​Growing Our Family through Adoption

Posted by Stephanie Woodward in Life After Paralysis on July 25, 2022 # Relationships, Lifestyle

Stephanie and RyanWhen I met Ryan, I knew very quickly that he was the one. We’d been dating less than a month when we decided to get a dog (even though I was already a committed cat lady with four cats!), after just three months, we began plans to build a house together, and after ten months, we’d bought land to build our home on. A few months later, soon after celebrating our one year anniversary, we got engaged and began planning the rest of our lives together. Of course, then the pandemic came and turned our wedding into a bit of a fiasco, but in the end, we still ended up together and happy - and that’s all I could ever ask for.

It was not long after we began dating that Ryan and I started talking about our feelings on children. We both knew we wanted to have kids, but I was clear that I had always planned to adopt children. Ryan had never given adoption much thought, however, when I brought it up, he did not hesitate to agree that adoption would be in our future. Since we both grew up with our disabilities and we both are deeply involved in the Disability Community, we feel that we’d be great parents to kids with disabilities - or at least we hope we will!

With this in mind, just a few months after we got married, we began reaching out to adoption agencies to begin our adoption journey. There are many adoption paths that families can choose, and we decided that adopting from foster care is that path for us. There are over 400,000 kids in foster care in the U.S. and over 117,000 are waiting to be adopted. While we are not prepared to take on 100,000 kids, we are prepared to adopt one or two - and we are so excited!

We’ve spent the last year taking classes, listening to podcasts, watching videos, reading books and articles, and doing a lot of work to prepare to welcome new family members into our home. We are especially thankful for the conversations that we’ve had with adoptees who have shared their experiences with us because we believe there are no better experts on adoption than adoptees. We know that adoption is a lifelong journey with love, trauma, joy, sadness, and so much more.

After a year of preparing ourselves, we are thrilled that we’ve finally completed our home study and are beginning the process to search for our children. We’re specifically searching for a child or children with disabilities - the specific disability does not really matter to us, though we are both wheelchair users and our home is wheelchair accessible, so we would certainly be delighted to adopt a child with mobility disabilities. However, given both of our extensive histories working in the Disability Community, we feel well equipped to help children with many different disabilities grow up in a supportive and loving environment where they can be proud of themselves and thrive.

We know this is just the beginning and that the journey ahead will have many twists and turns for our family, but we are ready for this ride and we cannot wait to meet our children. We may not know who they are yet, but we know that they’re out there somewhere!

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney and Executive Director of Disability EmpowHer Network, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women with disabilities. Her husband, Ryan Chalmers, is a retired professional athlete and the Development Director for Stay-Focused, a nonprofit that teaches disabled youth leadership skills through SCUBA diving. Stephanie and Ryan got married during the pandemic and are now excited to begin their journey to adopt a child with a disability.

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