Category Archives: Practicalities

Posts about the adoption process itself

Four Way to Care for the Fatherless When You’re Not Called to Adopt

You may have no intention of adopting, but know (and love) friends and family members who have. I commend you for taking the time to learn about how you can best support these families in your life!

Four-Ways-to-Care-for-the-Fatherless-When-Youre-Not-Called-to-Adopt-700x1050Not everyone is called to adopt, but Scripture is clear that all are called to care for the fatherless and act on their behalf. I love Isaiah 1:17, which says “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Every Christian is called to do good before God, and that includes seeking out justice for those who are being oppressed.

This is one of the main reasons I’ve chosen to write a book about foster adoption (enter your email in the sidebar for updates about a late Spring release!). Adoptive families need their churches, and fellow believers, to come along side them with right thinking and a Christ-like perspective as they follow the path God has called them to. Pastors, elders, and ministry leaders ought to be equipped with a basic knowledge of the different types of adoption, helpful adoption lingo, and an arsenal of how to best support the growing families in their congregation.

I must say though, our church is amazing, and they are very adoption-friendly. We have received nothing but support from them, delicious casseroles when both boys arrived to our family, clothes, books, toys, and gift cards. You name it we probably received it! It’s not about the tangible though (although those things were life-savers). More importantly, it’s the attitude of the people in our congregation that have blessed us the most.

Here are four ways to care for the fatherless when you’re not personally called to adopt:

1) Respect boundaries that have been set

A few months after our oldest son arrived, we noticed some quirky behaviors that alerted us to some possible attachment issues. We kindly asked our small group, and others in our church who regularly interacted with him, to respect a few boundaries we needed to put into place for his good. He needed to learn who mom and dad were, and who was going to meet his needs. It’s not going to be the sweet old lady we see every Sunday who wants to give him candy, or our amazing small group who showers him with lots of love and attention. It’s Adam and myself, and he needed a renewed focus on that goal.

Everyone responded to us in a way that showed they love our little boy immensely, and respected our role as his new parents. Our son learned that high fives on Sunday mornings are more appropriate than hugs and kisses, and “I love you” is reserved only for family (for now). He has grown so much since we set these boundaries, and thanks to our amazing church, they played a massive role in that healing! We are so grateful.

2) Have a teachable heart in regard to birth parents, loss, and race issues

I’ve had countless conversations on Sunday mornings with teachable and open-hearted people in our congregation. I could not be more thankful for where God has placed us. There is a respect for our boys birth parents, an understanding of the loss our sons have experienced, and a growing openness for the fact that, as black boys, they will likely be racialized as they grow older (this one is the most difficult one we’ve encountered, being in a predominantly white community, as it takes time for lifelong false beliefs about different ethnicities to be broken down). There is not much more I could ask for in regard to support for our boys! Our church has done this well.

3) Remember that your words matter

Educating yourself on adoption lingo will bless adoptive couples immensely. Remembering that any child in their family is “their own”, whether through birth or adoption, is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Acknowledging the loss their child has been through (loss of birth parents, siblings, friends, a prior foster home, and everything familiar to them) is a very important part of caring for adoptees. It’s easy for us to want to celebrate (the orphan has a home!), but that’s not the case for the child who has lost everything. There needs to be an understanding and respect of that.

We had one awkward encounter a few days after our oldest son joined our family. A kind older woman asked him if he liked his “new mommy and daddy.” He looked at her like she had three heads. His little two and a half year old brain was probably thinking “I have a mommy and daddy, and they aren’t it!” We did quickly become “mommy and daddy” to him within a week or two, which we learned is typical for kids in foster care. Up until that point we were Miss April and Mister Adam to him. He had just been removed from his birth mom a few days prior, and was probably so confused and scared about what the future would hold for him. That question was well-intentioned, but highly inappropriate.

These are the sort of encounters that become opportunities for us as adoptive couples to show tons of grace, and kindly educate. I gently corrected her comment and let her know that he has a mommy and daddy who love him very much, and that we are thrilled to have him be a part of our family right now. I don’t think she understood, and that’s ok, but I believe in situations like this grace will always trump the snarky remarks we may be tempted to make.

It’s important for supporters to keep in mind that their questions and remarks, likely born out of curiosity, could put the adoptive family in an awkward position. If their children are older, and can understand, comments that are not well thought out could be hurtful to them and disrespectful to their fragile past. It’s never ok to make judgments about a child’s birth parents, racial slurs, or comment about how you “can’t believe no one wanted them”.

4) Be committed, with hope, for the long haul

The church ought to be a place where adoptive families can enter in with all of their messiness, and receive love and support as they seek to lead these precious kiddos to hope and healing, and ultimately, to our Savior. You may not be called to adopt, but you are called to care for the fatherless. Learning how to do that in a way that blesses the adoptive families in your life will be a precious gift to them.

This will look differently for each family, so don’t be afraid to ask them what they need, and how you can best support and love them through the years. Some families may be more or less open with you about their children and their needs. Some may not know what they need because they’re still in the fog, trying to get a grasp on what would be best for their kiddos. The love and faithfulness of a church who is in it for the long haul, just as the adoptive parents are, is a beautiful way to show the gospel to families who have grown through adoption.

Love on the family if their placement fails. Pray for their kids when an important court date is near, or they have a visit with their birth parents. Bring them meals when a new child enters their family. Show them immense amounts of grace when their son or daughter acts out during worship. Don’t assume their child is “troubled” or “damaged” or destined to work at the grocery store for their entire lives because X diagnosis runs in their birth family.

If you believe the gospel, then you know that no one is too far gone! Not a single one. Even the most broken, messy, un-attached child, with the most disturbing past is not too far gone for our great Redeemer. It’s not too hard for him to save them, and heal them, and it shouldn’t be too hard for you to believe he can save them and bring them complete healing either.

Let us not forget that he saved you and me in our sin. We need Jesus just as much as our children from foster care do. Believe in the power of the gospel to heal, and save, having great hope for their future, praying for their spiritual adoption into the family of God. This is the best way you can care for the fatherless without actually adopting.


RedemptiveHomemaking.com_April is a follower of King Jesus, wife, mother, writer, and adoption advocate. She lives in New England where her husband serves as a worship-pastor. Her introverted nature loves to read, sip coffee, and cook nourishing food for those she loves.  Read more on her blog Redemptive Homemaking.



The HOW of Adoption: {People Ask/Say all the Time}


You can imagine the stares and questions we get when we walk into a place with all our littles. And the head shaking that ensues when we share about CallaAnne! I know! I used to be the same way when we were a family of three girls and bigger families were near. The same questions popped into my head that I will share below and little did I know God had MUCH bigger plans for our family than we would ever imagine.

Giving God control of your thoughts changes your life and gives you blessings you NEVER saw coming!!!

People ask us all the time HOW in the world are we able to handle this adoption life God has given us and at times its hard to put into words. My husband Scott chose this topic today and hope together we are able to give hope to anyone called… you just have to say yes.

People Ask/Say All the Time:

“How in the World do you handle all those children?”

God is First: We don’t handle them. We love them with God’s help. First and foremost, a relationship with God is foundational to all successes in life. Being in step with God’s will brings strength, guidance, and assurance all is well. Everything begins with prayer and as long as Scott and I are praying together, God keeps our hearts, thoughts, and actions aligned. Each time we have gone forward with an adoption, we BOTH had to know it was the right decision for our family and the only way we knew that was communication with God and each other.

It is NOT easy to move forward. We usually describe it as an elephant in the room. We know it’s there but we don’t discuss until we’ve prayed and have a decision. My prayer is always for God to press on Scott’s heart what is right and true. All in time, we come to the decision by allowing God to be First!

We can handle all God has called us to because it is His plan and He is First!


“How do you love so many at one time?”

Love each other like crazy: Scott says all the time we are able to love all our children because we love Each Other like crazy!!! Marriages need to be strong to handle the many facets of adoption. There is no way we could do this without each other. Complete submission and dedication in our marriage comes before the needs of our children and after following God. We are best friends and share everything. There are times when you feel you can’t go one more second and it is in those rough patches, a spouse can make all the difference.

I have sweet precious friends that are single and raising beautiful families too. I know they are surrounded by amazing people that support them in their journey as well. It boils down to putting your trust in the One whom has called us to this life. He gives all of us what we need for each day we wake up.

Scott and I certainly give God the glory for the Love we are able to pour out on so many and love each other well! 


“Well you all certainly had to be Called to adopt all those kids!” 

Being Called: We are ALL called in James 1:27 to look after orphans and widows. That can look so different for you and me. Our family was called to birth and adopt our children. You may be called to foster, support an orphan or orphanage, support a family adopting, or whatever you hear God telling you. The bottom line: You have to be Listening and Willing!!! We adopted our Chinese children because God showed us their faces and they were waiting for us to come. We will go until they are all home and we will know that being completely surrendered to God’s will.

We certainly did have to be called to birth and adopt all our children because God ordained it all!!!


“You sure do have your hands full!” 

Hearts Full: Yes our hands are full but mostly our hearts. When you are living a certain life, it’s not something you think about in tiny parts and decisions. It is a daily flow and rhythm of living and loving. It is being and doing the necessary things for everyone to stay alive and thrive. As basic needs are met, love begins to bloom because everyone is learning to be a family and feeling secure. When we are out and about, it does look like my hands are full especially walking through Target with six kids riding on the shopping cart, but there is strategy behind that practice and a whole lot of work back at home that brought us to this place. Love does not come easy or fast. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears come first.

Yes we have our hands full but our Hearts are the fullest and our life meaningful. 


“How are you going to send them to college?”

Confident: Educating our children is a one day at a time adventure. Two of our children have graduated college and living beautiful productive lives. One is in college now chasing the destiny God has laid before her. Six are home learning as we do life and I don’t worry about their future. God meant for them to be in our family and He is molding them into what He wants them to be. We spend much time reading the Bible and discussing how the stories apply to our lives then have time to actually practice them.

I LOVE our home life and confident God has their futures all figured out… I don’t have to be concerned with that just now. (Jer 29:11)


“Well you won’t ever retire, will you?”

Commitment: Choosing to have children is a lifelong commitment. It isn’t a choice made that ceases once they graduate college or get married or have their own kids. We are still extremely involved in our big kids’ lives and wouldn’t want it any other way. When we brought our children into our family, we committed our lives unto them. Our family hinges on this amazing scripture: 1 Peter 4:10, ” Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.” Where in the Bible do we ever see someone retired?

Scott and I will probably never have the retirement most people will enjoy BUT we will live our lives completely and fully to the measure God has set for us through our Retirement years.

“What do your big kids think about all these little kids?”

Sacrifice: We tell in our adoption story the amazing way our big girls (little then) wrapped their hearts around bringing home little EK when she was just 11 months old. None of us imagined we would soon have 7. There is no way adoption would have worked had they not been FOR it. Being for it doesn’t mean easy either. It is hard to be a child in a family and more being adding yearly but God covers that too. Our big girls have changed and matured so much through watching and accepting their little siblings into our family. Our littles are SO very blessed to have our littles in their lives. ALL of our children are SO very blessed to have so many to love them.

God did a mighty work in our big girls’ hearts when He brought us to adoption and we can’t imagine life any other way!


“You sure are blessing those kids and just so proud of you!”

Our Blessing!: The opposite couldn’t be more true. As much as we are blessing our children choosing them for our family, THEY are blessing us more than we can even put into words. We are different because of them. There are days when we are in awe and fright of maybe missing life with them and other days we wonder WHAT in the WORLD did we do. :) But when all settles down and we remember the calling, we are the ones being blessed just for saying yes!

Blessings always abound when you say yes to God! 


In the end, we can’t imagine standing before God and Him saying,

‘What in the world were you doing loving all those children?”


What’s your biggest fear in raising a big family? Trust God. He is OVER it all!!!


2015-11-12-16.43.29-2Shay Ankerich is mom to nine going on ten kids (seven from China), wife to Scott, and a homeschooling mom.  She loves Jesus, adoption, blogging, reading, photography, and crocheting. She might even be writing a book but it seems to be taking a lifetime to finish. You can find her writing at A Beautiful Symphony about Family, Home, Adoption, and School.

Thanking God With Open Hands

Our two adoptions were completely different.  One took almost four years, the other only six months.  During one there were times I convinced myself I was in the driver’s seat and if I didn’t make it happen it wouldn’t happen.  The other was an exercise in blind trust and following God’s lead every step of the way.  At the beginning of one I had such a tight grip on my ideas of how it should go.  Throughout the other I knew from the beginning that I needed not white knuckle my way through, but simply be open to where He led.

As you anticipate Thanksgiving, you may have had thoughts, hopes, and plans about what this Thanksgiving would look like.

Surely we will travel by Thanksgiving. 

Our home study should be finished by Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving will mark six months home and we should be well on our way to feeling settled with our new addition to the family. 

We should be matched by Thanksgiving. 

It will be so good to gather with family at Thanksgiving. 

But, for many of you, this Thanksgiving is shaping up to be very different from that picture in your head.

Your Travel Approval is proceeding at a snail’s pace. 

The social worker still needs to squeeze in one more visit before she even begins writing your home study. 

While you’ve been home six, or eight, of even ten months, your newly grown family is feeling anything but settled. 

You have not matched with a child yet, and it has you wondering if you ever will be. 

This year’s family get-together is not shaping up as you had hoped.  Perhaps your newly adopted child still isn’t ready to be introduced to lots of new people, or maybe you lost a family member to whom you had hoped to introduce your child. 

As with our first adoption, our plans, our timelines, those assumed pictures we often hold onto with clenched fists often do not match up to what is.

This past Sunday we were encouraged by our pastor to enter into Thanksgiving with open hands. Each finger of the open hand names something that will help us to regain perspective.  When our hands are open, we not only release what has us so white knuckled, but we become open to what God has for us in this day, this adoption, this Thanksgiving.

First, we are reminded to come with grace.  Grace received and grace given.  Grace that covers all we are not and cannot.

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
Romans 4:16

With that perspective, we are moved into a posture of humility.  With humble hearts we are reminded who we are and who God is.  He has always been and will always be in control.  His plans are good and His heart is turned toward us.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
Ps. 146:5-6

When we are humbled we can be reminded the He alone brings healing.  He can bring healing to our discouraged attitudes, our broken hearts, our crumbled dreams, our frustrated spirits, and our fractured families.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
Ps. 146:7


The pastor then reminded us that we can be moved into a posture of praise. We can praise Him for who He is, for where He has brought us, for His plans for us, for His control of the situation, and for the story He is writing.

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Ps. 146:1-2

All of this will leave us with a sense of hopeHope in the midst of what is and what is not.  Hope that His plans are good.  Hope because He is right where we are.  He has not left us or our family or our story.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.
Ps. 146:5

It took a major blow for me to release my grip on our first adoption.  My closed fist wasn’t ready to receive all God had in mind for us.  It took the bottom dropping out for me to let go of my ideas and have open hands – and an open heart – to God’s plan.  Once I did, I could receive the goodness He had planned.  And during the hurt, brokenness, and confusion I was open to seeing Him and hearing Him in ways I couldn’t when my grip on my plan was so strong.

As you enter this Thanksgiving week, consider your hands.  Are you holding on with all your might to your plans, your ideas, your dreams, or your picture of how this Thanksgiving should be?  From paperwork to timing to travel to attachment to family adjustments and family get-togethers — is what is not at all what you thought it would be? Are you still gripping that plan, those ideas, that desire with white knuckles?  Perhaps, like me, your picture of how it should be is keeping you from experiencing who He is right where He has you.

Try loosening that grip this Thanksgiving, and open your hands to grace, humility, healing, praise, and hope. 

The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.Praise the Lord.
Ps. 146:10


Stephanie Smit18 years in the classroom as a teacher was easy compared to parenting three little ones at home full-time. Through their three daughters, God has revealed Himself most clearly to Stephanie and her husband Matthew. He not only worked a miracle in giving them their biological daughter, He continued to show Himself in mighty ways throughout adoption journeys in China and Bhutan that were anything but normal. Nowadays she enjoys encouraging and connecting with other adoptive families through speaking and her work on the leadership team of “We Are Grafted In” and on the Board of The Sparrow Fund.  


“Dad, I’ve Gotten Myself into a Little Trouble”

It happened almost every weekday around 6:30 and it was one of the most touching things I have had the privilege to witness. It is a picture of adoption really—simple, deeply moving, and truly beautiful.

Our three boys, all recently home from a Russian orphanage, would climb up on the wooden fence in front of our house and just look down the road. I remember the first time they did it I wondered what they were up to. (Back in those early days of adoption I wondered that a whole lot!!)

And the oldest, still speaking only Russian, pointed down the road and said something about “Papa”—being super bright I was able to translate that right away!  And I recognized “waiting,” a Russian word I had learned, along with lots of other mommy vocabulary like “brush your teeth,” “I love you,” “be careful,” “time for bed,” “don’t do that!” ……. not to mention a few cuss words that our children would repeat when angry. Wondering what in the world they were saying, I asked a Russian speaking friend to translate. Yikes!

Over the years there have been many moments like that one, the kind of moments that compel you to reach for your camera in hopes that you can somehow hold on to the warmth and beauty of it all. I didn’t get a photo of my boys waiting for their Papa back then, but I see them still and think, “That right there is what adoption is all about— that child has a Daddy to wait for at the end of the day.”
scanned orphanage photos004_2

And when I think about these children, who once were orphans standing at a different fence watching people who weren’t their parents drive away, I am overwhelmed.

But my understanding about what is beautiful has changed, or more accurately has expanded, since those early days of the Papa-lookout. God has been teaching me to see the beauty and power of adoption in what at first look (and even second and third look!) appears to be only ugly.

Let me explain by telling you another adoption story, although if you are like me you may not recognize it as beautiful.

A few years ago my husband and I traveled to Texas to be with his mother, who was having surgery. Leaving our seven children, all older teens and young adults by this time, made us a bit nervous since a few of them were not doing too well. Just as Stephen’s mother was being wheeled back into her hospital room after surgery his phone rang. Such bad timing, as so many parenting moments are!

As soon as I saw his face I knew two things: it was one of our children, and it wasn’t good.

I was right.

“Dad, it looks like I’ve gotten myself into a little bit of trouble,” he says.

He was making this call from jail.

The details aren’t necessary, but I will tell you I was so angry. I felt deeply disappointed, deeply discouraged, and deeply weary of the battle.

And I could only see the ugly in this.

A few hours later I was able to take the time to pray, which began with me complaining to The Lord, and then asking Him once again to please tell us what to do to help our son heal and live in the freedom of sonship.

And as is always the way with God, He answered my desperate question with a life-giving response, so different from what I was looking for.

“But Beth, this is a SON who has a DADDY to call when he has ‘gotten himself into a little bit of trouble.’”

Just that.

One sentence that completely changed my perspective and transformed what was ugly into something truly moving.

What felt like yet another failure, of my son and of our parenting, became a powerful picture of adoption.

For this was no orphan.

This was a SON.

Who had a FATHER.

This was simple, deeply moving, and truly beautiful.

This, my fellow adopters, is what adoption is all about. It isn’t what I had dreamed of when we brought our children home 17 years ago, and it has cost us more than we ever imagined, but it is the work of the Father’s love played out in all of our lives.

It is what adoption is all about.

Beth Templeton

Beth Templeton

Beth has been married to her husband Stephen for 27 years. They have seven children, ages 18-24. Several years after giving birth to three girls God called their family to the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister, ages 5 and 10, from Russia. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Beth’s heart has been deeply and forever changed as she has watched the love of Father God poured out on her whole family through adoption. She leads Hope at Home, a ministry dedicated to help adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father’s heart for their families, partnering with God to transform orphans into sons and daughters. For more parenting insight and encouragement in the Lord, go to Hope at Home.


The Other Mother

Since day one, many have asked about The New Chick’s biological mom. And for all seven of the months he’s lived in my house, I’ve put off writing about her. But, there is a season for everything, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

The first time I saw her it was in the Chambers County Courthouse. I looked up from admiring the five day old baby who was snug against my chest, and saw her walking toward us. I knew her by the tears pouring unchecked down her face. She humbly asked me if she could hold him, and I began to wonder at the world I had just entered.

As I unswaddled all five precious pounds and placed him in his mothers arms, I realized this entire endeavor was going to require more of my heart than I had expected. I felt all at once tremendous pain for her, and ferocious protection over him.

Those two emotions would only swell with the passing weeks. At times they were at war within my soul.

Someone commented on her right after he came to us. They posed a question, that was really more of a statement, along the lines of how could anyone do what she has done. The person went on to make her out as a total sinner, and me a total saint.

I just blinked and ashamedly said nothing. But inside was a raging inferno.

There is nothing fundamentally different about she and me. The only thing that polarizes her life from mine is that I was given a gift when I was 6.

The gift of the Holy Spirit when I got adopted by The King.

Without that gift I would have been her. I would have chased this world and let it have it’s way with me. I would have made costly decisions; looking to all the wrong things to make me feel happy and all the wrong people to make me feel loved. I would have given myself to a man way too early and gotten pregnant and had a baby.

It would have been me watching the social workers walk out of the hospital with my first born son, still sore from giving birth to him.
It would have been me wondering where they took him.
And who was holding him. And what was going to happen to him.
It would have been me facing every parent’s worst nightmare.

It would have been me.

But Jesus.

I won’t lie. There’s another side to my feelings about her. It’s not jealousy. Or competition. It’s more like looking at her and wondering if I will be her in a few months.

I fear the pain she’s already lived through.

Handing my baby over to the social workers to be cared for by strangers. Wondering where he is and if he needs me. Missing his firsts and wanting him so desperately it hurts. Fearing that he’s wants Mama, but can’t have her.

I hate the notion that her success will mean my greatest loss. And just as much I loathe the idea that if she fails, I somehow win.

Because if he goes back, I’ll curl up and die for a while. But if he stays, I’ll grieve with the knowledge that she’ll do the same. Either way, pain will be thick.

It’s true that she and I are very different. I was adopted and she wasn’t. She brought him into the world and I didn’t. I know him in ways she doesn’t.

And every time I say “Come to Mama” I am reminded that there is another.

But in this we are the same.

She and I are both the other mother.


Beth LawrenceBeth is Wife Supreme to one good looking pastor, and Queen Mother to two awesome bio children and two darling fosters. She writes about foster care along with this, that and the other atJust Beth. Beth is slightly addicted to her morning coffee, loves talking about Alex’s House Orphanage in Haiti, and gets the biggest kick out of pulling off her hair-brain ideas. (Her husband’s words, not her own.) She’s been featured on ForEveryMom, FaithIt, and some other cool blogs that were desperate for material.

Why You Should Never Adopt An Older Child…And Why We Did Anyway

“Whatever you do, don’t adopt from foster care. That’s scary stuff.”

Ten years ago, when adoption became more than a hypothetical thought for us, a good friend tried to warn me. She’d been a social work major, and she’d come away scared. I believed her.

Two years later, we adopted a healthy, white newborn through an agency and brought him home from the hospital.

When I felt like we’d adopt again several years ago, and we were not ready to start over with an infant, I talked to another friend about the possibilities we’d considered. Foster care, special needs, HIV-positive. All words that concerned her.

“Why would you put yourself in that position? Why would you ask for that?”

Two years later, we adopted a four-and-a-half-year-old little girl with trauma history who had spent years in foster care.

Thinking back, her concerns were legitimate.

Why would we put ourselves in a position to care for a child with HIV or other special needs? Why would we volunteer to parent a child whose history could mean difficult behaviors and emotional baggage that might last for a lifetime? Why would we get on the adoption roller coaster again?

I have two answers that may seem simplistic at first glance.

First, because kids are worth it. All of them. They’re worth the fears and inconvenience and changes to their new families. They’re worth changing your parenting style to address their needs. They’re worth therapy appointments and grocery bills. They’re worth your tears on the bathroom floor as you question what in the world you’ve done and if it will ever get better. They are worth it.

Second, obedience is worth it. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I don’t take that verse to mean everyone is called to foster or adopt. But for us, that’s exactly what it meant. Through His Word, circumstances, prayer, and other people, God made it clear to us over the course of years that this was His plan for our family. To do anything differently would have been disobedience. I know this is different for non-believers, but for us, knowing that we were being obedient was what kept us going on the hardest days. And it was enough.

Why did we volunteer to love and pour our hearts into hurting children? (And yes, children from infant adoption can hurt just as much as older children). Why do our foster parent friends take in filthy, hungry children in the middle of the night? Why do they stay up with screaming babies who were born addicted to meth? Or love teenage foster kids whose behaviors are difficult to say the least, even knowing that love is not enough to heal their hurts?

Because they’re worth it.

And although obedience is costly, it’s worth it too.



Matt and Becca write about marriage, parenting, and life through the lens of a married couple, parenting team, and pastor and professional counselor. They share hope and restoration by giving a glimpse into their lives- the failures, the successes, and the brokenness and beauty of everyday. You can read more of their writing at WhitsonLife.



Nesting. Hibernating. Cocooning. Shrinking your world. Stripping your calendar.

If you’ve been around the adoption community for any length of time, you’ve heard terms like these and likely have some working familiarity with the general gist of what they mean. Even if you are brand new to the adoption world and all these terms seem like a foreign language when applied to parenting techniques, your basic grasp of the English language gives you at least a working definition to go by. But one thing I’ve discovered over and over in my interactions is that many folks don’t really know WHY adoptive parent ought to consider cocooning. To be sure, there are quite a few philosophies out there that sufficiently cover the ranges of how strictly one ought to consider pulling back from their normal routine and pace of life. But in my studying, the WHY of each philosophy has one common thread that runs through them.
Adoption comes out of tremendous loss for our children.

It’s a hard truth. A truth that brings me to my figurative knees quite often. A truth that puts the responsibility for bringing the healing and hope of Jesus Christ to that loss squarely on the shoulders of my husband and me. A truth that pushes me to seek resources, support and training that will increase my ability to be used by The Father to see wholeness come to my daughters. That loss is the common thread that drives many families to consider some form of cocooning with their newly adopted child.

In the early days home with both of our girls, I confess that I was far more excited about sharing our beautiful new daughters with the wonderful community that we had built around us. This dyed-in-the-wool extrovert wanted everyone to coo over chubby cheeks and marvel over sweet smiles and sassy personalities with me. “Shrinking our world” felt like serious potential for the kind of cabin-fever about which nightmares are made! But choosing to spend our early days and weeks attending to their adjustment and transition from “orphan” to “daughter,” was my way of honoring the truth of the tremendous losses they were experiencing. In the beautiful but messy process that is adoption, we gained two beautiful daughters. But in that same beautiful messiness, our daughters lost everything familiar to them in their daily lives.

Our home smelled different than their foster homes. We looked different than the ayiis. Our food tasted strange. The language in our home, even our faltering attempts at pre-school level Mandarin, was odd and dissonant to their ears. Every single sense that my daughters have was assaulted with difference for days and weeks on end.  Bigger than that, and long before we came and took them into our family, they lost their first family. Certainly, the exuberant love and joy of welcoming them to our home was evident even in our awareness of their losses. Our hearts were filled with great joy and pride in our older kids’ understanding of this process and their abilities to attach to their new sisters. And yes, the attachments my husband and I formed with each daughter had good strong roots already going deep thanks to wonderful isolated travel-time together in China. But the differences they experienced, the loss these girls had suffered in those early days cannot be minimized.

So, in light of this truth, WHY cocoon? One of my favorite adoption experts, Dawn Davenport of Creating A Family puts it very succinctly:

The idea of “nesting” is to simplify life, settle into a routine, and limit the care of the child to the mom and dad. This is especially important when adopting a child past the newborn stage – in other words, when adopting from foster care or internationally. With adoption, the baby/child’s life has been turned topsy-turvy. The idea of cocooning is to allow life to settle down for the child and parents and to firmly cement in the child’s mind who are mom and dad.

The general gist is to hang close to home for a while: [simplify] life, reduce the number of toys and trips away from home, set up a predictable routine. Generally allow time and space to get to know each other, and to allow the child to learn to trust and rely on her parents. It is the first step in establishing attachment.” Taken from Dawn’s blog.

As Christians, the WHY of cocooning felt a bit weightier even than nesting to simplify. We found that the loss our daughters had experienced was also about the loss of the deep care and nurture that The Creator intends for all the precious lives that He crafts. It was also about the loss of the original plan that He made for them when He looked at them in their mothers’ wombs. His redemptive plan to bring them to our home carried great joy for us but also required great responsibility to serve their little hearts. Hearts that He was entrusting to us for healing and restoration of hope.

The weight of this charge pushed me past the natural tendency I would have had to share my joy with the whole world around me. I put myself on a bit of a leash, if you will, and moved toward focusing on and prioritizing their needs for unconditional love, constancy, structure, and learning that Mommy and Daddy are Forever. That their place in our home is permanent – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That this family is theirs to rely upon and will be the example of Christ’s healing and hope that their little hearts needed.

Our efforts to cocoon with our girls looked different between our two adoption journeys. How could they not? The adoptions were five years apart. A lot of learning and growing occurred in The Gang’s home in those five years. NOT the least of which was our expanded understanding of the trauma that this loss brings to a little heart and mind. While our methods were very different, the intentions were the same. At first, when bringing home our youngest daughter, our cocooning looked and felt so very different than before. This difference was stressing to me. I was out-of-sorts over trying to make this time resemble the cocooning of five years ago. But after praying about it and finding ways to negotiate our expectations better with our older kids, we found our groove again. A new groove! I found that once the older kids better understood (by both example and years of hearing Mom talk about what she was learning!) the “WHY?” behind cocooning, the easier those negotiations became. It was such a remarkable lesson to me about my heart and its intentions: keeping my motivation for cocooning was paramount. The change in how we implemented it was different but still a healthy out-flow of both that motivation AND our family’s season of life.

So whatever you choose to call it, I strongly urge you to consider some kind of cocooning with your newly adopted child. If you’ve been home for a while now and feel like your attachment to your child could use some re-anchoring, give some thought to temporarily stripping down your family calendar and get intentional about relationship-building time. It’s never too late to adjust your course and hone in on some things that need your time and attention. That’s the gift of parenting, isn’t it? The time and care you put into bringing healing and hope to any of your children is never wasted. His grace and mercy offer us daily do-overs! My favorite Scripture in recent days has been Lamentations 3:22-24:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Below are some of my favorite resources that I have shared with friends over the years with regards to cocooning. Enjoy exploring the ideas presented!

“Finding Balance with “Cocooning” Newly Adopted Kids” –
“Should Grandparents Be Allowed to Care for a Newly Adopted Child” –

“Creating Attachment with Your Adopted Child In the First Year” –

“How to Be The Village” –
“After The Airport” –

And from my own blog:

“Speaking of Attachment, Part 3” (with links embedded for other parts of the series) –

“Wow, I’m REALLY Glad That Is Over” (with part two following) –

“To CSmith” –



Tracy WhitneyTracy, aka The Gang’s Momma, has been married to Todd, aka The Boss, for almost 25 years. Together they parent 6 kids (ages almost 21, 19, 16, 13, almost 8, & almost 4).  She is passionate about post-adoptive care and family support. In her downtime, she loves to read, write, cry over weekly episodes of Call The Midwife, and share a good cup of coffee with a friend. A confirmed extrovert, Tracy has met her match in their youngest daughter for both strength of will and love of socializing. Parenting her two youngest who came home through China’s special needs program is definitely the most challenging thing she’s ever done (between attachment issues & some complicated medical needs), but she’s trusting the Lord to use it all to make her a stronger, better mommy. (At least that’s what she tells herself over her 2nd or 3rd giant Tigger mug full of coffee almost every day!)  You can find the (very!) occasional musings of the momma at



We’re building the nest this month!

Head right on over HERE to find out more and learn about the 40+ businesses that support adoption and the work of The Sparrow Fund!

What You Say Is Not What They Hear

I recently heard William Paul Young, author of The Shack, say something
that so perfectly describes what I have seen in some of our children. He
said, “Shame destroys your ability to distinguish between a value statement and
an observation.”

As soon as I heard this I thought, “That’s it. That perfectly describes
countless parenting moments in our home.”

I would make a statement, completely reasonable and normal, the kind
parents all over the world make as part of the loving raising of a child.
And my child would respond as if I had just asked them to do something
horrible, something no parent would ever require.

There have been times over the years when it felt like my parenting seemed
to always and only affirm their shame.
No matter what I said, or what tone of voice I used, the push back from my
parenting efforts was massive. To the point where many times I would
almost despair of it all.

I would offer, “Let me help you with your vocabulary so you can be ready
for you test tomorrow.”

What I hear myself saying is, “I am here to help you. I know you can do
this. You are not alone. I am proud of you and want to be a part of your

What they heard was a harsh value statement, “You are such a loser. You
are not smart and you can’t do anything right. You are a disappointment to

I would observe, “That outfit is probably not appropriate for this event.
Maybe you could wear that nice outfit we bought last month.”

What they heard was, “You are ugly. You aren’t meeting my standards. I
don’t accept you the way you are.”

It is the voice of shame.

If you think this sounds extreme then that is truly wonderful, because
that probably means that shame is not a big part of your child’s
foundations. For many adopted children however, the facts of their early
years have been masquerading in their minds and emotions as truth. Shame
takes the facts of abandonment, neglect, abuse, relinquishment, orphanage
life, and anything else it can wrap it’s tentacles around, and disguises
it my precious child’s mind as a deep truth about his/her identity.

Shame speaks words like rejected, never enough, alone, unwanted, failure,
weak, too much to handle, unsuccessful….

And when those horrifying words are spoken a child may shut down
completely, totally disengaging.
No eye contact. No verbal replies.

Or there might be yelling. “I hate you. You are a horrible mother. I wish
I were never adopted. My life would be much better without you. Get off my
back and just leave me alone. You make me want to die…..”

We have heard all of these words, and more, in our home.

It is the voice of shame.

Or, you might see your child put even more pressure on him/herself to
please, to do everything just right. But the anxiety and anger levels
build over time and at some point you will experience the inevitable blow
up from so much self-imposed pressure.

I am overwhelmed with the reality that my Father God has allowed me to be
a part of His healing work in my children through adoption. For it is in
the context of family that our children have heard, over and over, that
they are no longer orphans, but true and beloved sons and daughters.

It is so easy to allow shame to bait me into an unloving, shame-based
response. And so unhelpful!
So I decided a long time ago to respond with the Truth–to counteract the
shame with the antidotes of love, belonging, identity, understanding.
Over and over again, in so many varying forms of my maternal love I have
the opportunity to speak truth into the lie.
Speak it in season and out of season.
Speak it when your child embraces their identity as the beloved, and speak
it when your child denies the truth of it, either through their words or
through their actions.
Speak it when they are in front of you listening, and speak it when they
have gone to bed and only you and God can hear.
Speak it when your heart is full of the truth of it, and speak it when the
words seem like a lie even to you.

Speak it–
over and over and over and over,
day after day after day after day,
year after year after year after year.

I am seeing the fruit of this in our family. That inner voice of shame is
being drowned out by truth, unmasked by love without conditions and
limits. And where shame is still successful in its ugly masquerade, I am
even more determined than ever to speak truth, for this is what adoption
is all about, right? It is about radical rooted love, both for me and for
my child.
It unmasks us all and reveals the beautiful truth that we are His beloved

Beth Templeton

Beth Templeton

Beth has been married to her husband Stephen for 27 years. They have seven children, ages 18-24. Several years after giving birth to three girls God called their family to the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister, ages 5 and 10, from Russia. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Beth’s heart has been deeply and forever changed as she has watched the love of Father God poured out on her whole family through adoption. She leads Hope at Home, a ministry dedicated to help adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father’s heart for their families, partnering with God to transform orphans into sons and daughters. For more parenting insight and encouragement in the Lord, go to Hope at Home.

Six Things Foster/Adoptive Families Need When a New Child Arrives #top10ofalltime

This post is shared again as one of our most popular posts but also in honor of Dimples, beloved daughter of one of The Sparrow Fund’s favorite bloggers, who God took home to Himself this past week. Read her wise words and go over to her blog to read about the little girl who blessed their lives and now praises Him in Heaven.


What would have helped you the most in the early weeks and months of adding a child to your family through adoption or foster care? If somebody had asked you, “What can I do to help?” and you were able to answer anything at all with no shame, guilt, or concern about whether they really would want to do it, what would it have been?

This is what you answered:
Bring Food

Many of you stated that having meals delivered allowed more time to focus on all of your children, but also gave you some contact with “the outside world.” It does not have to be dinner, as somebody said, even bringing cut-up fruit would help. Someone else mentioned having dinner brought by friends who then shared the meal and spent the evening with them. One person wrote that when they adopted a baby, friends brought meals, but when they adopted an older child people assumed it wasn’t as demanding and didn’t bring meals. I think we can safely say that every adopting/foster family will be blessed by meals.

We don’t need to make this complicated – simple food is a blessing. I remember a friend bringing us “Breakfast in a Bag,” a gift bag filled with yogurts, juice boxes, muffins and other little treats. Gift cards for take-out were also mentioned – a great idea. After one of our babies was born, a friend brought us Kentucky Fried Chicken and another ordered pizza to be delivered – what a treat that was! Cookie dough ready to be baked, homemade soup or spaghetti sauce, a frozen lasagna, will all be welcomed.

Provide Household Help

Several of you wrote that you needed help with laundry and cleaning. I know we all have a hard time letting people see our mess, but I for one, find it very hard to relax if my house is too messy and chaotic. A friend grabbing the vacuum or folding laundry while we visited was a big help. I had a friend once pick up all of our kids’ dirty laundry, take it home, and return it clean, dry and folded. A group of friends might want to go together to hire regular cleaning help for the first few months after new children join a family, or create a cleaning team themselves.

Along those lines, a number of years ago I was very sick and needed treatments that were an all day event. One day a friend came to my house while I was at the clinic, put new, clean flannel sheets on my bed, washed my other set, and cleaned my house with my older children. I came home and crawled into a clean bed with new sheets and it was pretty much one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. That was nearly nine years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. Friend, if you read this, thank you once again.

Run Errands

Picking things up at the store, or driving children to sports practices and appointments was also mentioned as a great help. If you are already out and about, or if you can add a child or two to the crowd in your car, you will make a big difference for a family adjusting to life with new children. The first year my girls were in school, a friend drove them home every day which not only simplified my life, but relieved my mind. As our little ones grow older, we forget how difficult it is to buckle multiple kids into car seats in order to pick up one child from an event. Waking kids from naps to take an older child to a practice is even worse. This is a great kindness if you are somebody who is already in the car and happy to run a quick errand for a friend with a new child.

Provide Babysitting or Respite

Many of you said that babysitting would have helped, even if it was just somebody being with the kids while you took a nap. Some said they needed help with their other kids while they took new children to multiple appointments. Others said they needed care for their new children while they gave some attention to their original crew. Of course, it all depends upon the unique needs for the family, but this seems to be a need for most families. Weekends are particularly difficult for Dimples, the lack of structure that she enjoys at school just doesn’t transfer to a long Saturday stretching before her. We try to fill her days, but one of the greatest gifts we receive are friends who invite her over for a few hours, or even all day. This Saturday when I’m in Denver, she has big plans with our youth pastor and his wife and she is already looking forward to it.

Respite is a great need for families whose new children have significant challenges. A family can quickly become exhausted when there is constant raging, arguing, and destructive behavior. A friend who understands children from “hard places” and is willing to give the family a 24 hour break, or even a four hour break, will have an impact far beyond what they may imagine.

Show Kindness to the Original Crew

I’m in the process of (slowly) writing an article for Empowered to Connect on “giving voice” to the siblings of children from “hard places.” Our original children struggled with our inability to give them attention and time when we added three new children to our family and one year later added another. They lost us for a number of months as we struggled to figure out how to live this new life.

My friend, Beth, welcomed Ladybug into her family and home, and nearly completely homeschooled her for a year after Dimples came home. Rusty and Ladybug joined the youth group of a local church and we were thankful for the encouragement and positive adult interaction they received. It was so meaningful, that we eventually made that our church our new church home.

Friends who will take the kids and do something fun is also a huge blessing when life at home seems to be a load of work or simply tumultuous. If a family has new children who are raging or crying for hours, the kids may need relief from the stress too. My friend, Sue, began taking Ladybug and Sunshine to the library once a week, which they still look forward to each Friday.

It is very easy to forget how hard this adjustment phase can be for the other children. Reaching out to them, or giving the parents a break from the new kids, so they can enjoy the other children, is a real blessing.

Be Present

I have to admit, I was struck by the prevailing theme of loneliness and isolation in the comments. I hope you will read them yourself, because I can’t express the thoughts as well as the original authors did. Over and over readers expressed that once the initial excitement died down, they felt lonely. The needs of their children may have prevented them from getting out and about; they were stuck at home, alone, living a new life with new children. It is hard to imagine how very isolating this can be.

Several people said they wished friends would just stop by for coffee, even if the house was messy. Others used the words grief and loss to describe how they felt. Some of you said you needed somebody to just listen and not judge or try to cheer you up as you coped with the changes in their lives. Encouragement is needed. If you live a distance away, a phone call, email, or encouraging text may be what a mom needs. Knowing you have not forgotten her, that you are praying may help her through the next hour.

It has been four and a half years since we brought our first adopted children home and for a long time our life needed to become very contained and small. We simply could not go out much; even going to my bookgroup once a month became impossible. I hope you’ll be encouraged to know that this month I am going to my bookgroup once again — and I even read the book.

If you missed this post, be sure to go back and read the great responses from everyone. Please take a moment to add your thoughts – it is not too late.

Thank you for being a great community and sharing my life.

Encourage one another.


Lisa Qualls

Lisa Qualls, writer of One Thankful Mom, is the mother of 12 children who came to her by both birth and adoption.  As she winds her way through the challenges of attachment, trauma, and life, she shares what she is learning in the hope of helping other families.  She earnestly believes in the power of God to heal children’s broken hearts and wounded minds.

Things no one told me about adopting a child with special needs

Before Afua joined our family, I read many books, I researched the best doctors and hospitals and I spoke (or facebook messaged, texted, skyped…) with moms who had adopted children with similar special needs. But no matter how much I prepared, some things still took me by surprise. Maybe they never came up in conversations or maybe this is the stuff we don’t usually talk about. Adoption is a beautiful way to grow a family (we had adopted before and knew this). Adopting a child with  known special needs is a beautiful journey with its unique  challenges that stem from loss, trauma and often unmet medical needs.

Learning the child’s diagnosis

Jenni 1

I remember sitting at our Neurologist’s office and he patiently reviewed Afua’s MRI results with me. He described the areas of her brain that were affected by the lack of oxygen, that it likely happened during a certain part of the pregnancy and that in the end, the diagnosis given to her in Ghana, cerebral palsy, was correct. Hearing those words took my breath away, made me speechless as if I had no clue and this was a newborn baby with a devastating, unexpected diagnosis. I knew it was coming. This wasn’t a surprise. But in that instant I grieved the diagnosis as if I had not known. Adoptive moms are not superheroes, we grieve our children’s diagnoses as all mothers do. We may know what’s coming when a doctor confirms the test result. But it’s just as real and sad.

Then came a diagnosis I did not expect. The audiologist came to me as Afua was still in surgery.

“Profound hearing loss”
“it is unlikely she hears speech at all”

Tears were streaming down my face as I listened to her explain waves and decibels and hearing levels. It was like a foreign language and all I wanted was to hug my girl. But she was still in surgery so I sat in disbelief.

We are not extra tough as we process new diagnoses that sometimes come unexpectedly. When we say “yes” to adopting a child with special needs, it is not because we are expecting an easy road or we somehow are up for anything. We say yes to a child and we join their journey of medical diagnoses, different abilities and navigating a world that isn’t always as accepting as we want it to be. Because we firmly believe that every child regardless of their differences is deserving of a loving home and a family. And in the midst of our “yes”, we realize how much we needed them too.

When others notice your child is different

Jenni 2
I remember the first time we went to a high school football game. Afua was in a stroller and I took her to the concession stand. Two little girls stood in front of us and one kept looking back. Then came the dreaded words: “What’s wrong with HER?” Don’t worry, I handled the situation with adult maturity, kindness and compassion (with a little bit of education thrown in for good measure). But it bothered me. It made me sad that there were children who were not around children with special needs. Children who didn’t know a nice way to ask why a child was in a stroller when they should be walking.

The truth is, as I have parented Afua, the less I think of her disabilities. I see my daughter. I know her smiles and her expressions. We have a language and I know how her body moves. None of it is strange or unusual to me. But other people (strangers usually) will remind me that she is not typically abled. They do it by their looks, their stares and their comments.

Friends may or may not stick around

Jenni 3

This journey is hard to understand, right? I’ve had people ask me why we would choose to parent a child with special needs. When you adopt, you get to pick, they say. Some have hinted that we are trying to prove ourselves to be special, faith filled or we just may not have thought this through. They know our time alone as a couple is non existent. They see the way our life is stretched thin. Some choose to continue our friendships (even thought we aren’t always the most consistent company). Others have stopped asking, and that’s ok too.

What I have found is that the friendships that have remained have become so special and authentic. There is no pretending that this is all easy and smooth. They also see the absolute beauty that exists, the way Afua is changing all of us and how she is an equal member among the siblings. Those who take the time to know Afua get why she is in our family. She belongs with us and we belong with her.

You will doubt your abilities and it’s ok

Jenni 4
I am not an organized person by nature and it is a vital skill when parenting a medically complex kiddo. I also work part-time which makes things challenging. Afua is one of 5 children and they also have appointments and needs to be met. Honestly, there are days that I wonder how to juggle it all. In the process of figuring it out, I have learned to let go control (so hard!!!) I’ve reached out for help (so humbling!!!) and I have had to find organizational tools that work for me.I am still struggling with this area of parenting but modern technology is helping me keep most of my appointments :)I know I can’t do this by myself and I don’t have to. I have a great husband, wonderful family and friends and also a caregiver that fills in as needed. Our life is richer because we aren’t doing it all alone.

You will find allies in the most unlikely places

Parenting a child with special needs means you spend a lot of time in local children’s hospitals, therapy clinics, surgery waiting rooms and doctor’s offices. There you will meet
other families who are exhausted yet so proud of their children just as you are. We give each other “the nod” and in silence we know that there are others who are walking this path too. And whether we chose this journey or we discovered a diagnosis along the way, there is a mutual acknowledgment of the hard.
You will meet therapists who are innovative, energetic and supportive. They tell you to take a break and get a cup of coffee while they help your child achieve a new skill or make them more comfortable. You meet doctors who devote their lives to children and their families and you are not just a number. They explain things in a way that makes sense and guide you through tough decisions as if they were making them for their own children. Allies are everywhere and it makes things a bit better.

Jenni 5
I share these thoughts in hopes that I am not alone. That others may feel the same grief, the same joy and the same purpose in parenting a child with special needs. That maybe your friendships were tested also and the invitations are fewer. That maybe your child wasn’t adopted but you recognize these feelings as universal. And maybe this opens a conversation about special needs, adoption or even prompts someone to reach out to a family raising a child with special needs.


Jenni Wolfenbarger

Jenni Wolfenbarger

Jenni is a mother of 5, married for 19 years to her high school sweetheart Eric. Her children range in age from preschool to high school by birth and adoption. Jenni works part-time in a charter school system providing therapy services for children with special needs. Jenni is a advocate for orphaned children with special needs and is passionate about family preservation. When she is not driving her minivan to various activities and appointments, she can be found blogging at Joyful Journey.