Single mom Tina Schied discusses the joys of parenting teenage sons and of following her dream to grow her family through adoption.
When Tina told her friends and acquaintances she was planning to adopt a child — a 7-year-old boy — from the Philippines, they echoed a few of the cautions already swirling in her head.
“Are you sure you want to do this … alone?”
“Are you crazy?”
Tina already had three biological children, the youngest of whom was a sophomore in high school and the oldest nearly 22. And, while she had a great job as a nurse with fabulous benefits, as a single woman, maybe parenting an older boy — and affording the cost of his adoption — would be too much to do on her own?
Tina knew that she was passionate about adoption, ever since her family adopted her brothers from Korea in the 70s and 80s. And, Tina says, she didn’t think that being a single mom should stand in the way of something she really wanted to do.
Tina fell in love with her son Kalwin, now a confident, charming 15-year-old, without even knowing what country he was from.
Kalwin’s story was featured in an email from RainbowKids, an advocacy group for children with special needs who are waiting for adoptive families.
“You read a lot of profiles of kids — 20 a day — and some you just delete, some you read,” Tina says. “I happened to open one email about a little boy. I didn’t even know where he was from. He was 7. He wanted a mom and dad. He wanted a bike. He liked spaghetti and hot dogs.”
After viewing Kalwin’s file, Tina woke up in the middle of the night with a confident, definitive voice in her head telling her to go for it. Tina’s older children were ecstatic and gave their support.
Kalwin was 9 when Tina traveled to Lubao Pampanga, Philippines to bring him
home. Tina worried about how she and her new son would bond, whether he would miss his caregivers and how he would respond to being adopted. But her concerns quickly disappeared.
“With Kalwin, he had no fear at all,” Tina says. “He took me by the hand, got in the van and there was no looking back.”
The day Tina picked up Kalwin, another little boy named John Lloyd who lived with Kalwin —and about 12 other children in “Cottage 7” — pulled at Tina’s heart.
“He just looked sad,” Tina says. “I saw Kalwin walk over to him and put his arm around him and I took a picture.”
Tina and Kalwin traveled home to Washington, where they wasted no time bonding as a family.
“It was like he always belonged with us,” Tina says. “It was like he had always been here. He just fit.”
But the image of John Lloyd stuck in her mind and she couldn’t shake it.
“I called Holt and I told them about John Lloyd — where he was living, his name, what he looked like,” Tina says. “They sent me a picture to confirm. By then he was almost 12 years old. He had grown up. But it was him. And Holt told me, yes, he’s available for adoption. He had only been cleared six months before, and no one had inquired about adopting him.”
In March 2016, he finally joined his permanent, loving family — and reunited with Kalwin, now his older brother.
Six months after welcoming John Lloyd home, Tina is helping both of her sons ease into their life together. Tina says her three oldest children love John the same way they love Kalwin and the same way they love each other — with open acceptance, excitement, patience and a little sibling rivalry. There are language barriers, school hurdles and normal parent worries. To enroll at his new public school, John Lloyd will ultimately skip a full grade, moving from 6th grade in the Philippines to 8th grade in the U.S., based on his age. But Boise public schools offer strong education programs that will help John Lloyd catch up.
“We are doing good,” Tina says. “You just worry, like any new parent does. John and Kalwin are opposites, which is fine. Just lately, they’ve been interacting, talking about girls and they are both opening up.”
As a single mother, Tina says that financing her adoptions was not without its challenges. But, both times, she took a leap of faith and the finances came together through savings, refinancing her home and taking advantage of workplace benefits.
Today, she is focused on embracing each of her children’s unique traits and setting aside any expectations to ensure both her boys feel comfortable in their own skin and know they don’t have to conform to anything except being themselves and exploring their interests.
“Right now with John, I just get a kick out of him,” Tina says. “We were in downtown Boise and there was some body-building thing happening at one of the hotels and it was free. So we walked in and we got free T-shirts. He loves that T-shirt. It was like he won the lottery.”
Tina says that because she adopted her sons as older children, they constantly remind her how different life is in the U.S.
“Both the boys love the grocery store,” Tina says. “You think of their situation in the orphanage — they would go to the table and the food was there. I question whether either of those boys had ever seen a grocery story. It’s very intriguing to them. Things that we don’t think twice about, they enjoy.”
Tina says she sometimes wonders if her children want a father in the home. When she adopted Kalwin, she says he told her that he really wanted a mom and a dad.
“When I got Kalwin home, he asked ‘no dad?’” Tina says. “And I remembered that recently and asked him about it. I asked if he was disappointed that he didn’t have a dad. I asked him if I should go date. He was so funny — he got this really confused look. He said, ‘no, no dad!’ So I guess that just goes to show that what children need more than two parents is a family. All five of my children have that.”
Billie Loewen • Creative Lead
Holt has four country programs open to single parents! Learn more at holtinternational.org/eligibility.