Friday, December 5, 2008

Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family by David and Renee S. Sanford

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family

Focus (October 15, 2008)


David and Renée own Sanford Communications, Inc., which works closely with leading authors, ministries, and publishers to develop life-changing books and other resources. Their professional credentials, life experience, and passion for helping adoptive families make them well qualified for this project. David and Renée were trained and served as foster parents to two sisters in 1996. They were then trained as adoptive parents in 2002 and adopted their daughter Annalise through the Oregon State Child Welfare system in 2004.

David and Renée have been married twenty-five years and are the parents of five children. David, Renée, and their two youngest children live in Portland, Oregon.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Focus (October 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589973380
ISBN-13: 978-1589973381


Adoption has played a large roll in my life at all different stages. My best friend growing up was adopted, my older brother adopted two daughters, and even as I write this I have a dear friend overseas undergoing the adoption process! I have yet another friend who just completed adoption just last month. All around me I have watched children grow and thrive in adoptive situations.

David and Renee Sanford's book, Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family, is a fabulous reference/teaching tool for those who are considering adoption or who have chosen to adopt and are trying to graft a new member into their family tree. As a Focus on the Family publication, the information has solid, practical application for the family as well as Biblical and Scriptural application. The handbook covers a wide variety of issues that may be encountered by adoptive families ranging from sexual and substance abuse to physical and learning disabilities.

If you are an adoptive parent or know someone considering adoption, please share this valuable tool with them now! It will prove an invaluable resource for their journey!


Chapter 1:

Welcome Home

by Paul Batura

To God be the glory

great things He hath done.


The light of the long day was fading just as the clouds began to clear. Turning into our neighborhood, we saw that a typical late summer thunderstorm had soaked and saturated the blacktop streets. To the west, the sky was ablaze in an orange glow as the sun settled just beyond the summit of Pikes Peak. We were at the end of a 10-hour drive and two-week trip. Pulling within sight of our home, we spotted a giant blue banner draped across the front of the house. Large white lettering proclaimed the warmest greeting of our lives:


7 Lbs 10 Ounces

Our 10-day-old adopted son stirred in the backseat of a borrowed green Subaru station wagon. In the blink of an eye, the hopes and dreams of all our years were beginning to be fulfilled. Like many couples, we had desired children for a long time, only to be met with a series of disappointments. “Just be patient,” physician after physician counseled. Of course, this is always easier said than done. We lost our first baby at 12 weeks in utero. Then after two invasive surgeries over the course of a year, our doctor informed us that “success” was very likely. Yet, one month later, my wife inexplicably suffered a grand-mal seizure and we were thrown once again into a cycle of tests, procedures, and consultations. More months passed. More disappointment. We would lose two more preborn babies at only two weeks gestation.

Meanwhile, our young couples Sunday school class continued to celebrate the announcements of expectant mothers almost on a bimonthly basis. At one point, nine of the women in class were pregnant at the same time, eliciting a crack from a father that “there must be something in the water!”

We laughed, but unfortunately, Julie and I weren’t drinking from the same tap.

And so, for four long years, our house remained quiet.

“Have you ever considered adoption?” asked my friend Marlen, just two weeks after the latest disappointment.

The fact is that we had—but the costs associated with adoption, both emotional and financial, intimidated us. “My wife and I know a family whose daughter is thinking about placing her

baby up for adoption,” said Marlen.

That evening, I arrived home and shared the news with Julie. “Are you kidding?” she said, wide-eyed. “This is just what we have long fantasized about . . . remember? We’ve said, ‘If only we knew someone who knew someone who wanted to give us their child!’” I remembered.

“For this to happen,” she said, “we’re going to need a miracle.”

For us, the miracle—our son, Riley—safely secured in his car seat for the long drive home, now seemed so obvious.


Congratulations! You’ve made it. Can you believe it? It’s happened. You’re now an adoptive parent. Really! Truly. After years or months of waiting and the seemingly countless hours of painstaking preparations—the forms and files, the background checks and baby classes, the scrimping and saving, the travel, and yes, even the tears borne of joy and sadness, you’ve finally arrived home with junior in tow!

If you feel as though you’ve just emerged from weeks in the wilderness, your feelings and emotions are well placed. Are you worn out? The fatigue of parenting will often manifest itself on various levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual, to name just a few. Now would be a good time to catch your breath and assess your condition. Enjoying the luxury of hours of uninterrupted rest might not be an option, but the book you now hold in your hands is a good place to start!

The paradox of parenting by adoption is now your story. At once, it’s been both exhausting and exhilarating. It’s been joyous and heartbreaking. You’ve given everything you’ve had to give, yet your cup is now overflowing with much more than you ever knew you had to offer. And it’s only just begun. It’s critically important to consider the adoption journey much like the many miles of a circuitous mountainous marathon. The journey is long. It’ll take your breath away. It can be unpredictable or maybe even frustrating and fascinating all at the same time. Eager as you are to finish, you can run only one mile at a time. You’ve already covered a lot of ground and exerted a significant amount of energy. Don’t lose sight of your commendable progress thus far, but don’t rest comfortably on your laurels either. It’s time to keep moving, and you should be applauded for considering how best to approach and run the miles that lie ahead.

Let’s get started.


The 33-year-old couple stood alone at the front of Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, on a hot midsummer evening. Their eyes gazed out at the hundreds of empty seats in the cavernous auditorium. Never had they felt so alone and small and unprepared for what was about to take place. The back center door of the church swung open. In a silent, somber, and slow procession, the birth family of the boy they planned to adopt made their way down the aisle to the front of the sanctuary.

Three-day-old Konipher James was swaddled in a yellow and white blanket in his bassinet. His birthmother placed him beside the hesitant couple and knelt down to adjust his jumper. He was sound asleep, seemingly oblivious to the significance of the moment. The tears of the young woman who had given birth to him just two nights earlier fell softly on his tiny pink cheek. The only sounds in the air were the quiet sobs of those gathered in a small circle just beyond the first row.

The transfer and transition of an infant from his birthparent(s) to the adoptive family is likely to be a trail watered with tears and swollen with emotion almost beyond human comprehension. What is a gain for one family is a loss for someone else. An entrustment or relinquishment ceremony as described above might sound like an awkward and emotionally laden step. Many adoptive couples would prefer to receive their child in a far more private setting. And each

situation is unique, of course. But if given the opportunity, you might want to consider planning and holding such an event. Over time, the process appears to increase the likelihood of long-term adoptive success for several key reasons:

1. Though it’s a potentially awkward and heart-wrenching occasion, it actually helps to ease the transition for both the birthmother and the adoptive couple. The birthmother is less likely to feel as if she is abandoning her baby.

2. It personalizes adoption and removes the impersonal and sometimes offensive influence of the law on the process. It’s no longer simply a legal transaction but a heartfelt, personal decision.

3. It provides a significant event for both parties and an opportunity to state publicly their respective intentions, hopes, and plans for the years that lie ahead.

As it would turn out, the specific ceremony noted above played a key role two days later in reminding the heartbroken birthmother that her original selfless decision was a good choice made in the best interest of her child. “I reread the letter I read to my son on that dark night,” the birthmother reflected, “and realized that if I meant what I said—that adoption was the best thing for him—then I couldn’t change my mind and call the whole thing off.”


Circumstances might not allow for such a ceremony, but it will be important to plan ahead and consider how best to ease the transition between caregivers. In some states, it’s illegal for a birthmother to relinquish a baby to the parents in a hospital. As such, transfers have been known to occur in hospital parking lots, adding insult to injury. Consult with your agency or attorney, but remember that the method utilized may be more important to the birthmother and child than to you.

In the event of a closed adoption, ask the social worker (or placement agency) as many questions about the birthparents as possible. Even if you get few answers, you may receive something your child will cling to later as information you otherwise would not have to share.

In a semi-closed adoption, you might want to consider exchanging letters to be read in private and later shared with your child at an age-appropriate time.

Again, the ultimate goal is to help mitigate the pain the birthmother will experience. If she is able to communicate her thoughts and feelings at the time of relinquishment, the chances of her changing her mind will be significantly reduced.


Whether you’re adopting an infant shortly after birth or receiving a child who has spent some time in either foster care or a traditional orphanage, the transition to your home can be a difficult time in a young person’s life. Here are a few suggestions to help ease this transition if you’re adopting an infant (you’ll find more help on this subject in chapter 6):

Clear your calendar: Be careful not to consider the arrival of your newly adopted child as clearance to return to your normally hectic schedule. Take time and allow the child to familiarize himself with your eyes, touch, scent, and sound.

Establish yourself as the primary caregiver: At the outset, at least for the first month if at all possible, it’s best to limit the circle of care to only parents when it comes to bathing, diapering, feeding, and comforting. There will be plenty of time to introduce your newest family member to other adults.

Don’t underestimate the value of soothing music: Classical music has been shown not only to reduce anxiety but also to contribute to intellectual and cultural development.

If possible, consult with the previous caregiver: Ask for documentation/notes the foster family may have kept (e.g., feeding records, sleeping habits, and baby’s “firsts”). This should be available even if the foster family needs to be contacted to obtain it. It’s worth asking and waiting for. Typically, the foster family returns all notes along with the child so this should not be difficult. While you shouldn’t feel bound by the old traditions and habits of a previous foster family, changing everything all at once can be incredibly tough for a young child to handle. Incremental adjustments tend to work best.

Establish your home as a place of grace: Regardless of how well you plan and how many experts you consult with, transitioning a child into a new home can still be a volatile and unpredictable season of great challenge. Do the best you can and prepare yourself for the inevitability of falling short from time to time.

And here are some general guidelines if you’re adopting an older child:

1. Unlike the adoption of an infant or toddler, an older child is likely to be far more observant to the physical and practical order of the home. For example, if you already have children in the family and they each have their own room, it’s a good idea to try and provide a similar level of accommodation for your new arrival. Be very deliberate about making the new child feel welcome and avoid signs of favoritism.

2. It’s also a good idea to consult with the new child on room décor; older boys may be less inclined to participate in paint and furniture selection but if you’re looking to maximize the new child’s comfort and “buy-in” to the family, involving him or her in personal decisions is well advised.

3. Adoption experts warn, however, that when establishing the routines and rhythms of the household, don’t necessarily expect a 13-year-old adopted child to act like a typical child of his or her age. It’s not uncommon for an older adopted child to be developmentally challenged. In other words, be prepared to expect the unexpected.

4. Tracey Gee, a home study coordinator with Chicago’s Finally Family adoption agency, stresses the need to tackle the safety issues. “You have to put yourself in the mind-set of an exploring five-year-old or eight-year-old,” she said. “Put dangerous cleaning supplies out of reach. You should keep prescription medications up and out of the way. You have to look at safety issues as you would with any child, but you have to keep in mind the child’s mental age as well as his or her physical age.”

5. The seemingly simple matter of food choices can be an incredibly frustrating issue when adopting an older child. Going well beyond the matter of picky eating, some older children might come from orphanages where food was so scarce that they grew accustomed to hoarding whatever they were able to get hold of. Still others may have developed hard-to-break bad habits. It’s wise to keep healthy snacks handy and above all, exercise patience in the kitchen and at the table. Even the most vexing dietary “demand” can be adjusted over time.

In such a short space, it’s impossible to address the obstacles you might encounter during the initial period of transition of life with an older child. We’ll look at more possibilities in chapters 7–9. You can, however, take comfort in knowing that an important decision on your part has forever changed your destiny and the destiny of your newly adopted son or daughter.

We cannot change a child’s past, but we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit and help to affect the years to come with God’s grace and guidance.


If you’ve already arrived home with your child, the chances are good you’ve encountered some of the most common awkward questions along with some very sincere and legitimate inquiries. Some of them might have touched on your initial motivations surrounding this entire adventure and maybe caused you to cringe when they were first posed: Why don’t you just have your own? What kind are you getting? Maybe many were purely factual: How much does it cost? How long

will it take? Those are fairly easy ones to answer, yet can still be insensitive or inappropriate. Once your child is home, you’ve now crossed a bridge and such questions are no longer theoretical or hypothetical. Some of them may be asked in the presence of your son or daughter. It’s good to be prepared with appropriate and pithy answers when faced with some of the uncomfortable queries well-meaning people will inevitably ask.

Before we tackle a few of the most common questions, consider again the words of King Solomon: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” It should be your goal to extend grace to the person asking a given question.

Where applicable, consider the following commonly asked questions and suggested answers:

Q: Do you know his real mother or father?

A: Jimmy’s birthparents have offered us an opportunity to be his mom and dad. We are grateful for the privilege.

Q: Do you have any children of your own?

A: Including our newest one, we have _____.

Q: I didn’t even know you were pregnant.

A: The Lord had something else in mind. We were given an opportunity

to adopt!

Q: It must have been nice not to endure nine months of pregnancy and give


A: Adoption is a labor of the heart.

It’s important to maintain a sense of humor along the way. One newly adoptive mother said she used to fantasize about strolling through a store with her newborn child and having people ask her how she was able to get back into shape so quickly after the birth. The moment arrived in aisle four of the local supermarket, but she couldn’t pull it off. She was just so proud of her newly adopted son.

An adoptive father is often asked if his son gets his eyes from him or his mother. He might reply, “God gave him his beautiful eyes.”

Sometimes the easiest way to respond to questions or comments that have complicated answers is to simply respond with two words: Thank you or Good question.


Remember that if you’re going to treat the newest member of your family just as you would a child born to you, don’t forget to allow other people to do likewise. Some couples, nervous about the instability and uncertainty of a pending adoption, will decline invitations to participate in baby showers or other celebratory events. But once home and settled in, hope and expect your family and friends will treat you as they would any other new parents and welcome your newest family member with as much fanfare and joy as they deem appropriate.

Depending upon your schedules and the proximity of loved ones, some couples enjoy holding a dedicatory service at their church or they might host amore intimate gathering in their home. Whatever your approach, keep this in mind: There is no right or wrong way to celebrate!


Each family will have to decide for themselves how and when to celebrate the anniversary of their child’s entry into the family. Some will simply mark the child’s actual birthday as the date to set aside to give thanks and remember. Others will often remember the actual day they received their child from his or her birthmother or from the orphanage. If it was an international adoption, some will mark the day their child first stepped foot on American soil. Whenever you decide to remember this historic milestone, it’s wise to make it special. Here are a few suggestions:

Tell them their story. In an age-appropriate fashion, tell them about the day your family grew and your life changed forever. Children love detail and will latch on to things that might surprise you, such as the name of their first teddy bear or the flavor of their first ice cream cake. If you have video footage of the day you received your child, you might watch this together.

Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, tells the story of how he and his wife, Shirley, used to tell their son, Ryan, in great detail about the day they brought him home from the orphanage. For years, little Ryan would say, “Daddy, tell me again about the big white building . . .”

Many families create a “life storybook,” chronicling their adopted child’s journey in becoming a part of their family. This might be a scrapbook or an album where you write an age-appropriate account or story version of your child’s adoption journey and keep pictures and unique facts about your child, special details about the adoption, information regarding his or her birthparents, and letters or mementos from the birth family.

You can continue to add to the life storybook over the years and enjoy going through it together from time to time. Pull the book out on the day you celebrate and remember all the special milestones that you and your child have reached together. (You might consider making two copies—one for Mom and Dad to keep safe and protected, and another version for your child to keep.)

Treat it like a birthday. Make a big deal out of it; buy some balloons and make his or her favorite meal.

Make it a family day. Incorporate the whole clan into the mix by setting aside time to go to an amusement or a local park.

“Gotcha Day” by Kelly Bard

Our daughter Lydia’s “Gotcha Day” is November 16, 1999. On

that day, our seven-month-old baby was carried off a plane from

Korea and into our arms for the first time. Every year we celebrate

that day by watching video clips of the first “Gotcha Day,” enjoying

Korean or Thai food with the family, and eating a “Happy Gotcha

Day” cake, complete with candles representing each year.

“Gotcha Day” gives us the opportunity to continue celebrating

the wonder of adoption—the day our daughter became a part of our

family. We might not have video of my pregnant tummy or of her

birth, but we do have photos, videos, and wonderful memories that

we renew each year—the day we gained a daughter and new member

of our family to love.


At the Lord Mayor’s Luncheon on November 10, 1942, the dishes from the main entrée were being cleared from the tables when Great Britain’s prime-minister, Winston Churchill, strolled to the podium. World War II had been raging in Europe for over two years and victories had been few and far between. But on this day, there was good news to celebrate. The Allies had achieved a significant victory over the Germans at El Alamein in North Africa. The prime minister’s remarks were cautious but precise: “Now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

The arrival home and subsequent first year as parents is a season to celebrate. But as noted earlier, it’s not the end of a long race, but rather the start of a lifelong love affair with your precious child. As Sir Winston urged the faithful, the first year is merely the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

Paul Batura and his wife, Julie, are delighted to be adoptive parents and live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with their three-year-old son, Riley Hamilton, along with his adopted dog, R. H. Macy. Paul serves as the senior assistant for research to Dr. James Dobson at Focus on the Family. He is the author of Gadzooks! The Highly Practical Life and Leadership Principles of Dr. James Dobson, in addition to numerous award-winning essays and short stories.

Phoebe’s Story

by Greg Hartman

Guo Qiao Hong was born somewhere in China’s Hunan Province. Two

weeks later, she was abandoned in Zhuzhou City square—no note or

anything—she was simply left on a bench in a basket.

I do not know if her birthparents ever named her, much less why

they abandoned her. Maybe they desperately wanted a boy; maybe Guo

was an accidental pregnancy, and they chose abandonment over abortion.

Guo Qiao Hong spent most of her first year in Zhuzhou Social Work

Institute, an orphanage that named her and added her name to a very

long waiting list. The orphanage is a modest four-story building with

tiled floors and walls. Wooden high chairs surround big buckets of toys;

the babies sit in chairs most of the day and play with the toys as overworked

nannies run around wiping runny noses and changing diapers.

I have a photo of Guo’s crib—it is about as big as a case of soda, with

spotless sheets and a teddy bear comforter. Just like baby beds you have

seen before, except this one shares a room with 50 more just like it.

Zhuzhou Social Work Institute is nothing fancy—the babies are clean

and well fed, but Guo Qiao Hong was only one out of hundreds of thousands

of babies China can’t afford to feed.

On April 8, 2002, one of Guo’s nannies bundled her up and took

her on a 90-minute bus ride to Changsha, Hunan Province’s capitol city.

The nanny carried Guo through the lobby of the Grand Sun Hotel, took

an elevator to the 21st floor, and handed her to me and my wife, Sarah.

Nothing fancy, just a simple, unceremonious moment that changed all of our lives forever.

From Changsha, we took Guo to the American consulate in

Ghuangzho, changed her name to Phoebe Ruth Qiao Hartman, finalized

the adoption, then took Phoebe home to her new family.

Ever notice that God’s most exciting work is, on the surface, nothing

fancy? A shepherd boy, anointed Israel’s greatest king with no one but his

brothers in attendance (1 Samuel 16:13); the blind, healed with mud

and spit (John 9:11). Our Savior, entering the world in a manger and

paying the whole world’s debt upon a cross. Sinners, saved by grace

with nothing more than a humble prayer.

Adoption is nothing fancy, either. We complicate it with paperwork,

but it boils down to this: A child has no family; a family opens its arms.

The Bible says that God adopts us into His family when we are born again (Ephesians 1:5).

When we adopted Phoebe, I caught a glimpse of what it must be

like for God when someone asks Jesus into his or her heart. Think about

it: Someone spends everything he has to save a person the world was

ready to throw away. A life everyone thinks worthless is suddenly worth

everything. No wonder there is joy in the presence of the angels when sinners repent!

Now that God has given Phoebe a family, I am looking forward to

seeing what He will do with her. I suspect it will be nothing fancy—but glorious.


Unknown said...

thank you for sharing this, Kim! love you friend :)

Andi said...

I'm sorry, I highly disagree with your take on this book! I am adopted and found this book to be very offensive and way off mark!

Andi said...

Hey Kim,
Thanks for popping over to leave a comment. Thought I might share a little more since you left such a nice comment on my blog. I too located my birth mother. I was a private adopt so my parents had all my legal papers. It didn't go so well and if I had to do it again I wouldn't do it. She wouldn't call me Andrea, she wanted to call me the name she would've named me. Wanted me to call her "Mama" and didn't understand that I wasn't looking for a "Mother" I had one. I was looking for information about my heritage. I'm full blooded Italian. She just didn't get it. I ended all contact with her. Each situation has it's own delicate areas. I do however see your point about how this book could have been a resource for your brother and his wife.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Anonymous said...

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Christine Lindsay said...

Hi Kim, I so appreciate you featuring 'Thriving as an Adoptive Family'. I don't think any social issue could create more complex emotions in the people involved. With all the sense of loss, the grieving, the moving on, etc, I am grateful to God holding me close as I relinquished my daughter to adoption and the 28 years following. Reunion especially doesn't always work out to be a happy event. Mine did, thanks to my birth-daughter and I coming to that reunion expecting not a mother-daughter relationship but something new and unique. But one of the many great answers to prayer I had was as a birthmom, we are often silent. It was my prayer from the time I relinquised my child that our story could be used to encourage others who suffer the loss of a birth family, or the loss of relinquishing one's child, or the loss of being infertile. God answered my prayer and a very distilled version of my birth-mother story is in this book. God is faithful.