WACAP Announces Merger with Holt International

all-you-need-is-love-heart-brooklyn-bridge-featured

Our CEO talks about why, and what’s ahead.


I’ve worked in child welfare for 25 years and have seen change time and again.  In the life of every nonprofit, there comes a time when you must embrace that change or risk becoming unable to fulfill your mission.  This past year, the leadership and Board of WACAP have chosen to face the need to adjust our strategy for serving vulnerable children.

WACAP recently announced our decision to merge with Holt International, and though we are extremely optimistic about this future, change is hard.

We’re confident that this merger, the combination of two terrific organizations into one, will allow us to continue services to children and families in the U.S. and around the world. As we join Holt, we will be merging with an historic and well-respected organization offering a diverse array of services, including not only international adoption but also domestic infant adoption, family strengthening programs, and care for orphan and vulnerable children through child sponsorship.  WACAP will bring to the table our experience in international adoption as well as a strategic approach to grow foster care programs here in Seattle, Oregon, then in other locations. This continuation of services (and expansion!) is only possible because we can do more together.

But this involves change, and that can be challenging for several reasons.  Though most WACAP families currently pursuing international adoption will experience a seamless transition and will continue to work with staff they know and trust, this will be a new organization with unique procedures.  Change brings uncertainty and with that, anxiety. So we have been working, and will continue to work, with Holt leadership and now with our families to make the transition as smooth as possible. We’re confident that you will quickly come to know and trust them as well.

Why is WACAP choosing to merge with Holt?

Facing the realities of International Adoption lead us to admit that the fourteen-year decline was impacting our ability to continue services in a sustainable manner.  As you may have read, there are positive aspects of this decline: a decrease in corruption, an increase in domestic foster care and adoption in many countries, and an increase in reunification and family preservation efforts.

But these aren’t the only factors.

In the past decade, several countries have closed international adoption by US families:  Guatemala, Russia, and Ethiopia to name the top examples.  Others have changed their eligibility rules, or adoption processes, which have drastically limited the number and types of families who can adopt. This can be understandable, at times.  It can also be frustrating.

Finally, the political climate in our own country have had a significant negative impact on this work.  Many families are concerned about ongoing debates over immigration, access to health care, and regulatory oversight that drives up costs of international adoption. As we examined all of these complex factors, our decision became very clear. We must change course in order to continue our mission.  As we considered how we might collaborate and combine with another organization, though, we saw a clear path forward.  Once connected with Holt, the future became increasingly bright.

For our Board of Directors and our Senior Leadership, many of whom are adoptive parents, it was a choice worth making. We have always held Holt in the highest regard for both its breadth and quality of services as well as its ethical and inclusive practices. When we began to connect with Holt leadership and staff at all levels, we quickly confirmed that we are a good match. By combining our expertise and resources, our mission will go on.  As a part of the Holt organization, we will continue to serve children and families, both internationally and in our own communities.  We will work to ensure every child has a loving and secure home.

This merger will also allow us to continue the expansion of services to children in the foster care system. 

For years, WACAP has found adoptive families for children in foster care, over 800 children as a matter of fact.  As we continue that work, and implement innovative recruiting efforts for adoption, we are now seeking families to become foster parents.  These families will provide temporary care for children of all ages until they might reunite with birth parents or relatives, or until they are legally free for adoption.

When I read about the crisis in Washington State, and when I read about children sleeping on the floors of government offices or in hotels because there are not enough safe and nurturing families ready to care for them, I find purpose in becoming a part of the solution for these children.

We can find families willing to parent these children, whether for a short time or a lifetime.  We have passionate donors who are willing to fund this work. We have staff trained in cutting-edge, trauma-informed models that can change everything for parents and for children.

We can do this. 

Beyond foster care and adoption, this merger allows us to stand by our missional promise to offer lifelong support to families of all types.  Holt International has a strong and vital post adoption support network, for adoptees and adoptive parents as well as biological parents.  Together, we will continue empowering families to become and remain strong, establish healthy relationships, celebrate every family member’s unique identity, heritage and cultural background, and heal from past trauma or adverse childhood experiences.  This, we can do.

We are all very thankful for the families, volunteers, donors, staff and adoptees who have walked with us over the past 42 years. You have written the story of WACAP, and it’s a great one. Together, we now have the opportunity to continue that story, transforming lives through the power of family as a part of Holt International Children’s Services. I am excited for this next chapter, and I invite you to join us as we carry on, together, for children.

For every child,

Greg Eubanks


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 Adoption, Call to Action, Collaboration, Domestic Adoption, Facts and Figures, Foster Care, From the CEO, Humanitarian Aid, International Adoption, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Ton of Slime, a Lot of Love, and a Foster Family Story

Denise Russell, WACAP’s A Family for Me Coordinator, shares the story of one of the most unusual A Family for Me activity videos she’s planned, and why in so many ways, it was exactly perfect for the preteen she got to meet that day …


If love and caring can be measured in quantities of slime, I know a foster family who has a ton of it. Slime (the activity version) is exactly what you might imagine: globs of goo that stretch, and plop, and squish. You can make it or you can buy it. But either way, for tactile and creative kids, it’s just absurdly cool. During one of our A Family for Me video shoots, I had the pleasure of witnessing both the fascination-with-slime phenomenon and the impressive enthusiasm of one foster dad.

a-family-for-me-collage-slime-party-pictures

Through A Family for Me, we introduce the community to foster kids by highlighting each child’s interests, the things they care about, and what they envision for a family. I generally start by reading each child’s profile in search of ideas for an activity that will help capture their personality. But I know it’s just as important to connect with those who directly care for the child and get their opinion. A few months back, when I found myself pondering a video plan for a preteen girl, it was her foster dad who had the answer. “She likes slime. How about a slime party?”

Turns out, this was a pretty ingenious suggestion by Foster Dad because it allowed us to include the five other kids in his care. The only catch for us was that we needed to protect the privacy of the other children … while recording video for the child we were featuring. Our videographer would need to avoid faces, and focus the action on many, many young hands.

My intention was to purchase a reasonable amount of slime. But before I could, I received an email from Foster Dad basically stating that he’d already started a slime-making marathon. He asked that I just pick up some “add-ins.” For those not familiar with the slime world, “add-ins” are things like glitter, beads, and shells, to be incorporated into one’s personal pile of goo, thus making the slime all the more weird and alluring.

On the day of our video shoot, I swung into the crafts store, loaded up with sparkly and strange trinkets, then met up with our videographer at the park we designated as our meeting spot. Soon, a large van pulled into the parking lot and out of every door climbed six foster kids and two foster parents. Then they started loading each other up with bags of party necessities: a table cloth, paper plates, mini containers, etc. Finally, they lifted out a giant cooler on wheels and made their way over to our picnic table. There was a collective pause as everyone gathered around the cooler. Foster Dad opened it up to reveal what looked like 50 large Ziplocks, containing every variation of slime imaginable. Multiple colors, textures, and variance of translucency glittered in the sun. It was a stunning smorgasbord of slime!

I had to step back. Not only to take in the sheer volume of slime, but also to remind myself that entertaining these kids is not this family’s job. This family’s responsibility is to care for them and keep them safe. It’s to keep them fed and help them navigate their current circumstances and uncertain futures. Foster parents need to get them to their various appointments and events. And in this family’s case, they need to do all this while navigating six different complex backgrounds and six different sets of needs. But still, with all that going on, they were still able to pull off making this day extra special!

The party, of course, was a slimy success. The kids traded colors, exchanged “add-ins,” and marveled at each bag of slime’s unique characteristics. They chattered away and seemed to really appreciate the goofiness of the event. As we neared maximum sliminess, we asked our featured child and Foster Mom to join us away from the other kids for a bit, so we could interview this creative preteen. And for a girl who seemed a bit soft spoken during the activity, she answered my questions with thoughtful and engaging answers. Soon, our videographer and I said our goodbyes and left the family there, to enjoy the rest of the day.

As always, I was anxious to review the footage and hand it off to KING-5 News, so they could put together another A Family for Me segment. But life is complicated and life for foster kids tends to be even more so. For now, circumstances require that we hold on the broadcasting the video. But the experience was a reminder that we try to accomplish a couple things at once with our program. We aim to create those all-important videos so families can meet waiting children. And we also try to provide a fun experience and really memorable day for each child we feature. In this case, thanks to Foster Dad, it was a great day times six kids!

Plus, I can attest that there was, indeed, some magnificent slime squished that day.

Learn more about A Family For Me and watch the videos of kids waiting foster and adoptive families.


WACAP Family for Me Coordinator Photo

About WACAP “A Family for Me Program Coordinator” Denise Russell: Since joining WACAP in 2013, Denise has coordinated adoption outreach videos for over 100 children in foster care. An adoptee herself, Denise feels a special connection with every child she meets. Interacting daily with the dedicated foster child community and committed organizations that support WACAP’s efforts, she says it feels often like mysterious forces are also lending a hand to help. Outside of work, Denise enjoys “laughing a lot with her handy and hard-working husband, hanging out with their entertaining and opinionated sons, and appreciating the goofiness of the family’s two Labradors.” Oh, and she loves a good movie!

Source of Images: WACAP – A Family for Me Videos

Posted in Advocacy, Creative Endeavors, Foster Care, Reflections, Staff/Board Spotlight, WACAP, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Real Life Adoption”: A Podcast of Stories

Kristin recording podcast, holding mic (left); Kristin with family (right)

Newly launched, “Real Life Adoption” is a podcast of stories from people whose lives have been touched by adoption—created and curated by a WACAP adoptive parent and board member, Kristin Kalning.

The podcast will include stories from parents who’ve grown their families by adoption, birth moms, adult adoptees, siblings, and others that Kristin knows will find her along the way. She believes the stories will really connect with those who’ve been part of the adoption process, but she welcomes and encourages all to listen: “I’ll explain stuff that might be unfamiliar, like what a referral is, and what attachment means,” she says. “No adoption experience is required.”

The first podcast episode, “Our Path to Adoption: From Infertility to Referral,” chronicles Kristin’s personal journey. In one of the following episodes, she’ll talk with Greg Eubanks, WACAP’s CEO, about his adoption journey, lessons learned as a parent, and his commitment to finding permanency for children in foster care.

We’re looking forward to listening.


WACAP board member Kristin Kalning photoAbout Kristin Kalning, In Her Own Words:
I’m a longtime editor and reporter, adoptive mom of two (one through WACAP), and a WACAP board member since 2016. I love podcasts and I love to tell stories, so when I quit my job last April, I got this funny idea that I’d make one. I didn’t want to do a Q&A interview-style podcast, but one more in the vein of “This American Life” (way to set my standards impossibly high). That was nine months ago. I bought a recording rig, managed to harangue a producer to help me, and set off. Podcasting is harder than I thought, but it’s a privilege to be able to be able to demystify and humanize topics like foster care, open adoption, and infertility. I am always looking for great stories, so please email me at kkalning@reallifeadoption if you have one!

Posted in Adoptees' Perspectives, Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, Creative Endeavors, Domestic Adoption, Staff/Board Spotlight | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Race for Home 5K Fun Run Returns This Spring

WACAP’s Vice President of Fund Development Mary Duncan is excited about the 2019 Race for Home, our 5K family fun run! Here’s what she loved about last year’s event and why she can’t wait for what this year has in store!


race-for-home-seward-park-seattle

Last year’s Race for Home was a hit, and it returns this year, same place, same time!

Race for Home 5K Fun Run: May 4, 2019 in Seattle’s Seward Park

Here’s what I loved about last year’s Race for Home … and five reasons I’m looking forward to our second year of this great family fun run! I hope you’ll join us.

1. It’s an important month!
The Race for Home happens during National Foster Care Month, a month that highlights the needs of children and youth in foster care and what we can do to help in our communities. As we’re expanding our work in the Pacific Northwest to serve more children in foster care, the Race for Home couldn’t happen at a better time.

2. You can be part of something special … and really fun.
This fun run, walk, roll or stroll is an opportunity for people to come together to share their support, learn more about the need in their own community, and have a great time with their family and friends. It’s a festive day, where you can dress up for the race (wear blue for Foster Care Month) … and enjoy a day knowing you’re making a difference for children. What’s better than that?

3. The memories are priceless, and the smiles are awesome.
One of my favorite moments during last year’s event was the Kids’ Dash—a short, pre-race run for the kids. There was a plethora of children that participated. (I remember seeing a whole lot of excited 8-year-old boys at the starting line just filled with energy and ready to go!) There were kids dressed in costumes, all lined up, all waiting to run, their faces covered in smiles – so many smiles. I’m looking forward to this event again this year.

4. It’s all about community.
This sunny spring event brought out such a sense of community and purpose, even among people that didn’t know each other or that were meeting for the first time. Companies that sponsored teams learned more about the needs of children in foster care and how they could help through donating, volunteering, or becoming a foster parent. Families and their kids brought teams of their friends. Donors and volunteers pledged their help and support. Seeing a group of people that didn’t necessarily have ties otherwise rally together to do something really incredible for children – it was really inspiring.

5. The race is on!
We’re already channeling last year’s race momentum this year. Here are a few more reasons to get excited about 2019’s Race for Home.

You can …

  • Spend time with your friends and neighbors while introducing them to a cause that’s near and dear to year heart!
  • Enjoy scenic Seward Park in the spring!
  • Support our work through this family-focused, family friendly 5K at your own pace.
  • Learn about kids that need foster or adoptive families—and what you can do.
  • Have fun in a relaxed, happy atmosphere (with face painting, bubbles, costume prizes, a bean bag toss, games and more).
  • Enjoy a mellow, warm fuzzy, unhurried morning.
  • Dance along the way! Yes, there’ll be a DJ to inspire you!
  • Know you’ve accomplished something great. (May the Fourth be with you!)

Register Here:
Race for Home 5K Fun Run – May 4, 2019

Register for 5K Fun Run - Race for Home - May 4, 2019 - Seward Park, Seattle, Washington


headshot of WACAP Vice President of Fund Development Mary DuncanAbout WACAP’s Vice President of Fund Development, Mary Duncan: Mary Duncan first volunteered with WACAP in 1993, working at an orphanage in Romania and soon after, joined WACAP’s staff as a case manager. Also an adoptive aunt and adoptive sister, Mary continued to serve children and families at WACAP as a supervisor in adoption programs and in family recruitment. Now as Vice President of Fund Development, she enjoys the opportunity to interact with donors and supporters and sharing about WACAP’s transformational work for children.

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

Souvenirs of the Journey: Heritage Travel

Last summer, Becky, Tom and their daughter Nisha traveled together to Nisha’s country of birth. Here’s the story of their heritage trip, what they learned about themselves and each other, and the souvenirs of their planning, travels, and homecoming. 


by M. Harrel, WACAP Communications Editor

Planning a Heritage Trip

“Is it like home?” 15-year-old Nisha asked her parents, Becky and Tom, before they traveled to her birth country last summer. They were all planning a trip to India and to the orphanages that had cared for Nisha in her early years. Nisha’s parents, having planned similar heritage trips with her older brother and sister, knew why it was important for the family to plan the trip together and at the same time, why it was vital to leave space for the individual journeys they’d each take. For Nisha and her parents, planning, traveling, and coming home were each souvenirs of the journey—teaching them about themselves, each other, and their bond as a family.

Teen journals before traveling

Nisha journals at the start of her journey. (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Family smiles, taking selfie before plane takes off

Family getting ready for take-off (Image Source: WACAP Family)

In and Out of Culture Shock

“So what will it be like?” Nisha asked her parents before the trip. She knew it would be noisier, busier, and more crowded … but talking about what to expect couldn’t prepare Nisha for the crowds of Chennai—a city of 10 million people and one of their destinations. The incessant honking of cars, the throngs of people, rickshaws dipping into the traffic took getting used to. More than that, the heat, customs, new foods and smells, and unfamiliar skylines – they were a lot to digest, even for an adaptable teen like Nisha. “We’d tried to explain it before we left,” her parents remember, “… but it was still overwhelming for her those first 24 hours.”

At the airport, after arriving in Chennai

Arrival in Chennai. (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Finding equilibrium was an important first step of the journey for the family. “The more time in-country, the more comfortable Nisha became, and the less nervous,” her parents recount, and they reveled in small triumphs as a family. “Nisha became less worried about the rickshaw running into cars,” her mom recalls, smiling, “and later she felt so much more at ease, she’d even relax and read a book in the rickshaw on the way to our next destination!”

Relaxing on the India Railway

Relaxing on India railway. (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Remembrance and Recognition

One the pre-planned destinations was the orphanage where Nisha spent the first six months of her life, Life Line Trust Child Adoption Center. Staff had welcomed her into their care in 2003 when she was just a day old. After 6 months, she was transferred to Guild of Service, the orphanage where she lived until she was adopted at age 3. Before traveling, Becky and Tom made arrangements to visit both orphanages, visits that were both rewarding and emotional for all of them—and that were especially important to Nisha.

At Life Line Trust, Nisha learned she was the first child to ever have returned to the orphanage. There she received not only a warm welcome, but found unexpected recognition as well. The present day orphanage director had been on staff the day Nisha had arrived and remembered her, 15 years later. Becky recalls the moment, still amazed: “It was so special for Nisha to be recognized.”

Outside an orphanage in India

Outside the orphanage where Becky first met her daughter. (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Nisha and her parents also visited Guild of Service—the same orphanage that had cared for Becky and Tom’s son, Deven (now 25). It was, in fact, the very place Becky first met Nisha, while she was traveling with Deven on a similar heritage trip 13 years earlier. On that visit, they’d met a little girl with a heart condition who needed a family, and two years later, Becky and her husband adopted Nisha through WACAP, welcoming her into their hearts and their family.

Mom and teen daughter visit orphanage

Mom and daughter, at the orphanage in 2018. (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Visiting the orphanage again brought the memories flooding back for everyone. Becky remembered the long-ago call home to her husband Tom telling him, “We need to adopt this little girl,” while Nisha reflected on her life before that phone call, writing in her journal, “I remember being alone and not having a home.” Snapping a new photograph together at this important place, the family recognized what knit their lives together and the complex circumstances, loss, and joy that connected their paths.

Mom and daughter at orphanage

Mom and daughter, at the orphanage when Nisha was a baby. (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Learning Who Our Children Are

As Becky, Tom and Nisha traveled through Tamil Nadu—Nisha’s home state—“People recognized Nisha as definitely Tamil,” says Becky. She learned more about her daughter each day, just as Nisha learned more about herself, the country of her birth, and the customs within the region where she was born.

Mendi art design being painted on

Nisha learns about mehndi and enjoys getting this decorative art painted on her arm. (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Talking with their daughter each night, both Tom and Becky found there even more to discover about the daughter they already knew so well: How much she loved the food of her birth country, how she adored the animals there (especially the monkey that visited their hotel room), how deeply she cared about the children she’d played with during their orphanage visits.

In many ways, they became their daughter’s students, learning about her from the people they talked with, through the experiences Nisha shared with them each night, and by watching Nisha’s compassionate interactions with others. “Heritage trips like this help you see your child and the culture and history they’re part of,” Becky explains. “They help you appreciate the richness and history of that culture and connection, while celebrating it with your child and discovering it with them. Being there with your child, you get a better sense of who they are, and they get a better sense of who they are.”

A ropes course adventure outside Salem in Tamil Nadu, India.

Nisha goes adventuring, tackling this ropes course in a town in the hills outside Salem. (Image Source: WACAP Family)

The Honor of Sharing

To Becky and Tom, the importance of traveling to a child’s first country can’t be overstated. It presents invaluable experiences for both child and parent. It’s not only created a needed opportunity for their children to learn about their cultural background and discover more about their identity, but a space for their family to share in some of those discoveries.

Dad and daughter playing carrom board game

Family time playing Carrom. (Image Source: WACAP Family)

Last summer’s trip in particular was valuable as Nisha continued to develop her sense of identity, and it was important to the family’s identity, too.

“Traveling reaffirmed my daughter’s identity as a person that’s adopted from India. And for us, it’s just opened up so much more understanding about who our children are and the culture they’re part of,” Becky says. “It’s such an honor to share that with your child.”

Read this family’s 10 tips for family heritage travel and planning on WACAP’s Resource Blog!


mh-photoAbout WACAP Communications Editor Missy Harrel: Missy joined WACAP’s communication team in 2011. 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 sharing about family and the stories they create together. She blends her communications background with a love of learning and technology. She enjoys reading a poem with a good cup of coffee in hand.

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

Filling Our Hearts With Your Stories

Throughout the year, WACAP receives stories and updates from families and supporters. And we’re honored to be on many families’ mailing lists as they send out season’s greetings, annual newsletters, and family photos.

In 2018, we filled our entry wall and our hearts with these photos, stories and smiles. This holiday season, WACAP staff were welcomed to work each day by colorful rows of greeting cards and faces of children and youth they’d helped unite with families through adoption and through foster care.

Pictures and stories about proud achievements, special occasions, adventures with a new puppy, meeting a sibling, first holidays together, navigating the everyday moments—your families have made every day extraordinary to us.

Thank you for sharing your family and your hearts with us in 2018.

Wishing you a wonderful 2019.

WACAP entryway filled with cards and stories sent by WACAP families and supporters in 2018 - with 2019 thank you message from WACAP

 

WACAP’s vision is “a family for every child.” To learn more about our work for children or how you can get involved, contact us at wacap@wacap.org

Posted in Domestic Adoption, Foster Care, International Adoption, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Holiday Message from WACAP

At WACAP, the work we do is about family.

This coming week, our staff will be spending time with theirs. WACAP offices will be closed December 24 and 25, 2018 and January 1, 2019 for the holidays.

We wish you a happy holiday and New Year’s with friends and family.

WACAP logo with vision (

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A Shout Out to Our Community: Thank You for Helping Children

At WACAP, our A Family for Me videos often take us to the outdoors – like dog parks for the kids who can’t get enough of “man’s best friends,” or playgrounds for the kids who simply must climb.We also travel to group homes, where our visit may be easier for a medically fragile child, or where an onsite art project is the perfect activity for a creative kid. Sometimes, we visit a school, where we can capture the story of a child who has special needs and witness, first-hand, their enthusiasm, determination and progress.

This year, we also found ourselves on the beach, watching a young writer compose poetry while she explained what she finds inspiring. We’ve been to lots of parks, doing things like chasing insects with a young bug enthusiast one day, and on another, having a homemade slime party.

Many of the children we feature are all about the outdoors, and other kids have interests that we can only explore with the help of businesses and organizations in the community, like those listed below.

A big shout out to the members of our community, the businesses who’ve hosted us and the numerous places and people who’ve welcomed us in 2018. Thank you for making a difference for children.


All Together Skatepark (Seattle) – Great indoor skatepark, where Operations Manager Marshall Reid gave Dakota an awesome skateboard lesson to teach him some new tricks.

Close up of riding skateboard at skate park

Crescendo Dance Academy (Bellevue) – Where not one, but two instructors worked with Kamario to highlight his hip hop skills.

Practicing dance moves at dance studio

Moda Organic Salon (Renton) – Manager Lacy Lee gave Hanna an expert makeup application experience, providing her with tips and suggestions on how to pursue her interest in cosmetology.

Museum and History and Industry (Seattle) – We brought civic-minded Josh to MOHI, to experience some of the history of civil rights and the LBGTQ community in the Pacific Northwest.

Taking in the museum exhibit

Bowlero (Lynnwood) – Where Leroy enjoyed his first game of bowling, and his support team (foster parents, social worker, and recruiters) got to see him giggling and clapping with his successes. Bowlero regularly hosts bowling events for special needs populations and the staff was very welcoming to Leroy.

After bowling the last ball, just two pins remain - this child smiles happily

Burke Museum (Seattle) – Where Joey was able to have some one-on-one time with an actual paleontologist and a real tyrannosaurus (skull).

This child digs in with a hands-on paleontology activity

Café Flora (Seattle) – Where Aaron was able to get a fun, vegan cooking lesson with owner Nat Stratton-Clarke.

Changing Rein Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (Graham) – Where we got to see Jessa interact with “Lilly” during her equine therapy. Lilly is a hinny (donkey mom and horse dad). Little Lilly helps Jessa focus her energy and to help find strategies for keeping calm.

This young person makes an equine friend

Special thanks to King 5 and Yuen Lui for their valued partnership and support, which helps make A Family for Me possible.

Find out more about A Family for Me and meet some of the children that need families to foster or adopt them. 


WACAP Family for Me Coordinator PhotoAbout WACAP “A Family for Me Program Coordinator” Denise Russell: Since joining WACAP in 2013, Denise has coordinated adoption outreach videos for over 100 children in foster care. An adoptee herself, Denise feels a special connection with every child she meets. Interacting daily with the dedicated foster child community and committed organizations that support WACAP’s efforts, she says it feels often like mysterious forces are also lending a hand to help. Outside of work, Denise enjoys “laughing a lot with her handy and hard-working husband, hanging out with their entertaining and opinionated sons, and appreciating the goofiness of the family’s two Labradors.” Oh, and she loves a good movie!

Source of Images: WACAP – A Family for Me Videos

Posted in Adoption, Adoption Washington, Advocacy, Collaboration, Domestic Adoption, Foster Care, Videos, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Part of the Past Puzzle”: Korean Foster Moms Reunite With Adoptees and Families

Have you ever met someone that you don’t know or remember well, but who knows you? Read more about what happened when Holt Children’s Services staff and two foster moms from Korea visited WACAP’s office last month, meeting with families whose lives they changed and children they’d cared for years ago.


“A Part of the Past Puzzle”

By M. Harrel, WACAP Communications Editor

“A lot of times adoption is uncomfortable …” says Mary Moo, WACAP’s Vice President of International Adoptions. That’s not a synonym for bad or unhappy, though. In fact, last month, WACAP hosted a reunion and networking event with Korean foster moms and social workers who’d traveled from South Korea to meet with U.S. adoptive families and their children. Reintroducing the foster moms to some of the children they’d once cared for, the event blended uncomfortable moments with recognition and remembrance … and surprises that no one could plan.

Surprise: A Cure for Jetlag Is Joy

Traveling to WACAP’s headquarters from Seoul, South Korea takes approximately 11 hours at 500 miles per hour. Jetlag comes with the territory and the flight. The two otherwise tireless foster moms in their sixties and seventies weren’t immune. Along with the two Holt Children’s Services staff traveling with them from Korea, the women embraced full agendas, including receptions at several partner agencies, among them Holt International in Oregon and WACAP’s headquarters in Washington.

On the day of WACAP’s reunion event, one of the foster moms—a woman who’d provided care to children for over 20 years—arrived looking particularly exhausted. “The time difference, a headache, and not much sleep because of a late-night wedding at her hotel!” she explained to the interpreters and staff … but she didn’t want to miss the day for jetlag. To her surprise, she didn’t have to. The fatigue dissolved suddenly that day when she was reunited with a child she didn’t expect.

Of the families and children that came to meet her at WACAP’s reception, there was a young man in his 20’s she didn’t know she’d be seeing. He’d been adopted through Holt-Oregon and because he was unable to attend the earlier events at that agency, he had asked to join WACAP’s.

While his adoption history and early background were an unknown to WACAP, his foster mom recognized him immediately when he arrived.

“He’d joined his family when he was 1 and ½, but she knew his face, and as soon as she saw him, she said her headache, and that jetlagged feeling of being run down, just went away,” recalls Mary Moo, who helped organize the day’s events. “These foster moms really remember the kids. They really, really do.”

Korean-Foster-Moms-Visit-Meet-Children-They-Fostered

Caregivers Energized by Love

In Korea, all the children eligible for international adoption are relinquished by birth moms. During the period that children wait to be adopted in Korea, they join foster families that provide them with individual attention, love and support at this critical developmental time. As some WACAP staff say, these children have foster parents teaching them about family and how to love, and they join their adoptive families carrying that gift.

For WACAP staff and families, meeting the committed foster moms and Holt-Korea staff who’ve played such an important role in so many children’s and families’ lives is also a gift. “I think it is really special when Holt can send some of the foster moms to visit,” says Mary, commenting on how the caregivers she’s met through the years seem to have a few things in common: their tenacity, a continued love of parenting after their birth children are grown, and a capacity to share their love.

“They recognize their biological kids are going to be leaving them, having grown up. They recognize that they won’t be ‘needed as much’ by members of their immediate family,” Mary adds. “They’re making a decision that they’re moving forward with fostering children, they feel like every child is really a gift, and it shows. This is their joy.”

Thankful for the Commitment

At the WACAP reception, the two foster moms and Holt-Korea staff had the opportunity to meet with 9 families. A WACAP staff member, an adoptive mom, and her daughter, helped with interpreting, which allowed attendees to engage casually among each other and lessened the language barriers.

For the families able to attend this year, the event provided a wonderful opportunity to connect and share in Korean culture together, as well as talk with Holt Children’s Services staff and the foster moms. And the foster moms were thrilled to be reunited with three children they’d cared for as infants, who today range from 8 to 20 years old.

Some of the adoptive families and their children were understandably apprehensive about the event and nervous about interacting with people who, in many ways, felt like strangers to them. But after the event, WACAP staff learned from one adoptee that she’d had an incredible day and hoped to be able to stay in touch with her foster mom in the future.

Mary recalls seeing the apprehension dissolve between her and her foster mom over the course of the day: “Even though they couldn’t talk directly … they still found real ways to find joy in each other. It was an opportunity to put together a part of her past puzzle.”

Thankful for the commitment of the foster moms, Mary notes that the event, and moments like that, are what stand out for her as opportunities to say thank you and be thankful for the people who give so much of their lives and energy to our children and our families: “A lot of times adoption is uncomfortable. And that outcome was such a reward …”

Families-and-Korean-Foster-Moms-Visit-WACAP

If you are interested in learning more about adoption from Korea, contact us at wacap@wacap.org.


mh-photoAbout WACAP Communications Editor Missy Harrel: Missy joined WACAP’s communication team in 2011. 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 sharing about family and the stories they create together. She blends her communications background with a love of learning and technology. She enjoys reading a poem with a good cup of coffee in hand.

Source of Images: WACAP

Posted in Adoption, Celebrations, Events, Foster Care, International Adoption, Travel, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond “Naughty or Nice”: What Our Children’s Unwanted Behavior Can Teach Us

Holiday photo with list of names on "nice list" next to plate snowflake shaped cookies

“Naughty or nice?” We hear these words a lot during the holidays, especially surrounding December traditions that pivot around children’s behavior. “Santa’s List Day,” celebrated December 4, was the day for determining who’s well-behaved and who’s not, and all month long millions of children write “Dear Santa” letters, requesting toys they want along with their commentary on whether they’ve been bad or good.

When it comes to children’s behavior and the way we talk about it, the conversation is much more complex and doesn’t fall into tidy categories of “good or bad,” “right or wrong,” “naughty or nice.” This is particularly true for fostered and adopted children who have complex trauma histories.

It’s important to reframe the conversation. As WACAP’s Clinical Director Zoila Lopez reminds us in this post, unwanted behavior is immensely valuable and communicates our children’s needs.


Naughty or Nice or …Unwanted Behavior

In a perfect world, we would all be perfectly behaved. Six-year-olds wouldn’t fight putting on their shoes before school. No one would see a child throwing a temper tantrum at the grocery store. Teens wouldn’t slam the door on the way to their room. Moms and dads wouldn’t lose their patience. In this perfect world, we wouldn’t witness or engage in “bad behavior.”

When thinking about behavior, it’s beneficial for us as parents to reframe what we might call “bad” behavior as unwanted behavior. Unwanted (or dysregulated) behavior in children is the result of a poor capacity to process, accept, and manage environmental changes. The more we can recognize “bad” behavior as useful, the more capable we are to see what our child is communicating and understand how to best respond—and the better equipped we’ll be to recognize and meet our child’s needs.

Tantrums, defiant behavior, screaming, impulsivity, meltdowns, and battles for control are all examples of unwanted behaviors. Among older children, teens, and young adults, unwanted behaviors may take the form of outbursts, annoyance, mood swings, and what may come across as lack of empathy and self-centeredness. Unwanted behaviors are more frequent among children who are afflicted by complex developmental trauma. This is so because children from trauma have missed out on important attachment and developmental milestones, which results in immaturity in self-regulation of emotions and behaviors.

Behavioral challenges like those outlined above put parents’ patience to the test. Considering the environment and imagining our child’s experience is integral to understanding how to respond, and how our child needs us to respond, especially during stressful times.

Unwanted Behaviors During the Holiday Season

The holidays are a breeding ground for dysregulation. They often bring out an array of challenging behaviors in children, and it’s no wonder why. For many kids, the holidays are an assault on the senses: colorful and flashing lights, evolving store displays, loud music, crowded stores, and an assortment of smells, sounds and sights to process. With so much going on, it’s difficult for children to remain well-regulated.

Furthermore, children thrive on routines, which are often interrupted during holidays and family gatherings. Holidays bring time off from school, visiting family members, travel, extended stays at others’ homes, unfamiliar faces, and new surroundings. Children also have trouble adjusting to their parents’ busier schedules or lack of availability. The sensory extravaganza plus routine changes are difficult for children, particularly for those with a complex trauma history and for children who’ve just come home to their families. These conditions are overwhelming for adults without a history of trauma, let alone children from hard places!

Many fostered and adopted children don’t respond well in these environments—they might even regress and exhibit behaviors often present during children’s integrations to families through adoption (e.g., food issues, bed wetting, etc.). Unsurprisingly, we, as parents, become stressed, frustrated, and anxious, witnessing our children descend into what feels like a spiral into a land where dysregulation is king without much warning. We may respond from this place of stress, while our child’s behavior continues to digress … and the stress-response escalates for all parties. The parent and child responses create a closed feedback loop that can be difficult to break without taking some deliberate steps as a parent.

Responding to Your Child’s Unwanted Behavior: Strategies You Can Take

  • Pause. Stop what’s happening if possible.
  • Attune yourself in the moment to your child.
  • Count back from 10 (to yourself).
  • Use a soft voice with your child.
  • Get down to your child’s eye level.
  • Practice mindfulness – What is it about your child’s dysregulated behavior that’s causing you to respond in a dysregulated way?

Reframing the way we think about behavior—thinking about behavior as a messenger offering information about our children’s emotional state (vs. bad/good)—reminds us why even undesired behavior is so valuable. It uniquely educates us about the needs of our children, reminds us how we need to respond to those needs, and nudges us toward the empathy that we need to practice on their behalf, on good days and bad and in every season.

Additional Resources:

WACAP is committed to building strong families. Visit WACAP’s social services page to learn more about how we support foster and adoptive families.


By WACAP Clinical Director Zoila Lopez (content-theory-collaborative writer-editor) and WACAP Communications Editor M. Harrel (collaborative writer-editor).

wacap-clinical-directorAbout WACAP Clinical Director Zoila Lopez: Zoila joined WACAP in 2016 as the organization’s clinical director. She is an adoptive mom, a former foster parent, and has an extensive work background as a therapist and adoption coach, working to support all members of the adoption triad. Within her community, she helps organize and plan trainings and events that support families built through foster care and adoption. An advocate for adoptees, children in foster care, and families, she is committed to connecting children and families with supportive communities and resources that help them thrive.

mh-photoAbout WACAP Communications Editor Missy Harrel: Missy joined WACAP’s communication team in 2011. 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 sharing about family and the stories they create together. She blends her communications background with a love of learning and technology. She enjoys reading a poem with a good cup of coffee in hand.

Image Source: Pexels stock photo

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