Matt and Erin
Adoption: Love in action
“We wanted to make a difference and felt that adoption was the single most powerful way to do so,” said Erin Ward, adoptive mother of four foster children. “We went to a few information sessions and realized how enormous the need was and we felt drawn to become involved. The more we learned, the more we were terrified but also felt that this was something we could do.”
Initially foster parents, she and her husband, Matt, adopted one child at age 13, and later a sibling group of three at ages 2, 4 and 8.
“Once we learned how many foster children were waiting to be adopted, and watched all the tear-jerking documentaries and commercials, we were hooked,” she said, emphasizing they did not move forward blindly and took training very seriously. “I think everyone who steps into this world of adopting a foster child has to have a bit of an overactive ‘hopefulness’ gland because after all the stories you hear in the training, you would have to be nuts to move forward without a bit of delusional optimism.”
Ward describes her children as strong, scrappy and resourceful, all with very different personalities. While she noted they sometimes behave in very unlikeable ways and have serious issues that they were not aware of when they adopted them, that hasn’t deterred them. She and her husband have been vulnerable, angry and hurt by their children but they love them and will never give up on them, she stressed.
“Adoption is love in action,” she said. “Love is hard, love is showing up, love is taking that next step forward even though your children may be physically pushing you back. Love is defending behavior you don’t like or understand to a teacher with a misaligned sense of justice, love is re-toilet training a child whose trauma has destroyed so much of his sense of value, he simply no longer cares. One day, maybe a week, a month, a year in, you will have the drop-in-your-stomach-that-makes-you-want-to-throw-up realization that you love these human beings with every fiber of your being, and their life will have changed because they have experienced love, actual love.”
She and her husband are advocates for their children, and work with multiple therapists, teachers and others to get them the help they need.
While stressed at times, Ward says, the joys of raising children have balanced that out. Seeing a child rage for hours to now managing his passionate emotions, seeing a child struggle academically to making the B honor roll, seeing a child exceeding well beyond what was initially expected of him, seeing a child show great empathy for animals and people, seeing a child develop early into a social advocate and bringing joy to others with his humor – all of these bring happiness in parenting, according to Ward.
Ward says her world has changed radically since she became an adoptive parent. “While the changes were not always easy, I can look back and say I am exactly where I should be. I know that my husband and I can make it through anything, literally, anything,” she said. “Knowing everything I know, I would do it all again. These human beings are worth it and their love has given my life a purpose and mission. I love them.”
For those considering adopting children from the foster care system, she has some suggestions.
- Take your time, learn all you can.
- Continue to go to trainings even after you finalize adoption.
- Schedule a date night before your child comes into your home to talk through and ensure you can adopt successfully.
- Don’t beg friends to love your child or get behind you on this, if they can’t; they won’t and you will find others who do and will, or at least ones who will love you enough to be patient and tolerant of this new person in your life; let these friends know how grateful you are.
- Trust your gut, don’t take on the hardest, scariest case because you feel pity; this will be your reality; children deserve your honesty with yourself so that you can be honest with them and can deal with what they may be dealing with, and stay.
- Be realistic with your expectations but know your limits.
- Exchange details and contact information with people in the adoption community now; once you adopt, your window on the world will narrow for a bit and it can be helpful to have a person to call who can listen without needing 30 minutes of pretext in order to understand what you are feeling.
For more information about adopting children from the foster care system, contact your county social service agency, or MN Adopt at 612-861-7115, or visit the department's webpage on adoption.