Living Open-Handedly: An Adoption Story
article by johanna kennedy | photo by macy spencer photography
November launches another beautiful holiday season. It’s a season filled with memory-making, traditions, and family. However, for far too many children, this season is heartbreaking and difficult.
November is National Adoption Month. Here are some stats.
- Children who have lost one parent: 132 million
- Children who have lost both parents: 13 million
- Children in the U.S. waiting to be adopted: 114,000
- Average age of a child waiting to be adopted: 7 ½ years old
- Children waiting to be adopted in Montana: 680 (in 2021)
One out of 25 American families with children have adopted. In 2019 Sam and Kristin Steingraber began their journey to becoming one of the 25.
Sam’s desire to adopt began with God. He shared, “God laid it on my heart to adopt.” James 1:27 stood out to him and states that we should care for widows and orphans; he noted, “So much [of the Bible can be] hard to understand, but that seems clear.”
Kristin’s journey was a little different. “One day, I was sitting at a coffee shop and prayed that God would break my heart for something.” She remembers watching a five-minute video on human trafficking and crying over kids who had been trafficked. Then, she learned how kids in foster care are sometimes trafficked. The statistics are astounding. A 2013 FBI raid that recovered sex trafficked victims found that 60% were from foster care. Additionally, 25% of sex traffickers in the U.S. were once in foster care. “People think you have to bang on doors to save kids, but really, they are just down the street.”
The couple watched their friends like them - young, married, with small children - opening their home to foster kids. “We were open to kids only being with us for a short time and we were open to adoption.” Sometimes, people would speak negatively about the kids or their situation. To this, Sam responded, “Even if it doesn’t turn out [the way we would hope], who else will love these kids? It’s not true that these kids don’t have a future. They do. Each child has hope for a future.”
In 2019, they had their first call. Kristin recalls, “We walked into the hospital room, and there was this tiny baby lying on the bed wailing. I went to him, held him, and started singing to him. He immediately calmed down. [It struck me that] they just need love, nurturing, and attention.” This baby didn’t stay with them long, but the next one did. When their biological son, Potter, was 18 months old, they brought a two-week-old baby boy home from the NICU. Then the party began.
In 2021, their biological daughter, JoJo, was born. Within the same year, as they were nearing adoption for their second placement, they got a call from Child and Family Services. They had a choice to make. Either the Steingrabers could adopt the boy they had with them for almost two years and his 7-month-old biological brother (in a different foster home), or both boys would be moved to a home where they could be together. “It was a no-brainer,” Kristin said. Their foster son’s biological brother came to live with them within a short time.
“We had four kids under four and were living in a two-bedroom, one-level home, waiting for our new home. It was survival.” Over the next year, as the adoptions were finalized and they learned how to be a family together, Kristin found out she was pregnant again. “I was shocked. I called my dad, weeping, and told him. He started giggling! Right then, he calmed any and every fear. He told me, “You can do this.” Earlier this year, the adoption of their second foster son was finalized. One week later, their third child, Henrietta, was born.
As we sat together talking, Sam noted that it’s not a fairy tale. “We aren’t heroes. It’s messy and broken. It’s life.” Even though life is chaotic in the Steingraber home, they wouldn’t have it any other way. “We want our kids to live open-handedly. And how do kids learn to live this if we don’t model it first? We always tell them that when we share, there's always more. Because in God’s economy, there is always enough.”
Johanna and her husband Chris are parents and foster parents to five beautiful kids. Together they are the Directors of Haven Camps, which provide summer camps for children in foster care. Johanna is passionate about people of all ages, stages, and life experiences and loves to celebrate and share their stories. She spends her time teaching, parenting, writing, reading, and dreaming about the next big adventure.
The Evolution of Growing a Family: Gestational Surrogacy
As time has marched on and progress been made, the ways families grow have evolved. As a society, we are probably most attuned to adoption and IVF (in vitro fertilization) as alternative methods of growing one’s family, but what about gestational surrogacy?