American couple, Earl and Rebecca Robinson are adoptive parents to three beautiful girls. Tackling both the US and UK adoption system, written in his own words, Earl gives us an insight into the journey of frustration, faith, hope and love.
“Mummy and Daddy” …we’d not heard those words screeched by little voices before. Walking through the front door of the foster carers’ home, we were greeted with these three words. Before opening the door, we didn’t know what to expect. We had not met our little girls, aged 3 ½ years and 16 months yet. We’d only heard of them through meetings, reading reports, and viewing some still pictures. However, that Friday in August 2014 was totally different; this was the day that we met them in person. For Rebecca and I, it was both the end of a long journey and the beginning of an even longer journey. We had been on the road to adoption for close to three years and, on that Friday, we turned the corner onto the next road, the one of raising a family.
So, where did it all begin? During the month of September 2011, Rebecca and I had been on a car journey to a one-day conference in London with friends. They were parents of two lovely children, both of which had been adopted. As we drove, the conversation moved into asking questions like: what was it like to adopt? Was it difficult? And, what about us, had we thought of it? It turned into one of those conversations you don’t forget. Even though it was temporarily paused due to heavy traffic and the need to pay particular attention to directions, we then picked up adoption as our topic of talking on the way back home. We were challenged, excited, scared and enthused, all at the same time, and we just knew it was time to look into the process in earnest.
I remember, the next day, while sitting on our old green couch, I once again searched online for adoption agencies that would work with Americans living in the UK who wanted to adopt from the US. Seems a little backward, doesn’t it? Have I mentioned we are American? However, we had lived in the UK since only 2008, so we were not privy to using the system in this country, as we did not have a long-term visa to be in the country. Equally and agonisingly, we didn’t want to wait any longer. It had been years that adoption had been on our minds, but not yet seen in our actions. To my surprise, while surfing the net that morning, I found an agency in our home state of Indiana that looked like a possibility! A couple of phone calls later and we had discovered that this agency could in fact work with us, even though we were living in the UK.
This set us off on the beginning of our adoption process. Our process spanned the gamut of emotions, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean too! When a mother is pregnant, there is such joy to share the news; and you can imagine how excited we were to share our news, that we were going to be mom and dad! We began by telling our parents, then our close friends in the States, along with our church family and friends in our village. These were stirring times and we felt the full support of all those we shared the news, with whether local or further afield. The question that invariably was asked was, “when will you have a child?” The answer we invariably gave was, “we don’t know”.
‘We don’t know’ is both an easy answer to state, and at the same time a desperately grim reply to utter. It’s was an accurate reply, we didn’t know when we would be blessed with a child, but the reality of not knowing was something we faced in practically every conversation we had. Well-meaning and enthusiastic people asked that question on repeat, it was a sign of the support we had both near and far. Beginning the process is daunting, and I can only imagine how arduous it must be for people without a robust support system. We found especially at the beginning and the end, daily support was paramount.
Working with the agency in Indiana was wonderful. We were able to do all of the homestudy (assessments), background checks and interviews while on a one-month trip to the USA. Soon after returning home to Hampshire, we received an email stating we were approved to adopt. There was jubilation and a shouting from the mountaintops (via social media!) that we were approved adopters. This meant that we were ‘on the books’ and a mother who desired to give up their child could choose us to be parents. Unlike the UK system, much of the American adoption system works in this way, where the birth mother and, at times, the birth father too, choose who they will ‘give’ their child too for adoption. We knew that our dreams of family depended upon being chosen by a mother.
In January of 2013, our journey took an unexpected turn. We had attended a church conference where one of the speakers shared an amazing story of adoption that had taken place in this country. In short, it turned out even though we were not citizens, if we obtained an ‘indefinite leave to remain’ visa, the adoption process could begin with a UK agency too. We had believed that without the visa or citizenship that adopting here was off limits, but it suddenly seemed maybe, just maybe, our dreams could be realised here! Excitement ruled the day, but it needed to be tempered as there was still much fact finding to be done.
By the middle of 2013, we had waited nearly a year and a half for ‘the call’ from the agency in the USA. It was becoming increasingly clear to us that we would not be chosen. A mother was not willingly going to send their newborn off to the UK to a family she’d never met. Coming to this realisation meant that we would continue to wait, but always with hope. Throughout the whole process we did not lose hope, our Christian faith, the church we led, our many friends and parents helped us to hold onto the dream.
The next plot twist happened in the June and again it was a phone call following a conversation. This time a chat with a friend who had adopted in the Basingstoke area. He implored me to call the agency they had used. The next day, I picked up the phone not sure what to expect. It was just an exploratory first call. During a brief talk with an agency worker, I disclosed that we were not citizens nor did we have long-term visas yet. This was met with the response, “Ok, when you have the needed paperwork, we’ll be happy to work with you”. This was quite exciting, but what happened next came as an absolute surprise.”
Read Part 2 of Ear'l’s adoption journey here on 20th December.