Family Stories


Bear Sighting – A Father’s Journey to Latvia

I play Ice Hockey almost every day of the week, I wished for a son who shared my love of the sport and Latvia ended up delivering more than I could ever imagine. I remember waking up at 4am to meet the in-country social worker in the lobby of my hotel.  It was her that was going to take me on the long 5 hour drive from Riga to meet Maksims in an orphanage directly east, only 10 miles off the Russian boarder.  I remember the icy road narrowing as we left the city toward the countryside into a small two-lane highway lined with trees so covered in snow they were about to snap.    It was the middle of January in the coldest place I had ever been on a journey of a lifetime.   I was speechless but filled with excitement of finding my son. Photos:  On the way to the orphanage, the views, the road! I had read about Boy #23 on the ministry of children’s waiting list and inquired about him, asked for a photo which ultimately lead to me asking to be matched to him.  A match that allowed me to be invited to the country to meet Boy #23, Maksims.  This orphanage was so remote that I later learned that they do very few adoptions per year, sometimes only one.  In fact the day we showed up at our scheduled time to meet Maksims they didn’t actually think we’d show up so they didn’t prepare Maksims or keep him out of school that day.  We waited while the director of the orphanage checked my paperwork, my passport and called for Maksims to return from school to meet a visitor.  Latvian’s are very formal, very proud and very direct. The time had come for me to actually meet Maksims, a Russian speaking 7 year old boy that had no idea why I was there.  I quickly learned that the orphanage children know, are taught or find out that America is the “golden ticket”.  This close to the border it’s common for children and adults to speak Russian and Latvian however they speak very little English.  I was always with my attorney or social worker assigned to me by CAN while in Latvia and both speak English as act as translator.  We sat in the orphanage director’s office looking out at the snow covered fields that led to snow covered forests waiting for Maksims to arrive.   The orphanage was only a few years old and the facility was welcoming, painted a happy color of yellow on the outside and arcitectually a great design where modern meets traditional.  I remember thinking, “This looks like an ivy league dorm”.  For some reason it gave me great comfort to know that the children were in a place of warmth, love and security. Photos:  The orpahage The door opened slowly and he came in, head down but smiling, timid and shy,  he just found out that someone from America was here to meet him.  It was his day!  I have to stop to tell you that whenever a car pulls up at the orphanage and strangers get out their is a frenzied excitment that follows.  Children from all over the inside of the orphanage press their faces in the windows to see who it is, and wonder, “are they here for me?”  To experience this sight is one of the most sad, humbeling and moving moments of my journey as they are “the waiting children”.  It made me proud that I had gotten to this point, confirming my choice to adopt a waiting child with special needs. I wanted to change the life course of a child, forever.  I had found out on the ride that they wanted me to be very careful if I should decide to select Maksims.  My attorney who did not make the long 5 hour ride had seen Maksims in a hospital once near Latvia and said he may have more issues than I would want to deal with.  It sounds harsh but it’s their job to make sure it’s a good fit for both sides.  Since she had witnessed Maksims first hand I was even more causious  than normal.  During our visit he seemed fine.  Since my attorney was not there I had no idea what she was speaking about, this kid was fantastic. Photos:  On the left was taken the day I met my son in the orpahnage on January 23rd 2012. The photo on the right is what he looked like in July of 2012 just six months later, as an American. I was asked to bring a present for the boy as an “ice breaker” and I had decided based on his age that a small $7 Lego car would fit into my suitcase, I even brough a gift bag all the way from the USA to wrap it in.  He loved it and we sat there building it and playing with it together for over an hour.  He was so determined to put that car together thorough the visual directions to show me he could do it.  The pride he had when he finished was a smile ear to ear.  We made a game of rolling it back and forth, came up with rules like if you hit an extra piece (not used in the car) while rolling it to one another then the other person got the piece.  Remember we could only communicate with smiles, made up sign language which we really laugh about today.   It’s hard to describe but we connected in such a way, making rules for a game, totally understanding each other, we had nothing to worry about.  I knew without a doubt,  this was my son, he called me Papa from that day on.  Even the orphan director was impressed with our skills to communicate.   My in-country social worker the attorney had sent me with became nervous since the attorney was certain I would not select Maksims […]


Zoya’s Journey – A Bulgarian Adoption Story

 “Zoya’s Journey” tells the powerful story of one family’s adoption from Bulgaria. A little over a year after they began their adoption process, two loving parents found their daughter, Zoya, on Bulgaria’s Waiting Child listing. And so their adventure began!…  


Philippines Host Family Becomes Forever Family

The Beam family hosted Christine through the Philippines Winter 2013-2014 program. Although they entered the program with the intention of acting as advocates, Christine captured their hearts and they later began the adoption process to bring her into their family forever. This blog serves not only as a great resource for families considering the Philippines hosting and adoption programs, but families looking into International Adoption as a whole, as they include sections on their fundraising, travel, and bonding. November 2013: Christine Before I share with you a cool story of how God met us when we stepped out to host, let me fill you in a little about hosting. First of all, this is something anyone can do!  Hosting an orphan increases his/her chances of being adopted.  In fact, our hosting agency, has a 70% ‘success rate.’  Meaning 70% of the children who are hosted get adopted!  Isn’t that incredible!?  That’s the greatest purpose behind hosting.  The hope is that families who are open to adopting will meet these children and God will prick their hearts to step forward and adopt them! A second purpose is to simply show these children what a family is.  Most of them have never experienced a family.  I think about how much my family takes for granted just being a family.  We all take each other so for granted!  Ugh.  It pains me every day.  But to be part of a loving family is one of God’s greatest blessings.  To feel belonging and love and acceptance no matter what.  Priceless. One of the greatest benefits of hosting a child is that she/he will learn about and experience Jesus’ love in a more tangible way.  We hope that Christine will learn about Jesus while she’s here with us (despite our shortcomings).  May she feel His love and be drawn to Him.  What a gift!  Especially at Christmas time. What a lot of people don’t know is that being a host family has a cost associated with it.  It can definitely be an obstacle.  It certainly was for us.  We’ve been interested in hosting for a couple of years, but simply didn’t know how in the world we could swing the costs.  But for whatever reason we felt very compelled this year to just step out and trust that God would meet us there.  Wow, has He ever! The cost to bring Christine over is $3150.  That’s all the travel expenses (multiple flights, visas, passports, travel chaperones, and agency fees to coordinate it all).  The day that we were filling out the pre-app (and feeling lots of trepidation!), we learned that Christine had just been assigned a $1000 scholarship!  We took that as affirmation that we were doing the right thing and that God was trying to indicate that He was behind this and we could trust Him. Our balance was now $2150.  We submitted the pre-app and began working on the, application!… references, a home visit by a social worker, the rules of hosting a child, 12 hours of training, etc.  Yikes! A few days later, we get a call from our coordinator who said I wouldn’t believe it but a gentleman and his wife who’d hoped to host this year, but can’t wanted to contribute money to the ‘most needy child’ to increase his/her chances of being adopted.  Our Christine was it!  She’s 14 and will be 15 in December!  She’ll age out of the orphanage at 16 and be literally put out on the streets with the clothes on her back…very likely headed into a life of prostitution and desperation.  $1000 this generous couple gave!  A perfect stranger! Balance: $1150. Then, a local friend who hosted a child last Christmas and had been cheering us on the whole time said immediately that she and her husband wanted to help with our expenses.  They chipped in $400! Balance: $750. Then we paid our required payment of $600. Balance: $150. Then, a few weeks later I went to my hairdresser who is a friend from church.  We were catching up.  She asked how James is doing and had some questions about adoption, etc.  I shared with her about our plans to host Christine and how this step of faith was being affirmed through provision, provision and more provision.  I said, ‘Fran, can you believe that all we have left to pay now is $150?!  Isn’t God so cool when He shows Himself as trustworthy and faithful?’  She loved hearing the story about Christine and told me that she grew up with always having lots of ‘visitors’ in their home — ‘strangers’ at Thanksgiving dinner…just people her parents opened their home to.  I loved hearing that because she’s such an open and loving person.  As a parent, I can only hope that our kids will grow to be adults with open, loving hearts towards others. As I got up to leave and began digging in my purse to get out my payment, she said, ‘I want you to keep that and put it towards your balance for bringing Christine.’  Gulp.  I had $130 in my purse. Done!  December 2013: 5 Days Five days and counting until Christine arrives. We are so excited for her to come, yet I feel like a chicken with my head cut off.  The kids keep asking me, ‘When, mama, when will Christine come?’  They are super excited.  In fact, a couple of them keep asking why we can’t adopt her.  It’s a tough one, right?  I mean, God opened their hearts to adoption.  They get it and know how wonderful it can be thanks to our wonderful Jimmy Jam.  So I find myself saying I don’t feel in my heart that we’re meant to adopt Christine, we’re just meant to bring her here, love on her and help her find her family. A pair of pajamas and a toothbrush & toothpaste wait on her bed for her. I just ordered her a stocking that matches ours with her name embroidered on it.  I couldn’t imagine picking up some random stocking and having her feel, perhaps again, […]

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Stephenson’s Leap – A Guyana Adoption Story

I am an Adoption Consultant and I don’t know if you are in the regular habit of taking leaps of faith, but for most people there are rarely moments in our lives when we are forced to take a true “leap of faith.” For some naturally adventurous people, the roller coaster metaphor is all too fitting.  For others it’s more like trying to ride a mechanical bull.  While often it can feel like that scene in Indiana Jones where he must leap the chasm from the lion’s head to make it to the Holy Grail, supposedly if you have “chosen wisely” a great adoption program will actually give you the life you seek instead of “take it from you”.  Okay, sorry for all the Indiana Jones references.  This is where I’m going with this.  International Adoption is a true leap of faith for sure; laden with the vast unknowns.  But yet, it is still one leap in which most families land right on their feet and completely in love.  My reason for being here is to help families interested in taking this leap of faith find the strength, the support and trust to move forward.  It’s not easy for me and I know it can’t be easy for my families.  Especially for those coming to us at a deficit of hope.  Maybe they have been through failed fertility treatments, maybe they’ve lost a child, maybe they have been through a failed adoption already, maybe they have eligibility issues, maybe they don’t have much money, maybe they are going at this alone, maybe it’s all of those things combined.  Whatever the case, it can literally be a paralyzing fear to take even the smallest first step. When they finally have the courage to call me, they are nervous to prove worthy of adoption.  Which I think is so endearing, knowing so many orphans that feel the same way.  And signing a contract…well, I can only imagine that it involves the words “who does this” spinning around in your head over and over again like a bead caught in the vacuum cleaner.  “Who does do this?  Who is crazy enough, tough enough and brave enough to go through all of this?”  Well, let me just say that as helpful as that would be to know, that question is moot.  If this gives you any idea, “We were the most unlikely to adopt” is the most common phrase I hear from adoptive families who describe themselves. One of these families was the Stephenson’s.  I began working with this family soon after we opened our Guyana, South America program and immediately knew they were ready to get down to business.  They didn’t know where they wanted to go or who they had in mind to adopt, but they knew they wanted a sibling group of a boy and a girl and were ready for suggestions.  I had just been handed the parameters for this new program that no one seemed to have heard of before except for Canadians, but one that sounded absolutely AMAZING!  Most “pilot” country programs involve new untried processes and unproven timelines so we always say we will “err on the side of caution” and “take everything with a grain of salt”.  You know what that means to an adoptive family getting into this process?  Precisely nothing.  I had a picture of two sparkling children with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen.  People who see the child they are meant to adopt, well, let’s just say they tend to lose all reason and grip of reality.  They won’t admit it, but I’m pretty sure when the Stephenson’s saw the pictures of their little boy and girl, they lost it completely.  You’d never know it, as they were as cool as cucumbers, but I believe it was almost a few hours before they felt comfortable telling me these two were theirs. Here they were about to adopt two children from a country they have practically never fathomed and already knew there were no guarantees. There was no information on the two children except an age and a picture. They immediately accepted Guyana’s very soft match with the children and paid all of the fees due before ever setting foot in Guyana.  This is tough because while they do not require much as far as paperwork, as soon as you are approved to travel, all your fees are pretty much due in full.  They soon said goodbye to their beautiful biological children and hopped on a plane with everything to lose. Meeting the children was an unfamiliar but welcomed experience.  They were able to spend a good bit of time with the little boy and girl; discovering first-hand the condition of these children and learning that their parental love was more than needed.  It was now imperative.  There isn’t anything they would not do for these children at this point.  They gladly and happily put in the official application in Guyana and the siblings were officially matched with them.  Then it was time to go back home.  Home had a whole new meaning suddenly.  Again, the bead in the vacuum cleaner returns, with its incessant spinning and rattling.   “What can we say to them? How can we make these children understand we are coming back for them?  What if a Canadian comes and adopts them out from under us?  Is that even possible?  Where’s a wormhole when you need it?  Why didn’t we listen to Lacee about that whole grain of salt thing?”  Enter sweet gigantic smiles and now add big warm hugs. ‘Oh, yah.  That’s why!’ We love you so much!”  That’s all they could say and all they could do was love them and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  The risk evaluation is not quite complete, so we must wait.  But then it happened.  Six months after their first trip, their referral counselor calls.  “It’s time to go.”  Now the real adventure begins. During this final six week leg of the trip […]


Bulgaria Family United Forever

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