Adoptees from different countries describe what the adoption process was like for them, and what life was like during their first few weeks in the United States.
Haitian adoptee Martine Moore came home to her family at age 10. Now 18, Martine shares her perspective on the adoption process.
It was very exciting to hear that a family was coming for me. I had seen other families come for my friends, and I saw how happy they were, and how excited their parents were. So when the director told me I was going to get adopted, everyone was happy for me, and so was I. We were happy that we got to come to America.
I had an idea about how life would be in the United States, an idea that we all had dreamed about: we would have lots of pretty clothes, lots of toys to play with, TV to watch, our own room, and we would get to go shopping.
We would get to do things that we did not get to do in the orphanage. While I waited, I still went to school and church and continued to live like we live in the orphanage.
I felt very sad that I was going to leave. It was worst leaving my friends, knowing that I wouldn’t ever be able to see them again. I had lived with them for as long as I could remember; they were a family to me and leaving them was a bittersweet moment. When it was the actual day to leave, it was a scary, happy moment. I remembered saying goodbye to my housemothers and to the cook and to my friends, hugging each one of them and getting their cell phone numbers so I could call them once I got to America. They were saying, ‘Do not forget me, Martine,’ and I never did forget them.
Seeing my family for the first time was very cool. I realized that I was going to spend the rest of my life with them. They were very kind, but I was also very scared and shy. I do not remember saying anything to them.
When I got to my new house, I remembered sharing a room with my sister and what the room looked like. I remember what it was like at the dinner table, everyone was talking except me. I did not understand what they were saying and it was frustrating. When we went to church, a lot of people came to meet me and started giving me hugs and I didn’t know them. They were trying to speak to me and, of course, I did not understand them, so I would hide.
For the children still waiting for families, I would say: be patient and pray, because God is going to put you in a wonderful family — a family who is going to love you. And learn a little bit of English first, so you are not totally lost, like I was.
Zack Gremillion spent 13 years in an orphanage in China before coming home to his family in Texas. Here, Zack’s mom, Whitney, interviews her son about his adoption experience.
Whitney Gremillion: Zack, how did you feel knowing that you had been matched with us and you’d be going home to a family?
Zack Gremillion: Excited, and happy. And I knew I had a good family. I was crying.
WG: What were you told your life would be like in the United States?
ZG: My life would be great. I would live in a beautiful city with nice people. I thought I would have little brothers and sisters, and I would love them. I thought Texas would be cold and that it would have snow. I thought I would have a TV and video games in my room. School would be like my school in China, and we would not change classes. I thought I would eat steak all the time and that it would taste good!
WG: How did you prepare to come home to us?
ZG: I tried really hard to learn English. I told my nanny that I really wanted to make gifts for my family and she helped me. I began to feel nervous because I didn’t have enough clothes to wear. My nanny told me that my parents would buy me clothes. I told my friends goodbye and gave them hugs, and I told them I loved them. I cried, because I was leaving my friends. But I was happy that I had a new family.
WG: Zack, how did you feel knowing you would soon have to say goodbye to your friends and caregivers?
ZG: I felt a little bit sad to say goodbye to my friends. I told them that I would see them in the United States someday. I told my nannies goodbye and that I would see them again when I grew up. When I had to say goodbye, I was sad, because the orphanage had taken care of me for 13 years. I loved many of these kids for 13 years. Many of my friends were sad because I was leaving.
WG: What was it like seeing your dad and me for the first time?
ZG: I was a little bit nervous and happy. You were really tall! I knew you loved me a lot, because you wouldn’t stop crying. Daddy was smiling a lot. You hugged me. I felt like you were happy to meet me. I gave you presents I made for you. I showed you my photo albums and some art that I had made. I asked where my mae mae (little sister) was. I thought you would give me an iPad. I told you that I wanted to eat steak.
WG: We spent some time in China together. Do you remember what we did and where we went?
ZG: We went outside to see a zoo and the beautiful city of Wuhan. We went to a museum, and I was excited because I’d been there before with my orphanage. I got sick a lot on the bus and in the taxi, because I hadn’t been in cars much. I kissed you on the cheek all the time, because I loved you so much.
WG: What was it like to fly on a plane and go somewhere you had never been before?
ZG: I was scared at first. I was so high! It was beautiful to fly at nighttime. I was ready to get off the plane, but I was nervous to see America.
WG: What was it like to be in your new home?
ZG: At first, I was scared of the dogs, because I had never been around dogs before. And cats. And in the morning when I woke up, I was so hungry. Then Mom told me I could eat whenever I wanted to here. I had my own room. I got a little lost in the house. My little brother and sister jumped on the trampoline, but I was too nervous at first. Mom told me that I didn’t have to do my own laundry anymore. Daddy helped me pick clothes.
WG: If you could give some advice to children waiting to meet their families, what would it be?
ZG: I would tell them that I came from China, too, and that I can speak to them in Chinese if they are scared or nervous. I would tell them that America is beautiful and there are lots of toys here. You can’t understand your family at first, and that is hard. Keep working, and you will learn English quickly. I would tell them not to cry and be sad waiting.
Wowie Ketner was adopted from the Philippines in 2013 at the age of 13.
Holt International: What was it like to hear that a family was coming for you?
Wowie Ketner: It was enjoyable, amazing and great because I was going to get to see my new mom and dad in person.
HI: How did you feel when you had to leave your friends?
WK: It was a powerful moment when I had to say goodbye to all the brothers I had known from 5 to 12 years old. They had been my family, like a brotherhood.
HI: What was it like seeing your parents for the first time?
WK: It felt awesome to finally have my own parents and brother and sisters of my own. I was happy to see what they looked like. I said thank you to God and ‘great to see you’ to my family.
HI: Did you spend time with your family in the Philippines before you left for the United States? What did you do?
WK: Yes! We went to Star City Amusement Park, the mall several times, Manila Ocean Park and several places to eat!
HI: What was it like to fly on a plane and go somewhere you had never been before? Does a memory of your travels to the U.S specifically stand out to you?
WK: It was scary. I was nervous and wondered how the plane could fly in the sky with no help. I wondered what would happen if the plane broke down or something. I remember being overwhelmed by seeing so many people in one place.
HI: What advice would you give to other children waiting for their families?
WK: Don’t lose hope. Keep trying no matter how hard it is.