the neck and tell her how grateful I am for her (I hope I get that opportunity again sometime really soon). 

And… Bria is the most incredible blessing and so loved. She was meant to be my daughter. 

I don’t think the Lord puts something like adoption in your heart if you aren’t supposed to pursue it. When people ask me things like, “Don’t you wish you would have pursued adoption sooner?” (I’m single and will be 43 in September.) My answer is an emphatic no. Everything happens in God’s perfect timing. If I would have started the adoption journey at any other time, Bria wouldn’t be my daughter. I can’t imagine that!

For other women thinking if adoption is possible, being a single adoptive parent is totally doable! You are and will be enough! I don't believe the Lord puts adoption in your heart unless he wants you to pursue it. Don't worry so much about the detail of you being single: a birth mama is going to see your profile and fall in love with you. 

For everyone in the wait or considering adoption, God is for you. No matter your situation, He is faithful. Your sweet little baby is out there. It just might take some time and patience. 

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