Jessielyn Hirschl

I’ve known I wanted to adopt for as long as I can remember.

From a young age it was something I voiced to my parents and friends. When I met my husband we spoke about it often, but we found it hard to do the research. Welcoming a child into your home is, after all, a huge endeavor. Each time we would get interested, we would soon become overwhelmed by the amount of information on the internet. 

How would we pick an agency? How would we know when we’re ready? Would we even be accepted? For so many reasons we put it off, until we heard about the YATOM Family Fellowship Program.

YATOM: The Jewish Foster & Adoption Network is inspired by the Torah commandment to love and protect vulnerable children. This organization works to advocate for the needs of orphans, children needing temporary homes and adoptive families. The program specifically strives to motivate and support Jewish families and individuals in their journey of adopting and/or fostering children.

While the program is based in Arizona, having been founded by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, it is open to Jewish families and individuals throughout the country.

Knowing that this network was not only focused on adopting and fostering, but that it was rooted in Judaism was an immediate draw for us. Ultimately, we believe it is the reason we were finally ready to start doing the research and move forward with our journey.

No other programs seemed to align with our values of building a Jewish home. Especially considering that many children available for adoption or fostering are not Jewish, we needed support in figuring out how to go about this process and welcome a child while not turning our backs on our core values. This program offered the community we so desperately needed when taking such a big step. 

My husband and I are about halfway through the program now and our eyes have truly been opened. There is so much to learn, and this program has given us a great foundation to better understand what we need to consider before taking the big step. Our cohort meets every other month and we not only get the opportunity to check in with one another and learn about our journeys, we also hear from dedicated professionals.

To date we have heard from the executive director of a local adoption agency, studied the Jewish commentary on the importance of adoption and fostering with Rabbi Yanklowitz and learned about the different stages of child development from a developmental pediatrician.

Through all of the great speakers and information, it is the core group of like-minded individuals that keeps us wanting to come back and explore more. It is the Jewish connection that sets the stage for a safe environment, where there is no question, worry or doubt that cannot be shared. Each person or couple in this group is in a different stage in their journey.

My husband and I appreciate this set-up. Since we are at the very beginning of our journey, we are not only able to learn from the professionals who are available to teach us, but we are also able to learn from those in the group who are further along in the process or who have already welcomed a child into their home. These are our biggest cheerleaders who, whether they know it or not, are giving us the confidence to succeed.

Whether it be adoption, fostering or another milestone in your life, the importance of looking within the Jewish community for support is imperative. YATOM not only shares the tools and resources one needs to enter the world of adoption and fostering, but they build a support system rooted in Judaism.

This experience has continued to prove to us something that we have valued for most of our lives: You can always count on the Jewish community to help and support you. When looking for a place to start, always start within the Jewish community. JN

Jessielyn Hirschl and her husband, Jared Hirschl, are part of YATOM’s Family Fellowship fifth cohort.