What is Faith?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the staircase”. I believe that Dr. King meant that faith is embracing the unknown. The action is taken by the person with so many unknowns of what can happen step by step, but having the faith that once the person puts their foot down, the stair will be there to catch them. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, faith is great trust or confidence in something or someone. This Could be what you feel when you think the chair will hold as you sit in it, or it could be trust placed in a higher power to guide you successfully throughout your path. 

In his book Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, James Fowler claims that “faith is a person’s way of seeing him or herself in relation to others against a background of shared meaning and purpose.” Fowler continues to say that regardless of not being religious or spiritual, most people are concerned with how to put life together and make life worth living. Throughout my life, my faith in God and all that is good guides me along my path. Every day is a journey to trust the path that I’m on and the creator who guides me.  

This confidence or faith is tested every day in our journeys because of the trials we face. I believe that trials are a test, over a period of time, to discover how effective or suitable something or someone is. I believe trials are meant to take the person away from the journey that is created for them, but regardless, if the believer is steadfast in their faith, they will become stronger and transcend above the trials. 

What is Adoption and How Does it Relate to Faith? 

I have personally seen instances of this transcendence in couples looking to adopt. In my experience, one can not walk through a successful adoption journey without faith. Faith gives one the drive and the strength to overcome the trial. Which leads you to wonder why would an adoption process be so complex that you would need an abundance of faith to push through the process.  

 Above all, adoption is a loss.  It is a loss to the birth family because the child is going to another family, either within the family or outside of the family. The loss of a loved one or the loss of a family member is a trial. It is a loss to the adoptee because they are not having the opportunity to be raised with their birth mother or birth father.  The reasons for not being with the birth family can vary. 

Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute states that adoption refers to, “the act by which an adult formally becomes the guardian of a child and incurs the rights and responsibilities of a parent. At the conclusion of the formal process, a legal relationship between child and guardian will have formed. The legal relationship results in the adoptee becoming the legal heir of the adopter and terminates any legal rights then in existence with the natural parents”.  Simply put,  adoption is the transference of rights of the minor from the birth parents to the adoptive parents.  Adoption as I know it can be an emotional process, especially in a closed adoption, in which the parent is removed from the child’s life. 

Adoption is often misunderstood. Unless adoption has been a part of your life, it’s difficult to really understand. It’s one of the most beautiful things, but it is also the hardest.  Essentially it is a journey of sacrifice and unconditional love on the sides of the birth and adoptive family. The adoptive family will struggle to fill out paperwork, constantly wait, be interviewed by many social workers, and go through housing inspections. The adoptive child will have to deal with relocating and fitting into a new culture. It’s a lot to deal with, but to many, it is a challenge worth facing. 

Each type of adoption is no more different or complex than the other. As a result, there is an opportunity for faith throughout the whole process of adoption. One can have faith by hoping that the process will work out for the children that are involved in the adoption process and the result will be a stable home with the love of a family. Faith for certain parts of the process depends on the individual that is working in the adoption process. For the social worker, it can be the faith that the family that is going to be matched with the family would be a good match. For the adoptee, it could be faith for a happy and healthy life. For the birth families, it could be that they are making the right choice for the child by placing them with an adoptive family. Finally, the adoptive family may have faith in the choice they made. This will help keep them strong as they wait throughout the process and raise the child in a healthy and happy environment while helping them work through the issues that come along with being adopted. Faith when lost or broken can bring about a struggle with perseverance. It is important to realize that struggle faith is still faith.

Helping the Adoption Community Find Faith

In an article titled 10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know written by Lesli Johnson, a therapist and adoptee, shares what adoptees want everyone involved in the adoption community to know. It also shares tips for being supportive during an adoptive journey. This was an informative article to discuss what others in the adoption can do to help the adoption community keep faith throughout the adoption journey. If you know someone in the adoption community struggling, try following Lesli Johson’s advice. Your support will help them tremendously. 

Faith for Adoptees 

As an adoptee, remember that your feelings are valid. Your honesty about your life is appreciated by those around you. Your loss is something that needs to be acknowledged. Find honest language to describe your story. Find various outlets to help you address feelings and find validation. Feel free to be transparent with the people around you. Find a set of individuals that can help you navigate your thoughts and feelings about your place in the adoption world. Overall, know that no matter how you feel or what you think, your existence and honesty in the adoption community are important to the evolution of the adoption process. Your voice is worth more than you can imagine. 

Faith for the Adoptive Parents

Katie Kaessinger shares the story of her life as an adoptee. She shares the various ways that adoptive families are different in her article, What Makes Adoptive Families Different. Adoption is a journey with your child or children that extends beyond paperwork and a court date. Research your child’s background and strategies to combat trauma. Try to find a group to help your child face their feelings and the trials of searching for an identity. You are not their savior, you are their parent and advocate. Be there for the tough conversations and love them regardless of how hard it is. You are more than capable of so much love.

Faith for the Birth Parent 

Just like the adoptee, you are valid in your feelings. Adoption is a tough choice to make. Emily Perez gathers information in her article titled Putting Up a Baby for Adoption, that sheds some light on resources for support after your child goes to live with their adoptive parents. Try to gather around a supportive group of people that can support you through your open or closed adoption. Remember that your feelings matter in this process as well. 

Faith for Adoption Professionals

If you are an adoption professional, try asking many questions and listening to the adoptive parent and birth parent. More importantly, listen to the adoptee. Gather as much information as you can and make solid decisions based on the best practice for everyone. Try to offer classes to inform friends, family, and teachers about adoption-appropriate language. This will help you and those around you to keep faith and hopefully make life a little easier. 

To Friends and Families

Adoption is a difficult process so I encourage you to listen, support, encourage, and love. And listen again. Those in the adoption triad would be lost without you, so continue to be there for them. Your loving support will help them keep faith throughout the process. Overall, faith and adoption go hand in hand. Without faith, adoption in its complexity would cease to exist. I recently read an article titled Telling Your Story: The Adoption Community Needs You and it helped me realize that people in the adoption community find peace in sharing their stories. As I read these stories, it was clear that faith helps us override the trials that exist in adoption. It is important to do all that we can in the adoption community to keep each other healthy and honest to allow faith and adoption to flow and exist together. 

Deirdre Parker is an early childhood educator in Washington DC. She proudly hails from Baltimore, MD where she received her BA in liberal studies from Notre Dame of Maryland University. She continued afterward to receive her BS in Music Therapy from Texas Woman’s University and MS in Early Childhood Education from Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. She entered the adoption community with the adoption of her son from South Africa. When she is not at school teaching her “babies” and mentoring new early childhood educators; she is traveling, reading, writing, playing music, following politics, hiking, attending church, and cheering on the Ravens with her intelligent husband and her extremely bright 4-year-old little boy.