Here at CCAI we have a little tradition—when each staffer hits an anniversary milestone, he/she shares their “CCAI story” with the rest of the group, and/or what makes us feel proud to be part of the CCAI family.
Well, I recently had a turn at the front of the room, as in early May I celebrated my tenth year here at CCAI.
As I reflected on the past several years in preparation for my annual address, I realized that there isn’t a single story that can adequately summarize my time here at CCAI, or express my joy and gratitude to the families that have allowed me to walk with them in their adoption journey. Instead I realized that my story is made up of their stories, and together, they form our story . . .
To date, one of my most memorable moments at CCAI occurred on June 15, 2004, when I was able to make my first match call! Jerry and Kimberley of Tennessee were the lucky recipients of my call that ended with the first viewing of their daughter’s beautiful face, an image I still can recall by memory today:
I remember they were THRILLED to finally be able to see their angel’s face, and were so happy to do so—almost a year earlier than they had expected! They waited 6 months from LID until match day. Like all parents who finally get to see the face of their little one, they couldn’t wait to get on the plane to bring her home!
Today, I’m happy to say that Savannah (now ten years old) is doing well, and as energetic and busy as her initial referral paperwork indicated (yes, I still remember!). She’s been onstage in several productions (quite the thespian!), plays harp, has a pet sitting business, and enjoys swimming, bowling, hiking, climbing trees, and rock climbing. She wants to be an ornithologist when she grows up, and so is learning all about birds as well. Here is the latest photo of her (isn’t she beautiful?!):
Another favorite story of mine is from TJ and Renie of Texas, who I worked with to put their dossier together. (They were quick and had it done in about 4 months!) On June 27, 2005, I got to call them and introduce them to their daughter, whom they’d eventually name Kacie:
I followed their story even after our call, and celebrated with them (from afar) on Gotcha Day. And every year since then, on the anniversary of that special date, I am delighted to receive a note from the family with a photo (or two!) and update of “our” little girl (who arguably, is not so little any more!):
In the fall of 2005, I worked with Chris and Carla (here in CO) through a somewhat difficult dossier process. (In fact, my infamous “dossier train” analogy to explain the sealing process was born during this time!) The family stayed in touch even after their dossier was done, and visited our office often during their three year, one month wait for a referral, attempting to stay connected and hopeful. I still remember when Carla emailed me in spring of 2009, excited that for the first time ever, she could see more than her daughter’s back in her dreams—seeing her face was, in her mind, a definite indication her referral was soon on its way! And sure enough, a little over one month later, I got to present the file of this little angel to them:
Ciara is now a (kindergarten) graduate! She loves to play with her older siblings but also doesn’t mind taking charge of things at home as well. She is an “old” soul, who responds to life with wisdom beyond her years!
One of the biggest benefits of working in the Dossier Department is having the opportunity to work with families adopting from countries other than China as well. I have LOTS of memories from working with families adopting from Haiti, however one of my favorite families began the process in the summer of 2009. They were matched to twin boys from one of our partner créches and I was lucky enough to travel with them on a bonding trip that fall. After the earthquake hit in January 2010, they were able to bring home not only the twins, but a young girl who had also captured their hearts during their previous trip.
Now, Joshua, Joseph, and Hope are all thriving at home, and make up half of the family’s six children, including two biological kiddos and one adopted from China. Jake offered the following update on the kids:
“Josh is reading on his own and is always thinking. He’s the kid who is emptying dishwasher and sweeping the floor before most everyone else is awake (partly because he knows he can’t play video games until chores are done!). But he takes initiative and works to reach the goals he sets for himself.
Joe has been one of the leaders of his class this year. Along with Josh you can’t put any sort of ball within 10 feet of them before they have it and are kicking/tossing/rolling/bouncing it. He has a great sense of humor. He’s also always thinking and is usually planning two steps ahead. His current way to demonstrate this is to get really good at making his older brothers and sisters really frustrated. So, he’s either going to become a really fast runner (to avoid getting pummeled) or he’s going to learn to put these skills to good use by entertaining and making friends of his enemies!
Hope’s teacher this year said that in her 8 years of teaching Hope was one of her favorite students of all. She has really overcome some fairly big hurdles. Last year she truly hated going to school, partly out of frustration with math. Her end of the year math score this past year was 90%. She’s looking forward to being a 5th grader next year and one of the kids ‘in charge.’”
Matt and Jenny started the process for a non-special needs child in late 2010, and got their dossier sent off to China in early 2011. We had a very difficult time securing a home study with the broad approval language CCAI requests, as the family’s home study agency warned them we were simply wanting the broad language so as to “brainwash” them into accepting a child with special needs down the road. We laugh about this now, because as certain as they were about adopting a non-special needs child from China, the broad language provided them flexibility and in late summer 2011 Matt and Jenny fell in love with a boy with malformed feet/hands on our website, and knew that he was meant to be theirs! They immediately submitted a dossier copy to China (leaving their original dossier in line in the traditional program) and brought sweet Benjamin home in early 2012!
Here he is now, 3 ½ years old and over three feet tall. His dad recently noted, “Benjamin has grown since we met in Zhengzhou. He’s grown from the sick little boy so obviously full of fear with night terrors to match, to a wonderfully happy ‘big boy’ at ‘free’ years old speaking incredibly well, and shrieking like a wild child in delight when he sees mommy or daddy pick him up from preschool. Ben is simply awesome! He’d tell you smiling is the best thing. Ever.”
I look forward to receiving word of the family’s next referral (will it be a brother or sister for Benjamin?) as the time comes!
These are just a few of the stories that make up the pages of my CCAI story, which continues to lengthen on a daily basis. (We’ve sent over 7693 dossiers since I’ve been here — and with active programs in Haiti, Latvia, and Ukraine, that number continues to grow!) I am forever indebted to ALL the families who have trusted me to walk a portion of their adoption journey with them and allowed me to support them in their all-important paperchase.
I also want to extend a special thank you to all of the families featured here who so generously allowed me to share my history with them to the greater CCAI family. You all are what make my time here at CCAI so special!