A Heart For Children
With ties to adoption throughout her family, Julie knew that one day she would do the same.
By KD Reep/Photography by Beth Hall
Meet Julie and Britt: Parents of daughters Riley, 8, Maddie, 5 and son Elijah, 2. Like any other Arkansas family, they are busy shuttling kids back and forth to school and activities while maintaining careers, a home and, at times, their sanity.
One of the unique aspects of this family is their willingness to adopt a child from ABBA Adoption in Benton. A full-service private adoption agency, ABBA provides abortion alternatives, crisis pregnancy and adoption services, and its team of professionals work with both birth and adoptive parents to provide education, support and serve as advocates. Julie and Britt always knew they would adopt, and through ABBA, they were able to meet Elijah’s birth mother. On the day he was born, Julie got to be in the room. “It was the most amazing and difficult thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Julie says. “What was one of the happiest days of our lives was one of the saddest of hers. The feelings are indescribable.”
This is the story of Elijah’s welcome to the world, one that brought people from different backgrounds together through love, sacrifice and compassion. “We left the hospital with Elijah the day after he was born, but his adoption wouldn’t be official for several more days,” Julie says. “We were so thankful to have our son, but our hearts were breaking for his birth mom. I think Jody Landers put it best: ‘A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.’”
SAVVY: YOU HAVE TWO BIOLOGICAL DAUGHTERS. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO ADOPT ANOTHER CHILD?
JULIE: God laid it on my heart at an early age, and I’ve thought about it for years. My mom and her twin brother were adopted domestically here in Arkansas, and once I really started to understand her story and was able to see how truly blessed we were to be a part of the family that we are because of adoption, I knew I would adopt as well. I also have some amazing cousins in China who’ve adopted and work in orphanages there, and their hearts for orphans pulled at my heartstrings and has had a lasting effect on me. Adoption isn’t right for everybody as there are many ways to help, but it was what my family and I were meant to do.
WAS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO ADOPT A CHILD HERE IN ARKANSAS? We had to do a lot of praying and discussing, and we went back and forth between domestic and international. God’s children are God’s children—there are no borders when it comes to them. In the end, we felt the most peace with doing a domestic adoption. The agency we worked with felt right, and ABBA’s director, Kandi Cox, has a heart for children, birth mothers and adoptive families. Getting with the right agency is so important because the process can be difficult, and you need to feel supported and secure with the people facilitating everything.
HOW WILL YOU TALK TO ELIJAH ABOUT HIS BIRTH STORY WHEN HE’S OLDER? HOW DID YOU EXPLAIN IT TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? We have been very open with the girls from the beginning. They were a part of our fundraising and walked through the waiting period with us. They understand adoption and our oldest, Riley, has already said she wants to adopt one day. We will also be open with Elijah. He will grow up knowing he is loved by many and that his birth mom loved him so much she had to make the selfless, brave and most difficult decision of her life to give him a better one. We have many pictures of her and other family members and will share those when he is ready. We will base the rest of it on when we feel like he is ready and able to understand it all. We want to be honest with him and protect his heart at the same time. It’s helpful to have my mom, as an adoptee, offer advice and views from both sides.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ELIJAH’S BIRTH MOTHER? From the first time we met her, we loved her. We spent quite a bit of time with her towards the end of her pregnancy. We’d go to lunch and her doctor appointments with her. She knows she is loved, respected and cherished, and know she trusts us strongly enough to raise Elijah. Her heart and mine are forever connected: We are mothers that love the same boy, who is our son. We keep her updated with letters and pictures through the agency, and she is always in our hearts and prayers.
WHAT SHOULD READERS KNOW ABOUT ADOPTION AND BLENDED FAMILIES? Adoption can be hard, but it is worth it. Birth moms are brave, selfless and make probably the hardest decision of their lives for the betterment of their children. We are honored to be Elijah’s parents, and adoption has changed our whole family for the better. Our lives would not be complete without our little man, as he has strengthened our bond as a family, our marriage, our relationship and reliance on God, and our hearts. In a perfect world, children would be raised by their birth parents and neither of them would have to suffer that loss. We don’t feel that adoption was God’s original plan for families, but we live in a broken world and luckily adoption is a wonderful option. Thankfully, God can make beautiful things out of dust and our family is far more beautiful with Elijah in it.