‘Calvin will be a little brother.’ They said, ‘You mean BIG brother?’ We assumed we’d get a newborn. Then we read her story.’: Couple adopts older child, ‘The sibling bond amazes us’

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International Adoption

“‘Big news! We’re excited to announce that Calvin will be a little brother!

Congra…… Wait. You mean a BIG brother? Nope. Calvin will soon be a little brother because his sister just happens to be older. We’re adopting! Like most adoptive parents, we started out assuming our future child would be a cute, squishy little newborn or even toddler. But then we saw her picture. Then we read her story. Then we learned older children in the U.S. and around the world have a harder time finding a forever family. The older a child is, the more difficult it is for them to be adopted. Our daughter has spent most of her life in a foster home.

But not anymore. She now has a family anxiously awaiting her arrival. While we know this will be a huge transition for everyone, we’re so thankful and honored that we get to be her parents and her family. We’ve been private about this for several reasons, but we hope to share more soon! Please send us prayers and positive vibes – we’re on our way to bring her home!’

This is what I nervously typed as we headed to Chicago en route to Taiwan to pick up our daughter. You see, we had been keeping a secret for a year in a half. I thought about making this post earlier, but the fear of something going wrong kept me silent. As we drove down the Indiana Toll Road late that night, I felt a sense of calm. It was time. I no longer wanted to leave my daughter out of daily conversations and social media posts. She was part of our family and most importantly, part of our story.

Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox

I still remember the moment I saw her face. One night after putting our then two-year-old biological son to bed, I sat up in bed and started scrolling through my Facebook feed. We had made the decision a few months prior we were going to adopt internationally. It was a year-long process, as we initially pursued private domestic adoption and foster care. Ultimately, we felt drawn to international adoption. We understood the process, risk, and timeline involved and it seemed to be a good fit for our family. We figured by the time we would bring a child home, our son would be a few years older.

It seemed like a perfect little plan until this beautiful little girl popped up on my feed. She had this intensity about her; it was mesmerizing. You could only see a side profile of her face, but it was enough to leave me frozen for a few minutes. The post read, ‘Kassie is an adorable 5-year-old girl waiting for her forever family.’ I thought, ‘Could we be her family?’ I casually turned the phone to my husband, who was dozing off for the night. ‘She’s cute,’ he said. I realized this was quite different from what we imagined, but that picture and caption would not leave my head.

Ashley Joines Photography

Adoption Process

I waited a week until I got the courage to ask my husband if we could request her file. It was a big step for us. We had recently finished our home study and settled into what we expected would be a long wait. We initially entered into the referral process, where we waited to be matched with a child. This was when we discussed all of the special needs we were open to and the age of the child. Like I mentioned in our social media post, we envisioned a baby or toddler. We decided to open up our age range because an adoption advocate once explained to us that older children are less likely to be adopted. That stuck with me. I wondered, ‘What if our child is out there, but they just happen to be older?’ I couldn’t bear the thought of missing out all because of an age written down on our home study. So we expanded the age range.

With that in mind, we also kept our eye on our agency’s advocacy website. There’s another route available to waiting families – to request the file of a child in Gladney’s Superkids program. This humanitarian aid and child advocacy program ‘provides developmental screenings, caregiver training, and adoption advocacy on behalf of Taiwanese orphans.’ It’s an incredible program that sends pediatric therapy teams to visit orphanages and government agencies to learn more about children waiting to be matched with adoptive families. On October 2, 2018, they made a post to advocate for our daughter.

Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox

We received the file shortly after and everything else seems like a blur. I read her file thoroughly, analyzed every detail of her history, and studied her face in all of the photos. While we will never share her story, as it is not our story to share, nothing really mattered at that point. She was our daughter and now I needed to get her home. I kept a detailed account of the experience. The timeline alone takes up an entire page. The official approval for matching, the home study updates, on-site adoption training in Texas, the PAIR and Dossier process, being officially matched, the court hearings, and ultimately the civil ruling.

Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox

Waiting Period

Throughout that year and a half, life continued at home and we operated publicly as a family of three. The waiting period truly was stressful and sometimes agonizing. I remember throwing a secret birthday party in our backyard for our daughter’s golden birthday. Our son, who was almost three at the time, was ecstatic to have a sister and playmate. We weren’t quite sure if he completely understood, but we talked about her daily at home.

Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox

At one point, his teacher told me he had been making up stories in the classroom. I asked, ‘What kind of stories?’ She told me, ‘He often talks about his sister, Kassie, and how he likes to play in her room and talk to her on the computer.’ To be fair, we were allowed to Skype with her six months before we traveled to pick her up so he had already started the bonding process virtually. Also, he was three years old and wasn’t great at keeping secrets.

Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox

We received the travel dates on January 3, 2020. We would be traveling in a little over a month to pick up our daughter. While we were anxious for Calvin and Kassidy to meet and bond, we figured the nearly sixteen-hour flight was not a good idea. He stayed back home with family but made sure to pack some special treats for ‘Sissy.’

Embracing Our Daughter

And just like that, it happened. She was in our arms in a small room inside a government building. Her sweet, tiny body burst through the door and she hesitated for a second before running over to hug me. This was the moment we waited for, prayed for, obsessed over, and stressed about for years. Our ‘gotcha’ day or family day or Kassidy day – whatever you want to call it. This was the day that we finally got to hold her. Most people record this moment, but honestly, we were a ball of emotions and didn’t feel comfortable setting up a camera. I was elated when the social worker sent us a photo that she snapped during that exact moment, along with a photo of us sitting on a couch with her foster parents. The tiny polaroid we received from that exchange is quite literally one of our most valued treasures from that life-changing trip.

Courtesy of Gladney

We also received a very valuable gift that day: her artwork. As we began the Skype sessions, we quickly learned our daughter was a very talented artist. During the call, she would frantically grab her foster mom’s cell phone to pull up photos of her latest artwork to show off. We could see her pieces were breathtaking, even though we were viewing it on a very shaky phone. She enjoyed art, and it was clear painting and drawing was her way of expressing herself. A few weeks before we traveled, we made a request to our agency to take home some of that art. Here’s the deal: we knew there were no baby photos coming home. That didn’t matter to us, but her artwork did matter. It was part of her history and her story. On the day the foster family said goodbye and handed us her suitcase, we found they had thoughtfully and safely stored all of her artwork in a nice case – nearly three years of priceless paintings and drawings.

Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox
Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox

Now that we’re home, we often go through that beautifully crafted artwork and the photos from our trip. She absolutely loves telling us stories daily about life in Taiwan and they always revolve around her foster family. We are so thankful she is old enough to remember where she came from, her culture, the adoption process, and the people who loved her fiercely. That is the beautiful thing about adopting an older child. She was actively a part of the process and even chose her own name. Of course, we have very challenging days stemming from the loss she experienced, but she’s able to talk through it with us on her own terms and we continue to build trust.

Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox

Stronger Together

It helps she’s growing up with a built-in best friend. As I mentioned, our son was ecstatic from day one to have a sister. He has all older female cousins – so it didn’t make a difference to him that his sibling happens to be older. Adopting out-of-birth order is certainly something all families have to seriously consider and research when going through the process. It may not be for everyone or every family, but it was something we were comfortable with and prepared for. We knew there would be challenges with adopting an older sibling and what that would mean for our son. What we didn’t know is Kassidy and Calvin didn’t care about conventional wisdom. They didn’t care about the language barrier or the cultural differences or their different skin colors, though it did spark some very healthy conversations. The bond that has formed between the two of them continues to amaze us every day.

Ashley Joines Photography

Recently, we were driving back from gymnastics class when she started telling a funny story about her foster dad. I looked back, and she was flexing her muscles. She said, ‘What do you think they are doing right now? Do you think they know how strong I am?’ She asked if I would take her picture and send it to them, so they could see her muscles and see how strong she has become. I obliged when we got home.

Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox

Here’s the deal, though. It goes beyond a picture of my daughter’s strong arms, though she has a right to be proud of that. I also want her foster family to know our family appreciates everything they did for her. I want them to see and experience every milestone because they helped us get here. I want them to know we think about them on a daily basis and pray about them at night. Most importantly, I want them to know she is stronger because of them.”

Courtesy of Colleen Wilcox

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Colleen Wilcox from Indiana. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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