Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Adoption Story: Brian and Anne

Every good book, movie, or story has a beginning, middle, and end. Adoption is a story that has a beginning and somewhat of a middle, but a series of twists that never truly conclude the story; they just keep the story going. The story never really ends. Brian and Anne's first few chapters read like this...

Our story began by contacting Susan. Working with Christian Adoption Consultants and Susan has been great, she has been a valuable asset and wonderful encouragement as we have progressed through this adoption journey. Susan answers questions and gave so much guidance to us. She reminded us to not lose heart when we heard the “no’s.” Everyone who found out we were working with Susan raved about her...she is just that amazing!

When our home study was complete, that was an end to one part in bringing our little baby home. Then comes the hard part. The middle that pulls at every single emotion you have...showing your profiles to expectant families. Every single time we showed to an expectant family, I felt like this was the one. We just kept hearing “no.” For six months, “no” after “no.” It was hard. Really hard. It's during this time who you will find out who is truly supportive of your adoption journey. It’s really hard to be patient when you hear these whirlwind stories of adoption happening so quickly. Were we ever going to get picked? Was something wrong with us? Did we hear you wrong about adoption? Was God even hearing us? I heard this part of the process being equated to a storm. The process of getting matched is like a storm where you are thrown all over the place. It’s hard to see the calm after the storm while you’re in it. It’s hard to see the rainbow at the end when you feel like the storm will never be over.

In October 2016, the storm quieted for us. As I was getting ready to leave for work, I saw a call from a Florida number I didn’t know. We had matched! A baby boy due in January 2017. A baby boy whose due date was nine months from the date on our home study.  It felt so surreal. It honestly felt like an out of body experience. In the middle of November, we flew down for Florida to meet the expectant family. As we discussed things over lunch, the topic of names came up. We wanted the expectant family's input on names. They wanted us to choose his name. We really only had one name, and it happened to be the same as the one the expectant family had. Cue the goosebumps. It was then that we knew we had gained family in Florida. On December 30th, 2016 I heard my phone ring again. I wasn’t even looking at it and we both knew. Two weeks early, expectant mom was in labor and baby was coming now. We threw everything we could possibly think of in suitcases to fly to Florida.

Our birth family has been awesome. They chose adoption which takes more courage and strength than it took us going through all the paperwork and waiting. They have been real with us about life. They have been incredibly gracious to us. They have poured out their hearts. They have reaffirmed us as adoptive parents. They have shown us what the rainbow after the storm can look like. Above all else, they have become part of our family...part of our story. We have a puzzle in our little one's room. It was a completely blank white puzzle when we started and slowly but surely it has become filled with names of the people that have been part of his story. A story that hasn’t ended, a beautiful story that is continually being written.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Your ICPC Survival Guide

For many adoptive families today, they using a multi-agency approach and adopting outside of their home state. This means they travel out of state to take custody of their baby as part of their adoption journey. When this happens, families need to follow the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), a statutory agreement between all fifty states that governs the placement of children from one state to another. While all of the required paperwork is gathered and ensures the laws of both stated have been observed in the adoption process, the new family has to wait to cross state lines and travel back home. 

The ICPC process takes and average of  7 to 10 business days before a family obtains approval to return home with their newly adopted baby. Practically, this means a family has to maneuver all the challenges of a newborn paired with being away from home and all things familiar.

So how do you survive the ICPC wait? Here's a round up of some of my favorite tips:

Find the right housing

  • I've found that extended stay hotels, suites, or rentals like Airbnb and Vrbo are a great fit for adoptive families staying more than a few days. This gives you space to spread out and can be much more comfortable to bring your newborn "home" to for those first days together.
  • Check out this closed Facebook group, Domestic Adoption Housing Connections. It's a platform that connects families across the U.S. who want to help each other out and offer their home, a rental, or a vacation home to families waiting out ICPC or a long NICU stay.
  • Remember to look for important extras: things like a washer/dryer or laundry service (don't forget quarters!), a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave, free hot breakfast, etc. These things can be life savers.
  • Let the staff know you're there for your adoption. I've been amazed how many companies have blessed adoptive families with deep discounts, offered sweet gifts for the baby, and given free upgrades to help a family celebrate!

Know what to pack
  • Make sure to pack some of the basics, like blankets, sleepers and onesies, burp cloths, diapers, etc.
  • But here's a few lifesavers from some adoptive families that have experience with hotel living with a newborn:
    • A safe sleep space for baby is a must. Some favorites are a moses basket or pack 'n play.
    • Baby wrap to wear your baby (might be easier than a stroller to travel with and promotes great bonding!)
    • Medela Quick Clean Mico-Steam Bags can make bottle sterilization a breeze in a hotel room with a microwave.
  • The good news? Since this is a domestic infant adoption, there is sure to be a Target close by to stock up on anything you may have forgotten or run out of!

Make the most of your time

  • Inevitably you will have a lot of down time. Pack cozy clothes, some games to play together, books and magazines to read, or save the Netflix show you've been wanting to binge on!
  • Take the opportunity to journal your child's birth and adoption story! Before the demands of life take over when you get back home, this is a great chance to record all of those precious details while they're fresh. On a related note, you could also write Thank You cards for gifts or to friends and family who have supported you on your journey.
  • Why not have your newborn pictures taken during this time? Find a local photographer and schedule a photo shoot. A great resource is Found Families, an organization that connects professional photographers with adoptive families and offers discounted or even free photoshoots.
  • Take advantage of your travel. Chances are you're in a place you've never visited. Check out the local attractions and become a tourist. Head to the beach as a new family, visit friends or family who might be nearby, or find the best local coffee shop or restaurant. Go on an adventure as a new family!

In the end, one of the most helpful things you can do to survive the ICPC wait is to reframe your attitude. Let's face it. Being away from home and friends and family, especially for days on end, can be hard. And being trapped in a hotel room with and infant can make you stir-crazy. Waiting for paperwork to go through and the unknown of when you can return home can be frustrating. It can be tempting to see ICPC as a barrier to getting home and starting your life together as a new family. BUT, this is the long-awaited time you have prayed for waited for. Your baby is finally in your arms, you have added a little one to your family, and you can celebrate. 

This time can be a sweet "babymoon." Although of course you are eager to return home and introduce your baby to friends and family, ICPC can be a gift. When else will you get the opportunity where your only job (without the regular responsibilities of life) is to love on and bond with your precious baby? Enjoy it and soak up every moment. 

You've survived the adoption process. Surely the ICPC wait will be a breeze!

Want more practical help on your adoption journey? Think about hiring an adoption consultant!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

So You Want to Hire an Adoption Consultant?

So you've already decided it's well worth it to hire an adoption consultant to walk with you during your adoption journey. You've heard about Christian Adoption Consultants and maybe heard a few recommendations. Maybe you've even got a clear picture of the bird's eye view of adoption and your road map.

But what now?

Here's a few of our most popular questions about our services answered:

When should we start working with a consultant?
Families start with us at all points in their adoption journey; families who are home study ready and have been waiting a long time to be matched. If you're at the very beginning, this is the BEST time to start! This way we can give you tips and referrals on choosing the right home study provider that works well with the multi-agency approach. And while you're working on your home study, we can be working together to complete your profile and review which agencies you will want to apply to. That way, once your home study is done, you're essentially ready to be matched!

What if we don't know what our preferences are yet?
That's why we're here! It can feel a little overwhelming to think through your openness to different races, situations, and the kind of relationship you might want to share with your child's birth family. Your application is just a starting place and you can change/update your preferences at any time. Our services include resources, education, and support to find the best fit for your family.

Do we need to have our entire adoption budget in the bank?
Nope. In fact, it's rare that families have all of that money already tucked away in a savings account just waiting to adopt. Much more often, the decision to adopt and jump in feels more like a leap of faith that a calculated next step that makes sense when you look at your bank statement. Some families only have what's needed to start with CAC. Keep in mind that a large part of our services are creative financing ideas that include information on the adoption tax credit, available adoption grants and loans, and fundraising ideas that might be a good fit for your family. 

Which add on option is right for us?
We offer a handful of different options to fit each hopeful adoptive family's unique needs for their adoption. Here's a brief rundown to find the right one for you:

  • Basic Consulting Package - includes our consulting services for fourteen months: education and guidance, financial advice, advocacy, and multiple agency networking with an adoption professional.  
Add On Options:
  • Profile Design - This service includes the layout, creative design, picture selection, and written narrative of your profile. (Your family profile is a highly important, essential part of your adoption journey and it is to your benefit to have a profile that is professional and accurately communicates who you are as a family.) Families will receive a pdf copy of the profile and will be responsible for printing copies as well as mailing the profile to the appropriate agencies. 
  • Agency Paperwork Preparation - This includes completion of applications to the adoption agencies on our recommended list. This is a great fit for families who would like help with organizing and preparing agency applications. 
  • Profile Review Service - We highly recommend this service to families choosing not to have us create their family profile. This service includes advice and feedback on your profile, suggestions and direction on design and layout, narrative, and pictures. 

What if we already have a home study?

No problem! We'll just dive straight in to helping you with the multi-agency approach, consulting services, and help with your profile if needed. This won't impact which package you choose.

What if we already have a profile?
I would love to take a peek! Some families come to us with great profiles, others find that with our Profile Review Service they can receive some helpful insights, feedback, and tips to make it even better.

What happens once we send in our application?
As soon as we receive your application, once we review and approve it and process your payment, we'll send over a welcome packet and next steps with all you need to get started!

Still have more questions?
No problem. Shoot me an email and I'm happy to answer your questions (or we can set up a time to chat over the phone)! This is a huge decision and I'd love to walk you through your options and work with you to find the right fit for your adoption.

Ready to finally dive in?
Simply fill out this application and email it to me! We'll get you started on what's sure to be one of the most exciting, life-changing, and important journeys of your life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dear Mamas in Waiting

I've talked to a handful of hopeful adoptive mamas this week already about the wait. It's hard and easily tests patience and faith. But I love the gift that the wait can be. 

There's no doubt that most hopeful adoptive mama's hardest space is the wait to be matched. Once the home study paperwork is complete, the applications filled out, and the nursery decorated, there's the inevitable wait to be matched with an expectant family.

But there's a dramatic difference between pregnancy and waiting to be matched as an adoptive mama. With no belly gradually growing and not even a due date in sight, the wait can be long and hard. With no end in sight and nothing to do but wait, how do you bide your time? How do you hold your heart? How do you stay hopeful?

I've shared before about truth to cling to in the wait and what to do while you wait. But today I want to share the incredibly unique position you hold in this space.

Right now, chances are you are waiting in anticipation for an email or phone call with a new situation. A description of an expectant mama and the little one she is carrying. It includes sacred details of her personal life: a bit of her story, her interests and background, the details of the birth father, even her hopes and dreams for her child.

Although these include basic facts and statistics, what's contained in this information goes far beyond information. It also gives a glimpse into actual lives. A mother and father in a hard place. A baby with a future that is uncertain. Three lives that will be forever changed in the coming days. And others that will be changed as well; there are grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and possibly a future adoptive family involved.

When these phone calls or emails come, you are given insights into personal stories. There are details shared in each situation that this expectant mama might not have shared with anyone else.

What if God has called you not just to adopt a baby, but to pray for each of these women (and men and babies)?

What if your ministry isn't just as a mother someday, but as a prayer warrior today?

What if God has blessed you with an incredibly unique position to pray for this mama, and father, and baby in a way no one else on earth can in these moments?

It would be easy to waste the wait on impatience, grumbling, and angst, spending your time focusing on the baby that is not yet in your arms. But your fervent prayers can have a reach beyond this moment. I love that God doesn't waste these spaces when it seems like nothing important is happening. That in the wait, your time, your energy, and your prayers can have eternal impact. 

Here's some ways you can pray:
  • Pray for peace for the expectant mama. Pray that God would meet her where she is and provide comfort and protection.
  • Pray for wisdom for the expectant mom she makes a decision about what is best for her and her baby and considers parenting and adoption. 
  • Pray for the father: that he would be an honored as a part of the decision-making process and offer support where he can. 
  • Pray for the pregnancy and the baby: that the baby would be healthy and the expectant mom would get quality medical care.
  • Pray for others to surround the expectant parents with encouragement and love; friends, family, and professionals who would honor their decisions and offer tangible means of support and care.
  • Pray that through all of this, God would work all things for their good and His glory.

Someday, when the wait is over and you're snuggling a sweet baby, what a gift to be able to look back and think of all the ways you came alongside other women (and men) to pray for them and their babies. And to know that maybe, another hopeful adoptive mama was doing the same for the little one who would someday be in your arms as well.

Friday, January 6, 2017

In Their Own Words: The Truth About Our Hurt

Joslyn is a sweet friend. We were roommates for several years in college, traveled together in a band (not as glamorous as you might be imagining), and grew into adulthood side by side. If you know Joslyn, you know her huge heart for others, her contagious belly laugh, and her passion for life. She has a way of making just about anything fun and has a constant twinkle in her eyes. But more than anything, Jos has always had a heart for being a mama. All three of her children have come to her through adoption and she is an adoptee herself.Today Joslyn honestly and transparently shares some insights on the hurt and pain adoptees can go through.

I have a unique perspective. As an adoptee who has adopted, I get both sides. The only leg of the adoption triangle I'm missing is the birth momma.

Adoption is this amazing experience I have had the pleasure of knowing so intimately. It's who I am. It's my past and present and future. God gave me this amazing family who nurtured me and led me up in Christ. I was loved. I am loved. My family is such a gift. And now I get to love and nurture three souls that I have been hand-picked to parent through foster/adoption.

To say that this road is all roses and butterflies would be...untrue. And to be honest, no parenting road is smooth sailing. If someone claims that it is, perhaps they haven't hit certain stages yet. Or maybe they're lying.

The truth is, parenting kids from hard places is both incredibly challenging and terribly sad. It's hard.

So, in the essence of true transparency, I thought I'd write a little about the hurt and pain we adoptees go through. Please read this with no judgement and no "psychological answers," because the truth is...it's there. The older I get, the more I feel like one day (or year) it will go away, but it doesn't. 

And remember: this doesn't mean we don't love the life we've been given and blessed with. I'm just hoping to let light in to your adoptee's mind...even if they can't put words to it.

There are days when we're sad and we don't know why. Only to realize later that it's because we didn't sleep last night as we thought/dreamt/imagined our birth family and how life maybe would have been. Does it mean we want a different life? No. (For me, never.) But does it mean we wonder? Yes. We do. And then our feelings drift to why? That "why" will hang over our heads until we get the chance to ask the ones who can answer it, which some of us never will.

Birthdays are much harder than one would think. Not because we're growing older. No. It's because we can't stop wondering if the proverbial "they" are thinking about us. Do they remember this day? What are their memories/feelings/regrets about this day? Or is it just another day for them? Do they remember? Do they miss me? Do they wish they knew me?

There's a lot more guilt than we talk about. We wrestle with our desire to want to know more (everything) about our heritage/birth family/genes. We worry that will make our adoptive family think we love them less. We don't. But we need to know basic things that most people automatically have given to them upon birth into a family. Let us explore. Let us search. Let us meet. Let us love and be loved by both of the families who made us who we are. Without abandon. And maybe help us along the way.

Don't assume gratitude. This is a hard one for me to type. I am impacted greatly by gratitude; I believe we all are. But don't assume that we should be grateful for the life we've been given. Especially in those teenage years, when all we search for is autonomy, sometimes all we can think about is how life would/could be better/different. Don't say to me, "You should be grateful for the family you have." I am grateful. We are. We adoptees are. But why should we assume that our life is greater without our "roots?" That's a hard pill to swallow for us.

I look into my 3 kid's eyes and I sometimes even admittedly think that. That I wish they'd be grateful for the sacrifice and love and hard issues we sludge through with them. But the truth is, I know they are silently fighting a battle that they don't even want to be in.

And so in our home, we provide safety and (hopefully) transparency. We talk about birth family and birth parents as fluidly as we talk about our own. We talk about what could have been, what might have been. We talk about how all of our family has shaped who we are. We talk about how we have to choose which way to lean....how to pick the good parts of all of it and learn to be comfortable with who we are. We talk about how hard birthdays are. And sometimes, when relaying our conversations to my husband, tears are shed. Because I don't want my children to know how I understand both sides now. I get them wanting their roots. And I also get me wanting to protect them from whatever possible harm there could be in their roots.

We celebrate big days (birthdays, adoption, etc.) with the realization that the only way our family can celebrate these days is because our child has experienced such a great and devastating loss. That can not be forgotten or left out.

Similar to life itself, great beauty rises from the ashes of hurt. And though no family is perfect, mine was perfect for me. I pray when my three are grown, they will say the same of us.

And most importantly, the beauty outweighs the hurt. Always.

You can find Joslyn, her family, and more of her story at her blog, Keathley Chronicles.

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