We all love a good adoption story. Reading about children finding their forever home warms our hearts and reminds us of the best of humanity.
But we often forget that behind many adoption stories lies tragedy. Most adopted children carry an emotional scar from being separated from their biological parents at a very young age—no matter what the reason for that separation might be.
TJ Magee knows this pain firsthand.
When TJ was six years old, she and her two brothers were taken into custody by Child Protective Services in Jacksonville, Florida. Their biological parents struggled with drugs and alcohol, and the kids grew up in abject poverty. “For the first six years of my life,” TJ remembers, “most of it was about survival.”
The three children were eventually adopted by Mark and Angel Magee. “Once Mark and Angel told us they were going to adopt us, I remember feeling like it was Christmas morning,” says TJ.
But her story was not over yet. TJ and her adoptive parents had a long journey ahead of them.
“Hands down the most painful part of my story was the fact that I was not wanted,” said TJ. “When you have felt extreme rejection and neglect, it creates a framework inside of you that you see the world from that place of neglect.”
TJ struggled to form bonds with her parents as she dealt with the emotional trauma of her early childhood. “I think as the hard work of actually building the relationships began, that brought up so much pain for me,” TJ recounted. “I avoided anything that would create any intimacy or vulnerability.”
Many adopted children face the same difficulties of adjusting to their new families. After being separated or even neglected or abused by the adults in their life, these children can face difficulties trusting their adoptive parents. It’s a process that takes work.
Thankfully, the Magees were given the support they needed through their adoption provider, Bethany Christian Services. Not only did Bethany Christian help the Magees adopt TJ and her brothers, they helped them grow into a loving family by connecting them to counseling services to help build their relationships.
“Through that process, my adoptive parents sat with me in those emotions and that really started to form a bond with them,” said TJ of her counseling experience. “And that allowed me to begin falling in love with them as my parents.”
The Magees took solace in knowing that their adoption provider was there for them but, more importantly, they were comforted by the fact that Bethany Christian services understood their Christian values and the faith-filled family they wanted to create.
TJ’s dad, Mark, recalls that he and his wife chose Bethany Christian because they knew Bethany would “understand our Christian perspective and story of being called to adopt.” That “calling” is what unites faith-based providers and the families they serve in their passion for helping children find a home.
Unfortunately, many faith-based adoption providers like Bethany Christian Services are being forced to shut their doors. Organizations like the ACLU are pushing state and local laws that require providers to place children with same-sex couples.
This effectively shuts faith-based agencies out of the market because they believe that every child deserves a mother and a father.
This is why Alliance Defending Freedom and a group of other nonprofit organizations launched the Keep Kids First coalition. Keep Kids First stands with faith-based adoption providers who simply want to operate according to their beliefs.
If faith-based adoption and foster care providers are forced to shut their doors, there will be fewer homes for children in need. There will also be fewer options for families like the Magees who rely on their faith-based provider to help navigate family life after adoption.
“There was a point in time when I didn’t know if I would ever have a loving, healthy relationship with my daughter,” said TJ’s mom, Angel Magee. “Having an adoption agency to support you can be a turning point.”