Podcast Spotlight: How Open Adoption Made My Family Great


Hear real testimonies from parents who discuss why and how they adopted, with great advice for prospective adoptive parents. Audra Haney interviews Julie Russi on open adoption through a private Christian agency, and Chris & Shauna Stockhaus who participated in the Foster-to-Adopt Program in their local county.

Audra: Well, welcome to the Newborn Promise Podcast. This is Audra Haney and we are so happy to have you today, as we dive even deeper into our discussion on adoption.

Welcome to these two amazing families we are talking to today: Julie Russi and the Stockhaus Family. Julie is from California and the story of her family didn’t start the way she expected. Her lifelong dream was to be a mom, but when she saw negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test, she and her husband Zack really to examine their perception on what being a parent was all about.

Audra: Julie, you and your husband Zach dated in college and went on to get married. And, when you went on to start your family, you didn’t expect getting pregnant to be very hard. But, tell me about that experience and some of the emotions you faced in trying to start your family.

Julie: I always wanted to be a mom, that was really my dream and that was what I wanted to do. So, when I was 27 years old we tried to start our family and for two years we tried to get pregnant and never once did I get pregnant. And, I was completely devastated. It just seemed that everyone around me was able to conceive so easily and just have babies and you know when you are in those years where people are starting a family, I was looking around and it seems like everyone around you is pregnant and I had a really hard time. Every time I saw a pregnant woman or someone would tell me that they got pregnant, I was crushed.

Audra: After seeking some medical help, what did the doctors tell you were the next step options?

Julie: The basic, non-invasive treatments wouldn’t work for us and the doctors recommended IVF and they said, in our case, even going through those treatments, we still only had a 25-30% chance of that working. And, at the point in our lives, we were young professionals, my husband was building his career, and we only had a certain amount of money to move forward with our family. The cost of our treatments and the cost of doing a domestic adoption were about the same.

Audra: Julie, what were some of your initial thoughts on adoption?

Julie: Well, fortunately, I had always wanted to adopt ever since I was young. I remember growing up and you know hearing stories, and seeing movies, and meeting people and just knew I want to adopt a child someday. So, it was always in the back of my mind. And, luckily, my husband and I talked about it a head of time. We talked about it in our pre-martial counseling and we discussed it. We both wanted to adopt. We just assumed that we would go on to have children naturally and that would be no problem and then we would potentially adopt later when we were older.

Audra: And, ultimately, you and Zach decided to go the route of adoption, rather than choosing to go through the IVF. That seems like a really big, emotional decision. Tell me, how did God help you arrive at that decision?

Julie: I really had to ask myself the question, “What was really important to me?” Was it that I really wanted to be pregnant, which I did, but what I did I really want? And, what I really wanted was to be a mom. And when I held tight to that, that I wanted to be a parent and I wanted to raise children with my husband, that was important, suddenly how we became parents wasn’t as important. And of course, I had to morn that loss of not having our biological children and not carrying that child. But, God had already put that seed of adoption in my mind and so we decided to go ahead and invest our time and money in adoption.

Audra: So, there seems to be a lot of options out there when it comes to adoption– international, domestic, open adoption–and that is what you guys went was the domestic, open adoption. Tell me about that decision.

Julie: Well, when we decided we were going to go ahead and pursue adoption, we looked for agencies and we had family friends that adopted through this Christian agency and they had a really good experience. And, based on their recommendation we went and signed up for a class and we went and got educated. So, we started there; learning about adoption and what are the different types. So my husband and I chose open adoption because we wanted an infant. The way adoption has changed over the years, it used to be really closed, and the current thought is that it is healthier for everyone involved to have an open adoption. Having fewer secrets and just more known and building relationships with people is healthier for everyone involved.

Audra: So, with domestic open adoption, I know that there is some communication with the birth families. And, with every adoption that can vary, the level to which you communicate, but how did you initially feel about having open communication with the birth family?

Julie: I had some concerns and fears and you are not really sure what you are getting yourself into. So, I was praying a lot and a verse that God brought to my mind was Phil 2:3-4 and it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition, or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only towards your own interests but also to the interests of others.” And, those verses really changed me and shaped me where I started to think about the birth mothers and the birth families, and trying to imagine who they were, what are they going through. This must be really scary and frightening for them. So, when I would get nervous or scared, I’d pray those verses and think about that and it was during that time that God just gave me a total heart and compassion for the birth family. It really changed everything. So, instead of going into this process of “Okay, I want to be a mom, let’s adopt a baby, it’s all about me.” It just transformed me into realizing that this is not about me. This is about creating the best possible family for a child that we can and that the more can love and care about each other as all of the adults in the family involved, the better it is going to be for the child, as well as us.

Audra: And Julie, you really ended up having a special connection with your son’s birth mother. Tell me about that.

Julie: So, what is amazing is that we met our oldest son’s birth mother and she was still pregnant. And, as we had a chance to get to know her, like I said, we both ended up caring about each other a lot. Amazingly, she was scheduled to have a C-section and she invited me to be there with her in the hospital with her during the C-section. I never imagined that when we went through adoption that I was actually going to get to be there when my child was born. That was so cool. So I just feel so blessed that she let me be there and be a part of that. So, the two of us were together from the very beginning…[continues]

STATION BREAK: This is Audra Haney and you are listening to the Newborn Promise Podcast. Today, we are discussing open domestic adoption with couples that chose the process for various reasons. As with Julie’s case, many couples are gently led to adoption through infertility, some maybe after having biological children in the home. But, for some couples, like Chris and Shauna Stockhaus, God leads them to adoption first, before trying for biological children. And, while it may not be the most traditional route, Chris and Shauna shared with me why it really was the best route for their family. Today, they have two boys adopted from California’s foster-to-adopt program.

Audra: Chris, for you and Shauna your family story is not the typical one. How did God give you a heart for adoption to begin with?

Chris: I think it started when we began going on international mission trips through our church. We went to Kenya a couple of times and through that, God began to develop our heart for those who have less. And, we actually bumped into a family here in the Bay Area who was fostering some children and had adopted a couple. We were so fascinated by their journey, their story, their family, and what God was doing. It was so interesting to us and something that we thought was amazing and was in line with where we felt God was already taking us, in terms of building our family in a way that also helped those who are in need or struggling, orphans.

Audra: And Shauna, I think your story is really unique because you wanted to pursue adoption before tying for biological children. Tell me about that decision.

Shauna: I think the thought of starting with fostering and adopting first before trying for a biological family almost made us like that idea better because no one we know had done that so it just was intriguing. And, it was on our heart, so it was just a matter of which do we do first? And, we thought, “Well, let’s just get that process started and see how things go.”

Audra: So after you guys kind of settled into this idea of foster to adopt, what was the first step in that process?

Chris: Shauna had first brought the idea to me of what if we did foster to adopt and I was like “Yeah, that seems cool, but let’s find out more.” So we went to an orientation meeting through our county social services department. It is just an informational meeting about the process works and in that meeting, as they were explaining how they do foster care, how they do adoption, what their programming is, how long it takes, all that kind of stuff. We in that meeting just had total clarity together that we wanted to do this. We were so immediately excited about it and then God’s Word obviously confirms that this fits within His plan of what He asks us as followers of Christ to do. So, the confirmation was immediate.

Audra: Did you guys have a long waiting period with foster to adopt?

Shauna: Not really. It was just God’s gift of grace to us in this process. Not only were we incredibly excited, we moved immediately on filling out the paperwork and our first phone call about a child that needed a home was only 5 months later and he was in our home within two weeks and adopted within 6 months. So, that happened very quickly, quicker than if I was pregnant and delivering. So, it just again, we didn’t have to struggle through some of the waiting and concerns and fears that can definitely pop up along the way in the process… [continues]

To hear the entire podcast episode or read the full episode, visit the episode page, iTunes or Google Play, or download the Newborn Promise Project App here. Join Newborn Promise co-author Audra Haney and friends here each week to plan for and navigate your family’s spiritual journey.