For the most part, I’m a fan of adoption. I’m adopted. My brother is adopted. I have three cousins who are adopted. I have two cousins who have each adopted two children. And, as you know, I’ve adopted 16 times. Adoption is more a part of my understanding of how to make a family than any other method.
As my family, we adopted some through the state foster-care system, some through private adoption, and some through agencies. The only type of adoption we have not experienced is international. Our children were all born in the US. However, one of my cousins and his wife adopted a child from out of the country, so I do have some secondhand knowledge.
Adoption can be a super happy time – a celebration of family and love. And, it can be confusing, too. Many families celebrate Gotcha Day or the anniversary of the day when the child was placed in their home. Others celebrate the anniversary of the adoption finalization, which can occur years after the initial placement. Some aren’t sure what to celebrate.
When we took custody of Cassandra, we were asked if we wanted it announced at work. Our company announces baby births and adoptions, even sends flowers to the new parents. We turned it down. After all, we’d only taken custody. What if something happened to reverse that? My cousin promised to get her life on track. (She never did.) She promised to do many things. And, while we were fairly certain this would never happen, you never really know for sure, do you? So, we took the conservative route and waited.
Well, here we are, three years later. It’s time to formally adopt Cassandra. I guess we don’t have to do it. We have permanent custody. However, an offhand remark by a friend got us thinking. Our will has provisions for our minor children in case something happens to both of us at once. We have a family identified who agreed to take our minor children and raise them. But, what about Cassandra. She’s not technically our child. What would happen to her? The answer, unfortunately, is we’re not sure.
We came to realize that adoption secures her future much better than our guardianship agreement. As long as one of us is alive, Cassandra is fine. That’s not the case if we both die. Cassandra’s parents have both severed contact with us. We’re not sure where they’re living. They haven’t seen Cassandra in over two years. It seems like this would be the best decision for all concerned.
But, I know this will cause pain for Cassandra’s parents. Even though I’m sure they realize that they will never be in a position to be active in her life, they are still her parents. For all adoptions, this reality is a double-edged sword. For all those families who celebrate, there are an equal number of families who mourn. Even in situations where the adoption is planned and purposeful, there is the grief of what could have been.
I love my cousin. She is more than her drug addiction and mental illness. She is smart and kind. She has experienced more pain in her life than I can imagine. I hate that I am, in my small way, adding more pain. And, I know that I have to push past that guilt to do what is best for our baby. My cousin made decisions that influenced Cassandra’s life in both negative and positive ways. Now, it’s our responsibility to keep Cassandra safe, stable, and loved.
So, I talked to our lawyer this week. Soon, I will be writing a check to retain his services for this adoption. Hopefully, by summer vacation, we will officially have 19 children, Cassandra’s future will be secured, and the effect on Cassandra’s bio-parents will be minimal. Hopefully.
- Rev. Kelly Crenshaw is the mom of 16 adopted kids, 2 biological kids, Guardian of one adorable toddler, and has been the foster mom of dozens. Some are lesbian, some gay, some straight, and some bisexual. Kelly founded a K-12 day school where kids could have a safe, bully-free environment for learning. She has worked with kids in the foster care system for over two decades, actively advocating for all kids, but especially those in the LGBT community. And, in her spare time, she can be found preaching in some of our area’s most LGBT-friendly churches. Feel free to send your parenting questions to her at Pastor.Kelly@comcast.net.