When I tell people our family is the process of adopting from Colombia, the questions I most often receive are: “Why adoption?” and “Why from Colombia?” So for any interested parties whose minds may be burning with those same inquiries, here goes.
Adoption. Well, I have always been deeply troubled by the thought of children not having families. In college I was in a children’s theater troupe and we performed in a children’s home in Texas. I remember being awakened to the fact that these kids lived with staff and house parents but no FAMILY. I hated that. When Dustin and I met, I told him someday I wanted to adopt, somewhat as a test to see if that would scare him off. It did not, and he instead shared how much it made sense to him to adopt. Of course, our family first grew the biological way as we had Sylvia in 2012 and Valerie in 2014. We then miscarried two babies in 2016 and had our son in Elliot in 2017 only for him to die at five days of age. We had determined before Elliot was born that we could not go through the trauma of my being pregnant again, no matter the outcome of Elliot’s journey. It was a hard, sad decision, but because of my medical reproductive issues for which doctors have no answers or treatments, I would be more likely to lose babies than carry them to term if I were to get pregnant again. And yet, we felt and still feel we have room in our hearts and family for more children. We needed to heal from the effects of brain-altering trauma that injured us when Elliot died, and participated in about a year of trauma therapy to equip us with tools to deal with the life-long effects of losing our boy. Our next step in our grief journey was to figure out what would be next for our family.
Jesus led us to foster care, and we had the privilege of having six months with our foster son before he was reunified with his family. I’ve told people recently that as I look back, I see having our foster son like a defibrillator on heart. My girls kept me from spiraling completely out of control after Elliot died, but I was still somewhat like a zombie a year after losing him, just existing and making it through each day. When our foster son came, he did not allow me the luxury of numbness. I had to wake up and deal with him and all the intensity foster care brings. I will be forever grateful he came into our world and shook us up. Once he left us, we had to decide what to do next. International adoption was always the way my heart leaned when I’d picture adoption. There wasn’t a particular reason why, except I’ve always loved other countries and cultures. I’ve heard people share strong opinions on domestic vs. foreign adoption. The domestic argument tends to say that we should care of our own first, since there are so many kiddos in need right in front of us, literally in our communities. So true. This is why I support foster care and am blessed to still work for a foster care agency. Those who argue in favor of a preference toward international adoption rightly note that children in third-world countries, particularly the fatherless, are the most vulnerable in the world. At least, the argument goes, in the United States there is some hope for kids who are fatherless as our country has safeguards and systems to protect them and give them aid. In many third-world countries, adoption is the ONLY hope for a life beyond suffering and poverty. I am neither a proponent nor detractor of either of these arguments. Both arguments rightly advocate for children. That leaves me to simply, for lack of a better term, follow my heart. And I think when my heart is open to Jesus, he’s really the one guiding.
Foster care right now simply presents too much uncertainty for us to do it again. My friends and acquaintances who live the foster care life, who give their all and parent children who attach to them, then say goodbye to these kids after months or even years with them—these are heroes. My heroes. And maybe someday I will be heroic in that way. But losing children to miscarriage, then losing my little boy who I carried and who held my finger and looked in my eyes…then to say goodbye to our foster son. Well, it has been a lot for me. More importantly, it’s been a lot for our daughters. They’ve been resilient and bright-eyed and shining. But losing these siblings has hurt them, disappointed them, and grown in them a level of loss I don’t want to add to right now. They will go through more loss in their life; that is certain. But now is the time for them to get to have a sibling, for better or worse, who will stay. For a while I worked through guilt of leaving foster care, feeling selfish for not wanting to do the hard thing other foster parents do. But I realized our desire to bond with and attach to an adopted son or daughter is exactly what an adopted son or daughter needs. They need us to want to have them for good.
People have asked us if we’re adopting domestically, and I’ve explained to those who don’t know that there are really only two ways that happens in the U.S.: either you adopt from foster care or you adopt an infant through a private agency. I don’t think it’s well understood that “foster to adopt” does NOT mean you automatically “find” a kiddo in foster care who is legally free to be adopted. Adopting a child is not the point of foster care; the point is for kids to go home if at all possible. When it’s not possible for children to reunify with their biological families, it is a beautiful thing for them to instead become a permanent part of their foster families. 75% of foster children will be reunified with their biological families. Of those who remain, some will be adopted by other relatives, some will be adopted by foster families, and some will sadly never be adopted at all.
Similarly to why getting pregnant poses, for us, a high risk of loss, so does fostering again. At another time in life, we may be willing to take the chance of enduring more loss because that kind of love is necessary in this world. But at this juncture in our family, adding through adoption is the step we need to take.
Domestically, that leaves infant adoption through a private agency. This is the type of adoption in which a birth mom often “chooses” the family who will parent her baby. There are many couples, the majority of whom have never been able to have children, who are waiting to be chosen to be parents to a newborn baby. While this would be a beautiful thing for us and we do desire to raise a baby, we recognize we don’t need our adopted child to be a baby. We also recognize that despite the sadness of losing our last three babies, we did get to raise our first two babies. We are among the lucky ones for whom the dream of healthy pregnancy and healthy babies came true twice.
So since adopting through foster care presents the likelihood of loss, and infant adoption in the United States does not seem the most appropriate fit, international adoption is the most logical choice. Not only is it logical to us, it speaks to us. As I mentioned earlier, I just always pictured it this way. It isn’t the last option in my mind, it’s always been the first, before even having biological children, really. This is just the timing of how it has occurred.
We never had a particular country in mind when we’d consider international adoption, but my ability to KINDA speak Spanish and our connection to the ministry we love in Juárez, Mexico drew us to Latin America. As I researched, I thought we might have to forget a Spanish-speaking country because many aspects of adoption requirements in these countries did not fit our parameters. We want to adopt a child or children who are younger than our 5-year-old daughter, and in most Latin American/South American countries, kiddos that young are not readily available for adoption. Another wall we kept hitting was the in-country stay. Many countries in Latin/South America require both parents to travel to and stay in the country for several weeks or even 2-3 months. My husband’s work schedule just can’t accommodate that. Honestly, I was getting discouraged earlier this year, feeling like every country I checked out had something that was just not conducive to our hopes in regard to adoption.
One day I was chatting with a representative from an adoption agency and trying to learn more about the Philippines program (which had a wait time of 3-4 years), when she asked exactly what my family was dreaming for. When I told her we’d like to adopt a child or siblings under 5, with minor/moderate special needs, from a Spanish-speaking country, that required a reasonable in-country time for both parents, AND that had been recently been around a year in the process timing, she said, “Well, what about Colombia?”
I was so glad she told me about the Colombia program! That was a moment I believe God put his fingerprints on. Though Colombia, like most Spanish-speaking countries, had once had only older kiddos available for adoption, recent changes in their laws have allowed younger kids to be made available for adoption, children who prior to these law changes would’ve waited in orphanages for many years before becoming legally free for adoption. It’s admirable that Colombia changed their laws in order to get young children into families sooner.
Once I told my husband about all the ways Colombia seemed to fit what we were looking for, he was on board. I spent much of the spring and summer continuing my research and settling on the right agency for us. In August, we applied and were accepted to our adoption agency’s program.
Currently we’re in the middle of our home study process, which includes a set of interviews, filling out many forms, and obtaining copies of all our records of life and taxes and medical history and such. We’re also working on gathering documents for our dossier, a big ol’ checklist of forms and items (including our home study) that need to be filled out, collected, notarized, apostilled, then eventually sent to our adoption agency and then sent to Colombia. Once Colombia approves our dossier (the timing of which is very uncertain), then we wait to either receive a referral (which means Colombia matching us with a child for whom they believe we’d be a good fit as a family), or we may view a file on a waiting child and write a letter of intent stating we want to pursue adopting that child. There’s no good way to know how long this will take, but many recent families in similar programs in Colombia have had the process take 1-2 years from start to finish.
One other question I get is how much this will all cost. Wellll….$40,000 is a conservative estimate. And no, we don’t have that much money. I know the cost is a big deterrent to people who consider international (or domestic infant) adoption. But, thankfully, we’ve learned a lot that has helped us take a deep breath and trust that we will be able to cover this cost. We saved some money from the sale of our house to get started, we will do fundraisers and apply for grants and ask for anyone feels led to donate to not be shy! There are also financial institutions who have adoption loans available just for people like us. We will make it work somehow. For our child, we’ll do anything. That’s what parents do.
We sure appreciate love and support and prayers in this process. Adoption is beautiful and yet it always begins with a story of brokenness. We don’t fully comprehend all we will as this journey turns into our new reality, but we do have an awareness of the sorrow which will accompany the joy of adopting. And though we don’t want more loss, we know adding to our family through adoption brings with it the possibility for loss and disappointment that any risk of love brings. Sometimes I think that all of us who become parents are collectively crazy, taking our fragile hearts out of our chests and wearing them on the outside of our bodies. We feel every pain and prick our kids feel, and we are aware daily how our hearts might break in this business of parenting.
Yet we do it. We’re doing it, and this is the path our parenting journey is taking. Next stop: Colombia.