This is a very special guest blog from the perspective of a father, adoptive parent and great friend of The Foundling. John Banks is the father of two, a handsome biological son and a beautiful daughter adopted from The Foundling (both pictured) and here are his musings on Father’s Day, enjoy!
Father’s Day. Popular culture may have dubbed it a “Hallmark holiday,” but for me it’s a special day that brings me back to 2004 when I became a father for the first time. In October of that year, my wife and I welcomed our son, Hank, into the world. You hear other people say this about parenthood and it’s true—everything changes. Within a year of Hank’s birth we knew, unequivocally, that we wanted another child. But, we also knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. We had trouble conceiving the first time, and had also entered parenthood at a later age. As blessed as we were to have a healthy baby boy, we were also painfully aware that it was unlikely for us to have a second biological child.
Given our situation, adoption seemed the next natural step to growing our family. I’m one of five kids and my wife is one of three. Family is everything to us and we desperately wanted Hank to have the experience of growing up with a sibling. The next step was deciding what type of adoption to pursue. Because of my background in local government, I was familiar with adoption and foster care and knew there were many children right here in our own city that needed a good family and a good home. This was a population that my wife and I really wanted to help, and this is what drew us to adopt through the foster care system.
Like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to adopting through the foster care system versus pursuing a private adoption. When you adopt through the foster care system, you have to become a foster parent first. The fostering-to-adopt model has many advantages. Chief among them is the opportunity to get to know the child and determine whether you have the resources and ability to meet that child’s unique needs before committing to the adoption. However, on the flip side of that, lies the great disadvantage of fostering-to-adopt: there is always the risk that you will bond and connect with the child and then not be given the opportunity to make them a permanent member of your family because they have been returned to their natural home.
My wife and I approached this process with open hearts and minds. We desired a child under the age of 2, but had no other restrictions. The entire process took 2 years and was at times daunting. Thankfully, the wonderful staff at The New York Foundling, Fred Jones and Carmen Jirau-Rivera in particular, was there every step of the way and helped us navigate the complexities of the foster care world. A beautiful match was made in 2008 when our little girl, Celia, came to us right from the hospital when she was only 3 months old.
Celia enriches our lives every day. She is the queen of the house (or at least she perceives herself that way). She’s playful and has a wonderful sense of humor. She loves school, and she adores her older brother. Every day is filled with favorite moments—little things that just melt my heart. For example, Celia has a habit of crawling into bed with my wife and me at night. I note with quiet satisfaction that she also has a habit of crawling over my wife to snuggle with me.
Our family also just celebrated an important milestone. Our little Celia recently graduated from pre-K, and the ceremony was pretty darn cute. Watching my daughter on stage with a giant smile on her face, signing her favorite songs was a very proud moment for me. I think about my daughter’s beginnings—the child of a habitual substance abuser, Celia was born 6 weeks premature and spent the first few months of her life in neo-natal intensive care—and it gives me so much joy and happiness to see her just being a kid and enjoying life. We will celebrate Celia’s fifth birthday on July 8.
My advice for other families considering adoption is this: never lose sight of why you’re doing it. When the inevitable challenges arise, you can always fall back on those feelings of love and compassion and the desire to have a family that led you to adoption in the first place. Never losing sight of those motivations will make the difficulties of navigating the New York City foster care system seem meaningless and trivial. And, of course, the adoption itself is just the beginning of the journey. All the parents out there know how tough raising a child can be. There are days when Hank and Celia can be difficult; they might misbehave or test and challenge my wife and me. But, that’s normal. We need to teach our children the things they need to know, but we also have to just let them be kids sometimes. This is especially important for children like my little Celia who had a rough start in life. So, this Father’s Day, be a kid and have some fun with your family because this world is just too serious sometimes.