I love November for a few big reasons. One … Thanksgiving. There’s nothing quite like the smell of turkey and the sounds of family filling our old-fashioned Indiana farm house. Second … Christmas. Yes, I know Christmas is in December but Thanksgiving is like the awesome movie trailers they show just before the feature film. I love both. I love both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Third … National Adoption Awareness Month.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, if you’ve read anything else I’ve written, I’m a big believer, and advocate, for adoption. Together with my wife, we write about it, speak about it, and travel around the country sharing the powerful story of adoption (and foster care) at retreats, conferences, and training events. Bottom line: I LOVE adoption. I believe it is love in action. I also believe it’s one of the greatest forms of servanthood a human being can do for another human being.
But, for as well-known as adoption is, thanks to well-publicized celebrity adoptions, and depictions in movies and television, it’s still widely misunderstood. We’ve even heard the famous question quite often, “Why would someone choose to bring children into their home who weren’t biologically theirs?” I understand where this question comes from. Once upon a time, more than 25 years ago, I asked a very similar question. But my heart burst wide open for adoption just 15 years ago and I couldn’t be more thankful for that moment.
So I thought I’d take the opportunity, in this month where we shine a spotlight on adoption, to tell you what adoption really is, through the stories of real-life adoptive families across the United States. These are amazing, beautiful people my wife and I have had the pleasure of befriending and walking with on this amazing, sometimes difficult, but ever-beautiful journey we call adoption.
Adoption is love in motion, with no fear or apprehensions.
Mark and Michelle McKinney live in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their story is powerful because they willingly and knowingly adopted children who were HIV positive. Many eyebrows were raised when they made this decision. They were even rejected by some in their church community for their decision to love children some would consider outcast because of a disease that is widely misunderstood. Michelle says it best:
“We have two amazing and healthy children who are living with HIV. When children have access to life-saving medication they can live a normal, healthy, and happy life. And no one is at risk of getting the disease.”
Adoption is adventure, with no boundaries or limitations.
Last winter I was in Los Angeles at a leadership summit when I met Brent Almond. We hit it off instantly over writing, adoption, and Marvel comics. His adoption story is one of cross-country adventure. He and his husband, Nick, adopted their son Jon from Oregon. According to Brent, after establishing a relationship with Jon’s birth parents, they had planned on visiting one more time before Jon’s birth, but Jon had other plans. He made his grand entrance a month early. They had to scramble to change tickets and fly across the country from Washington, D.C. He was born in the morning and Brent and Nick arrived that night. They were able to spend Jon’s first night together as a family. Brent shared:
“Love is love, family is family, and life is life. I find all those ‘normal’ parent feelings (being tired and worried, proud, affectionate) give me confidence to not care what anyone else thinks or judgments they might have about me and Papa (Nick) as a couple, or us as a family.”
Adoption is genuine support through the toughest storms in life.
Our rock and cornerstone of support here in Indianapolis, where we live, are our two friends John and Nicole Georges. They are the parents of a biological daughter who is 15, two 11-year-olds through adoption, and an 8-year-old through adoption. They’ve been on quite a journey. Their oldest daughter was diagnosed with Mitochondrial disease as an infant, and two of their children suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Nicole shared:
“We are learning how to navigate life with a child who has a traumatic brain injury and FASD. Life is busy, but we have a great support system that we have learned to lean on.”
Adoption is life-giving and life-changing.
On that same trip last winter to Los Angeles, when I met my friend Brent, I had the pleasure of meeting and befriending another amazing adoptive parent. Karen Walrond and her husband Marcus adopted their daughter Alexis at birth. Theirs was an open adoption (meaning they interacted with Alexis’s birth mother before and after her birth). She even allowed Marcus and Karen to be in the delivery room. In fact, Marcus actually cut the cord. Karen said:
“I remember when she was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, and it took a moment for her to take her first breath. But when she finally did, she just took this great big, huge breath and turned from blue to pink. As crazy as this may sound, I am absolutely convinced that we’d just witnessed Alex’s soul, which had been waiting in the delivery room with us, fly into her body, and give her life. I absolutely, unshakably believed, at that very moment, that this little girl was meant to be ours.”
Adoption changes our children, but it changes us too.
In 2006, Russ and Lisa Qualls, from Idaho, had their hearts broken for the orphans of Ethiopia. They had a burning desire to share their family, which was already large with several biological children, with children who didn’t have families. So they began the process of adopting their two sons, Ebenezer and Wogauyu. But, that’s where the journey became interesting. On that very trip they met a little girl who captured their hearts too. She joined their family just two years later. Lisa shares this amazing truth:
“We loved our kids, we loved being parents, and we wanted to share this with children who didn’t have families. We began the process to adopt our two sons, Ebenezer and Wogauyu. We were also sponsoring a little girl at an orphanage for HIV+ children. When we discovered it was possible to adopt her, we educated ourselves about HIV and adopted Kalkidan, too. On that trip we met another young girl who captured our hearts. Beza was 10 years old when she joined our family in 2008. We thought we were going to change our children’s lives by adopting them — and we did — but they changed our lives too. We are different people, and a different family, than before they were woven into the fabric of our family.”
Adoption is hope in the face of tragedy and loss.
Last year, as I finished teaching a packed room about birth-parent relationships, a quiet, petite woman named Rachel approached me and began asking me questions about how we formed our blog and began telling our story of adoption to the world. She had a passion to do the same. Rachel and her husband Ryan had always thought adoption was part of their story someday. Then during their first pregnancy, Rachel developed a life-threatening complication that put her and her unborn daughter at risk. Even though they both survived, Ryan and Rachel shifted their adoption plans into high gear. Hope began to fade as they suffered through an ectopic pregnancy, and later a failed adoption. Rachel remembers being emotionally and physically spent. Then they were asked to provide respite care for a 10-month-old baby girl.
Rachel shared that, “The first night I rocked her to sleep, I had this overwhelming feeling that she was my baby.” Leyla moved in the day after she turned 1. Curious to see where they were, and what was happening when she was born, Rachel looked through the archives of her blog. When their ectopic baby passed, her sister had sent them an acorn to plant in honor of their baby. After no signs of life, the acorn finally sprouted on March 2, 2012, the exact day Leyla was born! Rachel said, “I wish that neither Leyla nor I had to go through so much grief to find each other, but I’m grateful that in-spite of the difficult journey, she is ours, and we are hers.”
Adoption is a calling to support others on the journey.
Across the country from us, in the city of San Francisco lives two people who have become our life-long friends. Jesse and Andrea DeBoer are parenting three boys: Jackson, who came to them through an open adoption; and Rocky and Stephen, who joined their family through international adoption. Time spent with this beautiful family is never void of laughter or inspiration. They may be driving you crazy with their die-hard fanship of the Golden State Warriors or entertaining you with Instagram videos of kitchen dance parties, but they always leave you inspired and warm-hearted. Andrea shares:
“We hope to create support in our community for foster or adoptive families, and for parents trying to reunify, so that children in our city will be better supported and loved.”
Adoption is the grand kaleidoscope of humanity.
As I sit in my home office, working to wrap this post up, I just glanced up to a family photo of ours from one of our many family vacations to Florida. It’s a snapshot of my in-laws with my children at sunset on one of the beaches of Anna Maria, Florida. I glance back and forth at all of my beautiful children and I smile. Our family is as diverse as they come. We are multi-racial, multi-creed, multi-personality, and multi-spirited. We are us! We are part of a massive, beautiful kaleidoscope of humanity. Really, that’s what adoption is. It has no defined lines, or boundaries. It has no restrictions, or conditions. It is love with hands, feet, and breath.
It’s one of the most beautiful journeys known to mankind. And it’s a storyline I wouldn’t trade for anything in this world!
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit ChildWelfare.gov.More On