Love Knows No Borders

As I write this, I am exhausted from a busy August day in China, getting to know new friends in Huaihua City in the Hunan province. There are three of us on this trip: myself, WACAP’s China Program Director Elizabeth Rose, and volunteer physician Berkeley Powell. We are led by WACAP’s China representative Michael Huang. WACAP is launching a new orphanage partnership here, and there’s no better way to get to know new Hunan friends than over shared meals and spending time with children.

WACAP_Huaihua_Sunset

Sunset Over Huaihua, Hunan Province

Breathing was a challenge many times today, not just due to the sticky heat but because of the weight of the futures that hung in our designated room heavier than the humidity. The parade of children came to greet us, and they were breathtaking. I believe I met your child today.

He held my hand with a firm grip, and later we rolled a ball back and forth.

She smiled at me from behind her nanny’s leg.

He warmed to me after his visit, when he returned to the room a bit jealous of the attention given to the other children.

And your daughter, well she couldn’t stand me, and screamed when I tried to take photos of her for you. I gave the camera over to her nannies, though, and she did fine.

I was filled with hope for the young toddler with Down syndrome, knowing he will find love with your family. As we discussed when we met the city’s Civil Affairs directors, he will know a love which knows no borders.

WACAP_orphanage_Hunan

WACAP Visits an Orphanage in Hunan Province

These orphanage and civil affairs leaders knew of WACAP’s reputation in China, a reputation earned over years of work by WACAP’s terrific staff and the endless line of WACAP families since 1990 who have travelled to China to create or grow their families. And I thought of you. You may have travelled to China previously to meet your child. Perhaps you will travel soon. Others reading this post may never set foot in China, but are passionate about the children here without families, and you are helping to support WACAP financially in order to end their wait.

WACAP_Great_wall

The Great Wall of China

I bragged on you all today to my new friends. I told them that you are working and learning and ready to be matched with your sons or daughters. You aren’t daunted by medical diagnoses or developmental delays. You are ready for all that has been left in trauma’s wake. You know that WACAP stands ready to help you prepare and to support you after placement. You love these children, will ensure they know of their country and cherish their cultural heritage.

Perhaps you are still waiting to be found, but you are out there.

And I met your child today.


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

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Across Continents, The Threads That Connect Us

The more I explore the world, the more I realize how small it is. We are countries and cultures full of people pursuing the very same things: enrichment through productive work, meaning through spirituality, and connection through relationships. Though unique in the expression and pursuit of these desires, we are all alike.image

Take Claire, for instance. She coordinates international adoptions for one of WACAP’s NGO partners in Taiwan. As we talked over tea, she asked questions about the impact of birthland tours on adopted persons. She wondered how adoptive families were able to manage the vast needs brought to them by children from hard places, and we discussed trauma’s impact, and the challenge of establishing “felt trust” within adoptive families. Later, she showed me around the conference room dotted with framed photos of children who once lived in her orphanage but now live with American families. She mentioned names and knew grandparents. She cared deeply for these, her children, and kept up with them through social workers’ and families’ post placement reports and photos — items provided after the red tape, legalities and immigration work of intercountry adoption had been finalized. This was a profound reminder of how important these post-adoption reports are, ensuring transparency and accountability to children’s countries of origin. More than that, they are the thread that connects hearts across continents. The words and pictures are not simply filed away and checked off a list. They are poured over, and cherished by previous caregivers as if letters from home. They are that.

imageI also met Frank, another champion for Taiwan’s children. We crossed paths twice in one day, as he guided us through his organization, giving us insight into how they care for children in the morning, then again as he walked a WACAP family through the immigration process at the American Institute in Taiwan. It was terrific to meet and connect with a WACAP couple at the unveiling of their family, and to now know the dedicated professionals in another time zone who so carefully consider the adjustment of a child to her new parents in those amazingly important, but often awkward first days of adoption. While every adoption story is unique, what it always comes down to is that a child needed a family.

We Americans struggle with the problem of children living without families in our nation, just like the Taiwanese or any other culture. Across cultures and countries, none of us have fully figured out the pursuit of connections through healthy relationships, sadly. But we imagepress on, and we do better as we know better. Maybe, when together we begin to acknowledge the vast problem of our world’s orphan crisis, we might begin to better understand the vast quantity of creative solutions. We might decide to roll up our sleeves and get to work for those children I have met on this trip to Taiwan, who continue to wait for a connection to a permanent, healthy, nurturing and safe family. I believe we can do this, but we must do it together. Our team is strong, in the U.S. and in Taiwan, in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. Come join us.

Learn about waiting children here, donating to support the work of WACAP here, or how to start the adoption process here.


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

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Tell a Story, Change a Story.

I’m often asked about the specifics of how adoption has changed over the years. Like most questions about adoption, the answer begins with a qualifier, “It’s complicated.” At the end of the answer, we’re left with the reality of children who continue to wait in imperfect systems of temporary care, both in the U.S. and around the world. They wait for parents to step forward and say, “You are more than your history, more than your diagnosis, more than your current limitations. I commit to you, and I am yours forever.”

pie chart showing two thirds of the matches of children and families occur through WACAP's "Family Finder's" programThese children bring with them a history, a story that is filled with real people and experiences. Far from the beginning of their stories, these children bring along their past, marked by memories and complications and trauma. One of our favorite tasks at WACAP is the heart of our “Family Finders” program, telling those stories and finding families for every child. We have a team of dedicated staff and volunteers who can bring a child to life from the child’s government file and a few photos.

Before a family ever submits an application, or pays a fee, WACAP is at work on behalf of these children. We travel to meet them and learn their stories. We collaborate with the appropriate adoption authority in each country to determine how we can best tell their stories. We cut through red tape to obtain permissions. It takes time and effort. We then edit any facts, photos and video we may have into portraits of children who are more than the data found in a file folder. Thanks to our volunteers and staff, these children become real.

And families respond.

Almost two-thirds of the matches that occur within the scope of WACAP’s work are a result of our Family Finding program. The other third happen through a more traditional route, where a child is referred by a country’s central adoption authority to a family with a completed homestudy and who’s approved into an adoption program.

In an email recently received in our office, a prospective parent had this to say, “Thank you for all the info, and I will say that my spouse and I seem to be quite smitten with [the boys.] I know it’s very early, but with the one short online video [we are] quite emotional. We will be in touch shortly.”

Once families “meet” these children, they begin to see the potential beyond the past history. They find the intersection between a child’s needs and their abilities. They begin to picture what is possible. At this point, WACAP professionals and the prospective parents get to work in preparation and study for a future adoption. Families pay for this guidance and education provided by agencies like WACAP.

But the storytelling, that happens because of donors. Adoption fees don’t cover this family finding work. The adoption world is changing, and the majority of our placements happen because a family responds to an individual, waiting child. Adoption isn’t for everybody, but every person can help to forever change the future for a child, or children, who are waiting. Your donation to WACAP’s “Every Child Fund” can transform a life.

Help us tell their stories. Help us change their stories.


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

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Family Fun Takes Flight


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


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


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

 

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

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

Wizardslogo

 

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Welcome Home, Maya Lin!

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

Congratulations to this family and welcome home, Maya Lin!

A photo of a toddler girl amongst statues of children

Maya Lin explores China, shortly after meeting her family.

 

A photo of a toddler girl standing in a cozy playroom

Maya Lin at home.

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What Now?

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

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

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

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


WACAP_Zoila_Lopez

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

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Let It Go

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

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

We can’t.

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

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

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

So what can we do?

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

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

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


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

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Congrats, Class of 2016!

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

WACAP_Grads_2016

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Worth Every Step: Hannah’s Story

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


Photo of smiling volunteer at nonprofit adoption agency WACAP

Hannah, one of WACAP’s extraordinary volunteers.

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah with her family

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

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

Hannah as a child and the family that inspires her.

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah (second from left) with her siblings.

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

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

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


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

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What I Learned from Adopted Persons

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

WACAP Panel

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

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

 

Posted in Adoption, Adoption Washington, Domestic Adoption, Events, International Adoption, Reflections, Staff/Board Spotlight, Support Services | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment