Adoption Challenge #1

(I know that I posted this on my private blog already, but really want to get as many people involved as possible, so I’m posting it here as well.)

I have always had a passion for adoption, but there are times when it melts into the background of my busy life and other times when I really feel powerful about sharing the message of how much it has changed our life and want to share it with others and also want to help others who are somewhere in the process of adoption.  Whether people already have their children home with them or are in the paperwork phase or one of the many waiting phases, they need support and encouragement and I want to be able to give it in any way that I can but again, there are times when that melts away into the background of my life.  This week, those passions were lit again.  Part of it was of course seeing the pictures and videos that Mark brought back from Ethiopia and looking into the faces of the children at the two orphanages he visited.  The biggest thing that ignited this is the comments and e-mails that I have gotten this week from mainly strangers.  There is an article that I wrote called “Adopting Older Children – What I Wish I Had Known“.  Someone who read it contacted me and asked for my permission to put it on a large blog called We Are Grafted In and it was put on there this past Thursday.  Since then, I have been getting comments and e-mails from people who have expressed how much my words have done for them, what a difference those words have made to them, or how timely that article was to read because of their situation.  I am honoured that God is giving me the words and the forum to be able to help people on their journey and I am hopeful that I will be able to help more people, and most of all, help children.

There are still so many children in foster care, in orphanages, on the street, and in institutions who need families and I hope that those who have been blessed by the miracle of adoption in their own lives will help me to spread the word about how rewarding adoption can be.  To be clear, I did not say “how easy adoption can be” or “how perfect adoption can be” or “how simple adoption can be”, because I also want to put a spotlight on the truth about the challenges in adoption so that people go into it with their eyes open, their expectations realistic, with the greatest chance of success.  The fact that there are 147 million orphans worldwide is overwhelming and horrific, BUT when you consider that the population of Canada and the United States combined is roughly 340 million, it makes it seem like maybe we could take some of those North American numbers and make a dent in some of those orphans numbers.

I know that this part is a bit controversial as there are many who get very offended by strangers asking them about their adoptions, but I am sending a challenge out there to all you readers who are already adoptive parents.  The challenge is this…the next time someone in the grocery store or in line at the bank or in the waiting room at the doctor’s asks you a question fishing for information about your obviously adopted child or children, use the opportunity to market the blessing of adoption and the need.  I know that some people are just nosy or even rude and I know that you want to protect your child’s private story, but this does does not mean that you cannot turn this into an opportunity to speak broadly about adoption.  Perhaps you could even ask the stranger if they have ever considered adoption themselves.

Statistically, the average person thinks about adoption or foster care for FOUR YEARS before they start pursuing even the beginning stages of it.  That means that even if the person you speak to does not seem to be spurred to action by your information, you may plant a seed in them that may grow over time.  If we all can plant seeds, and for each of us, ten of those seeds planted translate into a child being adopted, that will translate into HUNDREDS of children eventually being adopted.  HUNDREDS!  So yep, even if you are uncomfortable with this challenge, I am urging you to give it your best shot.

When I was at a course recently, a couple introduced themselves and said basically that they had ended up adopting because of me.  I am not actually going to take credit for their adoptions!!!  I know that this couple have a wonderfully loving family and they may have adopted eventually anyway, but it was really cool to hear that I had played a small part in their adoption of TWO children.  I met this couple ONE time.  I shared with them about our experiences in adoption and gave them some encouragement.  Over the years, Mark and I have met with many couples in this capacity.  Someone we know will phone us and tell us that they have a friend of a friend of a friend who is interested in fostering or adopting and ask if we will meet with them.  We have the couple over, answer extremely honestly and candidly about our experiences and perhaps help point them in the right direction as a starting point and that’s it.  We usually never hear what ended up happening, though we have heard through the grapevine of one or another who did end up fostering or adopting or both.  Hearing this couple say that they had adopted two children and given them a family was a tremendous encouragement for me.  I know that Mark and I cannot adopt every child out there who needs a family, but we can help children find homes by sharing our story and encouraging others or answering questions.  And so can you.

So please, take up my first challenge.  Let’s do this together.  There are 147 million orphans out there counting on us!



7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Hollie on November 22, 2010 at 4:50 am

    I love your challenge Sharla- and I will tell you why.

    We are on the waitlist to adopt a baby girl from Rwanda. Of course, we are so excited to talk about it in the hopes that maybe we will be able to reach out to even one family who have considered adoption.

    We were also eager to talk to other families about their journey too- the ones who have brought their children home and who are now parenting.

    We have encountered, on several occasions, how people are very offended if you ask where their child is adopted from. Bearing in mind, that if we have asked, it has been subtly and not directly in front of their child.

    In no way have we meant to cause any offense, we are just reaching out for support as none of our circle of friends have adopted other than us.

    Whilst I can totally appreciate that it must be annoying to be asked all the time (as I am sure we will find out!) you are right- it is an opportunity to share the journey of adoption, especially for those who are not involved with a church where the message of adoption is present. We tend to forget that as ‘real’ as adoption is to us, it often seems an obscure concept to others. People who may be interested in adoption need to be reassured that it is doable-especially with all the negative publicity it often gets.

    Thanks for your positivity:)


  2. Hi Sharla! We’re not in the post adoption phase yet, but you can be sure that we will accept this challenge when we are!



  3. I LOVE this idea. For me, the problem is that international adoption is becoming harder and harder with each passing month, it seems, and there are few places in the world right now which are effectively open to adoption. Even when I think about Ethiopia, it would be impossible for any Canadian family to begin an adoption process from ET at the moment, simply because neither Canadian agency is accepting new clients at the moment…and even if they do, it will take families YEARS to complete the process.

    I had coffee last week with an old friend of mine (whom I hadn’t seen for about 15 years) and she’s getting married for the first time in a few months, at the age of 46. She and her fiance are interested in adoption, but when we started talking about the details, I really didn’t have that much to suggest to her. I ended up feeling like a real downer in that conversation, b/c I had to tell her about the realities and limitations of ET, and other places like China, Korea, Thailand, even the US and places like eastern Europe, etc. In Manitoba, we don’t even have a foster-to-adopt program any more (silliness).

    Can you say more, Sharla, about how you address this with people?

    Love, LOVE the idea of more people adopting…just not sure on logistics these days. But perhaps I’m a bit jaded in the process, too – that’s entirely possible.




  4. Posted by Hollie on November 22, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Hi Ruth,
    We are in Canada too, and you are absolutely right- it is hard to give people guidance here because the adoption process is much more restrictive. I know from someone else in Manitoba that had a tough time trying to get the ball rolling-she didn’t have many choices there. We are in Nova Scotia, and things are a little bit more flexible because we do not have to use certain adoption agencies through the process. We chose Rwanda because we could do an independent adoption, as the only country choices put forward to us from agencies in Ontario were pretty unreliable, or we really didn’t feel a ‘connection’. We just made the cut off for Rwanda (they have temporarily closed to implement the Hague convention on adoption), and there are only 3 or 4 families in Canada that did too this year. We want to encourage people, but we feel concerned that things are so unreliable that it is hard to make any ‘recommendations’. The other issue, as you pointed out, is that domestic adoption is very restrictive, especially for European descent families. We would not be considered for adoption of an African Nova Scotian or aboriginal child-so the wait for a young ‘white’ child would be years and years (and years) unfortunately.

    But that is why I support Sharla’s challenge, because, more than ever, families need to be open to discuss adoption in Canada. We need all the help we can get:)


  5. Posted by charleine on November 22, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Thanks so much for being an advocate for those 147 MILLION oprhans…. We are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia and will hopefully be on the waiting list in one week!!!! I love your idea of planting seeds of adoption in those who ask questions. I often think of how will I handle those questions about a child who looks very different from the rest of my children and I am so encouraged to be able to use it as an opportunity to educate and plant seeds. I pray people will respond with action to the needs of children, everywhere. I hope to tell them when they say “Oh, I could never do that….” we are called by God to take care of the orphans and we are to be obedient…. no matter how frightening that may be.

    Thanks again,



  6. Ruth brings up a truth that does make it more difficult to spread the word about adoption. When I first started this, I was only speaking to people in my own province, for which I know the adoption options. Now that I am speaking to others across Canada and even the United States, it is becoming more difficult to advise people or point them in the right direction. I have an idea to fix this information issue. It is an ambitious idea, one that I only decided upon this morning in the shower after pondering what Ruth said. More information on this to come…..


  7. Don’t most good ideas come in the shower?? Maybe it’s because it’s one of the few times we have a few moments of peace in a busy household!

    I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation – it’s an important one.




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