Adoption has defined my life—it always has and always will.
Let me start from the beginning.
By: Betsy Tanner @scadoptionatty
When I was seven weeks old, I was placed in the home of wonderful, loving parents, who formally adopted me about a year later. I grew up in Greenville, S.C., with an older brother. He was also adopted, although we do not share biological parents.
I always knew I was adopted. Most importantly, from the time we were young enough to understand, my brother and I were both told about how our birth moms loved us so much that they made the unselfish decision to put us up for adoption. My birth mother didn’t abandon me; rather, she gave me life and hope.
My parents always emphasized how special I was and how fervently they wanted and prayed for me many years before I was even born. My brother and I were their long-held dream that had at last come true.
I never felt weird or different for being adopted; rather, I felt special and loved.
The older I got, the more questions I asked. My parents always honestly answered with the limited information that they had. They reminded me to pray for my birth mom, saying that God has a special plan for her life just as He has for mine.
When I graduated from high school, I requested non-identifying information about my biological family from the Department of Social Services. The package that I soon received carried a lot of insight—into myself, my birth mother, and my past.
Everything my parents had told me was true: My birth mom struggled with her decision. She wanted her child to have a family with a mom and a dad, to have the opportunity to get a good education, and to be safe and loved. Knowing she could not give me these things herself, she made the very difficult, self-sacrificial decision.
A New Chapter: Becoming an Adoption Attorney
Fast forward a few years. I graduated from Furman University in 2003 and from the University of Georgia School of Law in 2006. Now, I am practicing law back in my home town of Greenville, and guess what type of law I practice? That’s right, adoption law.
As an adoption attorney, I am passionate about my work of helping families become “forever families.” My goal is to provide legal advocacy to families considering domestic, international, and foster care adoptions.
Fostering and Caring for Orphans
Aside from my work as an adoption attorney, my husband, Walt, and I deeply desire to advocate for vulnerable children in our lives and community. Therefore, in 2012, we became foster parents (now known as “resource families”). In addition to our two biological children, we have had a vivacious 3-year-old boy in our home for the past 13 months. God has used him powerfully in our lives, just as He is using us in his. As Christians, we are called to defend the cause of the fatherless and to care for orphans; in our lives, this has meant opening our home to a child who has been abused or neglected and is in need of a loving and safe home.
In addition, our church, Capstone Church, of which Walt is head pastor, started a partnership with Hope Vision Ministry in Port de Paix, Haiti, which runs an orphanage and school. Little did we know that Sunday in January when Walt announced plans for the partnership to our congregation, a catastrophic earthquake would ravage the country two days later. Thankfully, when Walt traveled to the orphanage and school shortly thereafter, he found the kids and staff relatively unharmed and the buildings, though damaged, at least livable.
From the time our partnership began, Hope Vision had been struggling financially. Walt dreamed of creating an organization based in the United States devoted specifically to raising funds for Hope Vision. That dream, too, became a reality when, in 2012, we launched the Haiti Gospel Fund, now a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status. During its first full year, I have chaired the board of directors for Haiti Gospel Fund, and we have been overjoyed to see God work in mighty ways through this new vehicle of support.
The Journey Continues
In the midst of starting a nonprofit organization, becoming foster parents, and growing my adoption law practice, my personal journey of adoption has continued—and in the past year took an unexpected but wonderful turn.
I have had the opportunity to meet my two biological sisters—one of whom I did not even know existed. After meeting them separately in November 2012 and August 2013, we recently spent a weekend together getting to know one another and exchanging life stories.
Obviously, my personal adoption story is still being written—and it seems only to be getting better. I recently sent a letter to my biological mother letting her know who I am. I am not sure whether she will write back, but I have reached out to her and thanked her for what she did for me.
The Most Important Adoption of All
I would be remiss to end there. I started by saying that adoption has defined my life—and it did: adoption gave me my parents, led my career path, and has deeply impacted my family as an adult.
But the most important aspect of my adoption story is my adoption into the family of God through Jesus Christ. Although I was far from God and lost in sin, He sacrificed his own Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross so that I may be called a child of God. And this is an adoption to which we all have an open invitation.
I sometimes like to say I have been “doubly adopted.” As an adopted child of God, I have immeasurable blessings. And as an adopted daughter of my earthly parents, I have come to know these spiritual blessings in an even greater way.
I pray God will use these experiences in my life so I may bless others.
Betsy Tanner lives with her family in Fountain Inn, S.C. She is a co-chair of the Families Forever Committee of Young Lawyers Division of the South Carolina Bar, and in addition to her adoption law practice, she practices with the Greenville-based law firm Anderson Law Firm.