Families who choose to adopt children and youth make a meaningful, and often critical, difference in the lives of very vulnerable children in our society. November is National Adoption Month, a time when we recognize the efforts of national, state and local adoption agencies, as well as the families who have made a decision to adopt.
In celebration of National Adoption Month, we asked National PTA Executive Director Nathan R. Monell, CAE, to share his adoption story with us.
Tell us a little bit about your kids! How old are they and where are from?
I am the lucky father of two adopted children, my son Zalo who will be 14 next month and Kira, who will turn 12. They are biological siblings adopted from Guatemala when they were 2 and a half and six months. So, we have been family for almost twelve years.
When and why did you start your adoption process?
I started the process late as I was 46 years old. I was raised with the notion “Of whom much is given, much is required.” I was aware that I was blessed with lots of love and material benefits that I could use to make my life more and more comfortable as I grew older. Or, I could share what I had with kids whose possible prospect in life might be to join the thousands of children in underdeveloped countries who raise themselves.
Could you talk a little bit about your adoption process? What was the hardest part? The easiest part?
A big decision was how to adopt, whether through US foster care or from a foreign country. Either would have been great but the door to foreign adoption was easier at the moment. The challenging part is all the waiting, the paperwork, the waiting, the lack of control over the process, and did I mention the waiting!?!
Kira was not even born yet when the process started so waiting on her birth and getting the good news that she was healthy was a big relief. The best part is the support I found from other adoptive families who had been through this before. They kept it all in perspective. All of a sudden, the process is complete and you welcome your children home.
Was there anything that surprised you about the adoption process?
Not so much about the process. But after reading extensively about the challenges of adopting (especially toddlers) I was surprised to find how easy my children were. From the beginning, we have been blessed to experience good health, happiness and sweet dispositions. Though I adopted as a way of giving back, the largest surprise is that I have received way more than I ever gave. It has been an abundance of love, joy and lifelong purpose.
How would you counsel someone who is considering whether or not adoption is for them?
No one has to be the perfect parent in order to adopt. Every child needs a place to belong and to be cared for. So, waiting for the perfect moment or situation often means you miss the opportunity. I would suggest reading all you can and talking to others who have adopted so you are aware of the commitment you are making. For empty-nesters and mature parents, I would also put in a plug for teenagers in our foster care system who have never found a forever family. They are so deserving of our love and care.
What is your favorite family tradition you have started?
The holidays are a big deal for our family. I hope long after I am gone, those special days will live on for my children in their memories. Also, dinner is a great time for us to laugh, tease, recount our days, answer questions that inspire conversation—anything to reconnect after having my mind on the challenges of work.
Are you glad you adopted?
Yes, nothing in the world like it. Like all parents, our identity is permanently shaped by the presence of our children in our lives. From the moment mine walked in the door, I was no longer just Nathan, I was Papa.
Looking for more adoption stories? Read one mom’s experience.