What I Wish I Knew

Our goal with WACAP’s Impact Blog is to advocate for children in need of a family, show how together we are making a difference for these children, and share the stories of families as they are created and go on to thrive.

Today’s sequel-post by WACAP board member and adoptive mom, Laura Templeton, is all about the uncertainties of adoption, and how one family chooses to embrace the mystery.

WACAP Laura and Family (640x480)

Fresh off the plane, suitcases by the door–Baby Tyler’s first day home

Every expectant parent has all kinds of questions about their new child. Usually these questions focus on the future. But with adoptive parents, there are a lot of questions about the past as well. And, many of these questions may never be answered.

For my husband, the physician assistant, the questions involved our kids’ medical histories and conditions. Are the medical tests and results accurate? Could we request another blood test since the initial results were surprising? What is that spot on our son’s eye? And of course, what was the medical history of their birth parents, and what kind of prenatal care did our children receive? In our children’s cases, this information wasn’t available, and maybe never will be. But the spot on our son’s eye? In this case, it turned out to be harmless, and we were able have it removed; no harm, no foul. As for our kids’ health – they are some of the healthiest kids around. I used to joke that in some ways, nothing builds a robust immune system like a year in an orphanage!

My questions focused on the birth parents. I wanted to know their stories. Were they a couple? What do they do for a living? What are their strengths and talents? How did they make the decision to give their child a different life, without them? Years later, how do they feel about their decision?

With the proliferation of genetic testing, some day we may be able to find our children’s birth parents and answer all these lingering questions, and more.

But for now, like so many other adoptive parents, we accept these mysteries as part of our family’s story. Just like the splendid secret of “How did I get so perfectly matched with this precious child?”

Whether a seasoned adoptive parent, or new to the possibility of adoption, what unanswerable questions are on your mind? Let us know.

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I Choose to Look Up

As you may know, I’m new to the Pacific Northwest – transplanted from Texas. The biggest adjustment hasn’t been the rain but the lack of daylight hours during those first few winter months. Thank God that’s been changing in recent weeks.

For now, my family and I live in a wonderful apartment complex, and though temporary, it’s a nice place to be. Every day, multiple times a day, since the beginning of the year, I have taken my Weimeraner to the dog walk area, as you do in apartment life. Every day, multiple times, in the dark, I have focused my eyes downward, on the drudgery of the clean-up tasks that, well, most dog owners accept as “coming with the territory.”

But then the sun begins to delay its bedtime bit by bit, until you find yourself with daylight hours after work. And one day, when you are once again in the dog walk area, you look up. And your perspective changes. A few days ago was one of those days for me. I looked up, and saw this …

WACAP CEO's photo of Mt. Si with clouds at sunrise

WACAP CEO Greg Eubanks looks up and snaps this perspective-changing photo of Washington’s Mt. Si

It’s all about what you choose to see. This view had been there all the time, hidden by clouds, fog mist and darkness. But it was always there.

As someone who works in adoption, I’m often asked how I resist being pulled into the gloom when I know that there are many children whose lives include a history of trauma, abuse or neglect. “The answer,” I always offer, “is by making the choice to look beyond the trauma to see transformation.”

I don’t see these children only as passive victims of circumstance. Rather, I see the resilience in each of them. I see the hope found in our work to connect those children with families; people who dream of healing a child’s history through commitment over time. Nurture, safety, belonging, commitment. We call it “permanency.” Adoption changes everything. That’s what I look at every day. I look up.

WACAP CEO at orphanage in Africa, children gather smilingAbout WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home.

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Of all the places …

This month, Seattle’s International Airport brought WACAP’s Bulgaria adoption program manager, Tami Mason, face-to-face with someone she talks to every week. And the last person she’d expect to be meeting at the airport, if it had been any other day!

wacap staff and bulgaria adoption staff at a chance meeting, smiling

(left) Rositsa of WACAP’s partner agency in Bulgaria with Tami Mason (right), WACAP’s Bulgaria adoption coordinator.

Rositsa (pictured above) works with WACAP’s partner-agency in Bulgaria, nearly 6,000 miles away from WACAP’s main office, but with just as strong a commitment to finding families for children who need them.

While vacationing with her husband, Rositsa had an airport layover in Seattle, which allowed these two colleagues to be in the same place … for the first time. Meeting for several hours about how best to support WACAP’s adopting families and help children find the love and stability they deserve, both were overjoyed. In Tami’s words, “Our visit gave us an opportunity to see the face behind all of the work that we do together.”

Let us know if you’d like to learn more about adoption from Bulgaria or about the other countries where WACAP works!

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In Celebration of World Down Syndrome Day

Tomorrow , we celebrate the 10th Annual  World Down Syndrome Day — a day of raising awareness and advocating for the rights, inclusion and well-being of people with Down syndrome.

Knowing that every child has the right to be raised in a safe and loving family, WACAP works every day to find families for children with Down syndrome who wait in orphanages around the world. Today, in the spirit of World Down Syndrome Day, we meet two children from Bulgaria who recently joined their adoptive families.

Alaina—Beautiful Light of Hope

A small child makes a silly face for the camera

Alaina, happy at home

Anthony and Ashley knew there were children with special needs who needed families, and once they began the process to adopt, they started to really think about the child they would later bring home. As they researched different diagnoses, they realized for the first time how many different needs they felt equipped to handle, and  began looking at profiles of waiting children. One condition they saw come up again and again was Down syndrome. With Ashley’s nursing background, knowledge of sign language and experience baby-sitting a little girl with Down syndrome, they realized that ultimately, this was the direction in which their family was being called. They quickly got to work consulting with doctors and reaching out to other families who were raising children with Down syndrome. “WACAP was amazing during these moments,” Ashley recalls. “Staff talked with us, recommended resources and made sure we looked into resources available in our community ahead of time.” They were soon matched with their daughter Alaina, whose name means “beautiful light of hope.”

In the beginning “she was nervous with us,” Ashely tells us. “She mourned leaving the only home she had ever known. Our hearts ached for her situation.” After just three months home, the family is seeing remarkable changes in Alaina. Her nervousness is subsiding as she learns to be part of a family. She’s getting physically stronger and learning new things every day, thanks to her new brother and sister. In return, Alaina has taught her new family to celebrate things they may have previously taken for granted. “I cannot explain what a reward every simple accomplishment is to our family!” Ashley exclaims. “It is incredible to watch her little eyes and face fill with life!” Daily life has changed somewhat for the whole family as they keep up with Alaina’s therapy and doctor’s appointments, as well as the occasional set back as Alaina adjusts to family life. Through it all though, Ashley remembers what adoption is really about. “On some of the days where helplessness has overwhelmed me, I have to remember that Alaina’s life would have looked so different if she did not join our family,” Ashley writes. “She is home. She belongs. She is LOVED. Her life will never be the same and ours is so blessed because of that.”

Nikolai—No Longer Alone in the World

For Nathan and Rebecca, adoption was always part of the plan when it came to building a family. Newly married, they were just beginning to explore their options when they saw Nikolai’s picture on WACAP’s waiting child website. “We weren’t actually planning on starting the adoption process when we first saw him,” Rebecca writes. “But there he was and Nathan suggested we inquire.” They then began the process of working with WACAP to bring Nikolai home. In addition to the adoption paperwork and training, Nathan and Rebecca read anything and everything they thought could be beneficial. As first-time parents they made sure to network with other families who were raising children with Down syndrome, ensuring that they would be fully prepared to meet Nikolai’s needs. “WACAP was so helpful and supportive during the entire process, and we never would have been able to complete our adoption if it weren’t for the generous grant we were given,” Rebecca remembers.

A small child laughs as he plays with a balloon

Nikolai celebrates his 3rd birthday

Nikolai came home in December “to quite a fan club,” and is growing by leaps and bounds with the love of his family. In addition to learning to walk and starting to communicate, both things he was unable to do in Bulgaria, his life has changed in a profound way. His mother reflects, “In the orphanage, his entire life was dictated by a schedule. He never had the opportunity to express his wants or needs and therefore believed himself to be a bystander in the world. Now, he’s starting to realize that he is not a bystander; he has a voice.” With everything Nikolai has learned and continues to learn, Rebecca feels that one lesson is the most important of all: “He’s learning that he is no longer alone in the world. He has a mother and a father to lean on for love and support, and an entire extended family of people who will bend over backwards for him. He has value, purpose, and a place in this world.”

What these new moms say about adopting a child with Down syndrome

With their adoptions completed so recently, both Ashley and Rebecca admit to feeling a bit sheepish when it comes to giving advice to others considering adoption of a child with Down syndrome. However, they both speak with wisdom and compassion.

From Rebecca: Nathan and I would suggest new families should read and research as much as they possibly can about their future child’s diagnosis, adoption, and attachment. Read all the stories with happy endings, and read the blogs of families who are struggling. Go into the process with your eyes, heart, and mind open, and try to have as few expectations as possible. Remember that every child, every family, and every experience is different. Flexibility, a sense of humor, and a strong support network are essential, especially during those first few months home.

A father and daughter laughing together

Father and Daughter

From Ashley: Anthony and I would encourage you to discuss this decision carefully, making sure to embrace the tough scenarios. Do not be afraid to think about what it will look like in five years, 10 years, or even 20. Pity is not the same thing as love. Empathy will not last through the difficult nights and years of advocating that you have ahead. However, we would highly encourage those who might be considering this that they will not be disappointed.

Both moms agree that despite the hard times, at the end of the day it’s absolutely worth it. “Ultimately, I would encourage families to dwell on all the positive reasons to adopt, rather than all the logical reasons that might hinder you,” Ashley advises. “We have been greatly stretched and amazingly rewarded already! There is nothing more incredible than watching this glorious unfolding of transformation through love.”

A father and son laughing together

Father and Son

Down syndrome is a big part of who my son is,” Rebecca states. “But it doesn’t define him. Yes, he will have to work harder to achieve milestones that come naturally to many other children, and yes, he will likely need extra help and support as he grows into adulthood and beyond.” She continues, “He also has a magnetic personality with more unbridled enthusiasm for life than I have seen in a long time. He has an infectious laugh that can bring the most stoic people to their knees. He has brought us more joy than I ever thought possible, and he makes me proud every single day.”

Children with Down syndrome are waiting for families in orphanages all over the world. If you’re interested in opening your home for one of these children, please contact us.

Thank you, Ashley and Rebecca, for sharing your stories.

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101 Reasons to Say Thank You

Since WACAP teamed up with King 5 Television (Seattle’s NBC affiliate) in 2011, we’ve shared the stories of 101 kids in need of families. We continue to see amazing success as one by one, children are matched with forever families.

Thank you to Joyce Taylor and King 5 for being such amazing partners in finding families for kids in state foster care.

King 5 WACAP A Family for Me

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Whichever One Fits …

Earlier this year, I came across this image, which was sent as a holiday card from one family as a unique adoption announcement. Although the new year has passed, this image, which went viral in January, is one that has not passed from my mind.

adoption announcement with muliple pairs, colors and sizes of shoes

Did you see this adoption announcement? What did you think?

(A couple months later, I still think it might be awesome …)

According to an NBC news feature, this family’s card “reflects their simple desire to become parents. It doesn’t matter if the best match for them turns out to be a boy or a girl, a youngster or a preteen or a child of a different race.”

Those open to the idea of parenting a child who doesn’t fit the mold are in for an amazing adventure. At WACAP, over 90 percent of the children we find families for are older children, have what some would consider “special needs,” may be part of a sibling group, or have a different ethnic background than their adoptive parents.

What a great picture! It underscores WACAP’s philosophy that every child — the toddler who can wear shoes like these, the child learning to use a prosthetic to walk, or the teen who goes to school in a wheelchair — every child, deserves a family.

What do you think of this adoption announcement? Respond to this post or email us!

WACAP CEO at orphanage in Africa, children gather smilingAbout WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home.

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Save the Date for WACAP’s Children’s Hope Luncheon!

save the date Paralympian, silver medalist in wheelchair racing and recent contender for Ms. Wheelchair America, WACAP adoptee Maggie Redden inspires active, healthy living while advocating on behalf of the 54 million Americans living with disabilities. Born in India, Maggie contracted polio as an infant, a disease that paralyzed her from the waist down. At age 2, Maggie was adopted by a single mom who encouraged her to follow her dreams. Currently, Maggie is working at a nonprofit organization helping individuals with disabilities gain self-sufficiency while pursuing her Masters of Public Administration.

 If you’re in the Seattle area, Save the date of Thursday, April 30, and join us for lunch at WACAP Children’s Hope Luncheon to hear Maggie’s remarkable story and learn how WACAP continues to help children with disabilities find adoptive families today.

Interested in being a table captain and inviting your friends and family to help support WACAP? Contact us for information.


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Traveling Adventures

Our goal with WACAP’s Impact Blog is to advocate for children in need of a family, show how together we are making a difference for these children, and share the stories of families as they are created and go on to thrive. This playful story by WACAP board member and adoptive mom Laura Templeton, recalls her trip to China to meet her daughter. Providing a glimpse into the experience of traveling, Laura reflects on one aspect that’s sometimes overlooked, especially when in process of adopting internationally: the delight that comes with taking time to investigate the culture around you.

Naturally, when my husband and I headed off for China, our sole focus was on meeting our daughter and bringing her home. Sightseeing was definitely further down the list. And making new friends wasn’t even on the list. As one of several families using the same guide service, we were pleasantly surprised to be plopped down in a group of five fun-loving, adventurous families who knew how to make an emotional or daunting trip in a non-descript city fun.

Much of our fun was meticulously organized by our guide extraordinaire, Wendy. Wendy took care of every detail of our adoption for us, down to ordering room service at the hotel and having cases of bottled water delivered to our rooms. As our guide, she introduced us to the colorful sights and sounds of the marketplace — pets, spices, silks. She led us through crowded jewelry displays and helped us bargain for Year of the Monkey jade pendants. Wendy personally inspected every pearl on the little necklaces we purchased for our daughters. What a privilege it was to know this attentive, caring person. (I would love to always have a Wendy in my life!).

However, some of the differently memorable and fun adventures unfolded when we were on our own—without the guiding hand of our wonderful Wendy. One night, our group WACAP Laura in Chinadecided to go out to dinner and set out in search of an authentic Chinese meal at a local restaurant. Without our guide to make recommendations, we bravely chose the first restaurant that caught our eye and were escorted to a packed dining room.

As newcomers to the traditional cuisine and also to the Chinese language, we took one look at the Chinese language menu and realized that to communicate, we needed to take matters into our own hands in a more creative way. With the blessing of our waiter and the restaurant patrons, we played “How Good is Your Meal?” with the rest of the restaurant guests. Encouraged along by our waiter, it looked something like this: I walked around the restaurant with our waiter and pointed at the guest’s plates. A round of cheering would erupt when I’d choose someone’s dish, and that menu item would be added to our order. When we’d been introduced to most of the visually interesting entrees in the dining room, our waiter allowed us into the kitchen. There, I pointed out some leeks, tomatoes and a duck hanging from the ceiling, and made the universal sign for “please whip something up,” not quite knowing what to expect.

The result was duck soup. There was no doubt about that, because of the webbed feet and beak floating in the bowl (i.e., a dish we’d later learn was a standard on many Chinese menus). But for those first few instants of culinary surprise and discovery, we knew we’d been given license to exchange our adult “international sophistication” for child-like delight. So we allowed ourselves a moment to “play and explore,” inspecting the floating pieces and posing with the beak — and to truly experience the evening, with wonder and joy. I can’t recall how any of the food tasted, but the dining experience was pure pleasure.

When you travel to meet your child, make sure to enjoy the entire experience. Soak up the culture so you can share it with your child in the future. Bring your sense of adventure, make memories, and find ways to enjoy what’s around you.

In what ways are you excited or anxious about traveling? Leave a comment to this post, or email us.

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What’s stopping you?

Jo Reed of WACAP's Family Finders Team smiles

Jo Reed of WACAP’s Family Finders Team

Jo Reed, manager of WACAP’s Family Finders, talks about how WACAP is bringing hope to children who are waiting — and one of the ways we’re reducing barriers, like cost, to help bring families together.

Every day, I come to work thinking about families. In fact, I search for them — online, by phone, via email. At WACAP, our Family Finders team has over 300 children for whom we are actively looking for families at any given time.

Through this work, there are some things I have learned:

  • Every child deserves a family. The teenager, the child with missing limbs, the child who is HIV positive, the sibling groups. All types of children are waiting, and they need all types of families.
  • When you focus on finding families for children (rather than the opposite approach), the children win … and families thrive.
  • There are amazing families in our midst, willing to commit to a child or children whom others have overlooked; we love these families!
  • WACAP is committed to minimizing, as much as possible, any barriers that stand between children and permanent families.
Jo at her desk, helping bring children and families together

Jo at her desk, helping bring children and families together

One of the most significant barriers we see is the financial challenge for many families. At WACAP, we know that there are families out there who would move forward with adoption if the costs weren’t so high. More than being just “qualified” to adopt a child, these families are also uniquely capable of loving, nurturing, protecting and meeting the needs of a child. But that initial hurdle of adoption costs discourages many from the process.

With this in mind, I am delighted to let you know that recent donations to WACAP are helping us make an even bigger impact … and bring more children home. If you, or someone you know, has thought about adoption but didn’t pursue it because of cost, I encourage you to take a look at our waiting child page.

WACAP Waiting Child Page, Extra Grant Assistance

Many of our children are regularly assigned grants that will reduce the costs of adoption for families. With these recent donations, even more grant dollars have been assigned to specific children. (On the waiting child page, look for a designation in red that says “Extra Grant Assistance.”)

What are you waiting for? Go meet them!

We want to know!
Have you ever wanted to adopt, but stopped? What has discouraged you from starting the process? Leave a comment here on the blog, on Facebook or email us.

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Get Ready for It . . .

Little girl with cleft smiles

Abigail’s joyful smile after coming home to her family in 2012

We get excited, here at WACAP, when talk turns to children coming home. It’s really something. Where once their world was marked by the temporary, soon everything will become permanent. They will come home to family.

Quick, what images are playing in your head as you read the words above? For most people, their minds reflexively go to receiving blankets and diapers, from institutional infant rooms to a personalized nursery. I love those images.

I also love the images I hear described in the halls of the WACAP offices. These depict exceptional children, full of potential, with missing limbs, facial deformities, or siblings who need to be adopted together. Just talking to my coworkers, it’s not hard to see how much they are in love with these children, and how much they believe in each one. In the same way, I find myself drawn to advocate for older children, way past diapers, who are way too cool to really let you see how their lives will change because of a forever family.

The hard truth of these stories is that these children face many hurdles between the temporary and the permanent. No problem. WACAP has their back. Make no mistake, though: on this issue, WACAP isn’t your everyday adoption agency. In our work, we see obstacles. But we know they can be overcome, and lives changed. We’re on the hunt for families who are on the hunt for an exceptional child.

And we have an announcement coming. It’s going to be great.  Children will be coming home.

I’m excited.

WACAP CEO at orphanage in Africa, children gather smilingAbout WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home.

Posted in Adoption, Foster Care, From the CEO, International Adoption, Staff/Board Spotlight | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment