It’s not skin color, or age, or marital status that determines who is family to whom, but a powerful connection of love that binds families together.
That’s how Arrow team member Kellee sees it.
Kellee is a single, Caucasian woman who adopted an African American toddler, Travis, last June. Though the pair may not be what comes to mind when you’re asked to picture a conventional family, their situation is actually quite common.
About 13,000 single women and 1,400 single men adopted a child in 2011, accounting for about a third of adoptions.
Kellee said she knew she wanted to adopt one day from the time she was 15 or 16 years old. At the time, she pictured herself adopting internationally.
But as she learned about the thousands of children in the United States in need of a family, her feelings changed. Kellee started working at Arrow five years ago, and became very familiar with the adoption process, and what she could expect as a foster parent.
After turning 34, she felt the time was right for her to become a mom.
Arrow employees aren’t allowed to train and adopt through Arrow, so Kellee went through foster parent training with another area nonprofit. All went smoothly, and before she knew it, she was fostering 17-month-old Travis.
His parental rights had already been terminated, so Kellee knew from the beginning that he was eligible for adoption.
“I felt like my prayer was answered,” Kellee said. “I had asked God to make it clear if the child placed in my home was going to be with me forever, or to make it clear if they were going to go.”
For a while after Travis was placed in her care, friends and family would ask Kellee if she “felt like a mother,” and at first, she wasn’t sure. Having never had any biological children it was unclear what motherhood “should” feel like. There wasn’t any sort of epiphany when the answer became a definitive yes, but over time as she and Travis bonded she found herself thinking about him more and more throughout the day, looking forward to playing with him during the evenings, and constantly worrying about him as all mother’s do. That’s when Kellee started to see that motherhood doesn’t have to feel or look a certain way. It is what naturally forms between mother and child over time. The routines and rituals of the days spent together. On June 25, after more than a year of fostering, Kellee officially adopted Travis
Her family has come to love Travis, too. Kellee worried her older family members, who grew up in a segregated south, may not be open to having a black family member, but it never became an issue.
“It’s amazing to see how your family makes that shift with you,” Kellee said. “They just have to get comfortable with it, just as you have to.”
Kellee’s extended family, as well as her friends and coworkers from Arrow, are always offering help and advice, which makes being a single parent easier.
“Everyone in my life understands adoption,” Kellee said. “I couldn’t ask for a better support system.”
Kellee knows the day will come when she’ll have to explain adoption to Travis, but in the meantime, she’s getting a lot of practice. She said children sometimes ask how she can be Travis’ mom since their skin tones don’t match, but she’s come up with a simple way to explain it.
“I tell them ‘Well, you know how you and your mommy’s hair match? Travis and I have the same heart. Our hearts match,’” Kellee said.
As for advice to other single men and women considering adoption, Kellee said “Go for it.”
“You have this unbelievable opportunity to provide a family for a child,” Kellee said. “These kids have been through the worst circumstances, but adoption can end up being the best thing in both your lives.”