John, Katie, Grayson and Gabe

What Open Adoption Can Look Like

John and Katie were married for several years before deciding they wanted to grow their family through adoption. In early 2015, after much consideration, the couple began their adoption journey and connected with LCFS adoption social worker Tara Dull for their home study.

“We met Tara for the first time and that was great,” shared Katie. “She got us started on our home study and recommended education classes for us. She encouraged us to learn as much as we could about what it means to adopt.”

About a year later, John and Katie connected with Anita (not her real name), an expectant mother who was making an adoption plan for her soon to be born child. They began their relationship with Anita through text messages and met for the first time just a week later when Grayson was born.

“We all thought we would have more time, but Grayson was born just a week later. A bit of a surprise arrival,” Katie shared. John and Katie got on the next flight to meet Anita and Grayson at the hospital. “Tara provided helpful guidance as we worked with a local attorney and social worker to provide adoption services.”

Returning to Chicago with Grayson was a mixture of joy and sadness for John and Katie. They were thrilled to be parents, but they also understood that Grayson’s birth family was feeling tremendous loss. John said, “We really felt the loss for Anita. Leaving the hospital with Grayson was tough. We called Tara right away. We were both very emotional.”

“Here you are leaving the hospital with a beautiful baby…” Katie added. “I will always remember that phone call with Tara as we were navigating those complicated feelings.”

With advice and support from their LCFS adoption social worker Tara, John, Katie and Grayson’s birth family made a plan for their on-going relationship as part of the open adoption process.

“We’ve always been very open with Grayson about his adoption story. He loves hearing it and telling it back to us and correcting us if we don’t get it right,” John shared. “We are lucky to have photos of Anita and Grayson together that he keeps in his room. He also loves making videos for his birth family.”

“LCFS and Tara have been a great support as we navigate our adoption,” explained Katie. “We’re really fortunate that we have a strong and open relationship with Grayson’s birth family, sharing texts and photos a few times a week.”

As Grayson grows, John and Katie have also been mindful to support his racial identity, not only filling their home with books, toys and dolls that represent him, but also considering where he goes to school and where the family goes to church. “As transracial adoptive parents, we take a learner’s perspective…Grayson’s racial identity is incredibly important,” Katie said.

John and Katie’s second adoption journey took a different path. Almost two years into looking to adopt again, the couple’s LCFS adoption social worker Tara contacted them about a unique adoption situation with a ten-day-old boy. Gabe joined their family less than 48 hours later.

“Grayson just loved Gabe from the get-go. They’re such good buddies, even though there’s a four-year age difference. Grayson is so proud to be a big brother.”

While John and Katie currently don’t have the opportunity for an open adoption with Gabe’s birth family, they still do their best to share Gabe’s adoption story with him and honor his birth family and their decision to choose adoption for him.

“We keep Gabe’s birth family in our prayers every night,” said Katie. “We refer to Gabe’s birth parents as Mommy Angel and Daddy Angel. If they wish to, we hope that one day we can have a connection with Gabe’s birth parents.”

Today, John and Katie are kept very busy with their two active little boys. “The kids keep us on our toes and are an immense joy,” shared Katie. The couple also shared their advice to others considering adoption, “Try to open yourself up as a person and a learner. Learn about the birth parents’ perspective.” John and Katie’s family understand the very real benefits of open adoption, and how it can be such a beautiful thing for all people involved.