An Adoptee’s Perspective: “On Race and Identity” – Part II

Emily, WACAP adoptee from India, writes about growing up adopted in her essay “On Race and Identity (Part I)” where she leans into a difficult truth: “I do not know when I will feel that I am just normal with my family. Unless we are behind closed doors.” Adopted as an infant from India, she writes candidly about growing up within the family she loves unreservedly, but where she was never without questions about who she was and where she belonged. Explaining in her essay’s closing, she writes, “I still will shut my eyes when I am with them, and open them, and think about what it would feel like if my family had my same skin tone.” Here, she resumes that conversation about the importance of belonging, inviting us all to hear and to listen …


(left) post author as infant being held by caregiver in orphanage; photos name on placard; Emily with her smiling family

The hardest part was that my family did not know the feeling I had. I could have explained it to them but they would never really understand how I felt. For the longest time, I would hide my feelings. I would cry to my mom and dad about something that was bothering me, but I would also make up a different reason as to why I felt that way.

I did not want to share my true feelings. But here they are now, trying to help me.

Still, growing up, I was embarrassed. Not of my family, but embarrassed that I looked different. I was hurt by the words my classmates would call me.

I was not sure how to process the feelings and emotions, so I would act out in a negative way. Whether I threw a tantrum or tried to pick a fight with my mom or dad, I was going to let these emotions out.

It hurt.

My heart and throat hurt from holding back tears from the pain that I was feeling. I had no one that I could connect with and help validate my feelings. I was alone.

There was a place where I found I could be myself, and that was at WACAP’s Family Camp, which I still go to today. My family started going when I was four years old. It was a place our family could be and where no one would question or make assumptions about our relationship. No one would say, “You can’t be sisters” or “They aren’t your real parents” because our family was a normal family at camp.

As I grew older, my friends from those summers and I would talk about different racial issues going on in our lives. We were able to explain our feelings to people that would understand. The bonds are strong. Most of these friends are doing other things these days and they don’t go to camp anymore, but we stay in touch.

Now that I am older and still attend camp, I try to talk with younger adoptees about their feelings and thoughts. I also speak with parents who want me to hear their stories and to hear “the other side” – their perspective as adoptive parents. They want my input and advice. I love every moment about this WACAP weekend away.

Though I still carried the burden of the hurtful names I’d been called and replayed questions about where I belonged, finding other kids who understood that was such a support. I often wonder if my parents could have helped with my racial and identity issues. At the same time, I would keep things from them on purpose. Plus, I’d be less likely to share anything at all, if I felt distant or not able to be heard.

What I really enjoyed was when I would be able to have mother-daughter dates and daddy daughter daddy-daughter dates. During times like that, I was one-on-one with a parent and able to talk about anything and everything. I loved that I was going to be able to grab lunch or dinner with one of them and have a parent’s full and undivided attention. When we had this kind of time together, I felt far more comfortable explaining the emotions I had.

In offering advice to adoptive families on talking to their kids about belonging, race, and questions they’re facing, I’ll admit that it’s hard to say what would have helped me most, and what wouldn’t have. It’s also hard to say just what will best support kids who grow up with challenges like I had, since everyone is different. I can say, though, that I wish my parents had talked with me more about the situations that arose. By this I mean, I wish we had talked about the times when we were out in public and someone would treat me differently. Maybe if we had talked about my feelings at moments like that, I would have been a bit more open about talking with them about my feelings.

As I wrestled with my identity and the sting of being treated differently, I even struggled with being Indian. I did not want to call myself Indian. And I felt very uncomfortable as I started to get older when I was around groups of Indians. For instance in high school, I had a couple Indian friends, and one night went with them to a party that was predominately attended by Indians.

I felt out of place.

I’d been asked from childhood by other kids why my family was white, but not me. That evening, surrounded by many who shared a similar skin tone and my country of birth, I felt like everyone was staring at me and that I did not belong.

With the support of my friends, and after being introduced to some of the teens in the group, I became more comfortable; and I’ve learned that with introductions, I’m much more at ease. Still, years later, I do not arrive at that feeling of ease and belonging if I am in a crowd where I don’t know anyone, or if I do not have a safe person with me.

Adding to my discomfort with being Indian were some of the one-on-one interactions I experienced. There were times that I would give my ID at a local gas station or store staffed by an Indian clerk, who would then ask about my middle name. When they asked, they’d want to know where I was from and would start to talk to me in Hindi or Punjabi. Not understanding what they were saying, I’d explain that I was adopted and did not know the language. The looks I would receive in response were shocking to me.

I started to hate that I was Indian, for these reasons.

Time has passed a little since, and today I have finally started to be okay with my ethnicity. It “has taken me a minute” getting to here, and still I have my moments, trust me. One such moment I am now struggling with is the concept of going back to India. I have arrived at the point where I believe I need to face this fear. Going to India, however, is one of the scariest things I have ever thought about. This would involve me going to see where I would have lived if I hadn’t been adopted. Thinking about it, the emotions and feelings I have make me sick … but I am ready at the same time.

What has brought me to where I am now, to feeling more ready for something like that? It’s another question of my own.

It’s been years since those elementary school questions I first faced as a child. I am now an adult, embarking on the newest chapter of my life in the southwestern part of the U.S. It is back to the beginning for me with people I meet. They have no clue about my adoption unless I tell them. But different than I was in my teenage years, I have noticed that I am more open about my adoption the older I get.

In my own way, I am also now inviting people to ask me about who I am. I have a tattoo on my back that says Baisakhi, in Hindi lettering, which is my Indian name. I wear a lot of shirts that show this tattoo, which means I have lots of people ask about it. This is when I start to talk about my adoption. Also, because I have new friends who have never seen my family, when it does come up that I am adopted, many admit to being “kind of thrown off,” having assumed my family was Indian when I talked about them. People ask questions, and I am able to answer them honestly. (A big change from not sharing about my adoption until my friends knocked on my family’s door.)

I realize I’ve definitely had more time to think about my adoption after moving from the place I grew up. Now that I’ve moved out of the house and away from home, I do not see my family often. However, my sister lives in my new home state, too, and when we go out together we still commonly hear from others, “Oh my goodness; you two are sisters?” I have come to the conclusion this will not get old. Recognizing this makes me feel great! I have reached a point where I am, and can now be, very open about my feelings regarding my adoption.

In writing more of my story, too, I have also realized all the more, the hardships that I have been through in coming to this point. I have learned about myself, about support systems, and the need for them. Along the way, I’ve engaged in important conversations with my family, and talked with other adoptive families about difficult questions. Those hurtful questions that sometimes get asked by others, and the ones we ask ourselves that hurt, too. I’ve listened to others.

It’s with some difficult moments, and without all questions answered, that I’ve listened to myself, and still found my way to here. I’m mindful of the fears ahead that I’ll face, but I find myself able to say something I once couldn’t:

I love every bit of who I am. I am proud to be East Indian and I am excited to plan a trip home to India. (Wow; I cannot believe I said home.)

 

Part II of Essay by WACAP Adoptee Emily Seaborg, “On Race and Identity”


photo of WACAP adoptee, Emily, post's author, smilingAbout Emily:
Passionate about supporting adoptive families, Emily Seaborg, WACAP volunteer and adoptee, is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work. A long-time participant of WACAP’s family camp, she returns each year for what she calls the “best” weekend: “This is where I connect. This is where I can explain how I feel with others who know what it is like. These people do not judge, and I can share my experiences with others!” As a mentor for adoptees who need a listening ear, Emily also offers a voice of perspective for their parents, helping to bring families closer through understanding and empathy.

Posted in Adoptees' Perspectives, Adoption FAQ, Advice, International Adoption, Reflections, Travel, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

An Adoptee’s Perspective: “On Race and Identity” – Part I

Emily, adopted from India as an infant, continues to share her story and perspective about growing up adopted. Here, she talks about adoption, race and identity, reflecting on the difficult questions raised by others, and the difficulty of not feeling you belong, even when you know you are loved.  (Part I of II)


photo of author of post as an infant in her orphanage.

I sit here in tears trying to piece together what to say and how to say it.

As you may know from what I shared earlier this year, I was adopted from India at eight months old. My forever family was entirely comprised of white people until my uncle and aunt adopted from China years later.

I LOVE my family and that is no lie.

But one of the struggles I’ve endured was being of color in a predominately white area. I never really started to notice the difference until I was a couple grades into elementary school. Some kids would start to point out and question, “Why is your family white and you are black?” Or they would ask, “What happened to your real family?”

Trying to process all of these questions seemed difficult as a child. I would say that I was adopted and leave it at that. I was young, and even though I’d given an answer, my younger self didn’t know these questions were bound to come out sometime in my life.

But that was just the beginning. And things didn’t get easier. They got harder.

As children, we ask very blunt questions and we definitely have no filters. That was increasingly the case, as kids asked about me and my family growing up. For instance, my mom told me about a time that she acted puzzled when a boy asked to see my “real mom.” She had asked him in response, “What does a ‘real mom’ do that I am not doing?” She explained that there are different ways to build families. As true and as loving as my mom’s explanation was, these moments were also constant reminders that I did not fit. All I had to do was look down at my skin and realize that I did not belong. No matter what the kids said to me, the reality I faced just made things worse. I was trying to figure out who I was and where I would belong.

Then came another harsh reality in being bullied and called names. In middle school, when I was at the YMCA with a friend and my sister (my parents’ child biologically), another child began swimming around us, and began bullying me. He called me the N-word. I didn’t know what the word meant. My friend explained that it was a bad word, also telling my mother what happened. My mom responded, engaging the pool’s lifeguard, who had the boy suspended from the pool. Still, after this incident, I noticed that word … and that it seemed to come up more and more.

Not only that, but people would laugh at me and tell me to go back to India. They would tell me that I did not belong. These memories and words, plus the questions I’d been asked before, just added to the thoughts in my head.

As I got older and more independent, I made new friends who had never seen me with my family. They did not know that I was adopted. Adoption became less a part of my identity. I actually stopped talking about adoption all together. There came a point when I finally was not known for or identified by my having a white family.

In high school, a place where I learned not every person knew I was adopted, I never shared that piece of me. I also ended up meeting a great group of girls of different ethnicities while in high school, and we all went to Multicultural Club. I remember thinking to myself that I finally fit in somewhere. I was no longer picked on for my race. We all had each other’s back. Every week we would go to our club; I enjoyed every minute of it as our club did not discriminate or call people out for racial differences. We were able to plan “Diversity Week,” and there was a time that our school let us plan the MLK assembly. I felt safe and did not seem to have as many issues.

When new friends came to my house, they thought they were in the wrong place when a white woman answered the door. That became the moment I was able to talk about my adoption.

Being out with family though, even when we were obviously together, people would still “call me out,” as not belonging. The situation might be different than the bullying and name calling at the pool, or the questions from elementary school, but nonetheless would bring difficult questions.

It would come up during times like shopping with my mom, unloading our cart, talking and laughing. On one past occasion, I’d stepped around her to the cashier, who then told me, “that woman was first,” pointing at my mom, who politely replied, “We are together; she is my daughter.” And it still occurs. As recently as last year, the feelings from that encounter welled up, likewise while shopping with my Mom at three different stores, all on the same day, after three different women approached me, and began talking to me as if I worked there. They had assumed that I was the employee while I was helping the older white lady.

I realize that in some respects, this misunderstanding may not seem like a big deal … but to me, it meant everything.

And it left me asking difficult questions myself: Why do I have to be pointed out? When will this go away? Will it ever just stop?

The answer is … I do not know when I will feel that I am just normal with my family. Unless we are behind closed doors.

But even then, I still will shut my eyes when I am with them, and open them, and think about what it would feel like if my family had my same skin tone.

Part I of Essay by WACAP Adoptee Emily Seaborg, “On Race and Identity”


About Emily:
Passionate about supporting adoptive families, Emily Seaborg, WACAP volunteer and adoptee, is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work. A long-time participant of WACAP’s family camp, she returns each year for what she calls the “best” weekend: “This is where I connect. This is where I can explain how I feel with others who know what it is like. These people do not judge, and I can share my experiences with others!” As a mentor for adoptees who need a listening ear, Emily also offers a voice of perspective for their parents, helping to bring families closer through understanding and empathy.

a selfie of the author, wearing a bright smile after good news

Emily’s selfie and smile when accepted to grad school.

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Shared by Adoptive Families: Collected Advice and Lessons Learned

This past year, as parents have shared their adoption stories with WACAP, many have included advice they’d like to share with other families. They’ve offered their thoughts to those waiting to welcome their children home and those newly considering adoption, as well as to adoptive parents who may be experiencing challenges. Here, you’ll find a short collection of that advice, words of encouragement, plus a few simple, but important reminders from their journeys.


image: family and scenic mountain overlook; text overlay: advice and encouragement from adoptive families who've “been there”Lesson learned during the adoption process?
It’s important to lean on those around you. Just asking someone important to you to be a resource when you need them; that’s important to do, for you and for them.

Any “rough patches” and how did you approach them?
Adoption is a process and it’s a journey. It’s one that’s so exciting and so fun, where others are excited for you, too, but where there are also the harder moments along the way. After the goodwill, momentum and expectation, those lows can feel like feel like failure. I remind myself still that anticipation, momentum, and joy are just one side of a journey; inevitably there will be the need for rest, support, and healing along the way.

How do you make time for you after adopting?
Take advantage of the support that’s out there. I learned that there are a number of resources for adoptive families, for parents of children with disabilities, and for foster/adoptive families. If you don’t know where to start, ask your adoption agency about resources they provide or can share. Check with your state and community too. From support groups, family resources and local services to respite care, there are supports that can make all the difference for you and your family. 

Something easier said, than done?
I wish I would have been more patient with the process. It’s now that I can look back and see that the time spent through the process was helpful in preparing me for my adoption, and for the unknowns I’d face later. It’s really difficult to feel that way in the midst of the wait, and while the focus was on getting through “the process.” 

Your first lesson learned?
After our son came home, we experienced him getting upset … for reasons we didn’t know and that he couldn’t communicate in a way we understood. Figuring out why he was upset, and figuring out what to do: This was new to us. We had expected ourselves to have it all figured, and we didn’t. We don’t. Give yourself permission to not have it already figured out.

What didn’t you know? 
We didn’t know if, or when, our child was responding to trauma or difficult memories from his past. That was difficult. Remember that you might not know what’s behind your child’s behavior, or whether trauma from their past is playing a role in their behaviors. You might not know something like that, but you can look to others to support you (your social worker, an adoption counselor or therapist), so ask for help. We got support to help us learn how to respond in the best way, without adding to the trauma our son had experienced. 

A simple reminder everyone needs?
Find someone to listen. Maybe it’s just being able to talk, and asking someone to listen that will make a difference for you in the moment you need it.


WACAP is a champion for children, finding and preparing permanent families, and offering lifelong support after adoption. 

If you have questions about adopting, email us wacap@wacap.org. If your family needs support after adoption, please contact us at postplacement@wacap.org.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption FAQ, Advice, Foster Care, International Adoption, Quote, Support Services | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

China: Return to the Finding Place, Part III

Thirteen-year-old Anna, adopted from China as a child, shares about her family’s recent trip to her birth country, including a visit to a local orphanage and to the place she was found as a young child.

Between Anna’s recollections of what she thought was very cool about the trip and what was unexpected, she also explores her own questions, fears, and hopes with courage and with depth. Meanwhile, she asks us all to remember why others’ stories are important—both when we know a person’s story, and when we don’t.


Visiting-Country-of-Birth-Sitting-on-Tiled-Street-Smiling

Anna, 13 years old, as she travels to China with her family.

My finding place … it’s kind of hard to put what I originally envisioned into words.

The surroundings I can explain, and my first impression was that it was a lot more modern and more American than I expected.

I definitely was not expecting it to be on the corner of a busy street with vendors along the way—not that this changes the way I see myself being found—but it was not what I was expecting.

When the friendly village surrounded the group I was with, and I was very welcomed by people I didn’t know, I thought it was cool how they were so interested in me.

In the back of my mind, I hoped that one of them was one of my birth parents, but in situations like this, where’s there’s no real information about my birth parents, it’s unlikely for me to ever find them.

It’s hard not to get your hopes up, though, but at the same time, I’m still very grateful for the life I have now.

The idea of going to a place and thinking, “This is the place I grew up a little, and I have no memory of it,” was scary in a way … because as hard as I try to remember, I can’t always tell my memories from my dreams.

Traveling-with-Family-to-China.jpg

Photos from the family’s travels and sight-sightseeing on their trip

The orphanage we visited, however, wasn’t from my memory. It wasn’t the original building I spent around 11 months of my life in, as that building was no longer open to be able to visit. I didn’t know what to expect, or what I’d recall though, when we visited a different orphanage on the trip, but I remember that walking into the orphanage was breathtaking.

It was amazing to see how much effort the orphanage put into making the place seem like home, and I felt happy knowing that children were growing up in a nice place.

I immediately connected to all of the children at the orphanage. I was very happy that I was given the chance to play with them, knowing that 13 years ago, I would have wanted someone to play with me.

In the future, I wish to give a home to a child from an orphanage because I feel like I was given the opportunity to live a different, new life, and I feel like others deserve the chance as well.

In a way, I really have no idea how my life could have ended up if I wasn’t adopted. Growing up as a Templeton, I wouldn’t want my life any other way.

Adoption has also changed the way I see people to this day. I think adoption has given me something to remember about others, or when meeting new people, which is this: “You never know what people have been through.”

Because … not everyone tells their story.


You can read more about Anna and her family’s visit in Part I and Part II of “A Return to the Finding Place” by Laura Templeton, a member of WACAP’s board of directors … and Anna’s mom.

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

China: Return to the Finding Place, Part II

First look at Pinky

(A Continued Story by WACAP Adoptive Parent Laura Templeton. For Part I, click here.)

As it usually is on a journey, things happen fast, and only in retrospect do you begin to see their true meaning and feel their impact.

This was true on our family’s trip to China last month, when we took our 13-year-old daughter back to the place where her life began. When we stopped in a Chinese village market to buy diapers and baby formula for the orphanage we were scheduled to visit, surrounded by the friendly village crowd, I became caught up in watching my daughter interact with the villagers and their curiosity over her baby picture.

In that spontaneous moment, we saw a crying woman in the crowd and learned that she had given up a daughter several years after we brought home our daughter. Through our interpreter, we told the woman that her daughter is probably happy and healthy and living in a family now, just like our daughter. There were smiles, and the moment was gone in the close of a van door.

Looking at our travel itinerary, I saw that we were going to visit our daughter’s “finding place.” We had been told it’s illegal to give up a child for adoption in China, so if a parent is unable to care for their child, they leave the child at the front step of the orphanage, or a public space where they will be quickly found. I dug out my daughter’s adoption papers and saw that she had been left at the Civil Affairs office. The official adoption papers are called the “notice of abandonment,” and they say that my daughter was “abandoned indefinitely.” My daughter pointed at “abandoned” and said, “I hate that word.” Just two days old, my daughter was bundled in a blanket, placed in a box with a bottle and formula, and left at the government gate in the wintertime.

We pulled up Google maps and tried to find the Civil Affairs building in Jinxiang, to no avail. This gate had become a larger than life landmark in my mind, so much that just thinking about it brought me to tears. I didn’t want my daughter to focus on the word “abandoned,” so I thought to myself, let’s focus on being found. With tears in my eyes, I penned a sign that read “FOUND, LOVED, CHERISHED.”

Templeton Family FOUND photo

Arriving at the finding place, we were surprised to see it was a busy city street corner. The setting and emotions weren’t the Hallmark moment I had anticipated. To my daughter’s surprise, I brought out the homemade sign, which she begrudgingly held for a photo op. She rolled her eyes at me as we took the picture, but seeing her standing on that street corner brought me back to the Chinese mother. With tears on her face, she was remembering the child she had lost. Across oceans and years and a language barrier that mother’s tears and mine were two sides of an adoption story. I watched my daughter tuck her sign into my backpack: “Found, Loved, Cherished.”

 

Posted in Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, International Adoption, Reflections, Staff/Board Spotlight, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

China…A Return to the Finding Place

Templeton Trip Blog 1

By Laura Templeton

Twelve and a half years ago, we adopted our daughter Anna from China, with the help of WACAP. We promised her that we would visit China once she was a teenager. That’s how we found ourselves checking into a hotel in Nanchang, China last month. In eight hours we were going to visit the orphanage and the place where Anna was “found” 13 years ago on a street near the orphanage.

We had been looking forward to this trip for many years, and I wanted to make sure everything went smoothly. We invited all the other families whom we adopted with to join us, and one of them was able to travel with us on the emotional journey. We were thrilled to find that our original adoption guide, the fabulous Wendy, was still working in the area and was going to escort us once again. Even after 12 years, Wendy remembered all our names, where we worked, what we like to eat. She was the ultimate fixer, facilitating every detail of our days. And that’s exactly what I wanted for what would certainly be a very emotional trip.

When you’ve hardly slept for the past 36 hours, your emotions can be a bit dulled and your head a bit fuzzy. Back home before the trip, we prepared and talked as a family about Anna’s finding place, and I had moments where I found myself teary-eyed sitting in my house in Woodinville, WA.  But as we arrived at the bustling street corner and climbed out of the van, we were all surprisingly calm and non-reactive. And exhausted. Where was the emotion I had surely expected?

Impact Blog - Featured Image (640px x 300px)

The emotions, as they often do, came a little bit later.

In fact, the totally unscripted moment that unfolded next was the highlight of our day. After we left the finding place, we stopped to purchase diapers and formula for the orphanage. Leaving the store, we noticed we had attracted something of a crowd. The crowd followed us to our van, where they peeked in to catch a glimpse of the foreigners. On an impulse, we decided to step out and meet the growing crowd of curious, friendly  locals.

We spit out the few Chinese phrases we had learned, “My name is … I am the mama… I am 13 years old.” The crowd was several people deep now, and they were all smiling at us and giving us a thumbs up.

We shared photos from when the girls were babies — the crowd had their cell phones out taking photos of not just us, but also taking photos of our girls’ baby photos. It was such a fun, spontaneous interaction and we were so touched by the warm reception these total strangers gave us. And there it was…standing in a street in Nanchang, China, we were wrapped in a welcoming hug from my daughter’s hometown.

Posted in Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, International Adoption, Travel, Uncategorized, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Korea, Domestic and International Adoption Live Side by Side

boy-blue-sweater-sweet-expression-WACAP

By Mary Moo, WACAP Vice President of Adoptions

Several years ago the Korean government made a difficult decision and upended the adoption procedure that had been in place for roughly half a century.  It was a bold change and one that caused ripples in the adoption community since in addition to solving some problems, it created new ones and added delays.

With a negative population growth the Korean government would love to discontinue intercountry adoption. During the past years many agencies have been upfront with potential adoptive families about the Korean government’s desire to stop intercountry adoption.  This narrative and the significant delays caused by the overhaul to the adoption process has been taken to heart by potential adoptive parents in the U.S. After all, the news about countries closing their doors to foreign adoptive parents is a good reason for potential adoptive parents to be cautious. The reality however is that the Korean government continues to approve American and European citizens to adopt Korean children who aren’t being adopted domestically. There were only three other countries that adopted more children to the US in 2016 (China, DRC and Ukraine). Yet many agencies have very few families, if any, waiting to be matched with a baby from Korea.

The Korean government and adoption agencies in Korea continue to promote and encourage domestic Korean families to consider adoption. Unfortunately, old customs are hard to change and domestic adoption remains very limited within Korea. While progress is slow in breaking down old cultural stigmas of adoption within Korea there are still children (largely babies) that can be adopted by U.S. Citizens. Agencies also see hope in the fact that the Korean government is in the process of implementing the Hague Treaty. We hope that in doing so the Korean government, while continuing to promote domestic adoption, has come to a tacit acceptance of international adoption in small numbers.

With this in mind if you are considering adoption and you qualify to adopt from Korea please consider adopting through this amazing country.  You and your future child will benefit from decades of thoughtful consideration of how to serve members of the adoption triad (adoptee, birth parents, adoptive parents).  The three agencies accredited by the Korean government to coordinate intercountry adoption (as well as their work with domestic families) all have developed foster care programs to provide the best care possible for babies and toddlers waiting to be adopted.  If you live in Washington, North Carolina, Alaska or Utah WACAP can assist you in adopting from Korea. If you live in the other states WACAP can assist you in adopting one of the Korean waiting children we are advocating for.

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In the Foothills of the Austrian Alps: A Resilience Story

A few weeks ago, the Siebert family wrote to us, and their story reached out and touched us here at WACAP headquarters. We’ve been following them on Facebook, which has been great because mom Cherie is a photographer, and each new twist and turn in their story is beautifully captured by her artistic eye and camera lens.

This story tells of two children, WACAP kids adopted from the Waiting Children program in China.

Below, her photo journal reminds us of the strength of family, even when the way ahead is unsteady and the path is difficult.


In mom Cherie’s words…

“We adopted Kai Dong and Ming Qiao when they were 2-½ and 19 months respectively, both with clubfoot and Ming with spina bifida. My husband is Austrian, and our plan was always to get the children the medical care that they needed at Johns Hopkins, and then to eventually move to the Austrian countryside to give the family a better quality of life and the children better educational opportunities.”

Siebert Family Impact BLOG story - Feature Pic

Kai, 5 and Ming, 3. They were both treated at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital for clubfoot, and Ming had surgery for a tethered spinal cord related to her spina bifida.

Not long after the children came home, the family experienced what many other American families did, the crash of the housing market and economy, which impacted them greatly and delayed their plans for several years. They worked hard and finally did make it to Austria last year, settling in the remote foothills of the Alps.

On adjusting to a new life in Austria, Cherie reports, “Our kids are happy and healthy and we love them very much. They love their schools here and are beginning to speak German as well as they do English.”

Last week, she wrote about a new challenge that the family is facing:

“Now we have a different challenge—our family car (which we took to Austria) was one of those embroiled in a massive emissions scandal, and the manufacturer required us to ship the vehicle back to the U.S. at our own expense, and then proceeded to stonewall us with the buyback settlement.”

Siebert Scooter Trek

The family on the move again, just another beautiful but busy day

The situation has left the family stranded without a vehicle now for several months and has created a hardship for the entire family as they live in a remote region with limited public transport. Cherie says, “Our daughter Ming has a neurological deficit from the spina bifida that causes her to have limited use of her left leg, so walking 3 kilometers to the closest rail station is a real challenge, even with [the support of] her scooter. The rise up the hill on the return trip is extreme, as we live in the foothills.”

Siebert Family Walking

“13-year old Kai is superhuman. Ming and mom returned with varying degrees of mild heatstroke or heat exhaustion, but Kai made everyone food and then went back out with the bike to meet Papa at the station to get his heavy bags” — Cheri (Kai’s Mom)

Legal tangles and logistics nightmares have delayed the vehicle buyback and the family is counting on those funds to purchase a new vehicle, a sustainable electric van that will accommodate the children to their numerous medical appointments in the closest town. They’ve secured a sustainable energy vehicle subsidy from the Austrian government which will help additionally, but they are short the minimum down payment, and still need funds to pay for transportation until they can get the van.

For now, they walk to the nearest public transport station, spend time waiting in the hot sun, and pack groceries and supplies back and forth on an older bicycle, often logging 10-12 miles per day on foot.

Siebert Family Impact BLOG story - Train Pic

Ming and Kai, on the rails again

The transportation situation has been difficult on the children. Mom Cherie says the children are exhausted by the latest round of medical appointments they have scootered, walked, bused and ridden trains to. She reports that Kai is hanging in there, but Ming has become too fatigued and developed a bacterial infection and is on antibiotics. Thankfully the doctor caught it early and it’s not serious, “but she’s just worn out,” mom says.

Siebert Family Orthopedics Visit

Ming gets her feet scanned for orthopedic shoes to help her walk

In spite of that, she says the kids have been such troopers. And looking at the pictures of their daily journeys, we don’t see unhappy children in difficult times. We see children challenged by conditions at birth, parents challenged by corporate legal tangles, a family challenged by a season where daily life is hard work.

The family had another adventure this week. The school forgot to notify them that the children had to be picked up, so Kai and his mom had to walk over to the next village where Ming’s school is. As they left, a thunder and lightning storm came in with rain and a hail warning. Amazingly, by the time they were halfway there, the sun came out and when they came back it was only raining lightly. Kai carried Ming’s scooter so she could have it on the trip back and everyone celebrated with ice cream.

Siebert Family Break

Ming and Kai enjoy a cooling treat after another daily commuting adventure

The very next day, Cherie says, “I thought I might get a second wind today (one can dream) but after the two days with the 10-12 miles walked, the heat, and the carrying of groceries over hill and dale…. I’m not good for much more than lying very still and enjoying the evening breeze. I harvested salad from the balcony and superhero Kai made grilled cheese, which we all put tons of salt on. Thank goodness the children and I don’t have to get up early or go anywhere tomorrow.”

Siebert Kids on Hill

Kai helps Ming with a long, hilly climb

As the Siebert family waits for the vehicle buyback from the U.S. to finalize, hoping it happens in time to secure their new vehicle with a down payment, they continue daily treks across the hills of Austria. Back home their friends and family are watching their story unfold on Facebook, raising funds to help them with the mounting costs of the delay.

Impact Blog - Siebert 4 Pics Horiz

Just waiting on a train

Following along, we can’t stop thinking about them, and how they represent the balance of life: how challenges and troubles can often derail us, but other times the light shines through the cracks and we experience the triumph of resilience.

Posted in Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, International Adoption, Reflections, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Today at WACAP: From the Heart

imageo fstone stairway; text reads

Today in the WACAP lunchroom … I asked my colleague about her day.

It was 2 p.m. – a little late for lunch – but it had been a difficult day, a case manager for WACAP’s China team, explained.

China had changed its adoption eligibility requirements, she shared, concern on her face. Her team had just learned the news, and they’d spent the day talking with families: families whose hopes and dreams they’d come to know well, and whose paths could now change as a result of this new information.

My colleague, an adoptive parent also, said she wished she had the answers to why the country’s adoption requirements changed. “There’s nothing harder than being caught between hope, love, dreams, and uncertainty,” she knew.

“But that’s why we’re here, especially why we’re here,” she added. “Especially when the steps are hard.”

inspired staff member, WACAP


If you have questions about China’s Adoption Eligibility changes, please contact us.

If you have questions about adopting, or the countries where WACAP works, please email us at wacap@wacap.org

WACAP is a champion for children, finding and preparing permanent families, and offering lifelong support after adoption.

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“Ever After”: Adoption Success Stories Through Another Lens

ever-after-success-story-featured

In the nonprofit world, success stories are our lifeline. Stories help us engage others to help us accomplish our mission. They allow opportunities to celebrate those times when everything comes together for good. At WACAP, hardly a day goes by that I don’t open an email to see a smiling family, a note that a waiting child will soon be adopted, or a graduation photo.

In real life, however, this idea is harder to come by. It implies that everything is perfect, and everyone is living “happily ever after,” but life is more complicated than that. We often allow the idea to imply that all is well for now and ever more, but happily ever after is, quite honestly, a lie.

When applied to adoption, the ever after we celebrate is not limited to the concept of an orphan child “being rescued or saved from a tragic fate.” The ever after we champion revolves around the commitment families make to each other and the profound way that, for a child with no one, it changes everything.

So, when we discuss success at WACAP, we like to think in terms of snapshots. Otherwise, you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Today’s highlighted triumph may ultimately fall to the infamous Sports Illustrated “cover jinx.”

Trust me, no adoptive parent or child needs that level of pressure.

To me, the real beauty is found along all the rough edges. I am not compelled by the bright and shiny stories. I’m more drawn to the complicated ones, those in the midst of struggle. This idea normalizes adoptive families, placing us neither in the gutter nor atop any rickety pedestal. Adoptive parents would no sooner walk away than our biological counterparts. The occasional time out? Certainly. But we keep coming back.

The really good part of adoption is not when a family is found. No, the sweetest spot in adoption only appears when everything falls apart, and everyone stays.


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 Domestic Adoption, From the CEO, International Adoption, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment