By Nona Phinn
Founder of adoption agency draws on personal experience to guide families through the adoption process.
One of the most incredible speeches ever given is Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. The conviction and power of every word send chills up and down my spine every time I hear it. The premise behind the speech is what I love most. He spoke of seeing a future that did not exist at the time the speech was given. King saw a life ahead that was not his current reality. His speech embodied the very essence of a dream.
For those who heard his speech live, I imagine his words seemed almost magical. Listeners probably hoped that all he said would indeed come true and yet at the same time felt that he was speaking about the impossible. But isn’t that what dreaming is all about — believing and wanting our hearts’ deepest desires to become the lives we live? If we dream big enough, then yes, it should appear to be the impossible we are striving for.
Robin Stephenson, Founder and Director of Lifetree Adoption Agency in Dallas, Texas, also had a dream. What her heart wanted more than anything else in this world was to become a mother. To many, this dream may appear to be simple and easy to achieve. Stephenson struggled, however, to conceive a child. Despite her struggles, she still desired to be a mom. Stephenson realized her dream of becoming a mother would occur “by raising a child that grew up in [her] heart, not [her] tummy.”
New to the adoption process, Stephenson researched many agencies before she found one that would walk her through every step she had to take on her path to motherhood. Stephenson’s dream became her new reality, and after four years of motherhood, she began making other families’ dreams come true through her own adoption agency.
I just had a passion and wanted to bring hope.”
“In the beginning, I truly didn’t know what to expect or how to really run a business. I just had a passion and wanted to bring hope to other adoptive families that were walking the same path I once walked,” Stephenson admits. After being told she was the best person to open a new adoption agency, Stephenson wrestled with the idea for a few months because she had never run a business before. She knew only the client end of the adoption process.
When she began looking into what it would take to get an adoption agency up and running, Stephenson realized she had several skill sets that could get her started. Obtaining permits for facilities was part of her previous job, so Stephenson used that experience to get permits for her agency. From there, she researched extensively what was necessary to run a successful licensed agency and worked closely with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to get Lifetree started in 2002. It took time, but Stephenson finally saw what her encouragers already knew: “I had the perfect combination of being an adoptive mother, having worked in a career that helped me understand the licensing process, and possessing a master’s degree.”
Before long, Stephenson was assisting her first family through the adoption process. She was ready to connect with that adoptive family but wasn’t quite certain if she would be able to relate to the birth mother. Stephenson had never faced having to place a child for adoption, and yet there it was, the hardest question a mother might ever ask: “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” Stephenson prayed for the right words to say. Her answer was filled with truth: “I prayed for five years to experience what you are experiencing now — to be able to deliver a child. If God granted me that wish, I couldn’t place that child [for adoption].” Her response opened the eyes of the birth mother, who was unaware that there are women who struggle to conceive and give life. Realizing this, the birth mom decided to help a couple fulfill their dreams of becoming parents.
And yet there it was, the hardest question a mother might ever ask.
This moment gave Stephenson the confidence she possesses today. She knows she can connect with and understand all her customers, those placing their children for adoption and those adopting them. She can answer questions on both sides of the fence and help every individual involved make the best decision. The families seeking to adopt can hear firsthand from a woman who has been there. Birth families get to see the potential future of their child when they talk to Stephenson and her adoptive children. In addition, Lifetree offers families extensive support once their child has been placed to help them cope with the grief of separation and loss. Stephenson lost a child 48 hours after delivery and finds that the pain of her own loss assists her with helping birth mothers through their pain. Stephenson is living proof, and all the evidence most of her customers need.
Lifetree is more than a job for Stephenson. It is her life’s mission, her ministry. She named her agency Lifetree to reflect her beliefs and to create the foundation she knew the agency had to be built upon. “Lifetree Adoption Agency is a Christian-based agency, and the name is derived from the Bible’s Tree of Life,” Stephenson explains. Representing the Tree of Life in her role, Stephenson has the great honor of helping to give new life to families seeking to extend or build upon their households and to change the lives of all those involved in the process.
She now understands why she went through the struggles of making her own dream a reality, as it led her to a greater understanding of her life’s purpose: making the dreams of others come true.