At Adoption & Beyond, each of us have had our hearts touched by adoption. To help celebrate National Adoption Month this month, we wanted to share the adoption story from one of our caseworkers, Brittany Sheets. Brittany understands what it is like to go through the adoption process as a hopeful adoptive family and she has made it part of her mission to help build healthy families through child-centered adoptions.
Here are interview questions Brittany answered on her own personal experience with adoption:
Please share your adoption story:
Foster care and adoption have been a part of my story for as long as I can remember. Having grown up in a home where my parents fostered children for the majority of my childhood and having a brother join the family through foster care adoption, it only felt natural that I myself would become a foster parent one day. Going into marriage, it was something that was discussed from day one. When my husband, Casey, and I felt it was time to begin the process of becoming foster parents we did not hesitate.
We eased our way in to foster parenting by providing respite care for other foster families. We did this for about 6 months before deciding we were ready for placement of our own. The wait for the phone call felt so long and was oftentimes discouraging. As we watched other families welcoming children into their homes, it was hard not to think “why not us?”.
However, the day came when we got an email from our agency worker that we were not expecting in the least. Casey and I both knew that given the opportunity to adopt we would love to do so, but also understood that the primary goal of foster care is always reunification. Given this fact, we were expecting that once a child was placed in our home we would have a long journey ahead of us before that child either went back home, moved to a relative’s home, or possibly, just possibly, made our home his/hers forever. However, this long journey turned out to be, in foster care terms, a very short one. Our worker very casually presented us with a life-changing situation:
“I have a foster family who has had placement of a 10-month-old girl since she was two weeks old. The case is headed toward termination. The foster family did not get into fostering with the intention of adopting. My foster family would like to find another adoptive resource for Bella rather than simply rolling the dice with admissions looking for a family. If you are at all interested in even learning more about this situation, please let me know”.
My heart exploded and I had to re-read the email approximately 10 times before any sense of reality set in, and I thought, “I need to call Casey!” And so our journey began! We got to meet Bella a couple of weeks later and fell in love instantly! Over the next 6 weeks, we built a relationship with the Tindall family and slowly began integrating her into our home. Her first weekend in our home just happened to be her birthday weekend. We got to throw her a party, and introduce her to both of our families, who were under the impression that they were coming over for a casual family dinner. I can’t even put into words the shock and excitement that our families experienced that day!
The next year was spent navigating the adoption process and experiencing many delays along the way. We spent the first few months adjusting to having two children who were only 11 months apart in age. Our daughter quickly took to the role of being Bella’s big sister. Watching them bond melted our hearts! Through all the twists and turns of the adoption process, we kept our focus on Bella, and how having her immensely outweighed all the bumps in the road.
Exactly a year to the day of Bella officially joining our family, we finalized her adoption on July 17, 2020. We threw another party, Covid style, and celebrated the year we had been blessed to parent her and the many more to come! In attendance was the Tindall family, who we are so blessed to have playing an active role in our family’s lives.
Did you have any challenges when you when through the adoption process?
We experienced many delays throughout the process. We were told that we would finalize the adoption by April. It took an additional 5 months. Adopting through foster care can often be timely. In our situation, we were working with two foster agencies, one representing us, and one representing Bella. These agencies see a high turnover rate of employees, which strongly affects any progress getting made in the adoption cases. We had 9 new workers in the span of a year!
How was adjusting to life after adoption?
Life after adoption looks much different when adopting through foster care compared to domestic or international adoptions, simply because the child has already been a part of your family. The biggest adjustment for our family has been getting used to being just that, a family, without our choices being dictated by an agency. We no longer have monthly visits by multiple workers. Bella can stay the night with her grandparents without getting permission from caseworkers. It has been a very welcome change.
Did you have an open adoption? Do you have a relationship with the birth mother?
Unfortunately, we do not have an open adoption, due to not being able to locate Bella’s birth mom. We hope that one day we are able to find a way of contacting her, and can begin building a relationship with her. We would love for her to have a role in Bella’s life, assuming it would be a safe situation for our family to be in. It would also depend on how much involvement Bella’s birth mom would even desire to have. We were recently provided with the contact information for Bella’s two adult siblings. We plan on reaching out to them very soon and truly hope that they can be a means of familial connection for Bella. We would love for them to be an active part of Bella’s life! They themselves were adopted, and their relationship with Bella could mean so much to her.
Do you have any advice to share with a family considering adoption?
My biggest advice would be to take time to seriously reflect on whether adoption is the right choice for you. It is important to be honest with yourself and address all the things that might personally be a challenge for you. Adoption is not easy! But if you feel passionate about it and feel you can navigate all the twists and turns, then I say go for it! Try not to get discouraged throughout the process. Take your time of waiting to really educate yourself on adoption, and all the implications that it will have on your life and the life of your adopted child. So that when the day comes that a child becomes a part of your family, you will be more equipped to love and care for them the way they need.
What is the #1 thing you learned by going through the adoption process?
Patience and empathy! Patience and empathy for myself, my husband, my children, all of the workers involved in the case, and the system as a whole.
How has your family grown through adopting?
Not only has our family physically grown, but we have grown spiritually. Throughout the whole process, we had to depend on God to open the right doors at the right time. Things did not happen according to our desired timeline, for the better. God knew that we were meant to be Bella’s parents, and put everything in place for that to happen. We have learned to lean on Him for the answers and will continue to do so as we parent Bella through her childhood and beyond. We will use everything that we have learned throughout the process of adopting Bella to better equip us for our continued journey as foster parents.
If you have any questions about the adoption process, or if you’d like to know more, you can easily contact us at Adoption & Beyond and we will be happy to help. Interested in learning more about The Ultimate Guide to Adopting a Child? Check out our entire guide here.