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  • Writer's pictureErin Miller, MBA

November is Adoption Awareness Month

Families come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some choose their family and some families make the decision to adopt or add individuals into their families. November has always meant more to me because it is national adoption awareness month. Adoption has a very special place in my heart because I was adopted at birth. Many individuals experience adoption through a variety of ways, whether they were adopted or have adopted a child or are in the life of someone who was adopted. Not too long-ago adoption was something that was very secretive; some families would make the decision to not share the knowledge of adoption with an adopted child until much later in life or not at all. The fact that I was adopted was something my parents never hid from me, even though it would have been easy because I look just like my parents and I am very grateful that my parents were able to be open and honest with me.

All adoption stories are unique to the individual and mine is special to me. My grandmother was a nurse at an OB/GYN’s office and one of the physicians was aware my parents had been trying to adopt a baby for several years. He had been caring for a patient and was aware she had made the decision to give up the child for adoption, the woman requested his help in finding a good placement for me. The doctor approached my

grandmother and shared with her stating “this is going to be a good one, a prize. If your kids want to adopt a baby, they should choose this one” so consequently they did. My grandmother was able to attend to my birth mother at many of the appointments and was even able to assist during delivery. I owe my very blessed life to my birth mother who carried me, the doctor who facilitated the connection, my grandmother and my adoptive family. I jokingly say my parents purchased me at Kmart and I was the blue light special, because when I was ready to be picked up after birth, their attorney met them in the Kmart parking lot to hand me over.

I have always equated my adoption with sacrificial love. When someone is carrying a child and recognizes they aren’t in the best life situation and unable to provide care for that child and then goes on to make the difficult decision to give the child up for adoption acts in such selfless and sacrificial love that it is unfathomable.

My life has always been surrounded by adoption. My son will be the third generation of adoption in my family. My birth mother was adopted, myself and now my son. I was raised in a community that respected and appreciated adoption, and I have never known anything different. I applaud those who make the tough decision to give their child up and for those who choose to adopt when there are so many children out there who need happy and healthy homes. Adoption is not without its challenges, stresses, traumas and hurts. Anyone who has experienced adoption knows this. Adoption doesn’t mean a child is going to have a perfect life or family, but it is a way to try and provide a child the best chance at life when a parent is unable to care for their child.

During the month of November I had asked several Iowan’s to write down their experiences with fostering, guardianship and adopting in honor of adoption awareness month so they could share what they would like you (our readers) to know. I’d also like to showcase the amazing, hardworking and sacrificial humans that live in the great state of Iowa. The below story comes from a sweet family who has made and continues to make a great impact in four children’s lives:

Please note these are personal opinions and stories coming from families located throughout Iowa. We do not share some identities because as foster families you are not allowed to share any child's identity on any social media platform or other outlet. We want to respect the law and each family's privacy.

In a recent meeting, my colleagues and I were asked to give a number 1-10 in response to the question, “What is your energy level right now?” Such a simple question but I managed to make it complicated. Living in my body is an exercise in frenetic energy, big feelings, and swift and varied thoughts. On the other hand, my husband and I are fifty-year-olds raising four boys, from toddler to teen. If I were to have time to sit I would probably be asleep in less than ten minutes. I gave myself a score of ten and two.

This was certainly not part of our long-term plan for heading into middle-age. The path to this place has been winding and not clearly marked. Our own daughter has long been grown and independent and has a family of her own. As lifelong public educators, contact with children is built into our days, developing relationships with students and families from all backgrounds in our small, rural school district and community has been natural. The unexpected was finding ourselves supporting a student and family to the point that we ended up providing the child with safe, temporary housing. We didn’t know it, but the trajectory of our life was about to drastically change from any preconceived ideas we may have held.

So here we are. Two middle-aged adults raising a second family. I often think about other

foster families, loving and raising children who have experienced trauma. What would I want to share with them? What would I say to others considering becoming foster parents?

First, all children are absolutely worth the time, effort, and love you have to give. Discovering just how much you grow to love every child who walks through the door has been amazing to discover. Not only that, but we have formed strong, lasting bonds with other families; families who for whatever reason, at a crisis point in their lives needed some extra love and support. The community we live in is quite small and some former families are members of our community; people we now know as extended family. These are people who know us and our extended family and now have one more support to call if they need a ride to work or a friend to talk to. The idea that it takes a village is something we strongly believe.

Another important piece of information for those considering fostering is that our children have challenges. Some are on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), meaning they receive special education services for challenging behaviors. In an hour’s time, one of our boy’s therapist is meeting with his entire educational team to help provide the team with more effective strategies to support him at school. My husband and I send and receive multiple communications with school staff every week. Because we are educators, it is definitely easier to navigate these waters (albeit not fun). Can our sons be a challenge? Do we ever feel exhausted? Absolutely! I’ve had strangers at the grocery store try to correct the boys for such crimes as standing in the basket of the cart. While I want to say, “My dear, this child is a baby mountain goat. If he falls he will land on his feet. He has also experienced abuse so horrific you wouldn’t believe it if I were inclined to tell you. Standing in the grocery cart isn't high on my radar.” Instead, I thank them for their concern. I wink at the standing child so he knows I’ve got his back, too.

For every time we caught one smoking during the first few months he was with us, we watched him treat this motley crew of “brothers” with thoughtfulness, kindness, and love. For every sassy response when asked to do a minimal chore there have been hugs and smiles and ever-deepening bonds. For every household item that has been destroyed, there have been moments so precious that remind us there is nothing more important than the love we share with the people around us. At the end of the day, we are all far from perfect. As I order the teenager yet another headset to replace one he’s broken, I am aware I am also getting earbuds to replace the ones I just lost. We make mistakes and we model repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. We don’t lose track of the fact that these children lost EVERYTHING. Everything that matters. Their familiar homes. Their known routines. Their families. Our hearts and minds are focused on their healing, their strength, and the invaluable gifts bring to our family. Love doesn’t heal all (that takes time, breathing, mindfulness, therapy, meditation, sometimes medications, exercise), but love is the only thing that matters.

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