National Adoption Month: My Family’s Adoption Story

Our children are not adopted. They were adopted. Now, they are just our children. And, in Christ, God’s.

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on November 26, 2017

I remember the first time we saw them. Two tiny boys, wrapped in blankets, looking flushed and acting fussy. These were the boys, three month-old twins, who were to become my sons.

A few days later, we met the boys’ birthmother. She was lovely, sweet, and soft-spoken. For a number of reasons, she was unable to care for these tiny boys. So they became Valerie’s and mine.

Nathan and Peter are now freshmen in college. Their list of achievements is impressive. More impressive is their character, their loyalty to their friends, their work ethic, and the fact that they spend time daily in God’s Word. I am proud of my sons.

I forgot to mention that we had prayed for twins for about 16 years. We did not receive them biologically, as initially we had hoped. But a personal and omniscient God knew best and answered our prayer, our longing.

Another Birthmother Gave Them Rachel

Five years later, another birthmother entrusted her newborn to us. As with our sons’ birthmother, Rachel’s was not able to give her daughter the care she wanted. The first time we saw Rachel, she was in the ICU. She was wriggling under the intense light of the incubator-like bed where she was being closely monitored.

Adoption Numbers

About 110,000 children are adopted every year in America. About 52,000 are adopted from the foster system, the others through private agencies. Most adopted privately are Americans, but a significant but shrinking percentage are adopted from other countries.

About 18,000 infants are adopted each year, according to the National Council on Adoption.

Thousands of loving and committed American families have sought to adopt from abroad, but it’s become tougher in recent years. The State Department provides troubling numbers: In 2004, 23,000 children born abroad were adopted by Americans. In 2016, that number had fallen to just under 6,000.

Why? Because the five countries from which American families adopted the most — China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea, and Ethiopia — have revised and tightened their adoption policies. There are a variety of reasons, ranging from stupid national pride (“we can care for our own!”) to bureaucratic corruption.

Whatever the reasons, diplomatic, systemic, or something else, in the great majority of cases, it’s the little ones who suffer.

A difficult birth had given her slight fractures along her skull. When she first saw her, my wife clasped her hands to her mouth and cried, both for joy and out of concern. If I have seen beauty in my life, that was it.

Rachel’s eyes were rolling. I feared she had suffered brain damage and asked the attending nurse about it. Repressing a laugh, the woman said with warm reassurance, “She’s pretty drugged up.”

Today Rachel plays the violin. She ice skates. She is learning Latin. Marine biology fascinates her. She is a talented artist. She has launched a food drive for needy children through her American Heritage Girls program. Rachel thinks “Girl Meets World” and “How to Train Your Dragon” are among the greatest entertainments ever created. She reads all the time, at least all the time she is not giggling with her friends on the phone or having fun with them at church, the mall, the beach, or wherever they happen to be.

Mentally challenged she is not.

Impediments to Adoption, At Home and Abroad

This the story of Valerie’s and my adoption of three multi-racial children. I like to say that every continent in the world but Antarctica is represented at our dinner table.   

It’s a story that could be told, with personal variations, by hundreds of thousands of Americans who have not so much opened their hearts but, with joy, allowed hearts eager for children to be filled by them.

Yet there are impediments to adoption here at home that need not be.

Adoption and the Church

There are more than 400,000 children in foster care. Of them, roughly 112,000 await adoption.

Children with developmental problems languish in foster care or orphanages. Older children, virtually all of whom have been abused in ugly home environments, await loving homes. Often, they wait in vain, as potential adoptive families are wary of bringing into their homes children who might bring serious problems.

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This is where the church needs to step in. If a family adopts a particularly needy child, be he 6 months or 16 years, the local church must do than just hold a dedication ceremony and bless the family with prayers and smiles. 

Churches need to be prepared to support, financially, families whose children need help, possibly for years.

Those families need help. They need the services of professional counselors, therapists, remedial educators, developmental experts, and health caregivers. Churches need to be prepared to support, financially, families whose children need that kind of help, possibly for years. 

Churches are not banks — resources are limited, admittedly. But when “bigger and better” church buildings are under construction in every state in the union, surely some money can be dedicated to help with needs far more profound than another 30 spaces in a parking lot.

Thankfully, the adoption tax credit ($13,460 per child) has been restored to the new Republican tax reduction plan. In 2015, about 64,000 American families used the tax credit to help them adopt. The tax credit has been a blessing to hundreds of thousands of middle-income families throughout the country. Including mine.

The credit helps, a lot. But it still leaves a lot to be done. The churches need to be front and center in helping families adopt children who need homes. 

Adoption is Not an “Industry”

One of the many blessings Valerie and I experienced when we adopted our children was receiving financial assistance from the adoption fund my church had set-up. This remarkable ministry comes alongside church members who adopt and helps them pay the substantial up-front costs.

Between the time my wife and I were approved as adoptive parents and the time we adopted our sons, I received a slight bump in pay. It was just enough to push us into a higher “adoption bracket,” meaning the cost of adoption would be a bit higher.

I called Bethany Christian Services and told them I would owe more money due to my raise. There was a brief silence on the line. Then the director of the local agency said, “Rob, we’re trying to help you adopt these children. There will be no hike in the fee.”

There is so much more to say, but for now, a final note: Valerie’s and my children are not adopted. They were adopted. Now, they are just our children. And, in Christ, God’s.

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