Welcome to this chapter of our lives. We are very happy to announce that we have initiated the process of adoption. This is the place where you can follow along.
Short Version - As we proceed, the most important things for you to know are:
- This is a long and slow process, and we don't have all of the details yet.
- Adoption ethics and original family preservation are our top priority.
- Because of this and our desire to care for the most vulnerable children, this will likely be a special needs/medical condition adoption.
- There are several ways you can help!
- I know you have a lot of questions, so I've made an effort to explain as many things as I can via the links below.
Long Version -
This is my attempt to make a very long story into a shorter long story.
When I was a kid, I read a lot of historical fiction. Stories of kids growing up in orphanages centuries ago. I was obsessed with the musical "Annie." Because this was all historical fiction, my child's mind assumed that these were all things of the past. When I learned that there were actually millions of orphaned children worldwide, my world shattered.
I think I was 11 years old. I decided I needed a baby sister from China, where due to the One Child Policy and gender preferences that valued girls as second best, infant girls were being abandoned in incredible amounts. (China has recently amended this policy to allow families to have two children, but many think that traditional gender preferences will continue to negatively impact girls).
It took over five years and some miracles, but Hannah Kate Yang Rui joined my family in May of 2005. I was 15 years old.
David was there too.
Just a few years later, Abi and Adam came from Ethiopia.
Even as I was so passionate about adoption of kids who need families, I started to get to know families in vulnerable communities who were struggling to provide for their children rather than placing them in orphanages. I learned that there is so much funding and resources being poured in to caring for these children after parents experience a crisis that leads to placing their kids in orphanages, rather than addressing the underlying issues that lead to kids being orphaned. I learned that it is not a monumental task to prevent children from being orphaned or abandoned. Many illnesses that lead to the death of parents are very preventable or treatable. Poverty-related abandonment can be prevented through economic empowerment.
David and I committed to being just as passionate about orphan prevention as we are about adoption. We decided that before we embark on an adoption journey, we must be doing all that we can to partner with vulnerable parents to raise their kids well, and to preserve their families. This is what is happening through Under the Same Tree, and it has been remarkable to behold. UTST (the non-profit I direct) works through partnerships with local churches in vulnerable communities. We enable vulnerable parents to start small businesses through which they are able to build a sustainable source of income and care for the needs of their kids. It gets better than that. When families are empowered economically, the first thing that they want to do is serve others in need in their community. I'm seeing single moms reaching out to train and empower other single moms; I'm seeing families adopt orphaned children; I'm seeing empowered families apprenticing teens who grew up in the orphanage system and who would otherwise be going homeless. This cycle of empowerment is rippling through the communities where we work, and there is no other way I could have expected to see something this beautiful unfolding but for the grace and guidance and hope of Jesus. Seriously.
This month, August of 2016, I am traveling to Uganda to officially launch our partnership with a group of moms there who are working to provide home and family to orphaned children from their community, and to prevent vulnerable young moms from the desperation that leads to giving up their kids. I'm thrilled to go there and celebrate with them.
I'm also thrilled that at the very same time, David and I get to announce that we are pursuing an adoption journey of our own. All of the questions you have - who and where and when - we don't know yet. (I've gone ahead and answered as many questions as I can here). If you remember, we were living in a popup camper and in the attics and basements of friends and on the floors of a Nairobi apartment not too long ago. So far, we've just been working really hard to get to a place where we qualify. We've needed to increase our income to qualify, so David went to work for Love the Lou (another local non-profit through our church) as an apartment superintendant. We've also moved into an apartment in Tower Grove, South Saint Louis. Things are so far, so good. I'm continuing to work for Under the Same Tree, and making short trips to East Africa a couple of times a year.
So, friends, this is the place you can come to find whatever updates I have to offer, where you can learn about the monumental amount of hope and anxiety that goes into a process like this, and how you can join in.