A Journey of Hope from a Father’s Perspective
by Sean Yarger
What compels veteran adoptive parents to adopt again?
For us, it was a sense of incompletion. Despite our best efforts to proliferate the Earth with children – we had five at the time of our second adoption – we still felt our family wasn’t quite complete. After a year home with our first adopted daughter, Ava, we weren’t even settled yet. But then my wife April found a face – just a face on Holt’s photolisting of a girl in the Journey of Hope China program. She knew, one day, they’d be united.
That’s how strong and immediate the connection can be. It was just a matter of convincing me to adopt again.
After bringing Ava home, we quickly realized that we were getting a little old to manage such a large family – especially with an energetic toddler still in diapers. If we adopted again, we knew the child would have to be a little older.
April showed me the photolisting bio of the 8-year-old cutie she hoped to adopt. I admire my wife’s big heart and, trusting she’d already considered all possible ramifications of introducing another child into the family, I agreed. By now accustomed to a family in constant growth, our kids also mostly took the idea in stride. After the high-energy experience of Ava, however, they were definitely relieved to find out we were planning to adopt an older child.
We’d done it… We had decided to adopt again.
This time, however, the proverbial cart was in front of the proverbial horse. Rather than do the paper chase and then wait to be matched, we’d already matched ourselves with this girl. We felt a real sense of urgency, knowing this little girl in China was awaiting an imminent adoption. We wanted to get to her as quickly as possible. I imagined a giant looming clock with an incessantly ticking second hand.
Let the freak-out commence.
We hadn’t even begun another dossier, nor had we any experience with the new Hague process, so we were decidedly apprehensive about what was to come. What did come almost made us throw in the towel. Notably:
1. Selecting a child does not guarantee a match with that child. We would have to submit to paperwork and interviews to prove that we not only understood what we were getting into with an older child, but that we had the resources and support to help her adjust to life in America. It was highly possible, we also learned, that one or more families would request the same child.
2. Adoption law in our state precluded us from reusing our former home study, which we had just completed in our final post-placement visit. What should have cost us nothing cost us $2,500!
3. We launched a fundraising campaign for the dossier and China fees. To give back to our donors, we held a raffle with some tangible items they had donated. Consequently, our online payment provider cut off our account! This set us back weeks while we worked it out.
These are just a few of the small setbacks that nearly cost us our sanity. But through prayer and the thought of this deserving child in China, we persevered.
Some time ago, a wise man told me that God rewards leaps of faith. Adopting again was among the best decisions we’ve ever made.
On October 25th, 2010, we gathered as a group of families in the Adoption Registry Center of Guangdong Province. Within minutes, our daughters were introduced to us. We’d dreamed about them, we’d had imaginary conversations with them, we’d adorned our shelves and computers with their pictures, we’d prepared their room, their closet, their suitcase. We’d loved them from the moment we knew they were our daughters. Here now, unceremoniously delivered, were our daughters.
Bai Jie Ya, now Gemma, uttered her first words to us in English through an ear-to-ear smile: “Hello, my name is Gemma. Nice to meet you.” To say the joy was indescribable is an understatement.
While Gemma’s Orphan Visa processed – a requisite and time-consuming step – we spent the time in Guangzhou getting to know Gemma as best we could. Our journey is chronicled in depth at http://myadoptionwebsite.com/ourgemma/.
Our experience with Gemma was much more positive than stories we’d heard about other older child adoptions. Holt very methodically helps older children separate from their known world and prepare for an international adoption. Among other things, they learn about cultural differences between China and America, what it means to be part of a forever family, how to cope, and very importantly, how to say goodbye. Holt was definitely the right agency to partner with in this endeavor.
From the outset, we were able to interact with Gemma, even if mostly one-way. We were allowed to ask her questions and send her things. Several times we had letters translated to send along with gifts, which Holt verified she received. We were even able to send video footage of an ordinary day in the life of our family.
The net result: Gemma came to us well adjusted and ready to go. She experienced only minor grief while in China, and little to none once home in America. We have gone to great lengths to continue her heritage experience, including Mandarin classes once a week and frequent visits with Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking friends. I would encourage anybody considering adopting an older Chinese child to strike up conversations with Chinese people you meet prior to traveling. Ours have rapidly become generous and helpful friends, enabling Gemma to fully express herself through translation. It also enabled us to take care of the important items, such as learning about her preferences for food and sleeping arrangements, the kind of student we can expect, and working on certain corrections in her manners.
We don’t expect any new real surprises out of Gemma. Like everyone, she has personality quirks. Our chief concern was her ability to express love, gratitude and other emotions in a healthy way. In China, I worried that I might actually face some attachment problems with Gemma. Ava had attached to me immediately, but it took Gemma a while to warm up. I now understand that this is a cultural difference between China and America. Chinese people do not show affection the same way Americans do. Once aware that it’s wholly acceptable here, many will definitely show affection. Gemma delights in spontaneously saying, “I love you,” and frequently gives hugs and kisses. Now instead of one daughter tackling me at the knees when I come in the door, I have two, and I’m in love with these beautiful girls from across the sea.
If you are considering adopting an older child from China, don’t delay the decision any longer. There are all too many of them and they want and need you now. You and your child will be blessed in ways you can’t yet imagine.