Photo courtesy Heather Swanner Photography.
Homewood’s Walden family adopted 2-year-old Benjamin last year.
In honor of National Adoption Month, The Homewood Star talked with several families in the community who have taken the adoption journey to become “forever families” to children in need of a home.
Amy and Jason Bickell adopted for traditional reasons – they were struggling to have children. But even after a successful in vitro fertilization treatment that resulted in their first child, Molly, the couple decided to push through with the adoption process.
After two and a half years of the open domestic adoption process, Amy and Jason brought home a bouncing baby boy from North Carolina. Frank, now 14 months, is a perfect match for the Bickells.
“I think that once you get into the process of adoption and you finally have that child, it’s really amazing how divine it all is,” Amy said. “His personality fits so well with our family. You realize that it really is meant to be.”
Amy and Jason still maintain contact with Frank’s birth mother. Although this is not the case with every domestic adoption, Amy feels it was the right one for her family.
“We stay in touch through texts and emails, and we will always stay in touch,” Amy said. “I think the more honest you are, the better the experience.”
She has also made the decision to employ a full disclosure policy as Frank gets older.
“After talking to friends who had adopted or been adopted, the general con- sensus was to tell them from day one. We are going to tell him how special he is and what I went through to get him and how wonderful adoption is,” Amy said. “I think being an adoptive mother also makes me very conscious of trying to be the best mother I can be because I have a birth mom out there who is counting on me.”
Julie Herring knew she would adopt from childhood.
“Being open to adoption was an important discussion prior to marriage to Everette,” Julie said. “There are just too many kids who don’t have families. There are so many people who are scared of adoption and I’ve never felt that way.”
Julie grew up around adoption – her younger brother Cory was adopted from South Korea. After she and her husband Everette had two of their own children, Charlie and Edie, they made the decision to begin pursuing an international adoption. Because of Julie’s family’s previous adoptive roots, Asia seemed like an ideal location.
Because of China’s efficient adoptive programs, they made the decision to adopt a Chinese child with special needs, starting the process in March 2011. In April of 2012, they were matched with their daughter. Her form of congenital heart disease known as Tetralogy of Fallot, or TOF would require an operation later down the road, but she was otherwise a healthy toddler. A few months later, they were able to bring two-year-old Katie Herring, also known as “Choo Choo” home to meet her new brother and sister.
“The rewarding part is knowing that there’s one less orphan out there and one more child who gets to expe- rience what family and love can be,” Julie said. “It’s been a challenge bring- ing a person with an unknown history and unknown likes and dislikes in and incorporating her smoothly within the family. But the greatest gift of adoption for us is the honor of being precious Katie’s mom and dad — we are the lucky ones.”
Mendy and Forrest Walden felt called to adoption after having three biological children.
“We always felt like we would do it at some point,” Mendy said. “After we had our third child, we really started praying about what our family was going to look like. The more we prayed about it, the more God was showing us we were supposed to adopt, so we took that leap of faith.”
Almost two years after starting the process, they were matched with their son, Biniam, which translates into the English name Benjamin, from Ethiopia. After a grueling 27-month process adopting from a third world country, riddled by less advanced technology and adoption law changes, just to name a few, they were finally able to bring Benjamin home.
Now two and a preschooler at Trinity United Methodist Church, Benjamin loves Steel City Popsicles and palling around with his 5-year-old brother, Da- vid.
The Waldens feel strongly about educating Benjamin about his heritage. They often talk to him about his homeland. For his upcoming Gotcha Day, they plan to take him to an authentic Ethiopian restaurant in Atlanta to cel- ebrate.
“We won’t be able to hide it, he’ll always know where he’s from,” Mendy said. “Maybe one day he’ll want to go back and visit and we’ll definitely take him. The other kids want to go too!”
All three families agree that research, including spending time with a family who has adopted, is the most important thing for those looking to adopt.
“One of the reasons we chose to live in Homewood is because of its diversity. I’m very excited that we’re seeing so many people adopting,” Julie said. “I think it will make it easier for the adopted kids because they will be able to identify with their peers. We have a support group twice a month, and it’s been good for Katie to see that has coffee once a month and play dates about other Birmingham families with Chinese babies.”