It’s National Adoption Month!!

Travis Clark joined his family at 7, Tyler at 3. Both have limb differences that they’ve learned to overcome with the help of their older brother, Travis.

It’s November and you know what that means… It’s officially National Adoption Month!!

At Holt, it may seem like every month is adoption month. Advocating for kids is what we do every day of the year! But what makes this month special is your involvement. You — Holt’s friends, families and supporters — take our message out into your communities. You explain why there’s still a strong and urgent need for families to adopt children. You dispel the myths. You change hearts and minds. You stand alongside us in advocating for children who need families.

And you know what? It works!

Throughout November, we will share photos of children who found families because we posted their stories on the Holt blog — and YOU took their stories viral on Facebook and Twitter!

This year, team up with us again to find families for the children we plan to feature throughout the month. These are children who need extra help — children who are older or have special needs.

And this year, all of them are boys.

Don’t misunderstand us. We LOVE girls, and many girls are also waiting for families. But do you know that over 80 percent of adoptive families request a girl?

EIGHTY PERCENT!!

It’s hard to explain or understand. But what it means is that a disproportionate number of boys wait longer to come home to a family.

And right now, we have far more children available for adoption than we have families to adopt them… especially boys from China and Korea!

So this National Adoption Month, please join our campaign to advocate for the wonderful, adorable and completely loveable boys we plan to feature on Holt’s blog and social media pages!  Also watch for educational posts to dispel myths and answer questions, as well as great stories from veteran adoptive families.

On that note, today we kick off National Adoption Month with a story from the Clark family. The Clarks have adopted seven children from China, including four boys — three of them older at the time they came home. They are a truly inspiring family, and they have some wise advice to share with anyone considering an older child adoption…

 

Travis, Tyler and Talbot Clark at the beach in Florida. Their 8-year-old brother Tate  just arrived home from China.

 

When we were first married, we decided we wanted to have two children. My husband, Tom, is in China as I write this. He will soon bring home our tenth child! Life has a funny way of turning out differently than we had planned.

We have four sons and three daughters born in China and three daughters born biologically. We love, we laugh, we hurt and we grow in the process. We are different and we are similar. We are a family.

We have two 13-year-old boys who remind us of Felix and Oscar from “The Odd Couple.” One is impulsive, active, absolutely adorable and very friendly. One is meticulous, academic, conscientious, diligent and thoughtful. Our 20-year-old son is sentimental, studious, friendly, helpful and loved by just about everyone he meets.  Our daughters are beautiful, sweet, caring and loving. Some are introverts and some are extroverts. Some are serious and some are silly. All are amazingly wonderful human beings whom we are blessed to parent.

Tyler, our first adopted child, came home as a baby. Then came Alyssa, who was 4, but because she has Down syndrome she was developmentally younger. Travis was our first experience with an “older child.”

In 2003, we had received a letter from Holt urgently requesting families for children from China. After prayerful consideration, we began collecting our documents and moved forward. With our dossier in China, we waited for a “match” with a perfectly healthy baby girl. I picked out a pink crib from Pottery Barn and anticipated rocking a sweet little girl in my arms.

One day, Tyler asked me, “Mom, aren’t there any boys in China? I already have four sisters.”  I said, “God is able to do miracles and give you a brother, but apart from that, you will probably be getting another sister.”

Tom and Mary Ellen Clark with their children, from youngest to oldest: Amelia, Annie, Travis, Talbot, Tyler, Alyssa, Abbey and Amy (not pictured). Their fourth son Tate just arrived home from China!

Not long afterward, we received a China Moon newsletter — a publication produced by Holt’s China program. On the front page was a 3-year-old boy who was missing his right hand — very similar to Tyler, who was born without a right forearm. Tyler constantly amazed us with how he adapted, and since he was learning how to deal with this challenge, we thought he could help a little brother learn how to function without an arm, too. I knew the boy in China Moon was the child God had in mind for us. As soon as my husband, Tom, saw him, he knew too. I thought I wanted a little baby girl. I am so glad I did not get my way! God had the sweetest little boy for us. I was initially scared to adopt an older child, and even at 3, Travis was considered older because he had likely already developed attachments and grown accustomed to his life in China. But my fears were unfounded. What we would have missed out on if we had passed him by!

Since that time, I have learned there are many boys in China who are waiting for their forever families!

A few years later, we saw our son Talbot on Holt’s waiting child photolisting. He had the most forlorn look on his face. He was 7 years old and did not have a family. He was missing fingers on one hand but was otherwise totally healthy. I could not believe he was 7 and had never been placed in a family. We were drawn to him immediately but were very concerned about his age. We wondered if such an older child would disrupt our home and happy family. Would he be able to adjust and fit in? Would he have behavior problems? Would he be cruel to our other children?  Again, my fears were unfounded. Talbot joined our family in 2008. His adjustment was brief and very smooth. He is a precious, brilliant, kind and thoughtful young man. Our family has been so blessed through his addition!

My husband was perusing the Holt China Waiting Child Photolisting one night about a year ago. I was in bed reading. “You have to get out of bed and come over here,” he said, “look at this little boy — he’s adorable!” I refused for a while but as he read me the bio, I succumbed. Eight-year-old Tate was described as kind, generous, nervous and a sunshine angel…

But eight years in an orphanage. Sigh.

It has not all been easy. I do not want to paint that kind of a picture. Our most difficult adjustment was not, however, with any of our older children. It was with our child who came home at the age of 17 months. He had attachment issues and we were not prepared to deal with them. Our older children have had relatively easy adjustments. I think some of that is due in part to the fact that we were more prepared. It helped us to listen to our children and try to really “hear” what was going on in their hearts. One child has a fear of abandonment that stems from being dropped off at an orphanage one day, with no prior knowledge, after spending six years in a foster home. Any event such as a field trip, a new adoption, a vacation or other unfamiliar situation will trigger fears that he is being abandoned by his family. Even a recent illness triggered these fears. He was worried everyone in the family was going to die and leave him without a family again. Knowing this is going on in your child’s heart will help you to offer the reassurance and comfort he needs. Large doses of listening skills, understanding and compassion will go a long way!

Tate is the newest addition to the Clark family. Here he is his with his dad, Tom, in China. They just arrived home.

Past traumas influence present circumstances. The more knowledge you can acquire about attachment and grief issues for children who have experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment and/or trauma in early development, the better off you and your child will be. Every resource that gives insight is like a tool in your tool belt. It is much easier to build a house with lots of different tools than to try construction using only a hammer.  Recently, we have greatly benefited from DVDs developed by the TCU Institute of Child Development with Dr. Karyn Purvis. The DVD on trust-based parenting was very helpful. It gave practical instruction on how to help form attachments and it served as a reminder that traditional parenting often does not work for children from “hard places.” We found it extremely helpful in teaching us ways to bond, methods to use during conflict, and how to teach our children to “calm themselves by themselves.”

Between Tyler, Talbot and Tate, we also welcomed two girls into our family – 3-year-old Annie and 4-year-old Amelia. Both girls danced their way into our hearts. With Annie, I wrestled with adopting a little girl who did not have either hand. I wasn’t sure if I could give her the care she would need. But she has continued to amaze us and inspire us with her determination and gifts. What a blessing both girls are to our family.

It has been awesome to see how adoption in our family has influenced our biological children. Our oldest daughter is married and has adopted two children. Our second oldest daughter is counting down the days until she meets the age criteria for adopting from China. She is currently in China with my husband and has gone on the last three adoption trips to help. They have grown into compassionate, loving, caring adults who are determined to build their own families through adoption. I have sometimes felt they were forced to sacrifice time with us because our time is so divided. However, when I look at who they are today, I know the trade-off has been for qualities like selflessness and compassion. I believe they are better people because they have experienced first-hand what it means to make a difference in the lives of others through personal commitment, selflessness and love.

Today, my husband is in Beijing, bringing 8-year-old Tate home to his forever family. We have been FaceTime-ing with the iPads and he is precious! Tom gushes about his “amazing” personality. He is a laugher, a cuddler and has already won over his family via our FaceTime conversations. We can’t wait to meet him in person.

Mary Ellen Clark | White Oak, Pennsylvania

To learn more about how you can help advocate for children this National Adoption Month, click here!

Interested in adopting from China? Click here!

 Or visit Holt’s China photolisting to read about children waiting for families!

 

 

 

 

 

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