Monday, March 28, 2011

Open Adoption: The Decision, The Benefits & The Challenges - Part 2

Heather Kirk is an adoptive mom of five children. Each of these children has a different set of birth parents, and Heather's family has open adoptions with each of them. Heather and her husband Christopher frequently share their adoption stories at the FLS Adoption Training Weekend for Family Life Services and she has agreed to write a 3-part series about open adoption for The Journey of Adoption. In case you missed it, here's Part 1.

In this post, I will share some of the benefits that our family has experienced because we have had the open adoptions. Keep in mind that there are surely many more benefits, but I want to share with you some of the big ones we have been blessed with as a result of our choice.

As I shared in Part 1, one of the reasons we were drawn to open our first adoption was because of the amazing love we saw that Nathanial’s birth family had for him. We couldn’t imagine Nathan or our future children never really knowing and experiencing that love. So we opened the adoption. There was a particular moment when we knew that our kids had truly begun to understand how amazing all this love is.

When Nathanial was in Kindergarten, the teacher asked each of the kids to share about their family. When Nathan got home from school, he said, “Mom, I am the most special kid in my class.”

I responded, “Well, I know that, but tell me why you say that.”

With great excitement in his voice, he said, “When the teacher asked us to tell her about our families, I realized that I have more family that loves me than any of those other kids in my class.”

Brandon, our second child, agreed when he heard Nathan. Nathan started talking about the fact that they had Mommy’s family, Daddy’s family, and all of their birth families who loved them, and they agreed that it made them extra special. That moment gave Christopher and I confidence that we had made the right decision.

The benefit of knowing they are loved goes further than that, though. You see, I have met and read about many adoptees who have questioned if they were ever loved by their birth parents. They feel abandoned and have questioned their self worth. They also wondered where they got many of their personality traits, looks and mannerisms from.

In our case, so far, we have only experienced that once with one of our children. For Nathan, we have never had contact with his birth father. For our next two children, we met both their birth mother and birth father. So Nathan wondered why his birth father didn’t want to meet him. He asked some of those hard questions about why his birth father didn’t love him. I don’t have the space to go into all the details, but I will say that he and I cried together as we discussed it. I hurt deeply for my son because he was hurting.

I am so glad that for the most part our children don’t have those questions ringing in their heads when they think about being adopted.

Another huge benefit that we have had is the chance to get really important questions answered. When our son Brandon started having huge difficulties at home and in school with both reading and writing, we first thought we were doing something wrong. I decided to talk to the birth family to see if anyone in their family had any similar struggles.

Brandon has two older birth siblings, one was being raised by the birth parents and the other had been placed for adoption with another family. After speaking with the birth family, I discovered that his birth mother, birth brother, and multiple uncles and aunts had experienced the exact same difficulties. Then, I spoke with the adoptive mother of Brandon’s older sister. Even though she was their only child and had received a lot of special help at school, she continued to struggle with the same issues. We realized that this was an inherited trait rather than something we were doing wrong. Not only did this give us peace of mind as parents, but it also gave us strong evidence of what we needed to do to help Brandon.

Also, when we have had different health concerns for our children, we have been able to go to their birth families to ask specific questions. This was especially important when Nathan was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. Although it was not a condition that had run in his family, there were many things we were able to inform the doctors of when they needed a very detailed medical history, which we would not have known otherwise.

In addition, we have seen a huge benefit in bridging the cultural gap. For those of you who do not know, my husband Christopher and I are Caucasian, but all of our children have links to African-American heritage — some being multi-racial and others being fully African-American. Although both Christopher and I had some friends throughout our lives of different races, we had both been raised in predominantly Caucasian surroundings. We needed help with the education of raising children who had a different cultural background. What better help could we get than the help of their own birth families.

We have gotten advice on hair care, skin care, health care and more. Brandon’s birth family lives in the same town we live in, and his grandmother has braided our daughter Ashley’s hair multiple times. I learned from another birth family member how to put the beads into Ashley’s hair. I am able to braid her hair into what they call ‘plats’ all by myself. I even braid them into each other and place the beads on them because I watched different birth family members braid hair.

As I said before, there are so many benefits that I cannot possibly name them all. That doesn’t mean that it is always easy though. In the next post, I will share about the difficulties we have faced. Are the difficulties so great that they outweigh the benefits? You will get the chance to decide.

Coming Soon: Part 3 of Open Adoption — Facing the Difficulties.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Fresh Look at Jeremiah 29:11

Few books have impacted me, personally and professionally, like the last one that I completed - Pregnant with Hope, by Susan Radulovacki.  I stumbled upon the website and blog initially when looking at ways to better understand the struggle with infertility and found that the information was honest, Biblical, and offered encouragement.  Whether you are currently experiencing infertility, have in the past, or know someone who is (and whether we realize it or not, we all know someone who is in the midst of it), this book will bless you and provide you with knowledge to help you or someone you know.  The following is an excerpt directly from the book that the author gave me permission to share.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord; "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  -Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes, hearing God's voice depends on knowing how to listen for it.

Let's begin with the phrase, "For I know the plans..."  God is saying that His plans are preconceived and intentional.  They precede this moment in time, and they are not random or arbitrary.  They are neither last-minute nor a whim.  These are plans designed specifically for you, based on His knowledge of all things and His intention to bless you.

"...plans I have for you..."  I have for you.  I have.  Not plans I know you have for you, or plans I know you want Me to have for you.  These plans are God's best for you.  Because of your freedom to make choices of all kinds (free will), you may never see these plans come to fruition if you choose your plans over God's.  Sarah chose not to wait...not to believe...not to trust any plan but her own.  But note, even that did not ultimately thwart god's plan for her.

"...declares the Lord;..."  God is announcing these plans to you with conviction.  He is positive of their existence prior to their execution.  The statement, "I know the plans I have for you" carries the full weight and authority of the King who declares them.  It is so.  He is certain.

"...Plans to prosper you..." The use of active voice reinforces that God will be taking action for your benefit.  He intends to prosper you, or to set in motion the prosperity that He wills for you.  You will receive the action, receive the blessing that is His gift to you.

"...and not to harm you..." God is making two overlapping promises.  He plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Like a Venn diagram, this area of overlap indicates your maximum benefit.  He intends to help you, and not to hurt you.  He intends to lift you up, and not to hold you back.  He plans to bless you, and not to curse you.  He is for you, and not against you.

"...plans to give you hope..." The use of active voice and verb "give" reminds again that God will be taking the action; you will be on the receiving end.  He will give you hope that originates with Him.  Because He is a promise-keeping God, that hope will have a different kind of staying power than the self-based hope you prop up with busyness and frantic efforts to control.  It will be vital and full of life.  It will be sustained by His will, not just your own.

"...and a future..." Again, God makes two overlapping promises.  He will give you hope and give you a future.  Not just one or the other, but both.  One gift for the waiting time (hope), and another gift of pending blessings (a future).  One you need now; one you can await with anticipation and gratitude.  The knowledge that you have both can bring you peace - now, and always.

Taken as a whole message, these verses make clear that God is proactively planning abundant blessings for you!  Do you hear His voice of reassurance?  He is saying, "You can relinquish control and trust Me.  You can let go."  Your response should be to anticipate these blessings confidently and thrive in the meantime.

But it's not that easy

Why not?  Why is it so hard to let go?

The problem is:  "For I know..."  God has made plans that God-only knows.  The excruciating challenge is, you don't know.  And you won't know until after-the-fact.  If you are going to relinquish control to God, you will have to do so without knowing His plans.  You will have to trust Him in the midst of uncertainty.

Can you trust God to keep promises in your life - just as He does in scripture?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Open Adoption: The Decision, the Benefits and the Difficulties

Heather Kirk is an adoptive mom of five children.  Each of these children has a different set of birth parents, and Heather's family has open adoptions with each of them.  Heather and her husband Christopher frequently share their adoption stories at the FLS Adoption Training Weekend for Family Life Services and she has agreed to write a 3-part series about open adoption for The Journey of Adoption.

Part 1 of 3 — Making the Decision

When someone says, “open adoption,” to you, does that strike fear in your heart? Do you wonder what that really means and wonder what risks you might encounter if you consider an open adoption?

As I think back 13 years to when we started going through the adoption process for the first time, I remember the fears we had. At the beginning of that journey, we had never even heard of open adoption. After signing up with Family Life Services, we were told that we were required to go through an Adoption Training Weekend. We had no idea how much would be revealed to us during that weekend.

We met birthmoms and heard their stories. As we listened, we realized that many of them desired some contact after placement, but it wasn’t because they still wanted to be their child’s mother. They simply wanted to know that they had made the right decision for their child. They wanted to know that their child was safe and being taken care of. After all, that is why they were willing to relinquish their rights to being their child’s full-time parent.

If the situation were reversed, wouldn’t you want to know you had made the right choice?

My husband, Christopher, and I realized that we had to at least have a semi-open adoption where we would send letters and pictures to the birthparents. That was such a small gift that we could give back to the birthparents considering the amazing gift they were giving to us. As Daryl Pitts said, it was our chance to minister to the birthfamily.

But then we heard about open adoption where the birthparents and adoptive parents exchange all identifying information.

Do you mean they would actually know where we live? Could that really work? What if one of the birthparents changed their mind about the adoption? Would they come and try to kidnap the child?

I can tell you, my parents completely objected to the possibility of open adoption. Like us, they had only heard horror stories in the news of adoptive children who had been given back to their birthparents years after being placed for adoption. The problem is that news programs only want to report sensational stories, which are less than one percent of the truth about adoption. We discovered that those stories of children being returned to their birthfamilies happened when private adoptions through lawyers had not been done to the full extent of the law to protect all parties.

Still, we were hesitant about having a fully open adoption. It was scary.

Through this process, we were waiting and waiting for that call to come to let us know we had been chosen for adoption. About one year after entering the queue as an approved adoptive family, we received a call from an agency in Florida who had a birthmom choose us to adopt her child, but before she would decide for sure, she wanted to meet us in person. She was 7 ½ months pregnant, so we knew she had time to change her mind.

Well, Christopher and I took the long trip down to Florida, and boy, were we nervous. As we drove from the hotel we were staying at to the meeting place, we were both shaking and praying for God to calm us. When we arrived, we found that the birthmom, whose name is Shelley, was just as nervous about meeting us as we were about meeting her. We were all so relieved when we discovered that we were going through the same types of emotions.

We sat and had lunch with Shelley and the caseworker. We talked all through lunch… I hardly ate anything on my plate. The great thing was, the more we talked, the more our fears calmed. When lunch was over, we wanted to spend more time with Shelley. We had to get to know this incredible woman better. And she wanted us to meet her two-year old son, whom she had parented. So we decided to meet again the next day.

The caseworker did not come, which was something that was allowed with that agency. Well, that second meeting went even better than the first.

At the end of the meeting, Shelley told us that she definitely wanted us to be the ones to adopt her child. Then she invited us to be with her at the hospital and actually asked me if I would like to be in the room with her when she gave birth!

Well, our son was very stubborn about wanting to stay in Shelley’s nice warm belly. After going a week and a half beyond her due date, the doctor decided to induce her. So she called us up through the agency and told us that she was going to be induced the next day, which was a Thursday. We took the next flight out and arrived Thursday evening. She had been induced, but so far, nothing.

Thursday came and went, and on Friday, the doctor induced her again. Still nothing. But during those days, we had the chance to get to know Shelley, her parents, and her older son. We literally fell in love with all of them and knew that they were all part of our family now.

On Saturday, the doctor finally decided to break Shelley’s water, and our son Nathanial had no choice but to come out. When he was born, Shelley’s mom looked at me and said, “Go tell your husband that he has a son.”

Can you imagine that moment?

We were just given the most incredible earthly gift that anyone could ever give to another person. Shelley and her parents were crying. This was sad for them, but they selflessly thought of us and the joy we had in that moment.

During the next 48 hours for the hospital stay, we kept away except for the times Shelley specifically asked us to be there. This was her special time with Nathanial. She did ask Christopher to feed Nathanial his first bottle and allowed us to be there for other special moments. As the second day rolled around, Christopher and I couldn’t stop talking about the fact that we couldn’t imagine not having these people in our lives. We had to open the adoption. How could we want anything else other than our son growing up knowing this incredible love that his birthfamily has for him?

So just before the release from the hospital, we asked Shelley if she would be willing to exchange all identifying information and open the adoption. (This was allowed with the agency we were adopting through.) She and her parents were thrilled.

They still shed many tears as we left the hospital with Nathanial and they left empty handed, but they knew now that this was not the end. They would see him again.

Join us next time for Part 2 of Open Adoption — The Many Benefits.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Adoption Day, Karis!

Can you imagine anything sweeter than meeting your new baby girl in this onesie, specially designed by her birth mother?  This was the scene of our latest placement as CW & Melissa welcomed their baby girl, Karis, last Friday!  There was an overwhelming spirit of love and affection in the room as the extended families of the adoptive family and birth family made immediate connections with one another as they exchanged hugs, tears & laughter. 

These are the moments that we treasure...when we see how God meshes together two families, from different places, with different backgrounds and experiences - perfectly.

Due to confidentiality, pictures from this placement will not be shared.

Monday, March 7, 2011

2011 Walk for Life & 5K Race for Life

Many of you have been asking us when we will be having the annual Walk for Life - and we appreciate your enthusiasm!  The Liberty Godparent Foundation has been working hard to re-structure some of our fundraising efforts, spread them throughout the year, and incorporate new events that will appeal to a wide range of supporters.

We will not have the traditional Walk for Life at LU this year, however, there is an awesome opportunity for you to participate in a similar event that will benefit the Liberty Godparent Foundation (which includes Family Life Services & Liberty Godparent Home).  If you love the Walk for Life, I would encourage you to make plans to attend the 5K Race for Life in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, April 16, 2011Download a brochure for more information

Don't be intimidated by the "race" in the name, we welcome walkers, joggers, and runners to join us and families are welcome! 

The 5K Race for Life begins at 9:00 a.m. on the Blackwater Creek Trail (Kemper Street Extension).  The registration fee before April 1st is $20 and is $25 after April 1 and on the day of the event.  Registration includes a t-shirt (if registered by 4/8), awards, door prizes, and food at the finish line.  Registration is available online or paper application is available.  We are grateful to Malcolm Miller and the Couples for Christ Sunday School Class at TRBC for their assistance and organization of this event.  If you have questions about the 5K, contact Malcolm at

Watch for Details about these Upcoming LGF Events:

Buffalo Wild Wings Fundraiser - May 3
Liberty Godparent Foundation Benefit Concert - June 24

Baby Bottle Campaign - September

2nd Annual LGF Golf Tournament - October

2011 Winter Market - November 18, 19 & 20

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Barker Foundation Teen Weekend for Adopted Teens

During the adolescent years, children who were adopted may struggle with issues relating to peers, adoptive family, or birth family.  A wonderful resource for parents during this time is Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew.  Parents may find themselves at a loss for words or may even be working through some issues of their own and desire some outside resources for their teens, yet they can be difficult to find. 

The Barker Foundation is a wonderful agency that provides ongoing adoption support & resources to the adoption community.  Their staff are professional, knowledgeable, and equipped to provide support throughout various stages of the adoption journey.  Their 7th Annual Teen Weekend is scheduled for April 9-10, 2011 at the 4H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and is designed for adopted teens, ages 14-18, who are in high school or high school eligible.  Participation is open to teens who were adopted domestically or internationally, through any agency, and provides an opportunity for adopted teenagers to spend a weekend with peers who were also adopted.

The staff for this special weekend will be Social Workers and Professional Counselors who were, themselves, adopted and they will provide fun activities and sports as well as opportunities to explore and discuss topics such as birth parents, grief and loss, identity, and peer/social issues.

The weekend begins at 9:00 a.m. on April 9th, participants spend the night at the center, and close at 3:00 p.m. on April 10th with a time for parents to hear a summary of the weekend's events.  The cost is $225 (financial assistance is available) and there is a link to the registration form on the Barker Foundation Website.  I would encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity, if possible.  You can contact Abbe Levine, Director of Family & Post-Adoption Services at Barker Foundation at 301-664-9664 or with any questions.
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