Meet Jana Cook of Kentucky, wife and mother to three through the gift of adoption (with a fourth adoption currently in progress). She's passionate about pursuing God's call to grow their family and believes His plans are the best plans.
What led you to pursue adoption?
Adoption was always something we felt like God had as part of His plan for our family...even before we got married. We, of course, had our own plans....which weren't God's plans. After moving to Louisville, KY just eight months after we got married, we found ourselves surrounded by an incredible adoption community, and those plans we had were put aside and we jumped into adoption feet first and never looked back.
Many people are intimidated by the thought of adoption a child with special needs. How did you come to the decision to do this the first time and then to say yes a second time?
I've worked with children with special needs most of my life, so it was a pretty natural thing for me to consider, but adopting a child with special needs was a little harder and scarier for my husband. For me, it was just something I felt the Lord had equipped me to do. For him....it was just a world of complete unknowns! I know this is a hard thing to wrap your mind around. I’ve had people ask me why we would choose to have a child with special needs or tell us how amazing we are because we’ve adopted or adopted this child that the world views as “broken”. We aren’t amazing, I promise. We aren’t special. We aren’t better than anyone else. We are lousy parents sometimes. We screw up. A lot. This is simply the way the Lord has chosen to grow our family. It’s not any better than the way the Lord chose to grow the family of someone that has biological children. As far as our specific situation......we have an amazing support system of doctors and therapists and schools to hold our hand as we’ve walked the path of hearing loss with Ellie Kate. Making the decision to do it again and bring home another child with a hearing impairment was a little easier knowing we have backup! Yes, there are still scary unknowns. There’s no given that this path will be the same as the last one. But we have this support system that makes it all a little bit easier to take on. The old saying that “knowledge is power”...we can do this, the Lord has equipped us, and we are excited to see what He has in store for us.
What do you hope to teach your kids about what it means to be adopted?
I really just want them to make the connection and see the parallels between their own adoption into the Cook family and our adoption in Christ. I want them to understand the magnitude of each of those events in their lives. One of my prayers for my kids, besides them all making the decision to follow Christ, is that they are able to use the story of their adoption to share Christ with others. They each have details that are part of their stories that can only be attributed to the grace of God, and I can’t wait until they can understand and grasp all the details and “God things” that are part of their history.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to walk alongside and support a family in the process of an international adoption?
Prayer support is huge. But let that family know you are praying. Send them a random note or text letting them know. Ask them how it’s going. Listen when they are telling you about things that may not make sense to you. Our church family set up a 24-hour prayer schedule when we were going through the process with our boys. It was on the day that court was meeting in Ethiopia. It was just a tangible action from multiple people that made us not feel like we were alone in this whole process! Once they are home with this new child....don’t stop praying or reaching out. The hard part starts once that child is in their home. That’s when they need your support and need to know they have a village around them that they can depend on when life may feel crazy. Take them a meal, help them with carpool, ask if you can do anything to help....they may tell you no, but knowing there’s help there if they need it, is comforting. If there are other children in the home, don’t forget about them too! If you can support a family financially, do it. Any amount is a step closer. Finances is one of the biggest reasons people cite for not adopting. There’s a lot of pride that has to be set aside to open yourself up and say we can’t do this alone. And while most people may be ok on a day-to-day basis, coming up with $35,000 over the course of a year or two can be extremely overwhelming.
What’s one thing you wish the world new about adoption?
Adoption is this amazingly tragic and hard thing. Our kids are part of our family because of a tragedy that happened in their life. But our kids also are just kids. They don’t want to be singled out because they were adopted. They don’t need anyone else to point out that they may not look like their parents. They need to be able to tell their story on their timeline and when they are comfortable. Be considerate of the questions you ask, whether it’s directed towards me or my kids. They don’t want to have to rehash the gritty details of what led to them being part of our family every time someone is a little nosy or doesn't think about the ramifications of the questions they are asking in front of my kids.
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