“We’d talked about adoption throughout our marriage,” said Greta Otto, while holding a smiling 4-month old on her lap. “It was always something we wanted to do at some point.”
Greta and her husband Shawn, the pastor at Providence Mennonite Church, welcomed their adopted son Matthew into their home when he was just a few days old.
The Ottos and their three biological children, Abby, Emma and Caleb, started their adoption journey last December with a home study. “The home study is nothing like what many think,” said Shawn. “It’s not a scary process. We never felt like we were being judged or that they wouldn’t like us.”
Home studies serve three distinct purposes; to educate and prepare adoptive family for the adoption, to evaluate how fit the adoptive family is and to gather information about the prospective families that will help match the family with a child or children whose needs the family can meet.
Social workers typically interview perspective adoptive parents several times as well and will visit the perspective parents home. The home visits are not so much inspecting how clean the house is, but rather whether the environment is child-friendly.
After the completion of the home study and initial paperwork, the Ottos were placed on the active adoption list in February. “We went through a law firm in Indianapolis that only handles adoptions, so the time it takes to get put on the active list could vary,” said Shawn.
Nearly every day Emma, Abby and Caleb would ask when a baby would be coming. “We wrote a letter to potential birth mothers telling about our family. Many times they (the children) would ask if a mommy had picked our letter yet,” said Greta. “For Caleb, the question was always, ‘How many more sleeps until we get a baby?’”
Then it happened, one Wednesday afternoon, July 3, to be exact. “Matthew was born at noon that day and they called us 3:30 p.m.,” said Greta. The next day, Greta and Shawn headed to Indianapolis to meet their new son.
The family had gone from having six to eight weeks to plan for a new addition to the family to having just a few hours. “Some of our friends and family had a ‘sprinkle’ for us instead of a baby shower earlier,” said Shawn. “So we had many of the items we needed already and we were ready to go again.”
“They tell you when you are going through the adoption process to treat it like a pregnancy, you just don’t know when the baby is going to come,” said Greta. “And I think the quick transition would have been more of an adjustment had he been our first child. Having the three others, we knew what to expect and what he could do without for a little while.”
For the Otto family, God has worked in a unique way. Last fall, Shawn and the members of the church were planning a series of sermons about adoption. Ironically, while those sermons were in the works, Matthew was being conceived.
“It’s amazing that around the same time we were planning that series, God put all of this in place for us,” said Shawn. “The first Sunday of the series was the first Sunday that we had Matthew.”
The Ottos said that thanks to social media, members of the congregation new of Matthew’s arrival shortly after Greta and Shawn. “Bringing Matthew home right before we starting talking about the series just made us more enthusiastic to discuss adoption with everyone,” said Shawn.
“We have a heart for children,” said Shawn. “We could have had more of our children, but there are so many kids coming into this world who don’t have a family. The Bible talks about helping and bringing justice to the fatherless and this is a tangible way of helping.”
Members of the church welcomed Matthew with open arms. “Our church family was very excited for us,” said Greta. “Our church is very pro-children and several other families within the church and this area have adopted children both domestically and internationally.”
Both Greta and Shawn said that while adoption is rather costly, there are several options to help prospective adoptive parents ease the cost of the process. Many pro-adoption groups exist, as well as organizations that help to provide grants and loans to families.
“It really strengthened my faith and God provided for us,” said Shawn. “Adoptions does come with some financial hurdles but they can all be overcome.”
While the Ottos knew for quite some time they, without a doubt, wanted to adopt, the decision comes with some common misconceptions and concerns.
“Some people are concerned with what will happen if the birth mother decides she wants the baby back,” said Shawn. “We send updates through our attorney every three months to Matthew’s birth mom. Some ask as why we do that. They think if the birth mother sees a bouncy, smiling baby, she’ll want him back, but that’s not the case. We were told that in actuality, getting letters and photos makes the birth mother more confident with her decision.”
“And we know at some point, he may go look for his birth mother. We want him to have a good impression of her. We don’t want her to say that we never sent photos or letters with updates. We want her to feel that she made the right decision for her child,” added Greta.
Indiana laws are also quite favorable to adoptive parents if the birth mother would attempt to get the child back.
In Indiana, birth mothers sign the adoption papers within 24 hours after the birth of the child.
The adoptive parents then gain full custodial rights and after additional paperwork, which takes between two and three months, the child belongs to the adoptive parents.
Matthew officially became part of the Otto family on Oct. 25.
“He’s such a blessing. The kids all love him and he fits right into our family,” said Greta. “We’re excited to see what happens next.”
November is National Adoption Month. Each year in the United thousands of children are adopted both domestically and internationally but there are still thousands of other children who are need of loving homes. Below are some of the startling numbers. 3 - The average number of years a child waits in foster before being adopted 40 - The percentage of U.S. adoptions, like the Ottos that are "mediated" adoptions where letters and photos are sent via a lawyer or adoption agency with no direct contact between the birth mother and adoptive family. 55 - The percentage of U.S. infant adoptions that are fully open adoptions. 1,100 - The number of children in foster care who are waiting now to be adopted in Indiana. Many of these children will age out of the system and never find forever families to call their own. 9,000 - The number of children adopted by U.S. families in 2011. 14,000 to 18,000 - The approximate number of infant adoptions each year in the United States. 20,000 - The number of children in the foster care system who will age of the system without ever finding a forever family. 400,540 - The number of children living without permanent families and will placed in foster care. Source - Indiana Heart Gallery,www.adoptioninstitute.org and www.ccainstitute.org