$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 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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Fathers, Sons, and the War at Home

On his personal blog about adoption, fatherhood, and lessons learned, WACAP CEO Greg Eubanks shares about the relationship he and his youngest son have been working to recreate.

With his son’s permission, he offers a few thoughts, with hindsight and from a trauma-informed perspective, on how important it is to build connection with our children and to be kind rather than right.

close up of young man, side view

“War, What is it Good For?”

by Greg Eubanks

Perhaps we’ve established that I am a fixer, you and I. I am a Ph.D. level control freak. There’s nothing that my children did that I couldn’t tell them how to do better. And, unfortunately, I did.

Good grief, that’s a horrible sentence to read. Trust me, it’s a nightmare to write.

The worst of this trait was visited, I am so sorry to say, on my youngest son. He and I are nothing alike. Though there may be some rules I don’t particularly like, I’ve never met one I wouldn’t follow exactingly. And my Eli, well, he’s almost the opposite. Suffice it to say, we spent much of his childhood embattled in an unwinnable war.

Let me admire this about him for a while, which I should have done years ago, but…. bygones. There’s an integrity to him that I have to applaud. Truly. He would gladly accept any consequence to live out his convictions, even if the scope of those convictions are best left to debate another day.

Reading is fundamental. Control is forever.

There’s a story I like to tell about Eli and a particular reading teacher he had in junior high school. Not that junior high was in any remote way a positive experience for him, but the approach to reading comprehension was a particular point of contention. There was a program called “Reading Counts” or “Accelerated Reader,” wherein a student would read a book then take a test to demonstrate comprehension.

Eli viewed this method as remarkably stupid. Why on earth, he thought, should he prove to anyone that he read a book he chose for himself? From his perspective, there is an implied mistrust, and therefore an implied accusation of dishonesty foundational to such an approach to teaching. And if you don’t trust him, well then why bother? And the war was on.

So, before a single page was turned, he had been insulted. This was the starting point in his relationship with many teachers, but particularly for this one. He decided to draw a line. There was no way on earth he would answer the test questions honestly, given this context. So, he threw them all. Every last one. His relentless commitment to his line in the sand is impressive and demands a slow clap.

Throughout several parent teacher conferences, we proposed compromises: let him write or video a critique of the book. This after, all, leaned into his strengths while also demonstrating comprehension. The teacher has also drawn a line from which she wouldn’t budge, and Eli failed. Who won here? And why did it have to be a battle?

The war at home.

Looking back on my parenting, I ask the same exact questions of myself. At home, I was just like that teacher, time and time again. He hated it, and I hated it. But somehow we were both compelled to continue down our respective paths, and the wall we were building between ourselves grew taller and thicker with every battle.

I was beyond frustrated that I couldn’t control him. He felt, I assume from conversations we’ve had since, increasingly isolated and as though he could do nothing right. So he picked up the mantle of “bad seed” and placed it around his neck. Or maybe I handed it to him. Either way, it weighed on him and dragged him deeper and deeper into shame.

This was the result of my efforts to fix something that was the wrong problem to begin with. He should have seen me as his cheerleader, not his warden. Given his adoption experience, I had completely misdiagnosed the issue, focusing on performance when I should have been paying attention to our connection, to our relationship. Thank God I have the opportunity to enjoy that relationship now.

If you are a fixer like me, I urge you to take a breath.

Inhale slowly, then exhale and allow your mind to follow your path to its ultimate end. See how it plays out. My guess is that you won’t like how the story ends, so I implore you to lay your weapons down. Forget about the report card, or the clean room, or whatever that button is that is continually pushed. Try like hell to connect with your children, and see them for the heartbreakingly beautiful survivors they are.

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. He blogs about his experience as a parent, and about lessons learned at https://millionmistakes.com

Above post “War, What is it good for?” originally posted here. Reprinted with permission.

Posted in Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, Advice, From the CEO, Reflections, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Lessons From a Little Boy and His Truck: One Mom’s Pre-Adoption Reflection

child playing with red dump trunk

In this essay, an adoptive mom and WACAP supporter reflects on being a newcomer to the adoption process as a single mom-to-be. Attending an adoption class at the agency she was considering, she left the session thinking about the family whose adoption story she’d heard that day, but also about the important story that wasn’t shared …

“Connectedness: Lessons From a Little Boy and His Truck”

Essay By Karen Skalitzky, Adoptive Parent and Friend of WACAP

I still remember my first adoption class four years ago. A little Russian boy, whose only audible word was truck, ran and up and down the rows of seats in the auditorium. His eyes were fixed on his bright yellow dump truck. His thick little legs swished back and forth against the inseam of his jogging pants, while the weight from his diaper rounded out his backside.

Truck. Truck. Truck.

He announced this as he fishtailed his truck over the backs of the chairs, brushing up against the shoulders of childless couples and running into the knees of others. The auditorium was vast, too big for the scattered pairings of adults and single women. Fluorescent lights bounced off the white walls. This was my first public step into the world of adoption. I had to take several deep breaths before walking in solo, feeling that familiar mix of sadness and shame. I sat towards the back noting the exit doors. I didn’t know what to expect.

A social worker stepped up to the microphone and welcomed us. The little Russian boy cocked his head for a moment and then kept right on going. Focused solely on his truck, his presence seemed to soften the unspeakable in the room. Couples moved in closer to one another. Would-be moms smiled as dads-to-be patted his back or tussled his thick brown hair.

Truck. Truck. Truck.

The words lingered in his wake.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I kept thinking about his parents. Not the parents who were sitting on stage in front of us, regaling the auditorium with tales of paperwork and travel and diving into toddlerhood full force. I was thinking of his birth parents, the mother who carried him in her womb for nine achingly painful months, and the father, who is woven into every gene of his little compact body. We didn’t hear their story.

I wondered what it was like to relinquish such a beautiful little boy with his wide forehead and round cheeks. What if his mom had been secretly delighted to have him growing inside of her? What if the father had struggled mightily to keep him? Had they intended for him to be raised in the United States? Had they consented to his journey across the Atlantic? Did they even know where he was?

The possibilities seemed endless. Somewhere out in the world were the two people who had created him, just as he is, this little Russian boy in a blue and red rugby shirt with white stripes running down his pants. I couldn’t focus on the presentation. I didn’t care about the fees and the paperwork. I didn’t care about the agency’s long-standing history. There were two other people involved in the process whose stories I’d only casually considered, and always as one-dimensional.

Truck, truck, truck.

The little Russian boy rounded the corner to my row. I ached for his birth parents. How their loss could be someone else’s dream fulfilled was beyond my reckoning. I also ached for the part of me that wanted to be a mom that had listened to friends talk about late night feedings, teething rings, play dates and Hot Wheels. I watched as he jostled his truck over the arm rests. Our eyes met for a half a second. His cheeks were flush. His brown eyes wide with wonder.

Then he darted his truck past my knees and moved down the row. When he got to the end, he turned toward the front of the auditorium. His dad stood up and walked to the edge of the stage, smiling. The little boy turned back, glancing up and down the remaining rows, and then to everyone’s delight, he dropped his truck and ran straight into his dad’s outstretched arms.

In that moment I knew we are all intricately connected to one another—that life weaves its own delicate web of heartbreak and joy. None of us stands outside of it. And none of us stands alone.

Not even me.

Later that night my cousin called, and I told her what happened. She is the mother of three, her eldest son having died in utero. “If I had to give up either one of my children,” she offered, “I’d want them to be someone’s joy. That is exactly what I would want.”

About Karen: Karen Skalitzky is “a proud (and often humbled) mama.” In 2015, she and her son “adopted each other and became a family.” A former educator, she is an author, speaker, and spiritual director. She blogs about her and her son’s adoption journey at www.Godisbig.us. Essay above reposted with permission.

Thank you to, Karen, for sharing this perspective about the loss, joy and connections that weave families’ stories together through adoption.

To learn more about the adoption process through WACAP, or about the support we provide to adoptees seeking to connect with, or learn more about, their birth families, please contact us at wacap@wacap.org.

Posted in Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, Pre-Adoption, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Inspired: For the Children in Foster Care Who Need Advocates Every Day

Jessica is passionate about interacting with families, and Josh believes that the choices we make can change the path of a child in foster care—children who deserve love and stability in their tomorrow, and who need advocates today.

On this final day of National Foster Care Month, meet two more staff on WACAP’s US Kids team and find out what motivates the work they do all year.


Meet Jessica Burkholder, US Kids Licensor

Why I’m Passionate About Helping Families:

I work with families that are hoping to adopt a child from foster care, and it’s my job to support them through the process of getting their foster care license. I’m here to help them understand the importance of the trainings the process requires, talk about home safety and answer their questions.

My work is about helping prepare families to bring a child into their home … so that they can become the family and support that child needs.

That’s why I’m most passionate about interacting with the families and children I get to connect with through my work, and letting them know I care about them and about their success.

I care about being able to make a difference in their experience, and I’m glad that I can be there for families when they need it, and that I can be support in their journey to becoming the foster/adoptive parents for a child that needs them.

What I Want Others To Know About Foster Care and Adoption:

I really want people to know how many children and youth are without homes, or growing up without caring and loving families. I want to encourage them to spread this awareness to people that don’t know the great need these children have for a family.

I want people to know that these kids just need to be loved and cared for so they can grow up and live the best life they can.

A Quote That Inspires Me:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


Meet Josh Bennett, US Kids Case Manager

Being There for Families, Especially When It’s Stressful

I work with families that are interested in adopting a child, helping them through the foster care/adoption process, sharing resources, and working with them as they build the skillsets that help them feel more prepared. I’m also an advocate for the children in foster care and for their needs.

Interacting families throughout my week, I see firsthand the challenges of the process, paperwork, and the wait.

My job helps alleviate some of the stress that arises during the course of a child’s case, by attending meetings, coordinating services and processing situations with and for the family … and ultimately, for the child who needs them.

A Passage I’m Inspired By

“… Is it not to share your bread with the hungry / and bring the homeless poor into your house …” Isaiah 58:7

What I Want Others to Know About Foster Care and Adoption

While foster care and adoption are technically two different things, they are closely related, and both have the common denominator of being there for a child however long they need you. It is about providing a child with at least one place in their life where they can have stability and support, when the other areas are unstable or falling apart.

The Choices We Can Make

One of my college professors drilled into me the importance of not being quick to judge people for the choices that they make; and the importance of trying to understand the circumstances and rationale for why they are where they are, or the reason they do what they do.

I like to think about choices in context of this quote: “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story” – Josh Shipp

WACAP helps find homes for children in state foster care.

Learn more about US Kids foster care and adoption, and contact us with questions at wacap@wacap.org.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption Washington, Domestic Adoption, Foster Care, Quote, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Special Hearts: A Brother’s Day Story

If you ask 5-year-old Apollo what’s so fun about his little brother Magnus (age 4), you’ll hear about Legos and toy dinosaurs, and how Magnus’ silly faces make him laugh. Ask Apollo what he loves most about Magnus, and there’s no hesitation: “I love that we both have special hearts. I love Magnus because he’s my brother.”

Magnus and Apollo, unrelated by birth, were born a year apart in China, each with serious congenital heart defects. Apollo lived in a small foster home, and Magnus in a larger orphanage, and though their experiences were different, they both waited for a family who’d consider adopting them with the heart conditions they had and medical care they’d need. What they needed most was a family open to loving them, independent of diagnoses and unknowns.

Neither could have imagined how connected their lives would become, the family that would bring them together through adoption, or the brothers they’d become.

Coming Home, Becoming a Brother

After Dana and Michael, a couple who’d been planning to adopt, learned about Magnus, they poured over the details in his adoption file and talked openly about the uncertainties they could face. Unsure whether his heart could be fully repaired, they considered the risks, and they thought also about their three daughters, Eliza, Anya, and Juliette. Their girls had been praying for Magnus before they knew he’d become their brother. They already loved him.

“We realized how serious [Magnus’] cardiac needs were and that he needed immediate life-saving heart surgery,” recalls Dana. “We cried throughout the evening as we discussed what this would mean for him and for our family.” Asking hard questions about the possibility of pain and loss, the couple came to one repeated answer about Magnus: “He is worth it.”

Adopted in 2016, Magnus became a little brother to three jubilant sisters, who celebrated him at every turn. Undergoing a critical heart surgery shortly after his adoption, Magnus’ sisters applauded his bravery and uplifted his heart, and Magnus solidified his place in each of theirs.

“Once we had Magnus, we knew he should have a brother,” Dana and Michael recall. “We knew how important it would be for Magnus to have someone growing up with him that could reflect back where he came from, … his culture.”

“My heart just leapt when I saw the photo of Apollo” says Dana, who knew she was looking at her son.

Apollo’s heart was in such dire condition, his blood oxygen levels so low, and the surgeries he needed so critical, that Dana and Michael were realistic about the challenges ahead when they’d first talked about adopting him. But just like with Magnus, they believed that Apollo was worth taking every step, even the toughest ones, and especially those.

In May 2017, Dana and her husband adopted their second child from China. Apollo came home, a son and a brother.

Brothers and Reflections:

As compared to Magnus, Apollo had a harder time transitioning into his new home. He was older, attachment was harder, and interactions, trickier. To eliminate strain on Apollo’s heart, his caregivers in China had scarcely told him “no,” and they’d worked diligently to not cause him undue stress. Upon Apollo arriving in the U.S., the surgery he needed couldn’t wait; he was home for only a week before traveling to the hospital.

Fortunately, Apollo found in his new little brother, a source of hope and courage. The scar that spanned Magnus’ chest showed Apollo what was possible: that he, like Magnus, could come back strong, that he wasn’t alone in his experience, and that he could heal.

Magnus likewise gained an important friend and big brother, someone to play with (and tattle on, as siblings will) … and as their parents hoped, someone to share his birth country and culture.

Today, these two brothers know what they hold in common holds them together: Their culture, “their special hearts”; their scars that show off their bravery; their families, waiting to bring them home after the doctor’s appointments and surgeries are done.

Since coming home last year, Apollo has had two successful heart surgeries. Between those, he and his family have faced some fearful moments. But holding Apollo’s hand in and out of the operating room are his family: parents at his side, three sisters clambering to include him at home, and a little brother, Magnus, who mirrors courage when Apollo needs it, and sees it reflected in return.

Happy Brother’s Day, Magnus and Apollo!

If you want to learn more about adoption from China, or about children that need families, please contact us at wacap@wacap.org.

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (5)

“Apollo loves to laugh, and I can always make him laugh.” –Eliza (age 7)

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (4)

“Magnus only came home from China two years ago, but it feels like he’s always been here.”–Anya (age 11)

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (6)

“I love that we both have special hearts.” –Apollo (age 5)

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (7)

“I love that Apollo has a complicated heart, but that he still so very strong.” — Anya (age 11)

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (8)

“I love that I get to grow up with Magnus and Apollo and have special memories, especially going on vacations.” — Anya (age 11)

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (9)

“Magnus is an awesome silly brother. I love playing with him.” –Eliza (age 7)

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (10)

“I love when Apollo plays a game, I ask if I can play too, and he says I can, too!” –Eliza (age 7)

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (1)

“I love that Apollo is a very, very good sharer. And I love that Magnus loves to listen to what I have to say.” –Juliette (age 7)

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (2)

“Apollo loves to laugh, and I can always make him laugh!” –Eliza (age 7)

Brothers-Day-Magnus-Apollo (3)

“I like that Apollo loves jokes and riddles. And I love when Magnus tries to wink at me. Apollo, he’s so cute – and Magnus, he’s so funny!” –Juliette (age 7)

Posted in Adoption, Celebrations, International Adoption, WACAP, Welcome Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s It Like to Adopt From South Korea? A Family’s Perspective

Kevin and Jo are no strangers to long processes and tough choices. They researched more than 20 adoption agencies before they chose WACAP and decided to adopt from Korea.

Last spring, they welcomed 2-year-old Kirby home.

If you’re considering adoption from Korea, Kevin and Jo offer their experience. Here, they reflect on their adoption process, considerations and frustrations along the way, and ultimately, the deep satisfaction they’ve found as a family.

Our WACAP Korea Experience

If you’re thinking of adopting through WACAP and considering adopting a child from Korea, you may wonder what the process is like. As a family that’s recently adopted from Korea, we’d love to share our story, but most of all, tell you to consider it, as well!

Parents with their son -- outdoors at playground

Our experience was phenomenal, but because it’s hard to capture in a blog post alone, I’ve focused on a few main areas:

1) Why we chose Korea; 2) What the experience was like; and 3) Our satisfaction now that we have had our wonderful son home with us for just over 13 months

(I should note that we are not writing this blog for any reason other than to inform potential future adoptive parents about the process, our experience, and the highs and lows of the process.)

Why We Chose Korea:

In selecting agencies and countries, we looked at over 22 different agencies before settling on WACAP. It was definitely the best fit for us, and we found each and every person we interacted with to not only be helpful, but genuinely interested in supporting us throughout the process.

As we weighed which country to focus on, a number of factors came into play: expected waiting time; information available about the child; whether children were in foster care vs. an orphanage in the country of origin; healthcare records and level of care; cost (although less a factor); and the process.

We found that the wait/timelines were accurate in terms of what was projected and shared with us. We got a ton of information about our son before his adoption, including regular photos and information following medical checkups that let us know how he was progressing. And we could see the care he was being given.

The only drawback of this was the difficulty of seeing our future son literally grow up in front of our eyes, knowing that we were always a few more months out.

The Experience:

Our experience was excellent, but I’d be lying if it also wasn’t trying.

Here’s what I’d tell any prospective adoptive parent about the process: It’s a like a remodel; the timing always takes longer than you want or hope.

We realized that there were no dates or times that were set in stone, but we made it a point to always turn our paperwork around to WACAP and Korea as fast as possible.

The hardest part was that—even when we were quick with our documents, which was the one element we could control—it seemed like if a timeline was supposed to take 2-4 weeks, it always was the latter.

So, if you’re hoping to adopt internationally, just know that timelines can vary in this way. Don’t just “hope for the best” in terms of timing – or your spirits may be challenged even more. The surest way to minimize pain through this process is to always plan for the longest period of time, and if something you’re waiting for comes in sooner, then enjoy the surprise.

As we moved through the process, we wished there had been one, comprehensive “check-list” of all the documents we’d need throughout the entire adoption. One frustration we had was that we’d find out what we’d need for each particular process, but then not find out what was needed for the next step until we got there. We realize this was the case because for some items, like the home study or documents requiring a notary, there were expiration dates connected to other timelines and processes.

(A tip: If you’re in the midst of the process, you can ask your case manager about the details up front, which may save you some hassle.)

We Couldn’t Be Happier or More Satisfied:

If there is one thing to take away from our experience, it is just that. We are extremely happy.

We were blessed with an extraordinary child. He received great love and care by his foster mom in Korea; he was well taken care of physically, emotionally and was healthy.

The foster family that took care of our son had done this many times before. And they knew what they were doing, as our son attached to us amazingly quickly. Also with their help, he was prepared for what can only be described as a truly traumatic, life-changing experience of leaving everything he knew in one country and culture and coming to ours in the United States.

Since our son has been in the U.S. with us, now going on about 13 months, we have found a support group on Facebook for Korean adoptees. And we have taken part in a group locally called KORAFF (the Korean Adoptee Family Foundation), which is for adopted Korean children in the Puget Sound Region, once again making ours, as well as our son’s transition to our culture and lives much easier.

We cannot speak highly enough about the Korea adoption program at WACAP and about our case manager, Beth, who didn’t just manage us through the process, but truly cared about us and looked out for us throughout the entire process. We feel blessed to have been a part of this program through WACAP.

Kevin and Jo Opdyke Wilhelm

We’re grateful to Kevin and Jo for sharing their experience.

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

Related Post: “Five Reasons to Adopt from Korea

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

Be Inspired: US Kids Staff Amazed By Foster Kids and Families

Spotlight of WACAP staff member Denise Russell, A Family for Me Program Coordinator

This week, meet the WACAP staff member behind the scenes of WACAP’s “A Family for Me” videos and partnership.

An advocate for children in Washington state foster care, Denise Russell helps these kids tell the important stories they have, and find the family and stability they need.

Here’s why she’s inspired during National Foster Care Month, and all year long.

Meet Denise Russell, “A Family for Me”

My Work at WACAP:

I coordinate photo and video shoots to advocate for kids in foster care. My job gives families the opportunity to meet amazing foster kids and hear, in the kids’ own voices, what they hope for in a family, and what’s important to them.

Why I’m So Inspired:

I’ve seen what are considered “the toughest kids to place” find their families.

I’ve seen 17-year-olds adopted. I’ve seen severely medically-fragile children join  permanent families. And I’ve seen kids with intense special needs be adopted.

I’ve seen a young man matched with his family, and then that family not only adopting him but his two sisters, as well.

Adoption seems to be this magnetic force between a really resilient, yet willing child and a really strong, yet open-hearted parent(s).

What You Can Do to Help:

If you are thinking about adoption, reach out to learn more.

The first part of the process — which may be asking the questions you have — can be one of the hardest, but as soon as you are committed to taking those next steps, you can get started.

While the process takes time, there are so many kids waiting for families.

My Motto:

“Don’t Give Up.”

WACAP helps find homes for children in state foster care. Learn more about U.S. Kids foster care and adoption, and contact us with questions at wacap@wacap.org.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption Washington, Domestic Adoption, Foster Care, Quote, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Inspired: US Kids Staff Share Their Stories


May is National Foster Care Month, and we’re excited to introduce you to our US Kids staff throughout the month.

Find out what inspires them each week. Guaranteed, you’ll be inspired, too.

Meet Megan Malinoski, US Kids Program Director

My Work at WACAP:

I work to find safe, loving, welcoming, permanent families for children in the U.S. foster care system who are in need of a home.

Why I Do What I Do:

Before joining WACAP’s team I worked as a child welfare supervisor at DSHS. We had a 10-year-old girl who, through absolutely no fault of her own, was without a foster home from right after Thanksgiving until the New Year.

She was struggling emotionally, mentally, and behaviorally from the lack of stability that comes from not having a permanent home.

When she finally settled in a foster home, I spoke to her on the phone one day. She excitedly told me about her new home, new school, and new foster siblings.

It was amazing how different she sounded.

Her voice had a lightness to it that wasn’t there before, and she sounded like a child.

I hadn’t realized that for all those weeks that she was without a home, she sounded so much older than her age.

I said to her, “Sweetie, you sound so different. You sound like a kid!”

She responded, “That’s because I feel like a kid again.”

This smart, brave, funny, sassy little girl changed my life.

My goal is to work tirelessly to help all children in need find a safe, loving family so that they, too, can feel like kids again.

What You Can Do To Help:

Educate yourself on the need for foster families in your own community and get involved.

If fostering is not something that your family is prepared to do at this time, getting involved could mean something as simple as taking dinner weekly to another foster family.

If your home and your heart does have the extra space for a child, become a foster family! If you have questions, please ask.

Quote That Inspires My Work:

“We are all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

WACAP helps find homes for children in state foster care. Learn more about U.S. Kids foster care and adoption or contact us with questions at wacap@wacap.org.

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“We Could Have Missed This: Adopting a Son”

The Pickett family had decided together they’d adopt a girl.

They completed their home study, submitted the paperwork to adopt from China, and waited to be matched with a child, their soon-to-be daughter.

But everything changed when they learned about one little boy, including their plans …  

I woke up one weekend morning in December 2016, looking through social media as I usually do. We’d just had our paperwork “logged in” with China’s adoption authorities and were planning to pursue adoption of a girl. Little did I know, I would soon see our future son’s face.

We knew we definitely wanted to add another daughter to our family. There were enough other unknowns about the adoption process that at least we felt we were familiar with raising a girl. There was an element of comfort in knowing that. “We had a biological daughter already, so why not give her a sister,” we thought.

We had researched and discussed many medical conditions with our pediatrician but hadn’t yet submitted a checklist of which ones we were open to considering. We thought we had time to decide as our dossier would be in China many months before we would get matched.

But that morning, as I scrolled through my newsfeed, I saw a photo that made me pause.

An advocacy group had posted a photo of a handsome little boy with round cheeks and a serious face. The toddler was looking intently at the camera. His hand was extended, beckoning to the photographer. He was standing in a large, sunny room; wearing a blue shirt with pictures of penguins and the letter P scattered across it. The picture was labeled “Theo,” his advocacy name.

toddler at orphanage

Advocacy photo for James

Tears ran down my face as I lay there, not sure why I was so moved by seeing this little boy.

From a logistical standpoint, he was technically available for our family to adopt, as our adoption agency was partnered with the orphanage in which he was located.

The caption near his photo described a lower limb difference, which was a need we were open to supporting.

I remember thinking what a beautiful boy he was. His eyes captivated me. I showed my husband, Greg, the photo and he agreed. I even showed our 4-year-old daughter, Lily – saying “Isn’t this picture cute?” She agreed; she loves looking at photos of other kids.

I “liked” the photo and soon got up and went about my day, but kept thinking about that picture.

I was enjoying time with some family members later that day.

I showed them the photo and talked about how much we looked forward to the day when we were matched with our girl.

But all weekend I thought about this little boy.

Our reasons for wanting to adopt a girl suddenly seemed so insignificant. We couldn’t and didn’t want to ignore it: This boy was a child in need of a family, and we were a family wanting another child.

After a bit more discussion, Greg and I decided to request to view his information. On Monday, we received the file.

I was at my office, and Greg, a teacher, was at work in our local school. It wasn’t long before I received an email from Greg saying, “I had to go into the back room. I didn’t want my students to see me. I’m in love with this kid already.”

My thoughts exactly.

We navigated a few logistical hurdles that week and the following Monday we submitted our letter of intent to adopt “Theo,” whom we would name James.

A few short months later, we were traveling from Iowa to China; arriving in Jinan, Shandong province on April 9, 2017, the same day James joined our family forever.

mom comforts her young child

‘A Very Scared James and Mama on Family Day’

It’s now been a year since our Family Day. It has been amazing to see James grow, change, and thrive with the love and care that can only come from being a son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin … a member of a family.

Toddler at farm red barn and horse in background

‘James at Grandma and Papa’s Farm’

We’re so thankful that God put James’ picture in front of us. I can’t imagine James not being our son. It’s an honor to be his parents, and we will forever be thankful for his birth family and for the care he received at his orphanage.

We are proud to be a multicultural family who will always value and honor his Chinese heritage.

Siblings at the pumpkin patch

James and His Sister, Lily, at a Pumpkin Patch

There are so many boys who wait for families: Currently, over 70 percent of China’s waiting children on the listing China shares with adoption agencies are boys.

We could have missed out on so much.

We are so thankful we decided to change our plans so we could adopt our amazing son!

family of four at holidays

‘Baba, Mama, Lily and James at Christmas’

Thank you to Sara Pickett for sharing her family’s story.

If you are interested in learning more about international adoption, adoption from China, and how to get started on your homestudy, contact us at wacap@wacap.org.

To learn more about the children waiting for families, or to join our advocacy efforts, contact us at familyfinders@wacap.org.

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

Adopting From China: About the Children, Next Steps for Families

“Should I Still Consider China for My Adoption?”

Between the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption implementing new eligibility guidelines, and recent U.S. Department of State announcements clarifying that pre-approval (being matched with a child prior to homestudy approval) is prohibited, many families feel very uncertain about moving forward with an adoption from China.

Questions are bouncing around online China adoption groups: “Is China still a stable program?” “Will China close to international adoption?” “Why choose China now?” 

Reasons to Adopt from China

Despite all the changes, there are still many reasons to adopt from China.

  • China continues to be a fast and predictable program.
  • Most families who are adopting a waiting child complete the adoption in 9-12 months.
  • There is only one trip, usually about two weeks long, and one or both parents can travel.
  • And the most important reason families should still adopt from China: the kids!


The Children Who Wait

There is a greater need than ever for families to adopt from China. The shared list of waiting children that all China adoption agencies can access has more children than ever before: 3,317 children listed as of early April.

Families are needed for all kinds of children:

  • There are 361 children age 3 and under. Of those, almost 75 percent are boys!
  • In the next 12 months, 229 children on the shared list will “age out” of China’s adoption system when they turn 14, losing their chance to be a part of a family. Almost 70 percent of those children are boys.
  • Over 700 children with Down syndrome wait on the shared list.

None of these statistics include the hundreds of children on specific agency lists; when you add them in, the numbers grow even more. The need is staggering.

Can you join with us to bring these children home?

Moving Forward: Completing the Homestudy

As of early April, WACAP had only five families with completed homestudies who were waiting to be matched with a young child. We had zero families with completed homestudies open to adopting a boy.

We continue to see lots of toddler age boys with needs that many families are open to, such as albinism, missing one eye, heart defects, microtia, and cleft lip and palate.

Additionally, with the new DOS guidelines, we need families who will move forward and complete their homestudy and who are open to adopting older children or children with a wide range of needs, ranging from cerebral palsy to spina bifida, deafness and Down syndrome. WACAP offers $2,000 or $4,000 grants for many children who are older or have these kinds of diagnoses.

Contact us at wacap@wacap.org to start your homestudy and move one step closer to bringing your child home.

LindseyGilbertAbout Program Manager Lindsey Gilbert: Lindsey became a member of WACAP’s China adoption team in 2011, after joining WACAP as a volunteer. She’s helped numerous families through their adoption process as a case manager, and she currently dedicates her time to both managing WACAP’s Thailand program as well as advocating for waiting children in WACAP’s international programs. She and her husband Geoff adopted their four-year-old daughter Vennela from India through WACAP in December 2017. Outside of work, Lindsey can be found practicing her Indian cooking, in the garden, or on a hiking trail with Geoff, Vennela and their two dogs.

Posted in Adoption, International Adoption, WACAP, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment