A Letter to Family Camp and the Community that Makes It Happen

Photo of Sun Lakes with thank you message to volunteers and others who make WACAP family camp special

Water wars. Laser shows. Slip and slide kickball, obstacle courses, and hiking to caves. It’s not a day at an adventure-themed amusement park; it’s a day at WACAP family camp.

This week, dozens of WACAP families are gathered in at the Sun Lakes Park Resort for five days of celebrating adoptive families. Parents have the opportunity to discuss adoption-related topics with WACAP staff, while their kids bond over water balloons and bike rides. There’s an epic bingo game, an all camp dance (with glowsticks!) and the legendary family camp talent show. For four generations of WACAP families, it’s a definite summer highlight.

This sun filled extravaganza wouldn’t be possible without the help of a generous volunteer committee that spends countless hours making it happen. Together they plan activities, tackle logistics, gather supplies, and make camp a positive experience for all.

Arik Korman, lead volunteer, manages the timeline and meeting schedule to keep everything running smoothly before, during, and after family camp. Arik is dad to a 9-year-old-son adopted from Korea.

Kendra Yoshimoto has an eye for detail like no one else, and puts together an amazing carnival for the younger kids, complete with games, prizes, and popcorn! Kendra adopted her 12-year-old daughter from Korea.

Kris Aamot gets everyone where they need to be, by coordinating the registration and assigning cabin numbers. Kris is dad to 5 daughters, 4 of them adopted from China.

Vic Bloomfield is camp’s chief adventurer. He leads a hike to the Lake Lenore caves, and coordinates volunteer assignments for all of the camp activities. Vic is dad to a seventeen-year-old son from Korea.

Robyn Ingham is full of fun and creative ideas, and puts together an eclectic and exciting silent auction. Proceeds from the auction support WACAP programs! Robyn’s 13-year-old daughter is adopted from China.

Amelia Aamot, teen center coordinator, is simply Wonder Woman. She not only runs the late night teen center, she coordinates and supervises activities for the tweens in the afternoon, makes the name badges, and brings incredible energy and creativity to the table. Amelia was adopted from China, and is now studying education at Seattle University.

Thank you to all of these fantastic and committed volunteers, along with the many others who contribute to making family camp such a beloved WACAP tradition.

If you are interested in learning more about WACAP’s work for children, or how you can get involved, contact us at wacap@wacap.org. 


Written by Meg Alley, WACAP Development Writer

 

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Becoming Sisters: Molly and Chloe’s Story

In January 2014, Megan and Alex traveled to China to adopt their daughter Chloe. After a year-long adoption process, they boarded the flight home, overjoyed to welcome their 2-year-old into their family of six. For Chloe, that meant getting the parents she needed and becoming a sister to three brothers.

Adoption referral photo - smiling child in pink bouncy seat

Chloe’s Referral Photo (September 2013)

With the family settling into their new routine, the last thing on Megan and Alex’s mind was adopting again. But several months later, they read about Molly, a waiting child. Discussing the care they could give another child, the couple agreed, “Maybe one more.”

Molly, like Chloe, spent her early years in an orphanage. But Molly, who was born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida, needed swift medical attention. Working with WACAP to help expedite their travel process from China, Alex and Megan arrived home with 3-year-old Molly in the spring of 2016 — with four siblings clamoring to meet her, and a family to see her through every surgery she required.

In front of tree

Molly on her fourth birthday (March 2017)

Today, Chloe and Molly are both 5 years old, and both girls know they’re loved.

three brothers holding hands with their two sisters, alternating blue and pink t-shirts

Three Brothers, Two Sisters (July 2016)

Through adoption they’ve gained three brothers, become sisters to them and sisters to each other.

Megan and Alex can’t imagine life without their kids, a happy truth we see in their children’s smiles, and in Chloe and Molly’s joyful embrace.

Happy Sisters Day, Molly and Chloe!

two school age girls in matching yellow, white, and blue dresses

Molly and Chloe in matching dresses

Sisters smile in front of a welcome sign at

Right before “Cheer Camp”

On grassy field, sisters smiling with their brothers on way home from camp

Picking up two of their brothers from camp

Two sisters ready for kindergarten in matching

Ready for Kindergarten Round-Up

To learn more about adopting from China or the children waiting for adoption, contact us at familyfinders@wacap.org. To learn more about the adoption and foster care programs at WACAP or how to get started, contact us at wacap@wacap.org.


Post written by WACAP Communications Editor, M. Harrel.

Posted in Adoption, Celebrations, Images of Family, International Adoption, WACAP, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Unexpected Lesson on Family: Before and After a Trip to Korea

Beth Kido, WACAP’s Korea program manager, shares about three trips taken between the spring and summer—a family vacation, an emergency visit home, and a trip to Korea for WACAP. Taking us through the joy and loss she experiences, she reminds us about the children in Korea waiting for families to bring them through life’s ups and downs feeling cared for and loved.


The Significance of Family: My Personal Journey

By Beth Kido, WACAP Korea Program Manager

The past few months have been a whirlwind of travel and life changes.

Between spring and the start of summer, there were three major trips which gave me a new perspective on family.

In April, My husband and I took a family vacation with our daughter Keira. We have now been married 15 years and adopted Keira through WACAP about 10 years ago from an orphanage in China. This little light-of-our-lives swam, snorkeled and boogie-boarded through each afternoon. We enjoyed the warm, sunny beach and spending lazy days together.

Father and Daughter

A treasured photo of Beth’s family – her husband and daughter together.

The final day of our family trip, I learned my father had a serious illness and had been in the hospital a few days. Upon returning home, I learned he had a brain tumor with a limited number of days to live. I quickly flew to my home state to be at his side.

During his decline and after his death, I spent many hours talking with friends and family and remembering the good times, the hard times and his paternal influence as we celebrated his life. As I reminisce about what my family and my father gave to me—the importance of education, fostering lasting friendships, and an affection for other cultures and people—I know these are the foundations of what make me who I am. As the adoring daughter, I watched and listened and combined all my father’s best traits and teachings into a dedicated daughter, wife and mother, an adoptive parent, a friend, a traveler, a continual student, and an advocate for children without a home.

Upon my return to work at WACAP that spring, I planned the next trip in May to South Korea to discuss issues regarding international adoption with orphanage partners and adoption officials there. One highlight of the travel was the opportunity to visit the home of a foster family caring for one of our matched children who will soon come home to the U.S. to join his forever family.

Photo of Beth smiling and greeting a child in Korea

Beth meeting the children in Korea

The foster mother was thoroughly engaged with the young boy, barely one year old, along with his foster brother, a year older. Her immaculate home was arranged with mats on the floors and toys in cabinets, larger toys to one side – ready to be grabbed at any time. The bedroom outfitted with a pallet for naptime and a small crib with padding nearby. She was helping him learn words and skills, and she was dedicated to taking him to appointments for any medical issue.

South Korea has an exceptional fostering system through Holt Children’s Services-Korea, training and providing for the families willing to spend their days and nights caring for these relinquished babies unable to remain with their birth mother or father. This is the in-between stage, the temporary home:  it’s good, but it’s not the forever home.

This life of the earliest years will help create important first foundations, and his new mother and father will be the ones to influence him in who he becomes.

Visiting the foster home in Korea reminded me what my daughter’s start was, although hers was in an orphanage in China. I couldn’t help but note how she is learning from my husband and I like I learned from my father. How this passes down to each generation creating a happy childhood of memories. The adoptive baby boy with the foster mother will remember her from photos and a few stories from his new parents, and he will grow to learn, explore and become who he is with the nourishment of his permanent family.

After the loss of my own father, I realized I am not sorrowful; I am actually happy in remembering each trait and interest I have that he passed along to me.

We know this little sweetheart I visited has a family dedicated to bringing him home, but what of the other children? The adorable, active and curious toddler that still waits for a forever home: for his father to teach him the importance of good education, about the world, how to earn a living, and how to be a good parent one day.

Child in need of a family in Korea walking with support of assistive device for children

A child in need of a family in Korea

Sitting down to write, I’ve only just realized the common thread which ties all these trips together: the significance of family. Creating a family, the joy of family and the memory of family—what you bring and what you leave behind.

Beth Kido, WACAP staff member at Chihuly Gardens with quote,

If you would like to learn more about adopting from Korea, please contact us at wacap@wacap.org.

Related Post: Five Reasons to Adopt from South Korea


About Korea Program Manager Beth Kido: Beth first learned about WACAP when she and her husband Rodney adopted their daughter Keira from China in 2008. She joined the WACAP staff in 2013 and began managing the Korea adoption program, and she’s worked as a case manager for WACAP’s India program, as well. Beth is mom to four “children,” ages 35, 33, 29 and 11 years old. Outside of work, she loves visiting the beach, traveling to other countries, and reading historical fiction. She’s also fond of summer in Seattle and the flowers in her garden.  

Posted in Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, International Adoption, Staff/Board Spotlight, Travel, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Adopting Siblings the Right Choice for Your Family?

Have questions about adopting siblings? Join WACAP’s Family Finders Manager Jo Reed for down-to-earth Q&A about why adopting siblings is a big decision, and why it might be the right one for your family. 


I’ve had that experience that many parents of adopted children have….of navigating through the store, the kids squished together in the seat of the red plastic car attached to the front of the un-steerable grocery cart. While the little darlings poke each other and complain, a well-meaning passerby stoops to admire their round angelic faces, so different than mine. They’ve already figured out the kids are probably adopted, so they complement their way to their next burning question: “They’re so cute! … are they siblings?”

“Of course they are!” I exclaim, with a mixture of pride and exasperation. And it’s true—they love and despise one another as only siblings can. I pretend I don’t understand what this well-meaning but nosy stranger really wants to know…are they biological siblings?

collage of siblings from the U.S., Taiwan, Haiti, and Bulgaria

Siblings from the U.S., Taiwan, Haiti, and Bulgaria

I feel a little superior in my understanding that adopted siblings are siblings in every way that really matters. But sometimes, that “biological sibling” reality is of utmost importance—when children come into care as brothers and sisters who need to be adopted together.

A child who needs an adoptive family has suffered loss after loss; of safety, of parents, sometimes even of language and culture. A child who has a sister or brother shouldn’t have to face the cavernous loss of their sibling too; their connection is often a vital lifeline that can make all the difference in the world to them. WACAP is committed to placing siblings together whenever possible, and I’m writing this to help answer questions families often have about how this works.

Why would a family consider adopting siblings?

  • For many, it’s the deep-seated understanding that it’s the right thing to do for the children, to make it possible to them keep and treasure their relationships with one another, a way to help them anchor themselves in their own history and identities.
  • For families who know they want to adopt more than one child, adopting siblings is a way to complete their families more quickly, and to keep adoption costs down.

What ages are children in sibling groups?

  • The vast majority of siblings we see in our international programs include at least one child age nine or older in it. If your family is focused on younger children you’ll wait longer to be matched.
  • For families local to WACAP’s Renton headquarters, in the King County, Washington area, families are most likely to be matched with young siblings though our U.S. Kids foster care and adoption—and these adoptions are also the most economical, and may be faster.

Does WACAP match large sibling groups with families?

  • WACAP has matched siblings both domestically and internationally with as many as five children in them, although most are sibling pairs.

How long will the adoption take?

  • The timeline varies, depending on where the siblings are. In general the process itself will take about the same length of time as adopting a single child from that program.
  • However, if a family is open to school-age siblings, they’ll likely be matched with children very quickly in any of the countries they live in. The shorter wait for a match means the overall adoption time frame will be shorter.
  • On the other hand, to adopt young siblings, the wait to be matched will likely be longer than for a single child in that country, sometimes significantly so; families need to plan for a longer process.

What countries refer siblings for adoption?

  • Families who hope to adopt siblings are encouraged to consider the U.S.A., Taiwan, Bulgaria, India, or Haiti. We don’t see siblings for adoption in Korea, China, or Thailand, with extremely rare exceptions.

When considering adoption costs, how does adopting siblings affect the overall expense compared to adopting children one at a time?

  • Although every country’s adoption expenses are different, many fees are the same as for adopting a single child, which makes sibling adoption more cost effective than doing more than one single adoption.
  • With U.S. sibling adoptions, there’s no additional sibling fee, and other additional costs are minimal.
  • For international adoptions, WACAP has a sibling fee in addition to regular fees for a single adoption, and families will see additional expenses with siblings for international fees, immigration, visa, travel, etc. Even so, your investment in time and expense will still be significantly less than doing more than one adoption.
  • Every sibling adoption is different, and WACAP considers siblings for eligibility for grants or fee reductions on a case by case basis. For more information about expenses in particular countries or specific waiting brothers and sisters we’re advocating for – contact us!

What are the restrictions?

  • Both the family’s homestudy social worker and officials in the children’s state or country will consider the family’s potential for success with siblings. Each situation is carefully evaluated, case by case, to determine if it will be a good match. Families must have the financial stability, education, experience, resources, support system, and emotional capacity for kids who will come to them all at once with fear, anger, grief and hope as big as the sky.

Is it possible to adopt just part of a sibling group?

  • In most cases, no. There are instances where the children’s social worker may recommend separate placements when the best interests of the children are a concern, but this is unusual.

What if a family is open to siblings, but also to a single child?

  • Many families are open to either possibility; we recommend they have their homestudy written to approve them for both types of adoption. Although it’s more likely the family will be matched with an individual child, sometimes there are surprises!

When considering sibling adoption, do families need to be prepared for medical needs?

What else do I need to know?

  • The biggest difference between adopting a single child vs. adopting siblings isn’t in the adoption process; it’s in the family’s adjustment after the children come home. It can be hard for a family to picture and prepare for the demands of parenting multiple newly adopted children. Although every child has a different way of expressing it, each one comes into their new family famished for the individual love and attention they’ve been lacking, and their combined emotional needs can be overwhelming for parents. WACAP is committed to providing the education and support our families need to be successful with their kids—not only during the adoption process, but after they come home, for as long as they need it.

Over the years of my working with the amazing, capable families who adopt siblings, I’ve sometimes wondered if I would have been up to the challenge of adopting siblings myself, if that had come up.

When I was preparing for my second child, I was confident that I could manage double the responsibility of parenting just one. What I did not anticipate was that it would feel more like responsibility squared. I have trouble even imagining how to calculate the impact that adopting biological siblings at once would have had on my life. But would I have said “yes” to siblings?

It was saying “yes” that landed my querulous, infuriating, inspiring, remarkable “adopted and real” siblings into my life and that monstrous red car of a grocery cart. And everything has been so much more complicated and so much richer ever since.

So, would I have said “yes” to a sibling adoption?

Well, maybe.

OK…….yes, I probably would have.

For more information about adopting siblings, please call or email WACAP’s Family Finders at familyfinders@wacap.orgTo learn more about adoption and how to get started, contact us at wacap@wacap.org.


Jo Reed of WACAP's Family Finders Team smilesAbout WACAP’s Family Finders Program Manager, Jo Reed:
Jo came to WACAP in 2004 and with her, an unyielding commitment to bringing children and families together. An adoptive parent of two children, Jo is also a daily advocate for every child growing up without permanency. Through her work with WACAP’s Family Finders, she has helped share the stories of thousands of children who needed advocates and a family.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption FAQ, Adoption Washington, Domestic Adoption, International Adoption | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Two Faces of an Adoption Story: Friends Become Brothers and Find Home

Rees and Jonah joined their family in the fall of 2015 at 5 and 6 years old. Before they were adopted by their parents, Brian and Kimberly, they were living in the same Chinese orphanage.

The best of friends, the boys stuck together at their orphanage, finding a common bond in the significant facial differences they each had.

When Brian and Kimberly first read Rees and Jonah’s profiles, they read about two waiting children that needed to be adopted together, saw two boys that needed special medical care, and recognized two faces that needed love their family had to give.  

This month, during National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness Month, Kimberly and Brian tell their story, from Rees and Jonah coming home to the reconstructive surgery they’ve had. And Jonah and Rees, in their own words, share just how far they have come … with the help of their friendship and their family.


Rees and Jonah’s Story

by their mom, Kimberly

As I scrolled through WACAP’s “Waiting Child Listing,” I knew what we were specifically looking for: a child with a facial difference.

Ever since we adopted our daughter in 2006, having gone through surgical corrections for something we really didn’t understand or know much about, we have been drawn to facial differences as a special need.

But the moment I saw the photo of Jonah on the waiting child listing—WACAP was advocating for him under the name “Billy”—my breath was taken away. His condition was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I immediately knew we needed to consider this boy. However, just near Jonah’s photo was Rees’ information (under the advocacy name “Alan”)—another boy with a serious facial difference that appeared similar to our other children.

We didn’t know how we would choose between these two boys who both needed not only the love and security of a family, but also specialized medical treatment. Reading more about them, we discovered the two boys were not only on the same listing, but they were in the same orphanage and (it was noted in the description) they were best friends.

We believed these two precious boys were best friends because they shared a common bond in their severe facial differences. We couldn’t imagine what it would be like for one or the other if they were separated, so we sought to adopt both boys.

Today, they are best friends and brothers!

Jonah-Rees-1

Jonah has had several surgeries to align his upper and lower jaws as well as create and revise the palatal and pharyngeal structure to aid with his speech. He has absorbed so much information in such a short time, and he has had to work so hard to be able to perform at the level of his peers, all while trying to be able to express himself verbally, which is often a challenge.

He continues to receive speech therapy in school and also outside of school, and he will have more reconstructive surgery in his future. But Jonah has really come a long way, and he has made amazing progress.

Jonah-Rees-2

Rees’s medical diagnosis was much more severe and complicated than we anticipated. Due to multiple complications and other underlying medical conditions, Rees has had over a dozen surgeries and will be followed over the next ten years or so, until he has full nasal reconstruction.

Rees is so brave and so strong. He has a great memory and he pays attention to details. He is not one to complain, and he is rarely found in the middle of a disagreement among the other children. He has grown emotionally and become quite comfortable among our family. It is a blessing to experience his true affection … which had seemed for some time, to be fueled by fear of being rejected.

Jonah and Rees are truly the best of friends, and we are so glad that they have each other. They do practically everything together and often have the mindset that whatever the one does, so does the other.

It took them several months before they would speak English because they just kept talking to each other. Over time we could tell that they were understanding quite a bit of English and they seemed to find it quite amusing as they would refuse to say English words when engaging us in conversation.

Going to school is what really caused them to start transitioning to an English vocabulary. They started out together in kindergarten when they first arrived in the U.S.; however, because Rees missed so much school due to surgeries that first year, he repeated and now they are a grade apart, which suits the fact that they are a year apart in age as well.

Jonah will be in third grade in the fall and Rees will be in second grade. They are currently 9 and 8 years old, although, intellectually they are a bit younger than their ages, and our family would say they’re ‘typical boys’ in so many ways.

Earlier this year, both boys had surgery for tissue transposition and grafting—on the same day—and they both did really well.

They have proven to be so resilient with all that they have endured. We are so proud of how they handle it all.

Jonah-Rees-3

They interact and make friends with other children very well. There is sometimes some hesitation or caution from kids new to meeting our boys, but Jonah and Rees’ personalities and openness usually break the ice pretty quickly. We have been very fortunate to not have had to deal with anything too emotionally detrimental as of yet.

This duo can be very helpful and interested in learning; they love to do whatever we are doing (cooking, gardening, cleaning) and they are so eager to dive right in to whatever the task is.

Jonah-Rees-10
Jonah-Rees-4

There’s only one activity that will pull them away from shadowing us: their beloved 30 minutes a day on an electronic device.

It’s worth saying again that our boys have worked so hard to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time. They continue to strive towards understanding and functioning at the same level as their peers, and most wouldn’t really know that just three years ago, they lived in China and spoke only Chinese.

When I asked what my boys liked about being in a family:

Jonah said, “I get to be safe and eat a lot of noodles.”

Rees said, “I love my family and I love that I get to have fun with them. I love when Baba plays ‘tanks’ with me.”

They love that their sisters, Molly and Brynn, allow them to come into their room. Brynn says she loves how “Rees cracks himself up all by himself!” And Molly says, “They make me laugh. I like playing with them because then I can act like a kid.”

Jonah-Rees-5

Although adopting two older boys with severe medical needs at the same time admittedly came with its challenges, we love that they get to experience and enjoy this life together. They were truly meant to be together, and we are more blessed and even braver than we were before our lives combined.

Jonah-Rees-6Jonah-Rees-7

Jonah-Rees-8Jonah-Rees-9

 


If you would like to learn more about adopting a waiting child, contact WACAP’s Family Finders team at familyfinders@wacap.org

To learn more about WACAP’s adoption programs or how to get started, contact us at wacap@wacap.org

Posted in Adoptees' Perspectives, Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, Images of Family, International Adoption, WACAP, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Heroes Need Not Apply”: A Parent on Special Needs, Adoption, and Her Son

With adoption long on Erin and Joel’s hearts, the path to adopting their son Carsen began with questions and then paperwork. One particular form, Erin recalls—a check list of special needs—”turned their world on its axis.” Asking themselves what needs they were open to, Erin reflects on the journey, the conversations, and the child that found them.


mom gives son a kiss on cheek

Heroes Need Not Apply

by Erin Gallion, WACAP Parent

To say that our son is well known at our neighborhood elementary school is quite the understatement. In fact, Carsen is a bit of a celebrity at school. From staff members, to the fourth and fifth grade big buddies who help in his developmental preschool, to the friends of his older sisters, Carsen is universally known and adored.

Carsen possesses what my sister perfectly coined the “joy gene.” He loves to do puzzles and mazes, play chase with his friends, snuggle his Mama, and sometimes pester his older sisters. He has the cutest giggle, knows all his letters, and has just overcome his fear of swimming. And while we feel like we’ve loved him forever, the reality is that he’s only been home with us for two years.

While the idea of adoption took root in our hearts much earlier, our journey to Carsen truly began when we filled out our international adoption application with WACAP three years ago. One particular portion of the application gave us serious pause: the ‘special needs checklist.’ What specific special needs were we open to considering? And how would we go about considering them?

Filling out that particular form turned our world on its axis.

We came to international adoption knowing that we would bring home a child with some type of medical or developmental special need, but there were certain conditions and needs on that checklist that were more frightening than others, ones that we did not feel qualified for or willing to consider. Every box represented countless children–children whose lives we believed had significance, value, and importance. How could we not take them all? How could we leave any box unchecked? What did that say about us and about the value of these precious lives?

We agonized over the form, pencil and eraser in hand, feeling a bit like the Fates in a Greek Tragedy, deciding the destiny and lifeline of a child. How could we keep our hearts and minds open while being realistic and reasonable to the bandwidth of our young and relatively large family? We needed to carefully consider our worldview, our values, and our goals. We needed to be honest with ourselves, with our agency, and with our future child who deserved nothing less than our (imperfect) best. And the checklist needed to be completed before we could move forward in our adoption journey.

After a period of time, we were finally able to put pen to paper and the checklist was complete. We ended up with a lot more boxes checked than we initially thought we would, almost all in fact, but there were a few that we did leave unchecked. We did not take the process lightly, and it was critical to our preparedness in moving forward. I am sharing our process with full transparency, hoping that it will encourage those who are struggling with the special needs checklist, as we were three years ago.

Here are a few of the key factors we considered before deciding which needs we were open to:

We took our time and we did a lot of research.

We truly did evaluate each category of need. We designated time to reading medical journals and articles. We also read blog posts of families who are living with that particular special need. The blog No Hands But Ours was a great resource that helped us consider the reality of having a child with a particular condition–from surgeries and doctor visits to home adaptations and long term prognoses. These posts also helped us remember that each child waiting to be adopted is an individual with a unique personality who is uniquely gifted. We all have challenges we need to overcome. No one should be defined or confined by a specific diagnosis or condition.

We considered our current family dynamic and needs of our family members.

At the time of our application, our daughters were five, three, and one. We were an already busy household. We knew that long hospital stays would be extremely trying on our girls at their current ages, so we decided that for this adoption it would not be best to bring home a child who needed immediate, extensive surgeries and hospital stays. My husband was also at a point in his career where an extended leave would be difficult. We did prepare for the possibility that any child we brought home might end up with an unforeseen surgery, so we researched our options for leave and made sure our support system of family and friends was on board to help if the need arose.

We considered our available time and physical and emotional bandwidth for investment.

For this season with our family, my personal energy stores are pretty much maxed out by our four young children, so we agreed that I would place my professional life on hold for a time. I’ve been exceedingly grateful we had this option. Not only has this helped our family bond and allowed time for Carsen’s therapies and appointments, but I’ve gained a much clearer picture of who I am through this process as well.

In the end, Carsen found us through the Waiting Child program. My heart truly skipped a beat when I saw his tiny profile picture. My husband and I read his file together, envisioning how his potential needs would fit within our family. Carsen had multiple needs that we had been open to separately. So why not together?

Our case manager at WACAP suggested that we reach out to Dr. Bledsoe at UW Adoption Medicine Services. We were able to have multiple consultations with Dr. Bledsoe. After these consultations, we felt equipped by knowledge, and also at peace with the unknowns of Carsen’s medical profile. Well, at least enough at peace to proceed! Carsen is doing well and his diagnoses are relatively accurate, in fact better, than what we anticipated. There are still unknowns when it comes to Carsen’s medical needs, and that can be hard, but we are fully certain of Carsen’s place in our family.

So what would I say to those early in the adoption process who are wrestling with their own decision-making process? I believe that if you conduct a deep soul assessment, do your research, and consult the experts, you will make a wise and informed decision. And you might discover as we did, that you are open to more needs that you initially thought. As my husband said early in our process, “Cannot and will not are not the same thing.”

Here’s the truth. Once Carsen came home, none of those boxes on the checklist even mattered. What we have come to know and love about him could never be summed up by a checklist. His medical needs do take time and attention, but they do not consume our life, and they do not make him who he is. Carsen is simply our son: possessor of the joy gene, snuggler, and occasional sister-pesterer. And the same will be true for your child. Life is fraught with uncertainty. Adoption gives us the opportunity to not only embrace uncertainty, but to find joy in the process. We enter into adoption not as heroes staging a dramatic rescue, but as real, imperfect people who feel the conviction or need to adopt deeply enough to tackle a Mount Everest of paperwork, sacrifice financially to a significant degree, and take an enormous risk that will forever alter us and the rest of our families.

So pick up the pen, because on the other end of this process is a child who needs you as much as you need him or her.


WACAP believes every child deserves the love and stability of a family. Many children wait for families because of medical or developmental needs, their age, or because they’re part of a group of siblings. To learn more about adopting a child who is waiting, please contact us at familyfinders@wacap.org or learn more about WACAP’s Family Finders program.

Posted in Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, Advice, International Adoption, WACAP, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What About the Children? Borders, Separations and Beyond

colorful array of children's backpacks - stock photo

WACAP is a proud member of the National Council for Adoption, and we stand with the NCFA, CEO Chuck Johnson and the many children being separated from their families along the U.S. border.

We know that any separation from family is a traumatic event for children, and this type of developmental trauma has lifelong impact on a child’s ability to trust, regulate emotions and develop healthy, trusting relationships.

Our hope at WACAP is that these children will be reunited with their biological parents as soon as possible.


Regarding Children Being Held at the Border

A statement from Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of National Council for Adoption

Children who are unaccompanied or have been separated from their parents or guardians at the U.S. border are not—nor should they be considered—candidates for adoption by American citizens. This is consistent with National Council For Adoption’s long-held position regarding the adoption of children in times of crisis, such as war, earthquakes, and other catastrophic natural or man-made disasters in which children are separated from their families.

Adoption is only a possibility for children for whom parental rights have been terminated or for whom there is clear evidence that they are orphaned. Based on NCFA’s understanding of the status of these 2,000+ children, few, if any, meet these criteria. For those who would be eligible for adoption, there are a number of options that could provide them with permanent, family-based care. NCFA has always supported a continuum of child welfare outcomes that prioritizes (in order) family preservation, adoption by relatives, and domestic adoption in a child’s native country all before intercountry adoption options are considered. It is paramount that the identities of these children be clearly ascertained and who and where their parents are is verified.

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Transgender Mom of 9 Children: “Most Meaningful Thing She’s Ever Done”

Finding out who we are is the story we’re all writing. It’s that journey of identity and becoming that Kathryn reflects on, as a parent of 9, as a person who’s transgender, and as a mom beloved.


By Kristin Kalning

Kathryn Mahan remembers when she knew she’d been born into the wrong body. “I was four years old, and in kindergarten,” Mahan recalls. “There was an event that happened with a little girl named Madeline, and I realized that I wasn’t like the other kids.” That’s because Kathryn, now 61, was born Harold Lamont Mahan.

Kathryn, known as Monty, back then, was raised in a conservative Christian home. And back in the early 1960s, there wasn’t a word for how she was feeling. “I couldn’t figure it out, and I got in trouble if I tried to talk to people about it. So I learned to keep my mouth shut,” Kathryn says. “In those days, if you were transgender or queer, there was no one to turn to. You just thought everything was your own fault.”

Monty holding up child in mirror

Monty holding Kailee in Hangzhou in 2000

Trying to be ‘normal’

So Monty graduated from high school, joined the military, married a close friend from high school, and tried to be “normal.”

“Neither of us even thought we could ever have kids,” Kathryn says. “We thought this was a chance to live semi-normal lives, and have kids.” She describes the marriage as “very loving, and built on friendship.”

The couple had one biological child, Jessica, in 1994, but subsequent pregnancies ended in miscarriage. They knew they wanted to grow their family, so they began to look into adoption. Monty was raised with lots of fostered kids in the house, and his sister, Angie, joined the family through adoption. But it was a co-worker’s daughter, adopted from India in the 1980s, who sealed the deal. “My co-worker had adopted from WACAP back in the early years of the organization,” Kathryn says, remembering a “beautiful, dark-skinned young woman” who made a huge impression.

‘I can still see their faces’
In 1997, after a 12-month process, Monty and his father traveled to Bangalore, India, to bring home William, a not-quite-two-year-old with spina bifida. “When I came out of that orphanage with William, I couldn’t get the faces of the other children out of my mind,” Kathryn says. “I can still see their faces, and feel them grabbing my hand.”

Through WACAP, Monty and his wife added seven more children from India, China, and the U.S. foster care system over the next nine years. Kailee, Pradeep, Sukanya, Raven, Austin, Justin, and Jyothi all had significant medical or emotional needs, and that was a deliberate decision. “Every time we decided to adopt, we looked at photos of waiting children,” says Kathryn. “We believed that God was selecting these kids for us, and placing them into our hearts before we ever saw their photos. I still believe that.”

Will, now 22, remembers that life at home was never boring. “A lot of my friends were only kids complaining that they never had anything to do, or anyone to hang out with,” he says. “At our house, you always had always had someone to be hanging out with—helping with chores, playing outside. For the most part, everyone got along really well.”

Family at the Waterfront

(Left to Right) Pradeep, Sukanya (seated), Raven, Jessica, Kailee, Kathryn, William, Justin, Jyothi, and Austin at the Seattle Waterfront.

Beginning the first transition

Things were beginning to fray in Monty’s marriage, though. Pretending to be “typical” had taken a toll on Monty, and in 2006, he began to take hormones to transition to Kathryn. Initially, he didn’t tell his wife, but he believed that the marriage would weather his transition to female.

One by one, Kathryn began to tell the kids about her transition, and her lifelong struggle. Some were sad about not having a ‘regular’ father, but none of them distanced themselves. Kathryn felt strongly that the kids should know about her sooner rather than later. “I know a lot of trans people who wait until the kids are older, but the kids have a set picture in their mind of their parents’ identity at that point. Those are the people who lose contact with their kids. I didn’t want that. My kids were everything to me.”

Siblings Together

Pradeep, Jessica, and William at camp.

‘I wasn’t alone’

Jyothi, who joined the Mahan family at 7 ½, remembers being frightened by Kathryn’s revelation. In India, she’d endured neglect and abuse, and had been placed in an orphanage after running away. In the U.S., her first adoption was disrupted. She’d seen more change in her young life than most people see in a lifetime. “I didn’t know how my friends were going to react (to Kathryn’s transition), I didn’t how my life was going to pan out without having a dad,” says Jyothi, now 20. “But I knew I could get through it because I had eight other siblings who could relate. I wasn’t alone.”

What’s more, Jyothi believes that she and her siblings, each with their own difficult back-stories, were uniquely equipped to weather the change. “I think what got me through was that I put myself in Kathryn’s shoes. Would I want to be accepted? It goes back to the whole orphanage thing. How did I feel when I was neglected and abused? How would I feel if I were transgender?”

Kathryn and Jyothi

Kathryn and Jyothi

Next transition: You’ve got a job to do’

Despite the support of her kids, Kathryn’s marriage continued to fracture. In 2011, Kathryn moved out with the children, into a nearly empty apartment in Puyallup. The next transition—single-parenting nine children while working full-time—was perhaps Kathryn’s biggest challenge yet. There were dark times, but Kathryn knew her children were worth it.  “I told myself: you’ve got a job to do. You’ve got to get these kids through high school.”

With Kathryn working to support them, the kids had to step up and take on more responsibility around the house. “We were at a spot where we had to count on each other, and lean on each other,” she says. The kids banded together to help out, and to protect and support each other. “That’s one of the good things about having a huge family—you know you can rely on each other,” adds Jyothi.

Though that period brought struggles for the family, it also revealed how strong they were—both individually, and as a group. “I learned to trust them, to speak openly and honestly with them about the issues we faced, and to give them both tough love, and a lot of forgiveness,” Kathryn says. “I also learned that you don’t need a bunch of money or a huge house to be a great parent.”

All nine of the Mahan kids graduated from high school and are all thriving young adults. Kathryn is proud of that. “Raising these kids successfully is the most meaningful thing I have ever done,” she says. “They are my testimony.”  

Family Photo

Kat and clan: (Front row): Austin, Sukanya, William; Middle left, moving up and around: Jyothi, Jessica, Pradeep, Justin, Raven, Kailee, and Kat in the middle.

If you are interested in learning more about WACAP, contact us at wacap@wacap.org.  WACAP is recognized as a leader in serving and supporting LGBTQ families, and is proud to welcome all families in their journey to adoption through US Kids Foster Care


kristin-kalningAbout WACAP Board Member, Kristin Kalning: Kristin joined WACAP’s board of directors in January of 2016. With a background in journalism, she has written for an array of news media, spanning msnbc.com to the Seattle Times. She recently left her job in communications to start a podcast about adoption, which launches in September 2018. 
She and her husband are the parents of two children adopted from Ethiopia and from China. 

 

Posted in Adoptees' Perspectives, Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, Images of Family | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adopting From India: The Face Behind the Lists

WACAP’s Family Finders Manager Jo Reed easily remembers what she enjoyed about traveling to India, the birth country of one of the children she adopted: it’s a list she knows by heart, and a list she loves. Here, Jo shares about her experience, and using another helpful list or two, she answers families’ questions about “why they should consider adoption from India, and why now?”


I’m a list-maker. For me, nothing brings things into focus better than writing a good list.

When I was in India, I made a list of things I loved about it:

  • Piles of paperwork on desks flapping under overhead fans, always pinned in place by a rock, iridescent glass weight or bulky stapler.
  • Dazzling white smiles.
  • Tiny steel cups filled with hot chai thick with sugar and boiled buffalo milk.
  • Helpful tins of spicy food brought by neighbors that could reduce me to tears.
  • And of course, the dark serious eyes of my daughter, my girl strapped close in her cotton sling every time I went out, as natural and essential an accessory as the hat I always wore to keep off the simmering sun.

That beautiful child is in college now, and here in the office at WACAP, I still make lists about India; lists to answer questions.

  • Why would a family choose to adopt a waiting child in India?
  • How has the adoption regulating body in India, CARA, stepped up to make the adoption process better?
  • What does WACAP do to efficiently match a family with the child they long for?
  • What can the family do to bring a treasured child home from India as quickly as possible?
Child shares a spirited grin, wearing a bright blue shirt

Home and loved by a family

Today’s list pours out in a torrent…. a monsoon of words.  Why a waiting child in India?

  • It’s economical. Compared to other international adoptions, an adoption in India is one of the more affordable ways to adopt; fees are lower and the stay in the country can be managed on a smaller budget than in more industrialized countries.
  • The process is short, compared to many countries’ international adoptions. If your family is open to adopting a waiting child—either a child over seven considered healthy or a child of any age with an identified medical concern, the adoption will likely take 12 to 20 months from start to finish.
  • Travel is flexible. Most areas require only one two-week trip of either or both parents, although a few Indian courts will require two. For families who find it difficult for both parents to leave the U.S., India is one of the few countries that will accommodate them.
  • A familiar language. Many Indian citizens speak three or more languages fluently, and English will be one of them. You’ll be able to speak with orphanage directors, doctors, judges and others who facilitate your adoption.
  • Singles can adopt. For waiting children, singles (including men!) can be matched with a child as soon as paperwork is completed; married couples aren’t given priority.
  • Medication use by families is less likely to be a barrier. With proper documentation, India accepts adoptive families who take medications for anxiety or depression.
  • Better caregiver to child ratio. For many countries, the ratio of caregivers to children in orphanages is about one per ten children. In India, that ratio is more likely to be one caregiver per three to five children, unless they are in a government run orphanage. Children are more likely to have more personal interactions with caregivers–on laps, being held, or carried around on a hip.
  • The need is great. There are so many children waiting for families (over a thousand every day on India’s list of waiting children—and over 300 of these are school-aged considered healthy) and opportunities are very limited for a waiting child who doesn’t find a family.
  • The time is right. Currently most of WACAP’s families adopting from India are already matched with children, so starting your adoption now will mean your wait will be shorter. Most families are being matched with children with medical needs or school age children in good health in less than two months of completing their homestudies! In the last year the number of children matched with family has doubled, and we expect that number to keep growing.
close-up photo of smiling child with a sparkle in her eyes

Smiling, and loved by a family.

Looking back at this list (just bursting to become longer), I realize I’ll have to wait to share more rambling lists with you but not before sharing one more short but important one:

  • Start Now!
  • Begin your homestudy right away.
  • Your child is already waiting for you. Please believe that.
  • You may not be able to see her/him on India’s list ahead of time, but I can.
  • I see the faces on the list every day, and it’s heartbreaking not to have families ready for them.

Last night I received a lively call from my own dark-eyed girl to arrange coming back for the summer, her words tumbling over each other in excitement about her school, her friends, and her busy life. Then finally a pause. I miss you mom. I can’t wait to see you. A spoken jewel I will keep forever.

You’ll have a phone call like that someday, too. Start now!

Visit WACAP’s website to learn more about adopting from India, and let our Family Finders staff know how we can help answer your questions.

sisters wearing colorful knit hats sitting next to each other, hugging

Sisters spending time together


Jo Reed of WACAP's Family Finders Team smilesAbout WACAP’s Family Finders Program Manager, Jo Reed:
Jo came to WACAP in 2004 and with her, an unyielding commitment to bringing children and families together. An adoptive parent of two children, Jo is also a daily advocate for every child growing up without permanency. Through her work with WACAP’s Family Finders, she has helped share the stories of thousands of children who needed advocates and a family.

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$20 and Four Lessons Learned

WACAP staff member, Missy Harrel, shares how a surprise sales pitch sails into a chat about philanthropy, which leads to something unexpected. She acknowledges that demands for time and attention, and even invitations to support causes dear to us, are draining. Here, Missy offers readers new footing in a crowded landscape through a few universal lessons learned about the flipside of ‘the ask.’


gas station in the rain

“Do you have a minute?” a voice in the distance said as I got out of my car.

I had just stopped to refuel for the after-work commute. I’d had a long day, but glancing at the other patrons in line for self-serve gasoline, I knew wasn’t alone. All I really wanted was to be home.

I saw someone striding my way from across the parking lot, waving at me like he was trying to hail a cab. In his right hand, he held a shiny, pink canister and a dirty towel.

I refocused on the amber screen there in front of gas pump #3.

Credit Card? Yes.   Fuel Rewards? No.   Regular Unleaded: Yes.

“Do you have a minute?!”

“No,” I thought, and looked up to find the young man was unmistakably addressing me. I just wasn’t quick enough in my reply.


Lesson #1: When we’re over-extended, “just a little more” can feel like “a little too much.”

Certainly, I’m not alone in this experience. Who hasn’t been asked for “one more thing” when they’re already spread too thin?

We’re asked—or we’re asking someone—to give, buy, consider, or do something, a lot. Whether via email, social media, phone calls, or scams, these asks for “another minute” can be as draining as they are prevalent. They can make the most charitable or patient among us bristle.

Such was my state, that rainy evening at the gas station.


Lesson #2: Important connections get missed in the rush to say “no.”

The man offered a quick demo of his product, moving his pink spray can across my car windshield before I could say no.

A pastel foam soon covered several windows, expanding in the rain. My patience shriveled.

My gas tank wasn’t even half full, but I knew I wasn’t interested. Still, the man persisted.

His name was John and his product was “amazing,” he’d said. It would whisk the rain away, and I would no longer need windshield wipers. At only $20, John was proud to declare, this product practically paid for itself.

I tried again to close the door on John’s sale attempt. I explained $20 was the amount of one of my last charitable donations made to my employer, WACAP.

“When I have an extra $20.00, I try to donate it a cause I care about—like finding families for children who are waiting to be adopted. I’m going to pass on your product, but that’s the reason why,” I said.


I hadn’t yet told him that my colleagues see children every day who’ve been overlooked in orphanages and in state foster care, and they believe there’s only one acceptable outcome for these kids: that they’re unabashedly loved by a family.

Sometimes, for WACAP’s staff, social workers, board and volunteers, the days are long. It’s hard for them to go home … because “home,” for children that don’t have one, is what everyone is so busy fighting for.

Everyone I’ve met at WACAP gives more than they’re asked to give, whether a small gift of $20 now and then, or something larger; a little extra time, or a whole lot.

For some reason, they do it without being asked.


Lesson #3: Sharing something small might amount to something substantial.

John couldn’t believe that I gave money to my employer. To him, the whole concept seemed “backwards.” But, his face was earnest; his curiosity, sincere.

The conversation took a quick left turn, barreling away from foam window sealants, and landing squarely on the topic of non-profits. It was the last conversation I could have expected at a gas station in the rain: John wanted to know why I would give money back to my employer.


We talked about how nonprofits look at the world around them: How they see people who aren’t represented or whose needs aren’t being met; how most often, the people who form this kind of organization do it because they really care.

We talked about what nonprofits need: How they ask for support through fund drives, fundraisers, pledges, events or even cookie sales.

And we both agreed: The request to donate money, or give more, to one more cause can get old.

We landed here, with this realization:

The flip side to that pricey box of cookies, or those ‘donate now’ messages is that nonprofits can only serve their community because there are communities of people who help by giving back.

When an organization does fundraising, they’re acknowledging that connection. They’re admitting that they can’t do it alone, or without us.


Lesson #4: We forget what inspires us when we’re hurried, and we neglect to share it with others.

With a full tank of gas, my windows clean, and the rain picking up, I was ready to go, but felt less hurried. John asked more about WACAP, and we went our separate ways thinking about the importance of home, the value of family, and the children who need both.

I didn’t leave with a can of pink window sealant. John wasn’t leaving with a sale.

I started homeward 15 minutes later than planned, but realizing that often unwelcome question—“Do you have a minute?”— was a reminder of why I needed to make time.

And the sales pitch for a $20.00 product I didn’t need?—it became the welcome souvenir of an impromptu chat about what inspires me to give … when no one asks.

It’s because of …


mh-photo-profile-wacapAbout Communications Editor, Missy Harrel: Missy joined WACAP’s communication team in 2011. Prior to that, she spent the first part of her career in nonprofit program management focused on child welfare and early learning, as well as teaching in higher education. Growing up with family and friends who were adopted, she has an ongoing interest in listening to and sharing about family, their connections and the stories they create together. She blends her communications background with a love of learning. And she enjoys reading a good poem, sipping a nice cup of coffee, or a seeing a child jump carefree into a mud puddle overcome with the feeling of joy and opportunity that every child deserves. 

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