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How did you connect with CCAI?
I really wanted to work for the adoption agency that I was adopted through, but when I started doing research, I found out they had gone out of business. I was really upset, so I asked my adopted friend’s mom what I should do. She told me CCAI was a really good agency. I wrote a letter to their Director of Adoptions, who is a certified social worker. I felt a connection to her because that’s what I’m going to school for. I told her my story and asked if CCAI offered any internships. She wrote me back and told me that I had the job.
What is your story?
I was abandoned as a baby and raised in a foster home. Where I’m from, and in the more rural parts of China, I personally think that a lot of foster parents just foster for the money and don’t really care about the kids. I was abused. When I was 11, I went to live in the orphanage and was so happy. I made friends there and began to get comfortable. It was the most stable environment I had known, especially because so few adoptions of older kids like me were going through. In attempt to find more of us homes, the orphanage took my peers and I to a CCCWA (the government agency that oversees adoption in China) camp for older kids. They invited American social workers to come get pictures and video to share with prospective parents. Each child prepared a song or poem to perform and it was recorded. As I was up on stage, I began to cry in the middle of my performance. The pressure was so great because I knew my only shot at finding a family very well might depend on my performance and I feared that no one would want me. A few months after I turned 13, I started to panic because I knew I was going to age out if they couldn’t find a family for me soon. I was worried, so I wrote another letter. This time I wrote to someone at the CCCWA. I told her to hurry up and find me a family and begged her to do it soon. I also told her that China held no future for me at all. She wrote back and told me she would try, but offered no guarantees. I am so thankful for the reality that I wasn’t aware of at that time; that there were people out there who wanted me. My parents saw the video of that performance and said God spoke to them and told them that I was meant to be theirs. They filed their paperwork as soon as possible and the orphanage told me that I was going to be adopted.
Were you excited?
Yes and no. I knew that this would be my only chance at having a decent life and felt like I should be grateful because my wish for a family finally came true, but I had a lot of anxiety about leaving the orphanage I’d been in for the past two years, especially because all my friends were there. That really was my happiest place from my childhood.
How was the transition to the States?
HARD. My parents were nice, but all I knew how to say in English when I was first adopted was yes and no and a heavily-accented thank you. I didn’t know how to communicate my emotions and needs and honestly, I didn’t even know how to express myself in Chinese either. I became really rebellious, which was my childhood go-to coping mechanism. My parents were patient with me, even though it was frustrating on both of our ends not knowing how to communicate. We had a lot of arguments and attachment issues, but we survived after years of struggling. I thank God every day for their commitment to provide; I would never be where I am today without them. I now look back and think I made things really difficult for them, but I’m so thankful they were understanding and loved me anyway.
Did you go to public school?
Yes, and that was really difficult. They didn’t even have an ESL (English Second Language) assistant there when I first started so I just sat in classes and didn’t have a clue what was going on around me.
When did it start to click?
The second half of my sophomore year. I finally began to understand entire conversations and that’s when I really started trying in school. I started making friends and things got better from there.
Where do you go to school now?
I’m a junior at the University of Missouri.
What was most rewarding about your internship with CCAI?
Helping other kids who are in the same boat that I once was in. I was able to speak with many older children that were either adopted recently or in the hosting program this summer. Their families didn’t know how to help them and called our Post Adoption department and I was able to speak Chinese to the kids and share my story and hear theirs. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking, but it was so rewarding. For the hosting kids, a lot of times they just listened, but their parents said it really helped. For the recent adoptees, it was my privilege to be able to hear their stories and share my stories with them—to let them know this is a long adjusting process and that they are never alone in this.
What are your career goals?
I want to work for an adoption agency–hopefully CCAI–and be a social work mediator between the US and China.