Today’s blog marks the beginning of a monthly series of articles that will address the primary mission of Real Wood Floors. If you didn’t already know, Real Woods Floors makes beautiful wood flooring, but its purpose is to work until the day every child is home. We actively help to find ways for orphan and foster children to gain families and homes. Each month we will share stories about adoptive families and their journeys, and talk with other organizations doing similar work.Check out our inaugural podcast here that complements this article.
The Draw to Africa and Opening Themselves Up
For Real Wood Floors’ own Jeremy Adams and his wife Jennifer, it was a mildly circuitous route before Burundi in Central Africa became their destination for adoption.
At the time, Jennifer and Jeremy had been married fifteen years, had six kids, and were dedicated to the RWF mission of adoption.
Why Africa and not locally?
The answer relates to Jeremy’s time in Ethiopia when he served on several relief work trips. While in the archaeologically and historically rich land in the Horn of Africa, Jeremy appreciated the inclusive culture he witnessed there. When his relief crew helped move a family out of a slum to a home, the village, Christian and Muslim alike, celebrated this family’s success. Jeremy recalled the atmosphere as folks ate together, sang, danced. So when Jeremy and Jennifer considered adoption, they thought about the care, support, and passion of that community.
When they were able to meet with a caseworker about Ethiopia, the country had recently closed adoptions. But the Adams did not give up. They redid their home study, an adoption assessment process that includes personal documents, and they broadened the children’s age range from 0-6 to 0-8. As well, they opened themselves up to the adoption of not just one child but three.
A month after the Adams did so, they were matched with three children from Burundi, 1100 miles southwest of Ethiopia. Burundi is a very small country that borders Rwanda. Jeremy and Jennifer were hopeful that they’d find a similar culture to Ethiopia. And they certainly did when a local baker went above and beyond on their eldest adoptive child’s birthday—he baked three cakes, delivered a special birthday card, and recorded the festivities for Jeremy and Jennifer because he knew they couldn’t make the journey to Burundi for another month.
What Will It Feel Like . . . for Everyone?
“It’s such a strange feeling. What am I gonna feel like? Am I gonna cry? Or am I gonna be super nervous? You’re almost in a bit of a fog the whole time,” Jeremy remarked about anticipating the first encounter with their three children in Burundi.
“I didn’t want to scare them. I didn’t want to be a blubbering mess,” said Jennifer, recalling the moments before seeing her kids for the first time.
Both parents knew they couldn’t run across the room, sweep up the children, and hug them tight.
And it really did pain them in the months prior to not be able to just unite with their adoptive kids immediately. They watched videos, looked at pictures, and were ready to have the youngsters in the fold. The paperwork had been completed and approved. Jeremy and Jennifer were officially the parents of three children, Lewis, Ciella, and Eloi.
The Adams flew in to Burundi on a Sunday and went to the shelter the next day. As a send-off for Lewis and his younger siblings, there was a big meal, and all their friends celebrated and danced. During the festivities, Lewis walked to the back of the room to the caretakers and adults with whom he’d spent the last three years. And when he returned to the main area, Jeremy and Jennifer noticed that Lewis was bawling. They weren’t sure what happened exactly in that moment, but presumed Lewis was saddened by having to tell everyone goodbye. The Adams couldn’t know for certain as Lewis only knew a handful of English words and communicated in Kirundi.
As Lewis cried, Jeremy stopped taking pictures, put his phone away, went to Lewis, knelt down, and held Lewis for a minute. Jeremy felt this was very important given he was the biggest person in the room, and perhaps a bit daunting with a full beard. It was a good moment for father and son—a special bonding moment that would be the theme in the upcoming weeks.
Jennifer and Jeremy were definitely on the same page when it came to nurturing the newest members of their family. “We were very focused on their needs and didn’t let our emotions get the best of us,” Jennifer commented. “The kids were scared, and so we wanted to be calm. Our movements were intentional. We touched them softly on their backs.”
Advice for Those Considering
“We made their world very small at first,” Jennifer said. Once the family was back from Burundi, they limited the interactions of Lewis, Ciella, and Eloi with outsiders. They kept them at home a lot, and time spent together grew the familial bonds.
“We could not have described: ‘This is what our life is gonna be like, and it’s gonna be great.’ Because it was terrifying,” Jeremy said. However, the first two weeks with their adoptive children were spent in Africa, and the Adams felt like this resolved a number of trust issues. Then after another month, more trust issues were resolved, and then after another month, even more . . . and so on until present day, ten months later.
Like a house, lots of hidden costs surface when one is adopting. Schools require shots. Vision tests, dental exams, and a new wardrobe are all part of it. But don’t be scared, the Adams advise. They insist there are resources available; the money is there, but you have to seek it out and perform due diligence.
There are grants to help with adoption costs, some specific to the state of Missouri, in the Adams’s case. When they came home from Burundi, a check was waiting for them. In addition to grants, “You just have to get resourceful,” Jennifer commented. They cut out eating out. They held garage sales, and they looked around the house at things they didn’t need and sold them, including a motorcycle. They don’t miss those things, they said. Well, maybe the motorcycle.
Lastly, patience, they noted was key. Adoption takes a good deal of time. And it takes a good deal of paperwork. As well, for some international adoptions, you have to visit the country at least once before the adoption, and then you return later to unite with your adoptive children.
We Are All Working Together
“When you talk about adoption specifically, we are all working together,” Jeremy commented as he recalled the mantra of Sam Cobb, CEO of Real Wood Floors. “Sam has said many times, ‘If everyone who considered adoption would seriously pursue it, and those who feel adoption is not for them would support those who do, then we could make a serious impact on helping children.’”
“The minute we started talking about adoption, we educated ourselves about the whole process,” Jennifer said. She suggested to those considering adoption to learn all you can about that country. “Read all the books. You’ll have to anyway. So educate yourself. You’re never going to be fully prepared, but prepare yourself; prepare your heart.”
The Adams felt fortunate that during their process they had access to so many adoptive families. It was easy for them to sit down and talk with those who had experience. They noted that families who’ve adopted love to talk about adoption. As well, there are a lot of groups out there for support, including groups on Facebook. Jeremy and Jennifer suggest talking to families who’ve adopted, who will share information, help you understand the things you need to be prepared for. And in all of this, it will get you excited about the possibilities and probably move you on to the next phase—an integral part of the mission of Real Wood Floors, to work until every child is home.
Read more about our mission here.