There are dozens of reasons not to adopt a child. There’s the expense, the stress, the waiting, the uncertainty and so very many fears.
But there are more than 18 million reasons to consider adoption. That’s a conservative estimate of how many children, worldwide, need a home to grow up in and parents to love them.
This November, as America celebrates National Adoption Awareness Month, Our Sunday Visitor spoke with five families about their adoption journeys: why they adopted, how they overcame their fears and what the process taught them.
Here’s what we learned.
Research and support
|Jennifer Galiani, with Grace, 11, Sophia, 10, Thomas, 5, Rocco, 2, and husband Dave, founded a support group for adoptive parents through her Philadelphia-area parish. Photo courtesy of Jennifer
At the beginning of every adoption journey, most couples have seemingly endless questions about the “who,” “what” and “how” of adoption. The only way to answer those questions, said Jenny Galiani, an adoptive mother of four, is “Research, research, research.”
In 2004, Galiani founded a support group for adoptive parents through her Philadelphia-area parish, Mary, Mother of the Redeemer Catholic Church. She tells all the couples who come the same thing: “It’s essential to talk to people and hear their stories. There is so much information and so many routes you can take. It’s important to gather all the information you need until you’re comfortable going forward.”
That’s doubly important, said Lisa Koslosky, when adopting older children or children from different cultural backgrounds.
Koslosky and her husband, Randy, brought two sisters, then ages 3 and 7, home to Pittsburgh from Poland in 2005.
“The best advice I got beforehand, was ‘Know what you’re getting yourself into,’” Lisa Koslosky told Our Sunday Visitor. “Adoption brings so many joys, but like with all families there are challenges as well. The more prepared you are for those challenges, the easier it is to deal with them when they come.”
It also helps, she added, to continue meeting with other adoptive moms and dads.
“At times, you feel like you’re facing unique challenges all by yourself. Talking with other parents in similar situations reminds you that you’re not alone.”
Although adoption can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. A lot depends on the agency.
“We were lucky to work with a wonderful organization in our area that helps connect expectant moms with health-care services and potential adoptive families,” said Natalie Thomasmeyer of her family’s experience adopting two newborn children in Memphis, Tenn. “They’re a nonprofit so they set the cost based on the family’s income. It couldn’t be more than 10 percent of what you earn in a year.”
With the help of the federal adoption tax credit — currently $13,190 for families making under $197,880 — adoption can end up costing substantially less than some fertility treatments or even childbirth. There’s also foster care, which allows families to adopt for free.
Likewise, as Maria Malone, an adoptive mother of three who helps facilitate the support group at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, noted, there are almost always people willing to help prospective parents out.
“Many banks now give adoption loans, which have low interest rates,” she said. “Some large companies also have funds to help their employees adopt. And there are some grants out there, not to mention friends and family who can be so generous when they know the need.”
Birth mother’s gift
In all her years of meeting with prospective adoptive parents, Galiani said the most common fears she encounters are fears about the birthparents: what they’ll be like or what role they’ll want to play in the child’s life.
She tells couples she understands those fears because she had them herself. But she then tells them, “Once you meet the birthparents, all that changes. You realize they’re giving you this incredible gift, and all you feel is gratitude.”
“Their decision is selfless,” added Malone. “They want more for their child than they can give. You love them for that, and you love them for the precious child they hand you. You need them, and they need you. That love conquers fear.”
That truth, Thomasmeyer said, is something the culture also needs to recognize.
“When you adopt, people treat it like it’s some badge of honor,” she said. “But we didn’t do anything great. We wanted a baby, and we got one. The nobility belongs to the woman who chose adoption. If more praise went to them, more might make that choice.”
Not a ‘Plan B’
|Maria and Mike Malone have three children, Michaela, 4, Alex, 8, and Nick, 10 (kneeling). Photo courtesy of Maria Malone
Adoption is not God’s “Plan B” for couples. That’s true when infertility is what opens a couple up to adopting.
“Looking back, there were so many signs from God confirming for us that it was his plan for us to adopt our girls,” Koslosky told OSV. “It was how things were always meant to be.”
It’s also true when infertility isn’t a struggle at all.
Before Bob Rice and his wife, Jenny, were married, they talked about adoption.
“We felt like it was an important thing for Christians to do,” he said.
After they lost their first child through miscarriage, the couple talked about it more. But then five healthy pregnancies came in quick succession, putting adoption on the back burner.
In 2009, the Rice family decided it was time to pursue adoption. Bob and Jenny felt called to adopt a boy from Haiti, and a year later, Bob brought their son Joey home to Ohio.
In the years since, Rice said he’s been asked more than once if all his children are adopted.
“They see six cute Irish kids and one beautiful little black boy and just can’t get their heads around why we would adopt if we could have kids of our own,” he said. “But as we see it, if we’re going to be pro-life, we should open up our families as best as we can to others. It shouldn’t just be left to those without kids. Adoption isn’t a back-up plan.”
Love isn’t about biology
When Rice stood waiting for the plane that would bring him his son, one fear kept running through his mind: What if he couldn’t love him as much as he loved his other children?
“I felt guilty even thinking the question,” he recalled. “But then he came off that plane, and my heart leapt. I knew he was my son. That was grace. Now when I look at him, I don’t see him as ‘adopted.’ It’s not a category in my mind. ”
“The whole process has brought me closer to the heart of the Father and taught me so much about how he loves us, his adopted children,” Rice continued. “What we think is biological is actually quite spiritual. We think we love a child because they look like us or came from the woman we love. But the reality is, it makes no difference whatsoever. We love a child because God lets us share in his heart for that child.”
“It’s a trap to think you couldn’t love a child because they don’t come from your body,” Thomasmeyer said. “Never underestimate your capacity to love. God made us to love and however he gives you a child, he’ll also give you the grace to love that child.”
Emily Stimpson is an OSV contributing editor. This is the second in a two-part series on challenges of growing a family.