Today, Hope for Orphans is posting the first half on an interview with John and Camille Wheelock. The Wheelocks are dear friends, and we love how well they love God, each other, and their kids. We’ll be posting the second half of their interview next week, so check back in for more insights and for the five tips they’d share with adoptive parents.
Tell us a little about your family. How many kids do you have? How did you get involved in adoption?
We are John and Camille Wheelock. We met as college sweethearts at Baylor University. People sometimes act surprised when they hear that we have nine children! Our children range in age from six years old to nineteen years old. We have adopted six out of our nine children, both international and domestic adoptions.
I understand you have adopted internationally, private domestic, special needs and even in a relinquishment adoption. What has the Lord shown you in these experiences that could help families thinking about adoption as they make decisions or prepare for their child?
If the Lord is clearly leading you to adopt, He can be full of surprises! Those surprises can be blessings, and they can also come in the form of hard situations. John and I never thought we would have nine children adopted from so many different places. Yet, here we are!
Don’t put God in a box. When we are truly submissive to His will and dependent solely on Him, He can lead us into hard yet beautiful things. He has shown us that when we are obedient and cast our cares on Him, He is with us in each moment, providing, guiding, protecting, and loving us.
John and I are truly dependent on God each second of every day. As adoptive parents, we embrace that dependency on our almighty God, for we can only boast in our weakness. I hope that prospective adoptive parents would seek God wholeheartedly before, during, and after their adoptions. The best preparation is to be committed to loving that child unconditionally no matter what comes your way. Just as there are surprises in marriage, there are always surprises in adoption, but they are not surprises to God. He is infinite and omniscient, and so we need to trust God in the unexpected things and just hold on! God is good, and He is with us. That may seem simple, but it’s a small nugget of wisdom that has gotten us through the hard times.
John and Camille, you talk with a lot of families about adoption. What are some of the most common misconceptions you see in first-time adoptive parents? Can you talk about how to examine motives for adoption as an important part of becoming an adoptive parent?
The comparison that comes to mind in answering this question is marriage. Couples often start out with an idealistic view of marriage, yet the reality becomes clear with time. People see the fairy tale in movies, and they are not prepared for the trials of loving another person through all of their character flaws and wounds from the past.
There are many similarities in both adoption and marriage regarding misconceptions. The difference between the fairy tale and reality must be discussed. It is a paradox of sorts, a beautiful mess. Adoptive parents must realize that it is a calling from God that will most certainly be hard. It requires work. Each child comes with their own set of unique circumstances and past experiences. The most prepared adoptive parent can never be fully prepared.
We have six adopted children, and we are so proud of where each of them is at this exact moment. However, getting here was not at all easy. It has required complete dependence on the Lord, vast amounts of time, patience that could only be from God, and tremendous amounts of love. We always wonder if we are enough. Recently, however, our fourteen-year-old biological daughter was asked this question at her Bible study. “What is one thing that has increased your faith?” She replied, “Watching each of my adopted siblings come into our home has increased my faith. They all came in with hurt and pain, and I have watched them change and grow in amazing ways before my eyes.” This warmed my heart and gave me such peace. It is hard but so worth it!
1. Parenting adopted kids takes time
Parents should be well aware that adoption is a huge time commitment. I spend hours each week in prayer, thought, and conversation with my husband and other like-minded friends that have adopted. (I don’t know what we would do without our tribe!) Let’s face it, parenting is hard! It takes time. Children adopted from hard places require more time, energy, and patience (especially in the first few years) than one can possibly imagine. If you are not able to make that sort of time commitment and emotional investment in a child, you might want to re-think adoption.
2. Parenting adopted kids involves uncertainty
Adoptive parents should also be well aware that there is no possible way to know everything you will face before you adopt a child. The social workers and case files are full of valuable information, but they did not prepare us for the flashbacks of abuse my teenager recently had in the middle of a church service. Tears streamed down her face out of nowhere, and we were able to talk and pray about a very hard situation that neither of us was prepared to discuss. But God was with us, and He is good. That is our main line of hope in adoption. Not that we will handle everything perfectly, or that our kids will be perfect, but that God is with us in every trial and pain.
3. Parenting adopted kids requires faith
Adoption is a huge leap of faith, kind of like a trust fall. The children often have misconceptions as well. They imagine it will all be amusement parks and lollipops, and they do not think about the reality of rules and boundaries. Children formerly hurt by adults have a hard time trusting adults. It takes a tremendous amount of time and patience. John and I heard our friend and mentor, Paul Pennington, speak years ago at an adoption conference. He said that the only motivation to adopt a child would be to love that child unconditionally. We could not agree more. I think adoptive parents know it will be hard, but they cannot fully understand.