This is part 2 of a 2 part series: Part 1
Alasdair Groves sits down with Julie and Greg Lowe and talk about adoption.
Alasdair Groves, Julie Lowe, and Greg Lowe
AG: Today’s episode is part two of a two-part series on adoption. You don’t have to have listened to part one for this to make sense, but you’ll definitely want to go back and listen to it if you haven’t heard it yet. And if the issue of adoption is at all interesting to you, part one was Julie and Greg telling the personal story of their adventures in adoption, and this one is going to focus on adoption in general. How can we think about doing it well and supporting those around us who do it as well?
Intro: You’re listening to CCEF-On-The-Go, a podcast of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. Here at CCEF, we are committed to restoring Christ to counseling, and counseling to the church. You can find our podcasts, books, articles, videos, and more resources for Christ-centered pastoral care at our website, ccef.org.
AG: Hi. Welcome to CCEF-On-The-Go. I’m your host, Alasdair Groves, faculty member here at CCEF. And today I am talking with Julie Lowe, my fellow faculty member at CCEF, and her husband, Greg Lowe, who is a counselor here as well. We did an earlier conversation on their story personally about adoption. So I wanted to follow up and do sort of a part 2 here, thinking a bit more broadly and generally about adoption, about how it works, how to think about it.
And I’d kind of like to ask you just three questions today. First will be, how would you talk to, encourage, give advice to parents who are considering adoption? Secondly, what would you say to parents who have adopted and are sort of getting their start in that in a fairly early on the road? And thirdly, I’d love if we have time to say a little bit to those around those families who haven’t adopted themselves but have people in their lives who have adopted or are considering adoption. What would you say to those families? How can you bless, support, and care for those who are going through or have been through the process of adoption? So to start out with: Okay you’re sitting in front of a couple or a single person who is saying, “I/We would like to adopt, we’re thinking about it, we know you guys have done this.” What would you begin to say to orient that person?
JL: This is in no particular order because there are all kinds of things that would be really helpful. But one comes to mind is, the best adoption agencies train and train and train. They put you through a lot of training, and some people don’t like that. But I’m so encouraged when I hear they’ve gone through it because what it means is they’ve been prepared for every avenue: for the process and what can be difficult about the process, for the potential risk, for the needs of children, for just thinking well about adoption and its impact on children and how to process that with them. So whether it’s domestic or international in dealing with potential institutionalization or attachment issues or sibling groups or birth families, there’s a wealth of things you don’t have to think about until you’re all of a sudden thrown into it. So I would highly encourage anybody that a really good adoption agency is going to train you well, and be willing to go through what seems like a long process of training because it will be so fruitful to them.
AG: So do your homework, embrace the process, go through the training.
JL: Don’t take the easy way out, don’t go with programs that will say, “All you have to do is these three steps.” Good training will make you read books, it will get you thinking about hard stuff. They’ll almost scare you out of it in order to prepare you to do it.
GL: For me, as we were considering moving from having the girls, our first two daughters, to adopting another sibling pair of boys, we were thinking about that and I was considering that. I had to examine my motivation. What good reason did I have to say “No”? And I couldn’t really come up with any reason. I mean, Julie wanted that, so I had to consider it. And I had expressed that I wanted our family to grow, too. All of my answers were: “Just take more time. Just take more money. I can’t do this, or I can’t do that.” Those just didn’t seem to be good enough answers for me. So I think, you have to examine your heart and your agenda for really seeking to love the Lord and love other people, examine what you want your life to look like. And are those things — how do they weigh against one another?
AG: What about a family — they’ve just adopted internationally, domestically, perhaps a teenager, perhaps a one-year-old? What kinds of things do you begin to say as people are starting down this road?
JL: It probably varies so much depending on their unique situation. So even from country to country, experiences differ to whether they come from orphanages or some countries actually do foster care – they don’t have orphanages, so kids are growing up in the home before they’re adopted. So the needs, the particularities can change. And if they’ve had really good training, then part of that means, “What are you going to do when they come home? How are you going to help if you already have children? How are you going to help them to adapt to a new child in the home? How are you going to establish training for a child whose never been in your home before, doesn’t know the rules, doesn’t understand even culturally what’s going on at times?”
AG: Or perhaps even English.
JL: Right, language barriers. Any of those things. Or just how do you facilitate a comfortable, safe environment for this child to thrive and know they’re embraced and they’re not going to be leaving again? So some of it depends on – people adopt sibling groups and there are all kinds of complications to that as well. So having a really good support system in place is really helpful. Sometimes having counseling in place is really helpful, too. It’s not always necessary if you have good resources, if you have a church that’s highly supportive and engaged. So probably the biggest thing is saying: have the support around you — family, friends, people to talk through the changes.
GL: Yeah. “How can I help?” That’s what I would say to them. “How can I help? Are you finding the help you need? Are you supported, are you cared for?” Kind of exactly what Julie said.
AG: Talk to me about you guys’ first year. I know you told us in the first part of the podcast aired earlier that you had four kids in the first year of your marriage. You got married with two as your flower girls, and within the next year, you had two brothers come, and all young kids. What did you learn that first year? What are things you look back and go: “I’m so glad we did this.” Or, “Wow, if we had to do it over again…”
JL: I’ll jump in and say one thing. One was – this was the advice of someone wiser than us about having a date night, a regular date night for us. So we went into marriage with kids and they multiplied in the first year of marriage and we both worked full-time. So I think one of the life-saving things was being able to go out just even an evening every other week. Or we aimed for twice a month, that didn’t often happen, and it was complicated especially as foster parents because we couldn’t leave our kids…
AG: I was going to say, how do you do that?
JL: Well, and that goes to: how can the church or relationships help? It would’ve been life-giving to us if somebody had volunteered to take the kids one evening once a month, or twice a month. I mean, I would’ve been bowing down and kissing their feet. Those things were so beneficial. Or after-school care for those who work. You know, some people are stay-at-home parents, or their situations are different, they have family close by. We didn’t have family close by. We both worked full-time. So what would’ve been a blessing to us would’ve been that hands-on people that know the kids, understand their issues that we can trust, that have their criminal background checks in. So any babysitter we would get, we’d always have to take them through getting criminal checks and abuse checks and then the lay of the land as a parent and all these things. So just looking back for us, I think one of the things that was really beneficial is, we did take time for just us.
And it became a running joke because we would have a date night and all of a sudden get a call from the foster care agency: “Are you willing to take an emergency respite tonight?” And our date night would turn into an emergency respite situation. Several of our kids came to us on date nights. But I would think that was really helpful our first year of marriage. And we were surrounded by a community of wonderful people, too — here at CCEF, people that have adopted, a church that thought that way.
GL: I don’t know. I mean, I guess my advice would be no different than to any other parent. As you have four little kids watching your emotional reaction that’s coming out of you and knowing what it means about your desires and what you believe — kind of your agenda for what you want to have happening. You know, because that’s a lot of chaos, that’s a lot of noise, it’s very easy – maybe you want to have some comfort, have some quiet, you know, escape a little bit, and those things are not the Lord’s agenda. Those are your agenda and they can lead to unloving reactions, distancing, all kinds of bad things. So as any parent, examining the fruit of your emotions and your behaviors, and what do they say about what’s really important to you? Consciously walking in that role: a parent, serving the Lord to work myself out of a job of raising these children as self-aware little worshipers.
AG: One thing I’m thinking, as I thought often from the first conversation we had as well, is just how much you guys are just normalizing the process of being a parent to adopted kids. I think most people —I think this is true — I think most people have this sort of sense that this is this mysterious, scary, different, super-out-there kind of thing — that if you do it, man, you’re like the green berets of parents and you better be ready because there’s going to be all these issues and you don’t know anything about the process. And in some ways, you’re highlighting the importance of: get the training and understand there are going to be different issues. There is a complexity here. But what’s the first thing off the tip of your tongue? It’s… you know, have a date night and watch your heart.
GL: Go to your room. <Laughter, other comments>
AG: I’m thinking about how much I learned about my own heart from when our daughter was born, (she’s 8 now). And two younger siblings and the lessons have held very true… where waking me up in the middle of the night to go take care of a crying child was so hard. I was so frustrated. I just wanted to be asleep. And it’s like, I could be relatively patient until 7:31pm. And then after that, it’s like I knew I was entitled to my night and the Lord had no right to ask anything of me through a child. And it was amazingly good at revealing some of where my heart could go off the rails. And I feel like you’re pointing to, “Look, take care of your marriage. The Lord has given you that. Take care of your heart and your emotions and be aware that you’re going to want things that are in contrast with the good of these children the Lord has given you. So be ready for that.” I’m really appreciating how you’re highlighting, “Yeah, the biggest things we’re going to say off the bat are actually things we would say to any parents, to any people in any kind of relationships.” That’s very encouraging and helpful to me.
AG: You guys already started to go here, at least implicitly in things you’ve said, but in terms of how can churches, how can friends, how can communities support adoptive families? I’m hearing loud and clear: “Give adopted parents a break. Get involved. Roll up your sleeves. Get your background check. Babysit once a month. You have no idea how big a gift that could be.” What else, if anything else, would you say to communities?
GL: Yeah, to extend that line of thinking just a little bit farther: become a foster parent, a certified foster parent. You can do respite. Instead of being able to take them for a night, take them for a week. Let the parents go out of town for a vacation or something. That’s just an extension of what you were saying.
JL: And again, it’s going to vary from person to person. So there are people who adopt special needs kids, and the kind of help they need is to get to medical appointments, or have their children babysat while they take kids to medical appointments. Things like that might vary, but it’s just the very practical extension of help and aid.
And you know, a lot of families have 9 months to prepare for a new child coming to their lives, and then there are families where they just show up right then and there. And those who are intentionally adopted domestically or internationally have a prep time as well. Our experience was a little different, where literally we could get a call today after talking to you asking would we consider taking a child. So those practical resources of just clothes… Or we have nothing. We took a baby, all of our kids were 2 and above when we’ve taken them, and all of a sudden we had a newborn baby. We had no crib, we had nothing. What are we going to do with this baby? So those kind of practical aids for those who know the family well around them. And then the emotional support of processing what this has been like for you. And some people find they have a hard time bonding with their kids. Sometimes they’re caught off guard by behaviors they weren’t prepared for. And so the ability to talk that through and know they’re not in it alone is going to be crucial for them.
Another thing we’re not bringing up is the idea of birth families and how — that topic alone could probably take an hour to talk about – how to help your children think about them, how as adoptive parents we feel sometimes threatened that our children will grow up to love their birth parents more than us. And how do you talk about that? How do you, again, say, “Lord, these are your kids. Of course they’re going to love their birth parents. Of course that’s normal.” And so even just being really thoughtful about, how do you engage with birth family, even if you never meet them. But for many of us, there is the opportunity to meet birth family, and what does that mean for your family?
GL: I’m thinking of: be willing to embrace the whole family. So we had four little children and then a fifth, and now a sixth. And it can be hard to find friends and families and home groups that would willingly embrace you. Just when we had the girls, we were looking for a home group and couldn’t find one that was very well-suited for having kids, amazingly. So we started our own. And then we got two more, and then one more family came that had 5 children – or 4 children – well, it grew as we were together. And we had a very diverse home group with 14-15 children. It was crazy. It was really crazy. But I would just say, you know, we had some friends who had four adopted children. They went from 1 to 4 almost overnight. And they were part of our home group. So just be willing to embrace the whole family. You’re willing to embrace chaos, noise, and trouble.
AG: So interesting, Greg. You’re making me think of something I haven’t thought about in a long time. We had friends a while back who, I don’t remember how many kids they had — this was before we had kids, so at the time, whatever seemed like a lot. And I remember them saying, “You know, we’ve been here in the area for six months or a year, and no one has ever invited us over to their home.” And I remember the husband saying, “And I get it. I know why they don’t. We have kids, and there are a lot of us. I know we’re intimidating and overwhelming because there’s just a lot of us to handle.” But I was so struck by that as a young married couple with no kids of my own being like, “Oh yeah, I haven’t invited you over. It would never occur to me to invite this whole family over.” But just that phrase: embrace the whole family. That’s really… that’s a helpful word. And again, not just for adoptive families. For any large family. And just being reminded you don’t have to have kids with all matching ages and sweaters to have a good time together as families. We’ve experienced the blessing of that actually a number of times in our own community of late. We have some friends with kids who are older than our kids, and they’ve done such a wonderful job of playing with our younger kids, and you would never think, “Oh yeah, this is the most natural play date in the world.” We’ve been on the receiving end of that. It has been a great blessing.
Anything else you guys would say? I can’t imagine there’s much more to say about adoption than what we’ve already said in 15 minutes. But anything else you want to say: a parting comment from each of you or either of you?
JL: I’ll just end with: there are so many ways people can get involved. I think for those who do feel not called or that it’s too daunting or they already have enough struggles and needs in their own home, to think outside the box of ways they can support the idea of the ministry of adoption. It can be broader than adopting themselves.
AG: Last thought that I feel like, if we don’t put this on the table as well, would be the financial impact — how expensive it is to adopt. And like any young family, you have expenses that you didn’t have before you had kids. So even just at the level of financially giving, I know that can be a blessing. That’s another practical aid. So Julie, will you pray for the adoptive parents and their communities who are listening to this?
JL: Sure, yeah. Lord, thank you for the heart you’ve given those who do adopt and foster, and those who take in the vulnerable. You know there are so many, and so many needs. So would you give wisdom to the people who are considering this and to what degree you’re calling them to participate, would you give them a creativity and an openness to consider things they might not have considered before. And we do pray that your Word would go out, that people would be encouraged, and that they would feel maybe a boldness even to try something they’ve never tried before. And we pray this in your precious name. Amen.
Outro: The subject of adoption is a scary one, isn’t it? But if it is something the Lord is laying on your heart to think more about, as it has been for me personally today, you might want to listen to a talk by Julie called, “Adoption: From Brokenness to Relationships,” which we’ve posted on our website, ccef.org/podcast. As always, it will be free until the next episode goes up. And if you have any suggestions for the podcast, don’t hesitate to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. ‘Til next time, blessings.
Alasdair is the Executive Director of CCEF, as well as a faculty member and counselor. He has served at CCEF since 2009. He holds a master of divinity with an emphasis in counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. Alasdair cofounded CCEF New England, where he served as director for ten years. He also served as the director of CCEF’s School of Biblical Counseling for three years. He is the host of CCEF’s podcast, Where Life & Scripture Meet, and is the coauthor of Untangling Emotions (Crossway, 2019).
Greg has a depth of training with a Master of Divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary, a Master of Social Work from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology. His many years of counseling experience include formal counseling and counseling the severely mentally ill. He also has work experience in hospice and end of life issues. Greg and his wife, Julie, have five children and serve as foster and adoptive parents. He enjoys hiking and outdoor activities, weight lifting and keeping up on health issues.
Julie Lowe served at CCEF for over 20 years in various capacities, including as a faculty member and counselor. She is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and a registered play therapist supervisor and she holds a master of arts in counseling from Biblical Theological Seminary. Julie has extensive training and experience with marriage, women’s issues, sexual abuse, body image issues, parenting, and child maltreatment issues. She is trained in leading mandated reporter trainings and provides numerous trainings and consultations on child sexual abuse. She has published numerous books, including Child Proof (New Growth Press, 2018), Building Bridges (New Growth Press, 2020), and Safeguards (New Growth Press, 2022).