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Navigating Transracial Adoption

written by Jenni Hutchins

When Kobi Redman’s now teenage daughter was 5, her brown-skinned girl looked up at her and asked “When will my skin turn white like yours, Mommy?” Kobi and her husband, James, became a CPO adoptive family 18 years ago when there was not a long list for adopting a non-Caucasian child. “We believed God gave us this gift of these babies, so we wanted to accept whomever God gave us,” explains Kobi. Their first two girls are Caucasian; their third and fourth are African American.

The Redman Family

Today, the number of families open to adopting any race has greatly increased. Rhonda Fisher adopted her daughter of mixed descent five years ago and says, “Adoption has changed so much over the years. There is no longer a clear expectation of how a family has to look.”

The Fisher Family

Along with the other unknowns of adoption, transracial adoption comes with its own list of unique concerns: How will having different color skinned parents or siblings affect my child at school? Will our extended family accept a child of a different race? How will I manage hair that is a different texture than my own? Kobi’s family deals with these concerns like all families do: one at a time and as they naturally arise. “Raising children comes with challenges no matter your skin color,“ says Kobi. “When race issues arise, we discuss them open and honestly with our teenagers and look for resources that in turn help us all.”
Preserving the child’s cultural heritage is important to transracial families. CPO adoptive parents can look to birth parents, siblings and their extended families as relationship opportunities through which their children learn to appreciate the color of their own skin. These relationships also serve as safe, valuable resources for the parents to ask questions about hair, history and culture. “Having a wonderful relationship with my daughter’s African American birth mom has been an amazing resource for me. I get her perspective and assistance on so many topics,” says Kobi.
Adoptive parents also look for mentors at church, at school and in their social group to help their children see a reflection of their skin color in others around them. Maddie McCoy, who is Caucasian and adopted her African American daughter three years ago says, “We work to create diversity in our daughter’s life through her birth family, church, books, dolls, and toys. We moved to a more diverse neighborhood so we would be in a more diverse school district. She is too young to notice the color difference yet, but I want diversity set up in her life so she grows up surrounded by different colors.”

The McCoy Family

More than anything, Rhonda says, “I want my daughter to appreciate all the shades, and believe not one shade is superior.” When her daughter began asking questions about her skin color difference, Rhonda explained the science of melanin and how its quantity determines the color of your skin. She reads books to her daughter and shows her photos of women with similar melanin levels explaining, “You are always going to be this beautiful color you are.”
These parents are navigating the issues society has created revolving around skin color. Sometimes they get looks or questions, but these families spend the majority of their days not noticing their color differences, but instead, laughing, loving, and caring for each other.
Rhonda simplifies her transracial adoption this way, “A child doesn’t have to look like you for you to be their parent.”


Confessions of an Adoptive Mom

I have a confession.  I have been an adoptive mom for 21 years now.  I have been a fierce advocate for open adoption longer than that.  But today, I am being eaten up with jealousy.  I know it’s selfish.  I am ashamed.  I know it’s not what God wants but sometimes adoption can be so darn complicated and emotional!

Recently, my daughter connected with her biological father’s family.  It’s an amazing story. Throughout my adoption journey I have seen God work some pretty awesome miracles and this was one of those.  A few years ago my mom bought my daughter, Jewel, a DNA kit.  It was just for fun and Jewel kind of got into it.  I guess it came with its own emotions because she found out that not all her ancestors came from Africa.  She also had some European ancestors.  I’ve heard that is not uncommon for African Americans but it made her sad.  It made her sad because she knows enough to know that most likely down the line one of her grandmas was a slave who was assaulted.  Sometimes, a person would rather not think about that sort of thing.  Anyway, when she signed up for Ancestry.com, the site gave her suggestions of possible biological relatives.  A few months later, Jewel got a message from someone who was a close biological match.  At this point, we knew very little about her birth father.  Turns out we didn’t even have the correct spelling of his last name.  So Jewel was hesitant to respond to this message from a stranger.  Plus, we had been told some lies about her birth father and feared he might not be a nice man.  After a few weeks of contemplation, Jewel wrote back, changing her life forever.

The stranger turned out to be her biological grandma, Willa.  They continued to write and Willa told Jewel the true story about her biological father.  He was a fun-loving, happy man.  He had a brother and a sister he was very close to.  He loved Jesus.  But when Jewel was just a few weeks old, he was shot and killed.  He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  His death devastated his family.  Fast forward 20 years.  Willa told Jewel that Derrick, her birth father, never knew about her.  And so they didn’t either, until a few years ago, when someone started spreading rumors.  Willa tried to find out if the rumors were true but no one was forthcoming.  She became so distraught with worry that her son’s only child was out there somewhere and she couldn’t find her.  But God had a plan for this grandma who loved Him.

 

Willa had signed up for Ancestry.com because she was researching her own biological family who had roots in the civil rights movement of the sixties.   When she was matched with Jewel, she prayed that this was Derrick’s long-lost daughter, but had no way to know for sure until Jewel responded to her e-mail.  The rest is history!  We met Willa and Derrick’s siblings and all their kids on September 9th, 2018.  They are a wonderful, fun, happy family!  And they welcomed me with open arms, too.  Sometimes my adoption journey makes me feel like I live in a movie.  I have been so abundantly blessed.

So why in the world am I jealous of this incredible turn of events?  I’m including this part of the story, my part, because most of you who are reading this are probably on your own adoption journey.  And sometimes jealousy comes with it.  I am so, so happy for Jewel!  But a part of me feels like my baby is getting taken away.  I guess this is normal when you love someone.  Love can be painful.  Sometimes I wonder, maybe a closed adoption would be less painful for me.  Jewel is my daughter!  I was the one who cared for her when she was sick.  I was the one who gave her princess birthday parties and took her to the zoo and the playground.  I was the one who sacrificed for her because I love her.  Ah ha!  Sacrifice.  That is what moms do.  Closed adoption may make me more comfortable but it certainly would not be right for Jewel!

And so I will continue to sacrifice for her.  I will put my jealousy of the altar and give it to Jesus (probably more than once).  I will celebrate this beautiful event in my daughter’s life.  I will love her with all my heart and thank the Lord that he brought her to me in the first place.  I will sacrifice my heart for my daughter because that is what adoptive moms do!

I’m not trying to sound sanctimonious.  I’m just being real here because I bet I am not the only adoptive mom who feels this way.  Be encouraged that jealousy is just a natural part of our messy, but amazing, adoption journey.  God has chosen us, not because we have it all together, but because we love Him and He will bless us far more than we will ever sacrifice.


How Empowered to Connect Changed Us

 

Empowered to Connect is an annual conference we simulcast to benefit CPO families. We highly recommend you take advantage of the opportunity and join us on April 26th & 27th. You can register here

My name is Serena Lowe. My husband, Brad, and I have 5 children.  We are a blended, traditional, and adopted family.  There is Zach (18yrs), Hannah (15yrs), Addie (11yrs), Andrew (10yrs), and Ava (1yr). Our belief is that children are a gift from the Lord, however, they don’t come with instruction manuals and we wanted to do this parenting thing right.  We both have always said they would be raised differently from our childhood experiences.  Our desire was to follow Ephesians 6:1-4 ESVChildren, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

hungered to learn a different, more effective way of parenting.   There had to be something to teach and make sense to everyday parenting, that taught us to honor our kids as much as we expect to be honored, and with tools to help us to not provoke our children to anger.  After adopting Ava 10+ years after our last was born, learning how to parent a child with ADHD, and raising up preteens and teensall at the same time, we became desperate for better tools and skills to help us ALL enjoy life under one roof, anchored in peace.

Two years ago, I attended my first Empowered to Connect conference.  Brad was running kids to and from sports, while I sat and soaked up every spoken word.  I felt throughout the entire conference every speaker was speaking to me about my hope for new parenting styles.  I learned so much and couldn’t write fast enough to collect all the wisdom and knowledge wanted for our family.  My eyes were filled with tears, hearing stories of things that touched my heart as I yearned for answers. believed this was going to be what we needed to effectively and lovingly nurture our kids.

I learned that even though my adopted daughter was born physically healthy and brought straight to our home from the hospital, she had experienced trauma.  I learned that this may come out developmentally; helping her to have a voice, while understanding non-verbal cues, I could help her. Learning about time ins instead of time outs would make all our kids feel valued and secure.  How to listen and speak with my eyes, while offering time and connection, is going to help us build better relationships with our teens.  Learning how to read the temperature of any situation, helping my child regulate with decreased frustration, along with connection will be a game changer for my child with ADHD. 

Through the Empowered to Connect strategies we feel much more equipped to understand the needs of our children.  We are now able to better give them a voice along with honor as we meet their needs, while at the same time building trust.  We look forward to the next conference to refresh our knowledge as we continue this parenting journeyempowered to connect with our children!

 

CPO is hosting this powerful conference at Christian Chapel on April 26-27, 2019. Register here to attend for free.


Empowered to Connect 2018

Every year, CPO encourages all of our families to attend Show Hope’s Empowered to Connect conference, a two-day conference designed to help adoptive and foster parents, ministry leaders and professionals better understand how to connect with “children from hard places” in order to help them heal and become all that God desires for them to be. Honestly, this conference has something to offer all parents and anyone who works or interacts with children. Each year we hear from those who attended about how much this conference has shaped their lives, improved their families, and empowered them with the tools they needed.

This year, the simulcast is being held at the Southern Hills Baptist Church Youth Chapel at 5590 S. Lewis, Tulsa, OK 74105 on April 13-14th. Please click here to register.

This conference is only once a year and you don’t want to miss it!


Birth Mom Success Story: Barbara Hemphill

At CPO, there really is nothing better than hearing from a birth mom or parenting girl who is thriving after her time with us. Last week we were lucky enough to hear from a birth mom who came to CPO and made an adoption plan 14 years ago. With Barbara Hemphill’s permission, here’s her story.

Dear CPO,

I am a birth mother who chose open adoption through your agency 14 years ago. I want to just express my gratitude for the services provided and the family that has become. My story is always an amazing one for me to tell. You all are amazing at what you do and I am eternally thankful for what you have done for my daughter and myself and our extended family. I’m sending a picture of my now family and my daughter from this past October. Fourteen years and the connection is stronger than ever and building daily.

love to share my story to let the ladies know it works for the long run. It’s such a scary time being a birth mom in the moment and having to trust that this relationship will last through the years. I feel like a success story! I called CPO 4 days before I had my daughter, and I’m native American so it li

mited my options down to ONE family! They were and are perfect. You have moments where God just puts exactly what you need right there in front of you, and it still is a bit surreal even now. It couldn’t have worked more perfectly. I was lost and horrified and faithless, and then I found you guys. It’s been spectacular, I realized I never contacted the agency afterwards, and wanted to just let you guys know what you’re doing is amazing and so many families are so appreciative.

Adoption works. Adoption is a blessing. Adoption was perfect for us then, and I’ll always cherish your establishment for making this all possible. Thank you so much CPO, you changed so many lives in just helping how you could.

Thank you,
Barbara Hemphilll


CPO’s Thankfulness

This is the time of the year that we all slow down a bit and take time to reflect on the many blessings we have in our lives. All of us here at Crisis Pregnancy Outreach have so much to be thankful for: the wonderful women that God sends into our lives, the ability to be there to help others, all of our amazing volunteers, the generous donors, the birth and adoptive families we work with…we are so incredibly blessed that the list could go on and on.

We want you to know that we are thankful for each and every one of you and it is our prayer that you have a joyous Thanksgiving.


Help Spread Christmas Cheer

 

It’d be hard to miss the fact that the Christmas season is upon us. It’s everywhere we look: the stores are decorated, Christmas music has started on the radio, there are even channels devoted to Christmas movies already. It’s a wonderful time of year. But for some people, Christmas can be hard. We have people from all walks of life who join us at CPO and several years ago we noticed that some of the girls who come to us need a little help making Christmas bright. So we started our Adopt-A-Girl initiative.

Adopt-A-Girl is an opportunity for you (or a group of you and your friends) to adopt a CPO girl for the holidays. We’ll give you a list of what she likes, or what her children have asked for, and you get to dawn your proverbial red hat and step into the roll of Santa. It’s truly rewarding.

A few years ago when my wife and I were volunteering at the Transition House, we saw the young women light up when they received presents from complete strangers who just wanted to help share the love of Christ. It was amazing and something that I know touched each and every one of those girls. There are always those in need which is why we ask for your help.

To adopt a girl, contact Melissa Thompson at melissacurled@gmail.com.


Reflections from a CPO Therapist

This week, we have a guest post from Jane Waters, one of the therapists who helps, prays, and works with the women who come through CPO’s doors. Her perspective is unique and shows just one more part of how CPO strives to share the love of Christ and be a light in the world.

Little did I realize what God had in store for me when I accepted Cheryl Bauman’s invitation to me, almost thirty years ago, to work with birth moms as a therapist. At that time, I had only a few years’ experience in the field before meeting her at Shadow Mountain Institute where I had worked and where she had facilitated a parent support group.

Over these past few decades, I have watched CPO grow exponentially into an organization which provides many services to women in crisis pregnancy situations, including medical, legal, individual counseling, support groups, mentors, housing, and assistants who walk with them, individually as they struggle with making their decision to parent or make an adoption plan.

As a therapist, I understood, decades ago, that I would be assisting my clients through the most difficult time of their lives, but I soon realized that their pregnancy was only one of their presenting challenges. Many came from abusive or neglectful childhoods, involving some form of addiction. Some grew up witnessing their fathers’ violence towards their mothers and, hence, have selected abusive boyfriends as the father of their babies. Others entered the agency having battled depression, panic attacks, bi-polar mood disorder, or a personality disorder that held them more hostage than they had the strength to battle. Most were feeling alone, confused, abandoned, and homeless, and hopeless.

I knew that I would be able to help them, but what I didn’t expect was that they were the ones who helped me to help them. My clients taught me to listen carefully, reading between the lines, and understanding that what they did not say was as important as what they did say. They taught me about the critical nature of trust and respect in therapy, and how important it was for their progress and healing.

Those coming from broken homes, hearts, and relationships need the basics of trust and unconditional love before they would tell me their deepest fears and wounds. They have changed me. They have taught me to slow down and take small steps through the depths of their grief in order to make progress. They have taught me how best to treat them clinically so that the end result would yield the highest probability of feeling good about themselves and about the decision they would make for their babies. The ability to hold their heads high in confidence, having wrestled with their choices, and feeling peace about the one that they chose, yields the best results for the women.

But, the unexpected gift that I have received from my work is how much I have grown in my faith and in my relationship with Jesus. I have had the honor of explaining to each woman that they are so extravagantly loved by their Heavenly Father that He sent His only Son to die for them so that they could be with Him for all eternity. What I received, in return and as a surprise, was the deepening understanding of just how much Jesus loved me, also.

Throughout these few decades, the Holy Spirit has taught me how to listen to His still, small voice. I have learned to pray, before and throughout each session, that I would hear His voice, that He would give me His wisdom and words of knowledge, and the ability to love them in a supernatural way. God has given me hundreds of poems for them as a way of touching their hearts and having their spiritual ears and eyes opened to understanding how much their Heavenly Father desires a personal and individual relationship with them. The Spirit has, also, “downloaded” to me songs for a few because He knew that they could experience His love through this avenue, and I had the privilege of witnessing their reactions upon receiving such precious words. One cannot go through this process without being transformed. I have been transformed and so have my clients.

Further, I have witnessed the love provided from support group facilitators, mentors, assistants, and other involved adults who have loved on these girls and surrounded them as critical role models showing the love of the Divine Father. This is an amazing team, with Jesus as the Head.

One of the most important things which the CPO team provides is quarterly workshops for the waiting couples, with multiple speakers from a variety of fields, to help them understand the birth mother’s journey and how open adoption can facilitate healing for all involved. The workshop gives them the big picture of how they can participate in ministering to these birth mothers.

As an additional tool, I have written and published five books which give families a greater understanding of open adoption. My writing began not from my own desires, wishes, and thoughts, but from God’s directive to me to write. This was an incredible leap of faith for me, but one where I have seen God’s faithfulness and healing through words.

Making a decision to do the Lord’s work makes for a life free from boredom for those who will seek, listen, and obey. The work ripples out like a stone thrown into a lake. I have seen miracles occur in seemingly impossible situations which have emboldened my faith and relationship with Jesus, for which I am forever thankful.


Adoptions Blend Families!

Adoptions are a wonder.  Each one is unique.   No birth mom, child, adoptive family or situation is exactly the same.  Every story has its own twists and turns.  Every adoption, even those which are never completed, follows a distinctive trail, gradually revealing its own secret and beautiful mystery… the plan which God had in mind from the beginning.

Regardless of these countless variables, there is one thing we know: adoptions blend families.  Open adoption,  the only type of adoptions to which CPO consents, takes two families who were once separate entities and merges them into a new unit. How this looks in practice is never the same from family to family, each adoption is unique.  The nature of adoption, however, is unvarying.   

We also know that each adoption story is centered around a star: the child. The tiny, precious soul whose life begins with a unique journey of love and sacrifice (regardless of what age the child is when the adoption takes place).  Each star, valuable as they are, survives only by the supporting roles of the people around them;  the birth mom- who chooses to make a plan to care for her baby, despite the cost to herself and the adoptive family- who accepts a new life into their home with open and rejoicing arms.  These are the fundamental supporters.  To stop here would already be something beautiful.  For two sets of parents to come together out of love for a child would truly be a miracle in itself.  This would be sufficient to demonstrate the love and the power of Christ. The problem with stopping here is that CPO adoptions are so much more than this.  OPEN adoptions blend FAMILIES.  Often, this includes aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers… and of course, the greatest of all titles: grandparents.

This particular story has 3 stars.  A focused and athletic son, Tyler (12), a kind hearted and reflective son, Brody(11) and a daughter, Emmy (7), the “spunky fireball.”  Their parents are Bryan and Stephanie Johnson.  Tyler and Emmy were adopted into the Johnson family at birth. Brody is their biological son.  Presently, their family has become a blend of many of Tyler’s biological family members, Bryan and Stephanie’s biological families and Emmy’s biological relatives as well.  These three kids have so many grandparents that a diagram seemed the simplest way to tie their family tree together!  Not that it really matters, ask any of them and they’ll tell you- each grandparent equally claims Tyler, Brody, and Emmy as grandchildren.  Stephanie’s mother, Ruth Ann, says “I really don’t think of Tyler and Emmy as adopted, they are just ours… we are their ‘real’ grandparents, we just aren’t their biological grandparents.” Emmy’s biological grandmother, Laura, says “We love the boys just as much, they’re like grandkids to us also.”\

And what about the honor of being a grandparent?!  Allen Johnson says “It’s fantastic.  It is a pure joy to have them in our lives and to be a part of theirs.”  Kerie is Tyler’s biological grandmother.  She proudly says “I consider the Johnson kids mine. I love them.” Laura comments on the fun of being a grandparent, “I get to sit back and chuckle at the things they do.” Shortly before that statement, Laura had shared Emmy’s similarity to her birthfather (Laura’s son), complete with a hilarious story of Emmy bringing a whoopee cushion to school. It has become all too evident that these grandparents, though their journeys have been difficult and painful, have retained the victory of grandparenting. Even the names indicate their honor: Grammy, Pops, Gramma, Grandad, GG, PaPa, Grandma Paula and Grandma Kerie. They all attend countless events, football games, birthday parties, soccer games and school programs. They do phone calls, texting, and Skyping. Kerie, who lives the farthest away, is able to take them to baseball games and even to the beach when the kids come to visit her.  They are REAL grandparents, each of them.  And for several, this joy followed indescribable disappointment and sadness. “It was so hard and so not what I pictured,” Laura shared. Paula stated she was initially “devastated.” “Tyler was the first grandchild,” said Kerie, “We didn’t really have a choice [regarding] the adoption. It was very hard.” Yet out of the ashes of what looked like hopelessness in each of these families, God has brought, and continues to bring, healing, restoration and sincere joy. “I was heartbroken and it turned into this wonderful thing… it brought new people into our lives,” Laura explained. Paula shared one of her most difficult moments of Tyler’s adoption, leaving the hospital and handing Tyler over to the Johnsons. Paula and her daughter kissed him, told him they loved him, and drove home without Tyler.  It was “hollow driving home.”  The sacrifice was great. No one can refute it. By God’s grace though, they didn’t lose Tyler.  They joined their family with the Johnson family. Before they had left the hospital, Paula remembers Bryan saying “Come and see him any time.”  They did.  Paula and Rachel visited Tyler every week when he was a baby.  Paula shared what she learned: “When you are in God’s will, no matter how hard it is, it is also sweet.”

This is the miracle of adoption.  It is more than sharing a child or staying in touch, “God has intertwined our lives,” says Allen. When they first met, Paula remembers, “I immediately fell in love with them.  We were a family before the adoption.” “Everything fell into place… kind of miraculously really.  The moment we all met we were sure it was going to be ok,” says Laura.  “We all just fit in. When we met it was like we already knew them,” shared Ruth Ann.  These statements are not only in regards to love shared for Tyler, Brody and Emmy, they reflect a love for one another.  As adults their lives have been woven together in such a way as to walk together through gratefulness, excitement, uncertainty, sickness and even immense grief.   A few years after Tyler and Brody were born, the Johnsons lost a baby girl. The year that followed was understandably dark. When they met Emmy’s birth family, they realized Emmy had been given life in the same month that their biological daughter had lost hers. After that year of darkness, Stephanie said that “Emmy was the light.”  These are experiences that transcend the tangible efforts to maintain a relationship. They are moments that permanently bond our hearts to one another; that form the foundation on which the ‘blended families of adoptions’ are built.   

What a beautiful foundation for our children to stand on!  All three of these kids are growing up experiencing SO much love.  They know where they belong, and they know from where they have come. “As she gets older she’ll know we have always been here,” says Laura.  Kerie agrees, “He knows he can always come and visit and stay with us. He’ll always be a part of our family, that doesn’t go away.” They will forever stand on the love they see displayed in the adult relationships around them as well as the love they share with each other, with their adoptive and biological parents, with countless other relatives and friends, and of course on the love for and from their grandparents.

To be clear, none of this is to imply that adoptions are always the best choice for every child or family.  Often, parenting is a wonderful and wise decision. Laura mentioned her appreciation that CPO really helps the girls make the right decision for them, explaining, “It’s not all about adoption.”  In this case, however, keeping those tiny stars as the focus led towards one beautifully blended family.  Laura advises, “You have to keep the baby first… We wanted what was best for her. Boy did we get it, she hit the jackpot.”

Tyler, Brody, and Emmy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emmy and Katy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emmy and Papa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyler, Paula, and Rachel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emmy and GG

Tyler and Rachel