Excellence: More Than Words

wacap values family, passion, integrity, excellence, and little girl with cleft lip and palate adopted from chinaWhen we made a declaration of those traits we value at WACAP, we decided to take a risk. Let’s face it, hardly anyone chooses to value excellence. It’s polarizing. (Read those last sentences again, but this time with tongue firmly in cheek.)

Clearly claiming not only the pursuit of but the achievement of excellence in our work is, however, a challenge we at WACAP are ready to meet. What does excellence look like in the world of adoption? Below are my thoughts:

  • Excellence looks like a compelling case for support, inviting our community to invest in the future of children with us.
  • It feels exhausting and overwhelming, after two weeks overseas meeting more than 300 children who need families, then realizing that we must find a way to advocate for every one of them.
  • It sounds frustrating, when we communicate tough decisions through phone lines and across time zones, and hope that our emphasis on meeting the best interests of children is clearly understood. (This one frustrates on both sides of that phone call.)
  • Excellence is found in the late night planning for our Family Friday adoption training events, knowing that preparing families for adoption is actually a profound service to children.
  • It is the sense of comfort and reassurance you feel, knowing that all of the delays, any re-filing of paperwork, each of the notarized documents filed, have culminated in the creation of a forever family, and family has the power to transform lives.
  • It sounds like sincere compassion, when a family makes the brave decision to ask for help after placement when things seem to be falling apart, and they realize they aren’t alone.
  • Excellence is the joy we feel when we find just the right family for a child, or sibling group, after others have said it couldn’t be done. And it is the happy tears that come when we open an email with photos of those children thriving in their new homes.

“We are proud of the work we do, achieving excellence every day.”

Why do we strive every day at WACAP to achieve excellence? Children are worth it. Our families are worth it. We have set our sights on excellence because — beyond the resolve of our staff, and steadfastness of our families, and after the hard work they do — the results are remarkable.

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

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To China and Back

Mary and Elana in China

Mary and Elana in China

WACAP staff members Mary Moo and Elana Roschy recently returned from a trip to China, where they met many children in need of families. Mary provided a brief update about these children:

We saw over 300 children and we will be looking for families for close to 150 of them.  Some of the 150 are children we already have been advocating for but many of them are new children for whom we’ll be receiving files for over the coming months.

During the trip we met with 5 partnership orphanages and one of those is a new partnership orphanage in Shandong province.  We are sorting through thousands of photos that we took during the trip. We saw children whose medical conditions were resolved or reasonably minor as well as children with significant needs.  Two younger children had very serious heart conditions so we hope to get their files quickly to start advocating for them.

Many children in China are in need of families.

Many children in China are in need of families.

If you’re interested in learning more about adopting a child from China, please contact us.

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Passion for Finding Families

When I first came to WACAP, I was, I admit, a bit of a doubting Thomas. I had doubts whether we really could find a family for every child. It’s a nice thought, but is it reality? I thought, “Maybe we could find families for most children, but not all children.” However, after being proven wrong over and over again, my direct experience has taught me – it can be done! What it takes is passion. Putting passion to work yields great results.

A photo of four smiling girls

A family for every child

My particular job involves finding families in some of the most challenging situations, and I have experienced that there is a family for every child out there. We just need the resources and time to find that family. Over and over, amazing WACAP staff have found families within impossible time limits when a child is reaching their country’s adoption age cut-off, or needs to be quickly adopted to get life-saving medical care. We have found families for children who are much older, children with five siblings that need to stay together, and children with serious medical needs. I’ve seen adoptions that I didn’t think were possible-families reaching out to adopt a child with neither arms nor legs; children who have been abused and are working through trauma; children who are missing part of their brains; older children who are both blind and deaf; children with very rare diseases; children with short life expectancy, and children who have lived on the streets and not even received orphanage care for much time. Over this time, I’ve also seen and celebrated many relatively healthy children go home to loving families. With each new day, so many of the children we serve continue to astonish and inspire me.

Once you have seen repeatedly that there is a family for every child, you really develop a passion for finding families.  Somehow you just keep trying until you know that child is home with his or her family. These children move your heart and you just get hooked – you know the family is out there somewhere– and you know you are the last chance a child has for a family.

What happens if an adoption worker doesn’t believe the child is adoptable and doesn’t have that passion and inspiration to find a family? Research shows if an adoption worker thinks a child is “unadoptable,” then this attitude will greatly impact that person’s ability to find a family for the child. Research indicates that with special efforts, permanent families can be found for any child. I know from personal experience that if a worker views a child as “unadoptable”, he or she is doing such a great disservice to that child.

A photo of a smiling girl with a bow in her hair

Could you be the family for Sarah?

Rest assured, WACAP staff (including me, a recovered doubting Thomas) know every child is adoptable and we make heroic efforts to find each one’s permanent family. We have become increasingly passionate about our work with children.

A family I worked with recently said to me, “Adoption is not for the faint of heart- it is for the lion hearted.” I watch closely as families familiar with a certain medical need are genuinely able to manage this need for their child and other children they adopt with the same or related need, and it compels me to keep moving forward, looking for the next family.  Are you open to adopting a child with a medical or age-related need, who has a brother or sister, or who needs support while overcoming a difficult past? Please let us know. We believe each child, no matter the individual needs he or she has, deserves a family. You might be just the family we’re so passionate about finding!

Interested in learning more? Visit www.wacap.org and follow this blog feed for a new post each week through July to read more about our organization and the concepts that drive us forward for children.

About WACAP’s Research and Recruitment Manager, Lynne Mason: Lynne Mason has worked as WACAP’s Research and Recruitment Manager for over 8 years. In this role, Lynne helps find adoptive families for children across the globe, many of whom are passed by because of challenges in their past or because of health or age-related needs. Lynne is committed to being a daily advocate for these children and finding each child the family prepared to meet his or her needs. A member of hundreds of listservs and Facebook groups, she shares these children’s stories across communities, states and networks. She believes that if time were no object, she could find the family who is right for every waiting child.

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The Power of Family

WACAP believes in the power of family to transform lives.

A photo of a small girl

Mia, before finding her family

We get to witness this transformation time and time again, as we see children come home to loving families. Mia recently came home to her family, joining her brother Maddox, whom we met in 2012. Her transition from life in an orphanage in India, to life with a mom, dad, and brother, is a perfect example of the power of family. Mia’s mom writes:

I just wanted to share our new family pictures. We cannot believe Mia has been home for five months already! She is doing great! She met the rest of her family last week and they all love her so much. She saw the ocean for the first time and giggled every step through the small waves! She is doing great and is the biggest blessing to our family!! 

A photo of two smiling children with their armsa round each other.

Mia with her brother, Maddox


Mia with her dad


Happy to be home

All smiles on Mia's first trip to the ocean.

All smiles on Mia’s first trip to the ocean.


What a difference a family makes


The power of family

Over the coming weeks we’ll be discussing the values that describe who we are and how we approach our mission. Click here and follow this blog feed to learn more.

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Meet Tess, WACAP’s Youngest Volunteer

Four-year-old Tess Ketarkus was found in Xi’an, China in early 2011 and adopted by Joe and Becky Ketarkus in November of 2012.  She is the ninth of ten amazing Ketarkus Kids.  Tess was born with a congenital heart defect that required two incredibly complex surgeries.  Her mom is a wonderfulTess volunteer for WACAP‘s China Program as a Parent Advocate, working to spread the word and answer questions about children who need families. Tess always works alongside her mom.  After Tess’ most recent heart surgery, she was given a job of her very own.  This job turned out to be incredibly important to Tess’ recovery.  It gave her a purpose with a cause she loves– helping waiting children.

Tess’ volunteer task is to give pseudonyms to some of the children who are waiting for their families, so that they can be posted on WACAP’s secure waiting child website. Tess takes this job very seriously and sometimes has to really think about the child and their name for a very long time.  She keeps a baby name book near her bed, and a running list of possible names.  Her mom shows her the child’s picture and often she’ll run off to “think about it.”  Later, she’ll come back and say “I’m ready to give my baby a name.”  Sometimes, Tess’ babies are older than she is.  When asked about this, Tess said to her mom “that’s okay, they can be my babies until they’re someone else’s.”  She doesn’t care if they’re two or twelve, they’re all “her babies.”

Tess recently sat down with her mom to tell us a little more about herself, her family, and her volunteer work with WACAP.

Tess2Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

Tess: There are 10 kids in my family.  They are all adopted! (Tess pronounces it ‘da-dopted’).  I like playing with all my kids.  I love them so much.  I don’t like it when they go to school, but pretty soon, they won’t.  Because it’s ALMOST SUMMMMEEERRRR!!! *insert shrieks of delight*​

How did you get started with this volunteer project?

 I like to name all the babies who don’t have mamas yet.  My mom’s friend, [WACAP Waiting Child Case Manager] Lindsey, sends me emails.  ​We look at a baby name book and I pick a name.  Then, it’s the baby’s name until they’re ‘da-dopted.’  I like that when they’re ‘da-dopted’.  Did you know that Louis will be ‘da-dopted’ soon?  I saw his picture and I love him.  He’s got a mama now.  That makes me feel SO HAPPPYYYY!!! *again, shrieks of delight* Now I want baby Emilio to find his family.  Okay?

What do you like best about volunteering with WACAP?

​ I like to see the babies.  Sometimes, they look like my sister, Cate, or my brother, Bo.  They’re from China too!  I’m from China.  Do you know that?!?​  Sometimes the babies are big like my sister, Ally.  We still call them babies.  They can be their mama’s baby.  I’ll still be my mama’s baby, even when I’m growed up.  

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering for WACAP?

​ I like to play.  I like unicorns, princesses and things that are pink.  I like to do yuga (yoga).  I go to yuga class.  Did you know that?!? ​

What are your plans for the future?

​Well…my heart is fixed now.  Did you know that?!? I had a heart defect, but it’s fixed.  So,Tess3 now I’m going to have a party.  But, not yet, and not a birthday party.  My birthday isn’t for a while.  This party is for my heart, because it’s fixed.  But, my party isn’t today.  So, maybe, I’ll just go out to lunch today.  That would be fun!  ​Did you know that?!? 

Thank you, Tess, for all the great work you do for waiting children!

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Twenty Three

Recently, I was reflecting on an email I’d received in March that continues to stay in my mind. The email profiled the 23 children from one of the countries where we work, who were matched with permanent families through WACAP that month. I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am to see the descriptors of these children. Ranging in age from 2 to 12, almost half of these children are over 5 years old. I read words including “paralysis,” “congenital disease,” “delayed development,” “Down syndrome,” or “limb differences.” As I considered adoptions historically in a number of countries, I thought about how these children who would soon be joining families were not the “healthy infants” many families had adopted in the past. 

I use quotes around the word “healthy” because it’s an interesting idea for those who work in adoption, or who have adopted. What, exactly, constitutes a “healthy” child? Certainly in adoption, like biology, there are never any guarantees about what lies in store for any child or family’s future. What does a descriptor such as “healthy” really mean? For the purpose of today’s post, let’s agree that “healthy” refers to children without a current medical, developmental, or psychological diagnosis.

A graph that shows a rise in the adoption of children with special needs, and a decline in adoption of healthy children over a ten year span

This graph shows the types of children whose lives were forever changed through adoption under WACAP’s umbrella of services. Note the decline in “healthy” children referred for placement.

We recently took a look back at the children adopted through WACAP efforts, and the data points to our changing understanding of the realities of adoption. As you may be aware, the numbers of children adopted internationally by American families has declined by almost 70% over the past decade. Children who are characterized as having “special needs” have always been waiting for families to choose them, and they are waiting still. Yes, there has been a decline in international adoption over the past decade, but the reality for many children has not changed.

For a myriad of reasons, many children who wait for adoption are not the newborns we often think of, left on the doorstep of a hospital with a loving wish for a better future. The children for whom we advocate come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some families have been ripped apart by abuse, or neglect. These children live overseas and in our own neighborhoods. Their histories are marked by generational substance abuse, or the cultural stigma of disabilities. Oftentimes, poverty has wrecked their chance at life within the context of biological family. Their trauma history will occasionally show itself readily on their bodies; or will, in growing frequency, hide within the recesses of their fragile emotional states.

Their need for a nurturing, permanent family, however, remains the same as that of the infants swaddled with notes for a hopeful future (who also carry traumas of their own).

When talking about the children who wait for adoption, I’m not sure I would describe them as innocents. They’ve seen too much, experienced the worst of our humanity. Thank God their stories don’t end there. At WACAP, we believe that every child deserves a family. We believe that there is a family for every child. We excel in finding families for children described like those above. I believe that these children await a future where they will also experience the very best of our humanity, when strangers become family. They deserve our very best, right? Doesn’t every child deserved to belong? To be claimed by someone who sees not the diagnosis but the potential for life and joy and healing? We say yes! And from the statistics of those children above, there were at least twenty-three families who agreed. Cheers to them! May their futures be bright.

Do you agree as well? Visit HERE to meet more children like these, many of whom have been assigned grants to reduce barriers to their adoption.

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

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Lifelong Support After Adoption

A drawing of a tree with green leaves and deep rootsJust recently, I spent some time on the phone with a man who had been adopted through WACAP over 30 years ago. Prior to being adopted by a WACAP family, his initial adoption had been dissolved and he’d spent some of his earliest years in foster care. Years later, he found he still had many questions about his past, his birth family and his country of origin. While I don’t know his whole story, I know that years ago, WACAP placed him with the family who stuck with him. And decades later, as an adult adoptee, he could call WACAP for support. I was so happy to talk with him, to answer the questions I could and to send him the resources I had available that could help him on his journey.

When I think about what lifelong support means, I come back to this adult adoptee, and others like him. This support encompasses not only our commitment to families as they embark on their adoption, and through their child’s teen years. It is a support that’s about the adoptee: it starts by being about the child, that child’s need for a family, and also that child’s lifelong journey toward feeling healed, whole and integrated.  One thing that makes me so proud to work for WACAP is our commitment to providing this lifelong support after adoption.

As an adopted person myself, I know that adoption really is an ongoing journey, and there are going to be highs and lows, and questions and revelations throughout.

Research shows us that most adoptees will, at some point, consider embarking on the search for their birth family. While not all searches result in a happy ending, or happy beginning as I like to say, it’s still a worthwhile experience.

It takes courage to begin the search, and people come to me with anticipation and trepidation, as they don’t know what they’re going to find. That’s why I spend a lot of time to try and prepare each adoptee I work with. I want to find out what their expectations are, and help them consider what might happen if reality doesn’t align with the hopes and often fantasies they’ve built up over the years.

Some years ago, I assisted a young woman named Lisa in her search for her birth mother. In this case, the search was successful, and Lisa and her birth mother happily reunited. They asked to come into the office to meet me and presented me with a thank you card for my part in their story–it was amazing to hear how they each felt so much more whole after finding these missing pieces.

Even when a search doesn’t end with the joyful reunion that Lisa’s did, there is so much to be gained by searching. Taking that step can lead to acceptance, and to unravelling some of the grief and loss issues that adoptees experience, helping a person to feel more complete.

Another young man I spoke with some time ago who inquired, but for the time being opted not to actively search for his birth mother emailed, to thank me for some resources and articles I had provided. “Thank you so much for sending these to me,” he wrote. “These are things I’ve felt my whole life and never had a way to articulate.”

That’s really what lifelong support means to me. It’s about acknowledging that every story is unique, yet none of us are alone. WACAP is always here to help in any way possible. And while I may not be able to walk the entire journey with this young man, I’ve helped him to open the door.

A photo of a smiling woman with two small children.About WACAP’s Vice President of Social Services, Spring Hecht: Spring has worked at WACAP since 2003. She has many years of experience both in direct services to families and in program management. Before taking on her current position, Spring supervised WACAP’s Family Finders program. In addition to working with adult adoptees, she also works with families and children who are experiencing challenges after adoption, providing them with counsel and other support resources and referrals. Spring holds a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University.

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Preparing Families

Thinking about the impact a family can haveIt’s an understatement to say there are a lot of questions and considerations that come with making the decision to adopt. As a social worker at WACAP, I’ve been privileged to work with individuals and couples every day, helping them through the homestudy process, and supporting them after their adoption.

Recently, a colleague and I were reflecting on that experience, and about an aspect the adoption process that’s often less stated for families, but that can be particularly difficult, both before and after making the decision to adopt. It’s the challenge many families face of feeling powerless, or feeling things ‘aren’t in their hands.’ When I think of WACAP’s commitment to preparing families, this is where I start.

Many families make the decision to adopt because, in some way, their own circumstances are not as they’d initially planned. Some are dealing with loss, infertility, or their adoption plans have changed. They may come to WACAP feeling that they’ve had limited control over their life choices.

As a result, many families talk to me about their desire to have more certainty in their adoption process, and certainty about the child they want to adopt, his age, her background, etc. When their hopes about who their child will be don’t align with the children who are waiting, families have told me they again feel a sense of powerlessness.

WACAP helps families know that’s not the case.

We prepare families for the great impact they will have in a child’s life. That child may be older, have a medical condition, or may have had multiple foster care placements. But each child’s need is really the same — what a child needs most is a family, permanency, love.

Whatever has happened that brings a family to WACAP, that family has great potential to rewrite the story for a child, and open up a future that he or she wouldn’t have otherwise had. That’s an outcome that families can depend on. Where WACAP comes in is helping families as they begin this journey, educating them, giving them tools along the way, and helping them prepare for the amazing power of family to change the life of a child.

Interested in learning more? Visit www.wacap.org and follow this blog feed for a new post each week through July to read more about our organization and the concepts that drive us forward for children.  

head shot of WACAP's director of social services, smiling About WACAP’s Director of Social Services, Elana Roschy: Elana enjoys interacting with WACAP families and staff, and helping to ensure that families receive both the initial and ongoing support they need as they adopt. Over the last decade, Elana has worked in WACAP’s adoption programs, and as a social worker for WACAP, she’s worked one-on-one with numerous individuals and couples, helping them through their homestudy process and supporting them after their adoption. As WACAP’s director of social services, she’s delighted to introduce and grow WACAP’s support, education and training services for families.

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Children’s Hope in photos

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Thank you to everyone who attended last month’s Children’s Hope Luncheon. We’ve put the funds we raised right to work finding families for children!

We’d like to thank Laurel Ink for the lovely gift boxes we were able to hand out to each attendee.

Special thanks goes to The Art Institute of Seattle and our event photographers, Anna, Ray, and Karen.

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WACAP Is a Champion for Children

Our mission statement begins, “WACAP is a champion for children.”

CHAMPION. It’s a word returning 418,000,000 results on a Google search. Image searches show the sports clothing line, and the winners of the most recent Super Bowl.

No, we’re not a champion on a Wheaties box. Nor did we win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. However, the first words in our mission statement really tell who we are.

Here’s what these words say:

WACAP has helped children for nearly 40 years. We’ve forever changed the lives of over 10,000 children through adoption, and we continue to advocate for the children who wait.

Here’s why these words are so important:

We know that life is hard for children without families. Because of the need, and because of the stakes, we do not accept this role passively and quietly. We know that children need our help, and they need it now.

Here’s the path we travel:

As a “champion,” WACAP is a defender of those children living in foster care and in orphanages around the world who have been overlooked. WACAP battles for the rights of children to have a loving, permanent family. We champion the cause of helping vulnerable children with urgency, knowing that damage is done with each day that slips by without a family for these children.

paralympian and wacap adoptee smiles with wacap staff before event

Mary Duncan (right) with WACAP adoptee Maggie Redden, who spoke at WACAP’s spring luncheon about what it means for a child to have a champion and a family.

Here’s our challenge:

To be a true champion for children, we can’t be satisfied with the status quo. We must expand to places where children are not being served. We must constantly evaluate our services and develop new ways to meet the changing needs of children and families. We must consider our role in helping institutionalized children through humanitarian aid. For those children who are waiting, for those children who have joined families, for those children who are vulnerable — our challenge is to be a champion for them.

Through adopting, donating, and volunteering, many beyond just WACAP staff are champions for children. We thank all of you who join us in this commitment, and invite you to be a part of our work as we move forward.

Interested in learning more? Visit www.wacap.org and follow this blog feed for a new post each week through July to read more about our organization and the concepts that drive us forward for children. 

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.

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