Love Wins: A Family Transformed by Adoption

01/23/2014
Lisa Fontaine

The moment Amber Healy laid her eyes on her foster daughter Summer, it was love at first sight. She and her husband David had two sons and had been longing to grow their family. Amber had no idea that adoption would bring forth the greatest gifts of love, which would transform her family in unimaginable ways.

Amber and David’s desire for another child led her to speak with a friend who was a social worker about becoming foster parents. She liked the idea of being able to provide a safe and loving home for a child who was in need of care. Amber and her husband signed up to be foster parents through the county and eagerly awaited the news about when they would have a child placed with their family. When the moment they had been waiting for finally arrived, they were filled with excitement about adding another child to their family—even if it was temporary. The next day, Amber and David picked up their foster daughter, Summer. “When the social worker walked in with Summer, I remember being love struck and thinking to myself, ‘she is mine’,” Amber says.

The months that followed would be an emotional roller coaster. Most days were filled with joy as Summer had quickly found a secure place in the Healys’ hearts and family. They loved her as their own daughter and sister. But on the flip side, waves of sadness and frustration would crash on the days when Summer would leave for visitation with her birth mother. Each time she was picked up for a visit she would scream and clutch tightly to Amber, ultimately being placed in the social worker’s car and taken away.

Amber understood that the emotional involvement involved with foster care was a two-sided coin. Over the months, she enjoyed being able to love, hold, and bond with Summer. However, she also learned that no matter how strong you are, the love you have for your foster child may not always be enough to prevent you from breaking down during the difficult times. She knew that deep in her heart, God was calling her to raise this child, and He was giving her the strength to endure the emotional difficulties she faced. At long last, following a lengthy and emotionally exhausting journey, the court decided that Summer’s biological parents were unable to care for her, which meant she could be adopted. The Healys were filled with gratitude, relief, and joy that Summer would finally have the permanent, safe, and stable family she deserved. They immediately began the adoption process and legally made Summer their daughter.

When Summer grew a little older and the Healys felt like she was ready to not be the youngest in the house, they made the decision to adopt again. This time, Amber and David explored international adoption and decided to adopt a child from Rwanda. But six months into the process, Rwanda closed it’s doors to adoption from outside of the country, and devastation set in for Amber. She compares the heartbreak, loss, and grief she experienced equal to that of a miscarriage.

Now back at square one, Amber found herself discouraged and uncertain in how to go forward. She laughs as she recalls the irony in having already completed the foster-adoption process once, yet having no idea how to start the adoption process from scratch. Amber was not comfortable with private adoptions. In her quiet time with God, she told Him that she didn’t want to adopt privately or adopt a young baby or infant. But God had a different plan and directed her steps onto a course she wasn’t expecting to take.

For three weeks straight, Amber stayed up nightly until 2:00 a.m. researching how to adopt. She also turned to Saddleback Church’s Orphan Care Initiative program for ongoing emotional support, prayer, and counsel to help her navigate through the process. One day while speaking to a Christian adoption service, she overheard a conversation between a facilitator and a woman who was expressing her desire to not be treated like an incubator or commodity and was contemplating abortion. Amber was overwhelmed by the depth of genuine care and love the facilitator had for the distraught woman on the other end of the phone. At that moment, she felt God calming her fears and giving her peace about adopting privately. As she stepped out in faith and bravely opened her heart to a process that had recently led to great pain, God miraculously orchestrated the private adoption of a baby within a matter of months.

The Healy’s adopted from a 38 year-old-mother who lived in another state. The woman did not want her family at home to know she was pregnant, so she spent the last months of her pregnancy with the Healys. Amber recounts how she continued to learn the depths of what God means when He says “love never fails” by walking straight into this birth mother’s world of pain and loss. She remembers sobbing in a hotel room with the woman as she explained how she couldn’t get the money to abort her child and how she had wanted the adoptive family to be African American. In the midst of the sadness, Amber was able to share that this was not what she had originally wanted either, but that God had a better plan than what they both wanted to choose for themselves. In the end, it was not a difficult decision for either of them, but rather an incredible gift that God had placed right in front of them.  

In the short amount of time they spent together, the Healys grew to know and love this birth mom. Their children would hold her hand and walk and talk with her, and they even spent a day with her at the aquarium. When their daughter Ellie was born, Amber said the most difficult things she had to do were to take baby Ellie and say goodbye to the woman she had chosen to love.

Ellie was given the middle name “Love” as a symbol and reminder that this special little girl had come from a place and person full of love. The Healys will be forever grateful to Ellie’s birth mom for her heroic, loving, and giving act of selflessness that gave them the gift of their daughter.

For more information on the Saddleback Orphan Care Initiative, email orphans@saddleback.com