Adopting As A Military Family: The Unique Challenges And Joys


This guest post is by Jessica Oxendine, a hopeful adoptive parent.

Our family’s journey to adoption began through acceptance of infertility and recognizing that adoption can be just as miraculous as giving birth.

Having been diagnosed with secondary infertility (we already have a beautiful son), and after 9 years of battling with the unknowns, we were ready to accept the fact that a biological child was not going to be.

My husband came to this realization a lot sooner than I did.  I was struggling with other issues like feelings of inadequacy and denial.  I had placed my hopes in science for so long that it was hard to move on.

Amidst the pity party I had graciously thrown myself, my beautiful healthy son was the saving grace.  I accepted the fact that this is my reality.  No one ever promised me or owes me a child.

I was lucky to be granted one and life doesn’t owe me anything else.  I was still angry but something told me that the universe had a plan.  In 2011, as a family, we made the decision that adoption was the right way for us to grow our little family.

Challenges of a military family

We are an active duty military family and this factor of our lifestyle is one that has contributed to some challenges in our quest to have another child.

Every 2 or 3 years our family is moved to another duty station in the continental US or abroad.  This is the main reason our infertility went undiagnosed for 11 years.

My husband’s deployments to Afghanistan also delayed many treatments we thought might work.  Once we decided on adoption we had to wait a year because the agency would not do a home study on a family that was in the process of relocating.

We are very proud of my husband’s service in the armed forces, but it does pose some unique challenges for a family facing non-traditional circumstances like an adoption process.

I’ll give you an example.  When completing a home study, most specifically the clearances/fingerprinting part, they ask you to list the places you have resided within 20+ years.  For a family like ours this required us to attach an extra sheet.

In our 17 years of marriage we listed 8 states and 11 homes.  Waiting for all those states to clear us was our first agonizing ordeal.

Another particular dilemma military families face is the fear of having to move before you complete an adoption.  Not to mention the concern of not being chosen at all because a birthmother might fear the inevitable distance.

These unique circumstances make us consider international adoption a more viable option.  Though we are still running against the clock in completing a dossier and home study, we know we can follow through with an agency long distance.

In the military community we also lack the support system of experience, since not many choose this process due to the challenges I have listed.  Most of us live within the confines of a military base; hence seeking outside support can be more difficult.

The joys and anxiety of waiting for a match

Notwithstanding the challenges and obstacles that we have had as a military family, and even without this factor, we are enjoying the anxious wait.

We are eagerly awaiting the match of a sibling group from the South American country of Peru.  We have come this far in this year long process and we have just a bit more to go.

From the moment we began the adoption process it has been a roller coaster of emotions.  As our family prepares to welcome our new addition we are learning to also take time to prepare our immediate family.

We live far from our extended family (another one of the setbacks of being a military family), so it is very hard to keep them informed of all the different aspects of our adoption.

We know it will be a challenge later on when we want them to bond with grandparents, aunts and uncles, but we will try our best to include them utilizing the miracle of technology.

If you don’t quite appreciate the magic of web calls, try being a military family with a deployed husband over 6,000 miles away and relatives over 1000 miles away.

While there are many joys associated with an adoption we realize they also come with a few fears and reservations.

We are using the waiting time to further educate ourselves and spend as much time with our family and friends so we can dedicate all of our heart to our new family members when the time comes.

Jessica Oxendine, her husband Chris, and son Charlie are an active duty military family currently stationed at the US Military Academy, West Point, NY.  They are in the waiting period of an international adoption. Jess created a blog in hopes that it helps other families in the armed forces navigate the complex world of adoption.    

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