For 2021, Northwestern College has been ranked fourth in the education industry on the Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces. This list is put together by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a nonprofit group dedicated to finding foster children a permanent home.
Yale, New York University and Baylor University were head of NW, with Notre Dame claiming fifth.
Right now, there are three members of staff and faculty that have adopted while working at NW: Josh Kuipers, Drew Schmidt and Heather Sas.
Kuipers serves as the director of worship, and his family has adopted three children.
“We adopted our oldest daughter, Diamond, through foster care back in 2016,” Kuipers said. “Then in 2017 we welcomed our daughter Ameliana into our family and in 2019 our son Benaiah. We have always known that we wanted to adopt, for various reasons. When we were ready to start a family, we asked God if we should have biological children, foster children or start the adoption process. We truly felt that He said YES to all of them, that they were all his ‘first choice,’ and to leave all options open.”
When an employee begins the adoption process, NW has key policies in place with aid. Financial assistance of up to $2,000 per child and an extra $1,000 is granted to a child of special needs. Parental leave is available for adoptive families.
“Northwestern also has a great family leave policy for everyone and provide an extra week of leave for those who are adopting, to help with the extra travel and processing times that many adoptions require,” Kuipers said. “The extra week is also very helpful for the bonding and attachment aspect of welcoming a new child into your home.”
Heather Sas works in the DeWitt Learning Commons as the acquisitions and serials coordinator, and she, too, found support at NW to help her family with the adoption. Her family has adopted twice, once in 2014 and again in 2016, welcoming in two boys.
“Northwestern blessed us with financial reimbursement for both of our adoptions that covered our adoption agency placement fees and court costs,” Sas said. “I also received an additional seven days of paid leave with each adoption.”
Drew Schmidt works in the theatre department as an associate professor. While adoptions are expensive and take time, there is an emotional aspect to the process, as well. However, NW’s community is ready to provide support here, too.
“We’ve had several foster care placements and each time the faculty and staff surrounding my family have let us drop off the face of the earth for a few days as we re-assemble our family,” Schmidt said. “They love us fully and help pick up the pieces. The adoption itself wasn’t filled with turmoil or trouble, so we didn’t need much help at that time. But of the few people that showed up in the court room that day, there sat my friend and colleague Karen Barker.”
Sas also received support from her colleagues during the adoption process.
“My colleagues at DeWitt Library provided emotional support and encouragement throughout each adoption process,” Sas said.
The Schmidt’s family adoption started as foster parents to a set of twins who were 11-months old. Soon, Schmidt realized that the case would end in the termination of parental rights. The twins were fostered for 18 months before the adoption process started. In those 18 months, the twins visited their biological mother and siblings often.
“It’s hard and confusing,” Schmidt said. “We get questions like, ‘Mom, when do we get to see mom again?’ People often say that kids are resilient; I say they shouldn’t have to be.”
However, there is a tension in adoptions, too.
“It’s really important to remember that there are people on the other end; brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers,” Schmidt said. “A glorious celebration for our family is a deep time of mourning for another.”
Adoption runs deeper than simply the process.
“Adoption really is at the very core of our family,” Kuipers said. “We not only have three adopted children, we have their birth families that we also consider family now. We have beautiful birth moms who we talk to and visit and hope we can love and support in whatever way possible. We have our kids’ birth siblings to help them form relationships with.”
For Schmidt, adoption is one way to live out the Gospel.
“I’ve learned the most about the Gospel through times of deep pain and deep love, through marriage, divorce, death and new life. But this journey probably surpasses them all,” Schmidt said. “Our hope is that our journey teaches all of our children what it means to be present to our neighbor, to have empathy for trauma, to be deeply understanding and forgiving, to be patient and kind, and to love from the overflowing and outpouring love of Christ.”