MARSHALL – Jason and Amber Swenson wanted a family after their first marriage, so they turned to the adoption system.
More than a decade later, they are the proud parents of two adopted sons, Leo and Brayden. They adopted Leo in 2013 and Brayden in 2019.
They said they turned to adoption after their efforts to have children on their own did not result in a pregnancy. They chose it over going through fertility specialists.
“It just came up in conversation one day,” said Amber. “We had both thought about adoption and we were very interested. Things moved forward on that basis.
They started by contacting Lutheran social services and went through a process of about seven years before adopting Leo. It included parenting classes, home visits by social workers and annual background checks.
They considered both domestic and foreign adoption before choosing to focus on adopting a baby from the United States.
“These are two good possibilities” says Jason. “We opted for the domestic because of the number of children who need adoptive parents. They are children in our own backyard who need a good home.
They said adoptive parents don’t buy an entire nursery or large amounts of baby clothes until the adoption is finalized. In each case, the biological parents could have changed their minds before the revocation of their parental rights was fully processed.
“The adoptive parents must first guard their hearts”, said Amber. “It’s a real possibility that the biological parents will change their minds. We just hope and pray that everything goes well.
After adopting Leo, they took several years to appreciate having only one child before deciding to give him a sibling.
“We knew we would eventually want more than one,” said Amber. “Leo is the kind of kid who really enjoys being an older brother. We wanted him to have that opportunity.
Jason and Amber are both educators. He is principal of Lynd Public School and she is a homeroom teacher at Southview Elementary in Marshall.
They said their job was part of the reason they chose to adopt. Their work experiences convinced them that they would appreciate having children of their own.
“As educators, children are a very important part of our lives,” says Jason. “We wanted them to be part of our personal lives as well as our professions.”
They said that one of the deciding factors in adoption is the need to make the child the highest priority in all life situations.
“Any decision to become a parent requires careful consideration,” said Amber. “It’s not always easy work, but there are many rewards every day. We’ve been asked if it’s the same to adopt as our biological children, and we think it’s definitely the same. Children love unconditionally and this creates strong emotional bonds.
Jason added that it’s important to expect a long process to adopt a baby. Patience is important until possibilities lead to success.
“People should be open and they should be patient”, he said. “It paid off for us. The adoption gave us a wonderful family.
Emily Giese, an adoption social worker for Southwest Health and Human Services, said anyone who commits to being a parent can be considered. Adoption is open to single parents and couples.
She said the wait time is much longer for babies than for older children. In some cases with babies, up to 15 to 20 potential families are considered.
She said guidelines are set based on the need to make the welfare of the child the top priority. Social workers want to make sure that the family chosen for adoption is the best one for the child.
“The adoption system is constantly evolving to meet the needs of children,” said Giese. “There are constant changes in the policies and procedures for finalizing an adoption. The support system for adoptive parents after finalization has also expanded.
In total, there are currently 46 children in foster care across Southwest Health and Human Services’ six counties. A total of 26 are in pre-adoptive placement.
The agency has finalized 22 adoptions in 2021 and 11 so far this year. There have been 191 adoptions through Southwest Health and Human Services from 2000 to 2020.
Giese said it’s rewarding when children are successfully placed in their adoptive homes, when they can have the love and support of a permanent family.
“I love the opportunity to build relationships, especially when we can give older kids a sense of self-worth and belonging,” she says.
“Watching children succeed in homes where they are shown kindness and love is a highlight of my work.”