Five years ago this month, my wife, Melissa, and I started to entertain an “out of the ordinary” idea. We were living in Tanzania while working at a nonprofit, but we were visiting the central coast as my wife was in the final trimester of her second pregnancy. Already with our two year old daughter, Promise, in tow, and a baby boy just weeks away, we started to consider how we might continue building our family through adoption, specifically by adopting an older child.
Melissa and I always knew that we would adopt. We had already dedicated so much of our professional life to serving and helping children that were outside of parental care, we knew that at some point we would step up ourselves to become parents of a kid in need. We had planned to adopt within birth order as is often recommended [i.e., adopting a child with a birth date that follows the chronological order of the other children in the home, in order to keep the birth order as is], but felt a challenge from the keynote speaker at the Welcoming Children Home Conference here in SLO. He discussed how so many older children were being passed up for adoption as community members give various reasons why they just couldn’t adopt them. This remains the case, the older a child becomes (by no fault of their own of course!), the less likely they are to be adopted. After prayer and deliberation, we dedicated ourselves to open our family to an older child from our community in Tanzania.
Our son Shepherd was born during our furlough in California and in February we returned home to Tanzania. We felt inclined to adopt a particular boy that had spent essentially his entire life in a residential care facility. We quickly hired an adoption attorney to help in the process and began going through all of the paperwork and processes to bring our son home. The adoption process certainly had its share of ups and downs! We were able to work with various people connected to this boy’s life in one way or another, and in August 2015, the court approved our adoption. We welcomed our eight year old son, Moses Michael Stiver, into the family. We went from one to two to three kids in under nine months!
The makeup of our family isn’t standard, but it’s good and we’re thankful. On Moses’ Adoption Day this year, we celebrated by going to In-n-Out, a delicacy that we weren’t able to enjoy during our years living in Tanzania. Having welcomed our fourth child, Bishop, into the family earlier this year, it’s fun seeing Moses embrace the big brother role all over again. When we had one little girl and one little boy, people mused that we could be done having kids, but over four years into our adoption, we couldn’t imagine our family any other way.
On the central coast, older school aged children remain a population that are in serious need of adoptive parents. These youth are victims of traumatic experiences and are in need of families to aid in their healing. Adopting an older child is not easy. At the same time, though, raising kids in general is not easy! There are unique challenges in attachment and social behavior that require a lot of adjustments when welcoming in an older kid. I wish that our family had the services and support that FCNI offers when we were adopting in Tanzania! Despite difficulties, there is nothing that is more rewarding for parents than seeing their children learn, mature and find their place in life.
I won’t be so bold as to advocate that everyone adopt out of birth order. It really should be determined on a persona, case-by-case basis. For us, it worked. We gauged where our little ones were and made the correct determination that our family could open our home to an older child. There are other children and youth that are in the same boat as Moses was. They need homes and they happen to already be school-aged. I am glad to be a part of a team at Family Care Network that supports families who are opening their homes to children and youth in need. I’m not only grateful for our family’s adoption story, but also for the other families in our community that have built their family through adoption. Adoption is truly a beautiful picture of restoration and grace.
Ready to Adopt? Please call 805-781-3535 to talk to Brandon about our adoption opportunities.