In the education category, Northwestern College was ranked fifth in the list of the Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces of 2013 by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The college gives financial benefits to faculty and staff who participate in adoption, but the college’s commitment goes much deeper than that. Staff members have made the decision to get involved in adoption for a variety of reasons, some adopting before their employment at the college. Each adoption brings a unique story to the Northwestern community.
Between three years of working in the adoption and social work field and raising an adopted son who is now an adult himself, Kevin McMahan has seen the importance of integration for children of international adoptions. Through his sons Kory and Trevor, McMahan has also experienced integration. He is the father of both an adopted and a biological son, and he said that he has been given the extraordinary opportunity to parent in both ways.
When McMahan and his wife began looking at adoption, they didn’t see it as ministry but simply as a way to have a child. His knowledge of the field and process of adoptions led him to Korea because of the quality of foster care given to the children there prior to adoption. After completing the process, McMahan and his wife met their son Kory, now a sophomore at Northwestern, when he was five months old.
Prior to NW, when the McMahans were living in Seattle, Kory became involved with an organization called the Korean Identity Development Society. The organization runs a Korean culture camp for children and teenagers of all ages. This camp gives young children the opportunity to experience Korean culture and gives teenagers a place to bond and build relationships. The strong impact that KIDS has had on Kory’s life influences McMahan’s belief that children should know that adoption is part of their identity and should have the chance to integrate their native culture into their new one.
One Child, One Family at a Time
After two trips to Ethiopia in 2004 and 2007, Sherri Langton brought two children into her family. Her daughter Mari and her son Ahman are now nine and seven. When Langton began pursuing international adoption for her family, she specifically chose Ethiopia. She loves the hospitable culture of the people there and described it by saying, “They are the kind of people who would give you the shirt off their back if you needed one.”
Although Langton had concerns about bringing her children to a place without much diversity, she has experienced tremendous support from her church and the community. Because international adoption is also more common in this area than other places, Langton has been given not just financial support but also the support that comes from building relationships with families that have taken part in adoption.
Langton sees a strong connection between NW, the organization Katelyn’s Fun. This is an organization located in Sioux Center that maintains international and domestic adoption programs as well as provides funding and education about adoption, which is based in Sioux Center, and the amount of people in this area who are in some way involved with adoption. She said this “makes known the need” and provides more ways than adoption alone for people to get involved in the ministry.
“I’ve never believed that adoption is the one thing that’s going to fix the orphan problem,” Langton said.
She firmly believes in trying to keep children in their birth families but said that she believes her adopted children were meant to be in her family. She clearly sees God at work in her life and her personal experience with adoption.
World Vision and Ethiopia Reads are two other organizations that Langton recommends as good places to get involved with supporting the countries that children of international adoption come from. Both of these organizations put an emphasis on breaking the cycle that leads to the need for adoption. Specifically, Ethiopia Reads builds schools with fully stocked libraries in rural places so more children have access to education and literacy. Education empowers people to lift themselves up and provides them with opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Langton knows that the issue of adoption and the vast amount of orphans in the world is overwhelming, but that hasn’t stopped her from getting involved in being part of the solution.
“We can’t fix it all by ourselves, but we can make it better, one kid, one family at a time, everybody doing their part,”Langton said. She said that being overwhelmed doesn’t excuse us from our responsibility.
“God doesn’t say, ‘Well, this is too big so just forget about it,’” Langton said.
Beauty from Ashes
Six years ago, Laura Heitritter and her family welcomed two new members, Shega and Megan. After Heitritter and her husband prayed to see God’s hand guiding them, the girls were adopted from Ethiopia at the ages of five and one.
Heitritter understands that “every adoption is born of loss,” and she recognizes the pain that occurred for her daughters in Ethiopia before she got to experience the joy of the addition of two beautiful girls to her family.
Heitritter has been able to use trips that NW groups have taken to send packages back and forth between Megan and Shega’s birth family.Beyond the adoption of her two daughters, Heitritter is also involved with Katelyn’s Fund, the Sioux Center organization previously mentioned.
Heitritter said that God promises to put the lonely in families, and counts her experience with adoption as an incredible blessing. However, she is still realistic about the challenges.
As a result of the loss of their birth family, her daughters have experienced a complete change in surroundings and culture, learned a new language, and are now surrounded by people of a different race. Although all these things seem like incredible challenges on the surface, the Heitritter family love has triumphed over them all.
“Adoption is beauty from ashes, and we need faith that God will create that beauty,”Heitritter said.