Growing the Family Tree
How a local agency is helping families through the process of adoption.
Adoption can be one of the most life-changing choices a family makes. Whether choosing to add a new member to the family or choosing to place a child up for adoption, there’s a lot to think about. Luckily there are services like Lutheran Family and Children’s Services (LFCS) in Springfield, a facility that counsels and guides families through the adoption process.
One of the services LFCS offers to expectant mothers is the WINGS program: Women in Need Growing Stronger. WINGS is a pregnancy counseling program for women who are experiencing struggles such as unstable housing, domestic violence or financial issues. This program is free for women thanks to the funding LFCS receives from United Way.
Although she didn’t use WINGS, April Beeman took advantage of the other counseling services at LFCS after finding out she was pregnant the summer after she graduated from high school at age 18. She wanted to keep the baby, but the father decided it wouldn’t be a good time for them to have a child. April used the counseling services at LFCS both during her pregnancy and after she had given her baby to the adoptive family.
April also worked with LFCS to find a good home for her daughter, Emma, and still checks back in frequently. Twice a year, Emma’s adoptive parents send updates with photos and a letter to LFCS for April to pick up. April doesn’t have direct contact with her daughter, but she can learn about her through what the adoptive parents send. She keeps all the photos and letters in a hope chest at home. The parents usually send around 50 photos with their letter.
Along with counseling services, LFCS works with adoption cases including domestic adoptions, international adoptions and foster care. When a family comes in and is interested in adopting, the first step is deciding what type of adoption is best for the family. Next, the family fills out and submits their application for adoption to LFCS.
Next comes a home study. An adoption worker visits the family in their home to learn more about them, their jobs and their lifestyle at home. This study takes two to three months to complete and when it’s finished, the matching process starts.
Whenever a child is placed for adoption with LFCS, the birth parents can choose if they want to select their child’s adoptive parents or if they want LFCS to make the match. If the birth parents decide to choose, LFCS provides them with albums of families that have been matched with their child based on what the adoptive family is looking for in a child. In each album is basic family information, a letter to the birth parents and a Q & A section. The birth parents review the albums and choose which family they want to adopt their child.
From there, LFCS works with the adoptive family to place the child in their home. LFCS Southwest Missouri Region Director Laura Farmer says they tell families the entire adoption process can take about 18 months. But this isn’t always the case; the timeline for adopting can vary greatly. For example, one family waited four years for their match to be made.
Jennifer Statler had two children when she and her husband decided to adopt an African American baby from LFCS. At the time, Jennifer was teaching first grade and taught a girl who had lost her mother and lived with her grandmother. “She would come to me and say, ‘I wish I had a mommy,’ and that just broke my heart,” Jennifer says. She had made a connection with that girl and knew that she wanted to adopt.
From the time Jennifer made the decision to adopt to the time Macie was placed in their home, the family had waited four years. Having the patience to wait for the baby was one of the biggest challenges for Jennifer. She says her constant mantra was, “Our baby will come. Be patient.”
And she finally came, but not without some obstacles. Because Macie was born three months premature, she had acid reflux, a potentially blinding eye condition and had a heart monitor. Macie didn’t walk until she was 18 months old.
Macie received occupational, physical, and speech therapy until age 3, and today she is just any other normal kid. Jennifer is constantly entertained by Macie’s funny antics and loves having her as part of the family. “I felt like there was a piece of our family that was missing until Macie came home, and when she came home I felt like the puzzle was complete,” she says.
LFCS has facilitated many adoptions in the area, including April’s and Jennifer’s adoptions. Both mothers highly encourage others to consider adoption. Jennifer is always eager to talk to others about adopting a new member of the family. Likewise, April knows that adoption is a good alternative if pregnant mothers are unsure about having a child. “I feel great about doing what I did and giving her the life that she has,” April says. Although navigating through the process of adoption can be confusing and complicated, Lutheran Family and Children’s Services is a resource that can provide aid to those in need.
Since Lutheran Family and Children’s Services is a non-profit organization, they rely heavily on donations and fundraisers. Check out this event in early November, National Adoption Month, and help out the organization. The theme of Adopting Hope is “There’s No Place Like Home,” and the evening includes a social hour, a silent and live auction, entertainment and dinner provided by Simply Delicious catering. For more information, visit lfcsmo.org.
Date: November 4
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Diamond Room at Knights of Columbus Hall, 2340 W. Grand St., Springfield
Tickets: $50 per person. Call 417-862-1972 or e-mail email@example.com to purchase.