Happy National Adoption Day to you and your family, from all of us at WACAP.
Happy National Adoption Day to you and your family, from all of us at WACAP.
By Beth Kido, WACAP Korea Program Manager
As part of my job, I have the privilege of talking with parents who’ve adopted from Korea in years past, and hearing their stories about the day they welcomed home their infant son or daughter. Moms and dads tell me about how much or how quickly their lives changed. Some recall in hindsight how the time passed too speedily, or how it seemed to stand still while they waited to meet their child. Whether a story from yesterday or from today, I’m always struck by how, despite the changes in the Korean adoption process and family requirements, each story is filled with a similar magic.
In prior years, adoption from Korea was less, or was at least differently, challenging. Although fast moving processes can bring their own stresses, the longer wait times to adopt from Korea today and more involved steps over the past couple years, hold a new set of challenges. Families wait longer than they once did to be matched with a child and to welcome that child home; children may turn one or two years old while still waiting to join their family. However, just as families have for decades, many are still making the unwavering decision to adopt from Korea.
As they make the decision to grow their family, most families want to adopt from this country — even considering the country’s specific eligibility requirements, paperwork, and wait times — because they feel a special connection with the culture of South Korea. Some of our adoptive parents are of Korean heritage and want to continue that heritage by adopting a child from their country of origin. Other adoptive families want to maintain the relationship to the country of their affection in this special way. The affinity grows from an experience, however brief, which pulls their future in that direction. Some families first were acquainted with the Korean culture from a friend met long ago; a few months spent studying abroad; or stationed at a U.S. military base. Whatever ignited the desire, they developed a love of the people and culture and once they made a decision to adopt, the path to bond forever with this country became a personal one.
As the WACAP Korea program manager, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Korea last summer and meet WACAP’s adoption partners in Korea. Although I was excited to learn more about the adoption process, South Korea was not a country I had, prior to this, ever envisioned touring. I understood that with the societal pressure unwed mothers in Korea experienced, there were many children who’d been relinquished and needed a loving, adoptive family. However, I didn’t fully understand why a family would choose Korea over other countries. Even as some of the WACAP families who’d adopted from Korea raved about how much they loved the country and dreamed of moving there, I couldn’t relate to this enthusiasm.
Following my weeklong venture in Korea, however, I understood. I boarded the plane to return to the United States, a newly energized version of my former shell of a self. I envisioned how a future trip with my family could include time spent in Seoul. I always knew one day we would return to China, where my own daughter is adopted from. Also, we would have to make a trip to Japan, I’d always planned, the country of my husband’s heritage. And I was surprised at my new desire to share this cultural jewel of Korea.
I wondered what could be pulling me to return. It wasn’t a single specific thing I could identify. However, at the end of each day I fell into my bed, exhausted from the 12-hour adventure, completely satisfied I had made the most of my life on this particular day. It was the sights and sounds and the movement. Everything was happening and there was not a moment to be missed. From the bustling airport to the fast and efficient subway; from the hurrying office workers in their proper uniforms of black pants and blue dress shirts to the energetic shoppers at the outdoor market; Seoul is intoxicating. It’s a unique mix of traditional and progressive which fills you up and leaves you wanting more.
Even so, it reminded me of the joy I have at home and at work, where in so many ways, I couldn’t ask for more.
I have a job that has allowed me to learn about a country unknown to me, but whose culture and children have found a special place in my heart. It’s a place where, just like my own experience of Korea, I see magic, every day. Helping families take the steps to adopt the child waiting for them, though that child is at first far away and unknown. Hearing about how that child has become a most precious and beloved treasure, as the family grows together.
Jill Larson, WACAP’s Midwest Director shares some thoughts about her work with WACAP and why she does what she does.
Somebody asked me the other day, “Do you like what you do?” I didn’t hesitate—of course I like what I do. . .helping and supporting families in their adoption journeys, observing kids with their families as they thrive and blossom! I’ve found that the process of adoption comes with joys and concurrent disappointments. When one door closes or a path is blocked, families often find that there is another door to reach out to or a different path to follow. Somewhere there is a child waiting, perhaps in a place or in a situation they had not thought about.
Just yesterday, I received a phone call from a woman who wanted to thank me for helping put her in touch with the correct resources to help her locate her birth mother. She had been thinking about doing this for years, but it wasn’t until she found out that I work in adoptions that she finally got up the courage and pursued it. She asked if she could come in person to thank me and give me a big hug, as she had just experienced a wonderful reunion with her birth mother. That sure put a smile on my face.
With November being recognized as National Adoption Month, I wanted to share some of this year’s accomplishments here at the Midwest office. With gratitude, we celebrated and continue celebrations with the ongoing arrival of children from numerous countries including China, India, Taiwan, Bulgaria, and the United States, coming home to join their families. We thank you for inviting us to share in your family’s adoption journey which is always a constant source of inspiration. We also held out first Midwest WACAP Family Fun Day in August, enjoying a great day at the Retzer Nature Center in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
There has never been a better time to become a parent and grow your family through adoption. Yes, it is a commitment that requires accepting support, being flexible, being patient, and having faith. But for most families who choose adoption, it truly becomes a rich journey of a lifetime that culminates with children finding loving parents and a home that supports a hopeful life together. I invite you to share this good news and information as our nation honors adoption in November.
For many adoptive families, National Adoption Month is a great reason to have a celebration. Colleen M. Ellingson, Chief Executive Officer at the Coalition for Children, Youth and Families in Wisconsin, offers these suggestions to adoptive families:
Talk with your child or children about adoption—and their adoption stories, in particular. By keeping an open conversation about this topic, you can send the message to your child or children that he or she can come to you anytime to talk about questions, fears, worries—or share happy news too. Maybe you can read adoption-related books or stories together, or set aside some time to work on your child’s lifebook.
For more ideas, check out the National Adoption Month Awareness Guide from the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). You will find various ways for your family to celebrate, including a month of adoption activities to keep you busy throughout November.
Hear from Priyanka Joshi, manager of WACAP’s India adoption program, as she talks about her recent experience in an Indian orphanage and gives a window into why her every day work at WACAP couldn’t be more inspiring …
During my visit to an orphanage in India last year, I had the chance to meet some children with medical needs — cheerful children, who played and laughed freely within the orphanage premises and chatted enthusiastically about little things that always seemed to make them happy. One of them in particular was a curly-haired little girl with osteogenesis imperfect (a disease that causes bones to be weak and easily broken).
She lay gleefully in her cot with bandaged legs. As I handed her a little present sent from her old friend and the family that had adopted her friend, she jumped and sat up to say thank you. She then made an extra effort to give me a hug after I read a little note that her friend had written to her letting her know how much she missed her. This little girl is now on her way to being adopted by that same family who adopted her friend (who will be her very own sister soon)!
This is just a small sample of the amazing stories I get to witness and hear as an adoption case manager at WACAP!
Adopting from India or any other country comes with a number of important steps, some of which take longer than others. And when waiting to bring home a child, any step can seem too long. As I interact with each of the families I get to work with, I see a varying array of emotions ranging from those temporary moments of helplessness or anxiousness in between steps, to a wonderful sense of excitement and anticipation. Through all this — the changes that can arise with international adoption when countries update or change a process, or the longer-than-hoped-for wait times — I am privileged to see these families’ continued commitment to the children waiting to come home to them.
One of our families waited 18 months after being matched with their child to bring their daughter home. During this time, India’s central adoption authority was working (and continues) to improve their adoption system and processes, and though this family experienced some slowdowns, they waited patiently and uncomplainingly.
Their little girl was finally united with her family in May of 2014. Within three months of being home, she had already traveled through ten states in the U.S with her family, learned how to swim, dance and speak English. Her mom wrote recently, “We love her so much! She has such a delightful, joyful, and friendly personality! Thank you so much for allowing her to join our family. We have been truly blessed by her presence and love her dearly!”
Moments like these are the highpoints of my job, and I love what I do because of these children and families.
In all of this, WACAP has shown me the right direction in my work — to work with dedication, compassion and strive to make a difference! As we celebrate National Adoption Month, I think of all the waiting children who wish for a family to call their own and thank all those families who are waiting to make these kids’ wishes come true. I also congratulate and commend our families for their perseverance, patience and the incredible role that they play in their children’s lives!
WACAP India Adoption Case Manager
For over two decades, WACAP has worked in India, with over 1,100 children coming home to their families across the U.S. We are overjoyed to continue bringing children and families together through adoption. If you’d like to learn more about adopting from India or how you can help children find the families they’re waiting for, let us know.
Each year, the President of the United States issues a proclamation declaring November as National Adoption Month. You can read this year’s proclamation here.
While we focus every day on finding families for children who need them, National Adoption Month gives us a special opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and renew our commitment to the work we still need to do. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing our work with you, through conversations with WACAP staff members and stories of children who have come home to WACAP families.
Celebrations large and small will be taking place across the country all month, so we hope that wherever you are, the spirit of National Adoption Month reaches you!
This past month, WACAP’s main office (Renton, Wash.) hosted 13 employees from Microsoft’s Windows Phone team.
They’d taken a day off from their daily work to join our staff for a day.
Participating in United Way’s Day of Caring (an effort that matches a nonprofit with a group of volunteers), this energetic Microsoft team helped with some of WACAP’s needed outdoor projects, like painting, pruning and landscaping. Our building and grounds is an area that gets less attention through the year because our staff’s primary focus is helping children find homes and supporting adoptive families.
A day never passes where I’m not moved by the graciousness of our community. I am continually amazed at the incredible impact one person can make in another’s life. When a family says yes to a child who’s waiting; when a friend donates to WACAP’s Promise Fund; or when a volunteer team trades an ordinary work day to help paint so that WACAP’s focus can remain on finding families for children, the difference is extraordinary.
Reflecting on the influence we can have, I’m reminded of a quote by actress Lily Tomlin.
“Somebody should do something about that,” Lily said. “Then I realized I am somebody.”
How true that is.
We are so grateful to this team of volunteers who made a difference in our day and in the lives of the children we serve.
WACAP’s President and CEO Lillian Thogersen recently shared this letter reflecting on the close of summer and the continuing blessing of family.
I am astonished …
This word, often one used to convey shock, is really defined as this: “to be filled up with sudden and overpowering surprise or wonder.” If there is one thing I have been able to count on over my 38 years with WACAP, it’s that every day, surprise and wonder will find me, wherever I am. This summer has been no exception.
As the summer came to a close, the past month brought several WACAP family events, one event in the Midwest and two near WACAP’s headquarters in the Pacific Northwest. A few weeks ago, nearly 100 parents and kids attended our very first Midwest Family Fun Day event at Retzer Nature Center in Wisconsin! In Central Washington, over 250 people attended our annual Family Camp in Sun Lakes, and almost 500 people registered for Family Fun Day with the Tacoma Rainiers — one of Seattle’s minor league baseball teams — generously sponsored by Wizards of Coast.
So, why astonished?
Sometimes, for the simplest of reasons: Seeing the photos of the kids who have joined their families smiling and playing together at the Retzer Nature Center. Families learning about the connections they share. Listening to a teenager describe the week he spent at Family Camp — a whole week with his whole family — as magical.
And it’s stories like Huan Huan’s:
At this month’s Family Fun Day at Cheney Stadium, Huan Huan was the young man who, on behalf of WACAP, threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game.
Adopted at age 13, he became an American citizen in January when his mom adopted him from Shuyang, China. Like many kids, passed by because of their age, Huan Huan, also born with limb differences, waited a childhood to be adopted. WACAP didn’t give up on him … knowing what another passing year would mean. At age 14, he would become too old for adoption, based on his country’s age limit.
Though he was an athletic child and used a crutch for ambulation, Huan Huan shared that in his orphanage, he hadn’t ever participated in any kind of sports or P.E. classes, and even on the playground, never had a lot of opportunity to do much on his own.
On this August Sunday though, Huan Huan entered the baseball field — surrounded by fans and cheered by his mom, brother, sister, and hundreds of WACAP families. He sought out the eyes of the catcher from the mound, raised him arm high, and skillfully threw the ball.
It wasn’t his first throw … That’s because, after just seven months home, Huan Huan has learned to play baseball, joining a league, loving the game, and finding he can not only throw but “almost literally fly around the diamond,” says his mom.
The child who at age 13 had never participated in sports of any kind, has also gone bowling, hiking, swimming … and the list continues.
Though I witness daily how incredible the love of a family is, I am caught again by surprise, as I see in action what a difference a family makes. When a child WACAP won’t give up on comes home, or when I meet a young man or woman who has grown up with a family’s support, I am amazed. And repeatedly, I am overjoyed, when I talk to another family who has seen first, not the limitations that can accompany a medical diagnosis, but rather the great potential of the daughter or son they’re welcoming home.
So, I am astonished. Week after week, filled — filled up — with wonder.
Mary Moo, WACAP’s vice president of adoptions, recently returned from a special trip to China; with photos and memories of the kids she met, she shares about her visit, and a little of the story that needs telling …
This past month, I traveled to China as part of an effort known as the Journey of Hope, along with staff from two other agencies invited by China’s central adoption authority.
Seeing the children who need families and talking with adoption officials, orphanage directors and caregivers — our partners — I was privileged to be among others who believe, as WACAP does, that each child in need of a family deserves to not wait a childhood to find that family. That there is no child who does not deserve a parent’s love.
In China, my week passed quickly as we traveled to four different cities and saw more than 200 children from 10 different orphanages. Still, with each new place, we saw the same face. The child who has been passed by. Toddlers, school-age children, or near-teens who desperately need somebody committed to telling their story.
With the goal of bringing the hope of a family to these children, this Journey of Hope partnership reaches these kids who — without someone to advocate for their potential — continue to go unseen.
For each one of them, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
That’s especially true for one gregarious young man I met, fast approaching age 14. He’ll be too old for adoption at that age, according to his country requirements. He’s smart, and spirited, and seeing that he’s grown up without the support of a family breaks my heart. I watch him and see in him my boys, my two boys at home, carefree, adventurous and playful. “Why has he waited so long?” I wonder. I learn that particularly in his earlier years, he had a history of incontinence; it is a mild diagnosis in his paper file, but one that has prevented him from being seen … for thirteen years.
So sad to count the years of his childhood that have passed without a family’s love.
He is not the only child who has been passed by. I talked with several healthy older kids, a number of them boys. They’ve seen many kids younger than themselves leave the orphanage with families. For these older children, the more time spent in an orphanage, the less visible they’ve become.
Some of the children are younger; they have a medical need that’s more complex, and they need a family’s love to help them thrive.
Some have had corrective surgeries, they’re doing well, laughing with friends and exceling in school; but they have a condition such as post-operative cleft lip/palate or another medical diagnosis from childhood notated in their file … which keeps their full stories from being read.
Learning and sharing each boy or girl’s story can mean the difference of a family for a child. That’s why WACAP connects with each child one-on-one, gathering a more complete picture through photos and videos, and never wavering in our commitment to find the right family for each child.
There is only one outcome that is acceptable from a journey like this one, a journey of hope — it is the one we work toward every day. It is a family for every child.
And no more waiting.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will be posting information about these children on our Waiting Child website.
If you or if someone you know has any questions about adopting, or would like to learn more about any of the children from our Journey of Hope trip, contact our Family Finders team. By donating to WACAP’s Promise Fund, you can also help as we find the right families for these children and reduce financial barriers for families who otherwise couldn’t adopt these incredible kids.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams
Thirty eight years ago, a group of adoptive parents decided that they wanted to help more children, like the ones they had adopted, find their forever families. They banded together and started the organization that today is known as WACAP. While you don’t likely know their names, their leadership has had a profound impact on the lives of thousands of families, over 10,000 children who have come home to their mothers and fathers, and the millions of people in the circles surrounding these families and children.
One of the women who was involved early in the grassroots, all-hands-on-deck, startup years of WACAP, was Lillian Thogersen. Lillian’s heart for children led her to volunteer, serve on the board, and then become a member of the staff in 1986. During the next twenty years, Lillian served WACAP in a number of roles, finally agreeing to serve as CEO in late 2004. (Read more about Lillian in this post.)
Several weeks ago, Lillian, a mother of nine and grandmother to 14, announced her decision to retire in November of this year. A collective sigh of dismay could be heard throughout the organization. For nearly four decades, Lillian has served as the face and voice of WACAP. She has led the organization through the ups and downs of the ever-changing world of international adoption. She has built a strong team of professionals who works tirelessly to find a family for every child. She has moved us all to tears as she relates stories of the children WACAP has served. She has been a strong voice locally, nationally and internationally, advocating for children without families. And she has done all of this with good humor, compassion, the utmost integrity and the highest ethical standards.
Lillian’s leadership legacy has been long and far-reaching. Through her actions, she has inspired and profoundly touched the lives of tens of thousands. The WACAP board of directors knows that filling her shoes will be challenging. We also believe it is a great opportunity for the right person who is excited about leading an organization that is literally changing lives every day.
The board would like your help. Do you know someone who might be the next great leader of WACAP?
We are seeking an experienced, mission-driven, high-integrity executive leader who would like to make the world a better place for the world’s neediest children. We are looking for someone with excellent communication, strategic thinking, negotiating and investor-relations skills, who wants to make a real difference in the world. We want someone who is ready to take to the next level, an established, respected organization with talented and dedicated staff, so that even more children can have the love of a family.
We are seeking a CEO who is a proven team leader, an experienced fundraiser and a person who has excellent communication and presentation skills. She/he should have strong financial acumen, have the ability to lead strategically in a dynamic and complex environment as well as be a passionate spokesperson and advocate for WACAP and the children it serves.
If you know of such a person, please forward this post to him or her. A detailed position description is available here. Qualified candidates should send a resume, well-crafted cover letter and compensation requirements by August 1, 2014, to CEO Search Committee via email to WACAPCEOSearch@gmail.com. The cover letter should include an answer to the following question: What in your personal and/or professional background gives you the passion and desire to lead an organization whose mission is to find a family for every child? No in-person applications or phone calls will be accepted. WACAP is an equal opportunity employer.
Lillian has been an inspiration for many of us, and we are grateful for all she’s done for WACAP and the thousands of children’s lives she’s impacted. The board is committed to ensuring that the legacy that Lillian has helped build will continue far into the future. Thank you for considering the people you know who might be ready to help make this a reality.
Chair, WACAP Board of Directors
Theo was adopted from China by WACAP staff member Elizabeth Rose and her husband Steve Mohundro. Last year, for Mother’s Day, Elizabeth shared her thoughts about parenting this bright and spirited boy. This Father’s Day, we hear from Theo’s dad, as he reflects on how Theo has grown, and how life has changed since Theo joined the family.
Thanks to Steve for sharing, and happy Father’s Day from the WACAP team!
Play. I used to think I understood what that meant, but my son Theo has shown me the full extent of its definition. This is a boy who plays hard, plays creatively, and is always up for playing with Daddy and Mommy.
It’s been 19 months since we handed a little boy a toy motorcycle in a Civil Affairs office in China, and to sum up how much life has changed for all of us in that time would use “too many words” – one of my failings. When you look at where we are today, it’s hard to see the specific milestones – emotional, physical, intellectual – he has made along the way.
He can tell wild tales, he can belt out songs from “Frozen” like every other five-year-old, he can do just about anything. (He can even reach the light switch now.) Our Theo is dramatic, creative, and a clown—he is meant for the stage, or maybe the circus given his acrobatic leanings. Being a Daddy to such a child is a challenge in ways I didn’t realize. I thought I was prepared for his particular special need and the layered, complex package of challenges that come with adoption (attachment, grief, culture shock, identity, and more). What I wasn’t ready for was how amazing the actual kid is in person. And exhausting.
If it isn’t raining or freezing, a park is on the agenda. If a park, we almost certainly need to bring a toy or piece of sports equipment. If we’re stuck indoors, the family room tumbling mat is put through its paces or my board/card game muscles get a workout. He is physical for sure and super observant. He kills at Memory, and he’s getting better at tennis.
With Kindergarten in the near future, his growing seems to be accelerating. The stroller is starting to gather dust. The turns of phrase out of his mouth are incredibly complex and mature (in a clean way). He is writing his name and interested in words. He tries new foods—and likes them! The babble and constant carrying of 19 months ago, even a year ago, have been replaced by this independent, capable, smart individual.
When a child is adopted at three and a half, you fully expect some regression and rapid development. These kids need to start at a more basic level with you and then work really hard to catch up. While he was catching up, we were figuring out how to be parents. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner (Elizabeth) and teacher (Theo) on this crash course in being a family.