How To Build A Family Through Adoption.

We have been adoptive parents for 13 years now, and I can honestly say that it has been the greatest journey of our life. We continually reminisce back to our college days, before we were married, and agree that there’s no way we could have scripted our life any better. I say that in-spite of many difficult days and seasons. However, we have learned what sacrificial love looks like, how much we still have to learn as parents, and the unique beauty that comes from building a family through adoption.

Photo courtesy of Alex Holt Design @2011

Photo credit: Alex Holt Design @2011

Over the years we’ve been asked a simple question: how do you build a family through adoption? While I wouldn’t consider us the foremost experts on this, we have learned a thing or two, and we’ve discovered some do’s and don’ts. We have learned by trial and error, a lot. But we have also had the unique opportunity to build our family from a few different angles.

If you are considering adoption, I first want to say, congratulations! Don’t give up, even when the process gets long and difficult, not to mention costly. It is so worth it.

With all that said, here’s my answer to the question:

1. Plan for imperfection.

This is the first, and most important step, as far as I’m concerned. Bottom line: we are imperfect people (all 7 billion of us) and this process is far from perfect. Do not get caught up in the glamour of adoption. It’s not real, at least most of it. No offense to Brad or Angelina, but most of us will not have cameras capturing our every move, a magazine art department air brushing the heck out of us and our children as we arrive home, or a lier jet to fly us to and from the country we are adopting from. Make it a part of your plan to be imperfect.

2. Research everything. 

Know the different types, the processes involved, and financial costs of adoption. Earlier this year, I wrote an article for Hamilton County Family magazine (in Indiana) about the different types of adoption and understanding the process (you can read the full article here). Spend time reading up on the process (from credible sources like licensed agencies), and dialoging with couples who have gone before you. It is also important to research the different laws and requirements that foreign countries have in place if you’re adopting internationally. Working with an agency like Bethany Christian Services or Adoption Support Center can help with all of this.

3. Ignore (most of) the internet. 

In-spite of researching everything, stay away from most discussion forums (unless they are with credible agencies), opinion articles, or un-reliable sources. The internet is full of garbage, and this is as much the case with adoption as anything else. Stick to blogs (wink-wink) and agency websites that give honest and genuine perspectives on adoption.

4. Do not go into debt. 

Do not take out loans to pay for your adoption. I know this causes many to baulk because of the costs involved, but, there are ways to raise funds without taking out loans. Many agencies and personnel connected with the adoption process can give you creative ideas. Do fund-raisers like walk-a-thons, yard sales, or even car washes to pay for your adoption with cash. Plan to do this over time. It may take you a year or 2 to raise the necessary funds to pay for your adoption but it’s worth it.

As a family pastor it is also my conviction that prayer and trust in a higher power than you have are huge parts of this process. You have to trust that the right amount of funds will come to you and the child you are supposed to adopt, at the perfect time, will be brought into your home.

5. Connect yourself to a community.

Before and after the adoption is complete, this is so vital. You need people in your life who understand what you’re going through- people who have been there and done that and have the scars to prove it. Your local adoption agency, as well as your local foster-care agency, should have support group listings and contacts they can provide you.

6. Open your heart and mind to anything.

It’s not a matter of “if you’ll be thrown some curve balls”, it’s a matter of “when you’re thrown some curve balls.” The adoption process is a rollar-coaster of emotions, good and bad. It has it’s ups and downs. There are a lot of beautiful moments but also a lot of frustrating or difficult moments involved. Remember, this is a journey. Most likely, unless you adopt a child the moment they’re born, you will be adopting children from difficult backgrounds. Even if you bring home a newborn, difficulties can arise later on. Buckle up. The ride could get bumpy. Keep your heart and mind open to anything that comes your way.

I can promise you this: it is an adventure, but, it’s also filled with a ton of beauty and fulfillment. I say that in-spite of [sometimes] tough circumstances and seasons. However, it’s all worth it.

If you find yourself with more questions than this post has answered, feel free to contact us. Both of us love to discuss adoption and foster care. You can send emails to me at or Kristin at

Question: Adoptive families, it’s your time to share: what are some other ways you’ve built your family through adoption? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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  • Brian N Jennifer Rhodes

    Hey there. I am an adoptive Dad and I read your blog from time to time. I find it humorous, truthful and helpful. The majority of the time I agree with everything you say but I have found something in this specific blog I don’t completely agree with. You recommend in #4 listed above “Do not go into debt.” I would have to say I disagree with this. Had it not been for our initial “going into debt” to fund our adoptions we would have been in trouble and unable to adopt. I know for a fact that there are different grants, and other ventures you can undertake to do so but, for some, those things don’t always pan out. Folks shouldn’t be afraid to take out loans to start their family as far as I’m concerned. We took out loans for BOTH of our adoptions and both were paid off completely before either of them turned 1 yr of age. I would say, be aware of your finances and know what your limitations are but don’t be afraid of a loan. Many folks work for companies that actually help with adoption costs but you must do your homework. Know all the fact before you jump off some random cliff. Also, you can claim, I believe it’s now, slightly over 13k of adoption related costs over a five year period and receive reimbursement through your tax refunds. Not to mention, if you adopt a child that is considered “special needs” you are also blessed with quite a few other perks. Please note to anyone reading this comment, “special needs” has many definitions in the adoption realm. While it can mean a child born with a physical disability of some type mental/physical/etc, most every state has their own definition of special needs. Some of those may be admitted drug or alcohol use by the birthmother during pregnancy, no information on the birthmother, no information on the birthfather, etc. The list is larger than you might think. States and their Dept of Social Services each have their own definitions of such and, many times, if your child is classified under this umbrella there are also non recurring reimbursements made, tax credits given until the child is 18, etc.
    Basically, the point I’m trying to make is, loans are not necessarily a bad thing but the adoptive parent MUST do their homework and know what type of financial burden these loans will put on your budgets….or lack thereof. By the way, the same can be said of those going through natural pregnancy (i.e. Dr’s bills, hospital bills, etc). Having a family isn’t cheap regardless of what road you decide to take but it is ALWAYS worth it. Children, no matter how crazy they can drive you from time to time, are a blessing from God. I hope you have not taken any offense from my comments as none were intended. God Bless!! Brian

    • Hey Bryan, thanks for your comment. Very glad to hear that you find Confessions helpful and humorous. That’s the goal.
      I understand where you are coming from but the reason I make the point of not going into debt is 1) Our family does not believe being in debt is a healthy thing, and 2) for every family like yours, who can manage their finances and manage loans, there are 10 families who cannot and could find themselves in trouble very quickly. As a family pastor in a large church I interact with hundreds of people who are in a financial mess, and, yes, some of them are considering building their family through adoption. Very exciting, and I am always stoked to work with them on this awesome journey. However, their awesome journey could become a nightmare if they find themselves defaulting on loans and potentially in over their head. Adoption is a beautiful thing and the last thing anyone wants is an added stress of paying off debt. Again, I see where you are coming from, but my point is that there are better ways to fund adoptions than going into debt. Thanks again for your comment!

  • Brian N Jennifer Rhodes

    I can highly appreciate your viewpoint as I too am a minister for 15+ years. That is why I also included a, sort of, disclaimer about being aware of your finances before you ‘jump the gun.’ I guess one of my biggest fears is rooted in the fact I actually have friends who are extremely interested in adoption but when they find out about the financial aspect of things they get discouraged and fearful. That bothers me to know that their prospective families and themselves are missing out on a HUGE blessing. As a minister I also realize the importance of taking ‘steps of faith,’ though some misconstrue that comment to mean ‘a leap to your death.’ Personally, I just felt that specific portion of your writing needed a little more discussion, explanation, etc as there can be exceptions to the rule. I do highly value your opinion as you have walked this road on numerous occasions though I wanted to make sure your readers read a success story from the other side of things. We must be balanced in our decisions as not only will they affect our current lives as we live them but our children’s lives as they get older. As a parent it is my desire to pass down valuable information that my children will learn from and eventually pass those good habits to their own family. Regardless, any BIG decision such as adoption or basically anything that will cause as ripple effect of sorts in the lives of your family should ALWAYS be bathed in prayer. Thank you for allowing me the chance to open up this discussion on your blog.

    • Brian, it’s my pleasure. One of my favorite parts of blogging is that you get to enter into discussions with all kinds of people with all different views. It makes it fun and interesting (and challenging!). Thanks again for sharing!