Friday, April 27, 2012

Guest Post: Our Adoption Jouney

I can not even begin to tell you how thrilled I am to be introducing today's guest blogger.

Ever since meeting this family 3 years ago, I have become increasingly interested in adoption and the difference it makes in the lives of so many children. I have since talked to others that have adopted children and read blogs about the hope that is being given to so many children because of the opportunity to adopt. So when I was contemplating and praying about who to have as guest bloggers for this month, I knew Denise had to be one of them! I am so thrilled to read a brief recap of her personal story, and I know you will be personally blessed by it.

My desire to adopt started during the Vietnam War.  I would watch the news and feel so sad for all the children who had lost their parents in the war.  In 1975, I believe, President Ford had a campaign of sorts called Operation Babylift which was an effort to bring Vietnamese orphans to the States to find them adoptive families.  I  was only nine years old at that time and my mother, my brother and I were Catholic.  I can't say I had a spiritual burden for the children, just a compassionate heart.  I wondered why those children were in a war-torn country and had lost their parents while I was safe in America with my family and my home.  Around that time, the year was 1973, the state of Ohio started the children's protective/foster care division of family services.  And....I begged my parents to become foster parents!  (I must have been so annoying!)  My mom finally broke down and called the mother of one of my classmates who was a foster parent.  Apparently she asked a few questions and let me know that she didn't feel any more led to be a foster parent than she did to be an adoptive parent- my brother and I were her personal limit and she DID NOT want more children- especially through adoption!

Fast forward eleven years- Denise meets Ken!  A match made in heaven- for sure.  I was so thrilled to find out that Ken's older brother was adopted!  So, we were both open to adoption. After being saved at seventeen years old, my interest in adoption became a spiritual burden.  I wanted to see children who were born into bad or godless situations have an opportunity to know my Lord.  As a young girl, I believed I would be unable to have biological children because I had such a love and passion for adoption.  I also believed if I did have children I would have one who was mentally challenged or disabled because I've always especially loved to work with children and adults who are delayed or disabled mentally.  Well, our first child was born just sixteen months after our wedding.  After having four children in six years we were pretty sure my concern about not being able to have biological children was unfounded!  However, the desire to adopt never left us.  When our youngest biological child was about six or eight years old, we began to pursue adoption.  We did not really have a number of children, gender preference, or national versus international preference.  We did hope, at first, to adopt either an infant or very young child(ren).  We did start out trying to adopt internationally.  We changed course for a number of reasons- too many to list them all.  Basically, we felt it was cost prohibitive and since we were "older" with four children already, we were disallowed in some countries. 

Eventually, we began to look at the foster care system in our state.  We had several friends and acquaintances who had or were currently foster parents.  They were Christians and seemed to do fine with it, so we took a closer look.  Our local agency's training schedule was not compatible with our family's schedule, so we looked into a private foster care agency about 40 minutes away in a different county. We became therapeutic parents after participating in about forty-eight hours of training.  During this time, we became open to older children and sibling sets or groups because they can be harder to place.  We were also open to mental delays- which goes back to my early years of loving to work with delayed children. Because we were licensed (by choice) foster to adopt, we were able to have "first dibs" on any foster child in our care who became available for adoption.  It really is a neat program, but that's not how we met our first adopted children. 

We got a call one day, after we were licensed to adopt.  It was from one of our friend/acquaintances who was a foster parent.  This is a neat family we knew in Ohio who had parents (in their 60's) and several of their adult children who were foster and/or adoptive parents.  This call was regarding three little girls who were being fostered by a member of this family.  They were coming to the end of their time in foster care and were going to be placed for adoption.  This family had a lot of pull with their local agency and said if we wanted the girls, they would work to see that we were able to adopt them.  So, about five months later, after several weekend visits and one week-long visit, they moved into our home on a foster-to-adopt agreement between the agency and us.  In Ohio, children have to live in the home for six months before a family is allowed to adopt them.  So, we did adopt them six months after they came to live with us. During this time, we switched from the therapeutic agency to the local agency that had custody of the girls.  It was amazing to us that these little girls, ages four, five, and seven when they came to live with us, were raised in America and did not know Who Jesus was or that Christmas had something to do with Him!  It was sad and I still find that amazing.  One of the reasons I was pulled toward international adoption was that I felt THOSE POOR KIDS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE LORD!  I really did not realize how spiritually empty some American children are, too.  The very day our adoption on the first three girls was finalized. our second set of siblings came in foster care for the last time.  They had had a very rough beginning.  It's a truly heart-wrenching story and when I heard it my heart just ached for them.  These two little people- ages one and three at the time were offered to our friends as a possible foster to adopt placement.  The wife called me that day to congratulate us on our adoption and also to ask us to pray about these two little ones they were considering.  A few days later we spoke again and she really hadn't made a decision- she was so focused on the challenges.  I told her if it were us, we would take them, but we'd continue to pray for their decision.  We found out they had decided against the  children joining their family and we immediately told our agency we would be interested in adopting the children.  In our hearts, we knew they were our children.  However, Ohio law and agency regulations do not allow another adoption so close to one that had just finalized.  So we waited, and sure enough, eventually, they asked us to adopt the children, which we did.

Each of our adoption stories has its own amazing miraculous details- the kinds of things only God can do.  Even our caseworker (she worked all five of our adoptions), once told us, I was sharing your story with a friend who is also a caseworker and we are just amazed at how things have fallen into  place with these adoptions.  She said "I believe I have actually seen God work".  She went on in great detail about things that "just don't don't understand, I've done this work for years, and these things JUST DON'T HAPPEN"!  We understand, we serve a great God!

Adoption is not without its challenges, for sure.  I don't want to be misleading.  It is a tremendous blessing, though, to those who are touched by it.  To us, it is the greatest earthly picture of the spiritual truth of salvation- being made a joint heir with Christ through the adoption of sons.  We were without hope and the Lord made us His own children.  I will never get over that.  I was so unworthy, yet He took on Himself my sins and gave me His righteousness and now I have a home in heaven with Him.

Foster care adoption is definitely worth looking into for anyone who is interested in adoption.  As Christians, we are so against abortion.  We always say, someone would want that child.  Maybe that someone is me or you!  We have a social worker friend in the state of South Carolina who told me if one family from every church in SC would adopt a child from South Carolina's foster care system, it would shut down the whole system!  The little people in care need a family, but most importantly, they need the Lord.  It's a full time ministry opportunity.  It has its challenges and its rewards.  My kids have brought out the good, the bad, and the ugly in me!  It keeps me on my knees and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be "Mom" to five little people I didn't give birth to!  (Ephesians 1:1-14)

James 1:27- Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. 

Denise is mommy to 9 children: 4 biological and 5 adopted, with her first grandchild is the way! She and her husband live in the beautiful state of North Carolina where they are striving to raise their children to love and serve God.

Did I not tell you that you would be blessed? Certainly the Lord has been at work in their lives every step of the way. I feel so privileged to know this family and see first hand what God is doing in their lives!

You can download a printable version of this post by clicking here. 

Perhaps someone reading this today feels led to pursue the adoption or foster care system. What are your thoughts concerning adoption? Any questions for Denise? Feel free to leave them in the comments section!

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