Explore the World of International Adoption at Free Webinar

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Uncategorized

Thursday, Jan. 8 : 7 p.m. (Central)IA webinar family

Is International Adoption for You?

LSS director of international adoption, Konnie Gregg, will be joined by other adoption specialists to explain the world of international adoption and how the process varies from country to country.

Lutheran Social Services of the SouthChildren’s Home and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota are partnering to share information about the programs and processes in 12 countries, including Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. This webinar is specifically for interested families living in Texas.

Plan on having all of your questions  answered about the “hands-on” services LSS provides to Texas families working with an out-of-state international adoption agency.  In addition, learn more about children from around the world who need families, how long international adoption takes, the costs involved and the eligibility and travel requirements.

Choosing an international adoption program that’s right for you and your family can be challenging. Get help from this informative international adoption chart created by Children’s Home.

We hope you can join us for this FREE webinar! To register, click here.



Christmas Parties! Foster In Texas Wraps Up 2014

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care, Foster In Texas, Foster Parents

Foster In Texas (FIT), a program of Lutheran Social Services, went all out celebrating Christmas with their foster families this year and we are excited to share stories and photos from a few of our 14 local foster offices.

2014 FIT xmas austin staff

Austin FIT staff

AUSTIN: [reported by Lindsey Stockton, FIT regional director]

The Austin FIT Christmas party was held at Triumphant Love Lutheran Church on December 19 and the church generously provided dinner for our foster children and their families.  Placed around the room, were games that included prizes and two tables for arts and crafts.

And then … Santa came!

Children enjoyed having their photos taken with Santa, and excitement grew, as he passed out presents.

Corpus Christi FIT staff

Corpus Christi FIT staff

Corpus Christi: [reported by Angelita Figueroa, FIT area director]

The Corpus Christi FIT office held an amazing Christmas party for our foster families on December 20 that included face painting, games, balloon artists and dancing with a local DJ. Pastor Patsy Koeneke of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church graciously allowed us to hold our event in the church hall. Santa, along with Mrs. Claus and one of his elves, took pictures with all the children and distributed presents donated by Trinity Lutheran Church, Our Lady of the Pillar Parish and Grace United Methodist Church.  We want to thank these churches for their generosity and for bringing such happy smiles to our kids and their foster parents!

Santa paid Dallas FIT party a visit

Santa paid Dallas FIT party a visit

Dallas/Richardson:  [reported by Rebekah Poling]

Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Dallas hosted a fun Christmas party for local FIT families with an abundance of help from some stellar volunteers: the Peace Riders Motorcycle Group, National Charity League and “Ryan” the stocking-maker. Children played games, made hand-print Christmas tree paintings that turned out beautifully and a gingerbread house-making contest meant prizes for the winners. One particular highlight of the party was the photo booth, where kids lined up to take their special Christmas photos.

DJ Nick Amendola kept things moving, and lo and behold, the Krum High School band performed once again! Scrumptious desserts were provided by the National Charity League and Rejoice Lutheran Church in Frisco. When the happy children and their foster parents headed home, each was given a Santa hat and poinsettia. The spirit of Christmas was everywhere!

Lots of gifts at Ft Worth FIT party

Lots of gifts at Ft Worth FIT party

Fort Worth:  [reported by Rebekah Poling, associate VP of development]

The Fort Worth party was held at Calvary Lutheran Church, with lots of help from an amazing team of volunteers and Janelle Miller, Director of Youth and Family Ministries for Calvary Lutheran. Children played games including basketball and four square, made crafts and family teams competed in a gingerbread house-making competition. The Krum High School band gave a special performance and a wonderful meal was generously donated by Napoli’s Italian Café & Confectionary in Grapevine and Wagon Grill in Grapevine.

Santa was on hand to present toys and gifts to each child – he was assisted by volunteer elves including Fossil employees in Dallas who wrapped the gifts and special elf “Ryan” who made the stockings. With tins of desserts and lots of music, laughter and presents for families to enjoy, everyone had a joyous Christmas celebration!

Merry Christmas from Laredo FIT staff!

Merry Christmas from Laredo FIT staff!

Laredo: [reported by Oscar Guerra, FIT area director]

The Laredo FIT office hosted a Christmas party for their 67 foster children and 28 foster families at the Monte Carlo Reception Hall on December 23. The hall was beautifully decorated with a white and gold Christmas theme and families were greeted by a life-size Santa Claus in the main lobby. During the party, everyone enjoyed a delicious three-course meal and each child received several presents made possible through the generosity of the Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust and Foundation.

A big thank you to our FIT staff who purchased and delivered the Christmas gifts:

Linda Mendiola, FIT recruiter Fabiola Erhard, FIT- FSW Dora Solis, FIT-FSW
Guadalupe Martinez, FIT-FSW Monica Bondoc, placement coordinator Esther Leija, secretary

For the fifth year in a row, children were delighted by an awesome Santa Claus played by Roger Allen. Thanks so much Roger! The Munequitas (dolls) provided the entertainment consisting of games, songs, balloon animals and contests for the kids.

In addition, FIT area director Oscar Guerra presented Laredo’s foster families with door prizes and boxes of chocolates as tokens of appreciation for their loyalty and commitment to FIT. All foster parents and children had such a great time and said they are already looking forward to next year’s Christmas party.

2014 FIT xmas laredo1

This December was a festive time for all our foster children, parents and FIT staff who celebrated together. May we never forget the reason for the season, or our FIT Christmas celebrations, which successfully bring families and communities together in love – for each other and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

FIT is a program of Lutheran Social Services of the South. For more information, please visit


Together! Adoption completes this Harlingen family

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care, Foster In Texas, Foster Parents
The Abundiz family at consummation ceremony

The Abundiz family at consummation ceremony

JoDee was only four days old when she was placed in a Harlingen Foster In Texas (FIT) home belonging to Jorge and Lydia Abundiz. She had tested positive for cocaine at the time of her birth on April 25, 2013 and was immediately removed from her parent’s custody. In addition, parental rights were terminated for JoDee’s three older siblings; two are now in the custody of their great-grandparents and the other sibling was adopted by a nonrelative. At the time, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) approached the great-grandparents about also taking JoDee, but they were not up to the task of caring for a newborn. Without a suitable placement available with her biological family members, JoDee came into FIT’s care.

As JoDee’s legal case developed, the Abundiz family voiced their interest in becoming her forever family. They felt she would truly make their family complete and submitted their letter of intent to DFPS. JoDee stole their hearts from day one – along with the hearts of everyone around her – and had formed a tight bond with the family. She is a very happy child, always smiling and affectionate.

JoDee with FSW Diana Leon. Photo taken day of JoDee’s emergency placement in the Abundiz home.

JoDee with FSW Diana Leon. Photo taken day of JoDee’s emergency placement in the Abundiz home.

Diana Leon, FIT Family Service Worker, has worked with JoDee and the Abundiz family throughout their journey. “It has been a wonderful experience watching JoDee grow, and knowing that she is now part of such a wonderful family,” said Diana. “I remember holding her for the first time, seeing her crawl, take her first step and attempting to say my name. It has been just beautiful!”

Today, Jorge and Lydia continue to care for other foster children in their home.

If you are ready to make a difference in the life of a child, visit – – for more information.

FIT is a program of Lutheran Social Services of the South.

JoDee at 2014 FIT Halloween party with FSW Diana Leon

JoDee at 2014 FIT Halloween party with FSW Diana Leon


“A Home for the Holidays” for Former Foster Youth in Central TX

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care, Foster In Texas

BeREAL moving day [story by Sarah Crocker, BeREAL Austin transitional services program director]

BeREAL [Ready Educated Accomplished Leaders] Austin, the LSS housing support and mentoring network for youth aging out of foster care in Central Texas, began accepting applications in September and placing young adults in Supervised Independent Living (SIL) apartments in October.

There has been a flurry of moving activity recently, with seven new BeREAL residents – five young adults and two children. Two more are moving in December 19, for a total of nine by year’s end. Eventually, we anticipate serving around 30 youth each year.

About BeREAL Austin

BeREAL Austin helps foster youth transition to self-sufficiency and independence by providing Supervised Independent Living as they age out of care. Through a partnership with a national multi-family real estate company, LSS secured discounted apartments for participants in Austin.

Foster children have little control over decisions impacting their lives, then suddenly at age 18, they are treated as fully capable adults, with adult responsibilities and expectations. BeREAL Austin helps prepare them for this new role.

A grant from Grande Communications is helping fund the cost of utilities and household items. BeREAL is an important component of LSS’ continuum of care in our children’s programs, focusing on our mission to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities.

Our BeREAL Austin clients

Applicants for the program are initially screened by DFPS, and to be eligible must be foster youth between 18-21, who were in foster care on their 18th birthday. They must either be in school or working, or a combination of both, and all of our participants fit into these categories.

Meet our residents:

  • A 19-year-old mother, who has a one-year old daughter, attends classes at Austin Community College (ACC) and is working for an insurance company. She is studying criminal justice and plans to be a probation officer.
  • A 19-year-old mother, who has a one-year-old son, completed one year at ACC and plans to re-enroll this spring. She wants to study accounting and become a CPA.
  • An 18-year-old female, who works at the nearby HEB, has enrolled to start her first semester at ACC in January. She wants to be a social worker and help kids like herself.
  • A 20-year-old male completed one year at A&M-Corpus Christi and is now at ACC. His 18-year-old sister, another new resident, lives in the same complex in an adjacent building. She enrolled for her first semester at ACC and is looking for a job nearby.

For most of their lives, they’ve been placed apart. Now they get to see each other every day – to learn and support one another – as they figure life out. They also enjoy waving at each other from their balconies!

As each of these youth achieve their identified education and employment goals, they are expected to transition to unsupervised independent living.

crib BeREAL Unpacking

Can You Help BeREAL?

Yes! As we move in more residents, we always need gently used furniture (couches and dining tables), microwaves and other household items. View our online donation list  and contact Sarah Crocker at 512-813-9828 or by email


Adoption Day in Laredo

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Foster Care, Foster In Texas, Foster Parents
laredo garcia Adoption

Congratulations to the Garcias of Laredo!

“Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for helping us form our dream family. May God bless you always!” – note to FIT area director Oscar Guerra from foster and adoptive mom Norma Garcia

Laredo’s Foster In Texas (FIT), parents Edmundo and Norma Garcia, saw their dreams come true on November 21 when they adopted the three adorable siblings who had been in their care. In addition, several other children found their forever families on the same day during adoption consummation hearings – in celebration of National Adoption Month – presided over by Honorable Judge Oscar J. Hale of the 406th District Court.

The court house was filled with balloons, decorations, family and friends, and to commemorate the event, the siblings each received gifts from our FIT staff and Mrs. Garcia was presented with a beautiful bouquet of roses.

The Garcias couldn’t have been happier and are very grateful for Laredo’s FIT team who were with them throughout the entire process. What a beautiful family!

This year during National Adoption Month, FIT consummated 29 adoptions. Currently, there is a state wide shortage of foster families in Texas capable and willing to foster infants, children with special needs, siblings and teens.

 If you are ready to make a difference in the life of a child, visit – – for more information.

FIT is a program of Lutheran Social Services of the South.

Laredo garcia Adoption (1)


Crystal & Dustin’s Story: Two More Make a Family

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Uncategorized

adoption harris2When we found out that we could not conceive children, we were heartbroken. We had wanted a family for so long. We knew right away that we would pursue adoption, but we gave ourselves a little time to grieve first to make sure we were totally ready. — Crystal, two-time LSS adoptive mom

Crystal and Dustin’s story is not an unusual one. They had been married eight years, had two adopted dogs, and were living in Corpus Christi when they began the adoption process. After speaking with several adoption agencies, they decided Lutheran Adoption Services of Texas, a program of Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS), was “the one that was right for us.”

The couple submitted their application to LSS and prepared to wait. The adoption process for Isaiah took over two years – from the time of application to the consummation ceremony seven months following his birth. In August 2010, Crystal and Dustin got a call from LSS, initiated by a hospital referral, that a baby born five weeks prematurely was available for adoption immediately. They went straight to the hospital to meet him, and happily, Isaiah was doing beautifully. They only had to spend two nights in the hospital before taking him home.

Crystal and Dustin knew they wanted to adopt a second child, so they began the process with LSS once again, assuming it would take a while to be matched the second time too.

The family had moved to San Antonio, and just one week after completing their paperwork, got a call from Tanya Graham, LSS Director of Domestic Adoptions, asking, “Are you ready to adopt a second child?” The birth mother was in a difficult situation and decided on short notice to place her child for adoption. She selected Crystal, Dustin and 20-month-old Isaiah from the adoption books that LSS keeps for birth parents to “meet” potential adoptive families. Their decision to adopt the baby was immediate, and Karina was born a month later. Isaiah was excited to have a baby sister.

Brother-Sister Act

Today, at ages four and two, this brother-and-sister team couldn’t be more adorable, and according to their mother, more different.

“Isaiah never stops moving,” said Crystal.  “He has enough energy to power the planet.” He also has a big personality, loves to cuddle and can’t get enough of being outdoors – running, jumping, riding his scooter and playing in the mud. He likes trains, trucks and his kitchen set. “From the moment we met him, we could see in his eyes that he could take on the world,” said Crystal.

Crystal describes Karina as a little princess – very sweet but sassy. She loves ponies, Tinkerbell and “Doggie,” the stuffed, fluffy pink dog

Karina and her Doggie

Karina and her Doggie

that she carries everywhere. She sleeps with about 20 stuffed animals and follows her Bubba (her name for Isaiah) everywhere. He’s the leader, but according to mom, “they both talk all day long!”


Why Lutheran Adoption Services?

Crystal and Dustin chose to adopt through LSS because “We were very happy with how birth mothers were treated and spoken of so well,” said Crystal. “We were made to feel like actual people rather than just a number on a long list. Tanya Graham was great to work with. She was on top of things and even came to court with us. We know we can always get in touch with Tanya when we have questions.”

LSS was a pioneer in the movement for open adoption, where birth and adoptive parents have the option of staying in contact. It was Isaiah’s birth mother’s choice not to have contact with his adoptive parents, although Crystal and Dustin are agreeable if she changes her mind one day. Karina’s birth mom, on the other hand, receives photos and has chosen to have occasional contact with the family.

Crystal sums up their adoption experiences beautifully:

“It was a long journey that wasn’t always easy, but in the end, it was more than worth it as we were able to become parents to two amazing little children who needed homes. Adoption has allowed us to grow our family when we couldn’t before, and filled our home with more laughter, joy and love than we could have ever imagined.”  

adoption isaiah and karina harris


There are currently 6,000 children legally awaiting adoption in Texas. For information about Lutheran Adoption Services of Texas, visit our website or call 512-459-1000.


FIT News Across Texas

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Amarillo, Foster Care, Foster In Texas, Foster Parents

Texas FIT Map (3)Lindsey Stockton, Regional Director for Foster In Texas (FIT), does a lot of traveling around Texas to various foster care and adoption offices, and many of her recent journeys have coincided with FIT foster family festivals and events. Lindsey and Area Director Oscar Guerra have reported on some of these recent celebrations and foster care activities, and shared photos to document the occasions. 

Austin/Georgetown Foster From the Heart Conference October 17

The “Foster From the Heart” Training Conference garnered a lot of interest from new and potential foster parents. Conference speakers presented a variety of topics, including: Preventing Sexual Abuse; What is a Primary Medical Needs (PMN) Home?; An Overview About Foster Care; How to Help a Traumatized Child;  and Supervised Independent Living for Kids Aging Out of Foster Care. A highlight of the conference was meeting and hearing the success stories of two former foster children.

The Austin FIT staff kept the show running and gave out door prizes. Thanks to Angela Acevedo for the great decorations!

sarah conference2 FITconferencedecor

San Antonio/Austin – Kinship Festival October 25

The 1st Annual Kinship Fall Festival was held in South Austin and drew more than 150 foster children and their families. The Travis County kinship workers and volunteers coordinated with many community partners including: BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse), CPS (Child Protective Services), and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).    t child abuse), Foster Angels, Partnerships for Children, CASEY Family Programs, the Travis County Sheriff’s Department. There was a costume contest and a raffle for different themed gift baskets for the kinship caregivers, pumpkin painting, face painting, and lots of food to enjoy. The families had a wonderful time and we were blessed by the community to offer this event free for our kinship homes.

Representing LSS-FIT from our San Antonio office were: Recruiter Amanda Perez, Area Director Claudia Rodriguez, and Kinship Specialist Carmen Castillo. All LSS-FIT families in the area were invited to join the festivities, and the FIT staff led an activity for the kids and provided information to one and all about our kinship foster program.

SA kinship festival SA kinship fest outside SA fall fest lindsay SA kinship fest group

Lubbock – Foster Parent Appreciation Dinner November 8 

The Lubbock FIT staff recently went all out hosting a dinner for our deserving foster parents. It was a wonderful evening that could not have taken place without the help of our LSS-FIT supporters and volunteers. Many thanks to the community partners and donors who made this event possible!  There were several door prizes donated to show appreciation to our foster parents!

lubbock fp apprec dinner(3) lubbock fp apprec 5 lubbock fp apprec 4

El Paso – Thanksgiving Luncheon November 20

A special Thanksgiving luncheon was held in honor of El Paso’s foster families, hosted by the El Paso FIT team. Sixty-three families and children attended the event and seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Door prizes were awarded, and the families felt our care and support.

FIT folks: Cecelia Cardenas (left) and Area Director Jacqueline Sandoval

FIT folks: Cecelia Cardenas (left) and Area Director Jacqueline Sandoval


Laredo – Thanksgiving Luncheon November 20

The Laredo FIT team hosted its annual Thanksgiving luncheon at a local restaurant. Our FIT staff greeted all foster parents and made them feel very appreciated! Everyone enjoyed sharing a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

FIT families had a good time chatting and exchanging parenting tips. It was a joyous and festive occasion, with a raffle and door prizes added to the fun. Thanks once again to the Lamar Bruni Vergara Grant for making this holiday luncheon possible.

laredo Tksgiving luncheon groupLaredo Tksgiving luncheon(4) Laredo staff Tksgiving luncheonLaredo Tksgiving lunch ladies

Tyler – Foster Parent Support Group Formed

A group of Tyler FIT parents gathered to share their fostering experiences and form a network for education and support.  In other Tyler FIT news, Nick Wilkerson, who is placed in the Hall home, was the subject of an interview that appeared in the Tyler Morning Telegraph.



Finding Pieces of the Puzzle: Adoption Search & Reunion Part 2

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Uncategorized

erin & angie (2)Angie’s Story: What my life has been like as a birth mother to a beautiful baby girl

The day I left the hospital, it was the hardest thing I had ever done. I had a pit in stomach but knew that my choice was in the best interest of the baby.

Her father and I went to Lutheran Social Services (LSS) to look through stacks and stacks of paperwork of people waiting to adopt a child. We finally decided on a family. For the next 25 years, all I would know or see about this little girl was a photo at six months and a letter at one year.

Birthdays and holidays would go by and I often thought of her.  My mother and I would write to her, buy her things and keep them in our own special ways – hoping that one day I could share all of this with her.  I started a chest with all her father’s and my memories. I included anything she might want to know, in case something happened to me before we connected, so she would have some idea of what her background was and where she came from.  I wanted her to know her father and I had been in a long-term relationship, even after her birth, and went to meetings at LSS together and cried to each other. Even as our relationship was ending, we held each other accountable to always share our story with everyone so this baby girl was never a secret.

I carried an empty space in my heart over the years, but until I actually held the letter [from my daughter, via LSS] in my hand, I didn’t realize what I had been missing my whole adult life.

It had been a busy day – my husband and children were waiting on me to go somewhere after work. I stopped to glance at the mail, and there it was, a letter addressed to me with an LSS return label. My whole world stopped and my heart raced. I could not open it fast enough – it was the piece of mail I had been waiting on my whole life.

The letter was very simple. It said that Erin had been looking for her birthmother, and after reviewing everything in my file, they thought I was her and asked if I was interested in contact.  It was the most amazing feeling – I cannot even put words to it.

Over the next few days, my husband helped me get some things in order to be able to connect.  The week of Christmas 2013, I received an actual letter from Erin, in her handwriting, with an overview of the last 25 years.  With my husband and children by my side, I cried like a baby. God had finally answered my prayers! Erin had an amazing life with wonderful parents – she was safe and happy. What followed next were pictures and text messages with discussions of meeting for the first time.

My husband and I made arrangements to have dinner with her. When I saw Erin walking across the parking lot, my heart sank. Was I dressed okay? Would she like me? What would she think about me?

As we entered the restaurant, she walked right up and we hugged.  The feeling was incredible. This was something I had longed for my entire life – my void was filled. It has made me a complete person.

I always hoped Erin would look for me and that we would have this relationship. My girls and Erin are close now – they share clothes, shoes, make-up and do all the things sisters do.  We see her as often as we can.

I know this has not been easy for Erin’s adoptive parents, but I have been able to tell them just how grateful I am to them for all they have done for Erin. This is something Erin wanted to do and they stood by her. It has been a true blessing.

Erin Angie sisters Erin and sisters


“Will I love her?” Love & Attachment in Adoption – by Dr. Daniel Nehrbass

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Uncategorized

adoption will i love her“Our baby was maybe two days old and as I sat with her alone in the hospital room I completely broke my promise that I wouldn’t fall in love too soon. I’ve since managed to forgive myself!” Paul, LSS Adoptive Father 

The question “Will I love him/her?” is often top of mind for potential adoptive parents. After years of working as an adoption specialist – facilitating placements and following up through our post-adoption services – I thought Dr. Daniel Nehrbass did an excellent job of answering the question in his commentary below. The article is reprinted with permission from The Adoption Advocate, a publication created by the National Council for Adoption to educate policymakers, families, child welfare specialists, and others on today’s most relevant child welfare and adoption issues. 

The insights and issues the essay explores are especially appropriate for discussion during November, National Adoption Month. The author, Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D., is a former pastor and professional counselor, and is executive director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions.

When my best friend heard that my wife and I were planning to adopt, he asked, “Do you think you will be able to love your child as much as you would if she were your own?”

Those of us who have adopted know that our adopted children are “our own.” Yet this question posed by my friend revealed a fear that lay within himself, and in the minds of many prospective adoptive parents.

My wife and I met when we were in the eighth grade. We married seven years later, at the age of twenty. We talked about adoption before we were married, but did not envision how large a role it would play in our life together. Three years into our marriage, we received a diagnosis that determined conception would be impossible for us.

Two years later, in the midst of the foster parent licensing process, we learned that we were pregnant. After our son’s birth, we adopted two children from foster care and had two more biological children as well, bringing us to a total of three girls and two boys in our home.

From experience I can say that it is possible to love adopted children just as much as those born to you. Yet I recognize that I cannot speak for others, nor can I tell them what is possible within their own families. If someone tells me, “I don’t think I could love an adopted child equally,” perhaps he and I should both trust his judgment. Perhaps he knows something about himself that I don’t know.

The Capacity of Love

When I used to give people the “Trust me…you can love adopted children equally” speech, I assumed that everyone was equally capable. I envisioned love primarily as an emotion. The primary change in this line of thinking occurred when I realized that love is better envisioned in terms of capacity, rather than emotion.

Think of love as a jar that holds water, or a room that holds people. Jars come in different sizes; rooms range from tiny to enormous. Capacities vary greatly. If we all have our own individual capacity for love, then I cannot speak for anyone else who wonders about their own capacity. Nor can I speak for you.

I can speak for myself, however, and I can speak of families I have counseled. Nearly all of these adoptive parents would say that they love their children with all their heart. Those who also have biological children in the home would add that they love their children equally. And most would say that they, too, have come to realize that they have great capacity for love; it is not merely a feeling, it is an ability. A choice.

Adoptive parents are not the only ones who know this, of course. Other parents know it, too. Many parents can remember a defining moment when they had to make a decision about how to think of love. For me it came almost immediately after our son, Thai, a seven-year-old Vietnamese boy from California, was placed with us. He spoke not more than fifty words of English, yet by the end of his first week, he had asked me: “Do you love me?”

No biological parent has ever been asked this question in the first week of parenthood. How was I to answer Thai? At the time I still knew very little about him. We were still getting to know one another. But when he asked me “Do you love me?” I was prepared with my answer. I gave him an immediate, confident, genuine “Yes!”

I was able to say this honestly because—long before he asked—I had come to the understanding that my love is a capacity, not merely an emotion. When I told Thai that I loved him, I expressed the following genuine commitments:

  • I am committed to you for life, no matter what.
  • I want what is best for you.
  • I will make great sacrifices for you.
  • I will forgive you when you misbehave.
  • I will demand nothing, but I will cherish even the smallest expression of love in return.

Love is not some external force that comes out of nowhere: it is your own capacity, which grows with time and work and commitment. If you have this capacity, you will love your child.

Love is Commitment

When my wife and I put our firstborn child in the car and drove away from the hospital, I thought, “I can’t believe they’re letting us do this! Why are they letting us take this child?” I knew that no one from the hospital was ever going to call to see if we were okay. They were done with us. It was up to us to care for our baby’s every need.

I can say with complete honesty that my love for our son during his first week of his life was no more or less than the love I just described for our adopted seven-year-old during his first week in our home. I loved holding him, and felt overwhelmed with positive emotions—feelings of joy, tenderness, and delight. But my love for our newborn son was primarily felt in terms of commitment—just like my commitment to our adopted son. My love for him meant that I was committed to him for life, prepared to make sacrifices for him, determined to do whatever was best for him, and always ready to forgive him unconditionally.

So how will you answer your adopted child when she asks, early on, “Do you love me?” I define love in terms of commitment, and action. Love is acting lovingly. Love is commitment. If you can truly commit to loving your child, then you will.

[Dr. Nehrbass made further observations that are excerpted below in the interest of space.]



  • If you understand love as your child’s unique way of reaching out to you, then you will recognize his love for you.
  • As you share your life together, and prove trustworthy in meeting your child’s needs, she will love you.
  • People with a large capacity to love do not ask what is easier for them, but what is better for those they love. If you can do this, then you will love your child.
  • If you can love unconditionally, then you will love your child.
  • Love is sometimes much easier to see and understand in retrospect than in the moment. If you understand this about love, you will see your child’s love for you.
  • If you are patient, you will see your child’s love for you.
  • Empathy is another essential part of love. If you can see yourself in the face of your adopted child, then you will love her.
  • The love of a parent is always focused outward. It demands nothing; it only gives. If you take this approach to your child, then you will love him.
  • Conclusion: Love is focused on others.



Lutheran Social Services of the South has counseled individuals about making adoption plans for more than 60 years and was one of the first agencies to offer open adoption. We believe that adoption is a lifelong process and offer post adoption services that include:

  • Ongoing Intermediary Services – provides birth and adoptive families a way to maintain ongoing contact without fully disclosing their last names and addresses.
  • De-identified Social and Medical History – provides all non-identifying health, education, social and genetic history information from the record to an adult adoptee.
  • Passive Adoption Registration – enables one member of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, adult adoptees) to register their desire for contact with another triad member should that party register as well.  If both parties register, contact is facilitated after each has completed the one hour of individual counseling required by Texas Family Code 162.413.
  • Search and Reunion Services – initiates a search for one member of the adoption triad at the request of another member. 

More than 8,000 adoptions have been completed through our domestic, international, and foster-to-adopt adoption programs. For information about Lutheran Adoption Services in Texas, visit  or call 512-459-1000; 855-482-3678 (after hours).



Finding Pieces of the Puzzle: Adoption Search & Reunion, Part 1

Posted by Lonni Swanson || Category(ies): Uncategorized

 Erin & Angie“You must be prepared for the realm of possibilities that you might find, and you need to know how to prepare yourself for the emotional ups and downs that will happen!” – Erin, adoptee

We all love a good adoption search-and-reunion story. But what happens after that first find, that first phone call, that first hug? Can it possibly work out for all parties involved?

Not all adoption reunions are successful. But when the reunion meets the needs of all parties involved, it can add a new dimension and level of understanding to the lives of both adoptees and their birth families.

Lutheran Adoption Services of Texas (a program of Lutheran Social Services [LSS]) has facilitated more than 8,000 adoptive placements since 1944 and can initiate adoption searches for all members of an adoption triad when the adoption was completed through LSS:

  • an adult adoptee searching for a birth parent,
  • a birth parent searching for an adult adoptee
  • or an adoptive family searching for a birth parent.

Contact usually begins with a letter or a phone call and evolves based upon the mutual consent of both parties. The following story chronicles the search and reunion of Erin, a 27-year-old kindergarten teacher, and Angie, her birth mom. Both currently live in Austin, Texas.

Erin & Angie’s story:

When Erin was 15, her parents presented her with a hand-written letter from her biological mother.  They were planning to give it to Erin when she turned 18, but she had become so inquisitive about where she came from, they decided to give it to her early.

Angie was only 16 when she became pregnant and the birth father Trey was 18. The couple broke up when Angie went off to college.  She wrote that she loved Erin, wanted a better life for her daughter and would like to meet her someday when Erin was ready. She wasn’t.

Erin hesitated to proceed with an inquiry for years, until her 24th birthday when her friends raised money for the “gift of a search.” Erin waited approximately a year as she and her family became more comfortable with the idea of reaching out to Angie.

“I think I waited until just the right time, and it all worked out the way it was supposed to,” said Erin. “At 18, I was definitely not mature enough.”

In July 2012, when Erin turned 25, she went to Lutheran Adoption Services and opened the case. The following November, she initiated contact with Angie and sent her a letter using LSS as the intermediary. They first began communicating via texts and by sending photos. “The main reason I felt I needed to find my birth parents was to thank them for the opportunity they gave me to lead a great life,” Erin said. Erin grew up in South Austin and attended Bowie High School; she has an older brother who is also adopted.

On January 2, 2013, when it came time to meet Angie for the first time, Erin was “really nervous.” They arranged to meet for dinner; Erin brought along two friends who had been her support group throughout the entire journey and Angie came with her husband. “It was all very natural and comfortable as we sat there for three hours talking about life, families and our interests,” Erin said. Erin learned that Angie has twin girls (they were 15 at the time), and the girls have known about her since they were 10.

Another interesting discovery was that the year prior to their first meeting, Erin had had dinner with Angie’s stepbrother and didn’t realize it! They had been living close to each other for a long time. “Our paths crossed many times and we never knew it,” Erin said.

History in a Trunk

A nice surprise for Erin was the trunk Angie presented to her made by her birth grandfather.  It was filled with things about her birth father Trey and birthday and Christmas cards that Angie had written to Erin every year and just saved in the trunk. There was also a diary about her feelings about placing her daughter for adoption. Angie’s father was most influential in having the baby adopted, and the trunk included a five-page letter written by him in 1997, apologizing and explaining his actions.

Angie told Erin that every year on Erin’s birthday, the family sat down together and talked about her. Angie said she had given up hope of a reunion once Erin turned 21 and she hadn’t heard from her. “I had always heard it was better to let the child make contact when ready,” Angie said.

Completing the Circle

The next step came when Erin finally met Trey. She found his brother on Facebook and reached out to him via a personal message with her email address. Trey’s brother passed along the info. Trey was so happy she contacted him. “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life” he said. Erin met him and his wife for the first time for dinner in August 2013. Erin learned she has a half-sister who is 22.

“He is a big teddy bear of a guy, 6’3, and sitting across from him I thought, ‘I have his eyes!’” She learned he had been a baseball player who had injured his knee and wasn’t able to pursue an athletic career after that. Erin said that explained a lot, “I’m athletic and no one else in my family is. I played volleyball and softball throughout my school career and still play co-ed softball.”

Today …

Erin talks regularly with Angie and her family and sees them often. She also gets together with Trey about once a month.

What would she recommend to others curious about searching for their birth parents?  “Go for it, but you need to keep an open mind to all of the different people involved in the decision and the relationships that could be affected,” said Erin. “My adoptive mom and dad will always be my first priority.” Erin feels very lucky about how her search and reunion have turned out but knows it doesn’t always work out so well.

Erin’s biggest surprise, after having played out every scenario in her mind beforehand, was how many people knew about her and wanted to meet her. She has also developed a relationship with the grandfather who was instrumental in her adoption.

Erin concluded, “It has been very healing for all of us, and my birth family has peace of mind too knowing they did the right thing for me. Beyond having my questions answered and seeing where I came from, the most healing thing was to be able to say THANK YOU!”

Look for Part 2, Angie’s Story, next week.

For additional information about adoption and reunification searches, or to begin an inquiry through Lutheran Adoption Services of Texas, call 800-396-4611 or contact Tanya Graham: [Note: Texas Family Code 162.413 requires that individuals initiating an adoption search must have an hour of counseling before a reunion can be facilitated.]

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