If adoption is in your family’s future, sorting through your options can feel overwhelming. But any adoptive parent will tell you it’s worth it. “The adoption process can get a little complicated sometimes,” says mom Jenna Henderson. “It all becomes worthwhile the second you hold your baby in your arms.” Here’s what three families who adopted in different ways want you to know:
Domestic Infant Adoption
Jenna and Trevor Henderson were hiking in the Sierra Mountains when their cell phone rang through the spotty reception: It was their adoption social worker calling to tell them that a baby boy had been born in Florida. His mother was getting ready to leave the hospital and wanted to set up an adoption for him—and wondered if they would be interested. Within moments, Jenna and Trevor were crying as photos of the boy they would name Theo appeared on their phone. “We saw his face and we knew he was supposed to be our baby,” says Jenna.
For the Hendersons, the openness in domestic infant adoptions means that they send letters and photos of their son to their adoption agency, which make them available to his birthmother. “She’s a part of his story and we often think of how grateful we are to her for letting Theo be in our lives. As a parent, you want to love and h help your children through life as best as you can. As an adoptive parent, that feeling for me is magnified because it’s also about his birthmother, who trusted us to raise her child when she didn’t feel she could. We feel it’s important to be open with Theo about his birthmother, and we hope he’ll understand and make peace with the reasons she chose adoption. We hope he knows that she made this decision because she also loves him very much.”
Adoption experts say staying flexible helps when it comes to navigating the complexities that are a part of international adoption. Keeping an open mind certainly helped adoptive parents Kristy and Jacob DeGraw when they were adopting their son Miles from Ethiopia. They were caught off guard when Ethiopia went from only requiring parents to be present at the U.S. Embassy visa interview to requiring parents to be present at the court hearing as well—though the two events are often weeks to months apart. Even though the DeGraws knew they’d do whatever was required to complete their adoption, the idea of traveling to Ethiopia twice in a short period of time was a shock.
Yet traveling to the country changed their lives. “It was one of the most beautiful and life-changing experiences of our lives,” says Kristy. “The poverty was more than we could have ever imagined. But the hospitality of the Ethiopian people is like nothing else. They are beautiful people full of joy and it’s a beautiful country full of history and rich culture. We are so blessed to be a part of Ethiopia.”
Adoption from Foster Care
You don’t need to be a superhuman parent to be the kind of loving mom or dad children in foster care need. “You don’t have to own a home or drive a fancy car,” says Kathy Ledesma, the national project director of AdoptUSKids, a federally funded nonprofit that raises public awareness of the need for families for children who are in foster care. “One of the joys that parents report to us is when children who had little hope because of their social situation or trauma reach normal milestones like graduating from high school or going to college,” says Ledesma. “It’s incredible. When parents can discover and bring out natural talents that were there but hadn’t been nurtured, that’s tremendously satisfying.”
That’s what Christina and Trevor Tutt have learned from their daughter Bailey, who tested positive for fetal exposure to cocaine when she was born. Bailey came to them as a foster child when she was 5 days old and was eventually adopted by the couple. Even though they knew Bailey could have a lot of challenges, they immediately fell head over heels in love. “She was perfect,” Christina remembers.
Now 5 years old, Bailey has been diagnosed with seizures, ADHD, aggression in early childhood, and fetal alcohol effect. But even though Christina juggles speech and occupational therapy appointments with all the normal routines of raising a large family—the Tutts have eight children ranging from 2 to 22—she wouldn’t trade her life as Bailey’s mom for anything. “I know on paper she sounds like an impossible challenge, but she’s a great kid,” she says. “I love her zest for living.”
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