National Adoption Month: Finding Hunter’s Forever Family

Join WACAP’s “A Family for Me,” in partnership with KING 5 as we continue to celebrate National Adoption Month.

Today, we catch up on the story of Hunter, adopted last December by a Pacific Northwest area family. Meet John, Hadley and their wonderful kids, who have given Hunter a family and a forever home.

We talked to them last week to see how it was going …

Image from "A Family for Me" video segment showing family of eight talking about adoption and welcoming Hunter (pictured right, in wheelchair) into their family.

Link to Video on King 5

Posted in Adoptees' Perspectives, Adoption, Adoption Washington, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, Advocacy, Celebrations, Collaboration, Domestic Adoption, Foster Care, WACAP, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Adoption Month: “A Family for Me”

As we celebrate National Adoption Month at WACAP, we are especially thankful for our partnership with KING 5 (Seattle’s NBC Affiliate). Together, we share the stories of local foster kids waiting for permanent families through “A Family for Me” program and videos, hosted by Joyce Taylor and produced by Mike Blakey.

Watch Joyce kick off National Adoption Month and share highlights of the WACAP partnership on KING 5’s Morning News.

Link to Video on King 5

Posted in Adoption, Adoption Washington, Advocacy, Celebrations, Collaboration, Domestic Adoption, Foster Care, WACAP, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Go Out Beyond Your Wildest Imagination”: Homecoming and Adoption from Haiti

In this essay, adoptive mom Karen Skalitzky writes about her trip to Haiti to meet her son.

Embarking on the adoption process as a single parent, she shares candidly about facing life’s realities when they don’t quite align with best laid plans. Accompanied on her trip to Haiti by her friend Karin, she marvels at the difference that having a friend’s support can make along the way.

Karen’s essay is the story of intertwining paths and remarkable bonds, including a friendship between two children in the Haitian orphanage: a little boy (Karen’s son) … and a little girl born without eyes, who shared the same crib. This little girl not only touched her friend Karin’s heart, but became the child she adopted – with both children getting to keep the valued friendship they’d developed so young, and finding a family.

(This month at WACAP’s Children’s Hope Gala, Karin will be sharing about that visit to Haiti from her perspective, and about how much her daughter Rachelle’s life has changed after gaining a family’s love.)


“Go Out Beyond Your Wildest Imagination”

A Story of Homecoming By Karen Skalitzky

I take long drives these days. My four-year-old son, for whom our recent move was more traumatizing than either of us knew possible, has taken to napping in the car. It’s an easy drive out of the city, past the suburbs, and into fresh air. Rows of browns and greens stretch out across the horizon. The sky opens wide. And the clouds begin to speak. Go out beyond your wildest imagination, they seem to say. And live.

I remember when I started the adoption process years ago, I prayed for a new “adoption” friend. Since a husband was seemingly off the table, a single mom who was also adopting from Haiti seemed like the next best thing, and perhaps even better. But no matter how hard I tried, no one I met in those early years really clicked. I remember arguing with God about this. It didn’t seem like such an unreasonable request, especially in the light of all the paperwork and what would turn into a 22-month wait to become a family.

When I was finally approved to travel to Haiti for the first time, sans my new adoption best friend, I asked my oldest friend from college to come with me. Karin readily agreed. Several close friends, cousins, and nieces and nephews also offered to go with me. I decided to ease up on God a bit. I wasn’t feeling quite so alone in my journey after all. Little did I know how much that trip would change the landscape of her life. In the days before we left, amid packing and a flurry of vaccinations, Karin’s 8-year-old son repeatedly implored her to consider what a good big brother he would be.

Sitting at the gate the morning of our departure, I was overcome by the impossible mix of anticipation, excitement, and terror that comes with flying to another country to meet your eighteen-month-old son for the first time. It surged without notice. Thankfully Karin stopped trying to rationalize my anxiety. I just started announcing “free-floating,” and her voice would fill with compassion (and patience!) when I stumbled getting onto the plane, misplaced the customs forms, and repeatedly checked my bag to be certain I had all the papers I needed for the U.S. embassy visit later that week.

When the two of us finally walked into the dimly lit baby room twelve hours later, my friend started to cry, blubber actually, when she saw my son. I, on the other hand, knelt down beside him and gently touched his fingers as he wrapped them around the bright blue slats of his crib. My son loves to reenact this moment. “TiTi Karin cried, mama,” he says. “And what did mama do?” I ask. He smiles wildly. “Mama kontan anpil.” (Mama is very happy.) “Yes,” I reply, holding his soft face in my hands. “You were the most beautiful boy in the whole world. It was the happiest moment of my life.”

Sleeping in the crib right next to my son was a baby born without eyes. I remembered the social worker telling me that my son liked to play with a little blind girl, that he often pushed a toy between the slats of their cribs. Karin reached into her crib and started to rub her back. To her surprise, the little girl immediately placed her hand on top of hers and held it there. As the week progressed, she cooed whenever Karin held her. She ran her hands across Karin’s face, up and down her arms, and over her fingernails. And she cried mightily if Karin tried to put her down. Karin acquiesced happily.

On the second to last morning of our stay, my friend woke up crying. In her dream, her son was standing inside an open door and inviting her to walk across the threshold. “Come on, mom,” he’d said, smiling. I knew my friend never wanted to be a divorced mom raising her son alone. I knew she wanted a house full of children. I couldn’t help but chuckle at how obvious the dream had been. Karin sighed and laughed a little bit, too. And then I looked at her, stunned, and said, “I had no idea my new best adoption friend would be you.”

Three years later, almost to the day of that first meeting, I flew to Haiti to help Karin bring her beautiful little girl home. I had the privilege of witnessing her daughter’s send-off party. I helped strategize the airplane bag for the trek home. And I knew just what to do when Karin said “free-floating.” In the moments when all those new airport sounds were too much for her daughter, I sang a Kreyol song about butterflies that magically soothed her. And later that night, back in Chicago, I watched with delight as my friend’s son stepped into the role he’d been aching for, that of her big brother.

The grace of it all amazes me still. Someway, somehow, we all find our way home—back to ourselves and our deepest desires. I don’t really know how it works, but I believe the giver of all life wants us to live into every part of ourselves. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, only that we respond to the call. I glance over my shoulder at my slumbering child and give a nod to the array of clouds overhead. My friend and I went out beyond our wildest imaginations, and now her daughter and my son will have a lifetime of friendship to share.


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

If you have questions about adoption from Haiti, please contact us at

Posted in Adoption, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, International Adoption, Reflections, Travel, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why the Adoption Tax Credit Needs You, Too


Did you know the Federal Adoption Tax Credit (introduced in 1997), has helped nearly 74,000 families bring stability, love and permanency to a child?

As Tax Reform tops Congress’ priorities, this credit is in jeopardy (with the many other credits that have been proposed to be eliminated).

Here’s what you can do to remind your members of Congress about how vital the adoption tax credit is for children and families.

  1. Learn more at AdoptionTaxCredit.Org.
    (Here you’ll find a sample letter, key messages, an FAQ, Adoption Tax Credit Summary and more.)
  2. Send a message to your members of Congress about the importance the tax credit at the above link.

Why Do We Need to Take Action Now?

The “Unified Framework” recently agreed upon between the Congressional Majority and President Trump’s Administration proposes to eliminate nearly all tax credits. This includes the Adoption Tax Credit.

WACAP is a member of the Save the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group, and with other welfare organizations, advocates, and families, we continue to advocate to preserve this credit as well as have it become a “refundable” credit.

Want Additional Background about the Adoption Tax Credit?

You can read more about the tax credit here, along with tips to help with preparing to take the adoption tax credit, recommended tax professionals and resources in this article by Adoption Finance Coach Kelly Ellison.

Posted in Advocacy, Call to Action, Domestic Adoption, International Adoption, Legislation, Uncategorized, WACAP | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Financial Part of Planning for Your Adoption: The Adoption Tax Credit


Debbie, Adoption Information Specialist

Many families I talk with don’t realize there’s a tax credit available after their adoptions finalize.

If that sounds like your family, it’s important to know that this credit may be an available option for you, and knowing that may help give you the financial flexibility and knowledge to move forward with your dream of adoption, especially if adoption costs are a barrier.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with our valued coaching partner, Kelly Ellison. Kelly is the CEO and founder of the Adoption Finance Coaching System and Employee Adoption Assistance Program. Kelly is a true subject matter expert in this field. Below, she has expounded on what every family should know about the tax credit as they explore adoption. Please read on for Kelly’s explanation, and for what you can do to help advocate for this credit in the future.

young girl on swing; text overlay

I often call the Adoption Tax Credit the “eighth wonder of the adoption world.” It’s helped thousands of adoptive families recoup the costs of their adoption.

Credit Amounts

For adoptions completed in 2016, the credit was $13,460.00. For adoptions completed in 2017, the credit is $13,570. At this time, information about the 2018 tax credit has not been released, but you can check the IRS website (tax topic 607) for updated information.

Please see the resources at the end of the article for more about what’s happening currently with the credit and what you can do to be an advocate.

Bridging the Gap: Demystifying the Adoption Credit

Unfortunately, many families don’t take full advantage of this credit, most often due to a lack of understanding about the credit itself, or because they haven’t received a lot of direction from their tax professional. Some families may have forgotten or might have filed their taxes once their adoption was complete without taking the credit.

The Adoption Tax Credit may be claimed one time for each child and it is, just as its name says, a credit, which means that you can receive back only what you have paid in tax liability. (For a short period in 2010 and 2011, the credit was refundable—i.e., the credit/refund could be more than your tax liability.)

Looking Ahead: Advocates for the Tax Credit

There are many organizations, individual advocates and legislators who support the Adoption Tax credit and who have continued to advocate for it to one day be refundable. They advocated for the importance of the credit when it was in jeopardy in years past, as it may be again in the future.

If this vital credit, which so far, has continued to help so many families today, becomes refundable in the future, it will be that much more of a “wonder” to me. But first, we need to ensure the credit is there in the future by sharing how it supports families with the financial realities of their adoption … so they can focus their attention on growing their family, and on the child who needs their care.

Guidelines to Help You Take Full Advantage of the Adoption Tax Credit

It’s important to plan and be prepared, so while being an advocate on the one hand, here are practical tips you can use related to the tax credit.

  1. Find out if your tax advisor or accountant knows about the Adoption Tax Credit. If they do not, then find an accountant who is knowledgeable about it and who has used it before. An excellent resource for this (that we at Your Adoption Finance Coach recommend) is Bill’s Tax Service, located in Centralia, Illinois (contact is Becky Wilmoth). I know no better resource that is willing to help families work through all of the intricacies of this credit.
  2. Ask for a review of tax liability … Once you find an accountant or tax advisor who knows about the tax credit, take it one step further and ask them to review your tax liability and to provide some insight as to how the credit can benefit you.
  3. Start early. Too often families wait until the end to do this review and planning. It’s much better knowing as you’re going in what kind of refund to expect, or even if it’s better to lower your dependents for a period of time until the adoption is complete.
  4. Keep all of your receipts! Invest in a folder or binder and mark it “ADOPTION TAXES,” and keep every receipt that you get for your adoption. Don’t try to make the decision about whether it’s deductible or not; you can do that when you sit down to apply for the credit. If you are adopting internationally, the moment you return home, make copies of all of your receipt. Many times, the ink from your receipts collected when traveling will fade over time. This is a ‘Becky Wilmoth recommendation.’
  5. Know when to file. You’ll file your adoption tax credit once the adoption is complete. For instance, if you began your adoption in one year, but completed the adoption the next year, you’ll claim the credit in that next year’s taxes.
  6. Learn the income eligibility and phase out ranges for the credit. For instance, for 2016, if your modified adjusted gross income was $243,540 or more, your allowed credit would have been zero, based on the IRS’ income caps for the credit. For those making between $201,920 – up to $243,540, the credit is reduced. Each year this amount changes. Consult or —or use the resources at the article’s end—to learn about the income caps and where the credit phases out for the tax year you’re inquiring about.
  7. Don’t forget your state adoption tax credit! Although it is true many states have phased out the adoption tax credit, it’s worth it to find out whether you live in a state that still has this credit. Ask your tax advisor or check your State Department of Revenue website.
  8. Check with your tax advisor or accountant about how long you can take the tax credit. According to the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) website, the credit can be taken for six years, the first year your adoption is complete and then for five years after.

The Bottom Line

This credit is an important factor when considering adoption. While there is no “silver-bullet” or now “one thing” that’s going to pay for all of your adoption costs, there are many ways to develop a plan for how you’ll come up with the funds you’ll need to bring your family together.

Adoption Tax Credit Resources for Today (… And Being An Advocate to Ensure the Credit for Tomorrow)

In the meantime, some excellent resources are listed below to help you learn more about the credit … and to help you reach out to your legislators, which has again become important to do in communicating why this credit is vital.

Although the tax credit was made “permanent” … and it is facing current challenges once again, with tax reform and a re-evaluation of federal tax credits. You can make a difference by contacting your state legislators to let them know how important the credit is to the future of so many families. WACAP recommends this Adoption Tax Credit Advocacy webpage with messaging and tips on what you can share with your legislators and for updates about the most current legislative efforts.

Other Recommended Resources for More Information

adoption-finance-coach-wacap1About Your Adoption Finance Coach and CEO/Founder Kelly Ellison:
Your Adoption Finance Coach offers online resources, training and one-on-one coaching helping adoptive families create and implement a financial plan for completing their adoptions. Founder/CEO Kelly Ellison is also an adoptive parent, and understands the complexities of planning for an adoption and navigating the process. She holds an M.A. in Business Administration and has over 25-years of experience in nonprofit leadership, marketing and fund-development. An experienced speaker, facilitator and executive coach, Kelly brings her background and adoption expertise to over 1,200 families and professionals from over 30 adoption agencies across the U.S.

Posted in Adoption, Adoption FAQ, Advice, Advocacy, Collaboration, Legislation, Support Services | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Their Last Chance: Three Children in Thailand Who Need Families

This fall, WACAP’s Thailand Program Manager Lindsey Gilbert and Vice President of International Adoptions Mary Moo traveled to Thailand, returning with the faces of the children they met on their minds … and with an urgent message. Below, Lindsey paints a vivid picture of three children who need a family today.

“This is their last chance,” the social worker said during our visit to the Thai Red Cross, one of the orphanages we work with in Thailand. We were going through the list of children currently waiting to be adopted, and had come to the last three of the visit: Jason, Penny, and Kip. “If they do not find a family soon, we will have to send them back to the government orphanage,” the caregiver said.

three children at play; met by WACAP staff at their ophanage

Kip (left), Penny (middle), Jason (right)

Our hearts all sunk at this because we all understood that moving these children not only meant that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to be adopted, but it also meant them leaving the only home they’d ever known. Any new orphanage would be without the familiar faces of the caregivers they loved, and who loved them. And within a larger orphanage with more children needing support, their new caregivers would also be in higher demand.

I looked over at Jason, Penny and Kip, and heard the caregiver’s insistence.

Here were three children she knew today, that soon, would not be known to her. “This is their last chance.”

“No pressure,” I thought, feeling the urgency she felt.

Jason, Penny, and Kip are children WACAP has seen multiple times over the years as we’ve traveled to Thailand. We have watched them grow from toddlers into big kids, but as they’ve grown we’ve been able to see the incredible progress each of them has made! Beyond that, we’ve also had the chance to see beyond diagnoses and labels, and get a glimpse of the amazing child each one is.

I know that Penny loves dressing up princess dolls, and helping the nannies take care of the younger children. I can see what an amazing big sister she would be.

Kip has the kindest heart; whenever he buys something while at school, he will always share it with the other children. If a nanny looks tired, he will offer them a backrub. His mom would be so lucky.

Jason is always in a good mood! He loves to dance and has a great sense of rhythm. A helper at heart, his favorite activity at school is planting trees. I can just see him helping his dad in the garden.

Sometimes people ask me … “Why do you work in Thailand? If Thailand has such a small international adoption program and agencies like WACAP place just a handful of children for adoption every year … is it worth it?”

My answer … It is worth it to each of those children.

I know that if Penny, Kip, or Jason could find a family, it would be worth everything to them.

To learn more about Jason, Penny, Kip or the many other children in Thailand waiting for families, please email

LindseyGilbertAbout Thailand 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 China. When not at work, Lindsey can be found in the garden, on a hiking trail, or volunteering to help others … with husband Geoff and dogs Quincy and Ross by her side.

Posted in Adoption, Advocacy, Call to Action, International Adoption, Travel, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Integrity Matters

newspaper stack with text overlay, "when a news story breaks your heart ... WACAP responds"

I am heartbroken. Have you read this recent CNN report, “Kids for Sale”? Stories like this are heartbreaking.

They are discouraging to so many families who have adopted internationally, and now wonder if the version they received of their child’s history is actually true.

They are discouraging for so many families who might consider international adoption but are rightly concerned about whether or not they might be unintentionally creating more trauma for a child, separating them from a biological family who deeply cares for them.

Stories like this are heartbreaking because they expose occasions when adopted persons are treated like commodities. It is so disrespectful and dismissive of their humanity and worth and dignity.

Stories like this one do not reflect the admirable, dedicated professionals I know who are sickened by human trafficking. Though to think of even one case existing is repugnant, these reports are the minority and are not an accurate reflection of the international adoption community.

This is why we work through accreditation agencies, like the Council on Accreditation, and comply with the Hague Convention on International adoption. This is why we believe that children have the right to remain with biological family if at all possible, and it is why many agencies provide assistance to support such family preservation efforts.

All adoption is complicated, and all adoption happens only after profound loss of a first family. Intercountry adoption is further complicated by cultural norms and patterns that uniquely interpret global regulation (like the Hague convention). Unfortunately, not all countries can comply with the Hague Convention, as – like much regulatory oversight – compliance requires investment of resources that a given country may not possess. Even in the U.S., certain aspects of our government’s interpretation of the Hague Convention are debated as overreaching and discourage intercountry adoptions. You can find a list of countries party to the Hague Convention here.

Adoptions are messy and complicated and painful. But since life without a family is hard and since we believe that every child deserves a family, we continue in our work. We learn from mistakes, and we do better. In recent years, for example, we have learned much more about evidence-based practices related to complex developmental trauma and cultural competency. At WACAP, we work to implement best practices as we understand new guidance and research. We strive to provide our services with excellence, and with integrity. Specifically,

  • We visit countries and maintain relationships with embassy staff, government officials, and orphanage staff in order to better understand reporting of child information and their adoption practices.
  • We follow up with any red flags or perceived inconsistencies in child information.
  • We provide training in-country to orphanage staff and social workers.
  • We have policies that prohibit actions with any hint of fee for referrals.
  • We have made difficult decisions to stop working with organizations that we felt were asking us to compromise our ethics.

We do this because every child deserves a family. We do this because children are worth our very best.

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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A Family for Me – Little Miracles in Each Video, For Children in Foster Care

Denise Russell, WACAP’s “A Family for Me” program coordinator, shares about the behind-the-scenes magic of seeing children’s stories take shape, and then touch the hearts of the families that become theirs.

“A Family for Me – Little Miracles in Each Video”

Before I jumped into the car and drove to our latest video shoot, I scrambled around the house looking for two missing pieces to the game of “Trouble.” They are among those items that appear whenever I’m looking for anything else, but would seemingly hide if I specifically searched for them. But mini-miracles tend to hang around our “A Family for Me” program; and before I knew it, the missing-in-action pegs (one green, one blue) peeked out among the miscellaneous clutter in a box marked “stuff.”

The “Trouble” game troops all present and accounted for, I proceeded with the rest of my checklist: setting up GPS, quickly rereading a profile, grabbing a snack, and throwing the now intact “Trouble” game into my carry bag. Preparing for video shoots is kind of down to a science now, except for the important fact that I never really know what a child is going to say or do.

The video shoot for this particular day was a little less complicated than many. But no matter the set-up, a lot of thought goes into the game plan. What are the interests of the child I’m going to meet? How can we provide a fun, lasting memory? What places and activities will allow children to express who they are, and allow viewers to see them for who they are, while asking themselves, “Could this child be my child?

A-Family-For-Me-Siblings-Smile-On-Stairs-20171009 (1)

Finding these important places and experiences that embrace the children and capture the attention of those adults that may become their permanent family – that’s part of my journey.

Sometimes, I’ll a send a seemingly random email to the entire WACAP staff, reading, “Does anyone know someone who has a bowling alley in their house?” or “Does anyone know an expert in metal detection?” Or I’ll reach out to businesses with a request, such as this: “We need a secure, indoor venue for a child with special needs, who loves remote control cars. Can we use your soccer facility?” (The answer is almost always, “Yes.”) Over the past few years, we’ve introduced kids to race cars, Naval destroyers, dirt biking, parkour, Lego masters, artists, musicians, dance instructors, chefs, and so much more!

But on this Saturday, the planning was more about strategic availability. Our goal was to meet up with three siblings, who lived a distance apart but were gathering for an event taking place at a school later that morning. We didn’t know when the opportunity to see them together would come again. So, two amazing care workers, one of our fantastic videographers, and I were all simultaneously packing up our gear (and kids) and preparing to hit the road.

As it turns out, this trio of kids represented the population of foster children who need advocates: older kids, kids with special needs, and siblings. And like many of the kids who share their stories through “A Family for Me,” this was not their first video. Two years earlier, I met them when Yuen Lui studios allowed us video tape one of their donated photo sessions. The kids were all dressed in lovely clothes and were the epitome of sweetness. Now, a couple years later, they were a little spunkier (in a good way) and very much becoming their own people. In fact, one of them was now a teenager.

Now the challenge was finding a way to provide an activity that highlighted their interaction and offered a little fun for a 13, 10 and 8-year-old… at a school, on a cloudy day. My plan was to keep things fun and uncomplicated, which is why I brought the board game. The two older kids seemed to enjoy some game time, but Little Sister wasn’t having it. She had no interest in “Trouble” or sitting in on the interview, while I chatted with her siblings. Luckily, we’ve become pretty good at spontaneous Plan B’s.

I knew from Little Sister’s profile that music lit up her world. I quickly asked her brother and sister if there were any songs they all like to sing together. The two started singing “Despacito.” Without skipping a beat, our videographer whipped out her phone and hit Play. It happened to be the top song on her playlist. Little sister stood up, and began smiling and swaying with her brother and sister. Meanwhile, the clouds parted, the sky cleared, and we went out to capture some sunny, playground video. Another mini-miracle.


But the true beauty of this video shoot would be in the interview, where big Sister and Brother talked about how much they wanted to be all together, what it was like to have a sister with special needs, and how very seriously they felt about taking care of each other. Sometimes, the miracles are just in the words these incisive, resilient kids are able to express.

It’s a tall order, asking if a family is ready to parent older kids, kids with special needs, or siblings… yet we were shooting a video in the hopes that a family will take on all of these challenges in one big energetic package.

Still, we’ve seen amazing things come out of these videos. We’ve cheered as a 17-year-old’s story reached the right family, just before the teen “aged out” of the foster care system. We’ve seen the last child out of his 6 siblings join a permanent family. And we’ve celebrated that a child who used a computer to speak now has a family to help him find his voice.

To date, seven kids we’ve featured with significant special needs, as well as ten groups of siblings, have found families. And kids whose first video reflected their innocent curiosity, found that it was their third video (capturing a more somber, reflective teen) that still managed to find the heart of the right family.

I’ve now had the privilege of interviewing well over 100 kids about who they are and the family they hope to have. And in cases where kids weren’t able to speak with me verbally, the videos allowed a chance for them to share about themselves nonverbally, showing their unique interests and personalities — while I was also able to interview an adult who spoke on their behalf, as well (always with incredible grace and compassion).

It’s been amazing. But we couldn’t do this without the help of all those caseworkers, recruiters, care workers, foster parents, businesses, organizations, and videographers.  We owe such a huge thank you to KING 5’s Joyce Taylor and editor Mike Blakey for turning our footage into powerful features. They introduce the community to the kids during the broadcast, but then provide us with the video links that will be clicked on over and over, as families meet these children. So far, 90 “A Family for Me” kids have found their families.

It feels like a little bit of a miracle.

WACAP Family for Me Coordinator Photo

About WACAP’s “A Family for Me Program Coordinator,” Denise Russell: Since joining WACAP in 2013, Denise has coordinated adoption outreach videos for close to 120 foster children. 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 the appreciating the goofiness of the family’s two Labradors.” Oh, and she loves a good movie!

Posted in Adoptees' Perspectives, Adoption, Adoption FAQ, Adoption Washington, Collaboration, Domestic Adoption, Foster Care, Reflections, Staff/Board Spotlight, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WACAP Now: October Spotlights

WACAP NowWACAP-Now-201710-Mike-and-Margie-PodcastWACAP-Now-201710-Resource-Positive-Engagement-Zoila-LopezWACAP-Now-201710-Meet-Jaydyn-Video

Posted in Adoption, Adoption Washington, Adoptive Parents' Perspectives, Advice, Advocacy, International Adoption, Quote, Staff/Board Spotlight, Support Services, WACAP, WACAP Communications, Waiting Children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changing Perspectives: Moving Toward Positive Engagement Models With Children

When I began working with families as a parent educator and therapist in Florida, natural and enforced logical consequences were the go-to parenting strategy. I worked with many families stuck in destructive, multi-generational parenting patterns, many with significant personal issues and at risk of losing custody of their children. All of them truly wanted to do better, to break the cycle, to rise above the weight of the multigenerational and multi-systemic structures of oppression they couldn’t seem to be able to escape.

Zoila and Zhoe on the carousel, delighted as the horses go round

WACAP’s Clinical Director Zoila (right) on the carousel with Zhoe, all smiles (left)

My advice was simple; be consistent, use systems of rewards and consequences (punishment) that send your children the message that the world would undoubtedly later provide: For every action there’s a reaction, and for every missed step, there’s a consequence.

Those families worked really hard at creating rule/consequence charts (such as sticker charts), hoping that if we together determined and employed the “right” consequence, we would be able to influence and hopefully eliminate undesired behaviors. Sometimes that worked, but most of the time the desired outcome was short-lived. More often than not, we tore the whole system down and went back to the drawing board to try to identify a better system — one that more closely aligned with the child’s personality and, though there were some positive results, the behavior always came back. The parents burned out — some overwhelmed and convinced they were ill-equipped to parent, others succumbing to unhealthy coping strategies — and I felt like a failure.

I remember the moment I decided I needed to find a different approach, I was sitting in front of my computer writing up a plan for another family with whom I was working. I vividly recall the frustration and dissolution I felt in my heart and in my gut, burdened by the fact that my work with those families didn’t seem to be helping at all. My thoughts floated to that definition of insanity many of us have heard before (doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results).

It would be years before I gained access to information about brain biochemistry and physiology and its effects on behavior, that I began to make the connections to formulate plans that have impacted the way I parent and the guidance I provide others stuck in unproductive parenting feedback loops — many of them feeling like absolute failures. How could we possibly expect positive responses from children while utilizing what are effectively punitive approaches?

Doctors Karin Purvis and Daniel Siegel became my mentors. Their books, videos, and articles made me understand that what changes behavior is human connection, a sense of safety, and the unwavering support of dedicated caregivers. Drawing from Purvis, Siegel, and others, Elana Roschy, WACAP’s Director of Social Service, explains, “Moving away from a fear-based approach doesn’t only focus on behavior, but on the physiological and stress responses that produces behavior.”

Practical Tip

  • In place of consequences, move toward more engaging rather than reactive strategies.


  • Re-directing
  • Time-ins
  • Do-overs
  • The use of tools and language to help children connect to their own thought processes and feelings.

Additional Advice

Yes, the parent/child relationship is hierarchal, but it is also a cooperative relationship that supports healthy brain development and allows both children and caregivers to attune to the internal processes that directly impact human behavior. As adoptive parents, often more frequently than those parenting biological children, we have to be aware of the impact trauma has on our children’s brain, and we have to create environments within which they are able to relax, get out of their reptilian brain (the reactive part) and open their ability to learn new strategies as neurological connections shaped through trusting relationships begin to form.



About WACAP’s Clinical Director, Zoila Lopez: Zoila joined WACAP in 2016 as Clinical Director. She is an adoptive mom, a former foster parent, and brings to her new role an extensive background of work as a therapist and adoption coach to support all members of the adoption triad.

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