Families come in all forms, and families formed by adoption are inspiring because they impact so many lives. Early on in their relationship, Gordon and Brian discovered their shared longing for fatherhood. “Pretty quickly we realized we were two men who both had dreams of starting a family,” explained Gordon, “and weren’t sure about how to do that.”

The couple explored their options of foster parenting, surrogacy or adoption, eventually settling on adoption. “We were looking for a LGBTQ-friendly adoption agency and LCFS had come recommended, so that was important to us.”

Brian commended LCFS Adoption Caseworker Tara Dull for how thoughtfully she and her colleagues guided Gordon and him to begin their adoption journey. “Being at that initial preparation class, seeing other queer couples and couples of color was really special.”

“LCFS’ adoption meetings were probably some of the most insightful moments we had in the pre-adoption process,” Gordon said of the LCFS Adoption Preparation Series they attended in early 2019. “It just opened up the world of adoption, which was so new to us.”

By May of 2019, the couple felt prepared to take their adoption search public. There were disappointments early in their process when a potential birth mother stopped contact in August, but they persisted in their search as it stretched into the next year.

In February 2020, Brian and Gordon received a text from Michelle (not her real name), who was pregnant with her second child and wanted to find a great family for adoption. On Valentine’s Day, Brian and Gordon had their first FaceTime call with Michelle, which made her comfortable to consult with the birth father Juan (not his real name) about making an adoption plan. “That FaceTime call totally solidified the connection and you could tell that Michelle was so relieved.”

Gordon and Brian then flew from Chicago to Atlanta to meet with the birth parents and a LCFS-recommended adoption lawyer. Michelle thoughtfully scheduled an ultrasound for them, where they found out that the baby girl was due a month earlier than expected, just four weeks away.

The early due date and fears of an impending COVID lockdown convinced Gordon and Brian to return to Atlanta in early March and stay until the birth, forcing them to adapt quickly.

In a pre-delivery checkup, the doctors couldn’t detect fetal movement, so they went to the hospital in case this was something serious. It turned out to be nothing more than a deep sleeping baby, but because of COVID putting stress on hospital resources, Michelle was advised to stay in the hospital until she gave birth. “Michelle couldn’t get a room, so we were in a little urgent care room for a long time,” Brian explained. “They induced her and then nothing, so I slept in a little cot next to her hospital bed,” Brian said.

Michelle gave birth the next morning to baby Ada. “We’d chosen Ada’s name. We shared it with Michelle and Juan. They were the only people we told, and they loved it. We chose it because we thought it was beautiful… and it fit her identity,” Brian said. Only Brian was allowed in the delivery room due to COVID, so Gordon could only see his new daughter through phone video or when nurses would hold her up to a window for him to see.

During the hospital stay, Michelle and Brian took turns feeding Ada, with Michelle giving new father Brian feeding tips. “I remember when I was on FaceTime, the nurses were like ‘how many milliliters did she drink?’ and Brian being Brian that is not his world at all. He’s like ‘Milliliters? What are you talking about? What’s a milliliter?’,” Gordon laughed, “So we both had a lot to learn, but Brian had the two days before me where he really had to learn in the moment.”

Brian learned from the LCFS preparation series that birth mothers often choose to spend some time alone with their babies. He said that was “some of the most helpful information we learned from LCFS.” So, the couple understood why it was important for Michelle to have time alone with her newborn in the hospital.

A few days later, they all met at a lawyer’s office to sign the papers finalizing the adoption, but because of COVID restrictions, only one of them could be in the office at a time. “Gordon and I had to take turns being outside, it was such a strange time,” Brian recalled. The next day before heading back to Chicago, baby Ada met her birth father who held and fed her, as well as her four-year-old half-sister, who gave her a special gift of a traditional Mexican dress.

“The pediatrician said absolutely no airplanes and no hotels,” so Brian and Gordon took turns driving a rental car from Atlanta to Chicago in one day, stopping every two hours to allow Ada time out of the car seat and to lie flat, per doctor’s orders.

Once they got home to Chicago, “Tara was wonderful throughout the process,” Brian said. “We had the three post-placement visits with Tara, two were over video and one where she came here in person. We felt very supported by Tara.” The couple has an open adoption and still communicate regularly with Ada’s birth parents.

Eight months later, “It’s been so magical to see her grow and develop. All of my friends who are parents told me how amazing parenting is but I never understood the details,” Gordon explained. “There’s a lot of adjusting. A lot of tiny tweaks to everything.”

These adjustments are vastly outweighed by the joy of parenthood. “We’re hoping to adopt again,” Brian said. “We’d love to have two children and we intend of course to go through LCFS and Tara again.” LCFS cherishes its success stories and helping to build beautiful forever families like Gordon, Brian and Ada’s.

If you’ve ever considered adoption and would like more information about the process, learn more at www.lcfs.org/adoption or contact LCFS at 800-363-LCFS or lcfs_info@lcfs.org.

This past year with individuals like you on our side, LCFS helped 245 children find their forever families through adoption. In celebration of National Adoption month, we’d like to share one of the stories your support made possible.

Josiah was born at 25 weeks weighing only 1 lb. 5 oz. Numerous drugs were found in his system. The first four months of his little life were spent fighting in a neo-natal intensive care unit hooked up to feeding tubes, oxygen and heart monitors. The doctors weren’t sure if he would make it.

Sharon and Paul Shubert became foster parents more than 25 years ago because it was “the journey God called them to take.” For the last eight years, they’ve served as specialized foster parents with LCFS, caring for medically and behaviorally challenged kids. In September of 2014, they’d just said goodbye to three children they helped return to their birth father, when they received a call from LCFS for a new foster child.

The LCFS worker shared Josiah’s story with the Shuberts and discussed the challenges they’d be facing if they agreed to become his foster parents. Their response was “How soon can we pick him up?” An hour later they brought then 4 month old Josiah home, with all of his equipment, from the hospital.

As Josiah grew, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, autism, sleep apnea, feeding issues, cognitive delays and hearing, visual and speech impairments. Due to his many medical and developmental challenges, he required extensive care. LCFS supported the family by ensuring that Josiah received all of the specialized treatments, therapies and equipment he needed.

“Our caseworker was a God send,” explained Sharon. “She was always on top of all the paperwork, making sure I never had to wait for anything in order to get Josiah to a needed doctor appointment.”

Sharon also valued the trust that LCFS placed in them as foster parents. “The workers trusted our judgement and had our back in getting Josiah what he needed.”

Early on Josiah’s birth parents would come to the house for visits with their son, but soon realized that they weren’t capable of caring for him. They did the most loving thing they could do and surrendered their parental rights, so that Sharon and Paul could adopt Josiah. “I give them giant praises for realizing that they couldn’t give Josiah what he needed as far as care,” said Sharon.

LCFS also played an important role in the adoption process. An LCFS’ adoption worker helped the family navigate through all the required paperwork and supported them emotionally when court delays dragged the process out.

In June of 2017, at the age of three, Josiah was officially adopted. “He was always mine in my heart, but now he was mine on paper and no one can take him away,” shared Sharon.

Today, Josiah is a happy little boy who enjoys building Lego towers, playing with his siblings and knows that he is loved. “I may never hear him say, ‘I love you mom!’ But if you ask him who loves him, he says ‘Mommy!’ … and that’s the greatest gift,” explained Sharon.

Josiah brings such joy to his parents and every day they celebrate his small accomplishments. As for the future explained Sharon, “We try not to burden him with expectations or limitations. He will be the best Josiah that he can be, and accomplish what God sees for him.”

Thank you for being the power behind this important work.

Brett and Kevin met and began their relationship through an online dating app. “We hit it off immediately. It was a case of love at first sight,” said Brett. They met in person for the first time on October 30th and two years later, on the exact same date, got engaged and started planning their future together.

For them, a big part of that future included having a family.

“The decision to adopt came really easily. I think the thing that was more difficult was knowing that we could try, but it might not happen and [we had] to be okay with that,” explained Kevin.
So as they planned their wedding, which was set to take place a year later on their special October date, Brett and Kevin also made the decision to start the adoption process. The first step was signing up with an adoption agency.

“We figured this could take a few years so we thought let’s start the process because it was important to us,” explained Brett.

To their surprise, an expectant mother in California picked their profile a few months later. Their first meeting with her was over a conference call. They talked for more than an hour sharing about their lives and hopes for the future. After that call, she chose Brett and Kevin to be her child’s adoptive parents.

With this exciting news, Brett and Kevin moved up the date of their wedding and began preparing to be not only newlyweds, but come October parents.

An important part of their preparation was completing a home study for their upcoming adoption with Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois. “Tara [our LCFS caseworker] was incredibly supportive and extremely well informed,” shared Kevin. “She was always there to answer our questions.”

LCFS helped Brett and Kevin navigate the complexities of the adoption process and prepared them to be parents. As part of the home study, they completed a number of trainings and online courses on topics such as Grief and Loss in Adoption, Transracial Adoption and Talking with Your Child about Adoption.

LCFS also helped Brett and Kevin understand the birth mother’s perspective. “Without Tara’s guidance, I don’t know if we would have built the relationship that we did with our birth mother,” said Kevin.

Brett and Kevin stayed in close contact with the birth mother and her family throughout the pregnancy. On several occasions, they participated in doctor visits through a video app, including the first ultrasound. Through technology they were able to stay in contact and be a part of the process, but didn’t actually meet the birth mother face-to-face until the day their daughter was born.

The day of the birth, Brett and Kevin flew to California and were allowed to be in the hospital room for the delivery. Brett shared that, “It was an overwhelmingly beautiful experience for us, to be the first ones to hold our daughter.” The couple named her Leah.

Unfortunately, all adoptions have their own unique set of challenges. After bringing Leah home, there were a number of legal complexities related to her birth father. These created delays and additional court dates.

“We had some big downs throughout the process and things that we thought might jeopardize our potential adoption, but Tara guided us through what the next steps were and kept us focused on what we needed to do,” said Brett.

Eventually, just a few weeks before Leah’s first birthday, the adoption was finalized and Brett and Kevin became her forever parents. “I don’t know how well this process would have come together without Tara by our side before and after the adoption,” stated Kevin.

Brett shared, “I was kind of a career guy and I never saw myself in this place. Kevin changed my world, and then Leah changed my world.”

Leah’s world changed that day as well. She became part of her forever family that will love and care for her always. Today, Leah is a healthy, happy toddler who keeps her fathers very busy and brings them tremendous joy.

Like many foster children, Gwen (not her real name) experienced multiple traumas during her young life. But she is now living with a caring foster family and celebrating a four-year college scholarship.

Gwen has been with her foster family for three years and the support and commitment of her foster parents Karen and Ralph (not their real names) to her (and two of her four siblings also living with her) is evident in conversations with them.

Karen and Ralph’s home provides a loving environment in which Gwen has grown and excelled. Gwen gets straight-A’s and the high-school freshman’s commitment paid off recently when she applied for and was awarded a full four-year college scholarship for tuition from the Give Something Back Foundation, which can be used at the University of St. Francis, Lewis University or Blackburn College. (Room and board will also be covered if Gwen decides to attend Blackburn College because of the distance involved.) Gwen is still researching the schools and hasn’t decided which one she’ll attend. Hundreds of students applied and Gwen was one of only 60 students who received a scholarship. As part of her scholarship, Gwen will also be mentored through the program for the remainder of her high-school years.

Karen and Ralph are proud of Gwen and what she’s accomplished. According to Karen, in addition to her good grades and financial need, the foundation took into account Gwen’s character and three letters of recommendation (non-family) when awarding her a scholarship. According to Karen, Gwen also is very involved in extracurricular activities, including volunteer work at a church (where Karen works), serving on student council in grade school and participating in her high school’s pom-pom squad.

A supportive foster home has made a difference in Gwen’s life. That’s reflected in her comments when asked what advice she would have for other students. She said, “Even though things can get in the way, just think about your future. I want to have a good future. I just work really hard, knowing in the end it will be all good. It doesn’t matter where you came from, just try your hardest. Take every opportunity you can.”

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, go to Foster Care for more information.

To say Peter (not his real name) was angry when he came to Lutherbrook was an understatement. Now 18 years old, Peter was verbally and physically abused by his mother when he was a child. He had problems controlling his anger, which manifested itself through verbal and physical aggression. That aggression led to run-ins with law enforcement; a relationship which was further complicated by stealing on Peter’s part. When he arrived at Lutherbrook, Peter dealt with his anger by breaking things, leading to thousands of dollars-worth of damage.

After DCFS removed Peter from his mother’s care, he moved in with his grandmother, but eventually DCFS had to place him at Lutherbrook in an effort to get him the help he needed dealing with his anger and aggression. Peter has now been at Lutherbrook for just over a year and the results are inspiring.

Lutherbrook staff worked closely with Peter, developing relationships with him in an effort to understand and identify what was at the root of his behavior, what could be done to help him and what he could do to help himself. Lutherbrook Resident Art Therapist Anikka Knick had him do an art project making a wallet out of duct tape. She noted that because the duct tape was so sticky and kept sticking to itself, Peter had to learn how to control his anger and still complete the art project. Today, he is proud of the fact that he made three of the duct tape wallets as gifts for his grandmother and aunts.

Peter has since gone on to assist in an art exhibit at the Addison Public Library for the 2015 LCFS calendar, which was illustrated by Lutherbrook youth. His involvement here required Peter to come early, help set up, greet attendees and help serve refreshments. He did a great job.

Peter’s also involved in the Lutherbrook Transitional Living Program. Through the program it was discovered that Peter likes to work and do physical labor. He’s now working with the Lutherbrook Maintenance department, his jobs include collecting trash, handling the recycling, working in the garden and shoveling snow. The skills he learns will be helpful when he transitions out of Lutherbrook.

Peter will soon be moving into a transitional living program near his grandmother, whom he remains close to. Efforts are also underway to secure a job for him before he leaves Lutherbrook.

This partnership with Peter and his family is just one example of the work that goes on daily at Lutherbrook and throughout LCFS. It also mirrors the partnerships between LCFS and its supporters. We value these partnerships because they enable us to provide programs and services that assist thousands annually to help themselves and positively transform their lives.