Family Fun Takes Flight


Thank you to everyone who joined us for yesterday’s annual Family Fun Day! Seattle area families gathered at the Museum of Flight for an afternoon of learning, connecting and celebrating.


WACAP CEO Greg Eubanks reminded us that when we’re overwhelmed by chaos and fear in the world, adoptive families are a symbol of hope. We’re so grateful to the thousands of families who have kept WACAP going for 40 years, resulting in more than 11,500 children finding loving and supportive families.


To celebrate this milestone, WACAP’s Vice President of Development Mary Duncan led a rousing “Happy Birthday” sing-a-long before the 40
th anniversary cakes were cut.

 

We’re looking forward to more family fun in Wisconsin and New York—details to come!!

Special thank you to our event sponsor, Wizards of the Coast!

Wizardslogo

 

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Welcome Home, Maya Lin!

It’s a summer of firsts for two-year-old Maya Lin, who was adopted through WACAP last month. Maya Lin’s mom describes her as “adventurous, independent and smart” and is enjoying watching her get to know her older sister Riley, who was also adopted from China.

Congratulations to this family and welcome home, Maya Lin!

A photo of a toddler girl amongst statues of children

Maya Lin explores China, shortly after meeting her family.

 

A photo of a toddler girl standing in a cozy playroom

Maya Lin at home.

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What Now?

Our society is facing a time of crisis. In the wake of the violent deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both of them killed by public servants sworn to protect them, I can’t help but think about transracial adoptive families, especially those raising black children, and how events such as these shape the way we parent. I believe it is safe to say that while the world is not necessarily a safe place, it is significantly more dangerous for people of color. We’re also faced with the concept of responding to violence with violence, as we learned the news of shots fired at a Dallas protest, killing 5 police officers and wounding 7 others.

Holding HandsIn the face of our current reality, what should we now do in response? What can be learned from these situations? Below is a list of ways you can respond to recent events, celebrate your child’s unique heritage, and prepare them for the realities of a world not quite prepared to ensure their safety.

  • Talk about recent events openly and honestly in an age appropriate manner. Acknowledge your emotions and response to these news stories. Ask questions of your child about their reactions: ‘What are your friends saying about this?’ ‘What do you think?’ ‘How do you feel about our differences?’ Discuss, and participate in, healthy outlets for such challenging emotions.
  • If you haven’t already, do everything you can to learn about the concept of privilege, prejudice, bias, and discrimination. Recognize and acknowledge your privilege. You will not be able to help your child if you are incapable of recognizing the differences between your reality and theirs.
  • Prepare your children to encounter a world that isn’t necessarily friendly. Let them know that racism does exist, that we do not live in a post-racial society, that there is no such thing as “color-blindness”, and prepare them to manage micro and all-out macro aggressions.
  • Educate yourself. Talk to people of color, get the perspective of those that know what it is like to be black, read articles such as The Black Male Code. Do not turn a blind eye to the realities of the world in which your child lives now and will need to navigate independently in the future.
  • Find a tribe that “gets” your kids and the challenges they will meet. Avoid people who are not willing to validate the challenges experienced by people of color. Find positive role models who share your child’s race.
  • Pay attention to the voices of transracial adoptees. They know what it is like to grow up with parents they do not look like or can understand first hand their experiences as children of color.
  • If you haven’t already, join some transracial adoption groups online and/or in your area. There is such value to finding people who understand what it is like to parent transracially, and your child could also directly benefit from such interactions.

Adoption is a beautiful thing. Transracial adoption is also beautiful. Our differences weave together to create a new story of belonging, acceptance and hope for a better future – for all of us.


WACAP_Zoila_Lopez

About WACAP’s Clinical Director, Zoila Lopez: Zoila  recently joined WACAP as Clinical Director. She is an adoptive mom, a former foster parent, and brings to her new role an extensive background of work as a therapist and adoption coach to support all members of the adoption triad.

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Let It Go

Think for a minute about children from hard places: institutions, the foster care system, orphanages, and abuse or neglect histories. At best, the family into which they were born cannot care for them. At worst, those are the very ones causing them harm. Are these children lucky? Even once they are adopted?

We sometimes like to think so, but the legal act of adoption, though transformational for children, can never erase their history. This is a tough truth for those of us who are adoptive parents, isn’t it? We want to wipe it all away and make everything better.

We can’t.

We try, though. We try so hard, particularly we dads. We have a drive to fix everything; even if we deny it or try to hide this fact, we think that surely there is a fix for every problem. If only we think hard enough or are smart enough, we just might figure it out. I could write years of blog posts confessing all the times I have suffered under the weight of this misguided trait. Well meaning? Yes. Just not particularly helpful in all situations. Like for our children.

Fortune cookie with message "correction does much, but encouragement everything."

Not being adopted myself, but a (struggling) parent to three children of adoption, I imagine they don’t really like the feeling of needing to be fixed. Just maybe, this leaves them feeling broken. But we American parents want our children to shape up, behave, get over it and live up to their potential. I believe that most parents (adoptive, biological or otherwise) don’t see their children as broken. We see them hurting, and that’s simply unbearable.

So what can we do?

There are no quick fixes. There are, unfortunately, no moderately unhurried fixes, either. Just the excruciatingly sluggish process of our children slowly waking up to the reality that they are now safe. They are loved. They are in a family who is permanent. This takes months, or years.*

In the meantime, we must, as parents, do a better job of connecting with our children, particularly those we have adopted from hard places. Life has roughed them up, and often important adults have proven not to be very trustworthy. Children don’t need to be corrected as much as we think they do; it’s time to let go of that drive. What they need, more often than not, is to feel safe and to build safe and healthy relationships with these new adults in their lives. 

*There is support along the way; here are a few resources: WACAP Webinars here; video overview of TBRI® (Trust Based Relational Interventions) here; and the Empowering Parents Website


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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Congrats, Class of 2016!

One of our biggest perks this time of year is receiving graduation announcements from WACAP adoptive families. We first got to know these children through tiny referral photos and translated documents, so seeing them becoming adults and moving on to the next stage in life is incredibly rewarding. Thank you to all who sent photos and shared stories, and congratulations to all of our 2016 graduates!!

WACAP_Grads_2016

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Worth Every Step: Hannah’s Story

Meet Hannah, one of WACAP’s wonderful volunteers, as she shares about her family’s journey. Closing with the story of her father who, years ago, trekked 14 miles in Nepal to obtain the photocopies needed for her siblings’ adoption, she has no doubt about what’s most important to her, and why family is worth every step. It’s what brought her to WACAP to volunteer, and keeps her coming back.


Photo of smiling volunteer at nonprofit adoption agency WACAP

Hannah, one of WACAP’s extraordinary volunteers.

From the Same Family
Japan, 1995. People rushing on the runway in Tokyo; an American father and his 11-year-old son staggering with more luggage than they can carry; a young Nepalese girl of nine, covering her mouth with her hands in hopes of calming her nervous stomach; a middle-aged woman trying to pacify two jetlagged, screaming children latched on to her hips.

All were racing to catch the flight already on the runway, bound for Nepal. Different ages. A range of skin tones. All were from the same family — my family. I never thought anything of it. It seemed so normal to me.

My Dutch/British mother and my American father were missionaries in Nepal. I also have two adopted siblings from there. With such an international family, there was always reason to travel. My mom laughs now about how we would ask her, “What country are we going to today?” as though it were as simple as hopping in the car to go to the store.

About Yesterday
When I was five we left Nepal — which at that time was not open to the diversity of religions practiced today — and we moved to India. I began my education there at an international boarding school. After graduating high school, I moved to the Netherlands to pursue a B.A. in International Studies, specializing in the Middle East. Following my studies there, I decided it was time to move to the U.S.

With their parents nearby, four siblings pose atop a car, the youngest now a volunteer for nonprofit adoption agency WACAP

Hannah with her family

And What Brings Me to Today
Thinking about what kind of career I want, a former employee of WACAP shared her experiences working with the adoption agency. Having two adopted siblings, spending a lot of time in the orphanage that my mom set up, and having volunteered in an orphanage in India, I have always valued working with people — and kids in particular. Because of my past, I knew the organization and its mission, was something I would be very interested in. That’s why I started volunteering at WACAP.

Photo of four siblings as kids -- one of them now a volunteer at nonprofit adoption agency WACAP -- shown here with their parents.

Hannah as a child and the family that inspires her.

Remembering Why We Climb Mountains
My brother and sister joined my family through a Nepalese private adoption. Even at that point, the adoption process was tedious, with all the required paperwork and processes. But my parents saw this process through from beginning to the end. (Although they would have heard rumors at that time of others using bribery to speed up a process, they chose to not be part of this dishonesty.)

For my father, adopting my siblings involved traveling to Gurkha to visit the Chief District Officer for paperwork. Once there, he’d have to obtain photocopies, which meant a 7-hour trek down the mountain, catching a bus with no room to sit, and a 4-hour ride to the nearest city. And so he did it.

Arriving on a Saturday (when things were typically closed), meant it would be even harder to find a place to make copies, but when he finally did, it was back to the standing bus for another 4 hours, and then the long return hike up to the village.

Because of the uncertainty of Nepali politics and processes, my parents knew the importance of turning in their paperwork as quickly as possible, to safeguard as best they could against any unforeseen changes that could affect the adoption process.

Photo of four siblings as kids, one of whom now volunteers as an adult for nonprofit adoption agency WACAP

Hannah (second from left) with her siblings.

My dad always jokes that while my mom endured the labor of their two biological kids, that he, in different way, endured the labor, of their two adopted kids.

Where The Steps Lead — Why I Volunteer
My background, my family, my adopted brothers and sisters, and my friends at the orphanages where I spent time are all important to me.

This is why I volunteer at WACAP. I believe that the work done here is extremely important and something that I hold close to my heart. I am honored to be part of the WACAP team.


Thank you, Hannah, for being the advocate children need at each step in order to find a family — and as in the story you shared about your father, being willing to go the distance.

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What I Learned from Adopted Persons

Recently, I was privileged to moderate WACAP’s panel discussion: “Growing Up Adopted.” Seven adopted persons of multiple ages and backgrounds shared their experiences with those of us in attendance. They represented many unique perspectives and were brave storytellers. I walked away awed by the diverse experiences of each adoptee. There is no singular experience, which is true for all of us. Though we all bring our unique perspective to life, we struggle equally, and we all desire to belong. Adoption is joyous, and sorrowful, and complicated, and beautiful. Here are my top takeaways:

WACAP Panel

  1. How long did it take you to attach? “A long time. I wish I realized earlier that I didn’t have to choose between two families (adoptive and birth,) but I could love both”
  2. “Parents focus on adoption early in the parent/child relationship. Adoptees focus on it later, during adolescence and young adulthood. There’s an inverse relationship to the timing of attention given to these issues.”
  3. “There will be ever-evolving emotions. Understand that you may not ever understand what your adoptive child is feeling, because they may not understand, either.”
  4. “When we (adoptees) leave home, we’re afraid. Stay committed. We fear losing yet another family. We’ve lost once, we might lose again.”
  5. Regarding cultural competence: “My family took a ‘colorblind’ approach to discussing racial identity. We were all the same (and in my family, we actually were treated the same.) Once I left home, however, I found out that the world is very different.”
  6. “As far as I was concerned, those white people WERE my ‘real’ parents. Family isn’t about blood or race, it’s about people who care for each other.”
  7. One panelist was older at the time of adoption and was asked about the memories of the actual placement experience in her adoption. “Leaving the orphanage, I was scared. We left everything and everyone. It was hard. Once home with my new family, there were new foods, new smells, new everything. Calling these new people – strangers, really – ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ was strange and felt like betrayal of the family I had lost.”
  8. Advice to adoptive parents, “Angst happens. White-knuckle it. Love unconditionally, because we need that commitment.”

    photo of Zia FreemanAbout Adoption Counselor, Zia Freeman: Zia has over 16 years of experience working with WACAP Families. She is dedicated to preparing families for adoption by providing in-depth training, both in person and online. She also provides support to families after they’ve come home, by facilitating in person support groups for families in the area, as well as across the country through the WACAP Adoptive Parent Support Group on Facebook. Zia holds a Master’s degree in Behavioral Science, with training in Marriage and Family therapy.

 

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Seeing Children in Foster Care Through a Different Lens

Bryan likes remote controlled gadgets: cars, boats, planes. When WACAP met him recently to film his video segment for our “A Family for Me” program, the meeting place was easily determined: a park, with a pond, and an RC boat.

Bar graph showing the 59% of children adopted who participated in WACAP’s A Family for Me program since 2011, and percentages of children who were teens (22%) or siblings (39%).

“A Family for Me” impact since 2011, with the support of our expanded media community partnerships and advocacy.

We film these stories in collaboration with NBC affiliate KING 5 and with the incredible support of news anchor Joyce Taylor, editor Mike Blakey and others on the KING 5 team.

Along with professional photos courtesy of Yuen Lui Studio, we are able to introduce a child or youth in foster care to individuals or couples who might be interested in adoption. Not their case file. Not statistics. A living, breathing young man or woman, girls and boys who, yes, have histories marked by neglect or abuse, but who also have wonderful quirks and potential, charming dispositions, and often a fairly strong sense of humor forged by their own resiliency amid life’s challenges.

From reluctant snapshots to personality-filled portraits, from a case file to a visual narrative, these youth leap off the screen and into your hearts.

Bryan was busy unboxing his new boat, thrilled that it was his to keep (thanks to a donor,) and curious about filming logistics, bantering back and forth with WACAP staffer Denise Russell. Suddenly, he stopped.

“Wait… will the people know how old I am? … Most people don’t want teenagers.”

A photo collage with children participating in WACAP’s "A Family for Me" program

He had recently celebrated his thirteenth birthday, and was clearly concerned that a milestone had been checked off, potentially reducing his chances for a permanent family. What, exactly, do you say to that question?

WACAP answers with our firm belief that there is a family for every child. This “A Family for Me” program flows from that commitment to finding families for children of all backgrounds, ages and levels of need. And it’s working.

Pie chart showing the 59% of children in state foster care adopted or matched since 2011 who participated in WACAP’s A Family for Me program

Since 2011, 59% percent of the foster youth participating in “A Family for Me” have been matched or placed with a family, or adopted.

Between early summer last year (July 2015) to the start of May, we have seen 33 children and youth matched or placed with families, or adopted.

Since the program’s partnership with KING 5 began in 2011, we’ve seen 59 percent of youth featured see similar outcomes.

Like Bryan, these youth may be older (we’ve profiled 53 teens so far!) Some are siblings, and need families willing to adopt more than one child. Some have medical or developmental diagnoses. All of them are worth knowing. All of them have stories to tell, and WACAP is privileged to help them do just that.

We can do this thanks to donors who help us fund this effort and to those who contact us about the adoption process, thinking they just might be the permanent answer for a child in foster care.

And, if you’re wondering, Bryan’s is a success story. He was matched with his family just last month. He now knows that he is wanted, he is loved, and he belongs.


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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An Update on Adoptions from the DRC

In 2013, WACAP launched our adoption program in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  We were off to a great start serving children in need when the Congolese government enacted a suspension on exit permits.  So for children whose adoptions into US families had been finalized by Congolese courts, this meant it was impossible for them to leave the country with their new parents.

The past two and half years have been so incredibly trying for the children and families hoping to be matched or who were matched and nervously waiting for their case to be approved so their children could come home.

For several of our families (and waiting children), waiting through the suspension added a level of stress that could seem unbearable. Despite this, there was an unwavering commitment and very recently 3 WACAP families have finally brought their children home!

DRC home

Currently in the DRC, we continue to wait for changes to the adoption process.  The Congolese government really cares about improving the system to safeguard children, birth families and adoptive parents.  The process is slow and it is difficult to know when the new laws will be passed by the Congolese Parliament and then formally implemented.  For now, WACAP remains watchful and ready to move forward with cases as soon as we feel that a clear path is before us.  In the meantime, we are focused on providing support for the new laws and procedures that are in process of being created, discussed, debated and (hopefully) passed and implemented.

To all the families who are in the DRC program- we salute your tenacity and commitment to the children of the DRC! While we encourage you to consider other WACAP program options, we stand ready to move forward when possible.

To the 3 wonderful families who have come home with their children- at long last- we celebrate with you and feel tremendous joy as we think about your unwavering dedication to bring your kids home.

What an honor it is to work with such wonderful parents!


MeganAbout WACAP’s African and Haitian Programs Supervisor, Megan Cook Nikiema: Megan Cook-Nikiema has been a part of WACAP’s team for over 10 years, working in multiple programs during that time. Most recently, she has been a wonderful resource to families pursuing adoption from Ethiopia, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  At the end of May, Megan will leave WACAP.  We know she will see great success, and she will be greatly missed.  We look forward, along with Megan, to whatever the future may bring.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption Washington, Celebrations, International Adoption, Staff/Board Spotlight, Welcome Home | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

­National Foster Care Month: “Willing to Open Their Hearts”

The month of May is designated National Foster Care Month. As WACAP focuses on finding permanency for every child growing up without a family, we appreciate the many people in our communities who are committed to creating that opportunity for children from the start, stepping forward to foster children temporarily while the child’s future path remains unclear. WACAP’s “A Family for Me” Coordinator, Denise Russell, regularly has the opportunity to meet­­ and witness local foster families in action and here’s what she has to say:

At WACAP we know that foster parents not only manage all the usual appointments and activities that come with having children at home, but they also spend countless hours supporting their foster children during a time that’s often filled with transition and loss, talking with counselors and caseworkers, meeting with doctors and teachers…. To say these families are busy would be an understatement! So we really appreciate when a foster parent can accompany a child who’s participating in one of our “A Family for Me” video shoots. A foster parent’s presence provides comfort and reassurance for the kids as we get to know them and learn more about what they hope for in a family. (By featuring these kids through A Family for Me, we’ve seen these videos make an incredible difference in finding their future adoptive families.)

Three siblings laughing while filmed for whirleyball

Siblings Destiny, Xzavier, and Dezeray enjoy Whirleyball in their A Family for Me video

I will never forget Destiny, Xzavier, and Dezeray’s foster parents. When we decided to film Whirleyball as an activity, they brought these three siblings, plus their older sister and three other foster kids, so that everyone could participate. They came in two separate vehicles and traveled quite a distance to meet up with us. To me, it was a mystery how both foster parents arrived relaxed and in good humor!

Over and over again, foster parents have been willing to dive right in to help us out. They’ve been up for jumping into bumper cars, strapping on roller skates, climbing on jungle gyms, and many have even made a last minute run to the store so their foster child could wear something new for the experience. But mostly what they have provided is encouragement. We always try to plan an activity that will light up the kids and appeal to their interests and personalities. Like all parents, foster moms and dads always seem happy to see the kids happy. And perhaps they feel it even more, knowing the history of their foster child and having seen the scars of it.

Child smiles with his foster mom encouraging him during WACAP video shoot

Alex receives his foster mom’s encouragement

For non-verbal children, foster parents have helped us with a willingness to speak about the child on camera. When they do, it’s always with candor, enthusiasm, and a deep commitment. Their comments are so often about how much the children have added to their lives. Like Alex’s foster mom, who said, “I just think he’s amazing. My husband loves him to death. We think that whoever adopts him will be very blessed.”

Sometimes, foster parents are not able to make it to our video shoots, and that gives the kids a different opportunity to speak very openly. Like, Dulce, who said, “We have our ups and our downs, bad days, good days. But we have a really good bond.” And 15-year-old, Delontea who explained that “you kind of get attached.”

I marvel at the bravery of foster parents to care for, and take on the responsibility, of a child that has experienced extreme heartache and quite often, trauma. To me, they’ve conquered the fear of everyday parental imperfection in order to provide shelter, protection, and stability for a child. They are willing to open their hearts and homes for kids that are not only dealing with the normal challenges of growing up, but also fragile healing from the past, and a profound uncertainty of their future. At the same time, foster parents know that these kids may be adopted. When that happens, they will help them gather their clothes and toys and prepare them for life with their forever family. And then their home will change again, with the energy of that child exiting, and the complexity of another child arriving; creating more memories and requiring more love and comfort.


Denise-Russell-WACAP-A-Family-For-Me-Program-Coordinator-2016-05About WACAP’s “A Family for Me Program Coordinator,” Denise Russell:
Denise joined WACAP in 2013 and in her first three years, interviewed over 90 foster children, helping create adoption outreach videos for each child. An adoptee herself, Denise feels a special connection with every child she meets. Interacting daily with dedicated caseworkers and foster parents, and being so welcomed by the committed businesses and community members involved, she finds even the video planning process is magical. Outside of work, Denise enjoys “laughing a lot with her handy and hard-working husband, their two entertaining and opinionated sons” and the family’s two “goofy” Labradors.

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