“Adopting from foster care is not as scary as you might think!”
Michelle and Christina Forsmo-Shadid knew they wanted to have children. But they weren’t sure that adopting from foster care would be the right path for them.
“It was 2003. We were a same-sex couple living in a pretty conservative state,” Michelle said. “We didn’t know what kind of reaction we’d get when we called our local child welfare office.”
What they encountered was encouragement every step of the way—starting with their first conversation with a social worker.
“Our classes were full of male-female couples. But the fact that we weren’t didn’t make a bit of difference. Everyone was welcoming. Far more daunting was the mountain of paperwork that we had to complete!” Michelle said.
After six weeks of classes and a home study, Michelle and Christina were certified as foster and adoptive parents.
The waiting is the hardest part—so don’t!
Like many families, once they had their license in hand, Michelle and Christina were eager to become parents. They thought they would adopt one, or maybe two, school-aged children.
“On the day we got our license, our worker said, ‘Congratulations, I’ll be in touch!’ She was great and had been very helpful up to that point. But we knew that she was also very busy,” Michelle said.
Instead of sitting around waiting for a call, Michelle started pursuing every avenue she could find. That included searching adoptuskids.org and every state’s website—more than once.
“Every day I looked at a different website. And every month or so, I called our worker. Checking in regularly kept our family in her mind and let her know that we were really interested in adopting,” Michelle said.
Plans can change
Nine months and dozens of inquiries later, Michelle and Christina were matched with a sibling group that grew from two to three midway through the process when the children’s mother gave birth to a third child.
They adopted a fourth child, an infant who was abandoned by his mother at birth, soon after. And in 2014 they adopted their fifth son—a family friend rejected by his birth parents because of his sexual orientation—when he was 19 years old.
“Was this the family Christina and I envisioned 15 years ago when we started talking about adopting? Not at all! It’s much, much better,” Michelle said.
Investing in relationships pays off
When asked what the biggest rewards of have been of opening their lives to five children, Michelle is lightening quick to respond.
“Having a family—a close family.”
Michelle, who was an only child, says that she and Christina have been very intentional about cultivating closeness among their children. They work hard to keep the lines of communication open—always talking problems and issues out—and do as many things together as possible. Playing board games like Cards Against Humanity, attending festivals and Pride parades, and having family dinners a couple of times a month are just a few examples.
“Our kids drive each other crazy—but they also love and support one another. Someday when Christina and I are gone, they will have those relationships. Knowing that we’ve given them brothers, sisters—a family who loves them unconditionally—makes it all worthwhile.”