Like any life-changing decision, choosing to adopt is joyful and scary and everything in between. And with so many expectations and so many different opinions, it’s easy to not quite know how to proceed, how to feel, how to talk about it, or how to process it. When my husband and I decided to pursue our adoption, we did so with eyes wide open, taking in every ounce of information that we could find, yet, really, still feeling like we knew nothing.

By luck, by chance, or by fate, we found a wonderful support group in our community. The group, which supports families adopting from an orphanage in Colombia, has been around for more than 25 years, while the orphanage has existed for more than 40. Which brings me to its founder, Mercedes de Martinez, who was fond of saying, “Let’s give a family to a child, not a child to a family.”  That she did, and the orphanage she once opened in her own home continues to do to this day.

The moment I read those words, I knew we had found our adoption path.

Likewise, our local support group’s overall mission revolves around the statement: United by our children . . . committed to all children. Through this commitment, you are not just growing your family, but you are giving back, for the long term, to the many children left behind, as well as the many children in our local community–adopted or otherwise–who are in need but oftentimes overlooked.

“Let’s give a family to a child, not a child to a family.”

This all brings me to a woman named Jerri who, at the time, assisted new couples interested in adoption. Jerri was one of the first in our community to adopt through this particular orphanage and had since become not just a dedicated adoptive parent, but an advocate for Colombian adoption. She was at the helm during our first informational meeting. Unlike a previous meeting with another agency that had left me with more questions than answers, I think it was because of Jerri’s openness and honesty, coupled with Mercedes’ vision, that we felt comfortable moving in the direction we did.

While starting the process, adoptive parents may feel (and rightfully so) like it’s them up against the world, but Jerri very quickly let us know that nobody was forcing us to adopt and that if we didn’t feel up for the challenge then we probably needed to think about it. She wasn’t there to make us feel better about ourselves, but rather, she was there to find families for children who needed them. She let us know that while the adoption process might seem like the hardest thing we’d face as parents, it would not be the hardest thing we’d face as a family. And she reminded us that at the end of the day, this was not just our adoption story, but would also be our child’s story as well.

Throughout our wait, when things didn’t seem fair, when things got hard (and sometimes even harder), this sound advice shared by strong, courageous, loving women helped me to look beyond myself and focus on what was truly important.