Family Stories

Looking for stories from families who have adopted older children.  If you are interested, please email me at


October 20, 2010
One year ago two worlds collided in Eastern China as a 13-year-old boy met his American parents for the first time. What was to follow would be a dance of sorts, some missed footing, some stepping on toes, loss of rhythm…and finally, a year later, a harmonious blend of steps we call life.
To say it’s been ‘a year’ is an understatement. Our son didn’t know a single word of English, and had resolved that the rest of the world would learn Chinese in order to communicate with him. Unfortunately, his years in foster care had come with challenges and a high price, education being one, but far more important were the emotional and developmental gaps caused by neglect. He had no concept of family or permanency, or a desire to learn.

We, his parents, knew this transition wouldn’t be easy, but we really had no idea just how difficult it would be. It was just different than we had imagined. We long to be the hands and feet of the Lord as we answer His call to the ‘impossible’, yet we are surprised when the pain comes. We somehow think we are immune to the struggles as we carry our cross daily, but that is directly contradictory to His Word. He doesn’t promise comfort or ease; He promises faithfulness, hope and restoration!
I had never home schooled before, until last year. I had no idea where to begin, but for the advice of wonderful friends who have home schooled and/or adopted older children. I’m certain I learned as much as my son, including the fact I could actually enjoy teaching a child who speaks English and has half a desire to learn J The two of us were so out of sync. I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t want to learn, and he couldn’t figure out why he needed to! Ultimately, the most important lesson was how to be a family. We often forewent reading or math to focus on our relationship.
He struggled for control, and would do whatever he could to manipulate circumstances to get what he wanted. He also learned it’s rather difficult to remain self-absorbed with seven siblings. He tried to isolate himself, but mostly because that’s what he’d been taught, to stay out of the way. Being alone was his safe place. We struggled with the sadness of all the rotten things he’d been through and the overwhelming changes yet to come. We worked hard to maintain structure and routine because it seemed the most beneficial setting.
We were caught off guard by his season of grief. It just didn’t look the way we thought it would. He was not only overwhelmed by his new world; he was overcome by nameless emotions. Once we realized he was grieving, we were able to help him cope and extend the compassion he needed.
We often felt incompetent in our ability to parent. Our son wouldn’t tell us if he was sick, happy, sad, angry or tired. Mostly because he didn’t know! He was completely detached from his emotions. He certainly couldn’t name them, and he was impulsive at expressing them.
We learned that consistency is key. We found it necessary to ‘walk the walk.’No wavering allowed. And Mom and Dad are a force to be reckoned with J
We also saw grace in a new light. The need for undeserved favor has been more prevalent than ever in our home. Our oldest son even observed that abundant grace is a necessity from here on out.
And then there are all the tests and the doctors, not seeking ‘why’ so much as ‘where to go from here.’
We were told that non-English speaking kids will typically have conversational language at six months. Not so in our case. We thought we’d never learn to communicate. And in this journey I have learned that communication is key to relationship. And without a relationship, I simply had another teenager in my home who had strange food choices and sleep habits. I desperately wanted to relate to my son.
And gradually, layer by layer the rotten past began to peel away and the witty personality began to surface. Gradually he learned to love and to receive the love of his imperfect parents. Gradually he began to act like a brother. Gradually his confidence blossomed and we discovered he’s pretty good at math and fits right in with his seventh grade peers. Gradually he expressed a love for music which has landed him in the percussion section of the band. Gradually he regained his interest in fitness, and though he may not understand all the rules, he’s willing to work hard to learn how to play basketball. Gradually he has learned that his parents love him enough to put up a fight when the thing he really wants to do is not in his best interest.Gradually he is realizing that his siblings are pretty awesome, contrary to his initial idea that he didn’t need any of them. Gradually he is learning that his family trusts a heavenly Father who extends boundless grace, mercy and love to the unfathomable point of dying so we can live.
In a way it’s hard to believe a year has passed, but in some respects it seems like a lifetime. We have learned enough to last a lifetime…and we are looking forward to a lifetime of living out what we’re still learning and dancing to the rhythm of our new song.
You can read more about Kooper and his family on their blog.


November 12, 2010

We started our adoption in 2007 like hundreds of others adopting from China. We joined the program to adopt a Non Special Needs infant girl.  At the time I knew little to nothing about adoption. All I did know was that I really wanted to adopt a little girl from China. My first memory of wanting to adopt was in college. At that time I read an article in a magazine about the little girls in China that no one wanted and were being abandoned. I was excited about the opportunity to love one of these children and become their mommy. When we sent in our Dossier to China and got a Log In Date of December 2007 I had no idea about the journey we were about to go on.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the wait in China for a non special needs adoption was growing. It was growing and growing and at some point I estimated we may have to wait about 8 years or longer. That thought became an obsession with me and then I learned about Special Needs adoptions. About six months after our LID we officially switched to the Special Needs list. These children can have a wide range of needs and are of all ages. We still were focusing our search on an infant and reviewed several files but I never felt like they were our daughter. Until October 28, 2008 when I opened the Special Needs file and began to look at the children newly posted for adoption. I perused the list and it seemed as though there would be no referral this month.  No child on the list met our qualifications. I was sad because I just wanted to adopt a child, where was she? Later on that evening I pulled the list up again, for some reason the file for a little girl with the birthdate of September 21, 2001 interested me. I sent a request to our agency without even mentioning it to my husband to view her file. Our agency automatically locked the file for 48 hours while you review it and make a decision. When I received the file later that night I nervously opened it. Staring back at me was the cutest seven year old sitting on a concrete wall and holding a flower.

Though she was smiling you could see the emptiness behind her smile. I quickly read over her file and decided that I would talk to my husband about her that night. Later that night I shared her file with John and he confided in me that he was actually more comfortable adopting an older child at that time and that we could seriously consider adopting her. As we stood there that night I remember him asking, “ is that Ellery?” (the name we had picked out for our NSN infant). I answered I don’t know if that is Ellery but I think that is our daughter.  Before bed we decided to pray about it, sleep on it and decide the next day. Two days later we signed a Letter of Intent to bring home our daughter we named Lily. We couldn’t get to China fast enough!
We traveled to China to bring Lily home in May of 2009. It was everything we dreamed and then some. We knew not what to expect of an older child. We didn’t know whether she wanted to be adopted or not. We didn’t know whether she would accept us are turn her back on us. Overall our trip in China went smooth.  She was very slowly starting to open up to us when we were alone with her but she tended to cling to our guide when he was around. That all changed the day he took us to the airport to leave for the US. As he walked away and bid us farewell she reached over and took my hand and she has never let go.

 Though her attachment happened quickly to mama it took her time to attach to dad. She was all about mama and would cry when left at home with just daddy. Now she stands in the driveway waving goodbye to me and then runs inside laughing. Our experience with Lily overall has been extremely easy and we are blessed. She has carved herself a space in our family and fits in with us perfectly. She has changed me, inspired me and shown me what the face of bravery looks like. She loves us unconditionally and we love her to pieces! I can’t say exactly why on that day I looked at an older child’s file with never having considered it before but I see it as one of those moments when God knows what we want  more than we know ourselves. This little girl was meant for us and we were meant for her.

 Visit our family blog at The O'Cain Crew to follow Lily’s story and the adoption of Lily’s little sister next year. Lily has been begging for a little sister from day 1 and we are going back to China!