In the year since our adoption’s been finalized, a number of people have contacted me say that they are interested in adoption. A few have said they feel led to adopt. And a handful have reached out and says something like, “We’ve been praying about adoption, feel like we’re supposed to move forward — but we don’t know where to start.”
To which I always respond: Yep. I get it. There is just so much information. So many choices, options, agencies, countries, requirements, possibilities.
Not that long ago, I got another email asking for some advice on first steps and thought it’s probably time to write a blog post about this.
So, for anyone who has adoption on their hearts, who wants to dip a toe into the water or take a baby-step forward — this post is for you.
First off — my heart fills to overflowing anytime I hear of someone thinking on or praying about adoption for their own families. Adoption isn’t going to be a part of every family’s story, but as Christ followers, the instruction to help ‘the orphan’ is part of the fabric of who we are. But how that looks in a practical sense? It’s different for all of us. But as an adoptive mom, my cup spilleth over when I learn another family wants to welcome a little one into their lives forever.
Yet, the hardest thing for me to navigate in the whole adoption process was starting. Where does one begin?
Everything I read said: Pick an Agency. But — not all agencies serve all countries. In fact, many agencies kind of specialize in certain countries for adoption. And we felt a call to adopt but didn’t have super strong leanings towards one country or one particular agency. So what do you do? It was like I knew we should move forward, and was willing to, but at the same time, was frozen with this question of Now What? I don’t know what to do.
If you find yourself here too, these are my 5 suggestions for what to do next:
1. PRAY. I know, sounds like such a pat answer — but I believe it wholeheartedly. Pray for direction, for clarity, against fear, in expectation, and in agreement of God’s faithfulness and goodness to lead you exactly where He wants you to be.
2. Make sure your spouse is 100% on board. (Prayer helps here, too.) Sometimes adoption has been a part of a couple’s heart for as long as they’ve known each other. But it’s also common for one spouse to be the primary driving force towards adoption, and when that happens, it’s really important to make sure both parties are fully committed.
3. Identify your leanings. Do you feel strongly about pursuing Domestic adoption v. International adoption v. Foster-care that may lead to adoption? Do you want an open adoption? To work with a Christian agency? What is your time frame? What age(s) would you consider (infant/ older child)?
If you know the answers to those questions – great. If not, that’s okay. Both will lead you to step 4.
4. Research adoption agencies. If you’re pursuing foster-care — you probably will contact the county you live in. But if you’re open to domestic or international adoptions — you have a bit more work here. Go back to your leanings and start Googling. If you want Chrisitan agency, search for ‘Christian adoption agencies.’ Do you have a country of interest? If so, this will narrow things down: some agencies don’t serve Africa. Some have a robust program with Korea but not China, or South America but not Asia. Do you want an agency with in-house social work? Do you want an agency with a physical office close to you? Infant or older child adoption? Not all agencies have services for the type of adoption you are leaning towards.
ASK TRUSTED FRIENDS who’ve adopted which agencies they used. (#worksmarternotharder)
I ended up taking those three agencies and making a bit of an insane handwritten spreadsheet, listing the countries they served and the requirements for each country. For example, at the time, to adopt from Brazil, one had to have a BMI under 30 and live there for six months. To adopt from Uganda, you had to live there six weeks. To adopt from Haiti, you’d have to take two trips over the course of 12-24 months before the adoption was finalized. There was a longer than we wanted wait time with Ethiopia. There were limits for the number of children already in the home for certain domestic programs we looked at.
5. Contact the agency. Some will have online pre-applications. This is very low-commitment, so don’t stress. With some, you can directly contact a social worker or family coordinator. When you do talk to a live human, have all your questions ready to go. (We’re interested in this country — can you tell me a bit about the wait time and the process?) In my experience with international adoption, knowing which country you want to adopt from is the agency’s primary concern at this point. They want to direct you to the right person to give you the right information on how to move forward.
It’s almost like you have to pick a country or an agency — or look at a lot of information in order to do concurrently pick both.
To be candid, we initially focused on adopting from Africa … but after we completed our pre-application and spoke with a social worker to learn more about the program, we found out the waiting time was anywhere from 5-9 years. Shocked, I asked the social worker “Why?” and listened to her heartbreaking answers and then she said, “Do you feel called to adopt from Africa, and only Africa?” and I said No. And she replied, “I know this may sound harsh, but I say this with love and tenderness and honesty: an orphan is an orphan no matter what country they come from.”
And this statement changed the trajectory of our lives forever. Because I sat with those words in my heart for well over a month before I could gather myself to look at my spreadsheet again.
But when I did, what I saw was crystal clear. All roads (the only road) led us to China.
And as our circle of adoption connections have grown in the last couple of years, over and over again we hear “this is where we were when we started … and this is what God ended up doing.”
It’s always one step at a time.
We just have to start.