This is not the path for everyone, but this is the path that made us a family, and me a mother.
In 2017 my husband of 4 years and I took a leap: we wanted to adopt. Not knowing where to start, we were open to all suggestions; but being well over 40, we leaned toward welcoming older children into our home, both to help place possibly harder to place children, and so that we would be raising children who would be done with high school around the time we may want to retire and start the next phase of our lives.
Learning about Project 143, we signed up to host two children, biological siblings, from Latvia. A was 9 and E was 8. Hosting provides limited information about children, of necessity, to protect confidentiality, but we asked to be matched with children more likely to be available for adoption. Throughout the process we were acutely aware of the uncertainties inherent to our journey, based on ever-changing circumstances.
Our first hosting was in July, 2017. We were very nervous to meet A and E in the airport. I cannot imagine how nervous they must have been to cross an ocean to meet us. We came with plush toys and little bags of treats. They fell asleep immediately in the backseat on the way home.
We loved the children when we met them (of course).
After having them in our home for two weeks, we asked how to initiate the adoption process. At that time, we were informed of a younger 4-year old brother. If we were able to adopt the older two, we would get K, as well!
The adoption process was paperwork intensive and emotionally draining, but truly gave an enhanced purpose to our lives. We initially hoped to have our children home before Christmas, 2017, but when this became impossible we hosted all three for the month of December. Christmas with three children who have never experienced an American Christmas – or a real “family” Christmas. We shared our home with them for a month, and then had to send them back, still amidst the uncertainty of international adoption. However, we were able to Skype and send care boxes to the foster family in Latvia, which had a total of 7 children and one adult caregiver.
We got our formal referral in the spring of 2018, and were able to travel in April. We met up with the children in Latvia and spent two weeks with them in their country before returning to the United States on May 10 (Chad’s birthday!), 2018. We have been home as a family of 5 now for two years.
While in Latvia, we got a glimpse of the circumstances that brought our children into foster care. Their biological parents were orphans, raised in a Latvian orphanage, and themselves the children of Russian immigrants. If you know your World War I and II history, you understand why Russians are perceived as hostile invaders in Latvia, and the devastation that Latvia experienced at the end of the second world war. Our beautiful children were born into multiple layers of disadvantage and would not have been “adoptable” in their home country. They would almost certainly have been on the streets at age 16, without resources to support any form of healthy lifestyle.
During our two years back at home with A, E and K, we have learned a tremendous amount about how children process trauma and transition into a stable home. We have listened to memories of food insecurity and separation from care-providers. We have established relationships with both pediatricians and mental healthcare providers, to care for the bodies and minds of our children. We have learned how vital it is to have a strong English Language Learner program in our children’s educational programming – both to help our children bridge the language gap, and to educate other educators within the school system about scaffolding and making it possible for our children to learn alongside their peers. We will continue to learn about how to best love and support our children for years to come, as we work to prepare them for independence and adulthood.
I am reminded on a daily basis of the blessings we have been given through the Project 143 Program and international adoption.
Thank you Sara Gehrig-Woodman for sharing your family’s story.