Deciding to Adopt, Part 2

The following is Part 2 in a 2-part article. If you missed Part 1, go here.

Today’s installment continues author Brianna Heldt’s notes on the discernment process involved in adopting children.

6.)   It’s okay to be afraid.  When we were in the process of bringing our sons home several years ago, I was beyond excited  Really.  Yes I read all the attachment books and I knew that a challenging placement might certainly be in my future, but nothing could dampen my spirits.  We were adopting, and I was thrilled.  This second time around though–and I’m going to be painfully honest here–I regularly struggled with doubts.  And fear.  How would my family change?  What if things went really badly?  How would my other children adjust?  What were we doing?  I just didn’t have that strong sense of purpose and optimism that I’d had before–even though I couldn’t deny that God had brought us to this point.  But you know what?  Things with my daughters have gone amazingly well.  And even if they hadn’t, fear during the process is okay and doesn’tnecessarily mean you shouldn’t be adopting.  Sometimes God will hold your hand and smooth out all the bumps, and sometimes He’ll pull back a little and force you to walk by faith.

7.)  It’s not about who you are.  While any discernment process will (and ought to) include taking a good, long look at whether or not you are suited for the task, it’s important to remember that when it comes to adoption, there’s really not a one-size-fits-all standard.  I was only 23 (about to turn 24) when we began the paperchase to bring our boys home, and I know plenty of people who’ve adopted in their 40s.  Adoption seems most prevalentin Evangelical Protestant circles, but I can assure you there’s nothing that makes it incompatible with any particular worldview.  (On a personal note, I’d love to see adoption become more common among my fellow Catholics.  We talk a lot about openness to life and generous parenting, and oh my goodness, adoption is such a beautiful picture of both of those things.)  Just know that no matter who you are, whether you already have five children or two, it’s possible that God is calling you to adopt.  Don’t rule yourself out because you don’t identify with this or that adoptive family that you know–good families come in all shapes and sizes.

8.)  It’s about redemption (and redemption isn’t easy).  One of the most important considerations in deciding whether to adopt is, am I open to bringing trauma and brokenness into my family and home?  I don’t mean to sound negative, but the truth is that while adoption is GOOD, relinquishment/abandonment/death is TRAGIC.  All four of my adopted children suffered major loss before coming into my family.  There are holes there that I will never be able to fill–only God can bind up those wounds and work all for the good.  And in the practical day-to-day, I have personally found that even though all of my children attached well, we have faced various hurdles along the way.  Small ones to be SURE, but hurdles just the same.  Both of my sons have had some learning delays, one of them has ADHD, and my daughters have experienced some grief and things over the past several months.  We have had difficult conversations in our home over the years about birthmothers, and my children knew words like “poverty” and “HIV” from an extremely early age.  Many families experience behavioral issues related to past trauma.  So, yeah, don’t expect that your child will come home ever-so-grateful to be at your house and wanting to please at every turn.  They have experienced more pain in their short life than you or I probably ever will, and that is going to manifest itself.  It’s part of your family landscape now.

9.)  It’s not all about the money (but it’s expensive.)  One of the number one reasons people give for not being able to adopt is finances.  And it’s true: international adoption is expensive.  But.  Do some research on the Federal Adoption Tax Credit.  Think about whether you have a Home Equity Line of Credit (or can open one.)  See how much each fee is and when it is due, because you don’t pay all at once, and things always seem more manageable in small chunks.  Look into grants and loans that are available for adoptive families.  Think about places you can save a bit or about some sacrifices you can make.  The truth is that most people who complete an adoption are NOT wealthy by US standards, and most of us did NOT have $25,000 just sitting around in the bank at the front-end of the process.

10.)  It’s all about meeting needs and waiting children.  I saved this one for last because it’s my own personal soapbox (and not always very popular).  And it’s ultimately the most important thing I’m going to say here.  Are you ready?  Here it is: if you feel the call to adopt, find out where the needs are…and go meet those needs.  Even if you grew up just KNOWING that you were going to adopt a two-month-old baby girl with brown hair from Scotland, if there are dozens and dozens of names on a waiting list to do so, go someplace else where the CHILDREN are the ones waiting.  Because international adoption should never be about supplying Americans with a demand for healthy babies.  Ever.  This can lead to in-country child-trafficking and baby-buying by unethical agencies and causes a whole host of other problems.  And believe me, from a global perspective, there are many, MANY children waiting for homes.  A lot of them are older.  A lot of them have medical needs.  And if we truly want to cultivate a heart for the orphan, we must recognize where the needs are.  Be aware too that things regularly change in any given country–sometimes, by the time we’re ready to adopt, we have to change course and reevaluate what we’re going to do.  Figure out what your non-negotiables are (age?  health?) and then find a situation where children in that category are currently waiting.  Maybe it’s Ukraine or Ethiopia, maybe it will be domestic foster care, maybe you’ll decide now is simply not the time.  But try to always remember that in addition to adding to your family in a pretty amazing way, adoption is about becoming a family to a child who needs one.

This has been Part 2 of a 2-part article. If you missed Part 1, go here.


Brianna Heldt writes from Denver, CO. She blogs regularly at Just Showing Up.

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  • I love your courage!

  • PattyS

    Wonderful article, Brianna!  And what a beautiful family you have.  I must comment, though,  re your assertion that “international adoption should never be about supplying Americans with a demand for healthy babies.”   That wasn’t nice to say to those, like me and my hubby, who have legally, without any coercion) adopted healthy infants (2) who needed a home.  Your comment implies that child traffiking and baby buying is rampant, when it is NOT! Yes, it does happen and it is horrible, however that is the rare exception, not the rule.   I can definitely understand and agree with your advocating for waiting children, however babies need homes, too,   As new and young parents, my husband and I  were not sure if we could handle an older child with potential issues. We weren’t being demanding, we were being realistic.    Recently, we felt called to and were more prepared to adopt a waiting child, which we did (and he is a funny, affectionate little fella!).     

  • Micaela

    Wow. In the past 2 days adoption has just popped up (in my life) at least 3 times. We have a family of 4 young biological kids (who I’m also homeschooling), and I think if I brought it up to my husband right now, he might croak! But I will be researching and praying about God’s will in this. And then I will try to get him on board. Thank you for your courage and for sharing with us.

  • Brianna Heldt

    Hello Patty, thanks for sharing your story!  I must respectfully disagree, however–unethical practices in international adoption ARE rampant, and I can cite many examples in Ethiopia alone.  It is a sad but true (and sometimes inconvenient) fact.  It’s also true that so long as there is a demand for a particular type of child, these practices will flourish.  All babies need homes, yes, but there will always be couples lined up for healthy children, thus I am interested in advocating for waiting children.  Certainly not every family is called to adopt an older child, or a child with medical needs, but the fact remains that for couples interested in meeting a need, in many countries, healthy infants as young as possible are not where the immediate need is.  God bless! 

  • Victoria

     A lovely article. We adopted an infant and a toddler domestically, 14 and 16 years ago respectively, and now have 2 great teenagers. I was 52 when the baby came home, and wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge, but we have managed and our lives are much richer for it. They have kept us  young.  It has not been without challenges – we are not through yet—but we wouldn’t change a thing, except I wish we could have started earlier and adopted more.