Make a Difference Day is a celebration of changing people’s lives. Sometimes an individual stands out from the crowd as having worked relentlessly to make a difference. They do so through sweat, tears, and many hours of passionate service, but often go unrecognized. In adoption, there are people who strive for change; change in ethics, change in laws, change in training, change in communication, change in awareness. Rebecca Vahle is a person that encompasses all of these attributes in what she offers. Rebecca is making a difference in the adoption world and here is how.
As a mother to three teenagers who all came to her through infant adoption, Rebecca has walked the highs and lows of the adoption journey and now has the clarity regarding what eluded her when she first entered adoption after infertility.
With three adoptions came very difference experiences. After having a positive hospital experience with her daughter, she had a very opposite experience with her son. After meeting more and more adoptive and birth families, she found that many of them struggled with their time in the hospital and many times it was connected to the staff’s comfort with understanding adoption.
“This new face of adoption that often included multiple families on scene to welcome the arrival of this little baby makes for a complicated dynamic in the already complex landscape of healthcare,” she explains. “It’s unfair to expect healthcare professionals to know how to best navigate this complexity without any education. Many nurses told me they felt awkward because they weren’t sure what to say or not to say.”
These experiences and feedback from others is what lead Rebecca down the path of adoption education. She began teaching adoptive baby care to families at a local hospital and she asked that they consider creating a support program for the challenging hospital time, though they declined that portion of her services.
Two years later, Parker Adventist Hospital opened and asked her to bring her adoption classes to their facility. They soon became the first hospital in the nation to host a program designed to serve adoptive triad families during their hospital stay. Over the next 10 years Rebecca worked as an Adoption Liaison at Parker and created the Family to Family Adoption Support Program. During her time at Parker Adventist Hospital, Rebecca authored the only adoption curriculum specifically for healthcare workers, Serving the Unique Family Seminar. In 2015 Rebecca took a big step and a giant leap of faith and left Parker to offer her services on a national level.
I look back to my own adoption experience and the things that went awry or downright terrible in the hospital. Things like poor treatment of our son’s birth mother by some staff, inappropriate comments, the house photographer refusing to do first photos because it was an adoption, etc. I am sure you can think back of something that happened that either made you cringe or was so awful that you had to voice concern.
I asked Rebecca if she could break down what Family to Family Adoption Support Network does and she said it is three-fold: 1) To train healthcare professionals in the complexities of adoption 2) To empower the adoption community with education and resources for the lifelong journey and 3) To ensure that women considering adoption have access to community resources to enable them to parent when possible. Her goal is to see this program reach across the country to all hospitals to ensure that patients receive compassionate, neutral care, and that all families are treated with respect.
Rebecca is a recipient of the Angels in Adoption award and has had the privilege of speaking to members of Congress about necessary changes in adoption. She is proud of her ability and determination to ignore naysayers that tell her she is thinking too big. She wants to “change the culture of adoption from the inside out by supporting and educating healthcare professionals.” Sounds like an amazing goal to me! Reach for the stars, Rebecca!
Not only is Rebecca passionate about change and being a part of that change, but she encourages others to create change. “I think to make change in adoption, we all must be committed to ‘listen well to love well’. As adoption is such an event saturated by loss, it is often difficult to move out of our limited view to truly understand and empathize with others impacted. Our radio show, Adoption Perspectives, sponsored by Parker Adventist Hospital, strives to do that every week and has aired in Colorado for that last 4 years. We hope to move people out of their little corner of the adoption world and into the vast beauty and complexity of adoption as a whole. With a better understanding of all parties, we can love our children better and learn from those that have gone before us on this path.”
So how can you bring Family to Family training to your area? Hospitals across the nation can host the Serving the Unique Family Seminar in their facility, they can send healthcare professionals to a seminar offered in their community, or they can attend at our home hospital, Parker Adventist. Point them in the direction of the Family to Family Support website and contact Rebecca Vahle today!
Thank you Rebecca for making a difference with all you do for the adoption community, raising awareness, teaching with compassion and supporting families. You can also follow Family To Family on Facebook or check out her Radio Show, Adoption Perspectives.