This all began over a year ago with one reporter, who was also a customer at Don's business (may as well give up the nickname as our names are "out there" anyway), wanted to write an article about our family. Don told him that was fine as long as the focus was on adopting, not just about our family. Some weeks went by and a photographer came to take our pictures....but then nothing happened. That was okay - if God wanted it, fine...if not, that was fine too. Last summer another reporter came and talked to us again. He was very kind, but there was a lot of other "sports news" going on, so nothing came of it. Honestly, I had forgotten about it. Life just went on.
Don owns a sports cards store - yes, as in baseball cards. See, I told you it was one of the biggest proofs to us that God is Sovereign - He provides for us through selling little pieces of cardboard. ;-) He began a while ago to have athletes in for autograph signings that were willing to come in for little enough money that we could do a "charity" fundraiser for The Shepherd's Crook - a ministry that helps find homes for orphans with special needs and helps raise funds for families adopting. The story of the founders, Scott and Kathy Rosenow, was what launched us into special needs adoptions after little Mimi was born. (Reece's Rainbow is another amazing organization that we found Serenity, Hope, and Peter through their advocacy)
We held another signing a few weeks ago (and raised $1200!) and the reporter came. He called a week or so later to clarify some details and the story ran online last night and in print today. Then someone told me it ran on a local news channel...then Don got a phone call from a national magazine. Hmmm....what happened to the little local story?
We are not sure if this will die out in a few days...or if it will keep building momentum. If it brings attention to more orphans and their desperate need for a families - well, AMEN. If it is going to just focus on us...well, it can't die out quickly enough. There is NOTHING special about us! We even laughed this morning as we were getting all kinds of emails and phone calls - if people could have seen us with bedheads, messy house, cranky kiddos over school, and a tired mama on her second cup of coffee already....there probably wouldn't be much of a story to write! :) But if you focus on God's faithfulness to even His most stumbling servants, on the truth of the joy of serving others instead of yourself, and of the beautiful picture of His redemption of us shown through adoption - then there is an AMAZING story here.
But with all the details for people to keep track of...a few details need to be clarified and cleared up. They might seem like small things, but it is important to us to know that the truth is clear....
1) First, the athletes are very generous to come at a reduced fee for the signings - but they have not come for free other than Jon Ryan who asked so little it was practically free. Thank you, Jon Ryan!
2) The money we raised went to The Shepherd's Crook, not to our own adoption fund. We want ministries like this one to THRIVE - therefore, bringing home many more children than we could ever adopt! We do make some money from the signings if people buy cards, photos, and balls. We also have very generous customers that plunk their change (or more) in our donation jar. But that is not the main reason we do this.
3) Our oldest daughter is adopted from US foster care. We were foster parents for 3 years. This was a HARD thing. We went into it, thinking if we had to give a child back it was to a "fixed" home and therefore we were helping kids and families. However, it didn't take us long to realize that was not the case. The case workers and courts are so overwhelmed and there are those that know how to work the system. When it was just Don and I - it would just be our hearts broken (along with our extended family) but once we had other kids, we couldn't see having a child suddenly leave our house, breaking their hearts and confusing them. As we have grown as parents, we do understand there are ways to help explain this and work with the kids, but at the time it just seemed to be too much.
When we came to the point we were willing to wade back into the chaos of foster parenting, we found out that there are limits to how many kids can be in the home. For our state, it is six children. God led us along a different path to international adoption. Honestly, children in the US NEED homes - but they are not abused/neglected/cast aside by their own government, their own culture. If that happens to a child in the US, it is a criminal offense. The US foster care system is FAR from perfect - but it is FAR better than any country I have seen. Every life it precious - whether they were born in the US or not.
That being said, last year I fell in love with a little boy listed on the page for our state. We know how to care for all his complex needs and he would be LOVED, ADORED, and IN A FAMILY - far better than a residential treatment center. This may provide for all his medical needs - but not for the most important - the need to belong to a family. I approached the "powers that be" two separate times (a year ago and just a few months ago) to find out if we could somehow adopt him...because it wasn't technically "foster care", right? That is when I found out that there were several more limits. I cannot find the list currently, but I will keep searching. UPDATE: I found it:
(4) At any one time you may care for not more than:
(a) Two children less than two years of age or who are non-ambulatory, including your own children; or
(b) Four children with intellectual and developmental disabilities as defined in RCW 71A.10.020 ; or
(c) Three medically fragile foster children who need semi-skilled maintenance or supportive services. You must have the qualified training and experience to provide proper care
So it included things such as no more than 2 children that were immobile on their own (in wheelchairs) and no more than 4 with cognitive disabilities, in addition to the limit of 6 kids currently living at home. So, that would mean "three strikes" and we are out.
This is why the argument that we should focus on the thousands of kids in our own country frustrates me like no other. We are open! We are able! We are willing! Do you know how much EASIER it would be to adopt from US foster care? We would LOVE to do this. But we are not allowed to. The end. We would if we could - but we cannot. So please, if it concerns you that much that we are not adopting American kids (which we have), then please raise a ruckus with governments to get them to assess a family on their individual strengths - not just with numbers on paper. Better yet, YOU go and start adopting the children you care so much about instead of criticizing those that are doing what they can.
I pray for all those families that are doing this - they are fighting in the lions' den. They deserve all the love, prayers, and support that can be given. All we can do is fight for them on our knees as we are band from that arena.
4) Brooke, who died shortly after she came home, had NOT been abused in China. She had been well taken care of by an American family running an orphanage in her province. She did however have weakened and malfunctioning immune system - that NO ONE could have known about. She had probably had pneumonia for a long time but her body was not fighting it - no fever, no coughing, no wheezing. She probably had a round of the flu (so did I) but seemed to be getting better after about 24 hours. She was eating, she was playing....and then she was gone. We do have a child, Hope, that was very abused, neglected, and malnourished but she is not from China. She is doing well, but will never recover from the depth of the damage to her little mind, body, and soul.
We absolutely love our life. Don says to me regularly, "We are livin' the dream, baby!" Is it hard? Absolutely! Is it worth it? Absolutely!!!
If you have questions, please leave a comment here and I will do my best to answer it. And PLEASE understand that details and information does get mixed up sometimes in media stories - so please check with me if something you read elsewhere doesn't seem right.
Thank you for all the love and support - as always, may Christ be glorified, not us.
Here is a video "short" that was made by Titus Richards about a year ago about Don and his business - https://vimeo.com/122550467