When spreading the awareness of National Adoption Month during November, I try to stay away from the daunting statistics that tell the story of too many kids in the system that too few families are willing to enter.
Talking about the nearly 400,000 kids in foster care and 100,000 ready for adoption in the U.S. might draw a gasp and concerned look.
I wonder if the average parent at home will pause when I mention that the average age of those kids in foster care is over 8 years old.
The stats are tough but true – but they are not my focus.
I choose to talk about action. In fact, I have to – the gravity of the available statistics is just too overwhelming and dis-empowering.
The prospect of adopting or fostering a child, no matter the age, is not for the weak. The process is tough, filled with uncertainty and stained by loss – but, please, don’t let that scare you away.
Being overwhelmed is the enemy of families thinking of stepping-up for the kids that create the statistics.
My focus is, instead, on the joy of the families created by adoption and foster care rather than the jagged, tough road they traveled to get there.
Too many families are overwhelmed by adoption too early – just like I was ten years ago.
I remember the initial terror I felt when thinking about adopting –
I didn’t think I had enough money.
I didn’t have any kids – what did I know about raising a child?
I wasn’t sure how to even start.
I had to fight off the early adoption on-slot of fear and uncertainty. I did so my completing three simple acts:
(1) I honestly assessed our family’s readiness.
Before I googled, I noodled. I thought critically about our ability to raise a child, the relative happiness of our household and the future we saw for our family.
Entering any foster care or adoption process on the same page is crucial. We became unified in our desire to adopt because we generated a heightened awareness of our motivations and what we had to offer. We did so before all else.
(2) We made a tentative plan without any real know-how.
I knew nothing about adoption, but I knew that I had to lay out my own plan. I sketched a list for how long I thought the process may take, the various life changes that I would need to make and how to grow a financial nest egg that might be needed later on.
The plan, of course, did not hold – I quickly learned that adoption is an unpredictable road. Making that plan did, however, allow me to be pragmatic about my desire to jump in. This plan absent know-how was a foundation that further drove adoption related doubts away.
(3) I found a face-to-face resource to share their experience with me.
The most critical step to getting serious about adopting is to seek out someone who has been there – and talk to them about their process face-to-face.
My confidant was a co-worker named Ryan.
Ryan spoke with me about his path in adopting a little girl from Asia. I remember bouncing questions off of him like a Chatty Cathy doll – nothing was off-limits. Ryan was patient, open and factual – he allowed me in. I was captivated and energized.
These three steps hurdled me through the obstacles that adoption statistics highlight as insurmountable.
In doing these three simple acts, I was no longer overwhelmed.
I was ready.