For the first spotlight on families that chose adoption as a way to grow their families, I chose to highlight a family close to my heart. Ashley and I used to work together as elementary teachers. Not only a great mom of three beautiful kids and teacher, Ashley loves children and has worked to advocate for youth for many years. She is working to assist children and families with virtual learning, works to make sure teachers and families are aware of ways to treat childhood trauma, and is the co-founder of a non-profit organization called I Would Rather Be Reading Ladies and gents, I present you
Tell me about you and your family before adopting.
Heb and I met in 2007. He was working in the home remolding field, and I was finishing my education degree at the University of Louisville. We had several differences, but what we had in common such as live music, love of sports (although we are UL/UK house divided), and weekend trips to the lake brought us together. While both us were career driven, we always knew that children were in our future. We married in the winter of 2011 and started planning for a family shortly after.
Tell readers about your adoption journey.
The years I spent teaching piqued my interest in the adoption and foster care process. Adoption was something that was always in the back of my mind. Early on, I knew it was something that we would consider as an option, but wasn’t sure it was something we would follow through with so early in our marriage. Given my medical history, I knew that conceiving children would be a long road. After one year of trying to conceive, Heb and I decided that we were headed towards adoption. The physical and mental impacts of fertility treatments were a lot to deal with day in and day out, and together we decided to begin the adoption process. We knew from the beginning that we would go the foster care route. At that time, over 50% of the children in my class were in foster or kinship (placed in out of home care with a relative) care. Heb and I researched the numbers.
The answer we were looking for was clear, we stopped fertility treatments and started the foster care process immediately. It took three long years, lots of unknowns, and an abundance of love, but we were able to adopt three amazing children Grant, Grayson, and Paige from the foster care system right here in KY.
What challenges have you faced during your journey (or even after)?
I always tell people that adoption was the greatest gift that I’ve ever received. We need our three kids just as much as they need us. A lot of times people say things like “Oh, you’re such good people.” or “Those kids are so lucky to have you!” We know that all of those comments are made with the best of intention (most of the time) and are made mostly from what people see in public or on social media. I would like people who are considering adoption to know that it isn’t always what you see in the media-good or bad. It takes patience, resilience, lots of unwavering love, and persistence.
With all of that being said, it is and always will be the best thing that happened to me and Heb, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. I would like to highlight some things that I consider the non-negotiables of adoption.
Being separated from a birth parent is traumatic, and trauma impacts development. No two children will have the same experience and you can’t predict how what has happened to them in the past will impact them as they’re growing up. Before you decide to adopt or foster make sure that you understand that, and are willing and prepared to provide your child with the supports they will need. This could mean medical, mental, or both. Foster care is hard! Again no two cases are the same. Moves hurt kids, and reunification is always the goal. As a foster parent you will often times be provided with little to no information, be expected to jump at the drop of a dime, and be left out of the loop more times than not. I’m not saying this is right or should be accepted as the norm, but it is the reality of the system. I highly suggest knowing your rights and your child’s, even better than you know the back of your hand. Network! Become familiar with organizations that can help, and find your tribe. Having people who get it and can help you navigate the system will make or break you.
Last, and most important, so listen up. If you pursue a trans-racial adoption, make choices based on what’s best for your child, NOT YOU. When adoptive parents agree to accept a child of a different race into their homes, they are agreeing to become familiar with that child’s culture, expose the child to that culture, support the child in identifying with their culture, and leave conversations about race open for discussion. Also, people will look, people will question, and people will be down right rude. Be prepared, have a response, and allow your child to process their experiences whether it be with you or a therapist.
Remember, perception is reality and everyone’s experience is unique to them.
What rewards have you experienced through adoption?
The rewards of adoption are endless. I literally ask myself every day how I got so lucky, and sometimes when trauma rears its ugly head I have to remember just how lucky I am. Adoption has taught me to love harder than I have ever loved. It has taken me to the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, which make the highs that much sweeter.
What advice would you give others considering adoption?
There are over 100,000 children in the United States alone that are waiting for a home. I would say that if your are open and willing, please help out one of these children. Just make sure you’re ready, know what all it entails, and do your research before you start the process.