You never quite know where life is going to take you. We seem to try to have a life plan or figure everything out. Vision boards and timelines are always suggested at a young age and, of course, the question hanging over all of our heads is where we see ourselves in five or ten years. I remember a time when I could not even see myself within the next five days much less in five years. A common phrase I use is “times have changed” and, even though I mostly use it in jest, there is a bit of truth to it. You never know when life will take you down a road you did not anticipate. This was my experience when my husband and I decided to adopt.
Some people know early in adulthood that they want to adopt; they might have experienced adoption somehow during childhood with themselves, a friend, or another family member. Then there are some who find that it comes as a complete surprise or a rerouting of plans. Generally speaking, navigating through adulthood will always have its obstacles, but when it comes to family planning no one ever really expects to be faced with surprises. Adoption can be that road you never thought you would take. Learning to adjust your game plan is the part of being an adult that no one warns you about. Everyone has a different reason for adopting. Hearing different stories of adoption and reasons why families want to adopt is very eye-opening and moving. No matter how similar the events are, you never hear the same story twice.
In the past, we have generally associated adoption with impaired fertility. It has been the initial question asked when most people present the idea of adoption. Women and men have fertility complications, however, it is not the end of family growing options. The Center for Disease Control has reported in the past that more than half of women being treated with infertility intervention have considered adoption. While not as commonly talked about, men also have fertility issues contributing to about 30 percent of all infertility cases. The Mayo Clinic estimates that around 15 percent of couples have been diagnosed as infertile. Adoption can provide the hope of having the family they always wanted.
There also are couples that discover their infertility even after they have already had biological children, which causes them to explore other options to continue growing their family to their desired size. There may have been complications during pregnancy or childbirth that enabled infertility to take place. Specific medical conditions in both men and women can also cause infertility, which may have occurred after their child planning has started.
I know a family that waited almost two years to conceive their first child. While they waited they addressed the possibility of adoption. They began the process to foster with the hope to adopt. They eventually became certified to foster and waited for their first child to be appointed to them. While they were waiting they learned of the pregnancy of their first child. They were advised by their social worker, at the time, to put the fostering plan on hold until they were done with having biological children. After their second child was born, they wanted to continue growing their family but, because of the difficulties during both pregnancies, they decided to revisit the plan of adoption. This time they would not go through the foster care system. Now having young children, they did not think they would understand the structure of fostering. Afraid that the reunification plan—which is the desired goal of foster care—would confuse their children, they decided to work with an adoption agency. Currently, they are patiently waiting for their next chapter of parenthood.
Choosing to Adopt Through Faith
Faith has seemed to be a growing component for adoption. Depending on your belief system, it can make a big influence on your decision. One of the most recognized belief systems is Christianity. While many denominations stem from the ideology of Christ, many believe that Jesus himself was adopted by Joseph. This is a belief that seems to be a common connection among the many different Christian denominations. Jesus and the holy family, being key examples of on which many Christians base their lifestyle, is also who they imitate according to their foundational teaching. As Christians, compassion is taught to be a priority, which includes children. Children are mentioned as gifts throughout the Bible and should be taken care of as such. Being an action-driven Christian is fundamental and coincides with a scripture in the book of James that says to not just be hearers of the word but doers also.
The Christian faith also is a leader of the pro-life movement and you will find that many of their protest signs mention adoption. There has also been an increase in recent years of educational programs and resources provided by churches to help with exploring the options of adoption and foster care. When provided, these resources are available for both potential parents and expectant mothers.
A devout Christian couple knew of a young unwed expecting mother. The young woman contemplated an abortion because she knew she was not able to take care of the child. Their Christian belief combined with their fertility complications led them to express interest in the adoption of the baby. They asked the young woman if she would be interested in letting them adopt her child, and the young woman said yes so they proceeded with the adoption. That baby turned out to be one of my best friends.
A genetic disease is any disease caused by an abnormality in the genetic makeup of an individual. When people suffer from genetic disorders, they can, unfortunately, be passed to their biological children. To keep this from happening, some people would rather not have a biological child and would rather adopt. This is such a sensitive position to be in because it is not infertility but preventative. Deciding to adopt in this situation is completely selfless, difficult, and understandable. The medical history of potential parents does play a role in the home study evaluation but does not make them ineligible.
Approximately 6 million children in the United States are being raised by grandparents or other relatives. More recently, we see families adopting within their family due to the increase of substance abuse, incarceration, mental health issues, and death. Even siblings raising younger siblings has become a more common situation. Adoption between family members due to troubling circumstances can cause a shift in the family dynamic because adjusting to new boundaries and learning how to introduce the truth can be somewhat complicated. There is a long tradition of relative adoption, though often it is informal.
I definitely can relate to adopting under this different circumstance. My husband and I had originally decided we were not going to have any children. I was very career motivated at the time, and I did not grasp the concept of being a working mom. I thought it was one or the other, especially because I worked in the restaurant industry and would be home very late every night. Being parents just was not in our life plan. We had been together for about ten years and we did not see ourselves ever changing our minds. We were perfectly content with it just being us two. Even when we were furniture shopping, we splurged on an expensive sofa and said to each other, “It’s not like we are having kids to ruin it.” Then one day I received a phone call from a family member that, quite literally, changed my life. I was approached with the possibility of adopting another family member’s unborn child. There were many variables between that initial contact until the final decision but, ultimately, my husband and I became the proud parents of a beautiful little boy.
They adopt because they want to be parents
For some, the absence of a reason is their reason. They might not have faced any fertility complications or genetic disorders, and faith might not have a role in their lives. They do not need any other reason than knowing a child needs a home to be willing to rearrange whatever they already have going on and make it work. It can be a complete surprise or an emergency situation, but none of that matters. It may come as a shock to friends and family, and it might not even make sense to some. Their only reason for wanting to adopt is they want to be parents.
In recent years we have seen the rise of adoption and foster care awareness. It has been introduced into our homes subtly through the avenues of multimedia. More commonly, we can see examples of what adoption looks like on television shows and, while it might be over glamorized, it does bring attention to many realities that may have been overlooked in the past. For example, transracial adoption is carefully addressed in the show This Is Us, and the show spotlights a reality that some might not have known. The increase of attention has dropped the idea in many people’s minds that adoption is something that they would be willing to explore while family planning.
Singles Who Adopt
Being single is no longer the reason for limited family planning options. Single-parent adoption is another demographic that is quickly growing, making up almost a quarter of adoptions nationwide in 2017. As more studies develop in favor of single-parent households, more leniency is granted from adoption agencies and the foster care system. While the belief of a nuclear family is important, it is no longer a requirement for adoption.
It is in the family
Many people have had the privilege of learning about adoption and foster care from a young age. They were taught the valuable lesson of loving a family member beyond a genetic link. For some people, the reason they want to adopt is that they experienced adoption personally and understand the difference it can make not only in the life of a child but also in the existing family. Their experience can help them navigate through the logistics and through life adjustments. They already know about the hard talks and all the other things that there is no real preparation for adoption or foster care.
I have a friend that has taken the initial steps to become a foster parent with her husband. Their hope is to eventually adopt. She grew up watching her mom foster children and recognized the lasting impact her mom had on others. Parents are our best role models and the legacy of love and compassion is not only precious but something to replicate.
The Common Factor
It is always interesting to learn why people make major life choices. It gives insight into who they are and their thought process, and you then are able to see their reasoning and vulnerability. Their explanations can surprise you or can be relatable and make total sense. I think sometimes we underestimate people’s logic, too. We can find ourselves with a perspective that is limited to our own experiences.
Yes, adoption is a completely optional choice and it may even seem like a backup plan to people, but understanding that there are so many reasons why families decide to adopt helps you understand how special adoption is. Adoption is able to bond people together without the obligation of a genetic link. It is fascinating how so much diversity in the reasons why people pursue adoption ends with the same goal—to make a family.Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.