Answering Some Adoption Questions

A lot of you know we’ve had a tender spot in our hearts for adoption for many years, and a few of you know how it has turned into a sincere desire for our own family. Yet for the longest time, I didn’t know what to do, or how to do it, and (to be perfectly honest) I was scared and not really sure if I could discern if it was a “nice idea” or if it was something we were really actually supposed to be doing.


Adoption is not something one takes lightly.


We officially started adoption process late last year, and since then, we’ve been asked a lot of questions. Over the holidays, it was great to talk in person with family and friends and share more of our story.


But for many of you who read this, we can’t just sit down and chat. So, I thought I’d write some answers to fill you in.


First thing I feel like saying, or think I should say, is that being in the adoption process does not mean we will definitely be adopting a child. There are a lot of legal and financial and time-sensitive and family-specific factors which play a part in this process.

Why do I feel like I need to say this? Because it’s written on about every third paper we’ve received and/or signed from the adoption agency. It turns out, in adoption, there are no 100% guarantees. 

I also want to add: I am not an expert on adoption, and I am writing about our experience only.

(Everyone who adopts has a unique story and I’d like to share ours with you.)


Where are you in the process?

Wow. There is such a big process before the real process, so let me try to keep this as concise as possible.


We learned we needed to start by picking an agency. Once you have an agency, you then apply to a country’s adoption programs through the agency. But each agency has different relationships with different countries. So, you kind of have to do your homework on agency and country simultaneously. We felt strongly about partnering with Christian agency with well documented ethical standards and strong relationships with the countries they serve.


  • If/When accepted into the country’s program (they all have different standards), you start the paperwork process, which takes 4-6 months. Why 4-6 months, you ask? I’m unable to answer that briefly. The bottom line is because you are documenting YOUR (and your kids’) ENTIRE LIFE.
  • After that, you wait.
  • At some point (hopefully before any paperwork expires) you get a referral for a child.
  • At some point after you accept the referral, you go and pick up your child. (Quick question: Will you have to go to China to pick up the child? Yes. That’s the plan. Both of you? Yes. Isn’t that expensive? Yes.)


So, the short answer of where we are in the process: We are in the paperwork process. We’ve done about ¾ of what we need to do on the collecting paperwork side (rough estimation there) and we still need our homestudy to be completed… which is a HUGE part of the legal requirement.

hanging file


Do our kids know?

Yes. We told them once we started the paperwork and were “officially” in the program.


How do they feel about it?

Daughter is excited. Little guy doesn’t get it, and we’ll work on this as we get closer (just like if I was pregnant). Middle son is much more objective. He was pretty quiet, as he is, after we told him. After a day or two of some random questions from him, I asked him how he was feeling about it. “Well,” he said, “it’s going to change everything. But it’ll be good.”


If you want a bigger family, why don’t you just have another child?

So far, I’m not really phased by anyone’s questions. (We’ve been told to expect some doozies.)  Personally, I think this is a really valid one. Our reasons for adopting are less because we want a bigger family and more because we feel so strongly that we are supposed to be doing this. I really have no desire to have another child from my body, but my (and Chris’) hearts are already starting to love another child we don’t even know yet.


WHY are you adopting? Why China?

Quick little story…

Our daughter had a birthday party the day after we told the kids. I didn’t realize this, but in her I’msoexcited9yearoldness, she told all the girls at the party about her (our) big news.

When I went to pick her up, (because Hallelujah! We’re at the age of the drop-off party!) one of the girls I didn’t know, sounding exactly like Jimmy Fallon’s disgusted-at-everything Sara character, asked me,  “WHY are you adopting?”


I was prepared to answer this question if asked by an adult. I had both a long and short version of my answer ready.


But a 9 year old?


How do you give a simple but honest answer to this very complicated question to a child you don’t know? Taken aback and oddly nervous (can I tell her we’re adopting because God put this on our hearts? That we feel called to it…?), I kept my answer as simple as possible.

“Because we want to.”

Strangely pacified by my straightforward answer, she replied, “Oh.”


Oh? That was all she could say? After the pressure she put me under with that critical valley-girl voice?


But before I was off the hook, Let’sCallHerSara whipped her head around and asked with the same judgmental inflection, “But why China?!!?”


Oh my gosh. Why China? That’s a big question from a little girl and there’s a long answer but we were short on time.


Again, brevity. “Because that’s just how it’s working out.”


“Oh… That’s cool.”


The longer answers involves what the Bible says about taking care of orphans, lots of prayer about how that care should look for our family, deep conviction, soul wrenching honesty, deep-rooted faith, vulnerability, obedience, and a willingness to take one step forward at a time.

There is no way around the fact that we feel and know God put this in our hearts to do.


Why China?

In all honestly, my heart has always been drawn to Africa. But we were told the wait for adopting a child from Africa at this point, through this agency, was in the 4-7 year range (closer to 7) and to expect it to be longer than that by the time we’d actually get our completed paperwork filed. (And I checked around, the other agencies had similar “wait times.”)

(WHY is there such a long wait?!? For many reasons, I won’t get into that now, and am not sure I’m best suited to answer it here.)


We knew we were supposed to move forward with adoption, but this time frame took the wind out of our sail. My heart was heavy with this information, and I held it there for a couple of weeks.

Are we really supposed to move forward? That was my prayer, my question.


Chris, on the other hand, had just one question: If Africa isn’t the right country for us, then what is?


Enter, a spreadsheet.


I listed three agencies we wanted to work with and every country they served. With each and every country, there was some reason we did not qualify or some requirement with which we could not comply. For EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY, except China.

After a bit more time and prayer, I spent one afternoon filling out the application for China and sent in our initial fee.

(The next day, I was at my women’s Bible study at church — and guess who they interviewed on the video session? A white mother who adopted a little girl from China. Enter, my tears.)


Why not domestic?

Again, so much more to this – but the bottom line was that at the time we were choosing, the agencies we wanted to work with had requirements which we didn’t meet. (ex. Some were not accepting applications for domestic adoptions at the time, and others were only accepting parents of a certain cultural/ethnic backgrounds.)


So, China. It’ll probably be a girl then?

It turns out, there are actually more boys “available” for adoption in China. Although China has lifted it’s “one child” policy, experts say it may take a generation before we see the effects of this change. (Read more about it here.)  

But, yes. Although we are leaving the door open to a boy or a girl, we do feel/think a little girl will be a part of our family. 


You never know “what you’re going to get.” Aren’t you afraid?

Yes. Totally. Completely. 100%.

But we’ve also been completely, totally, 100% in a situation (or two) (or five) where we had ZERO control over the circumstances or outcome. We were a part of a plan beyond us. Looking back, we see God’s faithfulness and purpose in it, although it was hard…Crazy hard.

And we can’t help but wonder if some of that might actually have been, in part, preparation for this… to know we aren’t in control but that we are called to move forward (despite, or even in light, of our doubts and fears). 

(Click here if you want to read more of the backstory.)
There’s a lot more, of course, but I wanted to start somewhere! Thanks for reading my “bloggiest” post to date. I feel like I’m writing you a letter. And I’m not sure the best way to end it… how about this? 



p.s. Let me know if you have any other questions, I’ll try to get to them.


Sonya Spillmann


  1. Hey Sonya love your blog! I have read the last few months, through Carol liking your posts. We were on youth choir together, remember?
    Had to comment today because this post was our family 10 years ago! … I’ll try to keep this short heehee. We brought our girls home from Ethiopia 9 years ago, when Ethiopia’s program was still moving well. They were 1.5 & 3.5 & our bio kids were 7,9,11.
    If you are interested, our story (at least the beginning) is at
    I love your statement that this will be a journey over which you have no control of the pace or the outcome. This approach to walking in faith & intimacy with the Lord will continue through the process, & into the actual parenting of your new child, of course. It is our greatest adventure 🙂
    Let me know if you ever want to chat! Hope you have other adoptive families around you as well.

  2. So impressed you’ve completed as much of the paperwork as you have in what seems like a short amount of time. And didn’t know all the backstory of Why China? Wish I could ask you 101 follow-up questions, but this’ll hold me over for now. 😉 love you all.

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