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-Megan

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.

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

“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!

Families-Children-Collage

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

“Our Adopted Child Won’t Bond With Both of Us”: 8 Tips to Support Attachment

If it takes a village to raise a child, it goes without saying that parents need the support of their community along the way—especially when tough questions obscure the answers.

Here’s one such question, asked by an adoptive mom whose child was struggling with attachment. It’s followed by a response from WACAP’s adoptive parent support group—an online community for families, where WACAP social services staff and adoptive parents offer their experience and perspective when it’s needed most.  


child-parent-hug

One Parent’s Question:

We recently adopted our child internationally. She’s about 18 months old, and after nearly one month home, she is bonding with me, but struggling to attach to her dad. With his return to work and her ongoing rejection of him, I’m worried they’ll have issues bonding going forward.

Do you have any tips that can improve or help speed up attachment between my child and my spouse?  

Response from WACAP Social Worker Zia Freeman:

I know it is hard to deal with watching your partner be rejected, especially if you might like to take a breather once in a while!

For those who’ve adopted as a couple, it is very common for a child to prefer one parent over the other for a while. And the short answer is that you can’t force or “hurry” attachment, especially in such a short amount of time.

Children of this age take an average of 6 months to get a comfortable bond going with any new person. If time becomes more limited for your spouse during the weekdays, he will have to bond with your daughter during weekends and evenings. And you’re not alone in that.

For most parents who can’t take much time off when their child comes home, it’s just the reality that attachment may take longer. Your daughter isn’t bonded to you yet, either; she is doing “insecure attachment,” where she needs to have you present most of the time in her line of sight.

It can be exhausting for you (the “clingee”) and upsetting to the other parent who is being rejected, but remember it isn’t personal. Having been adopted internationally, your child is likely more used to caregivers who were women being around her and caring for her needs, as well.

It is good that she is responding well to one parent and that is progress!

We have to remember that we can’t expect children of trauma and loss to bend to our schedules in such a short time; the fact that she is doing so well so quickly shows how much progress she has already made.

Going back to work, school starting, or vacation coming up are schedules that are expected societally and among adults, although newly placed kids need the focus to be on attachment with them as much as possible in the first 6 months to a year.

Though your child is very young, her world has already impacted her brain, and she is reacting very normally to being placed with complete strangers and losing every person and thing that she has been used to.

Don’t lose heart!

Here are eight tips to support bonding between your child and your partner:

  • Encourage your partner to be around you often while home, so that your child can see your partner is safe and not going anywhere.
  • Have your partner offer food and toys (there’s nothing wrong with “a little bribery” in this cooperative, positive way).
  • Don’t force your child to be alone with your partner, beyond what your child is already comfortable with.
  • Rather than holding or picking your child up, have your partner just use light touch when possible, or let the child observe your partner’s activities (e.g., playing with the child’s toys).
  • Remember the messages you’re both sending to your child: Once your child realizes your partner is not going away for more than a few hours and is safe to be around (plus has food and toys to share!), the child will likely respond more positively.
  • Understand the response and timing are unique to each child. For a young child adjusting to two parents, the adjustment time may take a few days to a couple of months.
  • At times that your partner is away and you are with your child, show a picture of your partner to your child, and act very excited when you’re all together next.
  • Don’t require your child to go to your partner, but instead show your child that you are happy with your partner around. Your child will soon understand your partner is part of the family package!

Adapted from advice shared by WACAP social worker Zia Freeman on WACAP’s Facebook parent support group.

WACAP is committed to providing lifelong support to families, including through this vibrant online community where families and social services staff can share resources, perspective, and advice.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption FAQ, Advice, International Adoption, Support Services, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

When Families Say “Help, I Need Somebody”

On his personal blog about adoption, fatherhood, and parenting, WACAP CEO Greg Eubanks shares about a recent visit to his home state. After a chance meeting with an adoptive family, Greg reflects on his own journey as new parent, and reminds us that families aren’t alone.


Help! (I Need Somebody)

baskets of help wanted signs

I was lucky enough to travel back home to Texas during this past holiday season. Like so many others, I enjoyed time with family and friends. I also had the chance, though, to connect with an adoptive family I’d never met. In 2016, however, I met the boy who would become their son. At that time, he lived in a Chinese orphanage and he was waiting. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he and his new family lived in my old hometown. I was “all in.”

So, of course, I invited myself for coffee. When we connected, we talked about the importance of support for adoptive families.

I never needed anybody’s help in any way

As I write about this encounter, I want to rewind a bit to that period of time when I was an adoptive parent, struggling, and grasping desperately for bootstraps that weren’t there.

My wife and I were struggling, and we couldn’t figure out how to make anything better.  We had also determined that we were alone in our situation.

So many in our circle didn’t seem to be able to grasp our reality. Maybe they had elevated us, unfairly and undeservedly, to an heroic status so often assigned to adoptive parents.

Maybe we were acting out of a protective instinct for our children, wanting others to see the best in them. Probably, we are the types who find it terribly difficult to ask for help.  Regardless, we didn’t tell anyone for a long time how bad things were.

Now I find, I’ve changed my mind

Eventually, we reached a point where we had to tell someone. We chose transparency and vulnerability. We chose poorly, because the people we entrusted with our “secret” didn’t know how to react. So they receded into the shadows, and we felt more alone than ever.

Here’s the thing, though: Our need for support didn’t go away. We needed someone to listen, to understand, and to acknowledge that this, too, shall pass. We needed someone to point us to the future where hope resides. We needed someone to climb down into the abyss with us and say, I’ve been here before.

Help me, if you can

Which brings me to coffee, and these new adoptive parents who were about to become friends. As we spoke, I confessed how much I once felt like a fraud. We told stories of our experiences, failures, and shame. We discovered that these feelings are common. And, we discovered they are undeserved.

Though we spoke briefly of an impressive, evidence-based model that is providing hope and support to many adoptive families, most of our conversation was confessional. We imparted no wisdom. Far from it! We simply shared our experiences and found out how unremarkable they ultimately were in the world of adoption. What we were trying to say was, “we’ve been down here before and know what it’s like. But there is a path that leads out of this place. Maybe we can find it together.”

Not just anybody

It is because of experiences like this that I write my blog. There is a reason why I fight through my instinctive self-talk that chides, “No one cares what you have to say!”

Finding the right type of support can be such a difficult, seemingly impossible, task. I am convinced that there are others out there who feel alone, ashamed, terrified that they are forever lost in a wilderness.

You are not alone. You are not a failure. There are others like you. Like us. So, reach out.  And, be reachable.


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.

Posted in Adoption, Advice, From the CEO, International Adoption, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome Home to Abel, Two Months Home

Welcome home to 2-year-old Abel!

Adopted from China, Abel joined his family in January.

His parents, Jordyn and Brian, are thrilled, and this month they shared that after just two months home, Abel is making incredible strides.

Toddler sitting on suitcase, wearing gray

Toddler relaxes on carpet, joins in on coloring and drawing activities

Children reading on couch


To learn about adopting from China or to find out more about the children waiting for families, please contact us at wacap@wacap.org.

Posted in Adoption, Images of Family, International Adoption, WACAP, Waiting Children, Welcome Home | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Loving Your Older Child, Even When the Feeling Is Missing

In 2011, WACAP parent Kris Kittle welcomed home her 13-year-old daughter, adopted from China. Here, Kris offers some tips to families about how to build and strengthen emotional connections with children who’ve joined their families through adoption. Especially addressing parents who’ve adopted older kids, Kris acknowledges that love can be hard to feel sometimes … and that’s okay.


Loving Your Child: Older Child Adoption

By Kris Kittle, Ph.D

Those who choose older child adoption face many distinct challenges. Many of the challenges are openly discussed as parents seek out advice and wisdom in how to address them.

One of the unique challenges parents may face, however, is not feeling love for their child, although this topic is rarely discussed. Few parents willingly admit they do not feel love for their child; those who do often receive judgment from others.

When the Feelings Are Hard to Find

Admitting you do not feel love for your child is perceived as unacceptable because it runs counter to human nature, so why do so many experience it?

There are likely a variety of reasons, but consider this scenario: When an infant or young toddler joins your family, you see the sweet smile that melts your heart. You hear the contagious baby giggle. You know how much this treasured child depends on you for care and comfort. When the baby you’ve cherished becomes a preteen—who perhaps begins to exude an attitude—you still know and remember the sweet baby tucked behind the challenging exterior.

However, when you bring your child home as a preteen (or older), you do not have those memories of the sweet and precious baby. You see only the tough exterior, and you are not sure what is underneath. Often, it is difficult to look past the exterior to that hurt child hiding deep inside.

Three Tips to Help Parents Build Emotional Connections With Their Older Kids

How can parents love their child when they lack the gushy loving feelings?

1. Set realistic expectations.

Would you marry a complete stranger and expect to feel immediately emotionally connected to that person? Certainly you answered, “No, of course not.”

Adopting an older child is similar: You are entering into a relationship with a complete stranger who has their own experiences, personality, and likes and dislikes. Yet as their parent, you are expected to feel emotional love for them from the start.

Those emotional connections and feelings can develop, but it often takes time to feel that love. It will take time for your child to feel love for you, too. And they may never feel love for you. You have to accept that loving your child is not about what they do (or don’t do), but who they are as your child.

2. Love is an action, not a feeling.

As one dad I talked with shared, “Love is what you do, what you say, and how you interact with your child.”

  • You can express love to your kids by meeting their needs.
  • You can show love by giving sincere, authentic praise every day (even if you have to look really hard to find something praise worthy).
  • You can show love through service such as teaching skills, such as how to cook, how to sort laundry, how to manage money, etc.
  • You can show affectionate touch by giving hugs, pats on the back, fist bumps, and high fives.
  • You can spend quality time with your child listening to them and doing activities together that your child enjoys.

3. Take care of yourself.

It is hard to help others when you have already given everything within you, and you feel dry … parched, out of energy, done. As parents, it is easy to become so immersed in the needs of our children, or family in general, that we neglect taking care of us. However, we cannot pour from an empty cup, either. (Airline attendants remind us to put on our oxygen masks before assisting others.)

We need to change the narrative that suggests taking time to care for ourselves is selfish. Nonetheless, many parents struggle to find enjoyable things that help them feel refreshed. If that sounds like you:

  • Consider different types of activities that you have tried or want to try.
  • If you’re unsure of what works for you, consider activities in these categories:
    • Reflective (example: meditation or positive self-talk).
    • Calming (example: reading or spending time in nature).
    • Physical (example: exercise).
    • Creative (example: hand crafts or coloring).
    • Social (example: join a new group or go to a movie).
    • There are many ideas within each category, so search the internet for additional ideas.
  • Don’t be afraid to try out new ideas.
  • Keep track of what works for you as well as what does not.
  • Make sure what you select is beneficial, not detrimental (such as overworking).
  • If taking time for yourself seems difficult, start with small increments of time and gradually increase it. Find what works best for you to take care of you.

Worth the Effort

Setting realistic expectations for yourself (and your child), acting out love by meeting your child’s needs (even when you do not feel like it), and making sure you have energy to give are vital for you and your child.

If one day (or week) is really hard or is unsuccessful …

  • Give yourself grace.
  • Recommit to showing love to your child.
  • And purposefully act.

It can be hard, but you, your child, and your family are worth the effort.


Headshot of Kris Kittle, author of blog post and co-author of book  Dr. Kris Kittle is a WACAP adoptive mom and co-author of “Wisdom from Adoptive Families: Joys and Challenges in Older Child Adoption,” which brings together the experience of forty families who adopted preteen or teenage children. You can learn more about the book at www.AdoptionSurvival.com.

Dr. Kittle earned her doctorate at the University of North Texas and teaches leadership communication at Dallas Baptist University. She also blogs at https://kriskittle.com.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption FAQ, Advice | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment