April 24th, 2015 is a day I will never forget. At the center of many stories focused on love and parenting you hear people say, “you will never forget the first moment you meet your child.” As a parent I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. However, the first time my husband and I met our child was a bit out of the norm. Our sweet boy was 5-years-old the first day we met him. I still remember that smile and our first hug. We were all so nervous and my husband and I still laugh about the “supermarket sweep” we had at Target after we learned that he would be having his first overnight visit in just three days!
We were first-time parents and our whole world was about to change forever. The word adoption itself brings forth such a range of thoughts and emotions depending on who is speaking about it. For some, it has a meaning of growth and love, but for others it includes grief and loss. All of these emotions should be considered in an adoption journey. The word has always meant something to me. Over the past decade, while working in the child welfare sector and then becoming an adoptive parent to two precious boys that spent some of their most formative years in the foster care system, the meaning of this word continues to evolve and morph.
For us, we knew the need and chose adoption as the path for growing our family. It’s what my husband and I have coined as our “Plan A.” We knew we wanted to adopt rather than birthing children, at least for our first child. That ended up being the plan for our second child as well. Not all have this choice and each family’s journey into adoption is due to a wide variety of different life circumstances. Much like life, adoption doesn’t fit into a box. We are raising two children that were both brought to us by chance and we have come to realize we needed them just as much as they needed us.
“we knew the need and chose adoption as the path”
Common misconceptions are that these children are damaged or that love won’t be reciprocated. What if they are “damaged?” What if they are difficult? The reality is that none of these misconceptions are true for every child and are certainly not exempt in a biological relationship. The trauma is real. It is serious. But when approached with an empathetic and open mind, these fears are revealed to be just what they are. In the early days, we would worry about every meltdown or sour note from school. But our children are kind and loving. They are aware of the world around them and of their journey thus far. We worry less about a missed math problem and revel in the joy that they find in each other and in our family. They will grow to be amazing adults. It turns out that the fear and worry was representative of endangering our own comfort and control. (We had to give up most, if not all, of that!) Again, that really is no different from any family.
One thing I do know is that every adoption story shares one commonality regardless of its course, a child that was born and at no fault of their own has ended up in a less than lucky situation that has resulted in some form of trauma and loss. Regardless of a child’s age when they experience this loss it is imperative that as a community, we assure children find refuge in a home where adults respect where they come from and honor that as part of them. Many have a story that started long before their adoption.
On any given day, over 437,000 children are living in the U.S. foster care system. Of these children over 125,000 are eligible for adoption and they will wait, on average, four years for an adoptive family. (www.childrensrights.org) And 900 of those 125,000 children are right here in Central Texas waiting for a place to call home. During my time working at Partnerships for Children (PFC), I was lucky enough to be able to spend time with so many of these waiting children. I was able to hear their stories, see their smiles come to life and feel their pain of not having a place to call home. Once you see the need, you know you must do something about it.
“900 children are right here in Central Texas waiting for a place to call home.”
Since PFC took on the Heart Gallery Program in 2015, this has been the goal: see the need, have compassion and do something about it. This is exactly what they do for children waiting to be adopted in Central Texas. Not only do they advocate and recruit for these children through the Heart Gallery program, PFC is constantly with their adoption workers to assure they have experiences and resources to have normalizing experiences while waiting to be adopted.
There are so many amazing professionals working for these children in agencies all over Central Texas but they can only do so much. We need more people in our community to consider adoption as an option. While I’ll be the first to proclaim that our adoption journey hasn’t been all rainbows and puppy dogs (although we do have puppy dogs!), it has been ours and we wouldn’t change it for anything. It hasn’t been easy, but it has all been worth it. Parenting children that have suffered from trauma and loss was a whole new world for us, yet it doesn’t define our children or our family. We have good days and bad days just like everyone else. And we have grown so much as parents, as a couple, and as humans.
P.S. My husband Josh wanted to title this “There goes brunch!”