Hello Home Vol. 8 - The Graves Family
Ben and Kristi were some of the first people I connected with over Instagram (it’s not all bad i guess?) as I was scheduling out my Hello Home series early this year. I ran across their viral T-shirt campaign and was inspired by their excitement to adopt but more-so, their patience after many years of infertility and then a considerable wait during the adoption process. Coincidentally, Ben also reached out to me to help promote the campaign, so I guess our meeting was fate! I was honored to capture this little family behind the lens and learn more about their domestic adoption. Enjoy photo highlights and interview below!
Tell me a little about your background before you adopted Horizon.
Kristi was born and raised in Georgia, Ben was born in Oregon and raised in Kansas. We are currently in Georgia where we have lived for the past 5 years. Ben is in IT and Kristi is a teacher and we have been married for almost 12 years. We have lived many places including Japan and the Bahamas! We technically met in college, but we didn’t ever hang out - just knew who the other one was. Then we began talking on our alumni website after we had both graduated and started a friendship that quickly grew into more. We were married and moved to Japan shortly after where Ben was stationed in the Navy.
What led you to adopt and specifically, a domestic adoption?
Through all of our adventures, we always knew we wanted to start a family and we tried to do just that, but we have been unable to conceive naturally. We have been trying for over 7 years. Three years ago on a trip to Uganda, the Lord made it clear to both of us that we should adopt and when we returned, we began to work on that process. At the beginning, neither one of us was sure whether we wanted to do domestic or international (we have been to Uganda 3 times and would love to adopt from there as well). But when we went to the orientation classes we both felt like we were being called to pursue a domestic adoption and that’s the program where we landed. We used Bethany Christian Services and were blessed to adopt Horizon right here in Georgia!
DID YOU WORK WITH AN AGENCY, CONSULTANT, OR SOCIAL WORKER DURING YOUR ADOPTION? CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT WHY YOU CHOSE THIS ROUTE AND WHAT YOU FOUND TO BE THE MOST HELPFUL RESOURCES?
We worked with a local agency, Bethany Christian Services. We knew friends who had used them and recommended them, and after attending their orientation, we decided to move forward.
WHAT WERE THE HARDEST DECISIONS YOU FOUND YOURSELF MAKING DURING THAT APPLICATION PHASE?
One of the hard things about adoption is having to state your preferences and what you would be open to as far as a child. That is a difficult thing to do, and after much prayer we decided to be as open as we possibly could and pray through each situation that came across our path. We prayed for God to lead us each step of the way and knew that He would give peace and wisdom as He guided us through this process.
I love that you are a multiracial family. Was this an intentional decision you made? What went into making that decision?
Yes, we made that decision intentionally after prayer and honest discussion if we were up to the task. It adds an extra layer to the adoption process as everyone immediately knows he is adopted. We know that one day Horizon will realize these differences, and we have already begun praying over how we will have those conversations with him.
What advice do you have for families thinking about adopting a child of a different race?
A big piece of advice is to not go into the decision of adopting outside your race without fully considering what that means. We highly recommend educating yourself as much as possible, talking to people who have made the same choice, talk to people who can share about the culture and intentionally surround yourself with people who will be able to help you as you navigate the waters. Just having love is not enough in this world we live in. You have to know what you’re signing up for, and commit to continually learning more as you all change and grow.
Tell me what happened when you got the notification that you were matched? What happened next?
Kristi got the phone call that we were chosen by Horizons birth mom and she cried. :) We both were cautiously optimistic, and we decided to not tell anyone that we were matched until we knew more. We were able to meet Mama K the next week and we felt instantly connected with her, and just began praying each day for her and for the sweet baby boy that she was carrying.
Describe the scene when you met Horizon for the first time.
We were blessed to get to meet Horizon the day he was born, when he was only a handful of hours old. When we walked into the room, they handed him to us and we just looked at his face with tears in our eyes. He brought us instant joy amidst sadness and continues to bring us joy each day
How did your family and friends respond to your decision to adopt and how did you navigate any challenges here?
We have been blessed to have a wonderful network of family and friends who have done nothing but support us, pray for us, donate to our adoption, bring us meals, and give us baby gifts. It’s been completely humbling and overwhelming to have received the amount of love and support we have been shown over the last year of this process.
What were your greatest challenges & greatest joys in that chapter as you first settled into being a family of three?
We have been so overjoyed getting to be mom and dad. It’s something we have waited so many years for and has been a blessing more than we could have even imagined. It’s also been such a joy to share the news of Horizon with friends and family and have them be excited with us. We had a steady stream of visitors for a few weeks :) The biggest challenge has been the lack of sleep, but God gives you the grace you need to get through that part too! And one smile or laugh from Horizon can make anyone’s day better!
Are you open to giving us a ballpark idea on investment in the process? How did you navigate the financial hurdles? I know you guys coordinated an inspiring fundraising effort so we’d love to hear how to did that!
Our adoption total cost was just over $26,000. We saved, sent out announcement cards, set up a Pure Charity for people to be able to donate in a tax deductible way, and ran several fundraisers over the course of about a year in order to meet our fund requirements. Our most successful fundraiser was our T-shirt campaign! Some of the reasons why it seemed to work so well was -- 1. We have a wide network thanks to living in many different places over the last 11+ years of marriage, 2. We had tons of support from this network who all wanted to help on our journey, 3. We chose a neutral design that anyone could appreciate (not just about adoption) 4. We were strategic in how we marketed our shirts! We are so thankful for the adoption community and each person who rallied around us to help us bring home our sweet Horizon!
Now that you’ve been caring for Horizon for a few months, tell us what life is like now as a family of three.
Life is so sweet with Horizon! He learns something new all the time and constantly has us laughing and smiling. He has started laughing and it’s the cutest sound in the world. He is the absolute sweetest and has been the biggest blessing in our life. We thank God for him every day, and are enjoying being his parents more than we could ever put into words.
What other advice do you have for families interested in adoption?
One of the biggest pieces of advice is to be flexible and open. Things often don’t look like we think they are going to. Be open to what God has in store for you on the journey!
ABOUT THE SERIES
"Hello Home" is a photojournalistic blog series about the ins and outs of the adoption process and a celebration of adoptive families in Atlanta. This year, we will meet about 8-10 families who have adopted internationally, domestically, fostered, adoptive families with biological kids, multiracial families, children with special needs, you name it. I'm so excited to learn more about some of the rarely told truths around the adoption process and to celebrate those doing this amazing work. In exchange for these families sharing their stories and answering some tough questions, I'm giving them a free lifestyle photography session.
Note: these families have been asked to share as much or as little about their story as they feel comfortable. All sensitive information has been freely and graciously volunteered.
Stay in the loop by following along on Instagram: @hayleyjophoto.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hayley Johnson is the owner of Hayley Jo Photo - an Atlanta based newborn and portrait photography business. Hayley is an award winning photographer and was named one of Atlanta's Best Newborn Photographers by expertise.com in 2016, 2017, and 2018. She was also named a Top Family Photographer by atlantaparent.com. Hayley is a member of the National Association of Professional Child Photographers and Clickin Moms, and her work has been featured by Beauty & Lifestyle Mommy Magazine, TheBump, and Pottery Barn Kids.