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Ferndale Adoption Network Offers Support for Local Families

Growing group is open to area residents who have been touched by adoption.

Ferndale resident April Murphy says she can count at least four families on her street alone who have adopted a child. She and her husband Patrick are among them - the proud parents to 2-year-old Logan and 9-month-old Leah.

Ferndale seems to be home to many families who have adopted, Murphy said.

"I think that reflects on Ferndale's openness, and also being a community that's supportive of families - both traditional and non- traditional," she said.

But until a few years ago, many of these families might not know of their common connection. Adoption isn't something commonly talked about, she said, and until the Ferndale Adoption Network was started, support wasn't always readily available for local parents going through the adoption process.

Ferndale resident Julia Music started the Ferndale Adoption Network while she was waiting to bring her son home from Korea. While friends could compare ultrasound photos and a pregnant belly makes it easy to identify other expectant moms, "you can't tell that someone's adopting," Music said.

"You don't necessarily get the support from other people that a pregnant person would," she said.

Music started the group online and it grew quickly, with 64 members currently and at least 25 families regularly participating in events. "I was surprised to find out very quickly that it expanded from just me to quite a few people," she said. "It definitely helped me with the isolation issue."

Quinn came home when he was 8 months old. He's now 4 years old, and Music's quest continues to unite parents who have adopted.

The network primarily operates through a Facebook page, but members meet up regularly and together they try to host at least one big event each season. Most recently, several families got together at Imperial and filled up several tables.

Events like that, Music said, are a great chance for those who haven't adopted yet to see what adoption can look like "in real life" - mostly, that it really does happen.

"When you're waiting to adopt it can seem like you're never going to have a baby," Music said. "You have this nonspecific time that you don't have with a pregnancy. I think [the group] is comforting for people when they're going through that."

They celebrate successes - not everyone would understand just how momentous it is to complete your homestudy or have a court date for finalization - and share recommendations for agencies and other resources.

When a member gets that dreamed-about phone call that a child is waiting for them, the group is there to offer up clothing, toys or other items since parents sometimes don't know the child's age or gender in advance.

They also lean on each other in the hard times - failed matches, the pain of waiting.

Murphy joined the Ferndale Adoption Network while she and Patrick were in the process of adopting their son Logan. She and Music now run the group together.

Murphy and her husband are white and their children are both African American. She said the network aims to also be a community of friends for children who have been adopted - a way for them to see that they aren't alone being in a transracial family, having been adopted from foster care, or other situations.

"Our hope is that they would be more comfortable around their peers knowing they're not the only one," she said.

So far, they definitely haven't been alone. In fact, when Murphy and her family were at court to finalize Leah's adoption last year, another Ferndale family was there finalizing their adoption the same day.

"The crazy part is we had both started our adoption process at the same time, through the same agency at the same meeting," Murphy said. "My caseworker said she had never seen that before. Not only that we knew somebody but the same town, we had a club and now our kids will be one grade level apart in school."

Members say Ferndale is also a place where families who have adopted seem to get less stares, and fewer offensive comments from strangers out in public - like those who ask who their child's "real mom" is ("I'm their real mom," Murphy emphasizes) or "how much" their adoption cost.

"[Ferndale] is a safe environment for our families," she said.

Murphy said members are happy to field questions from couples who aren't sure if adoption is right for them.

"It's the best choice I ever made to create my family through adoption," Murphy said. "Everyone has to make the choice that's right for them. It was the best choice for me."

Music added: "There is a lot of support out there - you just have to find it."

For more information, visit the Ferndale Adoption Network page here.

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