Our adoption story began when our 3 bio children were young. Hank and I always knew we wanted to adopt “someday” and started taking the DHS foundations classes even before we were to a place in our lives where we could actually proceed with an adoption. We found the classes informative and a good resource for learning about children from “hard places” as well as connecting with other foster/adopt families.
In 2004, the time was finally right to move forward with our plan to adopt when an infant relative was born in California and placed straight into foster care. We got to experience 6 months of grueling ICPC protocol before we were finally able to pick her up and bring her home to Oregon. During the time we waited for her and for a couple years after she joined our family, we were foster parents to several children. Unbeknownst to us, each of these experiences was helping prepare us for an even bigger adoption adventure.
Fast forward about 4 years to when I met a couple with several children and began a friendship with them. We didn’t live very close together so contact was infrequent, but I was enjoying getting to know them until one night when the oldest child called to tell me they’d been taken into state custody and his parents arrested. When the dust settled, the parents ended up in prison and their large family of children was split into several different homes. At that point, it became clear to Hank and I that we would pursue the adoption of a large sibling group in order to prevent them from being split up. As disappointing as it was, we were too late to be a resource for my friend’s children since we’d stopped fostering the year before and were unable to recertify quickly enough to be considered.
In 2012, with 2 of our children married and the 3rd in college and looking at marriage, our youngest, age 8 then, realized that the nest was getting pretty empty so we started talking about adoption again. We discovered AFFEC through the Heart Gallery displays and website so we talked to the DHS adoption agent who’d helped us with our first adoption about using them to recertify us. She encouraged us to contact AFFEC, saying they’d probably be faster than the state because at the time she was the only adoption certifier for 2 counties and was having to help certify foster homes because of a sudden influx of children.
We took her advice and contacted AFFEC. They were offering partial scholarships to families interested in adopting sibling groups of 3 or more so the time seemed right. Before we could finish our homestudy, my mom had a stroke and we were delayed another 6 months. When she was sufficiently recovered to move home, we completed our homestudy and by the first week of Oct. 2013 we were officially certified to start looking for kids.
We had specific goals in mind when we started looking and submitted on the ones that looked like they might be a good fit. We tried to keep our options open by considering special needs each group might have and not being too selective. We actually went to committee on 2 different groups (and were runners-up on a 3rd) but each time the committee decision was split with the final decision sending the children to other families. Although it was disappointing, we took satisfaction in knowing that because we’d submitted on them and gone to committee, we’d played a part in helping them find forever families. Another couple groups we found out had greater needs than we could manage or were smaller than we were wanting so we declined going to committee on them.
Each night I’d spend an hour or so perusing websites of waiting children and bookmarking favorites. I tried to keep my submissions between 5 and 10 and as groups would get placed I’d submit on others. In late Nov. I was doing my nightly research actually looking for a group I’d bookmarked and not finding them when I found another couple groups of 5. I submitted on both after getting the thumbs up from my hubby and our daughter and heard just before Christmas that we would be included in the selection committee being held for one of the groups in Jan. 2014. We continued to submit on a couple other groups while we waited knowing that it was still “anybody’s ball game”. We were confident in our qualifications and knew we’d find the right match. While we waited I researched the health and behavior issues the children had been diagnosed with and options for treatment and management.
February 4, 2014 I got a call from our caseworker saying, “Congratulations! It’s 2 boys and 3 girls!” We were contacted by the adoption worker from the children’s state within a few days and plans were made to go meet them over Valentine’s weekend. We sent email albums of our family to the caseworker so she could present them to the children who’d been living in separate foster homes about a year and ½ and tell them the news that their new family had been found. When the worker told the oldest 2 girls who had been in foster care 3 years, they cautiously inquired if the adoption would include all 5 of them. When told that we wanted all 5 of them, arms shot up in the air and shouts of, "Yes! This is what we’ve been waiting for!” mingled with tears.
The children, who ranged in age from almost 2 to almost 10, were very ready to meet us and seemed to take to us very quickly. Our daughter still at home had helped me make “promise” blankets for them while we were waiting and as I wrapped blankets around the 2 oldest I told them that those blankets would remind them of our promise to return for them as soon as the ICPC was finished. Those blankets are still some of their most treasured possessions. We returned home after a whirlwind trip and got busy setting up bedrooms and moving things out and around to make room for our new family in our 1400 sq ft house. On April 2nd we drove across the country to pick our kids up. The road trip was quick for the amount of miles and states we needed to cover but it went a long way toward starting that bonding process for all of us.
Beth 10, Jo-Ellen 9, Jeremy 6, Trinity 3, and Henry 2 have now been part of our family for almost 7 months and it feels like they’ve always been there. Many of the “problems” the children were exhibiting in foster care disappeared and/or lessened once they realized they were all safely settled in their forever family and that they could trust Mom and Dad to take care of them and be fair with them. I told them when they first arrived that we don’t choose favorites. A couple weeks ago I asked them if they believed that statement was true. They were quiet a minute thinking about it and then Jo-Ellen said, “No, you do have a favorite!” I cringed wondering what they’d noticed that I’d unintentionally done to give them that idea, perhaps something with our first adoptee? I got brave enough to ask who they thought was my favorite and the 4 oldest all said simultaneously, “It’s ME!” Then looked with astonishment at each other, for they all truly believed it. I guess it is ok to have favorites!
A couple of the most touching comments include one of the girls telling me that she didn’t feel adopted, she feels like family. The other was when I overheard our new adoptees talking to our original adoptee and they were eagerly discussing their futures, all of which include adopting, “Like Mom and Dad,” they said. They want to know when we can adopt again!
We chose adoption in part, not because our family was incomplete but because theirs was and we could change that.