Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Latest Update On Where We Are In The Process

"So, where are you guys in this adoption now?"

This is a question we get frequently, so I'll give you, loyal readers, the scoop.

Our dossier is currently being translated into Ukrainian.

We're still waiting for our I-600A to be assigned and reviewed.  Nothing moves like the government.

Still going through our stuff to find items for the yard sale.  We have been blessed to have others who have donated items for the yard sale, which is on Saturday, September 15th for anyone interested.  Come by.  Come buy.  And support a great cause.  All of the money we raise goes towards the adoption.

In regards to Indiegogo, we have only 57 days left to raise the money on that site.  We have $250 of the $1,500 goal set for that site.  To contribute, go to:

For those who have donated either through that site or this one, we are very much like Wilbur in Charlotte's Web: one humble pig.  Okay, well, maybe just the humble part.

I have currently begun working on the Lifebook.  Anyone who's created one of their own, please feel free to send me suggestions on what you did for yours.

Also, we would welcome any suggestions from people who've adopted internationally to know what small gifts you took to the orphanage?

Thank you to all those who are following us throughout this amazing, emotional roller-coaster of a journey.  Your love, prayers, and encouragement have meant a lot to our family.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Scripture Verse About Prayer

"Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

- Philippians 4:6-7

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

We're Thankful

Our family would like to thank Don and Lila Burns for their extremely kind and generous contribution to our adoption fund.  Thank you for the encouragement and support.

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School

Today was the first day of seventh grade for my son.

Unlike me when I was a kid, Benjamin slept soundly last night.  Growing up, the night before the first day of school for me was a sleepless one as I was too nervous to sleep.  Waking him up for school was difficult, not that I wanted to get up either, as I'm not at all a morning person.

Once he was up, had his breakfast, and was dressed and ready for school, it was time for the yearly first day of school tradition: the photo.  Every year I have taken a first day of school photo because I love to look back at how much he's changed over the years.  As Benjamin's gotten older, the willingness to have this photo taken has diminished and this year was no different.  But he agreed to do it for his Mom.  As the willingness has gone, so has the smile.  I have to work to get him to smile for the camera.  Then as I'm trying to get a good picture, I get, "Papa" in a tone that means, "Hurry up, I didn't even want to take this stupid photo."  I took several photos in the hopes that even one would be something other than a sulk.  He was relieved when I told him, "Okay, we're done."

The car ride to school we listened to 98.3 FM His Radio with Rob & Leslie, just like we do every morning.  And we talked.  This is one of my favorite parts of the day, our conversations going to school (as well as the ones we have coming from school).

Since it was the first day of school, the line to drop off kids was huge.  As we're waiting in the long line, Benjamin looks over at me and asks, "Aren't you gonna' pray for me?"

I beamed.  This has been one of our other traditions: me praying for him each day in the car before he gets out to go into the school building.  "Of course I will," I replied.  And we prayed.  I prayed that he would find favor with his new teachers and with other students, that he would be full of wisdom, and that he would be a light to others in all that he says and does during the course of his school day.

"Thanks, Papa," he said after we'd finished and he opened his car door to get out.

"Love you, buddy," I told him.

"Love you," he smiled as he closed the door.

Watching him go into the school, I couldn't help but think of Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way  he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Yesterday, at church, he went up front at the end of the service to tell our pastor that he wanted to be baptized to profess his faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Today he remembers to remind me to pray with him before he goes into the school.

In a world where so many investments only lead to failure (just look at Wall Street), I'm glad that one of the most important investments I'm making is in my son.  There is nothing greater I can teach him than to be a godly man who worships God with all his heart, soul, and mind.  I pray that when he's a Papa, he, too, will pray with his children before they go off to school.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Last Days Of Summer

It's hard to believe summer is coming to an end and a new school year is about to begin.

I love this smile of pure happiness on his face.  It's the smile of childhood.

Growing up, I remember how when we were kids we would play in the sprinklers or ride our bikes to the neighborhood pool.  Since we weren't given money, my friends and I would scrounge around the playground or around the chain-link fence around the pool for lost change so we could buy something at the snack shack.  They had this one cheap candy we'd buy that the boys would call bullets and the girls would call lipsticks.  If we found enough change, we might buy chips or popsicles.

In the pool we would see who could hold their breath the longest at the bottom, Marco Polo, or who could do the silliest dive off the high dive.

I remember riding my bike with my best friend, Steven, to go see the little red haired girl I had a crush on (How Charlie Brown is that?).  She would never come out of her house, but her blonde younger sister would.  My friend Steven liked her, but she liked me, and I liked her sister.  What a triangle of young love!

If it was nice outside, we weren't allowed inside the house.  So we drank luke warm water from the hose, played in the woods behind our house, made up our own games, and basically stayed outside until it began to get dark.  Some nights we came back outside to catch fireflies or play hide n' go seek in the dark.  Or we'd watch the bats darting about overhead as they ate insects.    

I remember cookouts and my Dad making his homemade peach ice cream with real summer peaches.

The first kiss I remember happened during the summer.  We were playing war and I got shot in our front yard.  It was a magnificent death scene - worthy of an Oscar.  To really play up my death, I even rolled all the way down to the bottom of the hill.  Very dramatic.  As I lay there dead, with my eyes closed, I felt someone kiss me.  I quickly opened my eyes to see Jennifer, the girl who lived next door, running off.  I can still remember how that kiss tasted of apple juice.

As kids we used to love to lie on the cool grass underneath the weeping willow tree in our neighbor's yard and we would talk about all the things we would do when we grew up.

We got grass stains on our shorts (the boys seldom wore shirts), sweaty from running, as well as the typical childhood bruises and scrapes.  We caught frogs and turtles and even tried to catch wild rabbits who could easily out dart and run us in the tall grass of the woods.

Some older boys we knew built their own raft and went down a local river.  We younger boys were so jealous and full of our own dreams of Tom Sawyer on the Mississippi.  The most we could do was wade in creeks.

Nothing was organized or planned.  Our summers just unfolded before us as it happened.  We were dependent on our own imaginations to keep us busy.  And we loved it.

I also remember the dread I felt on the last night of summer, knowing that in the morning I would be starting a whole new school year.  Even before then, I would begin to feel that sense of doom when the Back-2-School commercials would come on TV.  Benjamin is the same way.  Last month, we were in Target and they already had the Back-2-School supplies out and when he saw this, he exclaimed, "Noooo!  It's not time yet!  We still have one more month!"

Me, being the silly nostalgic person I am, I tend to get a little sad as well.


Because it means another summer has passed and Benjamin is getting older.  He will be a seventh grader now.  It's funny how when you're a kid you think time is going so slow and you'll never get older, but once you do and you have your own kids, you see how time passes so quickly.  It feels like I've blinked and Benjamin's gone from being a baby to being twelve years old.  As Joni Mitchell once sang, "Cartwheels turn to car's wheels."  I cannot stop time moving forward but I can make sure that I'm not there to miss it.

(Gotta' love those swim-trunks I was wearing that looked like they'd been made from a picnic tablecloth).

Friday, August 24, 2012

How A Child Has Led To Community

I've never been a joiner.  Because I've never felt like I truly fit in, I've not allowed myself to try.  Instead, I avoided joining in by choosing interests that were solitary by nature: drawing, reading, daydreaming . . .  Growing up, when I was forced to go somewhere socially, I always sneaked a book so that, like Linus with his blanket, I'd have my safety net.  I felt far more comfortable in my mind and in my own little world than I did in the world around me.  As mentioned in a previous blog, I liked to stay in my routine and in my comfort zone.

It's funny, but when I got married I picked someone who was in, many ways, opposite of myself.  Danelle is more practical and common sense than I am.  Back when we were in college, she spoke up readily when she knew the answer while I would sit silently whether I knew the answer or not.  Go unnoticed and get out of classes was my mantra.  But she noticed me.

After we got married, I had to navigate my solitary nature with being a husband, which was not an easy thing for me.  Then we had a son.  Children require parental involvement in the outside world (such as school and extracurricular activities).  I found myself chaperoning field trips, helping out on field days, volunteering in the class to help kids who were behind.

We went to church but that was it: we went, we didn't participate.  I knew I should, but I didn't because I thought I'd be like Yukon Cornelius, Rudolph, and Hermey the elf when they went to King Moonracer on the island of misfit toys and were told they couldn't stay.  "Even among misfits we're misfits," Yukon remarks.  But that's exactly who Jesus called to him: the outcasts, the misfits, those on the fringe who were forgotten or overlooked by society.

Then Danelle and I felt the call to adopt a child.  And not only adopt but to adopt an older child from another country.  Jesus was clearly calling us out of our comfort zones.  As we decided to follow God's call in this area of our lives, we both realized we had isolated ourselves and had ignored Him in other areas.  Danelle and I knew that Christ was not only calling us to leave the comfort of our tiny, heavily protected world to venture forward in adoption but that we were to move beyond ourselves to become a real part of the body of Christ.

Through our son, whose best friend at school also went to our church, we met J.D.'s parents, Jack and Yulia (who have been strong champions for our adoption). They invited us to their growth group / Sunday school class.  Despite being someone who would prefer going to church anti-socials (where either no one shows up or else everyone stands around feeling awkward), I went to the socials they had as well as the dinner and dialogues.  We also became involved in a great group for adoption and foster care.  Both have been an encouragement to us not only during this process of adoption but in our spiritual journey as well, helping us to grow in Christ.   Danelle and I are learning about how we are to "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galations 6:2).

Outside of the church, it has amazed us how many people have become a part of this adoption.  I never would've thought that our blog would have had over 4,000 hits and been read in over 60 countries in just four short months.

We have also seen amazing support from friends, co-workers, and family.  

All of you cannot know how much your encouragement, kind words, and prayers mean to us.  To paraphrase from Charles Spurgeon: all of you have carved your names on our hearts.

Thank you.

As this journey continues, we realize that God will continue to call us out of ourselves, our comfort zones, and our tiny little world into one that is much bigger and greater for His glory.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

One Of The Sweetest Videos I've Ever Seen

Get out your tissues . . .

Benjamin and I heard about this video listening to 98.3 FM with Rob & Leslie.  When I first watched the video, I lost it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Things I'd Like To Introduce My Sibling To

Today we have a guest blogger, our son Benjamin.

When thinking about having a new sibling, I get very excited.  There are so many things and places I want to show him or her.  One of the first places I really want to take my new sibling to is Myrtle Beach to see my Granddad Bob.  I love him very much and I know my sibling will, too.  I also think it will be exciting because my new sibling may not have ever seen the ocean before or swam in it.  I can teach my sibling how to boogie board in the waves.  We can also swim in the pool near Granddad Bob's house.

Another place I'd like to take my new sibling to is the Japanese restaurant Fuji.  Whenever I think about eating there, I think about how we go there with my Aunt Kristen, Uncle Amir, and my cousins.  We always have a fun time together.  And I like watching the chef put on a show preparing the food, especially the onion volcano.

Somewhere else I'd like to take my new sibling to is Radio Shack.  I love going there to see all of the cool things they have that I could make some new invention with.  I also like talking to the clerks about technology.

One thing I would like to teach my new sibling is about computers.  I love to work with computers.  I'm trying to learn how to program computers and develop an operating system.  I can also show my sibling fun websites to play on, like Poptropica.  I would even be willing to share my computer with him or her.  Sometimes.

I will love introducing my sibling to Chloe because she is such a good dog.  She is loving and will want to sit in his or her lap.  Chloe will lick them.  I will even let Chloe sleep in their bed some nights.  We can take turns.

I want my new sibling to meet my friends Shane, Abby, and J.D.  I'm sure they'd be friends with my sibling, too.

I would like to teach him or her English and have my sibling teach me Ukrainian.  It would be interesting to learn another language.

It will be so much fun to have a new sibling because there will be so much we can do together.  And I wonder what he or she will be able to introduce me to?

One thing I'd really like to give my new sibling is a hug to show him or her how much I love them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chalk Drawing II

Here is Benjamin's latest chalk drawing on the driveway:

Thank You So Much

Our family is continually humbled by how people have partnered with us to fund this adoption.  Today, we'd like to thank Diana Stolpa for her contribution.  It means so much to our family that you have become a part of this adoption with us.  Thank you for your support, love, and prayers as we undertake this journey.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

I would like to thank Debra & Doug Schneider for their love and support. We thank you so much for your contribution toward our adoption fund & for the beautiful note that came with it.

A Quote From Chesterton

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."  

- G. K. Chesterton

Side note: G. K. Chesterton is one of my favorite Christian apologists.  A must read is his book Orthodoxy.  

When an English newspaper posed the question: What's Wrong With The World Today?

Chesterton wrote in:

Dear Sirs:

I am.

Sincerely yours,

G. K. Chesterton

(He was someone who clearly grasped the teachings of Christ).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Heartfelt Thanks

Once more our family would like to thank Jack & Yulia Helm and their amazing family.  We are extremely grateful for their friendship, their encouragement, and their support.  As it was written in Acts 24:3, "In every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude."  They don't know just how much they have meant to us during this journey we have undertaken and not a night passes that we don't thank God in our family's prayers that he has brought the Helm family into our lives.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Learning About Another Country

It's humbling to know that this blog has been read in sixty countries.  Something we decided as a family to do was to pick one country each night to learn something about that country and pray for them in our nightly prayer time together.  Benjamin was so excited about doing this that I let him choose the first country.  He looked over the list of countries who've visited this blog and came back to me as I was fixing dinner.  "I've picked one," he said.

"Okay, which country did you pick?"


So I told him, "After we eat, we'll go look it up on the computer and learn something about Singapore."

Before we Googled Singapore, we went to our globe and I let Benjamin find Singapore on it.  Then we went online and read about this island country. 

Each night we pick a different country to read about and to pray for.  It brings the world into a different perspective when we, as a family, do this.  Our prayers become focused on something other than ourselves and our own needs.  As 1 Thessalonians 3:12 says, "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else . . ."  It's true. As we've begun to do this, we feel more connected to other places and people.  And we count it a privelege. 


Radical Change

"We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names.  They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.  It is easier to pretend they are not real before you hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes."

- David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Adoption Lifebook

We are getting ready to begin creating an adoption lifebook and was wondering what others have done when they created theirs.  Let us know your tips on how you created yours.

We are wanting to do ours as a kind of photo album and scrapbook of the journey leading up to adopting them (photos of our home, our dog, our immediate family, etcetera) to take and show the child.  After we have found a child, we then want to gather information on them that we can compile (birthday information, information about his or her birth parents, reason for placing the child up for adoption), photo copies of adoption records, cultural facts about the Ukraine, and then begin to compile their life with us.

Please share what you did in creating your lifebooks.  If you'd like to, send us photos and let us know if you'd like them posted on the blog.

What does your adoptive child respond to the most when they look at it?

Share your story with us.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Ukrainian Meal

Since we're taking our son with us when we go to Ukraine, we want him to experience the culture and food of that country while he's there.  Neither my wife nor myself see the point in taking him to a foreign country so that he can only eat the food that he can get here, such as McDonald's.  

One day, he and I went online to look up Ukrainian food.  He was very fascinated by the meat on a stick, which I promised him we would try once we were there.  Benjamin was also glad that they had kielbasa, which is something he already likes.  

So when I was thinking about what I could fix for dinner, I decided we could have our first Ukrainian meal at home as a kind of practice for Benjamin.  Wanting to ease him into trying new food, I decided it was best not to start him off with borscht (He balks at beets despite never having tasted one) and started, instead, with kielbasa or kovbasa as it's called in Ukraine and pierogies or pyrohy.  The ones I made were stuffed with cheese. 

As is standard procedure when I'm making dinner, Benjamin comes in to inspect what we're having so he can pass his judgment, which is typically, "Can I have something else?"  To which I reply, "No, this is not a restaurant, I don't take orders."  Seeing the pierogies, the picky eater frowned and said, "I'll only try one, but if I don't like it . . ."  Already setting himself up to dislike a food he's never tried.

When the time came for us to eat, I told him he had to eat at least one pierogie before he could eat anything else.  He was less than thrilled by this decision but did as he was told.  He took his first bite.

 His reaction?

"Needs spaghetti sauce."

Yeah, this trip will be very interesting.

Still, I got him a small bowl of spaghetti sauce for him to dip his pierogies in.  He ate them, but as he did, I wondered what Ukrainian dish I would fix next.  He's definitely not ready for borscht.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Latest Update

Here's the latest news that's fit to print on where we are in the adoption process:

1). I'm burnt out on reading adoption books; after all, there's only so much reading about attachment disorder one can take.

2). My wife and I had our fingerprints done for the FBI so they can do a national check on us.  I joked with Danelle beforehand, "Is there anything I should know about your past before we get these results back?"

3). We had mailed off our I-600A and are waiting on the I-700H to arrive.  This is the Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition.  This basically states that we were approved to adopt a child from the country we specified (Ukraine) when we completed our I-600A.

Once we have the I-700H and the results of our fingerprints, we send all of the forms we gathered for our dossier to Raleigh, NC to have them apostilled.  For those wondering what apostilled means, it's essentially that they check all of the notaries who've notarized our documents to ensure that they are certified and once they have, they super-notarize all of the forms.  Once all of these apostilled forms come back, the dossier is then sent to Ukrainian government.  Then we wait for them to give us approval and a date to come over there.

4). We have 67 days left on Indiegogo ( and still have quite away to go on reaching our goal.

5). On September 15th we are planning to have our yard sale where all of the money raised will go towards the adoption.  If you're in the area, drop by.

We continue to thank all of you for your prayers and support.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Orphan Sunday - November 4, 2012

As Christians, we are repeatedly called to stand up for the poor, the widows, and the orphans.  This is a global event that churches can participate in.  Isaiah 1:17 tells us to "Defend the cause of the fatherless."

But are we?

One way to help draw attention to the cause of caring for children without families is Orphan Sunday.

Each event is locally-led. Sermons and small groups, concerts and prayer gatherings, shared meals and youth activities—each rousing believers with God’s call to care for the orphan, and what we can do in response.
From many sources, one voice. On November 4th, 2012, thousands of events echo across America and around the globe, all sharing a single goal: that God’s great love for the orphan will find echo in our lives as well.

Orphan Sunday is your opportunity to rouse church, community and friends to God’s call to care for the orphan.


Many churches and organizations have hosted “Orphan Sundays” over the years. With a nationwide Orphan Sunday, the Christian Alliance for Orphans seek to add a unified voice and coordinated effort to the many worthy efforts that preceded this year.

The seeds of this united Orphan Sunday come especially as a gift from the Church in Africa. While attending a church service in Zambia, an American visitor was struck by the pastor’s passionate call to care for orphans in the local community, which had been ravaged by AIDS and poverty. Members of the church faced deep need themselves. But as the service ended, one after another stepped forward with money, food and other goods-some even taking off their own shoes and placing them in the offering for orphans.

The visitor, Gary Schneider, was so impacted that he began to help Zambian leaders coordinate Orphan Sunday efforts across Zambia. These efforts spread to the U.S. in 2003 with help from Every Orphan’s Hope and other organizations. (Orphan Sunday is licensed to the Christian Alliance for Orphans as a registered trademark of Every Orphan’s Hope).

The Christian Alliance for Orphans honors the church in Zambia for the gift of Orphan Sunday. We pray the church all over the world may be as faithful as our Zambian bothers and sisters to reflect God’s heart for the orphan, both near and far.

If interested in participating here's a link to the official website:

There's also a video below that also tells about it.

Adoption Grants

One thing I hate doing is filling out forms and that seems to be what I have to do the most of in this adoption process.  Since we are a family of a limited income, I am currently scowering on-line to research about applying for adoption grants.  With grants, they typically have specific criteria that the applicants have to meet, such as religious affiliation, the country one’s adopting from, and even the age of a child or if the child is a special needs child.  According to adoption websites I’ve visited, they tend to give preference for those adopting older of special needs children. (Note: You are unable to apply for any grant until your home study is completed).

Something that all of the grant applications that I’ve been filling out require is a break down of how much your adoption will cost and how much you’ve raised, as well as some that ask how you plan to pay for the rest.  With us, we have been keeping an Excel spread sheet of our costs thus far as well as one for money we have been raising on our own (through the sell of household items on-line, selling candy at work, selling old coins, selling our crystal, silver, and china, etcetera).  We are also putting on our grants ways we are planning to raise more money: fund raisers, yard sales, global funding web site, and on-line donations.  Other websites said that preference is given to those in the most need and who show they are working hard on their own to raise funds. 

In terms of one's finances, one has to prepare a family monthly budget, summary of one's net worth, pay stubs, and income tax returns for the last couple of years.

Grants often require letters of reference, which we asked, those who were writing our letters of reference for the home study, to make copies of their letters and have those notarized so that we could use them for this very purpose.  I’ve also seen that it’s suggested to send reference letters even to those grants that don’t ask for them.

Talk with your adoption agent about grants that you qualify for, as they have lists of independent foundations that provide funding.

A good place to look for more information on adoption grants is The National Adoption Foundation.  Their website is:

If you were successful in applying for and getting adoption grants, please let us know tips on what you did.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

James 1:27

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

(New Living Translation)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bronze Medalist Reese Hoffa On Being Adopted

This Olympic athlete prides himself on being different. He doesn't tell the usual childhood story that many of us can tell. In a time, when it's not uncommon to hear about troubled foster kids or adoptive parents struggling to parent the new additions to their family, it's refreshing to learn of a kid that not only goes out and does his parents proud, but his whole country proud. Meet Olympic athlete Reese Hoffa: shot putter, brother, husband, adoptee.

Early this spring I was given the opportunity to interview Olympic athlete, Reese Hoffa.


Reese was born Maurice Antawn Chism on October 8, 1977 in Evans, GA to a young, single mom. He and his older brother lived with their mom until a fire destroyed their home. The then 4-year-old Reese and 6-year-old, Lamont had been playing with a cigarette lighter. Reese started the fire that got out of control.
Weeks after the fire that took everything from the struggling family, the teen mom did what was probably her last option. She drove her boys to the St. Thomas-St. Vincent Orphanage in Louisville, Kentucky and said good bye.

Reese, blamed himself for the abandonment. He will have to wait 19 years to learn that it wasn't his fault. A string of events led to birth mom, Diana Chism, to the orphange that day.

The Adoption

Reese and his brother were taken to a farmhouse in a nearby town 18-months after being left at the orphange. The home was owned by Stephen and Cathy Hoffa. They had four other children, three girls and a boy. The couple spent time with the brothers, but in the end were encouraged to adopt only Reese due to Lamont's behavioral problems.

Hoffa on His Adoption Transition

Carrie Craft - "At first you were reluctant to bond with your adoptive family. It was also mentioned that you have a respect for the family but not love."
Reese - "It was very traumatic to go from an orphange for one year and then to an adoptive family. They insisted that I called them mom and dad. It seemed they forced the mom and dad thing instead of letting it grow into a true family."
Reese's name was changed to Michael Reese Hoffa after adoptive mom asked him if he wanted a new name. He chose Michael after his favorite TV show character from Knight Rider. This change didn't impact him, according to Reese, as he was already called "Reese" which is short for Maurice.
Reese noted that he didn't really interact with his new family. A fact that has been discussed in other interviews. According to Reese he just wanted to do whatever it took not to be abandoned again.
Reese - "I saw my adoptive parents not as mom and dad, but as my protectors. They were just people who were taking care of me. It's generic love, I won't ever have that deep, emotional connection to my adoptive parents."
As we chatted for awhile about different adoption issues, Reese shared that he has that love, that deep, emotional connection to his wife, Renata.

Hoffa on Being Separated from his Brother

Carrie Craft - "As a small child, you used to come up with random numbers to call your brother Lamont. You later learned that he was adopted by a birth aunt. Many siblings are separated by adoption today, how would knowing how your brother was doing while growing up or having some sort of contact with him have helped you as a child?"
Reese - "I would have had someone to relate to. I went to a strictly all white environment. I always felt different. Never saw anyone that looked like myself. I just kind of survived."

Hoffa on Transracial Adoptions

Reese - "I'm all for it , as long as the parents have an understanding of what goes through their [child's] mind. My adoptive parents didn't know how to take care of my hair and skin. A kid is a kid."

Hoffa on His Adoption Reunion

Reese located his birth family through an on-line search registry. He was looking for Lamont, but found his birth mother. Email exchanges eventually led to a face-to-face meeting. Reese recalled feeling out of place and uncomfortable standing with his birth mother and Lamont. His brother and birth mother had already met, formed a relationship and started to heal. He was new to the scene.
He has a better relationship with birth mom today. He feels that he is a lot like her, very ambitious.
Carrie Craft - "You, being a small child, connected the events of the fire and blamed yourself for the abandonment. Did meeting your birth mom help you let this burden go?"
Reese - "Yes. Sure it [the fire] didn't help, but it [the relinquishment] wasn't because of that one event. She was very young, 17 with two kids. She needed a fresh start. She needed to restart her life."
Carrie Craft - "I read that you once mentioned that you were an expert at wondering about your birth family, but not ready for finding. How would you suggest adoptees prepare for the finding? Do you have any words of advice?"
Reese - "Take it slow. It was too much at one time."
Carrie Craft - "Was your adoptive mom intimidated by your search and reunion? How did you set her mind at ease?"
Reese - "She was happy about it. They have met and are very nice to each other."

Hoffa on Sports as an Outlet

Carrie Craft - "Did sports help you at all growing up? Did having a passion or a special strength or skill, help you get through the trauma of your past?"
Reese - "Yes. Sports, that was one thing that I do very well. School, I struggled for awhile. Sports, I was just naturally a stand out when I didn't stand out in the classroom."

Hoffa's Message to Foster or Adopted Youth

Carrie Craft - "I read several times that you want your story to help other kids. How would you like your story to help kids out there? What is your message to kids who are searching for or having a difficult time fitting into their new families?"
Reese - "For kids who have problems in their adoptive families, it's a bad situation. Won't be the same as with your regular family. It really will be the best for you. Learn as much as you can, hopefully, if your adoption experience is as positive as mine, it'll be OK and turn out positive. Take all opportunities put in front of you. If you're going to do it, do it with the best of your ability."

Originally on

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Watching "To Kill A Mockingbird" With My Son

One of my all time favorite books and movies is "To Kill A Mockingbird."  Because of the sensitive subject matter involved, I waited to show this film to my son Benjamin until I thought he was mature enough to watch it.

Something I've learned, especially with old movies, is to just start watching it and let him come in and get caught up in the story (this has worked with "The African Queen" and "Great Expectations"), instead of trying to force him to watch.  So, last night, I put in my copy of the movie in our DVD player and just started watching.  Sure enough, he came in the room.  He stood there for a moment, watching and it wasn't long before he came and sat down next to me on the couch.

Of course what he drew him in immediately was the children, especially Scout, and the narrative of Boo Radley.  But as the film progressed, he began to get caught up in the story of racial injustice seen through the eyes of the children.  He watched them go from dealing with childish fears, Boo Radley, to real ones, the racism that permeates the town and many of the people around them.  The character of Jem also starts to see his father in a different light  (going from disappointment that his father won't play football for the Methodists to impressed that his father shoot a gun to pride in his father defending the "colored man" Tom Robinson).  As Harper Lee wrote in the book, "It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and never had been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived."

During different points of the film, Benjamin would ask me questions or want to talk about what was going on.  At first the questions were related to Boo Radley and, "Do you get to see him?"  Then, when Atticus is sitting outside Tom Robinson's jail cell and all the men pull up in cars, wanting to kill Tom, Benjamin worriedly asked, "They're not going to kill Atticus, are they?"  He liked how Jem wanted to protect his father and Benjamin told me, "I wouldn't have left you, either."  When it came to the trial, he confidently told me, "Atticus will prove Tom's innocent.  They won't find him guilty."  Then the shock of the "guilty" verdict hit him.

Benjamin didn't say much after the film was over.  I knew that he had to process what he had just seen, so I let him.  Sure enough, today, Benjamin brought up the movie by talking about Scout at first because he thought she was funny.  Slowly he worked his way to the topic of the social injustice and racism that the film so deftly deals with.  We talked about not only the racism displayed in the film, but I also told him about the racism of the Depression era South, about what led to the Civil Rights Movement, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  In talking about how whites treated African Americans back then, Benjamin boasted, "Well, if I had lived back then, I wouldn't have been like that."

"I would hope we wouldn't have been, either," I said, "but it's easier to say that now when you aren't living in those times.  It is much harder to take a stand when you're in that moment and all of those around you aren't.  Sometimes doing the right thing is not the easy thing.  There will be times in your life when doing the right thing means getting shunned by people you might have thought were your friends."

"Just like in the movie," Benjamin said, "How kids at school made fun of Scout and Jem because their dad was defending a black man."

"Exactly.  But what Atticus told Scout is a very important lesson that we can all learn from and that's imagining yourself in another person's life, to see things from their point of view."

One thing "To Kill A Mockingbird" always shows me is how to be a better parent.  Atticus is calm, patient, and fair.  Growing up, I saw this mirrored in my grandfather, Papa Fred, and my Uncle Richard.  Both were kind, gentle men who were well thought of by others after they had died.  Of my grandfather it was said, "He never spoke an unkind word about anyone."  When I overheard this, the words made a very big impression on me as a child.  I must admit, I cannot hold to such a claim in my own life, but I strive to be more like that.  And I'm trying to raise my son to be the same.  I want him to grow up to be a man of good character and integrity.  Something I have been more proud of hearing about him in a parent-teacher conference than about his good grades was when the teacher told us that Benjamin had a strong sense of fairness about him, that he always looked out to include others, especially those kids who others left out.

I love a movie like "To Kill A Mockingbird" because it's more than a story, it's a springboard to have such dialogues with my son.  One of the important lessons this film gives him, as well as myself, is something Atticus Finch says: "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do."

A Special Thanks

Our family would like to thank Jared Edwards for his contribution to our adoption fund.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Would-Be Parents Wait As Foreign Adoptions Plunge

by Jennifer Ludden and Marisa PeƱaloza

When Barb and Mike Cannata adopted their first daughter from China almost a decade ago, the process was smooth and relatively quick — just 17 months from start to finish.

Now a chatty and confident 9-year-old, Emma is an accomplished equestrian with her show horse, Ajax. But the family had trouble explaining to Emma why it took so long to get her a little sister.

When the Cannatas decided to adopt again in 2007, Barb Cannata says, everything had changed. They ruled out China early on.

"People were saying that they were waiting three or four years, and I know it's even longer now," she says. "We were like, 'No, I don't really want to wait that long.' "

The couple considered Guatemala, but because of a baby-selling scandal, adoptions there had been suspended. They settled on Vietnam and spent months compiling the long list of documents for their dossier.
Slowly, the Cannatas moved up the waiting list, and by June 2008, the couple had reached No. 5, Barb Cannata says.

But soon after, the U.S. suspended adoptions from Vietnam because of concerns about fraud.
"It was a very emotional roller coaster," she says. "I know I was a basket case."
Mike Cannata says he tried to stay strong and positive, but "it got to the point where we couldn't even talk about it."

The Hague Adoption Convention
"The era of the boom time for international adoption, I think, has passed us by," says Adam Pertman, head of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. "International adoption used to more or less occur under the radar, and it was pretty much the Wild West.

"Then people started paying attention — really paying attention," Pertman says. "And they saw the good, the bad and the ugly."

With allegations of baby trafficking and fraud widespread, the U.S. and other nations have signed onto the Hague Adoption Convention, which imposes strict regulations to ensure transparency throughout the adoption process. While Pertman says the agreement is much needed and well intentioned, he fears some countries have overreacted, shutting down adoption programs altogether as they struggle to meet the new standards.

The media has also had an impact. Press coverage was intense in 2010, when a Tennessee mother returned the 7-year-old son she had adopted from Russia, sending him back on a plane alone. Russia reacted angrily and quickly restricted adoptions to U.S. families.

Many nations also feel increasingly stigmatized for sending their babies abroad. Both Russia and China are now encouraging domestic adoptions over international ones.
In the wake of these shifts, international adoptions to the U.S. have plunged by more than half in the past eight years, from a peak of nearly 23,000 in 2004 to fewer than 10,000 last year.

That drop has been a big adjustment for many adoption agencies. "We took quite a financial loss the very first year that this decline happened quite suddenly," says Jodi Harpstead, head of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, which handles adoptions. "We've had to readjust and downsize."

In July, Harpstead also stepped in to help run one of the biggest players in international adoptions, Children's Home Society and Family Services. It was hit so hard by the adoption decline that it faced severe financial problems. Hundreds of other agencies, primarily smaller ones, have closed altogether.

The Changing Face Of Adoption
Harpstead says there are still children to adopt overseas. But, she says, they're likely to be older and to have some type of special need.
"We also have children with some medical needs," she says, "some mild, some severe. And then sometimes sibling groups, where the hope is that a family will adopt two or three children instead of just one."

Pertman says these children are paying a price as the adoption process drags out. He says many tens of thousands are left languishing in foreign orphanages.

"We know that orphanage life, institutional care, diminishes children," Pertman says. "They lose IQ points every day. They lose the ability to attach to other adults, they get stunted developmentally, there's psychological damage, every day."

After considering five different countries and putting in five years of effort, the Cannatas finally have a second daughter. They brought home 2-year-old Bella from Bulgaria this spring.

The couple agreed to take a special needs child to hopefully speed up the process. Despite a speech delay, Bella is bubbly, cuddly and adjusting well, considering, Barb Cannata says.

"Bella has been in the orphanage since she was a newborn," she says. "It's just sad. We could have taken her two years ago. We were ready. We could have been matched with her."

Cannata says she understands the need for transparency, but doesn't understand why the process takes so long. Still, she and Mike say their wait was worth it. They have the daughter, they say, who was meant to be part of their family.

Originally aired on NPR's "All Things Considered" today.  Here's the link if you wish to hear the story:

New Documentary Highlights Broken International Adoption System

By Napp Nazworth , Christian Post Reporter
August 1, 2012|2:54 pm

At a Congressional preview hosted by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) Tuesday, guests had the opportunity to view "Stuck," a documentary exposing the broken system of international adoption. Some of the families and adopted children featured in the film were also there, along with Foster Friess, a billionaire philanthropist who helped fund the film.

"Members of Congress disagree on many issues, but one we can all agree on is that every child does need a protective and loving family," Landrieu, head of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, told the audience in remarks before the viewing. "Governments do many things well, raising children is not one of them. Children are best raised under the watchful eye, loving arms, of parents or at least one responsible adult that will help them to learn how to be a productive and successful human being,"

The documentary was the brainchild of Craig Juntunen, founder of Both Ends Burning Foundation, an organization that promotes adoption. The purpose of the film is to "get the word out" and expose the issue of the troubled international adoption system, Juntunen told The Christian Post. Juntunen noted how other recent documentaries have been successful at bringing awareness to issues, such as "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Waiting for Superman."
"Stuck" will publicly debut at Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival on Aug. 3. It is expected to premiere nationwide in Nov. 2012.

Seven out of 10 Americans believe that inter-country adoption is on the rise, Juntunen said, when, in fact, the numbers have dropped dramatically. International adoptions to the United States have dropped 60 percent since 2004, going from 22,991 to only 9,319 in 2011.

The film points to many culprits that explain the decline, including the U.S. State Department, UNICEF, a United Nations agency designed to help children, and the Hague Treaty. The Hague Treaty was begun by the United Nations to bring transparency, clarity and coordination to the inter-country adoption process. Landrieu introduced the bill that brought the United States into the treaty, but expressed regret in the film after seeing the results.

The goal of the Hague Treaty is to make certain that every child adopted cross nationally is a legitimate orphan in need of a family. The treaty places such strict requirements on its signers, however, that many children who need a home are left in orphanages. Nations that have signed on, or attempted to sign on, to the Hauge Treaty, have seen a dramatic decline in inter-country adoptions. Some nations have even stopped inter-country adoptions altogether after being encouraged by UNICEF to sign onto the treaty.

"Stuck" follows the lives of five orphaned children – each with unique circumstances, unique challenges in the adoption process, and unique outcomes by the end of the film.

Nick and Lori Leroy were among the parents featured in the documentary. They first adopted a child from Vietnam when he was only seven months old. Vietnam shut down inter-country adoptions before the adoption was complete, effectively halting the process for the Leroys. Rather than giving up and adopting another child in a different country, the Leroys decided to fight for little Nate. The film recounts their nearly four year long struggle, including an extreme intervention by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) on their behalf.

The U.S. State Department was "more of a hindrance than a help," Lori Leroy told The Christian Post. She hopes that inter-country adoptions will be taken out of the hands of the State Department and placed under U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which the Leroys found to be much more helpful.

The State Department "doesn't seem to want to be involved," Lori Leroy said.

At one point in the filming process, the "Stuck" film project was in danger of being canceled for lack of funds. That was when Friess was introduced to the project and donated the $500,000 needed to finish the film.

"It's not my money, it's God's money," Friess said in remarks after the viewing.

Friess told The Christian Post that he was "oblivious" to the problems surrounding international adoptions before Juntunen brought the issue to his attention. He hopes that the film will inspire people to put pressure on Congress to, in turn, put pressure on the State Department to use its influence in bringing about the reforms that will enable more orphans to be matched to loving families eager to adopt them.

Friess also noted in his speech the bipartisan nature of the effort to improve inter-country adoptions.

"Here is Mary Landrieu – a Democrat! And here I am, to the right of Rick Santorum. I love her!" Friess said as the crowd responded with laughter and cheers.

"I love you too," Landrieu shouted back from the audience.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Learning From A Song At The Beach

This past weekend, our family went to visit my Dad at the beach.  On Saturday, we took my son to swim in the ocean, which is something he can spend hours doing.  After we set up our beach chairs, umbrella, the cooler, and all the modern necessities required for spending a few hours by the ocean, we sat down and watched as Benjamin dashed out to ride the surf on his boogie board.  My wife and I talked to my Dad until Benjamin convinced me to join him out in the waves.

Now, I am not a big fan of swimming in the ocean.  I prefer pools where you can see everything in the water and there are no sharks.  Whenever I'm in the ocean, I constantly hear the theme to Jaws playing in my head the whole time.  And it doesn't help that the Discovery Channel always has "Shark Week" right before I go to the beach, either.  Nor does it help that I am aware that sharks can swim in up to two feet of water, which is not that deep.  Still, I tried to block these semi-irrational fears aside and I enjoyed playing with my son in the surf.

When I came back to my beach chair, my wife was reading a book and my Dad was listening to his i-Pod.  Popping my buds for my i-Pod into my ears, I pushed shuffle and the first song that came on was very apropos.  It was Casting Crown's "Voice of Truth."  As I'm gazing out at the ocean and a fishing boat that's off in the distance, I hear Mark Hall sing:

Oh, what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Unto the realm of the unknown
Where Jesus lives

As I listened to this beautifully truthful song, I couldn't help but connect the lyrics to our adoption process.  My wife and I feel that Jesus did stretch out His hand to us and ask us to step out onto the crashing waves.  Having just come in from playing in the waves, I knew there was a big difference from simply sitting here on the shore and watching the waves from a distance and from being right in them, where they batter against your body and try to drag you under.  There's also a big difference from being in a boat and stepping out of it into a restless ocean.  It is not easy to take that first step or the step after that.  It's hard not to focus on the waves instead of Christ.  

Some have said to us, "I don't know if I could have the kind of faith you have to do what you're doing with this adoption."  To be honest, there are days I don't feel I have the faith to do this, either.  Like Emily Dickinson, I "sway between belief and unbelief a hundred times in an hour." It was the same for the Psalmist as well.  How often did David write of how he "cried out day and night" to God?  When I look at the biblical figures of faith, I see that, often, they didn't feel the closeness of God, either, but still they trusted in Him anyway.  And how often did Jesus have to tell his disciples "fear not"?  How long before I trust Him enough that He need not remind me?

I definitely don't feel adequate to the task, which is precisely why God probably chose me to undertake it so that He, and not I, would get the glory.  

He also wants me to, "Be still, and know that I am God."  I learned that, in nautical terms, "still" is the sound piped out by the boatswain's pipe to get the crew's attention so that they will stop working and stand at attention.  That is God.  He is the boatswain telling me to stop, stand at attention, and heed Him.  This isn't always so easy to do in this frenetic world where there is always so much to do and so many things vying for my attention.  

When I get overwhelmed by the waves around me and begin to question, "How are we going to do this?  Financially?  How?" God tells me, "Be still" and to trust in Him, not our bank account.  He repeatedly points me to Psalm 37:5, "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass."  What seems impossible to me is possible with God.

Now I hear Mark Hall singing:

The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid."
And the voice of truth says, "This is for My glory."
And out of all the voices calling out to me,
I will chose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

It's just like God to let me hear a song like this just when I need it, to calm the waves raging inside of me, battering my faith, so that I will be still and know that He and He alone is God.

Here is a video of Casting Crown's "Voice of Truth."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Thank You, Dad

We would like to thank my Dad for his donation to our adoption fund.  Even more, we'd like to thank him for all of his love, support, encouragement, and prayers during this process.  This has meant the world to all of us and we love you very much.

More Information About The Adoption Tax Credit

The Adoption Tax Relief Guarantee Act of 2011 was introduced in January of 2011 to repeal the sunset of the Economic Growth and Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 with respect to the expansion of the adoption credit and adoption assistance programs, to repeal the sunset of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with respect to increased dollar limitations for such credits and programs, and to allow the adoption credit to be claimed in the year expenses are incurred, regardless of when the adoption becomes final.  Currently referred to the House on Ways & Means.

 So, what does this mean?
First, the GOOD news. . .  The maximum tax credit for 2010 and 2011 was increased from $12,150 to $13,170. This applies to families who initiated an adoption in 2011 or before or finalized before 2011 for international families and before 2012 for domestic families.
The credit was made refundable, so if a family has no tax liability, the IRS will refund the amount due. The credit was extended through December, 2011.

Now for the BAD news . . . In 2012, the maximum tax credit is  reduced to $12,170 and is non-refundable.
In 2013, there will be no tax credit at all.

What you can do… Approximately 132.2 million children are orphaned every year.  Join in signing the petitioning to extend the tax credit so that more money is available to those families who want to provide permanent, loving homes to children in need. Tell your member of parliament that you want them to support the document.
HELP SAVE THE CREDIT. The Senate Finance Committee is about to vote on the “Adoption Tax Credit Guarantee Act” ;  add your name to the petition (  Contact your congressional leader to tell them that you support extending the Adoption Tax Credit Guarantee Act.

This information is from Adoption Update from Spence-Chapin.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Rites of Passage

There was a big grin on Benjamin's face as he pushed the lawn mower across our yard.  In my mind, he was still little and pushing one of those bubble mowers.  He was proud that he was passing a thresh hold that meant he was old enough to handle this responsibility and that I trusted him enough to let him.  This pride grew even more when a kid from his school, who also lives in our neighborhood, walked past with his grandmother and saw Benjamin at labor.  Benjamin puffed up.

True, I had to guide him to go back over spots and to follow the line instead of weaving around in random paths, but I didn't rush over, take away the mower with, "I'll finish this."  Whenever he'd look over at me, he'd beam a big smile and call out over the engine noise, "Am I doing a good job?"  I'd smile back and give him a thumb's up.  He also liked it when I brought him a glass of water the way he does me.  Of course I realized there would come a day when he wouldn't ask to help me mow, but I'd have to repeatedly tell him to do it.  But for now, this wasn't a chore but a responsibility and he understood this was a rites of passage in its own way.

New Dreams

For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite Bible verses has been Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."  I used to believe it meant that if I did what the Lord asked of me, followed His commandments, and was a "good girl," He would grant all my desires and make my dreams come true.  Today, this is still one of my favorite passages in Scripture, but I have learned to interpret it in a totally different way.  It is not about God making my dreams come true, but about God changing my dreams into His dreams for my life."

- Katie Davis, Kisses From Katie

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

So Where Are You Now In The Process?

For those keeping track, we have completed our home study, have mailed in our I-600A, and are currently working on our dossier.  We're waiting on the USCIS (INS) approval.  Yesterday we got a receipt for the payment and to let us know the forms had been forwarded to processing at the National Benefits Center in Missouri.  According to the receipt from the Department of Homeland Security, this will take 10-14 business days.

Both of us have gone to the doctor to have all of the tests and shots required. When all of the results of the tests are in, our doctors will provide medical certificates for both of us.  According to the doctors' office, we should be able to pick those up this Friday.  Both of us are waiting on our employment letters from work. We've also gotten the verification of home ownership from our bank.

Danelle and I will have to go into Charlotte to have our fingerprints done by the FBI.          

So what else is required for the dossier?
Two copies of the home study (done)
Two copies of home study agency's license
Two copies of social worker's license
Three copies of both of our passports (done)
Two originals of our marriage license (done)
Two letters of obligation
Petition to Adopt
Request for Appointment
Petition (consent for personal information)
Two facilitator powers of attorney
Two spouse powers of attorney
Two Interpol affidavit letters

According to our adoption agent, if everything continues to at the whiz-bang progress  that it is, we are looking at going overseas in mid-October.  Amazing, right?

On the funding front, we have sold items from our home, jewelry my wife inherited from her mom, and collectibles, including old coins.  We are gathering items for a yard sale (our own and things from friends and coworkers) we plan to have in either late August or early September.  We'll keep everyone abreast of when it actually takes place in case anyone wants to come by and support us.

We have been and are currently researching and applying for grants.  

As previously noted, we are now on Indiegogo.  Here is the link for our account on that site:

Thanks to those who have donated either through that site or through the donation button on this blog.    

The overall adoption will cost us at least $26,000.

Your continued support and prayers are greatly needed and appreciated.