The Case for Adopting a Child – A Dad’s Perspective

I need to begin this essay with full disclosure that my wife and I have adopted three fantastic children to add to the “yours, mine and ours” family of five giving us a grand total to eight amazing children. If I am being totally honest, I do have moments where I ask myself “how the hell did this happen?”. Nonetheless, I just finished celebrating Father’s day (thank you Hallmark for inventing this holiday) and I cannot begin to describe the depth of enhancement my life has experienced with the blessing of our adopted children. In fact, in many ways I never think about the “last three” as being adopted but rather the final three cars on a train that god has asked my wife and me to shepherd.

So when I thought about putting “pen to paper” on this topic, it occurred to me that I could help a whole bunch of guys to be “truly blessed” as well. I am the first to recognize that adopting a child(ren) is not for everyone. I am also passionate about the fact that it is absolutely appropriate for more of us than we admit to. So guys I get it… You can come up with a healthy “laundry list” of reasons why you are not the right guy to be adopting a child.. Do these sound familiar:

  • “I’m not sure I can love an adopted child like my own offspring”
  •  “I can’t afford another child”
  • “I am afraid another child will negatively impact my other children”
  • “I am too old”
  • “I’ve been there and done that”
  • “I am too busy”
  • “My wife and I are just starting to get our rhythm back”
  • “I am not feeling called to adopt?” (my personal favorite)

Personally I dealt with each one of these issues. So let me tell you my story and if it causes one reader to take the bold step of seriously considering adopting a child there are two great things that result… A child gets a family… a family gets a blessing..

Four years ago I had the great fortune of spending 14 hours, seven minutes’ and eleven seconds in the car with my family traveling to see my wife’s family. We arrived in time to spend the Christmas holiday but the thought of having another 14 plus hour ride home loomed large as the holiday season flew by. Among other things I am a guy – I’ve got about 25 minutes of material to talk about on the ride home. By comparison wife has more than 28 hours of stuff to “visit about”.

So, on New Year’s Eve we jumped back in the car and started the long trek back to our home just outside of Atlanta. In the course of our drive my wife and I discussed a number of things but seem to return back to two common themes:

  1. “You can’t change the world but you can change someone’s world”
  2. “To much is given, much is expected”

In effect we knew we needed to step out of our comfort zone and make a difference… (by the way it turns out we didn’t step out of our comfort zone much at all). So somewhere between Hannibal, Missouri and Paducah, Kentucky, we decided we were going to explore adopting a child…

The process is grueling… From a 52 page soul searching questionnaire to a FBI and State background check, a full physician physical (including more blood test than any total illnesses possible) and what seemed to be an invasive social worker observing our current family in action to deem our fitness to accept a new child in our household.  However, in the end we passed the test and we “made the cut” to be eligible to adopt a child.

Amazingly 4 days after completing the process we received a call that a child was born in Hinesville, Georgia and if we could get there by 5 pm the birth mother would interview us to determine whether we were the right fit.  Finding friends to look after our existing children, we found a way to travel five hours to meet what turned out to be our son Michael… Answer to question number one… Yes you can fall in love with an adoptive child as if it were your birth child.. It took about a nanosecond.. Son number six was immediately part of our family and we couldn’t wait to get him home.

When we got him home there was a total baby inventory re-stocking event … Cribs, high chairs, diapers, baby clothes, bassinets, stuffed animals etc. Answer to question # 2.. Can you afford it? Hell no…unless of course you are going to re-prioritize your spending… No more country club (at least for now)…Nights out with friends need to take a hiatus for a while (who has the energy anyways)… An adult trip to the Kentucky derby was cancelled.. Replacing the family car was postponed for a year.. But we found a way to make it work and after all we did get this really cool blessing – His name is Michael..

Speaking of “we”… Answer to question # 3.. How does a new child affect the rest of the family? Overwhelmingly positive!!!… People often ask me what was the biggest surprise associated with adopting a child… My answer.. How positively it has impacted my older children… Every one of my five older boys embraced their new role as a big brother stepping up their game in every aspect of contributing to the added responsibilities… The natural maturation process was amazing to watch… It was if they had been waiting for this opportunity and when it came they were going to do their part.. whether it was “watch your brother while Mom takes a shower” or “please make sure Michael is buckled in his car seat”… It was the most natural transition I have ever witnessed…And trust me when I say these guys were no more prepared for this event than a trailer park is for a tornado…

Let me deal with questions four, five and six together.. Yes you are too old (did I mention I was 52 years old when we adopted Michael and Matthew and 55 when we adopted our daughter Katelyn).. Yes you have already raised a family, and yes you are way too busy (and important) to adopt a child… Just a bit of a reality check – You are the same guy who can find time to play
golf a couple times a week, play poker with the fellas, take the fishing trip with your college buddies and watch college football all day Saturday and recharge to do the NFL thing on Sunday right? You’re the same guy who travels all over the country for business but finds an extra day to catch a game, some sightseeing etc. Some tough love here boys… Get over yourself … You’re not all that and a bag of nuts… a twelve handicap doesn’t mean much if a child (particularly a boy) goes without a dad especially if you are available… and news flash – You are available!..

Question number seven … This is a tough one.. Yeah, it is great to get the WE back in the you and me. Moreover, I can assure you that adopting and raising another child is exhausting and does eat into the WE time…okay lets skip to the chase – Bottom line is that you will have less sex.. However in a strange sort of juxtaposition, it also enhances who the WE is……Just last night my wife and I fell into bed completely exhausted but fulfilled in knowing that we have eight fantastic kids who form a family that is greater than the sum of its parts… And when we do have “WE time” it is pretty damn good… By the way… If you get the wild hair idea of raising the possibility of adoption with your wife… “Katy bar the door” boys…. You haven’t had that kind of WE time before!

So you don’t feel a “calling” to adopt?  Did I mention I needed 14+ hours in the car for my “calling” to come… Let me spare you the 14 hours – Try these little “calling card” statistics on:

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless home
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from Fatherless homes
  • 71% of all high school drop outs come from fatherless homes
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes
  • 70% of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in fatherless homes
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father

Okay, I know I mentioned from the outset that adoption is not for everyone but please don’t use the excuse… “I don’t feel a calling”… Guys the demand for you is far greater than you can imagine. There is more than a calling, there is a downright crisis for you.. Here is a question for you: if you could change one of these stats by a small fraction would you do it? Could you do it?

So there you have it fellas, you can toss this essay aside (which candidly I would have at a different point in my life) or you can take a step toward exploring the possibility of expanding your family… It’s not for everyone but it is the greatest thing I have ever done!


(Note: The author of this post is a client of ours!)


Why Lady Edith’s Marigold Adoption On ‘Downton’ Bothers Me

Edith and MarigoldThe Downton Abbey storyline bothered me.  When Caitlyn Gallagher wrote her article, Is Lady Edith’s Marigold Adoption Legal On ‘Downton’? They’re Reunited But It Feels So Wrong | Bustle, I was glad to hear that I was not alone.  If you have not read her article you should.  It’s a very interesting piece regarding the laws of adoption during that particular period and sheds some light on why the script was written that way.

However, regardless of whether or not it was “okay” during that period of history I remain frustrated.  I, of course, have seen the other side of this equation.  I have listened, counseled and cried with my “Mrs. Drewe’s” and it just hurts more than any show can portray.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand my frustration.  I firmly believe that every mother has the right to raise her own child and I am supportive of those mothers who have.  However, just as in Downton Abbey, we can get so wrapped up in the glory of the reunion that we miss the devastation of a love disrupted. If this show were a true story, I can’t imagine that Mrs. Drewe would ever be able to take on another orphan again without being terrified.  I’ve seen the toll it can take in real life.

I would probably not have written a different script ending but I definitely would have added more compassion.  If true to character, the ever compassionate Lady Edith would have seen how scary it would be for Mrs. Drewe to have her child taken.  (Not to mention that she had no knowledge that Edith was even the birth mother!) Don’t you think Lady Edith should have apologized for all of the pressure to visit and the lies she conspired with Mrs. Drewe’s husband?  At the very least, shouldn’t she have told her that she appreciated her for loving and raising Marigold as her own?

Today, if you know of one, reach out to an “almost” adoptive parent you know and ask them how they’re doing.  Don’t brush it under the rug, as in this show, as if it never happened.  A disrupted adoption can sometimes feel like the death of a child. At some point you can usually go on but you are not the same.  You are suddenly cautious and less eager to trust.  You are more wary and sometimes see shadows where there are none.  You are afraid to believe.  It is so helpful when others acknowledge that.

Thursday’s Thoughts – Don’t Make Resolutions

IMG_1498It’s still January, are your resolutions made? Mine aren’t.  Actually, a few years ago I made a resolution never to make New Year resolutions.  It is the only resolution I have ever kept for more than a few weeks.

Renewing our commitment to things isn’t a bad thing…but it is sometimes counterproductive to actually doing what we know we should just do.  A resolution, for me, is just a way of saying that I failed before but now I’m going to give it another shot.  That doesn’t sound very motivating to me.

So, I quit making resolutions and started focusing on new projects each January.  I said my goodbyes to my undone goals (and any guilt or shame associated) in December and put all of my efforts into seeing my year as a brand new, whole, package just waiting for me.

It doesn’t keep me from failing at some of them.  It doesn’t mean I have more successes or failures at all.  But I figure that if God gave me another year to get something done He doesn’t want me spending too much time in the past.

Dee Shihady (Executive Director of Crystal Adoptions)

The Truth about Reactive Attachment Disorder

What a wonderful post to go along with the one I posted recently about children with special needs. Please visit this blog if you have the chance!

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane Blog

I witnessed a conversation with the sister of a boy who had been adopted at the age of 2 years old after being abused by his biological parents. As an adult “he has always been in trouble with the law and has been in jail.” Upon hearing this, a deep sorrow enveloped me. I have such empathy for that child, having three of my own adopted at a later age. It was with a sweet naiveté that I had them join our family, believing that love can cure all. Despite our family’s best efforts, love did NOT cure all. To pretend that it did does a disservice to all of those families living with similar children. As brightly as I may portray our family, (and they ARE wonderful children whom I have never regretted adopting,) they have serious disabilities when it comes to social norms. They have reactive attachment disorder.

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Safer Adoption?

baby footDon’t you wish adoption was safer?

Most of you who read our blog know that I’m the Executive Director of a fully-licensed, 501C3 agency located in Georgia.  But most of you are probably not aware of how hard we are trying to do our part to make adoption safer.   There is so much loss of time and money but the greatest tragedy is the loss of hopes and dreams.

I know it’s hard to believe sometimes but, as adoption professionals, some of us also feel the same frustration with adoption. Many of us got into this field to help, not to make things more difficult but when you’re the one that’s feeling the pinch I know it’s hard to know who to blame. You’re not sure if it was a lack of attention, a stupid law, a scamming person, or just dumb luck.  Believe me, I get that, and it breaks my heart to watch it happen and not be able to fix it.

Adoption professionals feel frustrated working with families who are not really prepared financially or legally to adopt and those that have difficult personalities, but that’s part of the business.  What is now becoming a part of the business, but shouldn’t be, are other professionals who charge high fees for passing on information (thus raising the cost of the adoption higher), lure birth families to leave an agency (and family) to come work with their agency or worse, are unethically supporting a mom to work with both at the same time!

Like adoptive families, smaller professionals (and some larger now) also feel the impact of disrupted adoptions and scammers.  Though all of us (at least those who are doing this for the right reasons) support a mother’s right to choose to raise her own child, most have invested in the  mother’s living expenses already, a caseworker to check on her, an attorney in another state, etc. and they are left with huge holes in the budget, and the lost cost of a rollover if they offer one, when the mother chooses to do so.  I, for one, am willing to take that risk for a mother who truly wants to raise her baby and I will defend her right to do so.  However, as we know, this is not always the case.

Most adoption professionals really are upset when things go wrong even if we appear to be apathetic on the outside; it’s difficult to straddle the advocate position of both sides.  We really do want mom to go to the physician even though we can’t make her. We really do care if adoptive families honor the agreements they make to send pictures and keep in contact.  We honestly do want to encourage open adoptions for those who want it.  We really do pray for the right mom to find the right family and the ICPC process to go quickly.  And most of us really want to make adoption safe and inexpensive for an adoptive family even while they want to help mom to have a better life.  But all of these things plus the awful parts of adoption contribute to higher costs and shaky adoptions and a lot of us feel powerless to stop it.

Here, we give kudos to those professionals who work tirelessly to help their clients have good, safe adoptions; it’s not always easy.  Some spend hours, you never know of, searching and researching the web in an effort to investigate those they work with.  Some deal only in-house and some only with churches.  Some wait to start helping moms to be sure she feels ready.  Some offer help getting government subsidies and such so that no mother is choosing adoption due to costs.  Most of us are doing all we can.

Adoption is becoming a difficult alternative way to create a family and it shouldn’t be.  We all need to do something to make it safer.  If you are the political type maybe you can help with laws.  If you are an agency, spend more time getting to know your birth mothers.  If you are considering adoption take time to get to know your adoption professional better. Let’s all just start asking more questions and start telling each other what we find out.  We know we can’t fix all the problems in adoption but we can be a very small part of the solution!


Book Review: Birds Of a Different Feather by Kelley Wendel

Birds of a FeatherHen and Gander are ready to start a family and hatch a beautiful baby, Gosling.

Soon, Gosling wants siblings.  She searches high and low.  In the grass and thistles, she finds a baby duckling.  She loves the new baby so much that she wants another bird to make the family complete.  She soon finds a baby chicken under an oak tree.  Come see how these Birds of a Different Feather make their own unique family.

 Birds of a Different Feather is a beautifully illustrated and uplifting story of a family that is formed differently than most.  This book speaks directly to families comprised of members with differing genetic backgrounds such as adoptive and foster families, blended families with step and half siblings, and families assisted by extensive reproductive technology.  However, it shares a message of love and acceptance for all families through its whimsical text and enchanting artistry.                                                                                                                                           

Birds of a Different Feather is a small book with a big heart, a triumphant story of love!  

About The Author:  Kelley Wendel

After achieving a BSN degree from the University of Illinois Kelley and Philip married and had their first child.  Unfortunately, the next pregnancies resulted in painful miscarriages and worse—a devastating and rare infertility diagnosis.

Philip and Kelley both carry an immune marker (DQ Alpha allele 1.2) that allows for only one live birth; all others succumb within the first trimester.   The only alternative would be to altar the child’s genetic makeup.  This left them with limited and ethically complex options that would test their faith and resolve as they contemplated the new reproductive area of embryo adoption.  After  a few failed attempts they finally experienced a successful pregnancy and Kelley gave birth to fraternal twin boys!

If you’d like to know more about Kelley’s journey through embryo adoption visit:  Journey of a Donor  Gamete Mom and Defending My Donor Egg & Donor Sperm Family