A new option for international adoptions
Adoption for one Storm Lake family is really a non-issue - open and willing to talk, they find it to be an opportunity for a child to have a good life and for a loving couple to be good parents.
"It's less and less of an issue. It's old news and no secret either," said Jean Nolte. "It doesn't seem to come up as often."
Her husband, Chris, called it the "adoption option."
"It provided the ability for us to become a family," he said.
Their 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, is a 5th grader. It doesn't trouble her at all, nor her friends and peers, that she is adopted. Her friends are more curious than anything else.
"Sometimes the other kids will ask me about it," she said.
The Noltes have always had an openness in their family, and over the years that has made the fact that Sarah is adopted less and less important.
They worked with Lutheran Family Service on their adoption. That agency is over 100 years old and founded as a home-finding society for orphaned children. Like LFS, the Noltes like to let people know what adoption means.
Before moving to Storm Lake last year, the Noltes would talk about their "adoption option" with high school students in their previous home of Grinnell.
The class there included a few pregnant teenagers, and Chris said it was not their intent to say what was right and wrong and whether the students should have an abortion, put their child up for adoption or to raise it themselves.
"We just said here's another option that's good for some people," he said.
"Our goal was, like what Lutheran Family Service does, is to explain to these students what was involved," Jean said.
Uninformed, people often think a number of reasons why a mother may put a child up for adoption, but those who do are anything but selfish, Chris said.
"You're not giving up your child - you're making a conscious decision to better the environment than what you are able to give that child," he said. "It's an opportunity to try to think what's in the best for the child. It's a difficult decision."
When meeting with classes, they would bring Sarah along so the students could visualize exactly what was at stake.
"It makes it more real to see Sarah," Jean said.
The adoption process itself can be its own journey, with a pile of paperwork ranging from psychological evaluations and background checks to physicals and a parent's philosophy on raising children. But those hoops are to ensure a child is given the best opportunity in life.
"They want to make sure we were ready," Jean said. "The preliminary work was for Lutheran Family Service to get to know the perspective parents so they can give assurance to the birth parent that the child they put for adoption will be in a good environment."
It took six months after they first decided to adopt for the Noltes to be accepted. Only three months later, they got the call to pick up Sarah - which is atypical in the world of adoption. But perspective parents always have to be ready for that call. The Noltes got theirs at 5 p.m. and were told to be in Fort Dodge at 9 the next morning to pick up their new daughter.
They didn't expect it would be that fast.
"They told us to bring a name, an outfit and a car seat - we had none of the above," Jean joked.
Sarah was a month old when Chris and Jean became her parents. And they consider that day no different than the day a mother gives birth - it's just different terminology, Jean said.
"We always talk about the day we picked Sarah up," she said.
Chris said they don't want adoptions to have a stigma about them.
"If a mother chooses that option, it's good for the child," Jean said.
A growing area for adoptions are international, and this month Lutheran Family Service announced a new effort to help facilitate international adoptions for Iowa families through the Lutheran Adoption Network - the largest adoption network in the world, with agencies located throughout United States that cover over 140 orphanages around the world.
"In recognition of National Adoption Month, we are pleased to let families know about this exciting new option to adopt and parent a child through LFS," said Trisha Easton, director of pregnancy counseling and adoption services for LFS.
This breakthrough partnership for LFS allows the organization to facilitate a seamless international adoption opportunity for Iowa's families.
"Now, we can work with Christian couples of all denominations who not only want to be parents, but who also know their love can transcend genetics, biology and culture," Easton said. "The number of children living in orphanages around the world is astounding. It is wonderful to be part of giving these children the chance at a better future by placing them in a loving family environment."
When a couple wants to pursue an international adoption, LFS will conduct the home study and work with the LAN member agency that is certified in facilitating adoptions within the particular country of interest. LFS and LAN will work with the family until the child officially becomes an American citizen.
Currently, LFS is accepting applications from couples interested in adopting a child from countries including Russia, Brazil, China, Vietnam and Mongolia. In addition to international adoptions, LFS facilitates domestic and special needs adoptions for families across Iowa.
* For more information about adopting a child through Lutheran Family Service, call the LFS Fort Dodge office at 515-573-3138. Or visit the Lutheran Adoption Network Web site for more background on international adoptions at http://www.lanadopt.org.