A Checkmark on the Adoption Form

Yes, No, Maybe

MomSpeaker Kelly Raudenbush, founder of The Sparrow Fund, has spent a great deal of time traveling through China in recent years, supporting children in orphanages waiting to be adopted as well as their would-be parents. Here, she calls attention to the pitfalls of the impersonal adoption form as well as to children who need a home yet have a special needs designation that just might keep them from a family who wants them.

Neatly laid out in Times New Roman in alphabetical order are a list of labels, special needs, what China calls diseases.

Albinism . . . Anal atresia . . . Cerebral palsy . . . Cleft lip/cleft palate. . . Club foot . . . Congenital heart disease . . . Delayed development . . . Down syndrome . . . Hemofacial macrosomia . . . Hemangioma . . . Microtia . . . Syndactyly . . .

Some of them you’ve heard of. Others you struggle to pronounce, and you wonder if they’re even in English. Little “x”s in columns with a ball-point pen seemingly have the power to determine the rest of your life.




Every adoption agency’s going to make you do it. And, even if it wasn’t inevitable to the adoption process, it’s important to think through. Are you willing and able to walk a child through multiple surgeries? Does your insurance company cover serial casting? Speech therapy? Prosthetics? Hearing aids? Do you live close to specialists? Can you afford to travel if you don’t? Do you feel uncomfortable about physical differences that will invite even more questions? You have to have the conversations, as uncomfortable as they are, even though they make you squirm in your seat.

He hates bananas and loves to dance.

Don’t even try to take a cracker out of this one’s hands.

She likes to ride behind a buddy on a plasma car.

She’s pretty serious except when you tickle her and blow air in her face.

They may be listed in an orderly fashion by name, birthdate, and disease on a database that your social worker can easily sort. But, do not be deceived by the order of it all. Every child listed there is very much a four-dimensional child who is way more than a special need.

Let your YESes be YESes. And, do not be afraid to let your NOs be NOs. But, maybe, just maybe, there should be more MAYBEs than anything else with a very un-neat * disclaimer handwritten on the bottom that says something like this—

We do not necessarily feel called to parent a child with this diagnosis assigned to him or her. But, we are not comfortable closing the door on the possibility that He may call us to a particular child and that that child may come with this label. So, unless you hear differently from us while we wait, consider this a MAYBE because we’re holding this whole process in our hands loosely with hearts not only willing but desiring only to do that which He’s called us to do.

Feel free to blame me if your social worker has a mini panic attack. I can take it.

But, there’s something very important you have to remember — real-life children who don’t lay neatly on a page in alphabetical order.

Kelly Raudenbush is a mother to four children and cofounder of The Sparrow Fund, a nonprofit committed to encouraging and equipping adoptive families. Learn more about her family's adoption story, how she's been changed by it and what life for as a parent to four children with all sorts of unique needs and gifts at My Overthinking.

Categories: MomSpeak