Celebrate with us this National Adoption Month!
As we move through November, thankful for what we’ve accomplished together, we hope you’ll follow along on this calendar. And please follow us on Instagram where we’re posting throughout the month.
Celebrate with us this National Adoption Month!
As we move through November, thankful for what we’ve accomplished together, we hope you’ll follow along on this calendar. And please follow us on Instagram where we’re posting throughout the month.
“You keep coming back!” I said to Vi, a WACAP volunteer I see every Monday. “You must like us,” I teased.
It turns out, she does.
Vi retired from Boeing after 30-years as a project manager. Today, she’s celebrating one year as a WACAP volunteer.
Ask her why she begins each week at WACAP helping others, and her answer is simple. In addition to liking the people, she just believes she should.
Vi learned about WACAP over lunch one day with a longtime friend, Maya Andreic, a WACAP mom and manager of WACAP’s Haiti program. “You know, you really should volunteer with WACAP,” Vi recalls her friend saying. “So I started the process.”
“It’s a small thing I do that helps staff …” she says. But for the families and children she helps connect, it’s not small at all.
Vi concedes she can’t get attached to every photo, with so many children that need families and need their stories to be shared. She knows she may not learn where their paths lead, but what she does know is that she’s “helping a child – helping that child somewhere along the line.”
“Today, I also helped the staff in WACAP’s Foster Care and Adoption department,” says Vi, smiling. She knows she’s part of something special.
“I think if we look at the obligation, or the responsibility, we have in our community, then we should help somebody along the way,” says Vi.
“People have helped me along the way.”
About WACAP Communications Editor Missy Harrel: Missy joined WACAP’s communication team in 2011. She spent the first part of her career in nonprofit program management focused on child welfare and early learning, as well as teaching in higher education. Growing up with family and friends who were adopted, she has an ongoing interest in sharing about family and the stories they create. She blends her communications background with a love of learning and technology, and enjoys her coffee with poetry in hand.
Image Source/Design: WACAP
There are children we see every day whose photos we can’t share. How do we advocate for these children, WACAP’s Lindsey Gilbert asks, sharing about a particular group of children in India so often overlooked: children with Down syndrome who are waiting for families.
By Lindsey Gilbert, India Program Manager
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and I have loved seeing the many social media posts and articles about Down syndrome. There are stories about people with Down syndrome that help educate and demystify, and many posts about children with Down syndrome who are waiting for an adoptive family! However, my heart aches for one group so often overlooked: children with Down syndrome from India.
Though more and more families are adopting from India, there are few families who come into WACAP’s India program open to needs like Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or blindness. Other countries, such as China, Bulgaria, and Taiwan allow waiting children to be listed on agency or adoption advocacy websites. As a result, many families see their sweet faces, and many children with Down syndrome are matched with their forever family! However, India’s central adoption authority, CARA, does not allow adoption agencies to post photos of waiting children anywhere online. The unfortunate result of that is fewer families for children who are older or have more complex needs.
Of course, we understand and respect India’s right to make decisions about their children, and this rule was made to protect the privacy of children. At the same time, we know that it is often a photo that first draws a family’s heart towards a child, so what do we do when we can’t share those photos? How do we advocate for the children you can’t see?
We tell their stories. I can’t show you a picture of “Heidi,” but I can tell you she’s nine years old, has a wonderful imagination, and loves to ride tricycles! I can’t show you “Una’s” gorgeous big brown eyes, but I can tell you she’s a happy and gentle three-year-old. They both happen to have Down syndrome, too.
Even though I can’t show you their faces, they are no less real than the waiting children you do see, and no less in need of a family. My hope this Down Syndrome Awareness Month is that more families would become aware of children like them, and take the leap of faith to bring them home.
WACAP wants every child to have their best chance for permanency. To open the door for more potential families, WACAP is offering a $5,000 promise child grant for eligible families adopting any child with Down Syndrome in India. Contact WACAP Family Finders to learn more.
About 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.
Image Source: Canva stock illustration/WACAP design.
In this post, a WACAP staff member shares her story about growing up adopted and the search for her biological family. More than 60 years after her adoption, she’s found some of the answers she was looking for and invites us along on her journey.
By a WACAP Staff Member and Adoptee
As an adoptee I found myself wondering many times if there was family “out there.” Even an aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather. Did they know about me? Why had they never searched for me?
I was adopted in 1951. I came to my mom and dad when I was six weeks old. Mom was 37 and Dad 43.
They’d tried to have children for years with no luck and their being able to adopt me was truly an answered prayer. Due to some health issues, they could not adopt again.
I knew I’d been adopted from a very young age, but it was not something my mom wanted to discuss nor did she want others to know. She was terrified that someone would come take me away and due to her insecurities, she told me that my mother had died in childbirth and that my father had been killed in the Korean War.
It wasn’t until I was near the end of my pregnancy with my first child (1977) and having some health issues related to the pregnancy, that my mother finally told me my biological mom had not died in childbirth, so that I could tell my doctor. (She never said anything about my father.)
My mother was so ashamed that she had lied but still so scared that I would find my bio mom and fall “in love” with her. It was a sad, but true worry she clung to. As a result, I never did much searching for family members out of respect for her wishes and her fears.
I am sure she felt inadequate not being able to bear a child and on top of that, she didn’t want others to know that I was, as some would have called me, “illegitimate.”
Times were different then.
Time didn’t stand still, however, and neither did my desire to know more about my biological family.
In the late 90’s, I did do some internet searches, but I came up blank.
Mom passed away in 2006. I still felt I needed to honor her wishes that I not search for my bio mom.
However, in 2008, I began working for WACAP, where I heard stories about adoptees’ birth family searches, and helped answer questions about WACAP’s search and reunion services. After a few years, I learned about the at-home DNA and ancestry testing kits that were becoming so accessible and thought they might help me piece together parts of my story. In late 2016, after much debate, I finally sent in a kit through 23andMe.
I’d been able to obtain an original copy of my birth certificate with my bio mom’s name on it and waited eagerly for news of a DNA match that might tell me more. For months, I heard nothing encouraging.
In February of 2018, I received notice I was a 23 percent DNA match with a girl who was likely my niece. I was in shock.
Lo and behold, when I contacted her, she knew my biological mom’s name, where my bio mother was from, and announced I had a brother and three sisters, all living in Colorado.
Sadly, I learned my bio mom had passed away in 2016.
There was still some uncertainty about who my father was, but my niece convinced her great uncle to do a DNA test as well. He was my uncle. His brother was my bio mom’s husband and my bio dad.
He’d passed away in 1997, but I had found him.
Since both of my bio parents were deceased, it was evident that neither my siblings nor I would ever know the full story of why I was put up for adoption.
Since my bio mom had only been gone for just over a year, at first, I wished I had searched sooner. But apparently, my niece was also trying to honor her grandmother’s wishes for privacy, and had not done the DNA test until after her death. I wished for what I could know.
I learned that my bio parents were married about two months after my birth, and they went on to have four children together in seven years that followed.
I have since been in contact with all my newfound siblings and discovered that, though their mother told several of them she had given a child up for adoption, she gave them very little information beyond that.
They knew the child was a girl, they knew my birth date, and that I was born with club feet. My bio mom feared this condition was due to her binding herself to hide her pregnancy, and she’d made it clear to my siblings that she didn’t want to discuss anything further about this.
Times were different back in the 1950s for an unwed mother.
People who know my story are always asking me how I feel about all this. My initial response: “weird.” I am sure that seems like an odd thing to say, but there is still so much going through my mind regarding my story’s twist and turns.
For one, the siblings I’ve gained “welcomed me to the family,” but at least for right now, they don’t feel like family.
Next, we were raised in very different circumstances. We share “nature” (DNA) but not “nurture.” As an only child I know I had many opportunities they never had. How different would my life have been if I had not been put up for adoption? Would I have been able to attend college? It is likely I would not have traveled as extensively as I did.
Furthermore, there is some current tension between the siblings that, thankfully, I don’t have to deal with.
Yes, it is all very weird.
Some might wonder what I was looking for. It’s true I didn’t know what I would find, and also that I was content in my life as it was.
So, then, why did I search?
On the surface, a main reason was to learn about my family’s medical history. I was tired of doctors asking me, “Is there a history of (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.) in the family?” and me having to say, “I don’t know, I was adopted.” I believe this has caused me to have several medical tests that I might have avoided had I just had some family medical history. My siblings have been great at providing me some of that.
But, deep down inside, there are other reasons; some instinctual curiosity has always been there.
If there was family out there, I had questions:
Although my mother was worried about what would happen if I sought answers to some of my questions, I can honestly say that I have not regretted or resented being adopted for one minute, nor do I hold any ill will against my bio mother and bio father for putting me up for adoption. To me, it would be silly to have regrets. As the expression goes, that’s “water under the bridge,” a past I can’t change.
If I could, I would love to be able tell my bio mom what a gift she gave my mother and that I never for even a moment felt unloved. Over protected, maybe, but not unloved. (I am not sure my new siblings fully understand that.)
Time will tell whether or not my siblings and I will stay connected or if this unusual relationship will fade away.
For now, I am delighted to have the contacts I have made, especially with one of my sisters, and grateful for all the information they have provided me. It’s all a little weird still, and there still questions without answers.
But times are different today, different for me, and perhaps too for the family that knows I’m here.
WACAP believes in providing lifelong support to families before and after adoption. Learn more about WACAP’s Social Services and its search and reunion services.
About WACAP’s Home Study Processing Coordinator: Karen joined WACAP’s staff in 2009. Helping families across the U.S. during their home study process, she also assists executive staff and WACAP’s Family Finders team. She’s committed to helping children find families and loves the people she works with. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, likes crafts including crocheting and rubber stamping, and enjoys gardening and attending theater productions with friends. “Can you tell I am not one to sit around and do nothing?” she’s known to ask colleagues with a smile.
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” -Amelia Earhart
First Financial Northwest Bank employees donated over $800 to WACAP, raising funds as part of their “Dress Down for Charity Day” last Friday.
We learned about the contributions of the FFNWB staff here at WACAP’s Renton, Washington headquarters today, October 5, a day where people across the country are celebrating National Do Something Nice Day.
Their donation will help WACAP bring stability to children who need it through foster care and adoption.
We hope the story of the FFNWB team’s generosity will inspire you to do something that’s kind and charitable today as well.
By M. Harrel, WACAP Communications Editor
Interview with Zoila Lopez, WACAP Clinical Director
“I got a little emotional sitting there, seeing the kids showing off their talent, being goofy, simply being themselves,” says Zoila Lopez.
She’s telling me about a family talent show she attended at Sun Lakes Park last month in Central Washington, one of the stand-out experiences at her first WACAP Family Camp.
A glance out the window from Zoila’s office back in Seattle reminds us both that fall has come quick and change is in the busy September breeze. We stop anyway to reminisce about the summer, a chat that’s overdue. Zoila’s description of Family Camp transports me.
I’ve never been to Sun Lakes, but as Zoila talks about her week away, it’s suddenly August in the Sun Lakes campground, and I’m there:
A bright, eager sun dances over the lakes sunup to sundown. Children pass the day with friends and laughter, imbued by a sense of surety and freedom in a place they’ve come to know well. Families find time to connect, confident of their children’s safety. New friendships grow or grow stronger. Children adopted from many different countries are able to connect with fellow adoptees, surrounded by a community that belongs to them.
Listening, I can feel the magic that keeps generations of families returning to Family Camp year after year. It’s heartening to hear, and it’s nice to chat with Zoila, clinical director at WACAP. She’s someone who helps both colleagues and the families she works with “push pause” between seasons.
Talking with her about summer, you’ll come away remembering more vividly the pictures you’ve painted—joys, tears, family adventures—and you’ll realize they’re part of the canvas you’re carrying with you into fall.
What she’s brought into fall from Family Camp is her memory of the camp’s warmth, literally and figuratively. “Sun Lakes in August was hot! 112 degrees, hot!” she says brightly. “I’m glad there was air conditioning in the cabins,” she continues, her laughter melting into a song about the indelible mark made by her week with WACAP families. “The intensity of the heat was parallel to the strength of the connections.”
For Zoila, the talent show sticks sharply in her mind. This child-focused and family-centered event where children were delighted to be themselves “showed the impact families had on these kids’ lives,” she says. In groups or on their own, children performed, acted, giggled, and smiled to an applause of friends and family … and love.
Again, I can see it:
Each talent show moment, extraordinary. Every child, loved. Each with a family that has their backs through the best moments … and the hardest. Zoila adds, “The magnitude and value of the work that we do as a group of people here at WACAP, as advocates for children, was highlighted in the faces of all these children and their parents.”
From Family Camp, Zoila brings back a picture of “agents of change”:
WACAP is committed to providing lifelong support to families before and after adoption. Learn more about WACAP’s support services.
About WACAP Communications Editor Missy Harrel: Missy joined WACAP’s communication team in 2011. She spent the first part of her career in nonprofit program management focused on child welfare and early learning, as well as teaching in higher education. Growing up with family and friends who were adopted, she has an ongoing interest in sharing about family and the stories they create together. She blends her communications background with a love of learning and technology. She enjoys reading a good poem, sipping a nice cup of coffee, or a seeing a child jump carefree into a mud puddle, overcome with the sense of opportunity that every child deserves.
About WACAP Clinical Director Zoila Lopez: Zoila joined WACAP in 2016 as the organization’s clinical director. She is an adoptive mom, a former foster parent, and has an extensive work background as a therapist and adoption coach, working to support all members of the adoption triad. Within her community, she helps organize and plan trainings and events that support families built through foster care and adoption. An advocate for adoptees, children in foster care, and families, she is committed to connecting children and families with supportive communities and resources that help them thrive.
Here are a few of the images shared by members of WACAP’s Board of Directors and WACAP families as their kids have prepared for back-to-school this fall.
They’re embarking on a new year with learning opportunities ahead, families who have their backs, teachers who’ll help guide their steps, and love that welcomes them home.
WACAP believes that every child deserves the love and stability of a family, every day. If you have questions about foster care or adoption or the countries where we work, contact us at email@example.com.
Source of Images: WACAP Families.
Family Finders staff member and adoptive parent Jo Reed loves the fall, a time of year she finds full of opportunity. For those considering international adoption, Jo offers six things you should know about adopting from China, explains the changes we’ve seen in the adoption process, and underscores what hasn’t changed: that there are children who need a families’ love, no matter the season.
by Jo Reed, WACAP Family Finders Program Manager
Fall is here, the world is shifting, the air is … well, it’s … different. Change is coming. September has always been my favorite month. As a kid I liked school and was always stoked about my bright new notebooks and the smell of yellow pencils; I couldn’t wait to find out who my teachers were and whether my friends would be in my classes. As an adult I still feel that sense of possibility and a new energy, free of the sleepy heat, and am inspired to take on formerly daunting projects.
Are you one of those people who starts thinking about adoption at this time of year? Maybe for you, the other children have been sent off to school so your day is quieter. Or the crisp sky makes you think of family holidays to come, and of your longing for a child, or for another one.
Today my list is about why it’s a great time to start your adoption in China. There have been some changes in China’s adoption process (most of us aren’t crazy about adjusting to changes), and I suspect some families are hesitant to get started. I hope this list will give you the little push you need to jump right in!
—Now that China is no longer working with agencies for partnerships with specific orphanages, all of the children eligible for international adoption go directly to the list. This gives all agencies the opportunity to request the files of more children.
—The adoption of a child who is already waiting to be matched with a family is taking about 12 months, from the beginning of the homestudy to bringing the child home.
—If your completed dossier is registered in China to adopt one of the children with milder needs, it will take about 12 months + the time waiting to be matched. The time frame for matching is usually 1–12 months, depending on the needs, age, and gender of the child you hope to adopt.
—Although U.S. Department of State policy now requires your family have a completed homestudy before you can be matched with a certain child; your overall time will still be about 12 months.
—Under the Dept. of State guidance, adoption agencies are now required to share information about children they are advocating for with families from any agency, and if your family chooses to adopt the child, his file must be transferred to WACAP.
—WACAP has always provided grants, attached to the adoptions of specific waiting children with moderate to significant needs. These are based on the child’s age, medical and development concerns, in addition to the family’s income.
—Now children transferred from other agencies to WACAP are also eligible for WACAP grants, depending on the child’s age and significance of the concerns in the child’s file.
—Adopt a boy. Boys wait for families so much longer than girls do, and the majority are never adopted at all. This is where the greatest need lies, and will shorten your wait for your child too!
—-We’re seeing school-aged boys in good health and with manageable needs on the list, and many younger ones with moderate and manageable needs who are waiting longer than in the past.
—Be open to a child with moderate to significant needs. We encourage you to research a wide range of needs, and talk to families with kids who have various concerns. Keep in mind that all medical needs occur in forms that may be very mild to very significant, and everything in between.
—When you know more, you may be surprised that your family does have the resources and willingness to consider loving a child others may have overlooked. While WACAP staff will never encourage anyone to adopt a child with needs they aren’t comfortable with, knowing more about how needs do (or don’t) affect the child’s day to day life often prompts families to consider more possibilities.
Walking at the park in the sunshine, I’m mesmerized by the scruffle scruffle sound of my shooshing through the leaves, to the trees whispering and rustling, and I’m aware I’m waiting for the unexpected, the changes, the new things that fall will offer me. I’m surprised to find the clear silhouette of a nearly bare tree is as striking as it was when it was garlanded in green. Still amazing; still beautiful, just … different.
Like your adoption.
Contact us to learn more about adopting from China, or to learn more about WACAP’s foster care and adoption programs.
About WACAP Family Finders Program Manager Jo Reed:
Jo came to WACAP in 2004 and with her, an unyielding commitment to bringing children and families together. An adoptive parent of two children, Jo is also a daily advocate for every child growing up without permanency. Through her work with WACAP’s Family Finders, she has helped share the stories of thousands of children who needed advocates and a family.
With the start of fall, we’re taking a moment to “spring back” to one of our favorite events this year—WACAP’s Race for Home 5k Fun Run. Here’s one of the many families that made it such a success and is helping us look forward.
Meet the Harrington family: Patrick and Amy, and their kids, Ryan, Meghan and Brennan (adopted through WACAP).
This active family models a lifestyle of giving back, and the children know that no matter how big or small a gift may be, that gift makes a difference.
For parents Patrick and Amy, philanthropy is part of who they are as a family. Together, they participate in charity fun runs, child sponsorship and WACAP Family Camp in August.
When they joined us at WACAP’s inaugural 5k Fun Run in Seattle this year, we asked them about why they model giving in their lives and activities.
Here’s what Amy says:
“I feel like we want to instill in our kids the idea of giving back. The idea that giving is part of what we do as a family and the idea that we have been blessed with plenty, and because of that we share what we have. That is what really matters.”