Tag Archives: international adoption

A Gotcha Day Letter of Gratitude

Dear Mr. Putin, Mr. Astakov and Russian government,

A year ago today, I picked up my son from a baby house in Moscow.


It was one of the best days of my life– up there with my wedding day, the gotcha day of my 2 children from Ukraine, and a few other truly special days.

Thank you for the privilege of letting my husband and I parent him. Especially, thank you to the orphanage staff, the prosecutor and the judge, who agreed that we were right for him.

Thank you for letting him be a part of our family

He clung to me as we drove away from the orphanage.

Photo on 2012-11-08 at 16.35 #2
He’s rarely stopped clinging to me since.

Before I scooped him up that day, I thought that I knew him. Tiny, quiet, observant.

But, over the last year, we’ve also had the pleasure of seeing his spunk come out.


It’s been like watching the sunrise. Dawn starts slowly, then suddenly, the light starts to shine.

R1-02958-011A2012-07-18 18.01.24

Now, everything is illuminated.

He delights in his siblings.
2012-08-16 08.54.48

And his daddy.


We are so in love with this boy who we first met in your beautiful Moscow. And so thankful for him every day.

molly&gus flat2e

It has been such a pleasure to watch him grow and change over the last year.


Thank you, again, for one of the best gifts we’ve ever received. I hope that you will give other waiting children in Russia the same opportunity.

With love,



Do you ever meet someone who simultaneously amazes you and frightens you with their tenacity and strength? Meet my dear friend Gina.

This woman is fearless. Literally flying across the world, talking to anyone who will listen, to try to bring her daughter, Evie, home. I admire her so. One person who would listen was Sarah McCarthy, filmmaker. Sarah is working on an amazing documentary about Russian-American adoption.

I know sometimes it’s easier to just look away from the hard stuff, but I’m asking you to open your heart up for 5 minutes and 10 seconds, for Gina and her daughter Evie. Today is all about freedom, and let’s do everything we can to know that Evie may know freedom, too.

Check out the campaign here. 

Adopting Again: A Mom’s Panel Q&A

Adopting again has been one of the best decisions we ever made. All 4 of us really love having Gus in our family. Reed and Lena are very compassionate and loving with him, for the most part. It’s hard for me to imagine our family without him.

Recently, someone requested a blog post about making the decision to adopt a second time with input from my lovely panel of adoptive moms. I got a ton of great responses and I did my best to edit them down to something manageable to read. I hope this is helpful!

What did you do differently from your first adoption?

“In our second adoption, I worried less. I trusted God more. I packed less. I focused on the light at the end of the tunnel and not on the ups and downs of the process. I was a lot more relaxed.”

“A lot! We were able to move through the process a lot faster and generally be more prepared. We took more time to study the language our child spoke. In country, because we were more comfortable, we were able to enjoy more sightseeing. We also had a lot better understanding of what sort of behavior was typical and how to handle it– that made everything much easier!”

“We didn’t do much differently, except for to raise our age range from 0-6 to 6-9. We knew we wanted to use the same adoption team and adopt from the same country. We wanted our daughters to share a similar cultural background in spite of not being biological siblings.”

“What I did differently from the first adoption was look for an agency that had lower fees! LOL. Well, it’s the truth!! Once we had compiled a dossier and felt comfortable doing it, that was one big obstacle gone. Also, the first agency we used was a Christian agency and while we appreciated that, they were also VERY conservative, sometimes more conservative than China in their regulations and we looked the second time for one that was more flexible. “

“For our first adoption, we traveled with one child in mind. If we didn’t adopt her, we would have come home empty handed. With our second adoption, we traveled praying to adopt a particular child, but if we couldn’t we would have gone blind. We were open to HIV, where the first time we were “healthy kids only”. We adopted an older child, added an extra unknown child, both with HIV, and adopted out of birth order and “twinned” our kids.”

How did you know your family was ready to adopt again?

“Well, first of all, we never wanted [our son] to grow up the only Asian child in a family of Caucasians AND there was such an age gap between him (adopted at 21 months) and our biological children (ages 9 and 12 at his adoption) that we knew from the get-go that we wanted to go back for a sibling for him. I had thought maybe another boy, but [our son] began talking about his sister in China, and he talked about her, prayed about her, saved toys and food for her and just pestered us until we finally gave in and decided that perhaps it was time.”

“We knew we were ready because 3 weeks home from the first adoption, we got the phone call that the little boy we wanted was available again. We prayed, God gave us peace, and off we went! Our daughter had been asking for “two brubbers and a sistra baby” as well, so that made it easy for us to know she wanted siblings. We had the money, the FMLA time, the room in our house- and so we followed God’s leading.”

“I don’t know if we knew we were fully ready for #2, but we still felt a space in our hearts for another little girl. (We had hoped to adopt 2 on our first adoption, but only came home with one.) We wanted to adopt again before our daughter got a whole lot older. We also knew our daughter could really benefit from having an older sibling around. However, we definitely had concerns about adopting an older (6-9 year old) child, given that our daughter at home was just 3. I prayed more about this one issue than anything else in our adoption. God blessed us, and the child we adopted is a very good older sister.”

“Our first daughter fit in easily. It wasn’t perfect but things were ok. It had only been 6 months, so I thought, let’s get this all over with at once. Have all of our kids learn English together. Get over the Ukraine vs. America differences all at once. Move past orphanage behaviors at once. Our first daughter begged for a sister. My husband and I both come from families with 3 kids, so seeing her at holidays, all alone, just seemed so sad and lonely.”

“This was our biggest hesitation. We knew that we, the adults, could handle it. Practically, we knew we had the financial resources, the space, the time, and the energy. But, were the kid ready to be away from us while we travelled? Could they handle another change in their lives? I don’t have a great explanation except to say that we prayed about it and carefully considered our children’s personalities and needs.  In the end, we knew our family was ready.”

How did the needs of your adopted children factor in to your decision to adopt again?

“After our first adoption, we knew our daughter needed siblings. She needed other kids to help keep her grounded. She needed peer modeling. She was 1 of 3 kids in her first home, one of 65 kids in her orphanage and suddenly an only child. This was a shock for her.

With our third adoption, to adopt #4 and #5, our first daughter was going through some behavior issues and having issues in school. Honestly, her behavior was not going to stop me from adopting again. I had moments of “Am I taking on too much? More than I can handle?” but it ended up being a blessing having a younger child for her to model FOR.”

“Medical needs weren’t a factor. We knew we could adopt a child with the same medical needs we already had in our family. In fact, handling those medical needs and learning how to advocate for our children with special needs prepared us to parent a child with more complex medical needs. As for the general needs of our children, again, the needs we were already dealing with prepared us better to handle the needs of another adopted child. We were much more prepared the second time around, thanks to everything that we learned during our first adoption. When we did deal with some new behavior and challenges unique to our newest addition, we already had the resources and knew how to get the help we needed. “

“We are planning another adoption now, and we hope to adopt another child or children with orthopedic issues, so that our daughter with CP feels less different. Our other three are very mobile and active, and she is always a few steps behind- or more than a few! We know we’re comfortable with SN’s and so we’re open to what God has for us. We’re also open to FAS and other issues as well, again, because we’ve had such an easy time with it all.”

“When we began the process for our third adoption from China, our 5th child, that was a battle… [explaining the many trials with the medical needs of second adopted child during 3rd adoption process]. We questioned our sanity and ability to care for another child daily. Why did we do it anyway? We did it because we felt CLEARLY that God had spoken to us that THIS WAITING CHILD was to be our daughter. We had many miraculous signs and provisions to make us certain.”

“After [our daughter] had been home for about 4 months we called our foster agency and told them that we were ready to consider placements, as our daughter’s transition was moving along very well, and we thought that we would be able to have another child in the home, if they were going to be the right fit.”

How did you chose the country?

“We went back to the same country, because we had already fallen in love with a little boy there. We had a great experience with our facilitation team, and felt comfortable repeating the process. And we took our daughter back with us to visit her friends.”

“We chose the country easily because we already had a child from China and didn’t want him to be the only Chinese treasure in our house. China was an obvious choice for our second adoption and our 4th child.”

“The country that we had adopted from the first time was no longer an adoption. Because of law changes in that country, we would have to adopt out of birth order and that was not something that we were willing to do at that time. We researched countries all over the globe, talked to several agencies and learned the pros and cons of different countries. Ideally, we wanted to adopt from a country which was culturally similar to the country that we adopted from the first time. We found a country that had many children available who fit our age criteria and had many cultural similarities with the country we adopted from the first time. It was a great fit.”

“We knew we would stick with Ukraine since we wanted our kids to have the same backgrounds. Turns out we ended up at the same orphanage as our first.”

What else would you like to share with families considering adopting for a second time?

“Adoption #2 somehow felt less “ordained” and much more practical, though both were obviously God-orchestrated. It just seemed less monumental of a decision, maybe because we were not becoming first time parents that time.”

“The only thing else I’d like to share is this: I love adoption. Our family is growing and we are incredibly blessed, and I hope God continues to add to our family for as long as He desires. Every one of our children is unique and amazing, and the joy comes from being able to appreciate their individual strengths and personalities. My best advice to others is to not worry about milestones, psychiatric disorders, or having your kids look/act/function like typical kids raised from birth, for at least a year after you get home. It’s going to be an adjustment, much like the first year of being married- sharing a home with someone with different habits, expectations, needs, and likes. Be flexible, and enjoy your kids. Enjoy them. Delight yourself in the gifts God has given you- and take each moment for what it is. Don’t live in what happened yesterday, or five minutes ago, or what might happen in an hour. Keep focused on God, and always find a way to sing His praise- it’ll keep you energized and help heal the spirits of your former orphans. They’ll go through a lot of changes, and that’s hard on them, but there’s hope in God.”

“Our story hasn’t been ‘typical’. 3 adoptions, 5 kids, 2 years. Twinning, adopting out of birth order, adopting biological siblings and non-biological siblings, adopting tweenagers in my 20’s. But it is so perfectly clear that each and every one of our kids is where they should be given their circumstances. They all fit in so perfectly, flaws and all. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the experts and pass over a child because they were too close in age, had medical needs, or were born “too soon”. Take medical diagnosis’ with a grain of salt. Our “healthy” on paper child has been our hardest to figure out.”

“You know what’s best for your family. You may always have doubts that adopting again is the right decision at that exact moment– there is no exact perfect time. But, you know what you can handle. Don’t let anyone else pressure you into a decision about when, where or who you should be adopting.”

One Year Ago

A year ago today, our voices and our legs shook in a Russian court room as we asked if Gus could join our family.

The memory of that day is a favorite of mine. After our court hearing, we went to the baby house and we met Gus. Yes, we’d visited him several times before– we met the laidback child, sedated by fear if not also sedated by medicine.


That day, we began to see the feisty wild child he really is.



Here are some recent photos which show him most accurately.


Playing in a bucket of water.


Someone stole his tricycle.


And he stole his sister’s sunglasses, with a messy after dinner face.


Learning to climb. Everything.


His usual dirty self.


In a calmer moment with one of his canine friends.

Playing in the rain.

And in a creek.

Happy court day to Gus, a feisty and fab addition to our family.

URGENT request about Russian adoption

Today, Gus delighted in grapes, being out in the hot sunshine and some cuddling when he was feeling tired. The simple joys of being 2, right?

My kids are amazing people and I don’t generally dwell in their pasts and what might have been, but the reality is that, there’s a whole different life out there, one that they used to live and could still be living if laws in their birth countries were different.

Unfortunately, as we all know, in Russia, those laws have changed and those kids, kids who should be in someone’s backyard, eating grapes, cuddling and enjoying the beautiful weather, are waiting in orphanages. Here’s your chance to do something.

Senator Landrieu is currently circulating a letter for signature by members of Congress. The letter will go to President Obama and will urge him to prioritize the matter of the pipeline families trapped by the Russian adoption ban and find a solution when he meets with Putin at the G8 Summit in mid-June.

In short, what you need to do is call your Senators and Congressmen and say “I’m calling to ask Senator (insert name) to please sign the letter for President Obama about Russian adoption. I’m a constituent from (insert location) and Russian adoption matters to me because…”

There are many families who have met their child, and promised their child that they would be back, with no clue that Russian adoption would shut down entirely. Can you imagine meeting your child, saying goodbye thinking you’ll be back in a month or two, and 6 months later, your child still waits with no end in sight?

Here’s a suggestion on what you can say, as well, as the details and content of the letter from a friend of mine who is one of these waiting families…

Senator/Congressman ________,

My friend is currently in the process of adopting a child from Russia with Down syndrome and met their child before the adoption ban went into place. They fell in love with their child when they held them, played with them, laughed with them, and truly became a family while they were in Russia. They very much think of this child as their son/daughter. They cannot just forget about this child and “move on” because their child will grow up in a mental institution for the rest of their life if they are not adopted.

Senator Landrieu is currently leading a sign-on letter for both House and Senate members to sign in support of these families to encourage President Obama to prioritize this issue when he meets with President Putin in June at the G8 Summit. We are calling/emailing because we think it is very important as one of your constituents to support these families and this issue. This week these families are in Washington D.C. visiting you and are delivering you letters requesting your support in this matter. We want you to show your support by signing the letter that will be delivered to President Obama.

To sign on, please contact Whitney Reitz in Senator Landrieu’s office at 202-224-5824 or email her at whitney_reitz@landrieu.senate.gov The deadline for signing this letter is the end of business on Wednesday, May 15th.

The following members have already signed the letter:

Blunt, MO
Brown, OH
Cantwell, WA
Cardin, MD
Gillibrand, NY
Inhofe, OK
Johanns, NE
Kirk, IL
Landrieu, LA
Paul, KY
Portman, OH
Sessions, AL
Toomey, PA
Warner, VA
Wicker, MI
Franks, AZ
Israel, NY
King, IA
Loebsack, IA
Lummis, WY
Rangel, NY

We would like to see your name join along side theirs. The text of the letter is included below:

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to request your assistance with finding a solution for the small number of Russian orphans who have already met and bonded with their American families, yet were not able to have their adoptions completed due to the Russian adoption ban. We understand that you will be meeting with President Putin in June during the G8 Summit. We ask that you prioritize this issue and seek commitment from President Putin to finding a humanitarian solution.

Politics between the United States and Russia have become personal to several hundred Russian orphans and the families in the United States hoping to adopt them. These are children without parents, families, or homes. Many are in need of urgent medical care; all are in need of a future filled with promise. These children have no voice. These children have already been promised homes in America, and they have bonded with these American parents. The Government of Russia’s unwillingness to allow their cases to be completed adds yet another trauma to their young lives.

We have met many of these families and spoken with them frequently. They remain completely dedicated to these children, and they are trying everything in their power to help them. Approximately 230 of these families had traveled to Russia before the adoption ban to spend time with the children with whom they were matched. These devoted families already think of the children they were matched with as their sons and daughters.

Mr. President, we must find a humanitarian solution for these children and these families. We were cautiously optimistic when the Government of Russia sent a delegation to the United States a few weeks ago, but the outcome of that visit was disappointing.

We ask you to raise this issue with President Putin directly in the hopes that two world leaders can step back for a moment and find a way out of the political morass for a few hundred wounded children. Based on the briefings we have received from the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, we know that there are options for bringing these children home, despite the ban. The issue, then, becomes a question of convincing the Russians to put the children’s needs first. We thank you in advance for your efforts on behalf of this group of children and families.


Names of senate members will follow

We truly appreciate your support in this matter. We know that you are compassionate and understand these parents’ love for the children that they see as their sons and daughters.

Thank you,


I think the area code for these numbers is 202

What I wish I had done differently…

A few weeks ago, I did a blog post with a series of answers to the question “What do you wish you had known before adopting?” Shortly after I asked that, I also asked the same group of moms what they wish they had done differently. Here are the responses…

In the Process

“I wish I would have done more research from the start. Home study agency, costs, timeline, all things I wish I would have had a better handle on. I agree with others, the whole process took about twice as long as I thought it would have.”

“I wish I would have been more aware of the spiritual warfare that descended on me once we started the process. I spent months feeling terrified and full of doubt, and I didn’t even recognize it for what it was. Had I battled those demons and trusted God far more, I could have had a lot more joy in the process.”

“I wouldn’t have put so much importance on what our families thought about it seeing as how we knew God called us to this. That caused some unnecessary grief in the beginning.”

“I would have not allowed the process to rule our lives. I feel like I don’t remember much of that year. Between paper-chasing, worrying about the money, fundraising, obsessively checking my email, waiting by the phone for calls, desperately searching the internet for any random photos of my child, or blogs from others who might have been to the same orphanage…. I lived and breathed the process. And now, looking back, I realize how little any that worrying and obsessing mattered. I wish instead I would have cherished each day, taken care of whatever I needed to when it was due, and otherwise, let life go on. If my agency called at 4pm, it would have been okay to get the message at 8pm; waiting by the phone wasn’t beneficial to the process in any way. Next time, I hope I will be able to keep this in mind and enjoy each day as it comes.”

“I wouldn’t have gotten caught up in other people’s (adopters) drama. Trying to “help” in crisis situations only drained me. I could also write a book on agency related stuff, but it doesn’t really seem appropriate given the circumstances. But I will research better next time. I also think that given what we’re watching unfold, I might guard my heart even more. Not talked in terms of “my” child right off the bat. Held my cards a little tighter to my chest.”

“I can’t handle adoption drama. And I don’t mean literally drama with people’s adoptions, things going wrong, etc. I mean the drama created by other adoptive parents. I have met some amazing friends through this process. I’ve also met some people who can suck the life out of you if you let them. Ain’t nobody got time for that!”


In Country

“I would have asked even more questions at the orphanage. I would have pushed a little harder to learn more about his past. I would have pushed harder to get his grandmother’s information who visited him. I wish I had spent more time with the other children at the orphanage or had taken an extra day or so in country ti do something on the orphanage grounds, like a service project… man I wanted to mow that grass and give those kids a place to play!”

“I have ALWAYS been hugely disappointed that our adoptions have taken longer then expected. On EVERY adoption (we have adopted 10 children, 7 different adoptions). It is so horrible to pass that date on the calendar when you felt your child would definitely be home by. Plan on your adoption taking twice as long as everyone else who has ever adopted from that country! Then if they come home sooner, you will just be thrilled. Do not just write off adoption timelines that took longer then expected because something went wrong. YOU will have lots go wrong and it will add to your timeline too.”

(In reply to the previous comment) “Part of me wishes I had guarded my heart better and NOT spent so much time with the other children. I am all too aware that that sounds and feels terrible. Those moments were precious for me, but they came at a high price. Three children I held and loved (including one of our two Russians) are now stuck without their families because of the ban. There are [several more children] without committed families that are being transferred this month or next. Those faces bring with them a lot of “survivor’s guilt”. Why did [our daughter] get out? Why did [other recently adopted children] get out? Why are [names of other children stuck at orphanage] being sent to places that the baby house director referred to as “just north of Hell”? I can’t be Mama to all of them (nor do I want to)…but what their lives will become does weigh on me…”

After Homecoming

“I wish I would’ve let friends and family know that I was struggling when we first came home. Pre-cooked meals would’ve been nice.”

“I wish I had been gentler on myself and been more aware that adoption is hard. I spent way too much time beating myself up and overanalyzing the parenting of my adopted child. I would also seek out more people who would pray for our family and actively encourage me throughout those first few months home.”

“I would definitely carry him more (he rejected being touched for a long time, so we didn’t use carriers/slings, but I think we should have). I would aslo bottle feed him right from the start. I didn’t think it was necessary, since he was two when we got him, but when I finally started bottle feeding him after six months of being home, it really helped our attachment.”