Monday, June 16, 2014

Adoption Through the Eyes of Adoptive Dads - Part I

While I'm no expert on adoption, it is something that obviously has my heart. I'm asked about it frequently and I love sharing our experiences. Most weeks, I hear from other adoptive mamas and people teetering on the edge, almost ready to jump.

I thought it would be fun to hear from the perspective of adoptive dads, so I rallied a small group of friends to answer some of the fundamental questions about adoption. It will be obvious that this is not a randomly selected sample crossing all major demographics. Admittedly, most of the dads I reached out to are similar to us: White, educated, middle class, evangelical Christians.

They were quick to help, and though some content editing was necessary in the interest of length, I really want to include most of what they shared, because it deserves to be heard. As such, I'll be breaking this into two or three posts over the next week. I'll also be sharing family photos of some, but not all, of the men with their families.

Reading through their answers in Panera, I found myself crying into my Earl Grey. Their simple honesty stunned me with its beauty and transparency.

Each story is unique, but there's a thread that runs among us. See for yourself.


Caleb F: Emma (passed away at birth), Liam (11 - bio), Aidan (9 - bio), Lucy Kate (1 - domestic adoption)  

Barry: JK (16 - bio), RK (13 - bio), KK (3 - adopted from foster care)

Shawn: Brennan (15 - bio), Aidan (14 - bio), Evan (12 - bio), Chasity (12 - adopted domestically at age 7) 

Heath: Videline 12 (adopted from Haiti at 8), Barbara 11 (adopted from Haiti at 7), Daphka 10 (came from Haiti as a medical needs child at 5, adopted at 9), Drake 2 (born in Haiti and in their care at 2 days old, adopted at 18 months)

Cory: Calvin (9 - adopted from South Korea at 5 months), Ruby (7 - adopted domestically at birth), Silas (5 - adopted from South Korea at 18 months), Robert ("adopted" at 18)

Barrett: Howie (9 - adopted from Ethiopia), Lena (3 - adopted from Ethiopia), Marion (11 months, bio)

Caleb B: Brody (6 - bio), Foster (4 - bio), Story (2 - bio), Baby A (11 months, open domestic adoption - not quite finalized)

How did your family come to the decision to adopt?
"We had three biological children together before we decided to adopt. Our daughter, Emma, was born first and only lived a couple of hours. The next two pregnancies resulted in healthy boys, but we did not want to roll the dice again with another pregnancy…adoption was the perfect option." - Caleb F

"I worked with children in a group home and I also teach and coach high school kids so I
could see how society abandons our children." - Barry

"My wife and I had always thought that we would somehow adopt, though the times we’d we’d looked into it casually we were overwhelmed by the cost and quickly backed away.  Our prayer became, 'If you want us to adopt, please drop a child on our doorstep.' We were open." - Shawn

"My wife and I had went to Haiti on a mission trip and then got involved with Medical Missions hosting children. Through this we became a lot more aware of the orphan epidemic in the world today. Betsy (wife) went on a second trip to Haiti and met biological sisters on a visit to an orphanage. She could not put them out of her mind. A few months after returning home she brought them up to me and we decided to explore the idea of adopting them. We took a trip to Haiti for me to meet them and spend some time together. From the moment I met them they were ours in my heart. " - Heath
"At the point we had to decide between adoption or fertility treatment, we both felt God was leading us toward adoption." - Cory

"Both Rachel and I knew before we were married that we both wanted to adopt, and that we would actually adopt first before trying to have a biological child." - Barrett
"It's always been something I felt called to do. I also have an adopted sister which made my desire to adopt stronger." - Caleb B

Did you have any initial concerns or roadblocks?
"I did have concerns about adoption at first because the little girl we were adopting was African American and we are white." - Barry
"I would say my initial concerns would have been about our son's thoughts on us, and adoption in general, as he gets older - though this never held me back from wanting to move forward." - Caleb B
"My initial concern about adoption was: Would they be accepted in the rural area that we live in as well as in our families." - Heath

"One of my biggest concerns was the worry that our adopted child would not attach positively to us. I am glad to say that concern has been set aside."  - Caleb F
"During that 3 year period that we had Chasity before her bio mom passed away, we maintained a relationship with her bio mom. It was way more complicated than we ever imagined it would be." - Shawn 

Did your faith impact your decision to adopt? If so, how?

"Adoption has impacted my faith more than my faith was a factor in my decision to adopt. I believe I would have just as easily come to adoption if I had no faith, but my faith has become more real to me because of adoption. This is something I was not anticipating but am grateful for." - Cory
"We had an inkling that God wanted us to pursue Chasity and so we leaned in real hard to be sure we were hearing correctly." - Shawn

"Yes we were called to adopt, of course. My wife prayed for me to want to adopt as well."  - Barry

"I don’t think my faith drove my decision directly, but it did give me a lot of peace regarding the decisions." - Caleb F

"From hearing from adoptive parents, I learned the challenges of adoption versus biological children are often different, but certainly aren’t necessarily more or less.  I became convicted that if my spouse or I were feeling that we should possibly adopt, this is possibly God speaking and I should listen." - Barrett

"We feel both called and commanded to do something when it comes to orphans. For us, it is adoption." - Caleb B
"Absolutely, to know that I am adopted by Jesus Christ as his own and to have that model as an example that we live with each day, paved the path for us to follow this example in our own lives. John 14:18 'I will not leave you as orphans; I will come for you'." - Heath  

Did your families and church communities support your decision to adopt? In what ways could they have offered more or better support?

(Most of the men said they were supported by at least most of their community, though it wasn't necessarily a clean-cut response. I'm omitting names here for their own protection. Here's what they shared.)
"I think there was a lot of concern on their part, but they never really voiced it."
"My church family and close friends have supported us 100%, however some of my family not so much."

"We had a mixed bag."   

"There have been times we have felt misunderstood in parenting our kids, due to the unique challenges adoption can sometimes bring to the surface."

"We had some family members who thought we were ruining the boyhood and future of our bio kids."

"What caught us off guard was how their support often showed itself by paying extra attention to our kids, sometimes at the expense of other children."
"Some of the best support we received was from friends who were close to our situation, who said, 'She has improved so much since we last saw her.'  Being in the daily grind, we, at times, did not see the progress that was being made."

"We would have desired to see more emotional and financial support from our church community."
"Parenting adopted kids can be stressful at times. It can really throw the family dynamic out of whack. Sometimes we just need a break from our challenging child. Sometimes our other kids needed a breather, too."

"Until a person has truly opened their eyes and hearts to what is happening to millions of children in the world and witnessed it firsthand I don’t think they can comprehend on the same level."

"Sometimes it feels like the 'adoption excuse' is wearing thin to our family. It seems like the expectation is that we should be further along than we are, or that we're not making more progress because of something we're doing wrong."

I can't thank these men enough for lending their voices to this project.
Stay tuned for part II!