Family StoriesWe know that prospective adoptive families enjoy the opportunity to "meet" others who have been through the process. AAI invites you to send a photo and a story sharing insights, feelings, and information about your own adoption journey. Please send your submission to Johanna@adoptionadvocates.org.
The Einfeld FamilyWe began our adoption journey twelve years ago by adopting a 3 month old baby boy, Joshua, from India through AAI. A year later we added our daughter, Anna, a four year old girl from Thailand. We had the perfect family. One boy and one girl; we’d thought about the possibility of a third, but we were content for many years by the blessings of our two.
Time flies by so fast; our son was in 7th grade, our daughter was in 9th grade and we were starting to feel like they would be out of the house before we would know it. The idea of adding a third was beginning to stir in our hearts once again, but we did not have a desire to repeat the baby or toddler stages of life. We were enjoying the independence of our children’s current ages. If we were to add a third, it would have to be someone “older.”
Joshua is very outgoing and very social. He very much wanted a brother. The desire for one more boy took root in our hearts and we decided to start the adoption journey once more. A year ago, AAI was looking for families to adopt “older” boys from China; this became the pathway to our new son.
The idea of adopting an older child can be a bit overwhelming. They bring an unknown history with them; their personalities, values, and personal habits have taken shape without your influence. Then throw in the decision that it will once again be an international adoption; the child will not speak English. It is a big step of faith. We decided that we would consider boys ages 5-8.
Let the paperwork begin! Little by little, month by month, the necessary documents started coming together. Before our dossier went to China, we started getting child profiles to review, having 72 hours to say yes or no. One of the hardest things to do is read a child’s file and say no. We feel fortunate that we found our new son after only reviewing three profiles. In May 2011, we said yes to an 8 year old boy from China! He was at the upper age limit and we knew he would be 9 before coming home, but he looked like he would be a good fit. We reviewed his profile as a family and all had a peace about him joining us.
The next few months were spent saving money for travel and compiling more documents. We all wondered what he would be like; would he like us? Does he want to come to America? I even worried that maybe he wouldn’t want to be adopted, to which Joshua reassured me, “Mom, everyone wants to be adopted!”
At the end of February 2012, we all traveled to China to bring our new family member home! After many months of preparation, we were finally going to meet. The day of our first meeting was cold and grey. We waited in a chilly government room for Li to arrive. A large tour bus pulled up and about ten other couples got off the bus to wait for their children. A van of toddlers arrived next and the room grew loud with excitement as families were united. We stepped outside to wait for Li and he arrived shortly, bundled up in a brown coat, very stoic looking. Within 5-10 minutes, Joshua broke the ice by batting an old partially shriveled up, dirty balloon that he found on the floor with Li. Li has not stopped smiling since!
Li has been home approximately six months now. We are adjusting to having two very energetic boys in the house! Li started 3rd grade his first week home and quickly made new friends at school. The kids communicated through a lot of gestures and facial expressions.
Throughout the summer Li’s comprehension of English has been increasing by leaps and bounds, and he is becoming more confident in his spoken English. Next school year may be challenging as he tries to catch up with the other kids, but life is always full of new things, so we march forward together.
Adopting an older child has a whole different set of challenges than adopting younger children, but the rewards are just as great. It has been amazing to watch Li’s comfort level with us grow. He now accepts and gives hugs freely; this was a new concept for him. Each day he learns that he can trust us a little more, and he is starting to share a little bit about what life was like in China.
We continue to have the perfect family; two boys and one girl.
The Faris FamilyNick and Jesse Faris brought home their first child, a 17-month-old daughter, in August of 2011. Mihret Rekik Faris (whom they call Rhet) is full of joy and humor. She loves singing songs and telling stories, and she is so full of energy and life that she rarely stands still! The Farises began making plans for adoption in 2008, completed their adoption paperwork with AAI in the fall of 2009, and they received the referral of their sweet baby girl in January of 2011. Since bringing Rhet home to Memphis, they have enjoyed many new and fun "firsts" (first ice cream cone, first sprinkler park visit, first trip to the zoo, etc) and priceless moments of increasing attachment. (It's hard work, but seeing the bond of trust grow stronger over time makes it oh so worth it!) While the journey of adoption was long and the jump into first-time-parenting with a new-to-toddlerhood little girl was challenging, the Farises feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the chance to be Rhet's parents.
The Schley FamilyCarol was nine years old when we adopted her and she is doing unbelievably well. She's smart and fun and the sunshine of our family. She's crazy about Disney princesses. She loves to write stories and to draw. She also loves to sing. Carol idolizes her big sister, our 17 year old daughter adopted from Vietnam, and the two of them are very cute together. She likes to be rowdy with her two big brothers (16 and 14 adopted from Kazakhstan) and show them how strong she is. We have two dogs and cats and she adores them. It took a while after bringing her home to convince her not to feed them parts of her dinner (she thought her dinner looked so much yummier than their pet food, so she thought she should share). She wants to be a vet when she grows up and have a lot of pets.
She had significant gross and fine motor delays when we adopted her. We did some physical therapy with her and she made some improvement. Awhile later we were told that she most likely has a mild form of Cerebral Palsy. This past summer she began doing Neurological Reorganization therapy for that. I can't believe how much her balance and motor skills have improved since beginning that program. We are feeling really positive about her outcome. We can't thank AAI and Ky enough for helping us bring Carol home. Our lives were not the same without her!
The Vosseler FamilyWhile waiting for my order at Red Robin, and as I was reading the newspaper, I came across a touching “Sunday’s Child” article about a young boy who was being spotlighted. I had not really been considering adoption, but the article was a catalyst for me to go to the Northwest Adoption Exchange website where this same boy was featured and was quoted to say, “If you don’t want my dog, you don’t want me.” Being an avid dog lover with room in my home, my heart, and my life and in good health with the resources to take on the responsibility of trying to make a difference in the life of a young boy such as the one highlighted in Sunday’s Child, I researched adoption agencies and came across Adoption Advocates International. There, I met Gay Knutson who assisted me in the match with a young boy who later became my son.
I met the wonderful boy for the first time at his middle school on November 29, 2005. He was wearing his finest Goodwill black pants, black jacket and black shoes (he told me later that he had tried very hard all day not to get them dirty before he met me). When we were introduced, he was confident, but his first words to me were, “There’s something you need to know about me. I am an outcast.” My heart melted. With his case worker, the three of us went to a nearby McDonald’s restaurant to get acquainted, and when we sat down to eat our hamburgers, he asked me if I said grace before meals and before I go to bed. He was visibly relieved when he learned that I do. He wanted to say a prayer that he had composed, and it became our family grace. He told me everyone at his school knew about me, even a teacher he liked very, very much. He wanted to introduce me to that teacher when we returned him to school following lunch, and he beamed as we walked through the hallways with me on the way to her classroom.
On one of the meetings during our transition visits before he moved into our home in December 2005, he stated, “I’ve thought about giving you a hug, because I like everything I know about you.” We hugged. In another visit, he told me, “I love you an electron of an atom less than I love God.” The more we were together, the more I could not help but fall in love with this child, as it was apparent he had with me.
On December 23, 2005, on our way home from picking him up from his former foster home for the last time, and on our way to catch the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry at Coleman Dock, we saw the Space Needle off in a distance. I asked him if he had ever been up in it, and he said he had not. I told him that perhaps on his 12th birthday we ought to have dinner there. We did, and agreed that we’d celebrate his birthday there again every three years (15, 18, and 21). It’s become a family tradition, and we’ll be celebrating his 18th birthday there in April. Also, on our way home that day, we were just about home when he began to cry. When I asked him what was troubling him, he said, “Sometimes you have to do things that really hurt to get what you really want in life.” I held back my own tears.
Of all of the information that I learned during my pre-adoption training, the one thing that has had the greatest impact on me was from reading Anna Glendenning’s “Parental Claiming of an Older Adopted Child,” wherein she discusses the concept of “Claiming”. “Claiming a child is not an emotional issue; it is a decision that doesn't happen gradually. Claiming a child is an unconditional commitment parents make from the beginning. Claiming isn't incremental, parents either claim a child fully or not at all. Claiming a child has nothing to do with external issues, such as what a child looks like, if a child loves you back, or how they behave. A parent claims a child by Faith and by Fiat, ‘this is my child, from this moment on, and I will not consider it a choice, nor will I examine this decision again in the future.’"
Claiming my son was immediate and loving him will be eternal.
The Little Family"We owe our wonderful family to the dedicated people at AAI," Chris Little says. Chris now serves on the AAI Board of Directors, devoting time and energy to help AAI maintain its commitment to children in need. She also plans the AAI Summer Gatherings held in Wenatchee, WA each summer and co-leads a volunteer trip to Ethiopia.
Bob and Chris began their adoption journey in 1987 with the addition of a tiny baby from India. They soon added a 5 1/2 year old girl from Taiwan with a cleft lip/palate. When their three youngest were seven, seven and two, they applied to adopt an AAI boy 'between the ages of two and six.' What fun when they were referred another two year old!
For eight years they were happy with their eight children. And then AAI opened a program in Ethiopia and they once again began to consider adding to their family. In 1999, they brought home twin boys from Ethiopia, aged approximately 11, followed by sisters aged 7 and 9 and then twice, 10 year old boys. Their children are now 36, 34, 32, 30, 28, 24, 24, 23, 23, 19, 17, 17 and 13 (one daughter passed away in 2009 at age 26). Bob and Chris both agree: it's been, and continues to be, quite the adventure!
The Shaw FamilyIn 2006, we were led to AAI by a good friend who had been a foster mother. She encouraged us to meet with Gay Knutson and learn about their agency. As we were new foster parents, we had much to learn and were intimidated by the process. Everyone at AAI was very warm and friendly and always open to our many questions about placement and licensing issues. They were extremely helpful those first few months.
As time went on and kiddos came into our home, we developed a wonderful relationship with those at AAI, particularly Gay. She helped us navigate though our first adoption, stood by as we met our sweet baby girl who in turn led to our second adoption and was still a valuable resource as we finalized our 3rd adoption in December 2011. Each person at AAI from Kathy, Yvette, Debra and the rest is without a doubt the reason we are still a licensed foster family. The support and care shown from this agency has carried us through many trials and tribulations! We love you AAI!! =)
The Knobler FamilyFor Claude and Mary Knobler, it all started with a magazine article. "I'd read an article in the Sunday paper about Ethiopia's orphans and the work AAI was doing to help those kids," Claude says. "Something just clicked with me, and I realized that we could be one of those families that adopted a child." Neither Claude nor Mary had ever thought about adopting a child before that day. "It was," Mary says, "the last thing either of us ever planned on doing. But we just kept thinking about it and inching forward a little bit at a time till everything came together."
For the Knoblers, 'inching forward,' started with a call to AAI. Mary began reading and participating in the AAI chat rooms. They filled out paperwork, "just in case." Next, they asked to be put on the list of people who received videos of children waiting to be adopted. "Watching those videos was so hard," Mary says, "we just didn't know how we'd ever make that kind of decision. Should we adopt? And if we did adopt, how would we ever know which child was the one for us? And everyone we talked to kept saying to us, 'when it's right, you'll know.' And then it turned out, that was the truth. "As soon as we saw Nati, we just knew."
Nati was, when the Knoblers first saw him, a five year old Ethiopian boy who spoke no English. "There was just something about him," Claude says, "he was a little silly and somehow as soon as we saw him, all of us, Mary, me, both of our kids, all started jumping up and down, because we knew he was the one." The Knoblers called AAI and said they'd found their child.
"Of course, we were still worried," Mary says. "We had two children already. Our son Clay was seven and our daughter Grace was just five. We didn't know how adding a child would affect them, but it seemed right, so we took the plunge." Not that many months later, Claude was on his way to Ethiopia to bring home his son.
"It was a hard, hard trip," Claude says. "But the first time we laid eyes on each other, Nati walked right up to me and gave me one of the best hugs I've ever gotten. I spent a week in Ethiopia and it was all so heartbreaking. But seeing all that Nati had been through made me so sure that we'd done the right thing."
And since then? Claude and Mary both laugh. "Well, our house has certainly gotten busier," Mary says as kids race around her. "When Nati got here, he didn't speak a word of English, but he was so quick to get it all. Within a few months he was pretty close to fluent. And now of course?" Mary laughs again. "Well, now Nati is just one of the family. He plays football and video games and goes to the same school as Clay and Grace. He's got friends and pets and his teacher loves him. It's amazing after all he's been through, but he's really just one of the kids. He and Clay and Grace all do everything brothers and sisters do. They play together, they argue together, they have so much fun together. I know we came together a bit differently than most families, but at the end of the day, that doesn't matter much. We're a family. I wouldn't change anything for all the world."
The Henderson FamilyErin Henderson and her husband Josh had three boys when they first decided to bring another child into their lives. "We thought we'd adopt a girl," Erin says with a laugh, "and then we'd have the perfect family, three boys and a baby girl." Things however, didn't go quite as planned.
To begin with, not long after they'd adopted their daughter Maggie, Josh and Erin decided that they didn't want her growing up as the only adopted child in their family, so they decided to adopt Maggie's sister, Amanda. Both girls are five now. "They tell everyone they're twins," Erin says, "and we're always saying, 'you're not even from the same country!?'"
From there, the story gets a bit more complicated. There were domestic adoptions and international adoptions, the family of five became the family of six, then seven and now (gulp) ten. "It's sort of like we forgot to take our adoption birth control," Josh says. A few months ago, the Henderson's had their tenth child, Belane, a three year old girl from Ethiopia. "It wasn't something we expected," Erin says. "We were in Ethiopia to pick up our son Ben and while we were there, we went to the AHOPE orphanage to drop off some donations. Belane was there and there was just something about her that melted us. We left and we never thought we'd see her again. We got home on a Sunday and called AAI Monday morning. Belane is HIV positive, so we did do some research about HIV, but then we knew we wanted to commit to bringing her home."
So far, Belane has had no trouble fitting right in. "I stayed in Addis for two weeks with her," Erin explains, "so she bonded with me pretty quickly. And we'd made a photo album for her so she knew all the kids and Josh. And now she's bonded with him really well too."
So, what's life like with eleven year old Mercades, ten year old Nathan, nine year old Ryan, nine year old Destinee, seven year old Shane, six year old Ben, five year old Amanda, five year old Maggie, three year old Marcus, and newest addition, three year old Belane? "Structured," Erin says with another laugh. "We find the kids are happiest if we do everything, meals and naps, all on a schedule." And Erin is able to work from home, where she's paid to write a blog about, you guessed it, adoption www.transracial.adoptionblogs.com which Erin points out helps a lot.
The Henderson children meanwhile wouldn't change a thing about their family. "I think we'd have twenty children if we left it up to them," Erin says. "If the kids didn't think that adopting was a good idea, we might feel like we'd done the wrong thing. But Belane got them all wrapped around her little pinky pretty darn quick." And why not? After all, it isn't the family Erin and Josh imagined they'd have, but it's perfect all the same.
The Afman FamilyThe reason Nancy Afman wanted to adopt a third child was simple.
"I just wanted more kids," Nancy explained. "I love children." What happened after she adopted again was much more complicated.
Nancy is a single mother. She had two older daughters she had adopted many years before through AAI from India, Preya Jean, who is now 21 and Kathyrn Bhavna, now 17. When she decided to add to her family, she wanted to find an older girl who'd waited a long time to get a family. Before long she'd settled on Frehiwot, an Ethiopian girl she'd seen on an AAI video.
Frehiwot was eight years old when she came home in July of 2004. Her transition to her new life was not easy. "She cried day and night," Nancy says, "she said she hated it here all the time. One day I was taking her to school and she tossed the banana from her lunch box at me." Through it all, Nancy and her two more grown children did their best to stay loving and in control. "I knew it wasn't me, it was her having a hard time adjusting and that I had to be here for her," Nancy says now. "I never in any way indicated that I wouldn't keep her, I just kept saying, we're you're family and we love you."
Maybe it's a coincidence that Frehiwot's turning point came at nine months, or maybe that's just how long it takes for a new life to begin. It started with a trip back to Ethiopia. "All of her childhood had been wiped away from her," Afman explains. "We went back and she was able to see her half sister for the first time in six years and we saw her parents' graves. We were able to reconstruct her childhood and then she was much more settled."
Nancy says that every day, "all I tried to do was the right thing. Every time, every day, just do the right thing. I got advice from the AAI web group. I stayed humble. And I made sure she knew that she was my kid and that there was no place else she was going. And now? Call the Afman home and you can hear Frehiwot singing happily in the background as you talk to her mother. Better still, Nancy says, "to this day she'll say 'I remember when I threw my lunchbox banana and you would always say I love you.'"
Frehiwot plays soccer and basketball and is doing better and better in school. In fact, things got so much better at the Afman household that the family decided to adopt another girl, Meseret. Meseret was thirteen when she came home in June of 2006. Her transition was relatively simple. Of course she had her sister Frehiwot to help show her the way.
Now the two girls are as close as, well, sisters. "They almost never argue," their mother says happily. Nancy's life is busy, but she likes it that way. "I swim every morning and then the rest of the time I'm working in one way or another, but they give me energy. They're so full of life and sparkle, it's invigorating. I just can't imagine living without these children."
Nancy has advice for families considering adopting; be patient, be loving, be humble and get help when you need it, but it's Frehiwot who gets the last word here with advice she had for her mother, when the family was considering adopting again. "When one child we thought about adopting wasn't available," Nancy explains as Frehiwot sings somewhere in a nearby room, "Frehiwot told me that it was okay because I could always get a kid we didn't know much about so that we could get to discover who they are and that they're funny and a good all-around-kid like her." It's good advice, and the whole Afman family knows from experience that it's true.