Friday, March 24, 2017

where the real need is in adoption

It's a common question in adoption, and a good one. 

"Where is the real need in adoption?"



It's a conversation that comes up at least once a week in my work as an adoption consultant. A family is on the front end of their adoption journey and deciding which route to choose: domestic adoption, international adoption, or foster care/fostering to adopt. For some couples, they are deciding which route fits with their preferences or budget. Which makes the most sense for their family.

But for some families, even more than the desire to grow their family through  adoption, is the desire to meet a need for a child.

They want to go where the most need is.

It's no secret I work primarily in domestic adoption. Christian Adoption Consultants also serves families in the international adoption process. And foster care is near and dear to my heart (my husband has spent over a dozen years as a social worker in child welfare).

So you want to know what I tell people when they ask where the real need in adoption is? 

It's in all of these spaces.

We all know our foster care system is in desperate need of families. Families willing to step in to temporarily care for children while their birth families address issues with the goal of reunification. Or families opening their home to a child who has been in the state's care and now needs a forever family since reunification is no longer possible. 

And of course there's a need for families to travel to other countries to adopt internationally. There are children in orphanages across the globe in need of families to provide loving homes.

But a lot of people assume domestic adoption has the least need in the U.S. There is still the false idea that there are families "in line" so to speak, waiting on infants to be born who are available for adoption.

This is the point in the conversation that gets honest and raw and real when families ask where the real need is. So I would love to pretend that instead of you reading this blog from behind a computer screen, we're meeting face to face over coffee. And this is the part where I would lean in close, lower my voice, and tell just how big the need is in domestic adoption.

Can I be honest? In once sense, the old idea that there are plenty of families waiting to be matched is still generally true. But here's where that breaks down quickly: many of those families are also waiting on children with a skin tone that matches theirs and with promises and guarantees of both mother's and baby's health, in addition to a fairly closed adoption.

Please hear me. These are all valid desires and preferences. Every couple has to wrestle with what makes the most sense for their family in the context of their communities.

But this post is about where the real need is in adoption. Not about preferences or desires.

This post is about real, raw needs. Real babies in need of unconditionally loving parents. Expectant mamas who desperately and bravely desire an adoptive family to raise their child. Birth families who want ongoing contact with their child and their child's family in the future to know they are doing well and being loved.

Adoption always starts with brokenness. Always. The perfect design of a family breaks down when a birth mother isn't in a place to parent or a woman who desperately wants to become a mother through biology isn't able to. And often, an expectant mother decides to make an adoption plan because she's in an incredibly hard space; she's in unhealthy relationships, she's been impacted by substance use/abuse, or she's made poor decisions in her life. Although this of course isn't always the case, this kind of brokenness often impacts the beginning of an adoption story.

Most often the families "waiting in line" are the ones who don't want some of these realities to be the beginning of their child's story.

So where is the real need in adoption? For domestic infant adoption in the U.S., it's with the baby girl weaning off morphine. It's with the beautiful brown skinned boy. And it's with the baby whose mama would love pictures and letters to watch them grow up. 

A few years ago had you asked me where the biggest need was, I would have told you it's for families to step into adopting children of color. Today, by far, the greatest need is families willing to adopt substance-affected children. Babies who are impacted during the pregnancy with some form of substance ranging from nicotine and prescription drugs to heroin or cocaine.

Truly, the realities of substance-affected pregnancies are a whole other topic. But I can tell you from experience that more often the "what-ifs" are much more scary than the realities of raising these babies. That very often a baby affected by substances has a pretty rocky first few days or months of life and then can be completely on track developmentally in the future. And that a child raised in a substance-affected home (which is very often where a lot of the studies out there have come from) is a much different scenario than a child raised in a substance-free home. 

Ultimately, each family needs to lean on Jesus to guide and direct building their families through adoption. You can be assured that with each each kind of adoption available, there is an absolute need. 

And this is the point in the conversation, where, if we were face to face, I would put my coffee cup down and look right into your eyes.

In our lives, since the need is everywhere, a better question to ask is: What need is Jesus calling us to meet?

How can we step into adoption without strings attached?

What does it look like for our "yes" to be on the table, unconditionally?

Can we trust God to write our family story even better than we every could?

When we start asking these kinds of questions, God has control. He does the work. And we can rest knowing He will be faithful to create our family, according to his perfect plan.






Thursday, March 16, 2017

what adoption has taught me about love

In my work as an adoption consultant, I have the honor of walking alongside couples on their journey to build their family through adoption. I partner with adoptive families for the entirety of their adoption: starting with the home study and sometimes for years afterwards. I watch in awe as they pray, wait, dream, and work to answer the call they have to adopt. We pray together for birth families and babies and we laugh together at God's crazy timing and overwhelming faithfulness. My role as a counselor, educator, and advisor has been incredibly rewarding.


But walking with these families, day in and day out over the years, has probably taught me more than I have ever taught them. I’ve come to the table with information and insights, but, if I’m honest, I’ve learned much more about the important stuff of life from them.

Here’s a few of those important lessons adoptive families have taught me along the way...

READ THE REST OF MY POST HERE: Michelle Madrid-Branch

Michelle is an author and speaker with a strong voice in the adoption community as an adoptee and adoptive mother. Take awhile to take a peek at her website empowering women, advocating for adoption, and strengthening communities. I'm honored to have a chance to share in her space today!


Friday, March 10, 2017

repost: 5 myths of open adoption

In my work as an adoption consultant, one of the most common questions I get (from hopeful adoptive families and others who are curious about how it all works) is about openness in adoption. I've shared a lot in writing about openness, including tips for a healthy open adoption and a series on navigating openness. Today I thought I would repost some helpful thoughts dispelling common myths about open adoption.

I've found there is an air of mystery surrounding open adoption and a lot of questions from my adoptive families first beginning to contemplate adoption and what will be a good fit for them.


What will our relationship with the birth family look like in the years to come?

What kind of contact will we with have with the birth mother?

Will the birth father overstep his role?

Is openness even good or healthy for our child?


For adoptive families, it's critical to wrestle with these questions early on in the adoption process and understand the benefits and challenges to open adoption.

Openness in adoption describes the relationship between the adoptive family and birth family. Years ago, closed adoption was the only option. Pregnancy outside of marriage was looked at much differently and a woman was expected to make a secretive adoption plan. A closed adoption ensured she wouldn't shame herself and her family and allowed the adoptive family to avoid admitting publicly that they had fertility issues.


Closed adoptions led to a lot of problems. Children who didn't know their stories. Birth families who had no idea if their children were loved and well cared for. Adoptive families left with gaping holes in their child's medical history. 

Now we know that some level of openness benefits everyone involved in the adoption triad (the adopted child, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents). But there are still many popular myths that are still believed, even after the research has shown how positive openness can be. Many of these myths come from the media that exploit the rare negative experiences or Lifetime movie dramas. 


So today we're busting the myths about open adoption. Here are the top 5 I hear often:

1.   Open adoption is co-parenting  
Some people assume that with open adoption comes co-parenting with the birth family: sharing parental responsibilities and decisions and even custody or time. When an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents become the legal parents of the child. A new birth certificate is issued with their names listed as parents. That means that all of the decisions, custody, and rights lie solely with the adoptive parents, even if the birth family disagrees with these decisions. A better way to look at open adoption is co-loving the child rather than co-parenting.  

2.   Having an open relationship with the birth family is risky since they might change their mind and decide to parent
Not only is a new birth certificate issued at the time of finalization, but at that time the adoption is also irrevocable. This means that when the birth parents make an adoption plan, sign consent forms, and the adoption is finalized by a judge, it is final; the child is forever a part of that family. This is one reason it's critical to have adoption professionals (like a consultant, agency, and attorney) who know what they're doing walk beside you to ensure all of the necessary legal steps are taken. Once an adoption is finalized, even if a birth parent changes their mind, the adoption can not be overturned.

3.   In open adoption, birth parents regret their decision
The assumption is that if a birth parent sees their child growing up they will change their mind. Actually, open adoptions often have the exact opposite effect. A birth parent can see firsthand that their child is loved and well cared for. Instead of wondering if they made the right decision, they are able to witness firsthand the blessing their decision has been to a family and have confirmation that it really was the best choice for their child.

4.   Open adoption only benefits the birth family
Not only does a birth family get the assurance that they made the right decision, but the benefits of openness also extend to the child and the birth family. The child knows their birth story, has a healthy sense of identity, and has the assurance of their birth parents love firsthand. The adoptive family is able to be aware of medical and social issues in real time, not just from a form that was completed during the pregnancy. And the entire adoption triad serves as a sort of beautiful extended family for everyone involved.

5.   There are no boundaries in open adoption 
Just like all relationships we have in life, boundaries are good and healthy to have. I have yet to hear of a birth mother who shows up on a doorstep unexpectedly. More often birth mothers are hesitant because they don't want to encroach on the family she has chosen to help create. As in relationships with grandparents, extended family members, and friends, healthy boundaries are necessary and include open communication, clear expectations, and seasons that are closer than others.



By no means do I want to communicate there is a one-size-fits-all method to pursuing open adoption and what is best for each family. Openness is on a spectrum and is unique to every family (birth and adoptive). Finding the right fit is to be prayerfully considered and can change throughout the adoption process and the child's lifetime. 

It's also worthwhile to note that these decisions are harder to make with a nameless, faceless couple who are future birth parents. I've often found that once an adoptive family and birth family meet and the process of getting to know each other happens organically, much of the fears subside. When a true relationship is formed, bonds are created, and the best interests of a shared child is a mutual goal, openness can create a beautiful story for everyone involved.

For more on this topic, check out this post: Open Adoption [A Mini-Tutorial]

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


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