Since it’s National Adoption Month and one of my values as a blogger is community, I believe one of the best ways to educate you is simply through sharing stories. Alex and CJ have been friends of ours since our single days. It has been amazing to watch them and walk with them through their unconventional adoption story with their daughter, Felista, and to watch their current adoption story with their son they are still waiting to bring home. We are so proud to call them our friends, and I know you will be challenged and encouraged, and I hope moved to act, by reading their story.
Hey! We’re the Fergusons. CJ (Dad), Alex (Mom), and Felista (Amazing 5 Year Old). We are about 4 years into this adoption journey and I (Alex) am excited to share with you our story thus far. No better place to start than the beginning, so grab a cup of coffee because this could take a while.
Why We Chose to Adopt
I cannot think of a time in which adoption wasn’t part of the plan for my family. Long before I ever met my eventual husband, I was dreaming of a family that didn’t match. While my view of adoption then was undoubtedly naive, the desire for adoption has not decreased as I’ve learned the hard truths involved. I don’t know where this desire came from or what sustained it, but after I became a Christian in college it took on a new urgency and meaning. This world, broken and marred by sin, is full of so much trauma and loss, and I wanted to enter into the hard in my own imperfect way, seeking to love as Christ has called us to.
It was out of this desire that, as soon as my husband got a stable job, we began the adoption process. We also started trying to get pregnant at that time (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing both at once, but ah, to be young and foolish). After a lot of research, prayer, and informational meetings, we decided international adoption made the most sense for us at that point in our lives. We began the adoption process in a program focused on the small Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We were told it would be around a 2 year process.
Our First Adoption Process
Shortly after we began the waiting period of our adoption process, I got a phone call on my way home from work. It was our home study agency. They were working with a family that had decided to dissolve an adoption they had finalized about 8 months before. I had never heard of dissolutions before, and the little girl involved was older than we had said we were comfortable with at 3 years old. But if I could have brought her home that night I would have.
We didn’t know if her current adoption family would choose us as her forever mom and dad, and we prayed the Lord’s will over all of it. At one point we were told we would not be moving forward, but then about a week later we got an email saying our daughter would be coming home. Even though we were involved in attachment therapy and I had read all the difficult stories of attachment and adoption, I still envisioned a seamless, happy entry into being a family of 3. The first few months of our life as a family were extremely difficult on all of us. Not only were we adjusting to being parents, we were adjusting to being parents of a 3 year old who carried with her a lot of brokenness and trauma. I won’t get into the details of her story here as it is hers to tell, but I will say that these first few months were without a doubt the hardest months of our lives. Attachment did not come immediately for any of us and extreme behaviors were commonplace.
We sought support in whatever ways we could during this time, but from the outside looking in everything appeared to be going great. We felt very isolated. Because we were the first of our friends to adopt, and among the first to have children at all, many of those in our community didn’t know how to support us best. Some of the blame can definitely be put on my shoulders as I felt pressure to make everything positive as an advocate for adoption. There were many tear filled days and nights, but we tried to lay a foundation of felt safety and consistent, unconditional love. Eventually, the good days started to outnumber the not so good days and I cannot even begin to describe the growth I have seen in all of us, but especially the little girl I get to call my daughter. What a beautiful picture of redemption and strength she has been to me.
Our Second Adoption Process
While all of this was happening, we continued trying to get pregnant and waited on a placement from St. Vincent. Some governmental changes in St. Vincent caused us to prayerfully consider other options for growing our family. We began to look at the possibility of adopting a waiting child. Because we wanted to maintain birth order and because we were hoping to be able to use our current home study, we looked for children who were waiting internationally. That’s when we came across a little boy in Ghana who had been in an orphanage for most of his young life. In June of last year, we accepted Emmanuel’s referral and began a new adoption process. Thus began perhaps the most confusing, trying part of our family’s story yet.
Because Emmanuel was a waiting child, there was already an agency that was advocating for him. We didn’t know much about this agency, but talked to a family that had worked with them on a previous adoption and felt ok about moving forward. About 4 months into our relationship with this agency, Ghana decided to do sweeping adoption reform. This reform is necessary and good, but it meant a delay as they sorted out the details. About 5 months after this delay, our agency lost its accreditation and it was revealed to us that one of the lawyers they were working with in Ghana was not doing things the way he should have been. There has been much confusion since then, and we are in the process of hiring a private investigator to make sure everything in Emmanuel’s case is as it should be. While we have been told by several sources that his case is legal and ethical, we will not take chances. We still very much plan on welcoming Emmanuel home as a beloved son in the near future, but we are not sure exactly when that will be as we seek to make sense of the mess left behind by this attorney. This process has been perplexing and at times heartbreaking, but we continue to feel the Lord’s will is for us to fight for the best interest of Emmanuel. No one else is. No matter how the case was handled or what steps need to be taken in the future, there is a little boy in an orphanage in Ghana who needs someone to fight for his best interest. Through a series of miracles, we have identified a certified, loving foster home for him in Ghana and right now our prayer is that the Lord would see fit to move him there. We would absolutely love you to join us in that prayer. Emmanuel is a child, made in the image of God, and he is worth any heartache, any confusion, any weeping, any long nights. He is worth any wait.
If you would like to support us as we seek to best love Emmanuel, you can donate here: https://adopttogether.org/families/?fundraiser=fergusonfamily Donations of any size are tax deductible and mean more to us than we could ever tell you.
Our Life as An Adoptive Family/Some Advice
Felista and I talk often of her first mom in Malawi, we look at pictures of her village together and talk about all of the people there who loved her well. We do research on Malawi together and talk about all of the amazing things her country has to offer. She often asks what Emmanuel’s home looks like, who is loving him, and when he will be coming home. She is so excited to have a brother with dark skin who is from Africa too. Parenting children who don’t look like you is so sweet and so painful, so good and so hard. We have sought to fill Felista’s world with people who look like her and who celebrate all that she is. We have educated ourselves on hair care and skin care and on matters of particular importance to African American culture. It has been so life giving to open up my mind and heart to a different perspective, something I should have done long before my daughter came home. If you are adopting outside of your race, please take the time to educate yourself on the rich culture your child carries in his/her bones. Be mindful of what your community, your school, your church looks like and who will be the important people in his/her life. This is an important and necessary part of raising a child from another race.
If you are just beginning the adoption process, or are in a season of waiting for a child to come home, reach out to families who have adopted, listen (and I mean really listen) to their stories, to the hardships and the joys.Recognize that you are no savior, we have Christ for that, and that the best you can do is enter into the trauma with your future child and cry with them over the brokenness of it all. Pray. A lot. Read the books and the articles and go to the conferences. Surround yourself with people who “get it”, people who have walked the same path you are starting out on and who will bring you food, or mow your lawn, or leave coffee on your doorstep, or let you cry on their shoulder. People who will celebrate the seemingly unremarkable with you and see it for the miracle it is. People who will listen to the uncomfortable, the joyous, and the painful alike.
If I have learned anything in this adoption journey, it’s that the hardest things are the best things. What brings great pain can also bring a deep, gritty kind of joy. God has not called us to a life of comfort, but a life lived out of love. I don’t even recognize the woman who started this adoption process 4 years ago. Man, am I glad I said yes to it all.
We have a God who is with us always, even when the answer is no, even when you’re ready to quit.
Psalm 36:5 : Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
2 Timothy 2:13 : If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.