Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Highs and Lows of "Dating" Birthparents

Prospective adoptive families who are waiting for a domestic infant adoption placement often draw comparisons between "the wait" in adoption and the dating process.  Can any of you remember the teenage years, when you first began to date and think about the possibility of marriage?  You wonder if you will fall head over heels for your first boyfriend/girlfriend, worry about if someone will ever "choose" you as their life partner, and fear having your heart broken in the process.  I'm sure that more than one of us can recall trying to become what we thought the other person would like, but that is often an exhausting charade to keep up for more than a few weeks.  Similar feelings can translate when you are waiting to see if there are birth parents who will feel that they match with your family for a lifelong relationship centered around one, tiny baby.

Families have expressed fears of not being rich enough, attractive enough, athletic enough, young enough, and the list goes on and on.  Eventually, we realize that all we can do is be who God made us to be.  That is not to say that you shouldn't try to put your best food forward to connect with others, but it is to say that chemistry and connections are often made between two people or groups of people that an outsider may not necessarily link together. 

It is not uncommon to meet several different birth parents throughout "the wait" and a connection may be felt by one side, but not the other. Certainly, there are very real emotions and very real heart breaks in the adoption process. On the flip side, family after family have reflected back on the interview process and could see why various situations wouldn't have been right for their family and why the birth parents who selected their family are absolutely irreplaceable.

Adoptive Families Circle has posted a blog called "Dating" Birthparents that builds on this comparison that is so relatable for waiting adoptive families.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Race!

The 4th Annual Liberty Godparent Foundation 5K Race for Life on the Blackwater Creek Trail is scheduled for April 17th.  This event also includes a 1 Mile Fun Run for kids.  You can enter for as little as $15 (before April 10th) and that includes a t-shirt, door prizes, and food following the race.  More information and online registration is available through Riverside Runners on the "Events" page.

*Note-this event is different than the "Walk for Life", which is scheduled for May 1st.*

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Capture the Memories - Simple Reflections Photographic Art

One of our local photographers, Rhiannon Horsley, has quickly become known in the Lynchburg area for extraordinary photography, especially with families, infants, and small children.  Last fall, one of our adoptive families arranged to schedule an outdoor photo session with Simple Reflections Photographic Art to capture pictures of the new adoptive family with the birth mother following placement.  The results were beautiful, one-of-a-kind photos and memories from the week of placement!  The family chose to have the photos taken on the campus of Liberty University, which has an obvious significance to the adoption process as we are located on the edge of the picturesque campus. 

I would highly recommend having some professional photos captured with the birth mother and/or birth father following placement or scheduling a visit in Lynchburg (if your placement was months or years ago) to take advantage of this opportunity.  If it isn't possible to include the birth parents, perhaps you would want to capture the first family portraits before leaving our area following placement.  Rhiannon has a laid-back approach to photography and keeps the environment relaxed to make everyone feel comfortable.

Check out the Simple Reflections Photographic Art website and blog to see more of her work.  She has created the following packages, specifically for families with FLS:

The Mini Package - $150
Mini-portrait session (~25 minutes)
$100 print credit

The Basic Package -$200
Portrait Session (~1 to 1.5 hours)
$125 print credit

The Digital Package - $375
Portrait session
CD of 25-35 image files

**Other prints and products available.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Adoption Day, Mark & Heather!

FLS was contacted by Abba Adoption to request possible adoptive families for a situation in late 2009.  One of the waiting families with our agency, Mark and Heather, followed up on the information that we sent out and were selected by the birth mother.  Isaiah Allen was born on December 24, 2009; placed with Mark and Heather on December 27, 2009; and officially adopted on January 12, 2010.  They have an open adoption with Isaiah's birth mother and have fallen in love with her too!  Heather wrote the following:  "Isaiah is the child God meant for us and we waited a long time but we could imagine any other child would be more perfect for us."  Congratulations Mark and Heather!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Following the Blog & Posting Comments

I am so thrilled with the feedback that we have gotten on the blog, so far, and it seems to be accomplishing our goal of connecting with a wider audience.  Here are two common questions that I want to address:

1)  How can I follow this blog? - If you sign into blogger at the top right of the page, you can then click on the "follow" that appears at the top of the page (closer to the middle) to officially become a follower.  We haven't posted a "follow" block on the page due to confidentiality issues.

2)  Can I post comments on the posts if I am a waiting adoptive parent or have a mediated adoption? - YES.  We welcome your feedback and input so don't want you to feel limited by questions of confidentiality.  Post any comment as "anonymous" and then sign the end of your comment with your first name only, if you wish to do so.  For those with fully open adoptions, international adoptions, etc., you may comment any way that you choose as confidentiality issues don't apply to you.

Thanks, have a great weekend everyone!

Tips for Effective Networking

I know that there is a lot of paperwork and preparation involved in getting your file ready to work with one agency that to think of networking or possibly pursuing other programs can seem very overwhelming. The amount of "extra" paperwork depends greatly on the agency. One of the best recommendations that I can give to a family that is potentially looking to network their profile is to ask questions BEFORE making any kind of financial commitment to another agency. It is often best to ask questions via email so you have recorded responses to refer back to later and can share accurate information with your spouse as you talk about if and how to proceed. Here are some key tips for effective networking:

  1. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of whether the networking contact is an attorney, a licensed agency, an adoption facilitator, etc. If the agency is a licensed agency and you have not heard of them, I highly recommend that you ask them to fax you a copy of the license or verify it in some other way).
  2. Ensure that the agency that you are currently working with is aware that you are pursuing networking opportunities and be sure to inform them of any new developments with other agencies.
  3. Ask what paperwork you will be required to submit prior to being considered for an adoption placement and any additional paperwork that may be required before a placement occurs.
  4. Gain a clear understanding of the adoption fees and make sure that you understand if there are additional fees relating to legal fees, living expenses, medical expenses, etc.
  5. Ask how parental rights are terminated and if they would be terminated at the time of placement with an adoptive family.
  6. Create an extra photo profile that can be sent by mail or electronically to other agencies if the need arises.
  7. Follow your intuition and don't continue in the process if something doesn't seem right.
Here are a couple of organizations that are involved in matching home studied adoptive families with potential birth parent situations that you may want to visit: Christian Adoption Consultants and Special Link. Does anyone have additional tips to share for prospective adoptive families who are looking at possibly networking with other agencies?

Happy Adoption Day, Ben and Lydia!

Does networking work?  It does.  Family Life Services has become known for having great quality, Christian families who wish to adopt and we often receive messages from other agencies, looking for adoptive families for specific situations.  One Friday night in February, JJ and I received a phone call from Life for Kids in Florida, requesting a possible adoptive family for a newborn baby.  We contacted a family who had worked with our agency, who met all of the requirements, on the following day (Saturday) and asked them to contact the agency directly if they were interested.  By the following Friday (just 7 days later), Ben and Lydia were on their way to Florida to receive the adoption placement of their newborn son, Jeremiah Blakely.  Jeremiah was born on February 11, 2010 and placed with his adoptive family on February 19, 2010.  Congratulations!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughts About The Journey...

I just completed a journey between Virginia and Canada to be with my family for a few days and, as I looked at the road that stood between me and my homeland, I could draw so many parallels to my physical journey and the adoption journey.  I once heard adoption described, not as a snapshot, but as a moving picture.

This past weekend, we completed an Adoption Training Weekend with 9 couples who are in the beginning stages of starting the adoption process with our agency.  We were delighted to get to know each couple and a little bit of their stories as we join them at the initial stage of their adoption journey.  At this point, there are feelings of nervousness, uncertainty, excitement, and anticipation as they proceed forward in the direction that God has pointed them.  The road ahead may be filled with twists, turns, circumstances beyond one's control, yield signs, hills and valleys - that's just how it is.  However, there is hope in the fact that we are not in control, but yet we have faith in God who IS in control as we navigate the road ahead.  Although the journey may seem long, we may lose patience, could become irritable, feel weary and frustration may set in, there is hope in the future when we reach the end of this road. 

Several adoptive families and birth mothers came in this weekend to give of their time and tell their stories to encourage our new, prospective adoptive families and we are so grateful for their willingness to share about both the smooth roads and the ones filled with pot holes - however, which each one we heard that they crossed over any obstacles to experience the joys of adoption in their family.  My hope is that each family can take the time to enjoy the journey with the opportunities to grow, stretch, and change....and can eventually say, "it has been a long journey, but I have been blessed!"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Journey of a Birthmother: Chrizar's Story

Warning: this testimony will make you cry, but it's tears of joy, you'll need a couple of tissues when you read this...

Journey of a Birthmother...Written by Chrizar

I have definitely struggled between parenting and placing, but I knew I couldn’t make this decision on my own, I had to rely on God for help. Deciding between what’s best for my baby and me whas really hard. It’s something I don’t want to go through again. I could provide for my baby and support him, but I wanted to go to school. I was basically being pulled at every direction. If you mapped out my whole entire decision making process through this, you would get lost. This was something that I needed to sit down, and pray about, it wasn’t a flip a coin decision, this was like a life or death thing.

My family is very old fashioned. Rules and traditions must be kept the same throughout generations, it’s just how everything is. I have at least heard all my aunts and uncles say “If she’s old enough to have sex, she’s old enough to keep a baby” or “I could keep the baby, and then she can see the baby anytime she wants and then get him back when she’s ready.” So in the back of my head I’m saying NO! Ignore them, it’s going to make you cry and make things worse with your decision.
My adoption planning process started at about 5-6 months, just because I was due in February, and the holidays are going to get in the way. Going through the papers was pretty boring I must say, but my caseworker, Erica, made them funny sometimes. I remember going through the albums-I wanted a family that lived in Virginia, stay at home mom, at least one child, Christian, and close as as a family and with extended family. I didn’t just choose families according to what they look like, this and that. I waited for that click in my mind and heart that I knew this was the family, and when my baby would kick me in the ribs, that was a sign I asked God to give me when this was the family. It took me a couple of days to find the perfect family for him. Then, BAM there it was, my baby kicked me, and there was the click. This is the family, there names we’re Craig and Marti. They adopted their first daughter through Family Life Services, and they just clicked. When I interviewed them, I was nervous but yet excited to meet them. We had lunch together with my caseworker, Cindy, adoption case worker, Erica, Deanne, Craig and Marti. Throughout lunch my baby just kept kicking me like NO TOMORROW, I couldn’t really concentrate on much, it just hurt. But I knew I felt comfortable with them having my child.
I was going to tell them that I choose them as a family through a cute picture and card, but 8 days after meeting them at lunch I went into labor, 2 weeks before my due date. I gave birth to the CUTEST baby boy in my world. When I got into the Mother Baby Unit at Virginia Baptist, and took myself a nap, Erica came in, and I told the family on the phone that I choose them as a family. Craig and Marti were so excited, and thankful their prayers were answered. The next day I receive flowers, a picture of them, and a card. We decided to name him Jesse Taylor.
I did cry when I was discharged from the hospital, I wanted time to just freeze, I wanted to continue holding and hugging Jesse Taylor, I didn’t want to let go, but I knew time wouldn’t freeze. It was time to go home, I cried in the car, and I held back tears during lunch with my mom. It was hard, besides the fact I had the baby blues, but man I didn’t want to cry, but I remember Cindy and Erica saying it’s good to cry, it means that you love him. All I could do was cry. I cried for two nights when I got home. All I could do was go back to what happened at the hospital, the smell of him, the sweet and peaceful look he has when he sleeps, the smile he gave me when I first said I love you to him. It broke me down.
Enough crying, it was time to find the birthfather and get him to sign papers. I knew my baby was going to be put in safe care with the foster mom. I just wanted to get the papers signed so he could be with his new family ASAP. The papers were signed 2 weeks later and then the following week I would get to see Jesse Taylor on Placement day.
March 5th was one of the happiest days I’ll always remember, it was finally placement day! In the car I would count down the miles from the GPS until we get to Lynchburg. I was just SO excited to see my baby and to see how happy Craig and Marti and their family will be. Holding him again just felt amazing, I wanted time to stop again, just so I could hold him and talk to him, and give him kisses. But then the time came, when I would come out with the baby, present him to everyone, and place him in the mom’s arms. The smile on their faces when I saw the family, that moment when I was presenting the baby, seeing the smiles on everyone’s face, seeing the smiles on the family and looking down at my baby, everything was becoming a reality. It was a happy day, the day Jesse Taylor finally united with his new family.
From placement day to now, I still have tears of joy. I thank God for everything he has given to me especially my first child, Craig and Marti, my family, Family Life Services, and The Liberty Godparent home. Without these I wouldn’t be the person I would be right now. He isn’t placed with a family but he’s placed in God’s hands, I gave him to God and this puts my mind at peace.
Adoption is such a beautiful thing, You see the miracle of life and watch that little bundle of life be with a loving and solid family. I can’t wait to see him again, every moment is a precious memory locked in my heart forever.

Keep on seeking, and you will find...

This morning, I read the very familiar words of Matthew 7:7 (NIV), "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."  The word that hit home for me was seek.   I stopped in my tracks and thought about that one, tiny, but very significant word that means "to look for, to search for, to explore, to try to find."  The New Living Translation puts it this way, "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you."  The question I pondered is this - do I seek God in the same manner that I seek for other things in my life?  Do I search for him like a hungry man searches for bread?  Do I have the longing in my soul to find the things that only He can reveal to His child?  Here's the kicker...Do I seek Him only when my life is full of problems or do I seek Him constantly, consistently, every day?

If I seek more passionately when I am in trouble, I wonder if God uses those things in my life to draw me close to Him and keep me near.  I don't want to become so self-sufficient that I only take the time to seek when I need a solution to a problem.  I am reminded this morning that I need Him every minute, every hour, every day.     

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We've Launched a Birthmother Blog

Our agency has launched another new blog, that is geared more toward birth parents and birth family issues.  However, I think that it can be really informative for adoptive families as well and can help to provide a window into thoughts and feelings from a different perspective.  Take a moment to visit The Journey of a Birthmother!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

We have an FLS Button!

I want to say a special "thank you" to our friend, Erin, who is also a waiting adoptive mom in our adoption program.  She offered to help us out by designing a button for our new blog.  You can find the code to post it on your own blog on the sidebar, if you wish (and I do hope that you wish to do that).  I have no idea how to create a button and she whipped it out like it was no big deal.  Just think - two weeks ago I didn't really know what a blog or a button was - with God, anything is possible.  Thanks again, Erin!

Adoptive Families Support Group

Are you an adoptive family or prospective adoptive family who sometimes feels like you are all alone in this journey of adoption?  Does anybody understand what you are going through?  Have other people felt like this before?  Am I normal (well, nobody can be held responsible for answering that question)?  An Adoptive Family Support Group might just be the perfect place for you to explore these questions that are very familiar to the adoption process.

I know, I know - one's first instinct is NO, not me, I don't need a support group, I don't need some kind of group therapy about adoption, that's the LAST thing that can help me.  If you haven't tried it....just give it a chance.  There are so many benefits to an Adoptive Family Support Group which include identifying with others who are in or have been in a similar situation, building friendships with other families who can relate to your personal experiences, gaining access to a wealth of first-hand and personal information that comes from real-life experiences in adoption, and allowing yourself to be encouraged by those who DO understand how you are feeling.  Many times, relationships that begin in a support group develop into lifelong friendships that provide positive peer relationships for children who have joined families through adoption.  Most adoption groups are informal with a very welcoming environment that offers attendees the immediate benefit of knowing that you are not alone.

There is an active Adoptive Families Support Group in Lynchburg that is hosted and led by two families who have adopted through Family Life Services:  Dean & Kathy and Clayton & Robyn.  The group is not sponsored or connected formally with our agency, yet we support it in every way and feel that their group is an incredible resource for adoptive families or waiting families.  The group meets six times a year on the odd months (January, March, May, etc.) and is an adult-only group on the 4th Tuesday of each month from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.  The  next group is on March 23rd at Clayton & Robyn's home.  In addition to the adult groups, they have some family activites scheduled for this year including a picnic in June, a swimming party in August, and possibly a craft time in the fall for children.  If you do not receive emails from Kathy with information about this group and you would like to, please email me at and I will pass along your information to her to be added to the list.

Maybe you have information about an Adoptive Families Support Group in another area that you would like to share?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Check Out the Cover of Adoptive Families Magazine...

Check out the current March/April 2010 cover of Adoptive Families Magazine....featuring our little friend, Tyler, who was adopted through Family Life Services by his parents, Kevin and Julie.  A picture of his older brother, Ethan, can be found in the same magazine on the Family Album pages!

I would strongly recommend that you subscribe to this magazine if you are a waiting adoptive family or adoptive parents of children of any age.  This magazine includes articles relating to domestic and international adoption, advice for parenting various age groups, book reviews, adoption updates, etc.  You can visit their website and sign up to receive a sample issue to preview the magazine.  Some of the reasons I am such a fan of this magazine is because the articles are short, concise, and full of information.  I enjoy flipping through the magazine and find it less intimidating than looking at a book that's on my "to do" list.  In my opinion, this magazine is one of the most practical adoption resources available and is easy reading for busy people!

Adoptive Families Magazine has also sponsored an adoption networking website, Adoptive Families Circle, which allows adoptive families to connect with other members of the adoption community, participate on discussion boards, follow adoption blogs, and upload photos to share.  There is currently an opportunity to enter a "Mommy and Me" photo contest to have a photo featured in the May/June Issue of the magazine.  Perhaps we'll see more of our FLS friends featured in the future!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Free Webinar Opportunity

Adoption Learning Partners is offering a free webinar on Thursday, March 25 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Central Time) on the following topic-Parenting Children from Haiti and Other "Hard Places":  Featuring Dr. Karyn Purvis.  You will have the opportunity to ask specific questions that can be answered during the session regarding subjects such as attachment, sleep issues, behavior challenges, family dynamics, etc.  Dr. Purvis is the co-author of "The Connected Child". 

I think this is a great learning opportunity and have registered for the webinar myself!  You can register for this free webinar here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Adoption Memory Books

I recently came across an adorable adoption memory book that has been created specifically for adoptive families!  The book is available in four styles (2 for boys and 2 for girls) and can be customized to make the information applicable to your child's own unique adoption story.  It provides an opportunity to record all of the information that would typically be found in a baby book through the child's first year, with the addition of adoption-specific pages such as the following:  when we found out, who we told, the story of our sweet path to you, choosing a name, your forever family tree, etc.  It has a special section to include information about the birth family as well.  The book has a 3-ring design so pages can be removed or added, as necessary. 

This book would make a wonderful gift for a new adoptive family, would be a great way to re-visit these memories and create a keepsake for an older child who may not have a baby book already, or would be a wonderful and sentimental gift from a birth family to the child.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's happening today at FLS?

The answer for today is meetings, meetings, meetings!  It's staff meeting day and that usually brings together 7 women (today was 8 including our LU intern) with lists of questions that they have been "saving" for a time when we are all together.  We must set a time limit as we could honestly sit and process all day and never blink an eye!  It's a time for collaboration, sharing, new ideas, and case planning.  You would think that, in a small office, we have these opportunities frequently - and we do on a smaller level - but it's important that we unify as a complete staff to realign our goals, purpose, and ministry on a regular basis.  I firmly believe that each woman who is employed by Family Life Services is here for a reason, desires to be a part of this ministry, and brings life experiences that are irreplaceable.  Today, we prayed for wisdom, discernment, positive attitudes, and sweet spirits as we prepare to host an Adoption Training Weekend next weekend for 9 couples who are pursuing adoption with Family Life Services.  Will you join us in prayer today for our staff, the upcoming training weekend and the 9 couples who will be attending?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Placement Photos - Taylor

Pictures of our latest placement of Jesse Taylor with adoptive family, Craig & Marti, and birthmother, Chrizar, are posted on the sidebar...enjoy!

Happy Adoption Day, Jesse Taylor!

Friday was a joyful day at FLS - placement day!  These are the days that I work for...days that cannot be compared to any other.  I often think of placement day as the ultimate celebration of God's faithfulness to a birth family, an adoptive family, and a precious child. 

The Godparent Home was adorned with baby blue decorations and photos of a tiny miracle - Jesse Taylor (3 weeks old).  Some of the sweetest moments take place just before placement as the birth mother, Chrizar, visits with the baby and checks him to make sure that he is dressed perfectly to meet his new parents.  The adoptive family, Craig and Marti, gather with their five-year-old daughter, Chloe, and their extended family in nervous anticipation of meeting the newest member of the family.  Once Jesse Taylor enters the room, everyone is captivated by the baby and the quiet strength of his birth mother, an amazing young woman whom we all have grown to love and adore.  This is a celebration.

Pictures will be posted this week.  Congratulations to Craig, Marti, and Chloe!  I Samuel 1:27 "For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him." 

God is good,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Walk for Life 2010

The 10th Annual Walk for Life has been scheduled for Saturday, May 1st at the Liberty University Outdoor Track. We need you to help us reach the goal of $55,000! All of the money raised through individual donations and corporate sponsorships will go directly to the Liberty Godparent Home and Family Life Services. If you can make plans to join us in Lynchburg on that day, please do - it's a wonderful way to contribute, as a family, to pro-life efforts in the community and beyond.

Our agency is challenging each walker or family to raise at least $100. This can be done by asking for donations, of any size, from co-workers, family members, neighbors, and members of your church family. If you own or work for a business that would be willing to become a corporate sponsor for the event, please contact Sheree Bryant for more information at

If you plan to attend, please email me at and let me know so we can ensure that you receive a brochure with information you will need to record sponsorships and register under FLS. We hope to see you there - set a goal and start working toward it!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Come On and Follow Along!

Welcome to the Family Life Services Blog - The Journey of Adoption!  As we have been brainstorming about various ways to connect our ministry with our clients, supporters, and friends, a blog seemed like the best way to accomplish this goal.  Various staff members will be contributing and we plan to update it at least weekly so you can have a window into the happenings of FLS, whether you are in Virginia or in another state.

Consider this to be our electronic newsletter!  You can find placement photos posted along the side of the page and details about upcoming events.  The blog posts will be a combination of  reviews on adoption-related books or materials, postings relating to various topics relating to adoption, and things that God has taught our staff as we seek to serve Him together as a team.  So, come on and follow along as we take this journey together...

Psalm 33:22 "May Your faithful love rest on us, Lord, for we put our hope in You."

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