We're Not a Family of Three Anymore
The story of an absolutely unexpected adoption
Katie and I have always planned to adopt again, but the last few years have not been a good time to try. First, there was a job change and a move to Kyiv. Then there was Covid. This year, a war. As we both are approaching forty, and with no end in sight for Ukraine’s troubles and our unusual living situation, we began to doubt that we'd ever be more than a family of three. I even started making peace with the idea.
An Unexpected Phone Call
Three weeks ago, I was at the Global Missions Conference in the DFW area. It was one of two speaking engagements I've had planned for over a year, and this is the sole reason we're in the States at this time. Usually, we're never here in the fall.
I had finished my lessons earlier in the afternoon and was sitting in the back of the auditorium listening to another keynote speaker, basking in the good feelings of knowing I had finally completed two of my long-standing assignments this year. I would be heading back to Oklahoma the next day to spend a few weeks with our friends and church family in Broken Arrow. We looked forward to some down time before our move to Slovakia.
We were wrong. There would be no down time.
Right after the keynote I got a call out of the blue from the adoption agency in Kansas where we adopted Justus. Justus' birth mother had given birth to a baby girl that morning.
And she had decided to give her up for adoption.
And she wanted us to adopt her.
The news was a shock. As I tried taking it all in, the ladies from the agency wanted to know if we were interested. I told them I needed to talk with Katie, but I was confident that it would be a yes from both of us.
I called Katie and shared the news. We were overwhelmed with emotion as we began to understand what all this could mean. Yes, we were sure we wanted her. We were not sure, however, that it would work out.
We Were Not Adoption Ready
A typical adoption takes months to prepare for. There are applications, background clearances, medical checkups, financial reporting, reference letters, a home study—it all takes a long time. And, of course, there's the enormous cost.
You might think that because the birth mother had specifically named us and because we had already adopted the sibling that this would be an easier process. It certainly could have been, but because the birth mother didn't contact us directly ahead of time, and instead contacted the agency through the hospital, it was technically a brand-new adoption.
The agency told us to get working on gathering information, and they would do the same. They had called us on a Friday evening, and so we couldn't find out anything until Monday morning.
It was a long weekend.
The Great Obstacle Race
On Monday, The Great Obstacle Race began. We called different agencies and home study providers in both Oklahoma and Kansas to learn what was possible and what wasn't. We asked about doing a home study when we don’t exactly have a home right now. We asked about time frames and costs. The agency was looking into the situation with the birth father as well as asking the judge what he thought of our particular situation.
Right when we thought things looked possible, we heard that the judge wouldn't sign off on our adoption because of our lack of a clear place of residence right now. We asked them to go back and clarify aspects of our situation, and then we waited some more.
We waited all day Tuesday before hearing that the judge said he wouldn't sign off on this adoption. We thought we had reached the end of the road, but a former district attorney from a church in Kansas told us not to give up and recommended we look into finding our own adoption attorney. He gave us a few names, we made a call and left a message
Because it was already the end of the work day on Tuesday, we figured we wouldn't hear back from anyone until Wednesday. But the lawyer called back right away and spoke with me on the phone for nearly 40 minutes. She listened to the details of our situation and told us that she felt very confident there would be no issue with our case. She said she'd reach out to the judge, whom she had worked with many times, and see what he had to say.
And so for the next several days, we were pulled back and forth emotionally. It's going to work! It's not! It is! It isn't! We raced to get all the documents we needed. Good friends rushed their recommendation letters. The doctor made time for our health check. The social worker squeezed us in for our interview and wrote the home study report as fast as she could. Both our lawyer and the agency were surprised that we got almost everything done in two days.
The final cost of the adoption was nauseating, and yet we had to have it almost immediately. Unexpectedly, a wonderful couple stepped forward and offered to front us all the funds we needed in order to quickly move forward. We then began reaching out to close friends, family, and churches, to try and raise the money to pay them back. And then we prayed.
And in just three days, we had more than what we asked for.
A Trip to Kansas
We drove three hours to Wichita to take custody of the baby girl as soon as it was possible. We're stayed with Brent and Debbie Groves, the same couple we stayed with when we adopted Justus five-and-a-half years ago. History repeating itself.
The Monday after we arrived, our lawyer finally heard from the judge: he would sign off on our adoption! That same day, we finally got to meet and bring home our sweet baby girl. She was ten days old, the same age her brother was when we brought him home.
Among all the many concerns, we were worried this whole ordeal might be yet another unpleasant disruption in Justus' life this year. But he has surprised us. He was positive about the idea when we told him. And then, when we brought her home, he immediately turned into a proud, doting big brother. He wanted to help with everything, and he would even sing to her to try and calm her down when she was crying.
After nearly two weeks, the newness has certainly worn off, but there hasn't been any real negativity expressed yet. He seems to be taking it all very well.
The Final Hurdle
After taking her home, the only real hurdle was confirming the identity of the birth father and having him sign his relinquishment of rights. Even though he indicated he would do so, waiting for it made it nervous.
Finally, on Tuesday of this week, he signed, and a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders because from here on out, everything is paperwork. Lord willing, we will finalize the adoption on November 14—exactly one month after she was born.
An Answered Prayer
At the end of 2022, our church in Kyiv had a Christmas party. One of the activities was having everyone write down a prayer request for the new year that was then given to someone else to pray for. Justus actually thought seriously about what to write down, and he surprised us when he said what he wanted was a baby brother or sister. Katie and I felt a little sad because we had no idea where an adoption would fit into 2022 (and this was before the war).
Last week, after the usual back and forth, we finally settled on a name for our baby girl: Eliana.
It's Hebrew for "My God has answered me."
Lord willing, we'll be in the States until early December. By that point, the adoption should be finalized and we should have Eliana's passport. My parents will be flying out to visit next week, and we hope to see Katie's mom on our way to Slovakia. (Thankfully, we already have our place to stay there and will be able to move right in.)
This year has been a year like no other. I’m almost afraid to guess what God has in store for us during the final eight weeks of 2022! No matter what happens, however, we will continue to praise Him for His faithfulness, for His goodness, and for this amazing answer to our heart's desire.
As always, thank you for taking this journey with us. Thank you for your constant prayers and love and support.
Brandon and Katie