Seeing the Children: A Journey of Hope

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.

group of boys walking down a corridor at an orphanage

Children at an orphanage

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.

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Leaders Among Us: Special Message From WACAP’s Board Chair

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams

 

Smiling with the children, WACAP's President and CEO Lillian Thogersen

Smiling with the children, WACAP’s President and CEO Lillian Thogersen

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.

Dave Janssen

Chair, WACAP Board of Directors

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Where We Are Today: A Father’s Day Guest Post

TheoLeaves

Theo, age 5

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!

 

Chewbacca and Han Solo hit the town.

Chewbacca and Han Solo hit the town.

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.

 

Theo Explores the West Virginia Woods

Theo Explores the West Virginia Woods

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.

TheoTennis

Practicing his swing

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.

Theo and Dad Enjoy the Spring

Theo and Dad enjoy the spring

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.

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The First Days of the First Six Months

family photo

The whole family

David and Kelly brought their little girl, Maya, home just about six months ago, and are now about to enjoy their first summer together. Maya, adopted from India through WACAP, joined her family just in time to celebrate her fourth birthday with her mom and dad, sister and brother.

 

We are privileged to look back at the first moments of their first six months together, and thrilled to look forward with them to the months ahead.

mom hold her daughter

The first day together

Dad and daughter take a stroll the park

Dad and daughter take a stroll through Lodhi Park in Delhi

mom and daughter rest with a smile

A rest with Mom

little girl has birthday cake

Why not cake?

little girl smiling on birthday

Turning 4 years old in December

sisters hugging

Sisters

brother and two smiling sisters

Smiling siblings on Christmas morning

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A Gift for Mom, and the Gift of Family

If you’re looking for a meaningful Mother’s Day gift, WACAP is here to help!
With your donation of $100 or more, we’ll send a lovely bouquet to your mom, grandma, aunt, or anyone else who deserves recognition this Mother’s Day.2014_Flowers

Your donation will then help us to find families for children in need; the gift of flowers for mom becomes the gift of family for a child.

 

Click here to donate. Be sure to place your order by Friday, May 2. Flowers will be delivered anywhere in the U.S. by Friday, May 9.

Thank you for helping children in need!

 

 

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“What Is the Best Question to Ask a Child?”

Read one WACAP staff member’s story of what it means to ask herself this question every day … and what it means to a child waiting for a family to hear the answer.


WACAP Family for Me Coordinator Photo

WACAP’s “A Family For Me” Coordinator Denise Russell

As WACAP’s “A Family for Me” program coordinator, it’s a joy to spend time with the kids we feature on KING5 News (Seattle’s NBC Affiliate) as well as connect with viewers who are compelled to contact us because they’ve seen a child they found to be unforgettable. Meeting children who are waiting for a family, interviewing them, and then speaking with people wanting to offer their hearts to these kids is an amazing little journey.

At WACAP, it all starts with finding an activity we know each child will enjoy. Then we film them having a great time but also sit down to talk with them. During our brief interview, the challenging part can be asking the kids to talk more about themselves and what they want in a family. Though they’ve agreed to share with us, some kids get slightly embarrassed, some just say, “I don’t know,”… and then some have a huge amount to say.

One young man appeared so soft-spoken, I just geared up for the sound of crickets. But once he started talking, there was no stopping him. And when I asked him, “What makes you really happy?” he went into great detail about snow and how it reminded him of old memories and family. His words and sincerity were so touching that our activity guide needed to walk away and take a deep breath. It’s hard not to react and respond back, but I try to stay quiet and let the kids say everything they want to say (even if their answers are just reflected in an expression). And in realizing that, interviewing has become one of my favorite parts of the experience. Our efforts to find common ground — and help the kids feel comfortable — allow them to express who they really are and their dreams for the future.

The tenacity of these kids is extraordinary. Although in some cases, they may have grown up in a difficult environment or had a traumatic past, when you meet them, you see that they each have so much hope and so much character! Some pour themselves into a passion, like music. Some dive into a new experience like it’s a bowl of ice cream. Some take on the world quietly, cautiously and thoughtfully.

I’ve discovered that they all seem to love animals. Some like them big and some like them small, but it all seems to be about unconditional love. They all want someone dependable in their lives, who will spend time to really know get to know them, protect them, and weather the inevitable ups and downs.

So what is the best question to ask a child? I think it might be, “What do you want me to know about you?” In our “A Family for Me” videos, which you can find posted each week on WACAP’s website and on KING 5, you will see kids who are gregarious, quirky, focused, anxious, thoughtful, charming, rascally, serious, creative and loving. You will see yourself in some of them and be astonished at the bravery of some of the others. They represent over 2,500 children in Washington state foster care who are ready and able to be adopted — all kids wanting a warm home and a loving parent or parents, all children WACAP believes deserve the family of their dreams.


WACAP A Family For Me LogoNationwide, only about 50 percent of all children waiting in U.S. foster care to be adopted find permanent families. Since 2005, nearly 80 percent of the kids we’ve featured through WACAP’s “A Family For Me” have been adopted. Even after KING 5 airs “A Family For Me” each week, each child’s video segment continues to be invaluable for state case workers, who get to introduce families to these children using a story that showcases their unique personalities. Special thanks to our partners Yuen Lui Portrait Studios and KING5 Television for joining us in giving children in need a family.

If you’d like to learn more about adopting a child from state foster care, click here. If you’d like to help us support “A Family for Me” through a monetary or in-kind donation, let us know. Additional support allows us to reach more kids.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption Washington, Foster Care, Philanthropy, Staff/Board Spotlight | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why 2,000 Photos?

WACAP president sits with many children in orphanage

WACAP President and CEO Lillian Thogersen meets the kids in one Chinese orphanage

Just a few weeks ago, WACAP staff returned from a trip to China, where we had the opportunity to renew or establish new partnerships with four Chinese orphanages. We’re excited to be working with each one to help find families for the children in their care.

Following this trip:
     –You might have seen on our website or heard on our Facebook page that we met over two hundred children who need families.
    –You may have read that the three staff who traveled returned with over 2,000 photos of nearly 100 kids, along with hours and hours of video to share with families.
    –You might have wondered, “Why 2,000 photos?

At each orphanage we visit, before our camera goes “click” and “click” again, WACAP staff gets to meet with the children.

That means WACAP CEO Lillian Thogersen gets to hold a little girl’s hand; she learns this child’s just turned five and has been in the orphanage that whole time. Yu Ping Kuang and Bixin Huang of WACAP’s China team sit down to listen to a 12-year-old boy talk excitedly about why he loves to play soccer. This bright young man looks right into their eyes. (Unless he’s adopted within two years, he won’t get the chance to be … because of his country’s adoption age requirements.)

Slideshow of kids we met

Slideshow of some kids we met

The first picture our staff takes of each child is the most important one; it’s noiseless and not captured by any camera. It’s taken through a lens that says, “I recognize what an extraordinary person you are. And I will show a family — the family who’s right for you — what I see.”

Without any camera in operation, this image has already been collected and indelibly preserved. And only afterward, does our staff lift up the camera, press on the power and bring the frame into focus.

We take 2,000 pictures so we have a way to convey what we already know — that there is another child who is waiting for a family to look through our lens.


(In the slideshow on WACAP’s China adoption webpage, you can meet some of the children we held, met and talked with on our recent trip — children waiting for the family that we can’t wait to show their pictures to. If you’re interested in learning more about when these children’s information will be available from their orphanages, contact us at ckids@wacap.org.)

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Where I’m From

lolaEdited010MA29608486-0003

Lola was adopted from China through WACAP at 16 months. Today she’s a busy and talented 11 year old who, between piano lessons, language classes and dance performances, finds time to show off her cooking skills and prepare meals for her family and friends. Lola wowed us with her ballet performance at the 2013 Children’s Hope Auction, and recently impressed us again with this original poem. Thank you to Lola and her family for sharing!

Where I’m From

By Lola

I am from the black and white ivory keys,
Listening to the sweet melody while my fingers are dancing across the keys
Waiting for my ears to hear DING,
The signal that I’m done

I am from leaping and jumping across the floor,
Going from one corner to the next
Holding strong until the end of class,
Curtseying to the piano teacher

I am from the kitchen,
Searching through all of the pots and pans looking for the right pan to do the job
Sticking my head in every cabinet and drawer looking for just the right ingredients
Turning on the front burner and putting everything in the pan

I am from learning totally new words,
All the way from Ni hao to Zai jian
Learning new words each class,
Practicing with my teacher every class I have

I am from having fun all the time,
Whether it is spending time with family, friends, or playing with the cat
Always deciding what to do late that day with family
Chasing the cat around the house losing my breath

I am from my life
And that’s what makes me unique

Lola dances at the 2013 Children's Hope Auction

Lola dances at the 2013 Children’s Hope Auction

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On the Red Carpet With Shruthi

Shruthi and her service dog standing

Shruthi and her service dog and pal, Stover

“She scared us to death with the basement steps!” say Cathy and Robert Reed, parents of 8-year-old Shruthi, who was adopted from India through WACAP at age 4. 

But that they can say these words at all points to something extraordinary.   

That’s because this little girl, not even 20 pounds when she came home, was born with a number of special needs, including limb differences, a cleft palate, vision challenges, and club feet, many related to a rare medical condition called Larsen syndrome.
(Read more here

WACAP’s Family Finders staff searched for years to find the right family for Shruthi, whose medical needs most families felt foreshadowed what Shruthi’s future would hold, not how many steps she’d take.

Shruthi and service dog Stover painting

A pair of painters

Today, after four years with a family’s love, an increasingly tenacious 8-year-old whose legs once could not hold her upright, believed she could walk the basement steps on her own. Since just one year ago, Shruthi has been able to get herself in and out of her wheelchair, has recovered from major surgery on both legs and feet three months ahead of time, walked with her forearm crutches, and put on her first “real pair of shoes.”

Down the Red Carpet

Down the Red Carpet

From taking small steps without holding onto anything, she’s since climbed those basement stairs. And, after being nominated for the Night of Superstars and Ragan’s Hope last month, this dazzling little girl found herself on the red carpet.   

Below, Cathy shares more about the miracle of each step, of the past year, and of the little girl the whole family knows is their superstar.   


This past year has been remarkable! 

As of today of this month, Shruthi has been with our family for longer than she was in the orphanage. A full four years without a family. At 8 she amazes us! The sparkle in her eyes continues to shine and there isn’t a braver child than Shruthi!  Shruthi has started walking without crutches, walker or holding onto anything! All since her last surgery in July.

Shruthi and service dog in princess and baseball player costume

Shruthi and Stover Team in costume

Service-dog Stover and Shruthi are a real team and, of course, are into everything. Stover opens the refrigerator for Shruthi and, of course, he gets a carrot for his effort; he picks things up for her, plays with her, opens doors for her, helps her take her clothes off and helps her eat. Actually she has to take a bite, chew and swallow it in order to give Stover a treat. If Shruthi doesn’t eat fast enough Stover will nudge her reminding her he is waiting for his treat.

Stover gives Shruthi the confidence she was lacking and makes her feel safe. It is nothing short of a miracle watching her as she improves almost daily.  

Make Over for the Event

Makeover for the Big Night

Shruthi recently was nominated for Night of Superstars and chosen. Night of Superstars and Ragan’s Hope honors 20 local children with challenges who achieve beyond their abilities in academics, community service and other areas.

On February 15, Shruthi walked the red carpet for this special event. She even got to ride in a Limo, have her hair and makeup done and has already met recording artist Jason Ashley. (She calls Jason “my cowboy.”) 

Young girl smiles and signing an autograph

Smiling and signing an autograph

Shruthi is definitely our little superstar. She continues to grow both physically and mentally and is almost caught up developmentally. From the nonverbal, 17 pound 4-year-old little girl who came home to her family in March 2010 has emerged a beautiful young lady who just turned 8 and is in regular first grade.

She is always smiling, always trying, always kind and caring, and rarely complains. She has under gone 10 surgeries since coming home to straighten her legs and feet and even through all this, she is happy!  Shruthi is a little miracle, and God has allowed us to watch His healing and the power of love of family.


I pray everyday that when prospective adoptive parents are looking at children with special needs, that they are able to look past the challenges of their little bodies and see what they can become.

dad holds his daughter at special event

Proud dad and daughter at Night of Superstars

mom and daughter smile

Two superstars, mom and daughter

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A Happy Hour of Hope

February has been a busy month here at WACAP! We currently have three staff members in China, visiting orphanages that are part of our new partnership project! So far they’ve met many children who need families. We’re looking forward to receiving the information we need to find families for these kids!

We’ve also been lucky enough to be the Charity of the Month at Luther’s Table, a non-profit restaurant just down the street from our Washington headquarters! Luther’s Table is a no-tip establishment, so anything given above meal and beverage costs is considered a donation. For the month of February, Luther’s Table is donating 30% of donations to WACAP!

Luther's Table, set up for Happy Hour of Hope

Luther’s Table, set up for Happy Hour of Hope

Last night Luther’s Table hosted us for our first ever “Happy Hour of Hope.” WACAP families, staff and friends gathered in the evening to socialize and share information about the work WACAP does on behalf of children.

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Thank you to Luther’s Table for partnering with us and to everyone who joined us.

happyhour3

It’s great to have such a generous community member as a neighbor! Next time you’re in the Renton area make sure and visit the friendly folks at Luther’s Table!

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