on hold

2017-adoption-final

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We finalized two more adoptions in 2016 and a fourth in 2017!  We are blessed to know these incredible kids!

Currently I have no plans to continue updating this blog; however, I will keep some of the past posts open that may be helpful other families.

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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

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moment of unnaming

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Last week I had my “welcome to Holland” moment.  I have been living here for months, but my emotions finally caught up and I was broken.  It hit me like a wave of truth.  This is real.  I have been coping with our different-than-anticipated life for some time.  Years, actually.  This latest twist has been challenging but manageable, I thought.  We have a good routine (truly).  Yet, it’s hard — both physically and mentally.

You don’t have to be a parent of a child with disabilities to know what I’m talking about. It’s the human experience to find ourselves in foreign territory.

Dan Allender calls these “moments of unnaming”:

But the story we are to live and write doesn’t truly begin until we face what we have lost and then turn to see the horizon of uncertainty ahead. Our story will gain momentum and depth only to the degree that we honestly embrace both loss and fear. … If we enter our story’s heartache, we will hear the whisper of the name that will one day be ours. Because we live in a fallen world, we will encounter abandonment, betrayal, and shame. These experiences are inevitable, but they also provide the context necessary for coming to grips with how we will live our lives. In the midst of affliction, we become either our truest or our most false self.

In those moments of unnaming, when we have lost ourselves, we must remember to return to our past redemptions to find God’s marks of glory on our abandonment, betrayal, and shame. We wrongly believe that we will be happy if we can escape the past. But without our past are hollow and plastic beings who have only common names and conventional stories. When we enter into our story at the point we lost our name, we are most likely to hear the whisper of our new name. Remember, God is still writing.

We have often been witnesses to God’s mighty hand this last year.  I wish we could share more specifics but, in His sovereignty, God knew that being foster parents would isolate us.  We simply cannot talk about a BIG part of our lives.

Moreover, we have decided to set up to more barriers to keep our kids healthy the next six months, in particular.  Walls may help prevent exposure to sickness, but they are also confining.  For me, I felt trapped this week: no sunrise coming over the wall.  Just a long, lonely winter ahead.

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I had to mourn that shattering of shalom.  Again, Allender reminded me that “tragedy always moves our story forward in a way that shalom could never accomplish.”

What grace!  Just when I started to think I understood that my life isn’t my own, God took me deeper.  Showing me more of my own weakness.  Showing me His power.

This is His work of conforming me into His likeness.  I am a new creation, yet I am continually being renewed.  I don’t need to see everything to get there.  He is the Author and Sustainer.

I need more of Him.

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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

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April Eleventh

Eight years ago today, I was returning home after our rehearsal dinner. It was my last night as a single person. Our wedding was the next day! My heart was full of excitement and anticipation about what might lie ahead for me and Joey as a couple.

Five years ago today, we assembled a wooden bunkbed in one of our empty bedrooms. We had just completed our pre-service training and submitted an application to be foster parents. We would begin our home study process in the coming months. Our weary hearts clung to hope and trusted the Lord for what might lie ahead for our household.

Tonight, as my faithful husband studied for an exam in another part of the house, I drank hot tea with our three young kids. We sipped our peppermint drinks from mugs that Joey and I received as wedding presents. My 4-year-old reminded me that, earlier in the day, I had suggested we might bake a cake for what she called our “celebration day”. I agreed that should be on the agenda for tomorrow while Daddy is at work. Then, I helped the two oldest climb into the bunkbed and held their hands until they fell asleep. I prayed for all our kids, with my heart full.

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Lately, my heart is stirring. It’s nestled in a place between feeling “carefree in the care of God” while also restless for the Day our broken world will be made new.

As I wait, I look back on my adult life.

When one’s days are long and a dry season seems to linger, it’s good to step back and remember what God has done (and is doing). He is good! He is orchestrating our lives for His glory. The LORD is sovereign and holds all things in His hand.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

On this anniversary eve, I trust my life to the One who is directing it.

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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio..

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healing relationships

As I stood in the kitchen, I could hear “M” playing in her bedroom. Little Bubby was playing in the room too. She was talking to him, but he was not listening nor even looking at her. She was pretending she is the mom and he is the dad — and she was telling him all about their baby.

She didn’t care that he’s distracted in parallel play. She didn’t care at all that he wasn’t really playing with her.  But she did shut the door to prevent him from wandering away.  She simply does not want to be alone. She needs a friend.

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Our little 3-year-old needs people near her all the time. She constantly asks if she can get in the pack-n-play with Baby Sis.  If she isn’t near one of them, she is resting her hand on me. She needs community and to connect.

Sometimes, as parents, we operate as if children do not need family.

Humans are designed to need healthy, consistent interaction from Day 1. Unfortunately, many children do not get that care.

This past weekend, Joey and I were able to attend a parenting conference.  In particular, this training focused on children with difficult pasts: any child who had a stressful infancy or childhood; any child who had experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect; any child who was harmed by someone that should have protected him or her; any child who was exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero; even any child born prematurely who was unable to be held while in NICU. Children with these histories, are impacted neurologically. Simply put, their brains do not respond in the same way a child’s brain with a healthy beginning does.

Adoptive parent Terri Coley said: “A child from a hard place needs much more than a safe place to live.”  The premise of the training is this: Relationships heal what relationships harmed.

Deep healing takes intentionality.  Dr. Karyn Purvis said, “There is no quick fix for a child who has been harmed. … If you understand your child’s needs and you’re able to give it, tremendous healing can occur. It’s gonna take time.”  She recommends Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI).  It’s a balance of structure and nurture (Eph. 6:4).  It is purposeful parenting.  TBRI requires me to invest myself in my children.

I recently told a friend: “It’s tough to be an introvert with clingy kids.”  I recognize (and do my best to overcome) my natural tendency to seek Me Time.  Even though I want to connect with the kids, I sometimes get “lost” in the day-to-day tasks.  This is nearly every parent’s struggle, too.

I get it: Parenting is hard.  It’s exhausting, even when you have the resources you need.  For now, I am so thankful for a preschooler who reminds me, “I need you!”  Or when her actions say: I need my family!

I know that she will stop asking one day, “Mommy, will you hold me?”  Yet she will always need connection in an age-appropriate way.  As God enables, I will strive to meet her emotional needs.

Keep up the good (hard) work, moms and dads! Your kids need you. 🙂

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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

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rain boots are for puddles

We only needed a few things from the grocery store, so I took the three kids by myself right after breakfast. It was still early in the day when we arrived, but it was raining.

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I carried the babies through the parking lot while “M” ran behind me. As we tried to get inside as quickly as possible, I kept reminding her, “Stay close. Don’t jump in the puddles. Keep up.”

My sneakers were already soaked by the time I looked down and saw that we were standing in two inches of water. One huge puddle blocked the entrance! It could not be avoided. We trudged through it for about 15 feet before “M” stopped in the middle of the busy parking lot. “Mom! I am wet!” she cried.

“I know, sis. Keep moving. It’s okay,” I replied as I glanced over my shoulder. The babies were starting to slip and my glasses were covered with rain drops.

“I am WET. Why are we walking through the RIVER?!!”  She remained motionless in the puddle.

“M, let’s go. You cannot stop here,” I said in a firmer voice. She whimpered as she moved toward me.

We made it inside Kroger, and I began loading the kids in a cart.  I was beginning to doubt the urgency of the trip.  “M” kept repeating “I’m wet” as if she were processing trauma.  I continued to rearrange the children until everyone fit–the youngest baby was in a carseat (baby carrier) in the front of the cart while the two older kids sat in the basket area.  An elderly woman walked by and asked, “How will you have room for groceries?”  I smiled.

We rolled into the produce section, picked out bananas and strawberries before moving on to collect cans of baby formula. Everything was going well, despite my soggy socks and M’s blank stare of disbelief that her pants were wet up to her knees.

We grabbed milk and then checked out. On the way back to our car, “M” remained quiet. She began talking when I put her in the car, “It’s cold. And I’m wet, Mom!”  She was wearing rain boots but somehow her socks were drenched too.

I kept laughing at myself on the ride home.  The previous fifteen minutes were quite an experience.  I didn’t see it coming, but I should have.  It had been raining for 24 hours straight.  Going anywhere alone with three small kids is a juggling act — I’m used to that, I guess.  But adding bad weather to the mix is an equation for real… fun.

Often in life, we look down (or up) and find ourselves in a mess.  It was unavoidable, but, nevertheless, we would have appreciated a warning.

As a transracial adoptive family, I realize that there are conversations that I MUST to have with my Black daughter.  I am starting to recognize white privilege and how it is so much a part of my life that I never saw it.  Moreover, I know that she is given certain protections while she’s in my home because I am White.  But – even then – she will experience ignorance and hatred because of her skin tone.

An adult adoptee recently encouraged all White adoptive parents to talk with their children about racism. He essentially said: To not talk to your child about racism is like not telling them how to safely cross the street. It wouldn’t protect them from the real dangers. When they face racial aggression (not if, when) and they are unprepared, it will be emotionally devastating. Your child of color needs tools to prepare them for the inevitable experiences of racism.

His comments were based on personal experience.

Then, I was reminded that this morning I had instructed “M” to put on rain boots, yet it didn’t prevent her from getting wet. She was prepared but not completely covered.

It’s a silly illustration for a very real problem. I was thankful for the reminder.

Compassion. Empathy. Preparation.

“M” is still a preschooler, but we talk about hard issues now. She listens but does not get it. I know one day I will be the one listening without the ability to fully relate. So we are praying about how to best prepare her for life. We are praying for Christian men and women of color who can be role models and friends with our family. It is best for our whole family.

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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio..

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Love One Another

With each new phone call from Children Services, we have a decision to make: we can either decline or agree to care for the child.

Last week I was faced with establishing whether we could practically and responsibly add a newborn to our clan, which already included two-year-old “M” and ten-month-old “Baby Bear.” After thinking through sleeping arrangements and testing to ensure three car seats would fit in the backseat of our car, I agreed to pick up “Sugar” from the hospital in a few days.

Although I knew the days (nights) ahead would be tiring, I genuinely looked forward to bringing the little bundle into our home. Sugar would likely be transitioning to a family member in only a few weeks, I was told.

I often say that we love on our foster children when they’re with us and pray for them when they leave us. But, more accurately, our love for the child is demonstrated in how we love the birth family.

Recently I saw a former foster child with her mom while grocery shopping. I was encouraged by mom’s motivation to overcome so much. And she was making positive choices for her daughter’s future!

A few days later Baby Bear’s mom shared that she had been in foster care as a teen. She had lived in three different foster homes. She was “truly grateful” that he was in our particular home. She added, “I’m working on learning to be the mom that I never had. I can’t wait to get my little man back so we can put the past behind us and move forward and never look back again.”

Of course, to be fair, we don’t deserve ANY credit for the progress these courageous women are making. And, not everyone sings our praises. Haha! Nevertheless, it is a privilege to witness determination like that – and to know we got to be a small part.

We view our role as foster parents like a relay race. We take our turn running the circuit. There is anticipation as we wait to be handed the baton. There is anxiety that the handoffs might not be smooth. There is exhaustion as we sprint our leg of the race. Yet, in the whole of a child’s life, our turn was just one small part of the team effort.

Plus, as we practice our part, it gets more natural.

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Over the first few days with Sugar, we were showered with love from family and friends. One invited “M” to spend the night, another brought us dinner, and others messaged me to check in. I was reminded that we are not alone in our care of vulnerable kids – and we really CANNOT do it alone.

That week, Sugar’s case manager asked us to arrange a visit with the family member who was awaiting approval to care for her. I agreed to travel two hours to make the visit easier. Being a guest in the home of your foster child’s family can sound awkward. And I anticipated it would be weird as I sat on the side watching her hold the baby.

Yet, my concerns were eased when I met her. She was kind and welcoming. And appreciative.

She asked me about my faith right away. We shared the same Hope. She was my sister; she was not a stranger after all. She told me that I sounded “calm” on the phone, and she was relieved her grandchild was in the home of a Christian couple.

She shared with me the struggle of not being able to make decisions for your adult children. She repeatedly said, “Every one in the family deals with the consequences.” They were all learning and helping one another, too.

I listened. I shared our story. I listened more. I reassured her that we believe families should be preserved and kept together when possible. But ultimately she encouraged me. I was blessed to spend the afternoon visiting with her.

As I drove home with Sugar asleep in the backseat, I thought about the love I had experienced.

Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never ends.

–The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13

On that day, loving my neighbor did not seem like a “service” but, rather, the truest and most right action. It was fitting to JUST LOVE!

A few days later I was sitting in the local WIC office with Sugar. The nutritionist was asking personal questions related to the baby being in care, and I answered as vaguely as possible without being rude. She did not need to know the details. I finally said, “The babies in our care will likely never remember us. My husband and I believe our real service is to their families. They can trust that their children are safe and loved so that they can fully focus on other things. They can take that time to make changes that will last. Some of them have never been encouraged or given hope.”

Her blank stare was interrupted when she realized I was now silent.

Then she shared her own story.

Nearly 20 years ago, she and her young daughter had left an unsafe home to escape an alcoholic man and his friends. She packed her truck and moved to a college town where she knew no one. She lived in campus housing for families while finishing a degree.

She said she saw her past in many of her clients’ lives. The girls seemed trapped in a cycle. She wanted them to know it could be different.

When she looked up and our eyes met, she said, “I never thought about foster care as a way to a better life for the parents.”

I nodded, and said that we do our best to encourage each mom to press on. We tell her that her child loves her and needs her to be healthy. We try to show her love.

She agreed: “They don’t need to hear more judgment. They already know what brought you into their lives.”

I encouraged the nutritionist to share her personal story more. I added that she might consider becoming a CASA volunteer. As a Court Appointed Advocate, her voice (and experience) might make a difference for teens who don’t want to listen to foster parents. She excitedly took notes and pledged to learn more.

As I drove home from that encounter, I remembered a sign in our home that hangs near photos of each of our foster children. It reads “LOVE MAKES FAMILY.” I think the phrase was originally meant to mean “love is what creates family, not blood.” However–the more I interact with birth families–I am learning that it may mean “love has the power to add people to your family, whether blood or not.”

We have a growing family. And we will continue to say “yes” to new opportunities to love because God enables His people to complete the work to which He has called them.

We pray regularly for birth families — past, present, and future. They are continually on our minds. Moreover, Love has imprinted them on our hearts forever.

 

 

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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

 

 

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Saying Goodbye to Foster Siblings

Last week your sister for the past nine months left our home. It was not sudden. In fact, we had three weeks to plan and think about it. She had longer visits with her family on the weekends to prepare for the move. And each weekend we talked about where she was. You would inform our friends, “Baby with her mommy.”

You understood.

Yet we recognized that you did not fully know what that meant.

So, Mom and Dad worried about how her move would affect you.

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Prior to her joining our family, you had shared the house with three other foster siblings. You enjoyed kissing the infants and playing with mobile ones, but you did not seem to miss them much when they were gone. You were too young to remember or care, we reasoned. However, this time, we were not sure what your response would be like. As a 30-month-old, you are old enough to understand that she’s not coming back.

Frequent goodbyes are part of foster care — both for the kids in care and the families they are staying with. Dad and Mom knew that fact when we signed up. We weighed the (personal) risks and decided it was worth it.

But we did not have kids back then.

We want you to have a permanent sibling because we believe you need consistency at home just like any other kid. However, we cannot guarantee when you will have a permanent sibling (if ever).

When families open themselves to the possibilities, we are also opening up to the pain.

This week, as the house was quieter and you were lonely for a playmate, you repeatedly said, “You my mommy.” At first, I thought this was the game that you play often: you will declare that I am Daddy or Nana or Sammy (really, anyone I’m clearly not) and giggle and encourage me to rename you, too. However, it took a few days for us to notice that this time it was not a statement but, rather, a question. As in, “You are my mommy forever, right? Not like with Baby. Because I thought you were her mom, but you aren’t.”

That is heartbreaking.

So, we have spent the last several days reassuring you that you are staying. That we are staying. Even when you aren’t asking, we are telling you.

We simply did not anticipate this.

Looking back, it’s obvious that we could have coached you better. For a 2-year-old, it needs to be crystal clear what is happening.

Goodbyes are difficult for us, too. And they probably will not get easier with time. When you truly love someone and care about their future, it often hurts when they leave your life. I want you to know that Dad and Mom are very sad that Baby is gone, too.

We love her — and her family. We want them all to be healthy and whole.

We accepted her into our home, but we did not choose for her to leave.

We pray for all our children. We do not know what they are experiencing now, but the Sovereign One cares deeply for the weak and vulnerable. He is El Roi who sees them living in this broken, cursed world. We pray He sheds light onto anything that is happening in the dark. We pray for early intervention.

We cried the night before Baby left as we anticipated our final hours with her. We prayed that God would protect and save her parents, because true hope is only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He alone brings new life and change.

Moreover, Christ alone gives our family the ability to love as we ought.

For that reason we will continue to love people who are struggling. Although it may seem painful for our family, including you (in the short term), we pray it will increase your capacity to show compassion and to love without hesitation (in the long term).

Another adoptive parent said it this way: “Some of the most painful things in life are the things that give us the greatest opportunities to grow (change) and become more loving and gracious.”

We love you, dear girl. You are a gift from God for your brief childhood. As we raise you, we rely on God to provide and to meet us where our inadequacies begin. We are seeking to train you to be an adult who is sensitive to His will.

Recently we have set up new parameters and “preferences” with Children Services to protect your heart as best we can, while still allowing the opportunity to welcome new children in our home. Hopefully one of those new children will stay forever, just like you.

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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

 

what (and when) an adoptee should be told

If you have not read my entry titled adoption is a promise, you may want to start there for context.

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Although each family will make its own decision regarding how to communicate about adoption, we firmly believe it is best to tell him or her early and to talk about it often. Healthy relationships are not built on secrets.

We provide honest, accurate information as our kids are developmentally ready.  Notice that WE (adoptive parents) want to be the main source of information.  Primarily, we want to help them sort out reality because — quite frankly — we have heard some erroneous and incomplete stories (gossip) about their birth and/or first families. We seldom correct people who make false statements because, until the adoption is finalized, we are not permitted to share stories.

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WHAT SHE NEEDS TO KNOW (FOR NOW)

In The Whole Life Adoption Book, the author suggests that preschoolers should learn their own adoption story. In this stage, the child needs to sense the positive dimension of adoption. (When he or she is older, an understanding that adoption involves both family building and family loss will come on it’s own. And we will talk about both then.) For now — between the ages of 2-4 — we have 3 goals (as suggested by Lois Melina in Raising Adopted Children):

First, acquaint the child with adoption terms rather than adoption concepts. Second, use the time to create a positive environment where adoption can be discussed. Third, become comfortable with talking about it [as parents].

And we are doing that. Even as toddlers, they hear us pray for their biological families and acknowledge God’s hand in providing a new family when circumstances warranted it.  We read pre-screened, age-appropriate books about adoption, too.  Books we love include:

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 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW AS A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND

We do not want to broadcast “M”‘s personal story. It is HER story, and she gets to decide what and when she will share.  Until then, you should keep curiosities to yourself.

“Our family is … blessed with the amazing child that adoption brought to us, NOT the other way around.” –Jackie Gillard

Moreover, we honor birth families.  And we pray for them.

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HOW TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT ADOPTION

f you are part of our lives, you will get questions from kids! So be ready.

1. Be honest.

Always tell the truth. A child will likely ask: “Why does she have brown skin?” (Meaning, her skin is different than her mom’s skin.) This is an accurate observation. It’s natural for people to wonder. “M” does have beautiful brown skin and I do not! You may choose to say,”M grew in the belly of another woman; a woman with brown skin. When she was born, she came to live with her parents. She was adopted.”

2. Be concise.

There is absolutely no need to sensationalize a story.

A child might ask, “What is adoption?” or “Why was she adopted?” You might want to reply, “Adoption is when a person permanently joins a family that is different than his or her birth family” (or biological family or first family, whatever term you like). “Children are adopted for a lot of reasons. M needed a safe home, and Joey and Elaine had one to offer.”

3. Be sensitive.

Again, it is not necessary to sensationalize a difficult story. Speak about her birth-family with respect. We do.

Please ask us sensitive questions when children are not around. I am not offended by questions but I do want to protect my child. So, please understand if we decide to keep some things private.

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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio. 

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adoption is a promise

I have been reading a very helpful book by Jayne  E. Schooler called The Whole Life Adoption Book. I am not finished with it, but I love it so far! I keep reading sections out loud to my patient husband. He loves that, of course. I recommend it to perspective adoptive families and also to individuals who have already adopted.

There are two kinds of relationships in life. One type of connection is genetic — such as the one we share with our birth parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and our own birth children. No matter what happens, that tie always exists. Nothing can erase the permanency of the biological relationship.

The other kind is a union that begins with a promise. Marriage is such a union. Adoption is another. The adoption tie, established by the promise to act as a permanent family to a child born to another, mirrors that of a biological family in many ways. However, within that promise are dynamics that set it apart. …

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The author has worked in Children Services and also conducts training for foster parents, so her perspective is particularly helpful for families, like us, who navigate the transition from being foster caregivers to permanent parents. We originally were motivated to pursue a foster care license because we desired to provide children with a safe, loving home. We were surprised and humbled when adoption became an option.

The journey is on-going and the relationships are complex, of course, because all adoption begins with a loss. “Nothing can erase the permanency of the biological relationship.”

Yet our promise to “M” remains. And we look forward to learning and growing as her journey unfolds.

Read Jayne’s book for yourself.

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Two other books to consider are:

I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World

and All About Adoption: How families are made and how kids feel about it.

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Elaine and her husband are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home.

 

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