Wow, a lot has happened since the last time I posted about our adoption journey in 2014.
We decided back in 2016 we would pull out of waiting to adopt in a traditional sense. It had been 4 years of waiting. 2 years of waiting with 2 private agencies for a newborn. And then 2 more years waiting to adopt from foster care. And nothing was happening.
We were tired. We were discouraged. And frankly, I told God that if it was in our future to adopt, that we were still open to it but that He would need to do something really creative to bring us that child. And boy, did he EVER!
In Summer 2018, we had just gotten home from a family vacation with our three biological children when we got a phone call. 2 great grandmothers (one of which is my aunt) had come together to try to find a home for a little girl who is my cousin’s daughter. Can you follow that??
This little girl was named Ariana (Ari) and she was 4-years-old. (We had actually met Ari one time when she was 2-years-old.) Her great-grandma told us she was in need of a permanent home—for various reasons. She asked if we would consider taking Ari in and giving her some stability.
At this point in our lives, we had kind of written off the idea of adoption—we were older, busy with our teen kiddos, had recently purchased a new home and in the middle of a remodel, our online business was booming, and we were content and, honestly, life felt really, really good. The idea of taking in a preschool aged child was—to be frank—quite daunting.
So we decided to do a playdate. Which then led to a second playdate. Followed by us offering to take little Ari to her first day of preschool.
We thought it might be fun for her (and us) if we treated her to dinner, a little school shopping and a sleepover on the night before her first day at preschool…all in an effort to make the day really special for her.
We brought her to school the next morning and gave hugs, wished her luck on her first day, and assumed she would go home after school. Little did we know, she wouldn’t go back home—or at least to her previous home—she would be coming back to our home. Forever.
She’s been with us ever since.
That was in Fall of 2018. After a few months of Ari living with us, we talked to her parents about us becoming legal guardians of her in the event anything should happen medically or otherwise while she was in our care. Plus we wanted to be able to attend all of their preschool field trips and things so this just made the arrangement more formal.
They agreed. And then we went about the business of loving on her, putting her in therapy to help her heal and process, getting her used to a school setting and a family setting. Not gonna lie, the beginning was rough on all of us. She had never had a stable home and family. Ava, our then 10 year old was no longer the youngest or only girl and the noise level in the home went up exponentially. Lol.
In June 2019 we began talking with her biological parents about the idea of officially adopting her. These were hard conversations. Big decisions no one took lightly. But we were so grateful that both her biological mom and her biological dad as well as her biological grandparents and great grandparents all agreed that this was the best thing for Ari.
Fast forward to Spring 2020, we were set to adopt her. But because Coronavirus is a thief, everything was delayed. Courthouses were closed for 3 months. Home studies were delayed. Paperwork was slow.
But on August 14, 2020 (the day before our oldest son, Noah, moved to college) we were able to finalize Ariana’s adoption. Exactly 23 months since she came to live with us. And 10 years after beginning the adoption process.
After the official court hearing, we celebrated with photos and family breakfast including her favorite funny face pancakes.
And then we had a party. We celebrated. There was cake and gifts and joy and relief that she was officially ours on paper.
Today, we continue to love on Ari. And we continue to work on her being in relationship with her biological parents. I believe with everything in me that to the degree that she can handle it and she is safe, that this will be best for Ari in the long run to have access to her first parents. We are still helping her heal and adjust and understand things as well as a young child can.
It’s crazy to me that our adoption story is now closed. We started this process in October of 2010…. Almost a full decade ago.
There were so many disappointments along the way. So many hard conversations with our other kids when we were not selected for parents of several newborns. There were many days when I questioned why God would keep shutting the doors to the desires of our heart when it seemed like we had so much to offer a child who needed a family.
And now we know why. About the time we were quitting the adoption process back in 2014… Ari was being born. What a story! I am sooooo incredibly thankful for His perfect timing.
If you or someone you know is looking to adopt or playing with the idea, I wanted to give you some suggestions that I think may help below. Here are my four main points:
- Start the process early. As soon as you have an inkling that you might want to adopt—start looking into it. Start putting things in motion. That literally means going to Google and doing some research. Seek advice from others who have adopted. Because it’s going to take longer than you anticipate and it’s more emotionally draining than you think it’ll be. Some things to think about: do you want to adopt domestically or internationally; newborn or older; one child or siblings; fostering first. You’ll need to decide a lot of things prior to submitting paperwork so be prepared.
- Prepare your hearts and your minds as soon as you start the process above. Search for blogs, people on social media, Facebook groups, anyone who has been through the process and/or are currently going through it. You’ll need the support and advice. Read books—some of my favorites: anything by Karyn Purvis, specifically the Connective Child; The Fields of the Fatherless by Tom Davis; anything from Steven Curtis Chapman. Doing these things will help encourage you that you’re on the right path because if there is one thing we have learned about this process is it’s neither smooth nor easy and can be extremely discouraging and you’re going to need to be prepared for the journey that will be soooooo incredibly worth it in the end.
- Get support. That means support from your church, asking for prayers, talking with friends and family. Really lean on them for emotional, spiritual, and perhaps even financial support. Adoption is costly—and not always in a financial way—but sometimes it costs you a lot of time and effort so you will need support from family/friends to allow you to go to classes, court, visits, etc. (especially if you have other littles at home.)
- Hold your plans very loosely. Proverbs 16.9 says A man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps. Even our best laid out plans need to be ready to flex. In our case, God got sooooo creative with our Ari came to us: we waited for a newborn for two years; we waited to adopt out of foster care for two years; we had four years of complete silence which led to us writing the idea of adoption off—only to be followed by a phone call asking us to take Ari in. Bottom line, you just never know, so the important thing is not to be too rigid with how you ask God to answer the desires of your heart.
Prayers and blessings to all of you who are in the process of or currently are fostering and/or adopting. Reach out to me on Instagram if you have more questions for me: instagram.com/jenniferallwood
Listen in to a podcast Jason and I recorded about Ari’s adoption process, how our family is adjusting and how Ari is adjusting—find it here (episode 185.)
And listen to a podcast we recorded in 2018 all about the first year with Ari in our home—find it here (episode 136.)
You can save this post to Pinterest now and subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss my next blog post!