By Melissa Shaw
Author Katie Cruice Smith is releasing a new picture book this month -- National Adoption Month -- in hopes it reminds adopted and foster children about the special qualities they bring to their families. A mother of three adopted children, Smith wrote Why Did You Choose Me? to make up for the lack of adoption-focused picture books geared for 3- to 8-year-olds. She and her husband also provide respite and emergency care for children in the foster care system.
How old are your children, and how did you decide to grow your family via adoption? My children are 9, 7, and 3 (about to be 4). My now-husband and I started talking about adoption when we were starting to get serious about marriage. We worked in a ministry at our church that brought children to church from the poorer sections of town. When church was over, those children wanted to go home with us. We knew then that we wanted to provide a safe and loving home to children in need.
Once we were married, we waited a couple of years before trying to conceive, but after a year and a half of not getting pregnant, we sought help from a fertility doctor. I took fertility hormones for six months with no results, so we were faced with paying out thousands of dollars for IVF treatments or pursuing adoption for the same amount. The doctor was fairly certain that I would not be able to carry a baby to term, so we decided that God was closing that door and making adoption the clear path for us.
After a lot of research and closed doors, we finally found an attorney who handled infant adoptions. We were matched with a birth mother within three months, and our beautiful daughter was born just six months later. We immediately developed a great relationship with the birth mother, sending her letters and pictures of our growing daughter. A couple of years later, the same birth mother found herself pregnant again and reached out to us asking if we would consider keeping the siblings together. Of course we said yes! When our son was born, we were ecstatic, to say the least. Everyone thought we should be done, but we still felt like there was room at our dining room table for more. We waited a couple of years before considering some options, but God closed those doors again. When the same birth mother called us a third time with our third child, we knew that we were meant to adopt her as our own.
Where did the idea for Why Did You Choose Me? come from? During our third adoption, I told my husband that I needed to be absolutely certain that this adoption was from God because we had a lot of people questioning our sanity. The only way I could be sure was if we could do it debt-
free. So I set about applying for every grant I could find -- even ones I found on Pinterest! One of the grants I applied for was an essay contest; the question to be answered was, "If your adopted child came to you one day and asked you why you chose them, what would you say?" I won the grant, and an idea began to form into a poem that eventually turned into a book!.
How long did it take you to write and find a publisher? It took me only a day to write the story, but it took three years to find a publisher. Since then, the story has been changed a little here and there to flow more easily.
What is your goal for Why Did You Choose Me? I want to give parents an opportunity to start the conversation with their children about their adoption. I believe that most young children who have been adopted experience the same feelings of insecurity that older children and young adults do, but they don't quite know how to express those fears. I hope this book will start that conversation and help children to identify with the feelings of the child in the book.
What is your assessment of the perception of adopting and fostering in 2017? I think that a lot of people perceive adoption as Plan B. I had a number of people tell me that once I started adopting, I would get pregnant. But that wasn't why we chose to adopt -- adoption was always in our plans, whether we were able to conceive or not.
Many people believe there is only one way to adopt (international children, foster children, or children with disabilities), but with more than 130 million orphans in the world, we need to perceive every adoption as one less orphan, so it doesn't matter the type of adoption.
As for foster care, I think that many people believe foster children are bad and dirty. I have actually had people remove their kids from being around my foster children for fear of lice (even though my foster children didn't have lice). Each foster child has a different story; some of the stories are extremely horrifying, but some of them are simply because the parents need some education on how to properly care for their children. Not every case is a "They shouldn't be allowed to have children" kind of story.
Regardless of the reason, the children didn't do anything wrong, and they are innocent. They just need to know they are loved. There is such a desperate need for more foster families -- there are 500,000 children in our country's foster care system -- and I hope that I am able to encourage people to consider opening their homes to these sweet children.
What is the biggest misconception of adoption and fostering, and how can families encourage knowledge and awareness? With adoption, I think that most people believe they could never adopt because it is too expensive. But there are so many different avenues to choose when adopting, and there are many ways to make adoption affordable.
There is no "one way" to adopt, and I think we could solve the orphan crisis if more people would be willing to take that first step of deciding to pursue adoption and seek out these different avenues. Adoptive families need to be willing to share their stories when people ask, and more churches need to get involved in promoting and supporting adoptive families.
For foster care, the number one excuse I hear from others when they see me out with our foster children is that they could never do it because they would get too attached. In reality, if you aren't willing to get attached to these kids, then you really shouldn't foster, because getting attached means giving love, which is what these children need.
I also think a lot of people are nervous about allowing social services into their home. But really, the people on the front lines are just trying to find a safe place for these children, and they are not seeking to harm you. I won't lie -- foster care is hard. But as adults, we can handle it. These are children who never asked to be there in the first place. Foster children see things that haunt them in their dreams, and a safe and loving foster home is a dream come true for them.
A lot of times we only see the bad side of a story on the news and assume the worst when it comes to fostering. But there are so many wonderful aspects to fostering as well, such as giving a child a safe and loving home, knowing the joy of raising a child, having them love and trust you, and seeing children who came from hurtful places grow into successful adults because of the wonderful foster home they had (thereby ending the cycle -- for their family, at least -- of another generation in foster care).
The community should be involved in helping foster children, even if each home can't take a child in. Some tangible ways to do this are by offering free babysitting, taking them meals, praying for them, giving them gift cards for family outings, mentoring, and donating needed items (clothing, diapers, wipes, formula, car seats, etc.). The more involved we become with foster kids, the more aware we will be of who they are and what they need.