Saturday, May 12, 2012

Adopting Alyosha, or The Incredible Importance of Sharing

There are so many orphan blogs out there. People adopting, people hoping to adopt, people fundraising for their adoption, people advocating for orphans. I can think of two dozen blogs right off the top of my head that showcase children from the same advocacy website I do.

Why, then, another orphan blog?

I have been interested in adoption my entire life. The boy I grew up next door to (way back in the goo-goo days of the goblin tongue, to quote James Whitcomb Riley in Little Orphant Annie was adopted, and I always thought that was cool. I didn't quite understand until I was older that what fascinated me most about adoption was that a family could be built so deliberately. Also, as were many girls of my time, I was fascinated with the movie Annie and the children's hard-knock life. I had fantasies of rescuing an orphan.

As I grew up, I (of course) developed a more mature, nuanced view of adoption, but I still was drawn to the deliberateness of growing a family in a way that allows parents and children who need each other to find each other.

Some time in my early 20s, I read a book called Adopting Alyosha: A Single Man Finds a Son in Russia by the engaging author Robert Klose. For the first time, I began to think seriously about the idea that I, too, could adopt a child. I returned to the book again and again, reading it at least half-a-dozen times over the course of as many years. I always came away from the book wistful and yearning for a son.

In time, I married and produced (completely by surprise!) a biological child. But my desire to adopt a son never waned. I gave my husband Adopting Alyosha, which he agreed was interesting but, by dint of his eminently practical nature, failed to become emotionally attached to. Having ascertained, on our second date, that my husband was indeed in favor of adoption, I began to press the issue. When our first child reached the age of 1 1/2 years old, I issued a warning to my husband: adoption takes time and money, and lots of it, so we'd better get cracking.

Typical of my nerdy, research-loving nature, I threw myself headlong into researching adoption. I labeled a cardboard box "Adoption" and began to request information from as many adoption agencies as I could ferret out. As we waded through the costs and requirements, some pertaining to religion, others to age and length of marriage, we eventually settled on a country with a rather hefty program fee. We agreed to wait until our first child was six or seven before pursuing adoption, with the intention of saving our money during the intervening years.

That plan in place, we promptly abandoned it a week later when we heard a radio program on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ethiopia and the million-plus children orphaned as a result of that disease as well as poverty and other illnesses. The program contained an interview of a Texas couple who had adopted two children from Ethiopia. We knew at that moment that Ethiopia was where we would find our son. And thanks to the stories shared by both Robert Klose (and his son Alyosha) and the family in Texas, I felt and believed that adoption was an attainable goal. Fourteen months later, our son joined us. Eighteen months after that, our then-11-year-old daughter arrived.

All because the boy next door, a biology teacher in Maine, and a family in Texas opened the door to their world of adoption to me and shared their stories.

My husband and I have remained committed to sharing our adoption story. Over the years I have spoken with dozens of families as a speaker at adoption classes and seminars, as the moderator of adoption-related discussion forums, and on the phone from my own front porch.

Sharing stories finds families for children. I also believe that sharing the stories of waiting children finds them families. I have heard many stories of people who found their child at the heart-stopping moment when they came face-to-face with their child's picture or description on a photolisting or waiting child list. Indeed, our son became our son when we read, in the two-line description of him on our agency's heart-rendingly long waiting child list, that he was born in the same month as our daughter, one year later, and that his name was a name we had considered for her had she been a boy.

I have heard stories of people being told that their advocacy for orphaned children is obnoxious, annoying, and judgmental. I'm sad people feel that way. I know as well as anyone that not everyone can adopt. My heart is daily torn by the pictures and descriptions of the children I advocate for; I can see them joining our family, running joyfully through the house, snuggling with me during a quiet story time. I can feel my arms around them, their heads on my shoulder. I am also acutely aware that our family is not in the position at this time to adopt and may never be again. But I can advocate for these children. I can share their photos and their stories in the hopes that the right family finds them at the right time, that my efforts to illuminate this world of adoption present themselves in others' lives just as my neighbor, Robert and Alyosha Klose, and the Texans did for me.

And I can humbly ask that you all assist me in my attempts by continuing the cycle of sharing.


  1. With tears in my eyes I thank you for writing this blog. :)

  2. Thank you for reading, Katie!