When most people think about adoption their minds go to international adoption or domestic infant adoption—both of which often include long matching processes and large financial costs. In the United States there are over 100,000 orphans. They’re not in orphanages—most are in temporary foster homes. Adoption through the U.S. foster care system is paid for almost entirely by the state. Three years ago when I started feeling a nudge toward adoption I hardly knew anything about this third way to adopt.
In our country when parents are charged with abuse, neglect or abandonment their children are relocated to a temporary safe home—a relative, friend or a foster home. The goal of foster care is family preservation— for the children to return to their parents when the dust settles—but sometimes it’s not possible and the children need to be adopted. The logical choice is for foster parents to adopt the child.
Early in 2011 Jason [my husband] and I felt strongly that God was calling us to become foster parents and potentially adopt through the system. It’s scary to think about jumping into parenting someone else’s kids who have just experienced their worst nightmare—being separated from their parents—and likely other traumatic events as well. The Lord broke our hearts for these kids, somewhere around half a million in the U.S., who are taken away from their families and everything familiar and moved to another home while their parents deal with their issues. These kids need substitute parents who are able to love and care for them for as long as necessary, cheer them on at soccer games, encourage their faith, help them process their grief and anger, take them to doctor’s appointments, celebrate their birthdays and advocate for them and their future.
Since July 2011, Jason and I have parented three children, each with very different outcomes. Our first little girl was 1.5 and was with us only five weeks before moving in with an extended family member. She made us parents for the first time and we were very sad when she left. Several weeks later we accepted a call for two month old Alianna. After a long, crazy, roller coaster process we adopted her just after her first birthday. Our third child was a 2.5 year old boy who joined our family for three months last summer. His mom worked hard to fill all the requirements given to her by the state. She and her son love each other very much and we celebrated when they were reunited. We’re expecting a call any day for our next child—whether it’s for five weeks, three months or forever—we’ll do our best to love him or her like the Father loves us.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ … “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-36, 40
Martina Ahlbrandt is an art director at Salem Publishing and one of the designers of CCM. She blogs about her adventures in foster parenthood at myMCMlife.com. Martina, Jason and Alianna live in Nashville, TN.