Saturday, February 17, 2007

Step Three: Checking Out the Photolistings

I confess that I am a photolisting junkie and I admit that my husband and I decided to pursue older child adoption after our first evening of looking at pictures of darling children on internet photolistings. We fell in love with a couple of boys and when we inquired we found out we needed a homestudy. That was the beginning of our search.

The first principle to remember when dealing with photolistings is that they are more than just a matching tool. In fact, they probably fulfill a recruiting function to a greater extent than they do a matching function.

Secondly, regardless of how hard any one person tries, there are many children on photolistings who are no longer available. Often times the person who updates the website is two or three people away from the social worker with the child and so many things can happen to any of those people: medical leave, maternity leave, resignation, transfer, or just overwhelmed. The message that a family has been located may not go through the line of people and get to the person updating the website in a timely matter.

Third, the labels listed (mild, moderate, severe) are the opinion of one person. I have read thorough case files on children who I would rate as mild who are listed as severe and the other way around. There is no guarantee that those levels are a guarantee.

Children with no issues do not exist. There is not a child who has a history of abuse, neglect, and multiple moves that does not have any issues. The children who have "none" listed in every category may be stable right now, but they have issues.

And finally, a child who is mild now, won't be mild forever. An extremely small number of children adopted from the foster care make it through their entire lives without a few days, weeks, or months of "moderate" or "severe" behaviors.

So, photolistings are a great place to see the kinds of kids that are out there. If there are children that you are specifically drawn to, send your study. But don't be surprised if the child is no longer available or the level of care is inaccurate.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Matching Principle: It's About the Kids

I've heard it said 100 times by social workers. "We are not trying to find children for families. We are trying to find families for children."

In the process, putting the children first seems to be abusive to prospective parents. There are so many different ways in which families can get hurt in this process. In the list of ways a match can fall apart you can see how parents can get emotionally devastated. But if you can separate yourself from the situation and remind yourself that "it's not about you" it makes the process easier.

We tend to get tunnel vision when it comes to wanting children into our homes to the point that we don't put the kids first. A great example is when a local family is chosen for the children. Sure, we believe that we would have been just as good for the kids and it wouldn't be so hard for them to move across the country. But if a child is perfectly content in Florida and there is a family for them there, is Montana a better choice for them simply because I live there. Would moving across the country to a different climate with folks with a different style of living be best for the child? It may not harm them, but it's possible that allowing a child to be in a similar environment would be best for them.

Or what about a child who grew up in the inner city? Sure, we think our fresh air is preferable on our dairy farm, but what if the kid LIKES the city. What if that is familiar and comforting? If a child can stay in the same are where there are positive connections, might that not be best?

Some social workers take this to an extreme and sometimes almost mistreat prospective adoptive families. But there focus is going to be on what is best for that child, not how the "rejected" hopeful adoptive familiy feels. They know the children, we don't. They are going to do their very best to come up with the best option for them.

Yes, we are going to be upset when we are not selected. But we need to remember that it isn't about us. It's about the kids and THAT is how the workers will make their decisions.

Matching Principle: Stay as Distant as Possible

I've told myself several times that I should write a book on "101 Ways a Match Can Fall Apart." I kept track during 2005, and while 96 children came home, 120 children were matched with families that they were never placed with. Here are the top five reasons that I have seen for a match not turning into a placement (not necessarily in order).

1) The foster parents change their minds and decide to adopt. This happens SO often. Foster parents, who for years have been saying they are not interested, are doing so because they really never believed that the time would come that they would have to say goodbye. So they wait until the last minute before they say, "HEY, WAIT. We want these kids." I never get too upset when this happens because I do matching for the sake of the kids and most of the time it is best for the kids to stay with a foster family that they are bonded to, even if that family is slow in making a commitment. I have seen the foster parents step in and insist on taking the kids as late as two or three days before the selected adoptive family was supposed to meet the kids. It is a horrible thing to go through, but it happens a lot.

2) The family that is matched changes their mind about the kids after reading the case file. My experience is that MANY adoptive families decline the first child whose file they read. Case files are horrible nasty things that detail the abuse the child has suffered and their behaviors from their first day in foster care until the day they are waiting to be adopted. So there is a great deal of yucky stuff, to use a professional term, in the case file. Many matches fall through at this time.

3) A surprise appeal is filed. Birth parents can file an appeal to the Termination of Parental Rights decision and when they do so a hold is placed on the case and the social worker cannot proceed with a placement. So often it the adoptive parents do not want to wait and they move on. Or, once and a while, the birth parents win.

4) A relative comes forward. Social workers are supposed to do an extensive relative search BEFORE letting other non-relatives know about the available children. But sometimes a relative cannot be found that turns up after a family is selected. The case is put on hold until it is determined if it is in the child's best interest to be adopted by the relative and it is often determined that it is best for the child to go to a relative.

5) The case is delayed and the family just can't wait and they move on. There are so many ways that a placement can be delayed. A worker has a death in the family, or goes on maternity leave, or goes on vacation. A worker quits and the case has to be reassigned. The Interstate Compact Office in one state or the other takes a long time or puts a hold on the placement. The child becomes unstable and needs a psych hospitalization or a stay in a residential treatment center or a medical procedure. The supervisor or program director can request more information. The subsidy negotiations take too long. Paperwork is missing and needs to be collected. The homestudy is now out of date and needs to be updated. Some families after waiting three or four or six or ten months just can't wait any longer and give up.

There are variations of these five things as well as a few other reasons that aren't as common. But the bottom line is that even if you are matched with kids it doesn't mean they are moving in. People ask me "when should I get emotionally involved with the child?" and after doing this for four years, I often respond, "When you see them sleeping in their own bed in your own home you can begin."

Matching Principle: Don't Fall in Love with a Picture

One of the biggest mistakes that I have seen people in the matching process do is to fall in love with a picture. Here are a list of reasons why you should never fall in love based on a picture (even if it is next to a one paragraph summary).

1) If it is a cute picture, a WHOLE BUNCH of other people are going to be in love with it too. They are going to have the picture on their fridge, bulletin board, or desk. They are going to think the kids are SO CUTE or that "there is just something about that kid." A captivating photo will captivate many, and as you know, the more people that are captivated, the more families will be interested in the child.

2) Many children who are on photolistings are already matched. One of the hardest parts of the adoption matching process for those who are involved in matching and placing children is keeping photolistings up to date. There are many children who are already matched on websites.

3) Falling in love with a face can keep you from really listening to the information presented about the child. Wanting a child very badly because of a cute picture can cause people to not make reasonable decisions.

4) Very few people are matched with the first kid they fall for. In fact, because there is only one family chosen for each situation, there are many many others who are not selected. I remember hearing about one sibling group of children and the Texas website received over 100 homestudies submitted within the first 24 hours they were on the website. Theoretically that would mean that 99 homestudies were rejected and only 1 selected. Ironically, these three children, all under the age of five, were so difficult that the worker ended up putting the children on hold and none of the 100 families were chosen. The children were not matched until almost a full year later.

5) Photolistings, while they are great matching tools, are also recruiting tools. I remember the first kids we fell in love with back in 1997. I came across the old "Faces of Adoption" website and was immediately in love with these two kids. We didn't even have our homestudy done. But even though we realized that we had no chance of getting those kids because the process took so long, they drew us into the adoption process. So you may never be matched with children you see on a photolisting.

6) Finally, and most unfortunately, even getting matched does not mean that the children will come to your home (which I will discuss in a later post). But seeing a picture for the first time is definitely way too early in the process to be getting excited.

Step Two: Networking

Once you are confident that you have the best agency and the most accurate homestudy that you can acquire, then, in the midst of preparing yourselves and your family, it's time to start networking.

Of course, you aren't going to blame me for recommending that you register, if you haven't already, with Adopt America. But once that is done you can start to do your own networking.

One main point to remember is that there are a lot of agencies and social workers who will only have "worker to worker contact." That means that families are not able to talk to workers directly. For this reason, it is more important to build your network of people who already know social workers who have children available than it is to build a network of social workers who may never talk to you in the first place.

The first rule is to never throw away a piece of contact information. Invest in a good contact manager for the computer or a nice notebook and then NEVER throw ANY phone number, email address, regular address, or name away.

Start by talking to any family that you can find that has adopted from the foster care system and let them know that your homestudy is done. Ask them if they would be willing to talk to the social worker who had their kids on their caseload. Have them help you get the word out that you are waiting.

Next, you can subscribe to several email support groups that have waiting families. You can find them at yahoo groups or other groups and join. Ask questions and make connections there.

Photolistings are a great starting point but I haven't had great success with using photolistings alone. What I used to do, when matching our family, was to follow up persistently once I got ahold of the contact information. For example, if a worker had my study and called me to tell me that the child I was interested in was no longer available, I would respond, "Are there any other children on your caseload that might be a good match for my family?" Or, I might ask, "Are there other workers in your unit that might be interested in our family." I always took things one step further, and then another step after that.

The bottom line is that you need to continue to make as many connections as possible with as many folks as possible. Finding the right child or children for your family is a time consuming process. Don't give up easily -- keep building your network and making yourself available.

Step One: Assessment, Part Seven: Putting it All Together

So, it's time to put it all together and make some decisions. You may need to make some changes right now in order to make it easier for you to get matched.

Ask yourself the following questions (or, if you are a couple, you each need to ask yourselves):

1) Do I need to change my expectations about the kind of child I might be able to get matched with?

2) Do I need to change my agency in order to adopt children from another state or to have more cooperation in the matching process?

3) Do I need to represent myself better to my agency so they can write an addendum to my homestudy that includes things that I may have left out? (Remember, workers are looking for people who have been through tough things.)

4) Do I need to gain some more experience in order to better prepare myself?

5) Do I need to go in a completely different direction, such as foster parenting first?

6) Do I need to ask for some help?

After you ask yourself all those questions and come up wtih some answers, act on them.

Step One: Assessment, Part Six: How Prepared Are We

One of the main things that impresses social workers is experience. Yes, you've had a trainng, but do you know anyone who is parenting kids with special needs? Have you ever had a child in your home who has any issues? Have you ever sat down and talked to anyone (besides your social worker) who has parented a child like this?

Parenting experience is good, but often social workers don't believe that parenting "normal" kids, or parenting in a "normal" way is adequate preparation for parenting kids with a history of abuse and neglect. Even parenting adopted children who were adopted at birth or internationally doesn't necessarily mean that there it will be perceived that a family knows how to parent "system kids."

Now grant it, there are many children who are adopted internationally who have lots of issues: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, etc. But there are a great number of very emotionally healthy children adopted internationally, a sad statement. A Third World Orphanage has done a better job of raising many children than our foster care system has.

So, social workers want to see experience. They are impressed if you go to many trainings, and you should. The more you read, the better prepared you will be. Blogs like the ones listed on Adoption Blog Central can give you a look into the lives of people who are doing what you want to do, and that will help prepare. But social workers who are choosing a family for children want to see that you are willing to get yourself involved, hands on, BEFORE the kids are in your home.

Foster parenting is great experience. Doing respite care for another family who as adopted is also awesome experience. Spending time on a regular basis with a family who has adopted very hard kids is also very helpful (and a lot of adoptive families are kind of short on good friends, so they'd probably welcome the help).

One of the families that I worked with had a stay-at-home parent. While she was waiting to be matched she volunteered in the Emotional and Behavior Disorders classroom for a school year to get an idea of what kind of behaviors were associated with which diagnosis.

If you want to adopt cross culturally, it isn't enough to have a few ethnic dolls or artwork in your home. You need to KNOW some people of color. You need to associate with them on a regular basis. You need to have them be a part of your life. You need to ask them tough questions about racism. You need to work through your own attitudes about other cultures by being with people of that culture.

So, am I saying that if you don't do any of these things that you won't get matched? Not at all. But I am saying that you have to do something while you're waiting for that match, and these are excellent ways to understand what you're really going to go through when the time comes.

Don't fool yourself into thinking that you don't have time for any of the stuff that I just mentioned but that you will have time to invite a stranger into your home who is suddenly your child and be able to learn everything then. If you don't have time to add a few extra people into your life, you won't have time to parent the kind of children who come out of the foster care system.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Step One: Assessment, Part Five: What Kind of Family Are We

Matching is a competition of sorts. The kind of issues a child has, the number of children in a sibling group, the age of the child and the child's race all determine how much "competition" there will be.

For example, I know that if I let the word out that I know about a 1 year old Caucasian boy with no issues, I will be able to, on my own, find 40 or 50 families, just in my circle of connections, that will want that child.

If I post a sibling group of six African American kids, ages 9-16, I won't get a single study.

In fact, I checked on a 16 year old Hispanic male that I had first registered with our agency almost 3 years ago and we never had a single study sent. Not a single family in 3 years was interested in him.

So, let's say that you are one of those families who has determined, for the sake of discussion, that the only child you are willing to parent is a 1 year old Caucasian boy.

Are you going to have what it takes to win the competition? I realize this may sound crass, but what is the "perfect family?"

Fortunately, the perfect family is defined differently by every social worker. And the perfect family for a particular child is different than it might be for another child.

But, if you're talking about a one year old caucasian boy with no issues, the perfect familiy might well be defined as:

» 2 parent, male/female couple
» middle class
» Caucasian
» Wealthy enough, but not too wealthy
» Stay at home parent
» No more than one sibling, at least 2 years older
» Great neighborhood, schools, etc.
» In the same state as the waiting child
» In an agency that has a good reputation with the social worker
» Endured enough negative things to show that you can handle some adversity, but not so much that it damaged you a lot.

If you differ from this, then you may get chosen, but your chances are more slight with everything that isn't "on the list."

And as I said, this could be the list. Or it might not be, depending on the worker.

Every once and a while I get surprised. A match that I thought had no chance of being a match became one. But realistically, there are certain kind of families that social workers look at for certain kinds of kids and the closer to the "traditional" family a family is, the more chances they have for the children that seem to be considered the "most desirable."

Step One: Assessment, Part Four: What Kind of Agency Do You Have

I have run across many individuals in the waiting process who started out with an agency. After their homestudy is completed and they have invested all that time in the training and paperwork for that agency, they realize that the agency really isn't going to give them what they need in regards to matching, but they are afraid to switch agencies because of their previous investment.

Many people head to their county for an adoption home study. Many counties provide excellent service and will often provide a home study without charge. If you come from a county which includes a large metropolitan area, you should have no trouble being matched with a child or sibling group from that city. However, if you live in a rural area, your county may have less than 5 children adopted from there each year.

Here are some questions to ask your county or your agency before getting your home study done, if possible, or if you are not matched and wondering why.

1) If there are no children available in this county (or this area) will you assist me in getting matched with a child from another part of this state?

2) Will you send my homestudy to other states for me to be considered for children from another state? Will their be an additional charge? If you will, have you ever done an out of state placement? From which states?

3) Will you allow me to have a copy of my homestudy?

4) Will I be allowed to advocate for myself and talk to social workers on my own behalf?

5) How much time are you as my social worker going to have to help me in the matching process?

6) Will I be allowed to register with an organization like Adopt America.

7) How do you go about matching a family?

8) How many of the families you have homestudied were matched within a year of their homestudy?

Finally, think about the kind of child you want, the kind of child that is out there, the demographics of your state, and then see if it is realistic that your agency, based on the answers to these questions, is going to be able to match you with a child.

Step One: Assessment, Part Three: What Kind of State Do I Live In

One of the facts about our country is that because of demographics, there are some states that have more children than adoptive families and some states that have more families than adopted children. For example in 2004, there were 56 children adopted from the state of Wyoming and over 2,000 children in that same year adopted from states like Ohio, New York, and Texas. This report will tell you how many children were adopted from each state in 2004.

If you live in Wyoming or a state with a low number of children available for adoption, you will most likely need to adopt from another state. If you live in California, New York, Texas, Illinois, or a similar state, you will have better chances of adopting a child that is closer to your preferences simply because there will be a greater number of children available.

Step One: Assessment: Part Two: What Kind of Children Are Available.

In doing an assessment, it is important to combine the specifics regarding what kind of children you are looking for with the reality of what kind of children are available.

The Adoption and Foster Care Reporting and Analysis System (AFCARS) gives the following information about the 114,000 children who were waiting to be adopted in September of 2005 (the last time a report was completed).

Here is what they report:

53% were male, 47% were female

51% of those children had been in foster care for more than 30 months, and 87% had been in foster care for more than 12 months.

40% were Caucasian, 15% Hispanic, and 36% African American.

63% were over the age of five.

60% of the children were adopted by their foster parents.

I don't see data that connects the two, but based on my experience a large majority of the 37% of children adopted under the age of 5 were a part of the 60% who were adopted by their foster parents.

So, if you are planning to adopt without fostering and you are hoping for a girl, under the age of five, who is caucasian and whose foster parents aren't already planning to adopt her, you can see where the odds lie.

Step One: Assessment: Part One: What Kind of Children Do We Want

The first step in matching is to thoroughly assess your situation. This may seem simple, but it is a multistep process.

First, you need to determine what kind of child you are looking for. In doing this, you need to understand some myths. (and I can guarantee you that I am going to be telling you some stuff you don't want to hear).

Myth Number One: The Younger the Child the Better

Most individuals believe that the younger the child is when they arrive the better your chances will be in seeing a child succeed. This is not true on many levels. First, the younger the child is the less you know about the issues they will face. A child who is two or three years old might appear to not have any issues at that time. However, later in life the same child may face many if not all of things that children who are 11-17 have already been diagnosed with when they become available for adoption. Getting a child when they are young does NOT mean that they will not have these issues. It just means that you will not know that they have them.

Secondly, the younger the child is the longer they will be in your home. Many people believe that this is a good thing, but when you are dealing with children who have multiple issues, fewer years with you is not necessarily a bad thing.

Third, the younger the child is the longer it will take them to realize that you are not the cause of their issues. Children who come as younger children tend to blame their adoptive parents for every issue they face, while children adopted as teens KNOW that it isn't their adoptive parents fault -- they are the ones who rescued them.

Myth Number Two: If I Get a Child When They Are Younger I Can FIx Them

More and more research is showing that many personality disorders, most mental illness, and as we know, many medical issues, are genetic. A child's personality as well as their behavioral issues are often times something that they come to us with, even if they come at birth. No amount of behavior modification, perfect environment, or positive parenting is going to be enough to erradicate these things.

Myth Number Two: We (or I) Can't Handle More than One or Two Chidren Coming at Once

Often adopting a sibling group can be easier than adopting one child, and sometimes a large sibling group can be easier than a group of two. Working to understand the family system that already exists and using the strengths of each member of the sibling group can actuallly make parenting the group easier. It is also true that children will take up all of the time that you have, so whether you have 2 or 10, they will take up all your time. The more children there are, the more people there are to interrract with.

Myth Number Three: If They Split the Group, We Can Take the Younger Ones and They Will Be Fine.

Time and time again I have seen this happen and it does so much damage to everyone. A "parentified" oldest sibling can be a wonderful asset to parents who will include them in helping with the younger children. And losing the older siblings can be devastating to the younger ones.

Myth Number Four: We (or I) Can't Parent a Child of Another Race

There are many great support groups out there for families adopting transracially. There is also a great amount of enrichment that comes to parents who choose to adopt transracially as they have a new world opened up to them and learn a new culture as they attempt to teach culture to their children.

and finally, Myth Number Five: There are Certain Issues We Just Can't Parent.

Coming from someone who had a list like that and ended up, years later, finding out we were parenting everything on our "can't parent" list, I know that anyone can do anything they decide to do. Their quality of life may not be the same as it was, but anyone CAN do it. And unfortunately, case histories may accurately portray the past, but they can never predict the future.

Asking the tough questions and expanding ideas of what kind of children would fit in the home is a good first step.

A Series on Matching

In the first 5 years of my marriage, I filled our home with 9 children and we were matched with a tenth. I found that I had a gift (relentless and persistent, yet appropriate and inoffensive, nagging of all parties) which led to matches.

Running out of bedspace, I decided to focus my efforts in getting kids home, but into a different home than mine. In the next five years (which are the past five), I have helped 240 children make it home. I have over 60 more kids matched and waiting for paperwork to go through before they will be able to go home with their families. Through my work with the Adopt America Network and my employment with a private adoption agency, I match families with children. It is my passion and it fills much of my time.

When thinking about relevant topics to post on this blog, I decided to go with the one thing I know most about: the matching process.... both how it works, how to make a match happen, and how to keep from going crazy while you wait.

I will be happy to field questions, and hope that this series will develop into a useful tool for anyone in the matching process. Here are the posts in the series:

Step One: Assessment; Part One: What Kind of Children do we Want

Step One: Assessment; Part Two: What Kind of Children are Available.

Step One: Assessment; Part Three: What Kind of State Do I Live In.

Step One: Assessment; Part Four: What Kind of Agency Do I Have

Step One: Assessment; Part Five: What Kind of Family Are We

Step One: Asseesment; Part Six: How Prepared Are We

Step One: Assesment; Part Seven: Putting it All Together

Step Two: Networking

Matching Principle: Don't Fall in Love with a Picture

Matching Principle: Stay as Distant as Possible

Matching Principle: It's About the Kids

Step Three: Checking Out the Photolistings

Step Four: Making Yourself Stand Out; Part One: A Profile Page.

Step Four: Making Yourself Stand Out; Part Two: A Cover Letter.

Step Four: Making Yourself Stand Out: Part Three: Collateral Information.

Step Four: Making Yourself Stand Out: Part Four: A Scrapbook.

Step Five: Making a Final Decision After You Are Matched.

Step Six: Preplacement Visits.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Kid's Will Use What They Have or "You're Not My Real Mom"

I've often told prospective adoptive parents that kids will use what they have as ammunition. Birth kids say, "I wish I could run away. I hate this family." Or "I wish you weren't my parents." Or whatever else they can dream up.

Adopted kids say, "You're not my real mom" to which we can reply in many ways. We can be offended and sad and have hurt feelings. We can say something funny like, "I think if you feel me, you'll see I'm not fake. I'm not a robot, a pretend mom, or a doll." Or we can be sensitive and say something like, "I know that you feel sad about not living with your birthmom, but right now I'm the mom who is taking care of you every day and who loves you very much."

But when they're mad, they're going to say it. Why? Because they can.

And I bet there are a whole lot of birth kids who would say the same thing if it were possible. Because when kids are mad, they use what they have.

Tonight Dominyk got sent to bed early for making a mess he wouldn't clean up.

Using the ammunition he had, he responded (speaking of my husband, who is not yet home), "Guess SOMEONE's not going to be able to make Heart Bread with me!"

(Click here to read more about Heart Bread).

Friday, February 2, 2007

"If I Don't Get Adopted in Three Years . . . "

There is a new bill being introduced in Washington State which would allow for children to petition the court and ask to be reunified with their birth parents if they have not been adopted after three years. The bill in it's entirety can be read here.

The spirit of the bill is this situation, and I quote from the bill, "There may be cases in which a child will no longer be at risk of abuse or neglect by a former parent and it is in the best interests of a child who is legally free to be reunited with his or her parent." While this scenario happen ocassionally, and it would certainly be better for the child to have some adults in their lives instead of aging out of the parents have changed substantially and are able to have a healthy relationship, but I'm wondering if that might be the exception rather than the rule.

The implications I see, as a person who attempts to match children on a daily basis, is that this law, if understood by the children, could keep them from healing and moving on. Many older children are cautious about being adopted and they know how to manipulate the system. If their behavior is horrible, nobody will adopt them. What if there was that hope for them: If I just hold out three years then I can ask to live with my parents again. And, unfortunately, it is my belief that if the bill passes, the majority of these requests would have to be denied in order to preserve the best interest of the child.

So, I see a scenario like this one (not a true story, but certainly could be): Katie is very attached to her birth mother even though she has emotionally abused her for years and was sexually abused by many of her mothers boyfriends. Her mother was consisently attracted to men who were abusive to her and to her children. Katie is removed at the age of twelve. She's bright and she heard about a new law that says that in three years she can go live with her mom again if she hasn't been adopted."

Do you think this child is going to be helpful to her social worker in trying to find a new family? Will she understand that the request for ruinification is not a guarantee? Will she use her behaviors to make herself "unadoptable" on purpose?

I am sure that there are those who would say, "There aren't homes that will adopt teenagers anyway" but there are a few and I have seen several "success stories" in placing kids over 14.

I see pros and cons to this legislation. However, it appears to me that the benefit it might provide in a few situations might not be enough to compensate for the many children it would keep from being adopted. I'm interested in others opinions.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


I found it funny that Kari and I chose almost exactly the same blog title for our final posts last night and that this morning Cindy's Older Child Adoption Blog entry touched on some of the same things I was thinking about yesterday.

I have been amazed over the years the ways in which my circle of friends has changed. Before I was married, my friends were all pretty similar. We shared the same church affiliation in a small denomination and thus we thought alike. We came from similar backgrounds, we believed the same way and most of us lived in the same part of the country. I didn't even think that I could feel close to someone who had a different belief system than I did.

And then came tough kids into our lives and while our friends didn't cease to be our friends, they slowly faded into the background because they "didn't get it." They didn't understand why we were making the choices we were making and they certainly didn't understand why we had to parent the way we did or our childrens' special needs. And so our pool of friends started to change a bit.

Now I am connected through the shared experience of adoption with all kinds of people who are different from me. Many of them are of a different Christian denomination, and some even practice a different religion. Some of them are not Caucasian. Some of them are involved in same sex relationships. They come from every walk of life and we only have one thing in common. But that one thing is a big thing.

It's amazing how much that one thing has broadened my world. And that is something I don't take for granted.