The holidays are over. School is back in session. In much of the country it’s chilly, wet, and gets dark early. And at least someone is sick. Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day, with each day like the last. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s easy to let the winter blues get you down…..if you let them. But I challenge you not to. Because the days of January and February are far from mundane. In fact, these are the days when magic happens. It’s during these winter days that family dinners are early and long, weekends are snuggly and slow, hot cocoa and cookies turn into secret telling sessions. These are the days where the real family memories are made. The memories rooted in time spent with one another. Mundane, ordinary, even boring days are the ones that build trust, attachment, and security. Making them the farthest thing from mundane. Making them magical.
Alonzo deserves to be part of a family’s mundane winter days. Part of HIS family’s mundane winter. He deserves hot cocoa and cookies, early and long family dinners, and snuggly and slow weekends. He deserves the magic of the mundane.
Alonzo is a sweet, kind, amazing 6 year old little boy who has Down syndrome. He is from a country in South America and is waiting for his forever family to come forward and say Yes to him. If you are interested in learning more about Alonzo, please complete our Prospective Adoptive Parent form.
Sarah Hansen, International Programs Director, takes a moment to review and reflect on ‘A Place Called Home,’ a memoir written by David Ambroz.
Every human living in America needs to stop what they are doing and read this book. In this memoir, David Ambroz gives an eye-opening glimpse into the lives of foster youth in the US. From poverty, to abuse and neglect, to system failures, and so much more, Mr. Ambroz shares not just his experiences, but all of his feelings associated with these experiences, and the impact they have had on the person he has become.
Whether you are involved in foster care or not, this memoir provides insight far beyond the walls of the foster system (though, that specific insight is crucial for every American to open their eyes to). But David’s account of his tumultuous upbringing drives home the importance of being trauma informed. Regardless of where you fall – adoptive/foster parent, child welfare professional, teacher, or just a human who interacts with other humans – it is imperative to understand how adverse childhood experiences affect a person for a lifetime. Through his heart-wrenching personal account, David puts the reader in his shoes, making them understand why children with a history of trauma put up walls –
“Child abuse and neglect have a long shadow that stretches beyond physical pain. For decades I’ll flinch when someone goes to hug me – sometimes I still do. It’s an irreconcilable contradiction between the love of a caregiver and the damage she does.”
“No. Stop. Crying. Now, I command myself, and eventually I do.
Your tears are useless. Tears are going to get you killed. No more tears, I vow.
No more emotion. I can dim that part of me to almost nothing. These people can’t have that power over me. I take the pain and squeeze it into a tight square. Then I pack it in a box and place it on a shelf…. I know where it is, and maybe one day I can take it down and feel again. But right now, feeling is a luxury I can’t afford, not if I’m going to survive. Whatever is coming, I need to be bulletproof and numb. I’ll wear a mask. I don’t know this yet, but I won’t shed a tear again for twenty-three years.”
He painstakingly portrays that regardless of how unhealthy a relationship might be, connections to birth family are nonetheless such a primal part of a person’s essence –
“This woman is my curse, my burden, and my blood. I will never stop loving her.”
“I have one foot in my mother’s world, anchoring me to a past, and one foot stepping into this one, with Holly’s outstretched hand reaching from the shore of a loving present and a better future. I’ve only got to lift my anchor, but I can’t, not yet. Holly is offering me the life I have always wanted, if I can just find my way there.”
He truly makes the reader understand that while one healthy connection and environment can make a dramatic impact on a child’s life, the lasting impacts of trauma do not go away over night –
“…relieved to be out of there, but also sad. I finally have the freedom to be normal, but I don’t know how.”
Though a gut-wrenching read, I walked away from this book with a renewed passion – to act, to protect, to speak up, to put words into action. Children are living in poverty, children are being abused and neglected, right down the road and all around the world. It is 2023 – we can do better. We can all do something. So let’s.
“Where are the adults? Where is the DARE officer? Where are the teachers? The social workers? Where is anyone who can protect us? They have left us here. We are kids suffering in plain sight. Save your prayers, they won’t protect us. Over and over again, the three of us were left with a woman who was clearly hurting us by people in positions of authority. I want others to know what it means to be equally neglected by a parent and a society. I want it to be impossible to walk past a child who is begging in the street. Thank you for the Christmas presents collected at your office, but I’d rather you vote for people and policies so children don’t suffer from neglect, abuse, hunger, homelessness, violence, and maybe death.”
Holidays can be challenging for those who have experienced relational trauma. Relational trauma is defined as a trauma that occurs in a close relationship, usually a caregiver, not caused by a single event but rather by an ongoing series of events. Being harmed by those who were supposed to protect you leave emotional scars that can manifest in various ways. Often, holidays were moments when conflicting messages were sent to children: happy moments followed or preceded by scary, lonely, violent ones. Christmas can be painful and confusing. Usually, this time of the year is celebrated, enjoyed, and related to good memories for most. However, developmental trauma may impact a child’s ability to enjoy such moments. Sometimes, trauma survivors can feel embarrassed and have longing feelings or be ambivalent towards their adoptive and biological parents. The kids might have mixed feelings: they miss the celebrations from the country of origin; they recall the festivities with their birth families but also the scary memories. Celebrations can trigger trauma-based behaviors that might not be expected, especially if time has passed since the adoption. The fight, flight, or freeze responses may come back.
Holidays can be a minefield. Giving the kids a voice and allowing them to speak about their painful memories is an excellent option to help them deal with their feelings. Allowing them to speak helps them learn they are valuable, that someone is listening now, and they know how to rely on their attachment figures. It also teaches them coping strategies that lead them to co-regulation and self-regulation. You can make a plan when you learn what triggers your fight, flight, or freeze response and brings back the trauma-based behaviors. Sometimes, Holidays don’t trigger traumatic memories or behaviors. However, the feelings related to the loss of a family might still be somewhere out there, and the child may wonder how they are doing. Ambiguous loss feelings appear. And the lack of closure that this type of loss has does not allow the children to leave behind the past experiences but to revisit them from a new and more complex perspective as they grow in understanding. And holidays are especially hard for those dealing with ambiguous loss. Adopted children’s biological family is not physically present, but their emotional absence comes into their lives from time to time. And Holidays are one of those moments where they may wonder how they are doing, if they are thinking of him/her, if their siblings are doing fine, if the grandparents are still alive, etc.
And even though some behaviors related to developmental/relational trauma may seem the same as ambiguous loss, they are not. As Dr. Boss says, “Ambiguous loss inevitably leads to ambivalent feelings, emotions, and behaviors toward the missing person and others in the family. With a deficit of information about the whereabouts or status of the absent person, people don’t know how to respond and feel torn about the course of action to take”. All these can lead to anxiety, somatic symptoms, guilt, anger, or picking a fight. Try to normalize ambivalence, allow your children to talk about those feelings, and acknowledge their existence. Adapting to the ambiguity of the situation can minimize the effects of ambivalence. When recognizing such ambivalent feelings, resilience may start.
Try not to overwhelm the children with many visits or too many presents.
Allow your child to feel sad or emotionally vulnerable.
Have some traditions from their country of origin. Ask your child about what he enjoyed when celebrating Christmas / holidays and make them part of your family celebration.
Allow your children to get enough sleep. It is essential to diminish the fight, flight, or freeze response, so your child needs to be well-rested, well-fed, and hydrated.
Try to find emotional outlets. For example, do some physical activity and draw about how he/she feels.
Be fully present and become a better listener to your child’s stories (and pain). This way, your child will learn that ambivalence is normal and that he/she can rely on you and have a voice to express feelings.
Talk to your child about ambivalent loss. Let them know that this emotion and reaction is very real, and they should not feel ashamed if they are experiencing these feelings.
Ultimately, the holidays can be a joyous time surrounded by family and loved ones, but for our children with histories of trauma and loss, the holidays can also be triggering, scary, and even lonely. Continue to be the safest space for your child, and put their needs above any unnecessary holiday obligations like that gift exchange at Aunt Betty’s or the overwhelming potluck brunch at cousin Eddy’s. Be present, be in tuned to your child’s triggers and comfort level, and be intentional about your holiday plans.
You’ve heard some of their stories. You’ve read our pleas asking you to step out of your comfort zone and fill in the gap for these kids. These kids who have waited for years and years for their chance at a forever. These kids who are so much more than words in a file. But the excuses are so easy to hang on to. ‘We are too busy.’ ‘We’d have to rearrange our bedrooms.’ ‘The kids might get too attached.’ The list goes on and on with the ‘why we can’t’s.’ And we get it. We really do! But as that list continues to grow, we ask you to just pause for a moment, and ask yourselves, Why Not? Even take it a step further, and don’t just ask, but really consider, ‘What if we did host?’ ‘How would we be impacted?’ ‘What would it mean for us and the hosted child?’ ‘What would those 20-25 days look like?’ None of us know the answers to those questions. But some possibilities are that you could offer a life changing three weeks to a deserving child; you could learn about a new culture, and share your own; you could become the answer to a waiting child’s prayer; you could be forever changed, and change the life of a child; or maybe, just maybe, you could fall in love. Now, wouldn’t all that be worth it? Think about it.
We are excited to welcome several precious children ranging in age from 12-15 from Colombia in Summer 2023 for hosting. But, we cannot welcome them unless 10-15 special families in NJ, PA, UT, or IL step forward and say Yes. Could that be you?
When did you participate in MAA’s hosting program?
We participated in MAA’s hosting program in summer of 2016 (China) and summer of 2019 (Colombia).
How old was the child(ren) you hosted?
AiJun was 9 when we hosted him, Addie was 13, Melany was 11, and Phillip was 9 when we hosted them.
What types of things did you do with your host child(ren) during the hosting session?
With AiJun we mostly stayed home and/or just did what we would normally do. AiJun was quiet and just went with the flow. Our son joined the military while AiJun was with us so we went down to St Louis to see him get sworn in. We went to the city museum in St Louis with AiJun- he loved it! We also hosted a family reunion while he was with us and went to a museum. AiJun loved swimming in our pond and going on boat rides in the river. We also took him to Chinese restaurants. Our Colombian kids were much more verbal and active. We went to a Mexican restaurant several times and also found a Spanish speaker (teacher at the school) to meet with us a couple times to make communication easier. We used google translate on my phone, but having a translator was super nice as sometimes google translate didn’t translate accurately. I was working during that time, so friends had background checks done so they could watch the kids while I worked. Our pastor and his wife took them to the zoo, another friend took them to a hands on kids museum, another friend had the kids over to swim in her pool. We played games that did not require language or required very little language – charades, uno, Dutch Blitz, etc.The Colombian kids had a shorter hosting stay – 2.5 weeks – so we didn’t have as long as we did with AiJun’s host visit. One weekend was spent in Champaign at the MAA picnic that all the host kids were required to attend, the other weekend was spent at our local county fair. While in Champaign we went to a water park. The kids really liked everything they got to do!
What was the best part of hosting?
The best part about hosting was to get to know the kids and learn about their culture. It was fun learning about the food they eat and the holidays they celebrate. The Colombians were especially eager to share with us their experiences.
What was the most challenging part of the experience?
The most challenging part for me was trying to make the visit fun while staying on top of laundry and house cleaning haha! One day I did ask them to help, which they did, but you feel like they are guests and you want to show them a fun time. However, two and a half weeks is a long time to only have fun!
How did the experience impact your entire family (other children in home)?
The hosting experience impacted our other children in good ways, even if they did not know it then. They learned to look to the needs of others for a few weeks and share our attention.
What advice would you give to a potential host family?
I would advise another host family to make an itinerary before they come. Find a translator near you. Don’t be afraid to ask the kids to help with chores. Ask about their culture and be interested in what they tell you – don’t just be eager to share American traditions. Learn about and be prepared to make food from their country while they are here -they will love it! Also- if you have kids at home, let them know that things are going to be crazy and your attention will be split between them and the host child/children. Ask your children to help you by asking the host child/children good questions about their country and making them feel at home. You are hostesses as a family, it is a group effort!
Would you do it again? Why or why not?
Yes we would do it again. However, we have zero space to put a host child because we have adopted the four kids! We have two bio kids still at home so we have six kids at home. We do not have enough bedrooms for any more people unfortunately, even for a host visit. I try very hard to promote it in my church every summer that there is hosting! Hosting has blessed our life. It is such a wonderful experience to be able to advocate for a child in need or meet the child that you are considering adopting. Like I said, adoption has captivated our hearts and made us better people!
We are currently seeking host families in Utah, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to host a waiting child in July 2023. To learn more about the program, please visit our website or email email@example.com.
We have participated in hosting with Madison since 2018, first as a helper family, advocating for the children and the program, and then in 2019 we welcomed our first host child home. We have hosted each year since then, each a very special child and a phenomenal experience for our family and life changing for all involved! We have always chosen to host children from Colombia because we are very familiar with the country, the culture, and the children, as each of our 2 daughters were adopted from this beautiful country. Our story is a bit different because our hearts are called to host children with high special needs, major medical needs, due to our first daughter’s hosting and eventual adoption story. She was brought to the US as part of an orphan hosting program, as a high special needs child with an unknown life prognosis. God brought us to her on her final day of the hosting trip and immediately confirmed that she was our daughter, and 9 months later, she was placed in our arms forever! Since that blessing, we have been committed to becoming host parents to advocate for other children with special needs; providing them the same chance that our daughter’s host family gave her!
During hosting we enjoy lots of general playtime at home, just enjoying family life with our children, in a loving, busy home; simple activities and daily home life that most orphans have not experienced. Children thrive on routine and structure so we strive to keep that while they are here, but do take some fun outings, like the zoo or parks. If needed we may attend a visit to the dentist, eye doctor, or pediatrician to gain some basic knowledge of his/her health-our doctors have always donated their service for our host children.
The best part of hosting is getting to know this beautiful child beyond the paperwork file! Watching them light up at the sight of fun toys and experiences like swimming, trying new foods, and coming to cuddle up with people who were just strangers days ago. Their resiliency in this experience and true joy in this opportunity is such a blessing!
The worst part is getting so little time with these sweet children, it seems like you just get to see them fully comfortable enough to open up in those couple weeks, and then it’s time to put them back on an airplane.
Our entire family, including our 3 children plus our extended family-grandparents and even great grandma, are actively involved in this experience and truly, we all look forward to it every summer. It’s the best part of our summers! We consider it a great blessing to be called to adopt and to host orphaned children. Welcoming more children into our home, as short-term as it may be, allows us to play a role in their journey to finding their family, bringing them home. While growing our hearts and our faith, teaching compassion and understanding and love for all of our differences.
This experience is our calling, your opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, as is His will. Your family will forever be deeply changed by this opportunity, and we pray there will also be one less orphan in the world because of it. We absolutely will continue to host with a focus on special needs advocacy, and our hearts are always open to adoption. We are grateful to Madison for this wonderful program, so professionally organized, but compassionately planned and family focused.
We are currently seeking host families in Utah, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to host a waiting child in July 2023. To learn more about the program, please visit our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bond. We talk about it a lot in adoption. How to bond with your newly adopted child, how to promote bonding and attachment, what it means to be bonded. This one word becomes so complex as parents strive to achieve it through therapeutic modalities, parenting techniques, cocooning, TBRI, and so much more. But achieve it they must, as bonding is key to the success of every adoption, so we will continue to navigate bonding with our newly adoptive parents for as long as it takes.
So, we’ve established the importance of bonding when it comes to newly adoptive parents and their adopted children. The complexities of it, especially when establishing a new bond. But the definition is pretty simple – join or be joined securely to something else. And while the parent-child bond is crucial, the sibling bond can be just as powerful, if not more, especially when the bonded have been through things together that no child should have to endure. They are bonded not only by blood, but by circumstance, and through no fault of their own, by trauma. Though, throughout the chaos, the one thing that has remained stable in their young lives is each other, strengthening that bond even more. Nola (8) and William (6) are proof of that power of the sibling bond. They are ‘thicker than thieves’ as they say, and where one goes, the other follows. The bond these two have is unbreakable. Which is why it is crucial that they stay together, and be placed in an adoptive family who will embrace them both. Parents who will not only build their new bond with these precious children, but nourish the precious bond this brother and sister pair already have.
To learn more about our Thailand program please visit our website, or complete an inquiry form and a Madison Adoption Associates staff member will be in touch.
Exploring International Adoption? The Bulgaria Traditional Program might be the right fit for you! In a recent meeting with the Ministry of Justice and our partner organizations in Bulgaria, MOJ shared that there is a dire need for families in their traditional program, as they currently only have 222 families registered!
In the Bulgaria Traditional Program a prospective adoptive family submits a Dossier directly to the Ministry of Justice for a direct match. Included in your Dossier are the child parameters that you are open to and approved for adopting – such as age, gender, history, special needs, siblings or not. The MOJ will then review your Dossier and refer a match to you of a child(ren) meeting your parameters. Because the Dossier is submitted and reviewed and approved by the MOJ at the beginning of the process, that means the time from match to travel is much shorter! After receipt of referral, you can expect to travel for your first trip to Bulgaria within 8 weeks! And more importantly, it means a child does not have to wait longer than necessary for a family to compile a Dossier.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Bulgaria Traditional Program:
Who are the children available? The children available range in age from 1 year through 15 years. Common special needs are developmental delay, cleft lip and palate, history of parental mental health diagnoses, congenital heart conditions, limb deformities, medically healthy sibling sets of two or three children with the older child being under 10, speech delays, seizure disorder, and more.
Are siblings available? Yes! There is a great need for families open to adopting sibling sets of two or three siblings, of either gender, with the oldest sibling being around 10 years old. These sibling sets are either medically healthy, or have minor to moderate special medical needs. You will outline your parameters within your Dossier. Families open to sibling groups with the oldest child being 10 in the traditional program can typically expect to receive a referral within 4-7 months after Dossier submission.
What is the wait time in the traditional program? The wait time varies based on the child parameters outlined in your Dossier. Families with more openness can expect lessened wait times, whereas families with more limited openness can expect to wait upwards of 2-3 years to receive a referral after Dossier submission.
What are the requirements to adopt through the traditional program? Married couples and single women are eligible to adopt from Bulgaria. Generally, older parents will be referred older children. Parents must be at least 15 years older than the child they wish to adopt. There is no specific requirement regarding length of marriage or prior divorces; however, the strength of the current marriage and relationship history is taken into account.
What are the travel requirements? Bulgaria supports the belief that an adoptive family should be familiar with their child’s heritage. Thus, both parents should travel to the country for both trips. Bulgaria requires that adoptive parents make two trips to complete the adoption. Once a referral is received and accepted, the family will travel to Bulgaria to meet the child. This trip requires 5 days in Bulgaria, plus travel time. A final decision will then be made and if you choose to proceed, the adoption process will begin in Bulgaria while the immigration/visa process (I-800) proceeds in the US. After both countries have completed the necessary steps, final travel to Bulgaria to receive the child and complete the immigration/visa process will be scheduled. This second trip also requires 5 days in Bulgaria, plus travel time. MAA will work closely with our foreign partner to arrange all of your travel appointments in Bulgaria.
Watch this video for a brief overview of our Bulgaria program. Interested in learning more? Please complete our Prospective Adoptive Parent form and MAA’s Family Engagement Coordinator will be in touch to answer all of your questions!
I attended my nephew’s high school graduation last week. He’ll be 18 in a few weeks, and of course, he has life all figured out. He has hopes, and he has dreams. And he’s going after them. He’ll officially be ‘an adult,’ and is ready to fly off from the nest to start making a life for himself. I think back to those days when I felt the same. ‘This is it…..I’m free to do what I want! FREEDOM!’ I was off on my own, experiencing so many changes and firsts. But the one thing that didn’t change was my safe place to land – home. And not just when I needed to do laundry or wanted a free meal, but a place to go when I needed rest – physical and emotional rest. A place to go when I needed encouragement and support. A place to go where the people knew exactly what to say. A place to go where the people always knew ME and my heart, even when I was figuring my own self out. Home. And it didn’t end when I turned 19, or 20. Home has been my safe place to fall throughout my 20s, my 30s, and even now into my 40s. And now, as I navigate Motherhood, the biggest thing I want my boys to walk away with then they turn 18 is that they will always have a safe place to land with us. No matter how old they are. No matter how successful. No matter what. Home = Safety. Always and Forever.
I found myself thinking of Antonio throughout my nephew’s graduation ceremony. Approaching his 18th birthday in a few short months. Approaching ‘adulthood.’ Off on his own. FREEDOM. But the difference between him and 18 year old me, between him and my nephew, is he doesn’t have a safe place to land. He’ll truly be on.his.own. With nowhere to go. For the little things like laundry and food. But more so for the bigger things like encouragement and support. For feeling valued and safe.
Madison staff has met and spent time with Antonio and Arlo (Antonio’s 10 year old brother). They describe both boys as sweet, caring, and kind. They have heard directly from Antonio and Arlo about their strong desire for a family. Their strong desire for a safe place. And their strong desire to stay together.
Please help us find Antonio’s safe place to land before it is too late. We need a miracle, as time is running out. We need a home study ready family (or one who could update a home study FAST). We need a family willing to RUN to Antonio and Arlo so that these brothers can stay together, and have a safe place to land forever.
It is vital for families adopting a child of a different race to learn about the history and current realities of their child’s race and ethnicity, so they can prepare their child for when they encounter racism. We encourage all families have adopted or are adopting transracially to read/watch/utilize the resources relevant to their child’s identity from the list below. For families currently in the adoption process, to receive credit towards your Continuing Education Hours, complete the Continuing Ed form from your training packet (if you cannot find this, contact your case worker and they will share with you!).