Nov. 16 is adoption awareness day. We spoke with one Netsmart associates about his family’s adoption journey in hopes of learning, inspiring and educating ourselves about an experience had by many. Check out Netsmart associate Kyle Christiansen’s experience with adoption as he and his wife expanded their family.
In the United States alone, nearly 120,000 children are adopted each year. Three months ago, Netsmart associate Kyle Christiansen and his wife, Elizabeth, were able to bring one of those children home with them. Adoption was always something the two kept in the back of their minds, however, it wasn’t until after the birth of their older son that they decided adoption would be the best decision for their family.
“We had always discussed potentially adopting,” Kyle said. “When we knew we wanted to grow our family, we started doing some research on our own.”
The two started their journey by asking the basic questions many of us wonder ourselves. What is adoption? What does it mean in today’s terms? The Christiansens continued their journey by interviewing several different agencies, both nationwide and in their local area.
In January of 2017, the couple signed with an agency and began nearly six months of paperwork and interviews before going live to be picked by a birth mother/family. After little success, Kyle and Elizabeth decided to expand their reach and connect with multiple adoption agencies throughout the country.
Not too long after, they coincidentally got connected privately with acquaintances about a potential adoption – Elizabeth’s dad knew of a man whose granddaughter was pregnant and interested in partnering with an adoption agency. In July 2018, the Christiansens contacted the birth mother, who later decided this would be the family to take the new baby girl home when she was born in August. Fast forward to today, and the Christiansen’s daughter is now three months old.
Kyle said the transition has been relatively smooth, especially since they’ve had their daughter since she was 20 minutes old; Kyle adding that it’s been more of a transition going from one kid to two. Their three-year-old son welcomed home his baby sister right alongside his parents. The couple said their son is aware of the adoption, and even though he’s so young he still tries to understand and talk about his sister’s journey.
“We explain it to him as ‘tummy mommy,’ which is our daughter’s birth mother and ‘mommy mommy,’ which is Elizabeth,” Kyle said. “He knows of ‘tummy mommy’ and has asked questions about her before. He doesn’t know any different though. That’s his sister.”
The couple notes that it wasn’t always an easy path brining their daughter home. They were chosen twice in their adoption process. The first time, the birth mother changed her mind and decided not to go through with her adoption plan after few months. Later on, they were chosen through another agency, which happened to be at the same time they were connecting with their daughter’s birth family. This time, they had to make the hard decision to say no to a birth mother.
“As we found out, people change their mind,” Kyle said. “Then, we ended up having to turn down a perspective child when we had been waiting so long for one. That was probably the hardest part through all of this.”
Kyle and Elizabeth found support through their church, friends and family, who continued to support the adoption all the way through.
Like many who have adopted a child, the Christiansens are currently doing a “semi-open” adoption, meaning that there is no in-person contact with the birth family. However, there are private Facebook pages where Kyle and Elizabeth share photos of their daughter for the birth mother and father to see. Kyle said he encourages anyone who is considering adoption to keep an open mind and do their research.
“Be open to it,” Kyle said. “There are ways to help out financially if that is something hindering your decision. Ask questions, talk to an agency and do your research before getting started.”
If you are considering starting your adoption journey, visit Child Welfare Information Gateway to learn more.