Hosting is temporary with a beginning and an end.
Adoption is forever and it takes time for everyone in the family to adjust.
Over the last 10 years, Project 143 has been a part of orphan hosting and witnessed many adoptions from our families. In an effort to help educate those going through the process of hosting, adoption or both, we have compiled some questions and presented them to our previous families. Every experience is unique and while the questions may be the same, the answers will be very different! Please join us over the next couple of weeks as we share the stories of these families in our Host/Adoption Q&A Series! Our second family to be featured are the Hurt’s! They are a family of 4 with 1 child adopted from Latvia. Please read on for their stories and advice below:
What event or feeling led you to want to host/adopt?
One night I was listening to the World News in the background when a story came on that caught my attention. It was about a young couple sharing the good news with their family that they were adopting a sibling group of four teens they hosted from Eastern Europe. It was such a touching story that really pulled at my heart. I had never heard of orphan hosting until that night and immediately began searching the internet for more information when I found Project 143, a discovery that changed our lives forever.
How did you feel when you met your child for the first time?
It was a surreal moment when we met our host son for the first time. The excitement and anticipation had been building for months and then suddenly there he was, this tired little boy who had just flown half way around the world was walking toward us in the middle of a crowded airport. I remember how small and nervous he looked as I bent down to hug him for the very first time. It felt so strange to be walking out of the airport with him, I couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking and feeling. He hadn't spoken a word to us until we got outside of the airport. When the summer heat of Atlanta hit him for the first time, he said "oh it's so hot!" I looked at him with a surprise and said "you speak English?" He laughed and said "of course, can we go to McDonalds on the way home?" And he didn't stop talking from the time we left the Atlanta airport until we pulled into our driveway five hours later in Kentucky. I had to keep pinching myself to make sure I was not dreaming.
At what point did you know this child was part of your family?
Two weeks into hosting, on a beautiful summer night, we were outside catching fireflies. I was watching our host son running around the yard, laughing as he caught his glowing bugs and carefully put each one in a glass jar. As I watched him, suddenly my heart felt like it was going to explode. I realized I loved this little boy, not something I was expecting when we said yes to hosting. Then my heart began to ache at the thought of saying goodbye to him in just a few short weeks. We tried to soak up every moment with him, not knowing if we would see him again after hosting.
What was your favorite moment during the hosting process? (Example: a funny moment with language, cooking together, a breakthrough moment, etc.)
Every night, for five weeks, I would read a devotion to our host son, pray with him, give him a big hug, and tell him I loved him before I tucked him into bed each night. Every night for five weeks he listened to the devotion, listened as I prayed, accepted the hug with stiffness, and sweetly said "goodnight." On the last night of hosting, after his bags were all packed, he surprised me when he wanted to pray for our family. He said the sweetest prayer, then he hugged me so tight and said "I love you too Mom." I never expected him to reciprocate our love and affection, but when he did, it meant the world to us.
What was your favorite moment during the adoption process? (Ex: meeting other kids, meeting other people in-country, trying new foods, etc.)
Ten days before we were scheduled to leave for Latvia to adopt our son, COVID-19 exploded across the globe, Latvia closed its borders, and the international travel ban went into effect immediately. We had to cancel all of our travel plans and court hearings and watch the disappointment wash over our son's face as we told him we were not coming to get him. It was a very emotional time for all of us as we waited and watched the world unravel. When we finally made it to Latvia, four months later, in the middle of the global pandemic, we had not seen our son in a year. When we arrived at his orphanage, he came running out to greet us with a huge smile on his face. He was no longer the little boy I had to bend down to hug. He had grown so much in one year, I had to reach up to hug our teenager now. It was in that moment we realized how much of his life we had missed in that year apart. While in Latvia, it was important to our son that we meet his birth family. We knew what a tight bond he has with his birth family and we were excited to meet them and start to build a relationship with them, while continuing to support our son's connection to them. It was a beautiful and memorable day when our two families came together to share our love for this little boy. We didn't speak the same language, but found we didn't need words that day as our two families became one for our son. When it was time to say goodbye, our son's birth mother hugged me and whispered "thank you." The only two words she can speak in English. I hugged her back tightly and said "paldies", the only word I can speak in Latvian. As a result of our meeting that day, we now have an open adoption and stay in touch with our son's family in Latvia, sharing photos and updates with them frequently. We are so grateful for our time spent in Latvia learning about our son's heritage, and meeting his birth family. Having the opportunity to come together as one bigger family to love and support our son has been such a blessing for all of us.
What was your hardest moment during the hosting process?
The hardest part of the hosting process for our family was by far the departures. Packing all of their clothes, memories, and love notes into a suitcase the night before their flight is just heartbreaking. Watching our son walk through security at the airport, my heart actually ached for him every single time. As a result of COVID-19, we were reminded there is so much out of our control and none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. We had no idea it would be a full year before we would see our son again when we said "see you soon" at the airport that last time. While it is heartbreaking to watch them leave at the end of hosting, it is worth every ounce of pain we suffer, knowing they leave feeling the love and support of a family.
What was your hardest moment during the adoption process?
As a family you need time to adjust and connect with your child, which can be a challenge in the busy world we live in. Hosting is temporary with a beginning and an end. Adoption is forever and it takes time for everyone in the family to adjust to the changes. COVID actually helped us keep our world small and very connected. We spent so much time together as a family with quarantines, school closures, and virtual learning, which helped our son transition smoothly and slowly into his new life with us.
What is one bit of advice you can offer to a new host family - one thing you wish someone would have told you?
One piece of advice would be to go into hosting without expectations. Our host children have had experiences and life events that have shaped who they are. The life experiences they have overcome cannot be "healed" during hosting. Expecting them to behave like our biological children or children we know is not realistic and sets them and you up for failure. It is not our job to "fix" them while they are here, but rather to love them unconditionally and accept them for who they are by showing them God's grace.
What do you wish you would have done better to prepare for hosting or adoption?
We spent a great deal of time learning about trauma and connected parenting while going through the adoption process. There are so many resources available that it can feel overwhelming and frightening at times. While it is very helpful to learn as much as you can about how trauma affects our children from hard places, it is also important to realize our kids will not all have the same reactions or triggers as a result of their trauma. It can be scary to play out all of the "what if's" in your head and cause you to doubt if you are up to the challenge. It's important to remember we don't have to be the experts, we just have to continue to show up and support our kids through the hard times as well as the good times.
How have your relationships changed with friends/family after your hosting/adoption experience?
We are blessed with a tremendous support system of extended family, church family, co-workers, and friends. From the moment we first decided to host our son from Latvia, we had so much support, continuous prayers, and unending encouragement. Our hosting to adoption journey took two long years to complete and during that time our friends and family rallied around us and never gave up on our family. We could not have endured all we went through without their love, prayers, and support that continue to this day.
If you hosted the same child you adopted, did you find it beneficial? Would you have adopted without hosting first?
We absolutely found hosting beneficial before deciding to adopt. Our family went into hosting as a "host only" family and we were not adoption minded the first time we hosted. Hosting actually changed that for us and we knew we wanted to adopt our host son after our second hosting. The more time we had with our son through hosting, the more the relationship grew for all of us and the more we learned about each other. Each hosting was completely different as our relationship evolved over time.
How has your adopted child adapted to their new family and home?
We are continually amazed at how our son is adjusting to his new life in our family. He is a happy and well adjusted teen, who is very social and enjoys his friends. We scaffolded his instruction when he first came home until he had the confidence to attempt the academics on his own. He is now completely independent with his learning, has gained so much confidence in his ability to learn, and has been on the Honor Roll every time since coming home in August, 2020. He has made many new friends at church and school and is playing on the middle school soccer team this year. We could not be any prouder of him.
What is your top resource (or 2 or 3) that helped you and you want to share?
Parenting from the Inside Out and The Connected Child by Karen Purvis on TBRI continue to be our go to resources and are highly recommended.
To contact out featured family:
Susan Hurt: [email protected]
We would love to hear your story!!
You can choose to share anonymously or share your name/contact at the end.
THANK YOU in advance for your time and heart to encourage, inspire, and share with those behind you in this journey.
2 unique links depending on if your story continued to adoption:
• Hosting: https://forms.gle/xigTXtm65nMbLDgZ8
• Host/Adopt: https://forms.gle/tDqVjDaZkrjRDWco7