Why Are You Adopting?

Custom bunk beds Dan designed and installed in Maddy’s room earlier this year.

Why do you want to adopt?

There are kids who need families.  We are a family.  The whole family with kids thing?  School, swim team, homework, the state fair, the neighborhood pool, sledding in our front yard?  We’re already doing that.  It’s already in session.

Why from foster care? 

 Because these are kiddos right here in our own community who are orphans.  It’s shocking to think there are orphans among us, even more shocking to realize there are whole websites filled with wards of the state waiting for adoptive homes. But it’s true.  We’ve wrapped our minds around this truth, if barely.

Also?  We’ve had a shining, sparkly role model…one of my lifetime besties.  I am not convinced we’d be on this journey had we not first watched hers. Check it out here.

And why an older child?  Aren’t they pretty messed up? I mean, it’s sad, but they’ve seen so much and been bounced around to Lord knows what kind of/how many foster families…won’t they have some issues that are insurmountable? Yes, they need homes but should it be you, with biological kids of your own?

 There are many answers here, some surfacey, some deeper.  I’m going to be as honest as I can.

I never had a sister growing up.

One day I saw my friend Kate and her sister Lindsay in a church parking lot after we’d all dropped our older kids off for day camp.  Their minivans were parked side by side, doors open between them to create a little space, a private world.  Kate & Lindsay didn’t know I was watching them, as their heads were bent together and they helped one another with their smallest children.  Or maybe they were just talking.  I don’t know, I couldn’t really tell. But my heart lurched in my chest because:  Sisters.  Now, I found my own sisters during my teen years, a few who remain more family than friends to this day. I certainly have found new sister-friends even in my adulthood. But there’s something about that familial bond. I don’t discount the fact that many sisters are not as close as Kate & Lindsay, and with Maddy and an adopted sis getting a late start, the cards could be stacked against such a bonded relationship.

But maybe not.  And even still.

So yes, we are looking for an older child, a girl between the ages of Gabe & Maddy (7 and 10).  Depending on who you ask (Dan or I), we may also be willing to consider a sibling group of two sisters OR a sister Maddy’s age and a brother around the age of our boys.  Gabe and Graham are such a powerful force of nature that I’ve often wondered at the healing potential of a little guy getting sucked into their maelstrom.

And the jist of this question (Won’t they be messed up?  Might they have insurmountable issues?) is one we’ve heard spoken several times and I imagine is unspoken amongst those who don’t voice it.  It’s certainly spoken in my own head almost daily. The answer?


Yes, they very well may (will) have emotional, behavioral and educational hurdles.  Huge, smelly, tangled up issues.  Some may absolutely be insurmountable.  We currently know two adoptive families right in our town who have had to involve the police due to threatening behavior from their respective adoptive children on multiple occasions.  Yes, it scares us.  No, I don’t want to put our bio children in undue harm or chaos.  I believe Maddy, Gabe and Graham deserve exactly what these foster lovies deserve: to grow up in a safe home with safe people surrounding them.  We won’t compromise one to give the other.  And also?  We might compromise one to give the other.  Guess what?  Madalyn or Gabe or Graham could also endanger the safety of a foster kiddo and/or one another and/or us one day.  We could call the police on a bio kid during the years to come.  Brain chemistry and development and behavior are tricky variables.  We are under no delusion that if we “do the right things” we will raise perfect, safe humans.  Life is tricky like that, darn it. I don’t like it any more than you do.

But we see the point.  We do.  So we’re committed to continuous therapy for our new kiddo(s) and for our entire family.  We will dig deep through the selection process, listen to our gut/God (same/same), listen to each other, listen to our three littles and try to make a right, safe choice for our family.  We will do all the things.  But?  These are children. Children without homes.  Kids. Orphans.  So even if they will grow to be dangerous, even if they never bond with us fully, even if they make choices down the road that break our hearts, they will have had a family. What’s the alternative?  I want to live in a world where we don’t let orphans go without families.

And if we are lending mind space to the worst case scenario, we need to offer full and equal attention to the best possible outcome.  We could adopt a child who fully bonds, fully assimilates, fully heals right alongside us Carneys doing our best to heal from our own junk.  She could launch into the world ready to be the unique individual she was meant to be with a family at her back who loves her.  One day she and Maddy could be parked next to each other in a day camp parking lot, doors open, heads bent together, spun in a world of family and sisters and love.

Maybe you should consider a baby or toddler instead?

Honey Child, on August 1st, 2016, 18 days ago, I sent ALL three of my children on the glorious yellow school bus for the first time.  Kindergarten, First Grade and Fifth, Baby.    The past two nights Gabe has had bad dreams and climbed in bed with us, disrupting my precious snowflake slumber.  I’ve been a zombie during the day afterwards.  I’ve lost my baby muscles, Friend. My coping strategies. Return to diapers and sleepless nights and spit up and crying?  To quote Meghan Trainor: ‘My name is No. “Nah” to the “Ah” to the “No”, “No”, “No”.’

Also?  There is a much, much greater need for adoption amongst children above the age of 2 years.  And, as explained above, we want Maddy to have a sister, and one close in age.  But mostly?  That stuff about spit up.

What about the money?  Isn’t adoption crazy expensive? 

It can be, yes, especially in the case of international or private domestic adoption.  It’s not really a factor in adopting wards of the state.  Everything is covered.  In the state of Indiana, the only foreseeable cost is a legal fee of around $1500 for finalizing the adoption, but even then many lawyers familiar with such cases will simply wait to be reimbursed from the State.  And if a family is charged the legal fee upfront, they will be reimbursed by the State once the adoption is finalized.  So zero dollars after all is said and done.

Additionally, prior to the adoption being finalized, a subsidy or “per diem” is given to the foster/adoptive family monthly for care of the child.  Again, this differs from state to state, but in Indiana there are further additional supports like an initial clothing allowance, special occasion allotments (presents for birthdays, Christmas, etc.) and further funds available for unique needs encountered (ie: a laptop required for school, sports equipment, etc.).  The monthly subsidy is specific to the child:  kiddos with medical needs, for example, would receive a higher dollar amount to cover gas to and from doctor’s appointments and the like.  All foster lovies are on Medicaid, so their medical expenses are covered.  AND after the adoption is finalized, different yet often equal state subsidies are available to adoptive families until the child turns 18.  The kiddos remain on Medicaid as well until adulthood.

Say what you will about our government, but in the case of foster adoption a great deal has been done to remove the financial obstacle for prospective families.  And although this can be a sensitive subject, I am personally happy my tax dollars go to families who are helping our kids.  Because they’re all our kids, right?  And Dan & I might not be able to adopt more than one or two, but I’m glad we indirectly support those who are fostering and adopting.  I’m glad we can help them help.

That’s a lot of words.  I still don’t know if I really get it.  Why?

 Because it could be my kids in the system.  It could be Maddy and Gabe and Graham.  I could be the junkie mom, the addicted mom, the mom choosing an unstable husband or boyfriend over my children, forever compromising their safety.  I could be strung out in a hotel room, my three sleeping on the floor.  I could leave them alone for hours, days at a time with no food.

Why am I not that mom?  Although incredibly imperfect, why am I able to more or less hold it together?  Although full of flaws, why do Dan and I have a safe, loving marriage?  Why is Dan a stellar baby daddy?  Why is he not drug dealing on the side, why is he not hurting our kids?  Is it our family background?  Our more or less normal brain chemistries?  Our social circles and their influence?  The color of our skin, the culture in which we came of age?  Our education?  Our able, working bodies?  The fact that we haven’t been in a life-altering car wreck that left us in unbearable agony leading to pain med addiction?

And how much of the above did we choose 30-some odd years ago?  How much of that was in our control when we arrived on Earth as pink screaming newborns?

Exactly none of it.

So it could be my babies.  The State could be looking for a permanent placement for Maddy, Gabe and Graham.  They could be on the website, arms around each other, smiling for the camera, hoping to God someone would adopt the three of them before the powers that be split them up to make them more “adoptable.”

It could be our kids.

So we’re going to do our darnedest to be the family we would want to take in our own children.  We’re going to do it in a wildly imperfect fashion.  We are going to willingly give up some peace, some assurances, some stability.  We’re going to make a lot of mistakes.  We’re not doing it because we’re strong or called or because we have a “heart” to adopt.  Our reasons don’t translate to Christianese at all, turns out.

It’s solely because there’s no such thing as someone else’s children.   And because I never had a sister.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sara says:

    Jeesh, woman! Making me cry over my lunch over here! Love this – all of it but especially the last two lines. Love the Carneys – all 6 (or 7!) of you! And Murphy of course.

  2. Heather Marsman-Hefer says:

    I’ve been waiting for this from you, since that day we met at our first “training”. I’m beyond impressed with your thoughtful explanation of your motivation. I’m honored to have met you and I’m excited to see how all of this plays out. Please continue to keep us informed.

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