Road to Congo: Our Adoption Story Part 2

Now that we had decided we would adopt internationally to add to our family, we had to decide where to adopt from. There are probably hundreds of places that you can adopt from, but we knew only about China, Russia, and Africa. Truly at the beginning of this process we were totally open to wherever God would have us adopt from.
One thing we knew all along was that “God knew”.  We knew we had to ask the questions, but we also knew that God knew where our children would be from.

We started to think about all the places where there were children who needed families and suddenly, it became totally overwhelming. We were paralyzed with indecision about where we should adopt from.

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Because we knew there was no time for fear and indecision (I had already waited 2 years, people!), we decided to decide and to decide once and for all where we were going to adopt from. Once we settled on that, Congo was actually an easy decision. Congo was our introduction to this whole international adoption thing and it just made sense. At the time adoptions began in Congo, adoption agencies were boasting (falsely) a 9 month start to finish adoption process, the US government was offering a massive tax credit for adoptive parents, and we had a Congolese connection with Andy’s sister. So, we decided: Congo.

Now that we decided, we selected our agencies (we needed two- one for the domestic side and one for the international side) and we started the whole paperwork process. I’m not going to bore you with this, suffice to say- everything you’ve heard about the paperwork involved for adoption is true. If you plan to adopt, buy yourself a new pack of pens and plan on spending many waking hours filling out paperwork. Luckily, I am organized and driven so I dove right in. For someone like me, the paperwork was a breeze. My favorite game as a child was to play “office” so this was all fun for me. I planned date nights for Andy and I to just fill out paperwork and I actually loved every minute of it.

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Once we were signed on with agencies and filling out paperwork, we knew the next thing that would happen was a whole hell of a lot of waiting. So we decided to get to know what we didn’t know. I knew of two adoptive families through my job at Compassion, so I called them up, told them we were adopting and invited ourselves over to dinner at their homes. That was one of the best things I did during our wait. These families were open and honest about adoption- the good, the amazing, the bad, and the awful and it was just what we needed to hear. Like everything in my life, I had an unrealistic set of expectations about what adoption would be like. (Honestly, this is one of the biggest struggles with prospective adoptive parents- unrealistic expectations.) So meeting with families who were 2, 3, 5 years into the process and had their children home was really helpful. It enabled us to lower the bar and set realistic standards.

We decided early on to adopt siblings instead of just one child. The cost was much lower to adopt two children at once, rather than to adopt twice, and we knew we wanted more than one child, so it was easy to just do it all at once. We figured we didn’t know what we didn’t know about just having one kid, so we dove in (Andy and I tend to do this a lot..!).

Someone told us to “get the youngest kids you can” and that is sound advise (but it doesn’t address the fact that trauma impacts the brain even in utero). But getting younger kids can make the attachment and bonding processes easier, so there is that. We figured since we wanted two kids we would need to up our age limit a bit so we would have a better chance of getting a referral sooner, so we decided any gender, two siblings under 5 years old and that was our criteria.

Now that we had the big decisions made, paperwork underway and the waiting began we needed money. And lots of it. In the next part I’ll share how we raised funds for our international adoption.

XO,

CELINA - signature

Why? Foster Care.

11891047_10153122245432081_7869218359170413993_nA few evenings back another couple sat on our couch, and asked us about our journey into adoption. Why foster care? Why not international adoption? Why not private adoption?

There isn’t a right answer here. There isn’t a side to be had. There is just a story. Our story. How God spoke to us. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t speak differently to different people. But here is how we fell into the hardest and most beautiful journey of our lives…

11896261_10153121313792081_1202762226290168056_nWhen David and I started dating seriously I told him that if we were to ever get married he’d have to be open to adoption. I had known since I was a little girl that I would adopt some day. He had never imagined having a family in this way, so he honestly responded and asked for some time to think about it, A few months later he gifted me a book called Loved by Choice.  In it he wrote a note that said he was in. I wonder if he had any idea?

Fast forward eight or so years, we are married, we have had Tre, and decided that we will pursue adoption to grow our family from here on out. I had always imagined our family as a tribe, from all nations, and colors, and thus we began our pursuit with international adoption. Through a series of events and God stories, we found ourselves sitting in our county’s Human Services offices and being trained as foster parents. A few months later we received our first placement, twin two year old boys.

Through the next three years nine children found a home within our hearts. Some of them were there for a few minutes (literally), some for a few weeks, others for a few months, and three stayed forever. These years were marked with a roller coaster of emotion, I wrote about our experiences, as much as I could without breaking confidentiality rules on our family blog. You can read some of our experiences here and here. And find many more there as well.

Now, when we look back on those years. And people ask why? Why should we sign up for loving kids who go back? Why should we say yes to foster care? Here are some of the things I say:

Laila Lou when they placed her in my back seat for the first time. Th moment I laid eyes on her.

Laila Lou when they placed her in my back seat for the first time. Th moment I laid eyes on her.

  1. A lot of people say, “I could never do that! I could never love a kid and then “give them back!” And I say, YOU are who we need in foster care. Kids deserve to be loved that way. Whether they go home or not. They deserve forever love, whether it is for two days or two years, they need it. And we need people who will give them that. The only way we can help heal kids and families is if we have people who will go all in with them. Who will sacrifice their emotions, their peace, their finances, and security, their time, and their safety, for kids and families who need us. As Father Boyle puts it, “The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather standing in the right place- with the outcast and those relegated to the margins…. Jesus just stood with the outcasts until they were welcomed or until He was crucified- whichever came first.”
  2. D a few days after arriving at our home.

    D a few days after arriving at our home.

    Yes, it is the absolute hardest thing we’ve ever done. Yes it’s awful when kids go home. But no one ever told me that doing the right thing is easy. Sometimes the best thing is the hardest thing to do, and it is exactly where you find the richest blessing and fulfillment, and where you realize what you were made for.When we look back on our time as foster parents we see such a sweet season, a season in which we felt closest to God, we had an amazing support team surround us and help us. And we found beauty in kinship with people we never would have been blessed to call our friends if we hadn’t have done this.

  3. Foster care helps you find the pulse of your community. When you care for- and care with- the marginalized and broken in your community- you realize that you are them. That we are one. “You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. You stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until the behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear. ” (Father Gregors Boyle, again.)
  4. There. Are. So. Many. Kids. in your neighborhood, who need your help. In our small county there are over 40 kids waiting to be adopted. And over 1,000 children in foster care here. Check out the needs in your community. Yes, it’s a broken system. Yes you will get screwed over. But we couldn’t turn our back on the kids and families that we could help. We didn’t change the system, but we did change the lives of a few kids. And that is worth all of the injustices and brokenness that we experienced.
  5. Lastly, people who have biological children are always concerned for their biological children. I can honestly say that Tre
    Noah and Tre a few days after Noah's birth,

    Noah and Tre a few days after Noah’s birth,

    has been shaped and formed with a heart for people, and brokeness, a heart for compassion and understanding unlike many kids his age, and it is because of his experience as a foster brother to many. And guess what, kids only know what you tell them! We always told Tre that kids would come and stay with us while their parents were working hard to make safe homes and families, so they could go home. And when kids went home, Tre was so happy for them. he knew what it was like to be loved and be in a safe home, and he wanted that for them too. He did better than any of us!

Everyone isn’t suppose to do foster care. But if you are thinking about adoption, and/or helping children in  your community, I urge you to consider foster care. It will be the hardest thing you ever do, I am not saying it isn’t. But I do believe that Jesus calls us to develop kinship and stand with (not for) the broken.