Adoption of 3 children is a growing experience for family
Posted 12:01 a.m. Sunday
DOTHAN, Ala. — To say Anna Lokey wasn't quite on board when her husband Shaun first broached the idea of adopting a child is a bit of an understatement.
"I didn't feel like I was fit to be a mother to someone else's child, I felt that I screwed up with my own children too much," she said.
Shaun said his desire to adopt has its roots in a childhood experience.
"When I was younger my parents had a girl come to live with us who we planned on adopting," he said. "The adoption fell through on the last day. She had a relative who decided to raise her."
Shaun backed off for a few years, but later brought the subject up again, showing Anna a video about adoption.
"I told her it's not about being a perfect parent, it's about being available and participating in their lives," he said.
After a lot more conversation and prayer, Anna decided she was ready. After seven years and three adopted children added to their three biological children, the Lokeys know they made the right decision.
"We didn't save them or rescue them, we're the ones who are privileged to take care of someone else's child," she said.
The National Council for Adoption reports that in 2016, more than 110,000 children were adopted in the U.S. That's down from more than 133,000 in 2007. Some of the drop has been attributed to a decline in foreign adoption.
According to the State Department, the number of foreign adoptions has declined in recent years. In 2016, U.S. parents adopted 5,372 children from abroad. Foreign adoptions peaked in 2004 at 22,884 and have declined every year since then.
According to a State Department report, some countries have become more wary of international adoption in recent years because of illegal or unethical practices by adoption agencies and facilitators, lack of comprehensive nationwide laws regarding adoptive parents transferring custody of adopted children and the failure of some U.S. families to complete required post-adoption reports. Politics may also play a role in international adoption's decline; Russia, once a leading source of foreign adoptions, banned U.S. parents from adopting in 2014 to retaliate against U.S. sanctions.
All three of the Lokeys' children were adopted from China. Anna said she and her husband had long been interested in missionary work, and that they had previously sponsored children in other countries through Holt International, a religious organization providing adoption services and child sponsorship opportunities.
China remains the country with the highest number of U.S. adoptions. In 2016, U.S. parents adopted 2,231 children from China. Shawn said adopting from China was a straightforward and fast process, compared to many other places. Shawn said the Chinese government and adoption agencies do a thorough job of investigating prospective parents, but once the process is underway, it goes swiftly and smoothly.
Shawn said international adoption can be an expensive and exhaustive process. Shaun estimated the cost of adopting a child from abroad at between $20,000 and $50,000. He said a good chunk of the cost was related to travel, but licensing and paperwork took up the largest share of expenses.
"Every time you paid for one form, you got another, and they all seem to cost $2,500," he said.
Shaun said prospective adoptive parents should look into grant programs, as there are many agencies that will provide financial support for parents seeking to adopt children. The JCS Foundation provided the Lokeys with substantial assistance in the adoption of one of their children.
The Lokeys adopted Lily in 2010 when she was 2, Judah in 2012 when he was 6 and Milo in 2014 when he was 3. They joined the Lokeys' biological children Zoe, Hazel and Sophie.
Anna said each child presented their own unique challenges. Because Judah was 6 when he was adopted, he already had some firm roots in his language and culture.
"There was a language barrier," Shaun said. "We played a lot of charades. But it's really amazing how quickly they adapt."
Anna found forming emotional connections with her children challenging, as even the ones adopted as small children were slow to warm up to their new surroundings and parents.
"You really have to deal with your fears of personal rejection," she said. "Our spiritual relationship with God helped us a lot."
Like all families, the Lokeys have ups and downs. Sometimes their children get along, sometimes they don't. With their oldest child being 14 and their youngest being 6, the Lokeys are dealing with a wide range of needs and developmental issues.
"It's all just parenting," Anna said. "Is it hard because some of them don't share your DNA? Yes. But it's hard with your biological children too."
The Lokeys say that the expense and hurdles have been well worth it, as raising their adopted children and biological children have helped them grow.
"If you want to find out how selfish you are, have a child," Anna said.
Shaun said that while not everyone has the finances, time or temperament to adopt, many people can support adoption by contributing to adoption agencies or social services that benefit children.
"It's a really simple way to make a difference in someone's life," Anna said.