A Closer Look at Amish Fostering & Adoption

Do Amish adopt? How does the process work? Do they adopt non-Amish children or just those from their own communities?

Amish Cook Gloria Yoder recently shared her family’s story of fostering two children, Jesse and Rayni, in a 2-part series. She gives a window into the adoption process, not yet completed in this case but is moving along well.

Gloria and her husband Daniel have been on a journey with the two little ones for over a year now. You can follow earlier chapters of their experience in Gloria’s earlier columns, such as how they adjusted after first getting the two children, or a trip to the doctor, or how one of the children mixes English and Pennsylvania Dutch.

You might also remember Gloria’s column from last year about fostering children, where she answered questions like “What school will they attend?” and “Do Amish folks accept other race children into their homes?”

Here’s an excerpt from the moving part 1 of the latest columns which shows the depth of love – and the precarious situation – the couple faced as foster parents, and hopeful adoptive parents:

I know many of you have been waiting patiently on an update on our two darlings we’ve been fostering the past 14 months. Honestly, it’s been quite the journey for us.

As we poured our lives into Rayni and Jesse, we knew it will never be fair to them if we didn’t love them as our own. Yet especially for me, it’s been a constant process of letting go and loving with no expectation of any return, only imagining how crushed we all would be, should the time come of parting with them.

I vividly remember how I felt that first day they had a visit with their birth parents. It was as if my entire being was just reeling. I had come to have an intense protective mother love for the newborn and 16-month-old that I was responsible for 24/7. Knowing bits of the home situation didn’t make things any easier.

That night as I went on my daily walk, I looked up at the moon and asked God really why he allowed me to develop this deep bond with tiny Jesse, only to possibly have him ripped from my life in a couple years. Just like that, a clear thought popped into my mind, almost catching me off guard, “So that he will someday be able to bond with me.”

And from part 2, where she describes the highly emotional scene when she got the permission of the birth parents to become the children’s mother:

Now as days turned into weeks, the gnawing question kept coming back, “What will happen? Will they really sign over?” At the same time, our hearts grieved with the birth parents as we sympathized with the tremendous loss they were facing.

One afternoon as I opened a large envelope that had come in the mail, my mouth dropped wide open. I knew it was coming, yet seeing is believing, for sure. It was a stack of papers we were asked to fill out; on the first page were the words, “Full adoptive mother’s name.”

“Daniel, am I really going to be an adoptive mom?” I asked as if reality was starting to soak in, in a new way. It had been a dream since girlhood; would it really come true?

The next court date was Nov. 1, which was the day the parents planned to sign over their parental rights officially. We were there, bright and early, and spent some time chatting with the parents before being summoned into the courtroom.

Daniel and I took seats at the back. The judge reviewed the case at hand. When the time came for the birth parents to stand before the judge and simply sign their darling children over into our care, I felt something stirring deep within me that I can hardly explain. Tears came to my eyes. Daniel sat to my left, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see him ever so slightly shake his head in awe of it all. There was nothing we wanted more than to be mother and father of these dear children, yet it also looked like a very weighty responsibility.

Having the papers signed, we all stepped out into the waiting area where “birth mom” and I wept in each other’s arms. How can one have so many different, yet strong emotions at once?

Gloria’s editor Kevin Williams also had this to say about Amish adoption in the preamble to part 2:

Adoption among the Old Order Amish and New Order Amish is a long tradition, but it’s not widespread everywhere or among everyone. Personally, I’m more familiar with Amish families adopting children from overseas (a long, complicated process). As among the non-Amish, fostering and adopting takes the right people in the right combination of circumstances. Adoption of non-Amish children who need a home is a way to spread the bounty and blessings in a deeply meaningful way. — Kevin Williams, editor, The Amish Cook

Selling books to the Amish and visiting several thousand homes over the years, I would inevitably come across adoption and fostering situations from time to time.

One that sticks out in my mind is the couple in Ohio with a baby of Latin American descent. Another is the case of 11 Amish children in Indiana who were orphaned in a car accident decades earlier and were all adopted by another couple in the community. There is also the more recent and moving situation in New York where 12 Amish children were adopted by an uncle and aunt after their parents were killed in an accident.

Amish adopt both Amish and non-Amish children but I think in the former case it is more apt to happen after the rare tragedy which leaves Amish children parentless, while in the latter case Amish are adopting through more traditional venues like overseas adoptions and through the domestic foster system.

Does adoption by the Amish always have a happy ending? This is not my area of expertise but I know in some cases the road can become quite rocky. Surely it depends on a range of factors like the background the children come from (stable or unstable, abusive situations, etc), their age at the time of adoption (adopting an Amish way of living is easier for a two-year-old than a 10-year-old), and other factors not unique to the Amish/non-Amish dynamic like the determination of the parents to make it work, and so on.

On the other hand, adoption into an Amish home can provide a great outcome for children left in dire straits through no fault of their own. The Amish do have tailored resources available to them, such as the Amish Adoption Advocate newsletter and the Amish Adoption Picnic annual gathering which has been going on for 20+ years. As Kevin notes, there is a tradition of adoption among the Amish, which makes perfect sense when you consider that they are a highly family-oriented Christian community, where no family ever seems “too large.”

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    One Comment

    1. adoption

      If I was a mother who had to trust their child to be raised by a stranger I could think of no other family to leave them in the care of than an Amish family. God bless both of these families.