Adoption. If I were starting again.

We’ve been on the adoption train for a remarkably long time.  I say remarkably because it just doesn’t seem like that long….the best experiences in life seem to pass quickly, but it’s still remarkable that it’s been eight and a half years since we said “yes” to this.

I can summarize what we knew about adoption eight and a half years ago in two words: almost nothing.  We didn’t know the difference between private or foster-to-adopt programs.  We were clueless as to why people chose domestic or international adoption.  We had no idea how children were matched with parents, what those parents could expect, or what happened to the birth parents before, during, or after.

We were like the guy who wanted to sign up for flying lessons but then realized that he’d take his lessons in a 747.  Whoa.  There are a lot of toggle switches here, Captain.  To call it intimidating doesn’t quite cover it, which is why most people never start.

By the leading of the Lord, we made one genius move at the outset.  Perhaps it wasn’t genius on our part, but rather the Lord’s genius, but we made it with Him.  Before we spent thousands of dollars going down one way, no exit paths, someone gave us great advice, which I’m about to pass on to you.

Get a consultant.  

  • Don’t find an agency, don’t order a home study, don’t register at Target for frilly underpants or diapers (no joke, some people do that first). 
  • Don’t tell yourself that you can google your way through this. 
  • Don’t get frozen in fear and let another year go by without starting. 

I am telling you now.  Get. A. Consultant.

We signed on with Christian Adoption Consultants in June of 2006.   On a friend’s insistence, I called CAC founder Amy Young.  Amy was knowledgable, kind, and sympathetic to my ignorance.  She was also confident that she could help us.  For the first time, I thought “We can do this.”

Inside of a week, she had us filling out paperwork and had located someone who could do the kind of home study that we needed.  For those of you that think all home studies are the same, it’s like saying all cars are the same.  That kind of thinking gets you making Cadillac payments while driving a Yugo.  (Does anyone remember the Yugo?).   We learned that all home studies are not created equally.  She lined us up with a great, local social worker who became a friend in the process.  Amy also gave us great tips on what to expect next and what sorts of preparations we should be making.  Working with CAC, I always felt like I knew what was coming next.

CAC also helped us produce our family profile.  A profile is a short booklet designed to give a birth mom a window into your family.   It includes text and photos that tell the adoptive family’s story.  Even if you’re a great story teller, you need help with this, because the part of your story that you love to tell might not be the part that a birth mom is wondering about – and even worse, can serve to alienate her.  Amy helped us truthfully present our family in a way that helped a birth mom make an informed decision.

You may be incredibly artsy and have won the local scrapbook competition, but you need help with your profile.  This is not the 4H display board you built in junior high.  The trajectory of another human being’s life will be changed based on this booklet, and you need another set of eyes on it – a set of eyes that has seen hundreds of these and can recognize the strong points as well as the hot button issues for birth moms.

By October, our home study was finished, our profile was done.  October 3, my phone rang.  It was an agency in Las Vegas.  We met Zoe the next day, scooping up her two day old frame into our arms and our hearts, where she remains eight years later.  From June 6 to October 3, from zero to a hundred miles an hour, from empty arms to a baby girl, faster and smoother than I ever thought it could have gone.

In Las Vegas, as we waited a week for the state to release us, we were in contact with Amy daily.  She helped us navigate things when social workers used terms we didn’t understand, and she even called the Las Vegas police to intervene when they tried to keep the hospital from releasing Zoe to us because of some trouble her birth mom was in.

It is impossible to overstate CAC’s role in our adoptions.  We would never have found, much less been selected for Zoe, and because of Zoe we later were blessed with Anna, Mercy, Creed and Cadence.  More than half of my children came to us, directly or indirectly, through Amy’s work.

Can you adopt without a consultant?  Yes, you can.  You can also drive your car all day in second gear.  The ability to do something doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it.

Additionally, they’re running a discount the first week in November.  You can check it out here.

Get a consultant.  Contact me directly at randy@randybohlender.com and I’ll connect you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am working part time as CAC’s Communications Director.  Even so, I have been having this same discussion with potential adoptive parents for the past eight years.  This is not business for me.  This is the best way to do private, domestic adoption.

And as always, photo credit our beloved photog phenom Shelley Paulson.