Susanne, Ken and Alexandra
We began our adoption journey in early 2008. We attended many adoption seminars at various agencies and found LSSI (Lutheran Social Services of Illinois) late in the year. When we celebrated Christmas that year, we thought: "Maybe this time next year, we’ll have a baby!'
Over the next two years, our profile was shown many times, but we were not selected. It was so disappointing each time. After one of those disappointments, our LSSI adoption specialist suggested we expand our search by using a national agency, so we did. We were encouraged by this new avenue, but also very sad. Two Christmases had rolled around and we still did not have a child.
In early 2011, we got a call from the national agency. The birthmother's due date was just three weeks away. We spoke with her by phone and were thrilled to learn what a kind and caring person she was. She wanted to make sure we knew about her family history -- particularly her medical history -- and how it might affect her child. It was obvious that she was making the most loving choice possible for her baby.
"The call" came the day before her due date. After 15 hours of driving, we arrived at the hospital and learned the baby had arrived. We saw her when she was just a couple of hours old. We witnessed her first bath and marveled at how beautiful she was.
While we were waiting, people told us, "There has just got to be a reason for this." We knew they were right, but we just hurt so much, we couldn't hear them. Now, it all makes sense. Our daughter is perfect. We couldn't have asked for anything more -- not from our daughter, the birth parents or anyone who helped us along the way. And this Christmas, we have everything we could ever want in our lives.
Susan, John and Lina
Lina was born on a Friday, the same day we agreed to have our profile shown. She came home the following Monday. It’s already difficult to believe that the tiny, sleepy baby that we brought home that day in June is the same little person as our chubby, bubbly six-month-old girl!
Before getting in touch with LSSI, our path to adoption was somewhat non-traditional. We opened our home to a baby girl, who did not end up becoming a permanent member of our family. By the time we got the call that Lina was born, we felt raw from the effort it took to keep ourselves open to constant possibility and disappointment. At the time it was difficult to find meaning in the waiting. We knew that our family was worth the wait, but it wasn’t until Lina was finally at home that we could embrace that period of constant expectancy.
Lina has been nothing but blessing to us. She helps us slow down and enjoy every moment. Her smile is infectious – an invitation to all those around her to join in her seemingly endless joy. It is impossible to imagine life without her, and now the waiting seems well worthwhile.
Angi, Brian and Sylee
We adopted our daughter, Sylee, from Kazakhstan. Sylee was 4 1/2 years old when we brought her home. We are blessed beyond words to be her parents. It was a big adjustment going from primarily focusing on ourselves to focusing on a child, however the rewards have far surpassed the challenges. The imagination and joy of a child is truly unique. It has been so exciting to see the world through Sylee's eyes and have the pleasure of experiencing so many "firsts" with her.
Because of Sylee'’s age and an issue with her hearing, she was in the "special needs" category. Today she is a happy and healthy little girl. She is attached not only to us, but to her extended family as well. She learned English very quickly and entered kindergarten seven months after we brought her home. She is thriving and for that we are grateful. While she may have been placed in a special needs category, we are certain she is simply a special little girl.
The hardest part about adopting was the waiting. It was hard to wait on all the individuals and governments involved in the process. During this time there was a lot of uncertainty. We wondered -- Will things work out? Will she be healthy? Will we be able to attach? LSSI and our adoption specialist were extremely supportive throughout the entire process. We definitely needed a support circle during this time and we continue to rely on LSSI as a resource.
We would wholeheartedly recommend adoption as a wonderful way to build your family. Sylee is a blessing -- we feel so fortunate to be her family!
Sitota, Teresa and Bob
Our new family began joyfully when a small, smiling five-year old girl leapt into our arms as we nervously waited on the pavilion of the airy Ethiopian orphanage where she’d resided the past 9 months. The girl was Sitota, whose name means “gift” in Amharic. Sitota blesses us daily with her charm and affectionate personality: her name suits her very well!
The fact that Sitota was a bit older shortened our wait in Ethiopia. Her age hasn't posed any apparent problems now that she’s home -- although she told us recently that she was “worried” when she first got here because she realized no one could understand her when she spoke. She picked up English words, then phrases. Now, over a year later, she speaks quite idiomatically and does very well at school. Like so many children, more than anything she wants to PLAY and, when she started kindergarten a few weeks after her arrival, she quickly formed warm friendships with her classmates. Her American brother and sister (in their twenties) love her and she adores them.
Our parenting challenges are typical so far -- mainly, balancing work and home life. To my surprise, Sitota hasn't shown any trauma as a result of the upheavals in her young life. We believe Sitota will be saddened when she fully understands the depths of her Ethiopian family's poverty. However, we also believe she is someone who, had she remained in Ethiopia, would have always longed for education and knowledge of people and places beyond her village. She understands that her family placed her for adoption so that she could be educated and have an easier life.
Sitota is truly multi-cultural – her outlook, memories and manners were primarily shaped by her Ethiopian family; she's being raised by a white American family; she's perceived by outsiders as African-American. Our suburban town is somewhat diverse but we travel downtown in order to attend a vibrant church in an African-American community so that Sitota isn't always in the minority. I can sense her processing all the types of information she receives and absorbing it into her own world view. She's laughingly told me many times that American adults are far more lenient than Ethiopian adults (in so many words).
I sympathize with parents who find the wait painful. My husband, Bob, and I did, and sometimes we lacked confidence that the process would result in a placement. LSSI encouraged us and helped us stay the course. Now, we sometimes reflect that if the placement had happened any sooner, we wouldn't be with Sitota today, whose gift of sweetness, intelligence and spiritedness delight us every day.
Caryn, Kevin and Gregory
"I would recommend open adoption and communication with birth parents without hesitation," says Caryn. "In the long term, it is the best thing for my son."
Caryn and her husband Kevin adopted their son in December 2007, taking him home directly from the hospital where he was born.
"We were encouraged to consider communicating with the birth mom," Caryn says, noting that it was part of the adoption training, but not a requirement of the adoption. The new parents were willing to communicate with their son's birth parents, but were hesitant about giving out their address. "Then, we realized that the letters would go through LSSI, and that works for us," Caryn says.
For the first year, the couple agreed to send one letter a month to the birth parents. During the second year, communications was scaled back to once every three months, but Caryn says she responds if the birth mom writes more often. "It's something that grows and changes," she says, adding that she likes the ongoing relationship she and Kevin have with the birth mom. "We would like to hear from the dad, but that hasn't happened," she says.
"I have some friends who are adopted, and they are envious of the contact that we have with birth mom," Caryn says. She adds that one of her friends is a birth mom of an adopted son. "The woman says she always wonders where he is, how he is doing."
Because of LSSI's communication program for families of adopted children, that won't be happening to Caryn's son. "We talk to him about the adoption and his birth parents, showing him their pictures and telling him their names," she says. They also keep copies of the letters they send to the birth mom so that their son will be able to read them, too.
Sandra, John, Alex, Zach and Mary
After 19 years of marriage, John and Sandra decided to act upon their instinct that life would be more fulfilling as parents. Their "journey to have children through adoption" began through Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI). In all, they adopted three children from three different birth families: Alex, now 19; Zach, 13; and Mary, 12.
After Alex's adoption, Sandra and John communicated with his birth parents by sending letters and packages to LSSI, which were then forwarded to the birth parents. When Alex was five, he had a strong desire to meet his birth family. This desire was perfectly matched with his Grandma's desire to see him and hold him. Sandra and John wrote to the birthparents, asking to meet. Alex's birth father met him at the agency and started open communication. Alex's birth mom began her communication with Alex when he was in eighth grade.
"At first, you wonder how your stomach is ever going to take the emotion of it all," Sandra remembers, "but the reunion was so gloriously happy that we have been having frequent visits ever since." Alex is now an adult, so he drives to see his birth parents frequently.
Zach's open adoption began much earlier than Alex's, simply because Sandra and John felt more comfortable with the process. Although Zach has not yet met his birth father, he has met his birth mother and grandmother, who play an active part in his life.
Mary's birth mom lives in the same town as Sandra and John’s family. She began an open relationship with the family when Mary was one year old. Mary can see her half brothers whenever she wants. Mary, like Zach, also talks about communicating with her birth father soon.
Sandra says, "Our birth families have treated each of our children with a great deal of love and generosity. They are good people who truly have done their best to respect the fact that we are the parents.”
When asked if open adoption is better, Sandra says “yes,” if the families are well suited. “Our kids love knowing that their birth families love them tenderly,” she says. “We love visiting each other and always come home smiling. It's seamless. We don't separate his, hers, and mine. All are equal. All are loved. John and I have always been highly respected for our parenting decisions, and no one has ever tried to override us. We clearly know our roles, and our counseling through LSSI is solid."