Q: What motivated you to adopt?
A: Adoption has been a part of my life since I was born. I was placed for adoption by my birth parents and was adopted as an infant. Being adopted has always been a positive experience in my life. Although I don’t know who my birth parents are, I love and respect their decision to place me for adoption.
When Rich and I got married, almost 19 years ago, we talked about our future family and discussed the possibility of adoption. We were blessed with 3 beautiful biological children and then started to seriously look into adoption. At that time, we didn’t feel we could financially afford a domestic or international adoption and became foster parents with the hope to adopt a child through foster care. We spent 2 years as foster parents. It was a long and difficult journey for our family. We lost confidence in our plan to adopt through foster care and decided to have 1 more biological child.
Shortly after our daughter Macee joined our family, I again felt the urge to adopt. I mentioned this feeling to Rich and he also felt it might finally be the right time to pursue an adoption. After a lot of research, we decided to pursue an international adoption from South Korea. We knew the financial cost would be significant for our family. However, we felt we should start the adoption process and have faith that the fears we had about the expense would be eased.
Q: How did you hear about Children Need Families?
A: A family member, Brandon Riley invited our family to a Christmas event for his employment. It was a showing of the movie The Grinch Who Stole Christmas at Jordan Commons. Katherine Ballard and her children were there at the event. Before the movie started, there was a brief presentation about OUR and their mission. At the end of that presentation, there was a brief summary of CNF and their grant program. I remember sitting in the theater thinking, “we should apply for that grant.”
The next day I researched CNF and requested a grant application. I was hopeful we might qualify because it was a local organization. We had applied for many grants throughout our adoption process, but rarely qualified. Most grants have specific qualifiers, and it was overwhelming to research all of the different grant options and then get rejected.
Our application was accepted and we received a CNF grant! CNF was the largest grant we received. We were grateful to receive a couple of other smaller grants from different organizations, too. All of these helped lighten our financial burden and made our adoption possible.
Q: Tell us about your adoption journey.
A: We brought our son Bear home from South Korea in November 2019. Our wait was longer than typical with Korea. We finished all the paperwork in April of 2018 but because our daughter Macee was only 1 years old at the time, Korea waited 7 months before we received a referral (most referrals come within 1 or 2 months.) We also had a significant delay because the judge that was assigned to our case stopped doing adoptions and it took 3 to 4 months for another judge to be assigned and get trained.
The wait was excruciating. It was emotionally challenging. My husband dealt with the wait a lot better than I did. I think he was less involved with the paperwork and communications with the adoption agency so he didn’t really get caught up in the wait. But for me, every day was an emotional roller-coaster. Every morning I wondered if today was the day we would receive a referral or get an official court date, and then every night I would be disappointed that I hadn’t heard anything from our adoption agency. I felt angry, confused, and questioned if we had made the right decision. After all, if we were on the right path why did we face so many challenges?
Looking back, I wished I would have not worried so much. I am grateful we waited because we were blessed with our son and he came to our family at the right time. I do think when you are in the waiting phase, it is incredibly challenging, and I empathize with families working through those emotions. I don’t know if you can really say or do anything to make the wait better. During the waiting process, I felt the happiest when I tried to enjoy the moment. For example, rather than worrying all day about whether I would hear anything, I should have spent more time focused on my children. It is so hard because sometimes those emotions can be overwhelming. I guess my best advice would be to surround yourself with people who you can be honest with and who don’t judge you for your emotions during this phase. Having a listening ear is critical. I was thankful for my husband who was patient and kind to me during this time. I also met other families who were also in the waiting phase. It was nice to talk to people who shared the same experience.
Q: Tell us about going to Korea and picking up Bear.
A: Korea requires adoptive couples to travel twice to Korea. The first time is about 6 weeks before finalization. You go to court during the first visit and have visitation with your child. Rich and I decided to go as a couple on that first visit. We stayed in Korea for a week and then came home. About 6 weeks later, we took our entire family to Korea – at that time our kids’ ages were: Belle (11), Emmy (10), Sam (8), Macee (2). We actually spent about 5 days in Beijing China on the way there, so it was a big trip for our family. We used the airline credits we received as part of our CNF grant for this trip. We thought it was important for our entire family to be a part of this process of bringing Bear home. We wanted our kids to experience Korea, to know where their brother was born and to meet his foster family, the Kang Family. They are special people in our life, and we have remained close to them since bringing Bear home. I still speak to Mrs. Kang almost every day.
When we got home from Korea our extended family was there at the airport waiting for us. They had posters and were so excited to meet Bear! My grandmother passed away about an hour before we landed, so it was a special time for our family. When we got home, our neighbors had decorated our home with signs and balloons and we felt very loved and supported.
I am grateful we had the financial ability to take our kids with us. That family experience will be something that I will never forget. It bonded us together and helped us all gain a piece of Korea in our life.
Q: How is life post adoption?
A: I am not sure what to say about our immediate post-adoption experience. There were some real hard days and real good days. When our family was in Korea we had this great experience and then when we got home, life just kept going. We had soccer tournaments, school plays, Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner. I think we underestimated the changes bringing Bear home would bring to our family. Because we already had 4 children, we didn’t really consider how adding a 5th would change us. We obviously knew there would be an adjustment phase, but we faced some real emotional, spiritual, physical changes because of the adoption. Ultimately what I can say is that time has healed a lot. It takes time to adjust and sometimes when you have so much going on, you don’t give things enough time. You want immediate results. Bear is a special boy. He is a blessing to our family, and I wish I could have spent more time enjoying those first 6 months and less time worrying.
Our family has been incredibly supportive. My family supports adoption. Both myself and my brother are adopted so it has been seamless to bring Bear into our family. My husband Rich’s family has also been incredibly supportive and welcoming to Bear. Our neighbors and friends are all very kind. There are not many Koreans where we live, so we do get a lot of questions about Bear. We are very open and honest about our adoption process and hope to encourage others to look into adoption.
The biggest blessing is Bear. We have him in our family forever and we are so grateful for this gift. Our family has grown closer through this process. I am forever thankful to my husband, children and Heavenly Father for their support through this process.