Adoption News

Help Us Write Good Stories

Zoe’s House has always been impacted by the stories of the Orphan Trains that criss crossed the midwest from 1850 to 1928.  Over 200,000 children, plucked from the squalor of Americas big cities, were shipped via railroad to town after town where they stood at railroad depot for inspection and potential adoption by locals.

It was 1911 when Nettie and Nellie Cook, twin six year old girls from New York, were herded aboard the train.  They were told by their care giver that it would be hard to find someone who would take them both, but an effort would be made. Stop after stop, children were chosen for adoption but the Cook twins were passed over.

When the train reached Union Station in Kansas City, the twins were told to stand on a bench and sing “Jesus Loves Me” to try and draw a crowd.  As an adult, Nettie admitted that they hated this.  She said “We kids had to be showmen so that people would come around and see what was happening. It was awful having to stand up and say something about yourself.”

There were no takers in Kansas City, and the girls were later chosen by a couple in McPherson, Kansas.  Their new mother was exceptionally cruel and beat them mercilessly.  Nettie recalled, “I was the tough one. I tried not to let things bother me. Nellie would cling to me. She was easily hurt.  We would hug each other in bed and try to defend each other….we were sweet little girls who just wanted to be loved, and we tried so hard to be good. We were only six years old.”

Eventually, the girls were relocated to the temporary care of an elderly couple. The older couple grew to love the girls and asked to be allowed to adopt them.  Permission was granted, the girls were given a new last name, and were baptized at the local church.  The pastor mixed the girls’ names up during baptism, much to their delight.

Nettie and Nellie’s story is a hard one that ends well.  They had long, happy adult lives….but tears rolled down my face as I read about the “sweet little girls who just wanted to be loved.”  I couldn’t help but think of my own twin girls, adopted at birth.  Their story may have gone so differently, but it is being written in a way that will end well, through the miracle of adoption.

The orphan trains no longer run, but there are still stories to be written.  The Zoe’s House phone rings, and we answer it to the voice of a scared young woman who hopes we will help her through the next chapter of her life.  Couples who choose to make room for a child call us too – and we help write those stories.

These are stories that are impossible to write without help from generous donors who believe that every sweet little girl and boy deserves a home, and anyone who is willing and able to parent should not be held back by huge expenses.

Help us write these stories. 

Join us at the very spot where Nettie and Nellie sang in 1911 – Kansas City’s Union Stationfor the Zoe’s House 3rd Annual Benefit Gala on the evening of November 9th, 2017. 

Get more information and RSVP here.

Obviously, we’d really love to spend that evening with you, but if you’re unable to attend but would still like to help us make a difference for children and families you can donate online here.

Well this is exciting…

For the first time in our short history, Zoe’s House has matched an amazing adoptive family with a set of twins! We can’t wait to watch this play out!  Note – the new Zoe twins are not yet born, but we’re pretty sure they’ll be even cuter than the two pictured above!

Babies aren’t the only things happening in twos, though.  Several donors recently combined efforts to provide us with a matching grant of $20,500 at a time when we are reaching more expectant moms than ever and are having more of an impact raising the culture of life than we could have imagined.  We can now effectively recieve a twin of this grant with your donation!

Please consider what you might give to help us match this grant, making the dream of adoption doable for so many other families as well as providing excellent care for brave young women choosing life.

DONATE HERE AND YOUR GIFT IS DOUBLED!

When the Phone Rings

Written by Christina Styles, Expectant Mother Coordinator at Zoe’s House Adoptions.

Anytime that phone rings with an unknown number my heart pounds and a lump forms in my throat. I take a breathe like a prayer and press that button, choking out a greeting that I hope sounds less nervous than I feel.  “Hello, this is Christina with Zoe’s House….” and most of the time the response deflates me like a balloon. It’s a doctor, a social worker, a friend from a local pregnancy resource center who has a question or someone wanting to donate maternity clothes and all of those calls I can answer with ease.

But when it’s the other call, the “Hello……(pause)… I’m pregnant and want to talk to someone about adoption?” Those times, that lump grows larger, my breath catches and for a moment I draw a blank, every time. The significance of that moment and what it costs her to ask that question is never lost on me.

I ask her name and call her by name through the phone call. It’s the first thing I can do to communicate to her that SHE matters to me, and I’ll ask about how she is feeling and how her pregnancy has been going. She’ll ask questions that I’ll do my best to answer, and if she want’s to talk more I’ll find out where she is most comfortable meeting because establishing trust from the beginning is imperative and she needs to know that she is safe with Zoe’s House regardless of wether or not she decides to place her child for adoption. Those first conversations are always difficult and I remind myself to speak slowly and gently, to ask questions rather than making assumptions and to try to listen and learn as much as I can about her and how she found herself in this unplanned pregnancy. And then I may never hear from her again.

Often I’ll have that first contact over a phone call, text message or email exchange where I’ll do my best to give as much information as that woman needs and then never hear back from her. That’s ok, because sometimes all she needs is to have someone listen, to hear herself voice the things she’s afraid of and to hear how the adoption process works in order for her to feel confident about parenting her baby. If I can help her to come into that confidence then I am satisfied that I’ve served her well.

To me this decision is always about confidence, whoever the woman is on the other end of the phone and whatever her story is I want her to feel confident and supported in her decision. If that decision is to parent, I want to help connect her to whatever resources she needs. If that decision is to place her child for adoption I want her to feel confident in whatever her personal reasons are and to believe that she’ll be supported by us at every turn.

Confidence isn’t a lack of fear, it doesn’t mean that all of the questions have answers because that’s not how life works. When it comes to an expectant mom, surprised by the life that is growing within her, confidence means that though she can not see all the steps of the road before her she believes in herself, that she can do what she’s set her mind to. Those are the first ways that I show her the love of Christ. Simply listening without judgement communicates safety that I only know through Him, that I only offer to her because of Him. She matters to me because she matters to Him and in a scary time, I get to show her that both she and her baby are safe and cared for.

This week I looked at the numbers and I’ve had that conversation now with 25 mothers. 25 women with a life growing inside of them made of their own DNA, 24 women considering the heart-wrenching possibility of entrusting that life to the home of another, to the arms and the heart of another mother. 25 women, all completely different than each other, having different strengths, different stories and different reasons for considering adoption but I’ve started to find some similar threads that weave through those unique stories. I’d like to share with you a little of where those women are coming from and how we are able to serve them right where they are.

She didn’t expect this pregnancy.

Not because she’s unaware of sexuality but because for any number of reasons she did not anticipate being pregnant. Not right now, not with that person’s baby, because she was made to do something she didn’t want to, because she thought she was unable to conceive, because it was one time. There’s no way to summarize why because it’s different every time but the point is: She didn’t expect this pregnancy but she recognizes that there’s an undeniable life inside of her and it’s going to change her life forever. We meet her in this place doing everything we can to communicate to her that she is strong enough, capable enough and able to do whatever she decides. That like every other unexpected thing that will happen in her life she can go on, she can gain ground, she can grow and no matter how hard this is she can make it. I try to help her to look at the bigger picture of her life, to see how she came to this place and where she wants to go and then help her to make decisions and choices to get her there. This chapter of her life is hard but it doesn’t have to define the whole story.

She doesn’t know if she can parent.

I think most people are scared when they find out they’re expecting but her “scared” is different. It’s different because she is afraid of being judged, she might not know who the father is or maybe she does but doesn’t know how to contact him, is no longer dating him or has removed herself from him because he wasn’t good for her. Her scared is different because he may know about this pregnancy and has told her to have an abortion because he won’t support her or has denied that he’s the father. She is sometimes alone and trying to figure things out without him for countless reasons and she can’t conceive how she’s supposed to stay in school or keep her job and pay for a baby that she doesn’t think she can raise by herself. Her scared is different because he may be with her, he may be supportive of her asking questions and together they don’t know how they’d provide for a baby, how to co-parent when they don’t feel like they have their own lives together or when they came from single parent households and know that their mother or father did the best that they could but they want for their child to have more than what they had. We meet them in this place by being there, by not judging their stories and by giving them a safe place to be open. We meet them in this place by offering to connect them to resources that will help them to parent and by giving them all of the information about adoption that they need if they decide not to. We meet them by educating them about adoption so that they know that making an adoption plan is not shameful or abandonment.

She doesn’t feel supported.

Whether at home from her family, parents, friends, significant other or community, she doesn’t feel that she can parent alone and that there’s a support system around her that can fill in the gaps. Those people are not supportive of her pregnancy or consideration of an adoption plan due to ethnic culture, family culture, religion, personal stories of single parenting or of negative adoption stories they’ve heard. They disapprove of her decision and don’t understand why she doesn’t feel like she can do what they themselves did or because they simply don’t understand. They disapprove because they want to help her or they want to adopt the child themselves and don’t understand when she says that it would be too hard to watch her family members raise her baby.

When her support system won’t listen to her heart about considering adoption and not feeling like enough, she feels more alone. She feels cut off and less capable and she knows that she will need more support than ever if she follows through with the plan she’s deciding. This vulnerable place that she is in requires MORE empathy, more support from her community. We meet her here and ask God how to support her individual needs. I may go with her to her doctors appointments, meet with her once a week to talk about how she’s doing and what she’s thinking, help her as she works through paperwork like applying for medicaid or jobs.

We meet her here by helping her to think about her life as bigger than this chapter and not hiding her from the grief that will come with her adoption plan, but by staying with her in it, every step. 

And then we stay there, for all of her pregnancy.

We are there as she is choosing a family, to listen as she processes and is making her decisions about what kind of contact she wants to have with the family before and after the baby is born. I help her to talk to her doctor and hospital about her adoption plan and when the time comes to have the baby I am at the hospital in whatever capacity is most supportive to her. And when she goes home, as long as she needs us the door is open. Some of the moms we have worked with do not want much interaction after the adoption but some of our moms are in touch every week. They let us know when they need prayer, if they’re making big life choices and want to talk, when they’ve had a good day, a hard day or are feeling things they need to process.

Our desire is to show them the love of Christ with every interaction, that they would feel genuinely cared for and see His love through all that we do. 

 

How to Pray for Adoption

Our work at Zoe’s House is squarely rooted in the heart of God for children and families.  We believe He is deeply vested in seeing children in good homes and expectant mothers receiving the best care available.

Additionally, adoption is a true spiritual process.   Here are a few ways you can pray for those involved.

Pray that expectant moms are cared for!

These young women are making the decision of a several lifetimes.  Their actions will chart the course for them and their child as well.  We cannot imagine the pressure they are facing, often in the face of other pressing needs.  Pray that God would bring peace even as He brings provision for them.  Also pray for birth fathers and extended families as they make decisions together to benefit their children.

Pray that adoptive families make themselves ready!

Most people think getting ready for adoption means decorating a room and assembling a crib. That’s all part of it, but before they get there, they’ve filled out reams of paperwork, answered a lot of questions, done a lot of research and had some deep heart to heart conversations.  Pray that the would be encouraged even in the mundane times and that when God’s timing is right, they would be ready.

Pray for healthy babies!

Every life is of immeasurable worth, stamped with the image of God.  Pray these little lives grow strong in the womb, have safe deliveries, and the most amazing, fun childhoods.  Also pray for the day they come to understand what it means to be adopted and for good and healthy relationships with their family of origin.

Pray for Zoe’s House!

We need your prayer support as much as we need financial support.  Both enable us to be there when the phone rings, to listen intently, to offer the best care and to celebrate life.

We’re in this together – please pray!

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If you’d like to learn more about Zoe’s House through monthly emails, you can sign up here.

If you’re able to contribute, every gift goes to making high quality, ethical adoption more doable for families. Donate here.

 

Care For The Long Haul

Pregnancy is a nine month process, but caring for an expectant mom is bigger than that. At Zoe’s House, we talk about pregnancy, but we also talk about life – the life of a baby and mother. That consideration guides our decisions and input into her life. Here’s what it looks like.

We have frank conversations.

Just because a young woman comes to us to inquire doesn’t mean adoption is the best plan for her. We are all about life – and in some cases, these women can go on to parent. They don’t need an adoption agency, they need encouragement.  We have those frank “why” conversations early on to help them make that determination for themselves.

We look for sustainable solutions to her needs.

Often, the easiest answers are not the best. For example, if she’s three months into her pregnancy and needs housing, we could rent a small apartment for six months. The answer is fast and easy – but it often leaves her homeless shortly after having a baby. It doesn’t sound very loving, does it?

We work hard to locate as many local and state resources as we can – subsidized housing, for instance – that will continue on past the pregnancy for a time and allow them to regain their footing. Subsidized housing for a year is much more helpful than the quick and easy plan. It helps keep expenses lower for adoptive families, too. It also gives them the assurance that their new baby’s birth mom is not out on the street. The sustainable solution is better for everyone.

We talk about five year plans, not nine month plans.

Young women often come to us needing help with what they think is a nine month situation, but they’re often pregnant and drifting because they have only been thinking a few months ahead in life.  We ask the hard questions that reveal what they’d like to be doing in five years.

Those plans almost always involve prep work. If they want to go to college, it may mean enrolling them in a GED course. If they want work skills, we talk with them about where to start and help them apply for starter jobs where they can build job equity.  No one, pregnant or otherwise, stumbles into success.  We help them walk tall towards their goals.

We don’t fade away.

Often, adoption agencies are all about adoption – and at Zoe’s House, we certainly celebrate placements and finalizations. Whenever one of our families finalizes, our staff members who are in court quickly send photos back to the office and we all cheer.  For the most part, adoptive families move on without much help from us.

For the brave young woman who made an adoption plan, it can be a different process.  She’s still pondering, praying, and thinking about a baby that she will not parent.  That doesn’t mean she has regrets. It just means she needs a friend.  We remain that to her.

In almost all cases, we continue close contact with our birth moms. We counsel them, encourage them, and look for ways to continue their trajectory toward their long term goals.  We’re often the first call they make months later when they get that dream job or even talk to one of their friends about adopting.

We’re able to provide excellent care like this because of people like you.   During this focus on expectant moms, will you help us give these women the best care we can?

You can donate online here or text ADOPT to 56651 to give.

Also, don’t miss our recent podcast interview with one of our birth moms!

 

 

4 Questions Most Expectant Mothers Ask

Much of what we do in regards to adoption involves answering questions.  Lots and lots of questions.

An adoptive families choose the when of adoption, so they often come with reams of questions.  They’ve been asking them to one another for months – perhaps years – and now they have someone in our office to answer them and so they’re off to the races, and we think that’s awesome.

Expectant mothers don’t have the luxury of choosing the when of adoption.  They were not planning this pregnancy.  They have not thought about this for months and years.  They are vulnerable, scared and without a clear idea how to go forward.

As a result, their questions are simple and raw.  Here are a few things most expectant moms asks us when they start to decide if making an adoption plan is best for them.

How do I know my baby will be ok?

Expectant mothers think like mothers from the beginning.  In almost every case, their primary questions are about the care of their baby.  They aren’t looking for total control.  They’re looking for assurance that their child will be cared for and loved.  In some cases, they’re going to want to know they can get pictures once in a while along with a short update.  They’re moms.  They love their babies.

Where do you find adoptive families?

This really is an extension of the first question.  They are glad to hear that our families go through extensive vetting and that the process for adoption includes background checks, fingerprints, interviews and education.   Some of our expectant moms have bounced from parent to parent and they’re looking for solid families because they want better for their children than they were given.

Do you think someone would want my child?

This is a shock to many families who are eager to adopt, but it’s a common question.  Perhaps because of poor self image, concerns about racism, or just a misunderstanding about adoption, expectant moms want assurances that someone would want and love their baby as much as they would.  Our answer is, of course, yes.  We have always been able to find a family that would love a young woman’s baby.

Does this cost money?

Many expectant mothers have been taken advantage by others and expect everything to cost them…including making an adoption plan.  They are genuinely surprised that we are here to help them at no cost to them.  They come expecting to have to pay.

We do help young women with some financial needs if needed, but we work hard to connect them with other resources first.  If we do need to help directly, we do it by taking them grocery shopping or perhaps paying a utility bill directly.  If they need clothes, we have resources to help them.  The state limits the amount of support any young woman receives. The number varies between states, but it’s low enough that when adoption is done legally and ethically, it’s never a number that would entice a young woman to make an adoption plan.

The picture of a young woman trying to scam an agency out of money is blown far out of proportion. We’re not saying it never happens – but it’s rare.  As of yet, our agency has never lost money to a scam. It’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely if we are doing our homework.

If you’d like to help us provide excellent care for young women who are weighing their adoption options, please consider supporting Zoe’s House.  We’re a non profit and all gifts are tax deductible. Your gifts help us care for young women who are choosing LIFE.

DONATE HERE

Towards Openness

I’ve had preliminary conversations with more potential adoptive couples than I could count.  They text, call, or email and ask me, “Can we sit down?  We have some questions….”.

It’s one of the favorite parts of my job – to watch families find the bravery to step up and, as a friend often says, “Put their ‘yes’ on the table.”

In those conversations, there are a few standard topics….how the process works, what they can expect in the way of financial challenges, and that sort of thing.  The one thing that is almost guaranteed to be asked about, however, is one of openness between the bio family and the adoptive family.

Why Open Adoption?

Almost everyone from both sides of the equation – biological and adoptive – is a at least a little nervous about this and often in the dark about what open adoption means.  Open adoption does not mean a birth mom has an open invitation to walk in your door – in fact, face to face meetings may or may not happen.  Those things are all discussed in advance to minimize disappointment later.  It may mean some exchange of photos and facts through letters handled by the agency.  It may mean a private blog updated quarterly for a birth mom to investigate when she feels up to it.

As an adoptive dad, we have both closed and semi open adoptions in our family.  I can tell you that some degree of openness has been a significant blessing to our family.  Why?

We have more medical information.

In any adoption, you’ll get a snapshot of the medical condition of your child’s birth mother, but in a closed adoption, questions may arise later that you are unable to answer.   With our semi open arrangement, we are able to ask questions about family health that may have never occurred to us at the time of birth.   This information helps us care for our child.

We have some family lore.

Every family has a few stories that they like to pass down – how Grandpa came to the new world, the time that an uncle won a big award, or even about where a family lived geographically or what they did for work.  As your adopted child grows older and they wonder about their biological family history, a few of these stories go a long way. Especially when the option is a shrug and “We’ll never know, Honey…”.

We have some assurances to offer.

Your child will eventually ask “What happened to my birth mom?”.   To be able to speak with authority – even in generalities – about how she was cared for by the agency and some of the things she went on to overcome will help your child come to peace and settle the fears that perhaps their birth mom was not treated well.  To be able to say that she went on to attend college, to work or even to marry and have a family is to show your child that in spite of their birth mom’s sacrifice, her life was not over at the moment of their adoption.

Adoption can be scary.  I remember the first time we put our yes on the table. It felt like I laid my heart out for anyone to crush.  We decided that we couldn’t let fear be the determining factor for our choices.

Here we are, ten years later.  My heart is intact.  Yours will be too.

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Don’t miss THE ZOE PODCAST – short, bite-sized discussions about how adoption works based on the questions we’re asked the most.

We don’t just ‘do adoptions’. We build relationships.

So much of the focus of adoption is placed on the family who is opening their home to a new child.  Everyone is elated to see these dreams come to fruition – and rightly so. 

Adoption is beautiful.

Adoption is also challenging.

For a baby to go home to an adopted family, that baby has to leave a mother’s arms.  These women are not doing this because they don’t care – but rather because they do care.  In many ways, they are making sacrifices that will last a lifetime.

From the beginning to discussions about Zoe’s House, we determined to care for expectant mothers for as long as they need our support.  That means our expectant mom hotline buzzes frequently with a check-in from a young woman whose baby may have been born and placed months ago.  They’re looking for a friendly voice belonging to someone who knows more of their story than almost anyone in their life.  They call for encouragement and even to share exciting news of their own about college, jobs, or a new person in their life.

We don’t just ‘do adoptions’.  We build relationships.

We hear stories.  We ask questions.  We learn what the dream of their heart is and do all we can to break down the barriers between them and that dream.  We may be working on an adoption process that will only take six months, but we are working with people who we want to be our friends forever.

Some months ago, we held a fundraising event in Kansas City.  I briefly shared the stage with a young woman who had made an adoption plan for her son last year.  She told of how she felt cared for before and after the birth and how for her, planning for adoption was a hard but ultimately a very good thing. She was now pursuing a college degree and even building a relationship with the wonderful parents of her son. 

Speaking of the woman who adopted her son, she said “I am his mother, but she is his mommy.  She has earned that.  And one day, I will be a mommy too, in my own time.”

I watched as tears rolled down the cheeks of many in the room – my staff included – as they honored her, felt a measure of her pain and joined her in celebration of her victories.   Adoption didn’t feel like a process.  It felt like a relationship.

I remember thinking, “This is how adoption should be.”

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Your financial gift helps Zoe’s House take care of expectant mothers as well as provide top quality service to adoptive families at a cost of about 1/3 of the national average.  If you would like to contribute, you can give your tax deductible gift here.

 

Coming soon….

The Zoe’s House staff is getting ready to role out a series of short podcasts answering some of the most common questions that we hear (and we hear them daily!).

Stay tuned to hear Social Services Supervisor Nikki Pauls DeSimone and Executive Director Randy Bohlender talk through questions like:

  • Why should we work with an adoption agency?
  • How many families is Zoe working with?
  • What can we expect as an out of state family?
  • What’s the urgency on paperwork?
  • Where do the adoption fees go?
  • What kind of expectant mother expenses does an adoptive family pay?

 

We’ll break down the podcasts into short bite sized pieces that you can listen to in one setting – or binge and listen to them all at once!

Watch this space for the first broadcast soon….

 

The Adoption 411

Recently, we ran across a story about a couple who was interested in adoption but wasn’t sure where to get quality information.  They eventually decided to reach out to a local radio personality because they had heard him speak of his adoption on the air.

The radio announcer responded and answered a few questions for them – that launched them on a journey that led to the adoption of their new baby girl.  You can read their story here.

One might wonder “Why ask a radio DJ about adoption?”, but if you’ve ever looked for information, you know it can get confusing.  Add to the fact that there are people who may try and profiteer or take advantage of your kind heart.  The answers you get quickly may not be the right ones.

So what’s a prospective adoptive family to do?

Ask someone who’s adopted.  Most adoptive families are more than willing to tell you about their experience if it helps ou decided if adoption is for you.  If you do this, though, make sure you’re getting information on the type of adoption you’re wanting.  The foster-t0-adopt system varies greatly from state to state.  International adoption programs very greatly from nation to nation.  Private adoption has it’s own unique systems.  Make sure that what you are learning about is actually applicable to your need.

If you’re interested in private adoption – or just want to know the difference between private, international and foster-to-adopt, we’d be happy to help as well.  Email us your questions or ask for a return phone call and one of our team will get back with you quickly.  You can reach us at info@zoeshouseadoptions.com.

Adoption is a journey, but others have been there before.  Don’t be afraid to seek guidance.