Sunday, February 10, 2008

CHSFS Heart to Home Article

I thought I would share an article about our family (Waiting International Children specifically) that was in our agency's latest "Heart to Home" publication:

Cindy and Mark have eight children spanning two decades. Peter is 23, and his brother Jesse is 22; daughter Kelsey is 18. Isaac, Janaya, and Lacy are 15, 14, and 10; they were adopted domestically as infants. Tekle, 6 and Aaron, 3, were adopted from Ethiopia. "When you hear how many children are waiting and what the need is, I think the question should be 'why aren't you adopting' as opposed to 'why are you adopting,'" says Cindy.

Cindy was especially moved by the need in Africa, which led her to CHSFS' Ethiopia program, and from there, to Waiting International Children. "It made good sense for us to look at the Waiting International Children program, because we weren't looking to adopt an infant. We didn't know if we were going to adopt a boy or girl or what age."

The whole family was involved in the decision to adopt. "We prayed about it and tried to figure out who was supposed to be in our family." Aaron was five or six months and severely malnourished when he was brought to the care center in Hossana, Ethiopia. By the time Cindy went to Ethiopia for the adoption, he was eight months old and had come a long way from the dangerously thin baby in the photo. "We knew he's been severely malnourished and there could be all sorts of complications because of that. We're very aware that love doesn't fix things that are unfixable, but family can make those things easier."

"When I was in Ethiopia, Aaron slept a lot. I'm a preschool teacher, so I would go hang out with the kids at the care center." She played with a group of little boys who had a stuffed raccoon that spoke Spanish when you squeezed it. "I squeezed it and all the boys dove behind chairs, laughing." One boy in particular caught her attention--something in his impish eyes. Even after returning to MN, Cindy's thoughts returned to the boy, and they all prayed that he would find a good home and have a happy future.

They considered adopting him, but thought it was impossible, just three months after adopting Aaron. "We had used every resource, every friend. Our church had provided money. There was just no way we could afford it." Still, she'd called Peg Studaker, her social worker at CHSFS and asked about the boy. From Peg, the family learned that they were eligible for Adoption Assistance Grants. In December 2005, Cindy and her then 17-year-old daughter traveled to Ethiopia to bring Tekle to the U.S.

With a degree in child psychology, Cindy knew attachment was a big issue in adoption, especially for an older child. She might not have adopted an older child if she hadn't seen how children were treated in the care center. "I was impressed at the way the nannies, the housekeepers, the administration, the cooking staff--everyone took time with the children. They knew their names. Even on the street, people saw how worthwhile children are. The kids could feel that, and were expecting to continue to be valued. They were ready to attach again. There are no guarantees, but it took a lot of the fear out of it."

At home a year later, the siblings are growing more comfortable with each other and themselves. "Aaron is what we like to call well nurtured," says Cindy. "He's an easy-going, adorable little guy. Even Tekle, whom you would think would be jealous, just puts his arm around him." Kelsey is learning Amharic so she can teach it to Aaron and Tekle, and because she wants to return to Ethiopia to study abroad. She and Jesse are college students, and he's spending the Spring semester in Africa. The younger teens struggled a bit with the new family dynamic. "When you're adopting an older child, you can't assume they are going to like each other right away," says Cindy. "And the older children don't necessarily want to give the younger ones grace for so long. We had to work with them."

On her blog, Kelsey wrote about her siblings: "Some of us were born in different decades, different countries, and different circumstances, but together we make a complete family unit. Every single one of us belongs."


Scarlett_333 said...

That is an awesome article, and a great photo! You haven't posted a photo of Isaac in awhile- he looks so much older!! I didn't even realize it was him!


Mandy said...

What a beautiful story!

Leah Marie said...


Christine said...

What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it.

worldmom said...

I just wanted to tell you how impressed I am with your and your family. I found this comment on another one of your posts, and it sums up my thoughts exactly:

"First of all I want to say WOW. You are amazing- I just stumbled across your blog and am AMAZED that at your age you are so passionate about adoption and know and understand more than most adults ever will."

I agree with this person wholeheartedly. There are very few people who really *get* the ins and outs of transracial adoption, but you are one of those rare people. And your handle on race issues and racism is also remarkable.

Go you!

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your blog! My husband and I are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia... We were thinking there is great value in a multitude of counselors and wanted to and ask for any wisdom you would have for us. Anything and everything we would appreciate!

Thanks so much,
The Fulton Family

Mark and Julie Smith, et al said...

Hey Cindy and Mark ,
this is Julie and Mark. left a post on you daughters blog before figuring this out. ( i'm new at this blog thing) is there a way we can get in touch? would like to pick you brain if possible. praying about growing from 7 to 8 or 10 children. 5 homegrown , 2 addis imports. would love to get our oldest daughters in touch.
smiles, julie in va

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