BY Sarah Suitter | Asst. Dossier Manager
I love my job; I love our mission and that has been true since my first day at CCAI. But, like any job, the daily grind can sometimes cause one to lose sight of the bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like the daily tasks that my job entails but after going to China, my perspective of what I do here at CCAI everyday has forever changed.
From time to time, CCAI so generously sends staff on adoption trips to observe what an adoption trip is like, to take in the culture, and to see why we are all working so hard. I was so excited when I was told it was my turn to go!
If I could sum the trip up in one word: incredible. I loved all the tours in Beijing, I loved meeting all of CCAI’s amazing China-based representatives, and I loved watching families adjust to their newest family members. Overall, Gotcha Day was what I expected — total, beautiful chaos, kind nannies, brave foster moms, scared tears from upset little faces, happy tears from adoptive parents who have been waiting for this day for so long… But, what I found to be the most impactful part of my time in China was the days to come after Gotcha Day. To watch families over the next week and half of the trip — to see the triumphs, the struggles, the good days, the bad days — made me feel so connected to this whole incredible process. This is life and this is real and this is love.
I saw this love expressed day in and day out on all sides, but I saw it most intensely expressed by the moms and dads on the trip. It was so powerful to observe parents being, well, parents. Again, more struggles, more triumphs. I saw parents wrestle with how/when to discipline. Do they wait to discipline their child until she understands them and trusts them? Do they start parenting full force, discipline and all, right now? I had (and continue to have) no idea!! I’m sure there are many schools of thought on this. I knew it before, but these families and their hearts made me realize even more so, just how hard adoption really is in so many ways. You don’t know your child’s history — how they were parented (if they were fortunate enough to have a solid parental figure), how they were taken care of day-to-day, what their happiest memory is, what their saddest memory is, why they have certain scars, why they do the things they do, etc. I cannot imagine what those first few weeks of parenting are like, or for that matter what the next 20 years of parenting is like. I’m so glad there are parents who want to rise to the challenge and I admire them endlessly.
What I didn’t expect on this trip was to think about dossiers, but I did! About halfway through the trip, I felt so anxious, thinking, “I should be reviewing dossiers RIGHT NOW! I need to get our families to China IMMEDIATELY!” I knew my teammates back home had everything under control; but if I was back at work, that would mean one extra person there to get things done! I couldn’t shake this sudden sense of urgency, a stronger urgency than I had ever felt before! Of course, I’ve always known it’s important to get our work done as soon as possible, that there is a little life at the end of all of this paperwork, but something about actually being in China, seeing our families in person, seeing the children in person… It changed me and made me see just how important these daily tasks that I do, are and how much patience/love/respect our families deserve in this crazy process!
I had a short but special time with the families I traveled with and got a tiny window into what adopting from China really looks like, something for which I am so grateful! Now I am back at work with a renewed sense of purpose and energy (and with that same sense of urgency I felt on the trip!). I will also never again say, “Your dossier is done! You’ve finished the majority of the paperwork for your adoption process!” since, truthfully, I see now that the ENTIRE adoption process is paperwork (and it continues on your adoption trip and beyond)!
I’m not Wonder Woman and balancing everything that needs to get done in a day still isn’t easy but I can guarantee this … That I will show up every day, completing as much has humanly possible as quickly as possible. I will do my best to keep in mind that despite the monotony the dossier process can sometimes bring (for probably both myself and parents alike!) on the other end of a phone call or email is an AMAZING human being who is courageous and loving and wants nothing more than to bring a child home.