Adoption road map: navigating the often winding road of adoption – Part 1
Make your plans in pencil. This is good advice for your career, for your marriage and, yes, for your adoption. When my wife, Jane, and I adopted our second son, our inked-in plans blew up in our faces. There we were, expanding our family, trying to promote the gospel through adoption. And everything went wrong.
A few years ago, a pastor-friend of mine in lower Alabama called me. The 18-year-old granddaughter of a woman in his church was pregnant. The youthful girl and her boyfriend – with whom she already had one child – didn’t think they could handle another baby. So our friends asked if we might be interested in bringing this child into our home. Jane and I said without hesitation, “Absolutely.”
Like our previous adoption, this one would be a private adoption – which is our preferred method – so we went down to Alabama and met with the mother and father. When we left, everything seemed set and almost too simple. However, dealing with the couple turned out to be a precarious venture.
A month later, we received another call: “The doctor will induce the mother at 9 a.m.” Crazy, the baby would arrive early the next morning. My wife called and told me around 5 p.m. We hadn’t packed a thing. We didn’t have a place to stay in Alabama. We were nine hours away. But we jumped in the car and started driving like crazy (viewing the speed limit more as a suggestion).
About nine hours later, having missed the birth by about 45 minutes, we were met by a social worker who appeared to have a concerned look on her face. She announced the baby was born; mom was doing just fine. But the baby boy for whom we had hoped and prayed was addicted
He shook. He quivered all over as his little body went through withdrawal. They said he was going to be a medical mess. The social worker announced, “We recommend you turn around and go home. The state will take the child from here.” But my resolved wife, the dutiful mom, said, “No. We’re all in.” Turning back now was not an option and we sensed this was a part of God’s sovereign plan. And, credit only to God’s merciful hands, the little guy ended up just fine.
Now according to Alabama state law, the birth mother had 72 hours in which she could decide not to give up her child and reverse her consent to adopt. When we talked with the birth mom on Friday and departed the hospital going our separate ways, everything was great. Saturday, she called to ask about him. Sunday arrived; we could see our adoption just over the horizon. Then Monday morning, sure enough, our attorney called us with a shocking request.
Our new child had to return to the courts immediately. We had decided theologically, if the birth mother wanted the baby then we needed to step out of the picture. But there was a twist that I had not considered. At the encouragement of our lawyer, who informed us that because of the cocaine-addiction the baby would go to social services, we decided to fight for custody.
The child, we planned to call him “Elijah,” had to be turned over before the afternoon, or the state would issue kidnapping charges against Jane and me. What I didn’t understand then was that birth parents have rights within the context of an adoption process. Our lawyer said we would need to demonstrate to the court that the mother’s character, based on her cocaine use, was such that she didn’t make a fitting parent. Even if we did convince the courts, we would still need to receive temporary custody only to fight for adoption later. And what’s more, that process would most likely be costly, with only a 50 percent chance of winning since the courts typically side with birth parents.
What in the world! None of this was supposed to happen. This didn’t follow our inked-in outline for adoption. So the plot thickened. Furthermore, I needed to return this precious child or face kidnapping charges. I was a church planter and an executive at Southern Seminary; I am supposed to be responsible and live an exemplary life. Kidnapping a child doesn’t typically look great on a pastoral resumé.
New Testament scholar D.A. Carson often refers to the “peculiar providence of God.” We experienced this firsthand as we were preparing the court documents, staying out of the public eye and praying like crazy. But when everything was fastidiously prepared, we contacted the birth mother to inform her of our plans. But before we could speak, she had reconsidered, a reversal of her reversal, and now decided that the Dumas family could provide her baby with the better home. This cocaine-born little baby would, after all, become Elijah Seth Dumas. Amidst our relief and elation, there would be yet another 72-hour cooling off period.
Finally, after a painful and confusing two weeks, Elijah was ours.
With two adoptions now complete, we have discovered that adoption is complex. It’s messy. It certainly requires a strong spiritual constitution. Through the entire processes, I constantly recalled the words of Abraham Kuyper when he said, “There’s not a square inch in the whole dominion of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry ‘Mine!’” That includes my family. My marriage. My adoption process.
Dan Dumas is senior vice president for institutional administration at Southern Seminary. He is a church planter and pastor-teacher at Crossing Church in Louisville, Ky. You can connect with him on Twitter at @DanDumas, onFacebook or at DanDumas.com. This article originally appeared in A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care.
A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care
by Russell D. Moore, Ed.
The current adoption culture among Christians is a necessary and welcomed movement. Many people, however, don’t understand how the Bible directs and informs adoption. A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care, edited by Russell D. Moore, seeks to help adoptive parents and churches better think about and practice adoption.