We were married for 21 years with an eleven year old biological daughter and felt very blessed. Our gratitude led us to feel the need to share our blessings with others. Opening our home up to adoption was something we talked about for years, but never really checked into. My wife had always stated she wanted 12 kids filling up the house, though I was open to something less than that… We faced many of the same concerns others have; some were minor preferences, while others were major concerns.
- What if the birth parent(s) change their minds?
- What if there is something physically or emotionally wrong with the child that doesn't come to light until later? What if we are not able to deal with it?
- What if the child brings disruption or trouble to our household?
- What if there are no babies available (our preference)?
- What if the child grows up and rejects us in search of their "real parents"?
It seemed when our urgings to adoption would come up, we somehow let our fears and concerns push it to the background yet again.
At the end of 2002, I was between assignments at work. This fact, coupled with middle age, gave me a lot of time to reflect on my life. I pondered what we had done and what lay ahead for us and began to question if what I was pushing for was of any real value. It provided well for our family, but it sure didn't seem like anything of lasting value or benefit to our small world. I wanted to make a lasting difference, for our family and for others. We discussed the idea of looking at adoption again. We voiced the same concerns, but this time we concluded that God was able to provide just the right circumstances for all involved provided we would be willing to give of ourselves and allow Him to work.
Not knowing where to start, we began to attend seminars regarding international adoption. In December 2002, we attended a locally held seminar concentrating on foreign adoptions and upon realizing the expense involved, the long waiting period to be matched with a child and the international red tape, we no longer felt that was the right move for us. Honestly it was pretty discouraging. We were not in a position to pay the money required, nor raise it, and it didn't seem logical to re-mortgage our home to pay for the process. We wanted to provide a solid home in every way for a child, and adding this financial burden seemed that it would weaken our family base financially right from the start. We decided there had to be someone we knew, who knew someone, who knew someone who might be expecting a baby and yet was not ready to raise a child. So we began to discuss this idea with anyone and everyone we knew: our Pastor, our friends and our families.
A friend told us that her sister-in-law worked for Alternatives For Children and Families (a foster care agency located in Genesee County), so we approached her for information on how to get started. She informed us that they primarily worked in foster care with a focus on re-uniting families, but on occasion, the courts may decide that would not be possible and a child would be available for adoption. What about babies? Sometimes this occurred, however, all adoptions would happen out of the foster care system. Our next step was to get licensed as foster care providers so we could be on their list of homes where they would place children who had been removed from their natural homes. We began our paperwork in January 2003 and completed the final step of a home study by the State of Michigan in April 2003. Our financial investment in the process was under $100 at this point.
We really wanted to have a child adopted into our home so we stipulated among our preferences for child selection that only children who were 'adoption ready' be directed to us. We were open to a child of any sex or race, preferred they be physically and emotionally well and ideally a newborn (up to two years old). Honestly we were told that were we limiting the availability of children, but we knew what we wanted and what our limitations were and we left the rest to God.
July 3, 2003, we received a call from the agency stating that a woman had called to say she wanted to give up her yet born child as she knew she could not take care of it. Would they help? This was not the normal circumstances under which Alternatives operated so they would have to decline and redirect her. The woman stated that this was the third agency she had called and the first one she was able to reach a live person on the phone. That person was our friend – God was intervening. Our friend thought for a moment and told the woman she knew of a family looking for a baby to adopt. Information was exchanged and we set up a date and time to meet the birth mother later that same week. We met, we talked; she asked questions, we asked questions. She seemed comfortable with us and we had reservations about her story, but what mattered to us was the baby. She was willing to entrust us with the future of her unborn son. Suddenly, it was early July and we had a birth mother expecting a child in August. We were now pursuing a private adoption and needed an attorney. Our agency was able to recommend one to us that specialized in private adoption. We began the paperwork process with our attorney, which revealed the need to assist the birth mother with financial and medical needs for a period of time before and after the birth.
Alas, we began to joyfully prepare our home by converting a bedroom to a new nursery and gathering clothes and other items needed to welcome a newborn into our home. The birth mother invited us to be as much a part of the birth process as we wished. On August 27th, we got a call that she was going to the hospital for delivery. Our excitement abounded as we headed up for the birth of our baby-to-be whom we had already fell in love with. While at the hospital, we were told that things were not progressing quite as fast as they thought and to go home for now, but they would call us when it was closer to the time of birth. At 5am on the 28th the call came and we quickly threw on clothes and headed to the hospital. At 6:05 am, Donita witnessed our baby boy being born into the world and even had the privilege of cutting the cord! At this point, we merely had to wait the 24 hours of observation required by the hospital and our beautiful newborn son was able to come home with us.
We brought him home from the hospital and began the proceedings for the adoption, which should have been finalized in 6-8 weeks. However, within days after arriving home, we began to lose track of the birth mother. Since it was not an ‘open’ adoption (where the birth mother maintained a relationship with us and her son) and the legalities were not finalized, we had to find her. Due to an attorney who was inept and some complications with the birth mom (caused by the attorney), our son’s adoption was not finalized until he was 17 months old. By December, the attorney was unable to get mom to sign the paperwork and when the attorney finally was able to contact the birth mom, she decided that her sister should have our son. Our Alternatives worker called the sister who declined saying that she already had the birth mom’s 3 other children, whom she had lost to the state already. That meant that our son was automatically a ward of the state and would be placed in the foster care system! No one wanted to remove him from us, so we were able to become fictive kin (the closest thing to family that he has/knows) while we went through foster parenting and licensing classes at an accelerated pace! In April, 2004 he was officially ‘placed’ with us as foster parents, though he never left the safe haven of our home through that process. Eventually, the state was able to terminate the rights of both the birth mom and dad (unknown), so he became adoptable by us. We rejoiced as we finalized the adoption of our son on November 17, 2004.
Our story in neither typical nor ideal, in fact the complications coupled with the revelation of very sad realities regarding both the birth mother and father make our story very unique. Yes, we went through a lot-more than the norm, but it was worth every bit of it. The frustrations, fears and aggravation of our journey were certainly real at the time, but have since faded in comparison to the promise, joy and love that have been brought into our home through this special child. We can say today with utmost certainty that we would not hesitate to do it all again.
There are abundant miracles woven throughout our story, many of which we are confident have yet to be realized. Bryce is a perfectly healthy, smart, active and happy five year old that has brought us immeasurable joy. Who knows why God put all of this together? Who knows what He has planned for this child that was rescued?
Today, we are still active foster parents and continue our stipulations. We have received numerous calls over the years offering children to be in our care including twin five month old girls, a six month old baby boy, a five year old girl (who had a five year old sister). These children are right here in our communities.
We are currently fostering a two year old boy, and provided there are no complications, he will be placed permanently and adopted by friends of ours. It is amazing the way a child can transform the heart of man. This couple had been considering and then declining the idea of foster care or adoption for years, but once they met him, they were able to drop their guard, make a connection and take action on his behalf. This one action will not only change his life, but generations to come.
There will always be doubts, fears, and concerns when thinking about giving of yourself to foster care or adoption. But I challenge you to actively seek to intersect your life with a child in need. Build a relationship with them at whatever level you feel God is calling you to. I can promise that those fears will fade away in the eyes and smiles, hugs and kisses of a child that longs for someone to care about them. That someone may be you.