‘I’ll never forget sitting in the lobby of the orphanage and seeing him come around the corner.’: Dad shares emotional international adoption journey

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“A stereotypical young boy wants to grow up to be something super strong like a fireman, or very accomplished like a sports star, but I was different. I remember always wanting to be a dad. Now, don’t get me wrong, I definitely had my fair share of days dreaming I would be an archeologist like Indiana Jones, but the call to fatherhood was always front and center. The idea of having the opportunity to lead and love on a child of my own was so inspiring to me. More so, I could not wait to one day have a little boy to go on adventures with, take to sporting events, and develop a genuine friendship with as we grew older.

How We Met

Fast forward 20+ years and I got a step closer to this dream becoming a reality in finding the love of my life. Francie and I met in college during my sophomore year and her junior year. (Yes, she is older than me and I remind her of that often.) We met on a missions trip to visit a place called the Dream Center in Los Angeles, CA. It was in California that I got a glimpse into Francie’s massive heart for children. We spent some time working with children from an under resourced community. One of the little girls, Miracle, attached herself to Francie and cried when Francie had to leave her. Seeing the impact those children had on Francie helped me to see there was something very special about her.

Young couple take picture sitting together wearing sunglasses and hats.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

After we started dating, it was a very normal thing for her and I to talk about becoming parents. We often talked about not only becoming biological parents but growing our family through adoption as well. Adoption had been a part of both of our family’s history as my cousin was adopted from Russia, and her cousin was adopted into her home as a child. There was never really a moment we sat down to discuss what this would look like; it just was always a part of the plan. Francie and I got engaged in the summer of 2013, after having dated for almost two years, and were married after we both finished our master’s degrees in May of 2014.

Bride and groom lean into each other and hold hands on the beach.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

A Desire To Adopt

Before we got married, we told ourselves we would wait at least two years before we had children. We also wanted to travel out of the country at least once before we started a family. I look back and cherish that time before we had children so much. It was so much fun going on adventures as we continued to learn more about one another and fall further in love with each other. The opportunity to go on another missions trip together presented itself, and in the summer of 2017, we were on our way to stay at an orphanage for a week in Colombia. That trip helped me see we were absolutely ready to become parents. I remember playing with the children and having moments thinking about what it would be like for Francie and I to experience that day in and day out.

During that time, we also fell in love with the country of Colombia and the culture represented there. My grandparents are immigrants from Cuba, and there is a part of my soul that comes alive when I am in Latin America. I feel so connected to the culture there. After being on other missions trips to places like Costa Rica and El Salvador, my love and identification with Latin culture made me aware that when we did adopt, I knew I wanted it to be through a Latin American country.

A Healthy Baby Boy

My dream of parenting came to fruition just three months after the trip to Colombia, when we discovered we were expecting. While all I wanted was a healthy baby, deep down I hoped for a boy. So, a couple of months later, when we went in to discover the gender of the baby, I was ecstatic to discover we were having a baby boy. My dream came to life on July 14, 2016, with the birth of our son, Luke. Luke made my heart swell holding him and taking him all in. He has changed my life and continues to do so as we navigate each stage with him. He taught my heart what it is like to love a child. He is my little buddy, and much to his mother’s dismay (insert sarcasm… I think), my mini me. We love a good day at a theme park, scream and yell for our favorite teams at sporting events, and can never get enough time with people as massive extroverts. I feel so blessed every day to be that little boy’s father.

New dad holds baby in his arms at the hospital.
Courtesy of Nick Foster
Baby boy lies on blanket and holds Mickey Mouse stuffed animal.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

As Luke approached his second birthday, we knew we wanted our family to continue to grow. We always envisioned our children being about two years apart from one another. So, in January of 2018, we started trying for another baby. We got pregnant in February. My heart immediately made space for this second child. I continued to picture coming home to two little ones with a massive exclamation of ‘Daddy!’ as I walked through the door. Our hearts were shattered when we miscarried in April. A massive void was left in my heart in the space that I had created for this second child. But that void would one day be filled through adoption.

Starting The Adoption Process

After two years of not having success growing our family biologically, we both felt like it was our time to pursue adoption. We just never had brought it up to one another. April of 2020 was a tough month for so many families as the pandemic revved up. For our family, working from home gave us the opportunity to really bond as a family. It gave Francie and I the time to sit and talk more in detail about what we thought expanding our family would look like. We began to research adoption agencies that worked with Latin American countries and found one in particular that we were drawn to.

In May, we submitted our application to be considered for adoption. We were accepted and began the process. The process started by filling out a questionnaire that listed things like the age and gender we were hoping to adopt as well as a very extensive list of health concerns we felt like our family could and could not consider with a child. After the initial paperwork was submitted, our agency helped us determine the best program and country that matched our desires would be Colombia. Kind of poetic? Feels like it.

Paperwork And Financing

Once we knew Colombia would be it for us, we entered into our home study stage of the process. A home study can be summed up by one word: PAPERWORK. So much paperwork. I feel like I learned things about myself during this process I never knew before. We had medical exams as well as several psychological exams. We had to write an autobiography answering in depth questions about our marriage and childhoods. We filled out marriage surveys and were scored on the stability of our marriage based on the results. As exhausting as the home study process was, I have to admit, I felt the massive benefit from it. It encouraged Francie and I to have conversations we had not had before. It helped us to truly check our hearts and think more about why we had a desire to adopt. It also helped us to feel so confident in our marriage and as parents. We often joke about how we think all couples considering children, whether by means of adoption or biologically, should have to go through a home study, as it helped us feel that much more prepared.

It was also during the home study process we announced our desire to adopt to our family and friends and began fund raising. Adoption is expensive. It is a shame it costs so much to bring a child in need into your home, but that will be a rant for a different day. After we announced our desire to adopt, we began to have friends and family give financially toward our adoption through different fundraisers. To this day, it blows me away thinking about some of the random people we had not talked to in years who supported us. We were so humbled by the funds that were raised. On top of gifts from our support system, I also began to research different grants available to families considering adoption, and we were blessed to receive a significant amount of funding from them. My point in this paragraph is that if finances are something that intimidate you, or are preventing you from making the decision to adopt, please know there are an incredible number of resources available to you.

Getting Matched

Our home study was finalized in January of 2021. Following the home study, we began to work on our dossier. This included specific documents required to be able to adopt internationally from Colombia. Aka… more paperwork. Our dossier was finished in April of 2021, and we were set to begin to receive files of different children. Our social worker believed it would probably be by the end of the year that we would match with a child. A week after she told us that, we received a file of a little girl that needed to match with a family as soon as possible. After carefully reviewing her file and speaking to different doctors, we made the decision to continue to pursue other files. She had intense medical needs we would not be able to meet. While I knew this was the right decision, it broke my heart. I think in that moment, the entire process started to become very real to me. We had received news of an actual child who needed a home, and while that was not meant to be, it put a beating heart to months and months of preparing and paperwork. We were closer than ever to growing our family. (We did receive notice the girl eventually matched with a family and ended up being adopted!)

A couple weeks after we decided to not pursue the first file, we got another call from our social worker about a 3-year-old little boy named Eithan. He desperately needed to find a home as his file was close to being moved from our agency. This can happen from time to time, as countries will send the file to different agencies in order to secure a family. Eithan was born prematurely, had received a label of having autism, and had significant speech delays. He had been in a foster home since he was released from the hospital at 3 days old. Francie and I felt an immediate connection to this little guy and after much prayer, medical advice, and consideration, we made the decision to move forward with his file.

Young Colombian boy wearing white button up shirt smiles in front of blue backdrop.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

The process of actually matching with Eithan took three months, and in August we were officially going to become a family of four. It was during this time we were able to share the news with Luke that he was officially going to become a big brother. Luke knew we were adopting from the beginning, but we held the news about Eithan until we had officially matched. We told Luke he was going to be a big brother to a 3-year-old little boy at one of our favorite places, Walt Disney World. I will never forget seeing the way Luke’s face lit up at the news. He was immediately a proud big brother as he looked over the picture of Eithan. Luke told everyone he encountered from that point on that his little brother, Eithan, was in Colombia and we were going to meet him soon.

Meeting Eithan

We began to prepare for travel as we processed more, you guessed it, paperwork. On November 14th, we were on a plane headed to Bogota, Colombia, with Luke and both of our moms, to meet our little man. After we matched with Eithan in August, our agency made the decision to move Eithan from his foster home to an orphanage in Bogota to help with the process of attaching to our family. Eithan had a rough time at the orphanage as he became physically ill twice, had to quarantine, and struggled with the adaption of his life in this institution. We could not wait to bring him into our family. It was so hard knowing he was ours, but not being able to provide the comfort and nurturing we knew he longed for.

On November 17th, Francie and I got to have our initial meeting with Eithan. I will never forget sitting in the lobby of the orphanage and seeing him come from around the corner. He was very shy and avoided us at first. It did not take long for him to connect with Francie as he was used to women more than men. He walked around the facility holding Francie’s hand and guided her to a playground. He laughed and smiled as he slid down the slides. He and I had one moment of connection that day which came as a major win. I offered him a high five, which he found to be hilarious, so the three of us laughed and high fived for a minute. As a dad, I love making my children laugh, and to know this happened on the first day I met my son is so special to me.

Couple sit on the ground and play with young Colombian boy they are adopting.
Courtesy of Nick Foster
Young boy goes down slide at orphanage with adoptive mom standing behind him.
Courtesy of Nick Foster
Mom holds Colombian boy as he high fives dad meeting him at the orphanage.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

Bringing Eithan Home

A day later, we went back to the orphanage to pick Eithan up and bring him back to our apartment. This time we were able to bring Luke with us. We were all so anxious. We were filled with so much excitement but were also so nervous the day could be filled with a lot of anxiety from Eithan. We were prepared that it would be a very hard day for Eithan and to expect hard behaviors. However, the day couldn’t have been smoother. Eithan played with us for a period of time outside. We were then led to a room in which we ate cookies together, drank juice, and had pictures taken. After that, we got onto a bus and drove away as a full family unit. Eithan fell asleep on Francie’s lap and never once cried out of fear of being with us.

Newly adopted toddler falls asleep on mom's lap as they travel home to the United States.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

The next couple of weeks were filled with different medical appointments, time bonding as a family, traveling to a different town for court, and other immigration appointments. Eithan officially joined our family via finalization on December 2nd, 2021. To say our time in Colombia was pure bliss, would be a lie. Luke got a stomach bug and diarrhea for two days straight, Francie got strep throat, and we spent Thanksgiving eating spaghetti at a resort outside with lots of bugs flying around and very thick humidity. We began to get very homesick but focused hard on trying to soak up as much of Eithan’s home country as we could. We also began to figure out what our family looked like, which was filled with special moments, but also had difficult ones as well. Between Luke having moments of frustration as he adapted to no longer being an only child, and also the exhaustion that came from trying to communicate with a child who, at the time, was essentially nonverbal, we were drained.

Adoptive brothers sit smiling together at Disney World, with older brother placing his arm around his younger brother.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

We traveled home on Friday, December 10th, just in time for the holidays. I will never forget the first night in our home as a family. I am a massive fan of Christmas. We are talking Clark Griswold level of obsession. After we walked into the house and unloaded the car with all of our luggage, we stood in the kitchen talking to a couple of friends who had picked us up from the airport. ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas,’ sung by Michael Bublé, came onto the radio, and I had tears in my eyes thinking about another full bedroom in our home and the life we would get to live with Eithan.

Young parents hold adopted son between them and smile together.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

Adjusting And Thriving

Over the last six months, life has absolutely been lived to the fullest. Eithan is doing incredible. He is in speech therapy and putting entire phrases together. He is thriving at school and LOVES socializing with other children, especially his big brother. Luke and Eithan play together nonstop. Eithan wants to do and say everything Luke is doing, and Luke is absolutely incredible at helping his little brother. His label of having autism does not seem to coincide with the behavior he has demonstrated as he has grown more comfortable in our home and with his surroundings. There are so many things Eithan is doing that no one believed he could. It is scary to think about what his life would have looked like had we not found each other. I do not think he would have ever really received a chance to succeed at life. I am so thankful he is with us.

Adoptive parents take picture with two young boys sitting on a park bench.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

While things have been incredible, there have also been challenging moments as well. Adoption is rooted in loss. Eithan has experienced so much loss in his short life, and a lot of the things he has seen and felt we will never really know about. He definitely bonded with Francie faster than he did with me, and it has taken work to be intentional to strengthen his and my bond. Bonding with a child through adoption can be challenging at times; bonding with a child through adoption who also has speech delays can be even more challenging. Eithan has tested our limits like any toddler would, and there are so many more layers to that as he learns to trust us at 3 years old as opposed to the trust that is established with other children during infancy. I have definitely had moments of burnout, and those are the moments in which I am so thankful for my incredible wife, who is there to tackle this parenting thing with me as a team. Despite the challenges, it is in the moments where Eithan runs to give me a hug or tells me he loves me that fill my heart. It is watching him love on his mommy and feel safe in her arms that inspire me. It is watching him and his brother play together as they laugh that fill me with joy. I am beyond blessed my dream of becoming a father has come to fruition, and although I may be biased, I am called ‘daddy’ by the best sons out there.”

Parents and two young boys take family picture at Disney World.
Courtesy of Nick Foster
Dad crouches down next to two sons at Disney World.
Courtesy of Nick Foster

This story was submitted to Love What Mattersby Nick Foster of Lakeland, FL. You can follow his journey on Instagram and TikTok. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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