*An interview with Tony and Lauren Dungy by John Van Valkenburg
Tony Dungy is best known as a former football player and a coach in the NFL. In 2007, he became the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl (Indianapolis Colts). A man who has also enjoyed success as an author and a football analyst on NBC, Tony is respected for his Christian faith and devotion to his family. But what you may not know is that Tony has one more title on his resume: adoptive dad.
He and his wife, Lauren, always knew they wanted a large family. In fact, they were foster parents early in their marriage. Adoption was part of Lauren’s family history, and they also have friends who had adopted. For the Dungys, it seemed as if all signs were pointing toward adoption.
“A lot pulled at us spiritually and family wise, like Lauren’s history,” Tony explained. “The more we talked about it, the more adoption made sense and the more we were drawn to doing it.” In addition to having a love for children, there was one key factor motivating this couple to move forward. “When you pray and God speaks to you and tugs at your heart, you are to be obedient,” Lauren said. “He clearly led us to adopt.”
Another reason adoption was a good fit for the Dungys was Lauren’s volunteer work at local crisis pregnancy centers. “We are both very much pro-life,” Tony said. “If you are saying (to a young woman), ‘Don’t fall into the trap of an abortion,’ then we as a community or a church have to provide a place for women who make that decision to honor life and have a baby.
“I see adoption as the second phase of being pro-life,” added Tony. “It’s a vivid reminder of what God has done by adopting us into His family.”
When they first talked about adoption,Tony had reservations about his age, but “Lauren convinced me not to worry about that,” he said.
Lauren added, “And God does supply your needs. If you are concerned about not having the energy or being able to keep up with young children, God does provide. I feel so much younger now than I did ten years ago.”
When they decided to adopt, Tony and Lauren chose Bethany as one of their agencies. When talking about their family, they make no distinctions between their adopted and biological children. “We have made a conscious effort not to say that we have adopted kids and biological kids,” said Tony. “We told our adopted children that God brought you to us, just in a different way, but He clearly brought you to us.”
So now their family is composed of two age groups of children—one older and one younger.* “I was thrilled to have infants in the house and to parent younger children,” Lauren said.
“We are so active again with Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, swimming, and Vacation Bible School . . . doing all that young parents do.”
Active in the community and appearing at banquets and other speaking engagements, Lauren and Tony have shared their adoption story. “A friend who recently adopted wrote us a note saying that she was always thinking about adoption, but when she saw our young kids, it really encouraged her to do it,” Tony said. “It’s a great feeling.”
When people say to Tony, “I don’t know how I would bond with the kids,” he speaks from his experience. “We adopted our children as infants, and there is no difference,” Tony said. “Everything is the same [as with biological children].”
Tony was surprised to learn about the overwhelming need for African American adoptive parents. “I asked about how long it takes because our friends had gone through a long process,” explained Tony. “We were told that if we were willing to take in an African American child or a biracial child, the adoption could happen very quickly because there is such a need. And that tugged at my heart also.”
Lauren and Tony also see the need for more awareness about adoption, especially in the African American community. Working with crisis pregnancy centers, Lauren has seen the challenges and obstacles firsthand as they relate to mothers choosing adoption.
“The expectant mothers may be unable to parent their babies, but they don’t get the support at home and are told that they shouldn’t even consider adoption,” Lauren said. “Adoption is considered ‘giving your child up’ or ‘giving your child away to strangers.’ The feeling is that if African Americans don’t place our children, someone will step in and care for the child.
“There is a need for more African American families to speak out, to be a voice of encouragement, and to show that adoption is not giving up a child. It is placing a child,” added Lauren.
The Dungys see God working when a woman chooses adoption. “A mother may have to make a decision to have a baby or not: I am going to have a baby and choose life. Now, am I going to raise it, or am I going to trust the Lord and place the child in His hands and let Him put the child in the best place? And that’s where faith has to come in,” Tony added.
“Then the second part of it is there have to be people who are willing to step up on the other side and be those hands for the Lord and accept that life and take that child in.”
Editor’s Note: Tony and Lauren will continue to be a voice that encourages adoption. In fact, they have partnered with Bethany Christian Services to produce a Public Service Announcement (PSA) about adoption. To view the Dungys’ PSA, visit www.vimeo.com/ bethanychristianservices