CAFO Aging Out Initiative



It isn’t always easy to talk about adoption.  There is language to be mindful of and relationships to be respectful of, and I confess I haven’t always done it well.  There is a fine balance between speaking authentically and respecting my daughter’s right to her own story. I’ve had to learn to read my audience.  I’m getting better at sorting out who really wants to know how our adoption is going and who, in the wise words of Jack Nicholson,  can’t handle the truth.  It has sometimes been difficult to talk authentically about our adoption within the Christian community, but that is one place where support can mean the most.  I feel like a failure when our individual experience doesn’t immediately reflect that “beautiful Christian adoption narrative” that people often expect.I’ve figured out over time that many well meaning Christians assume that the emotional experience of adoption follows the same trajectory as that of salvation.  When we are brought into the family of God, our overwhelming response to salvation is great joy and thankfulness.   Our daughter came to us through international adoption when she was 13 years old.  She did have pain and injustice in her past, but she also had a native country that is thick with history and culture, a beautiful language, connections to biology, smells, tastes, sights that are all a part of what could have been a rich, beautiful, full life.  Her circumstances were difficult and life altering, but her heritage did not have to be.  She has gained parents and siblings, a large and loving extended family, a new family name, and a forever inheritance, but the losses bring up difficult emotions that we navigate together as a family. When I come across fellow believers who assume the emotions surrounding adoption are the same joy and thanksgiving of salvation, I end up feeling like we are failing each time we struggle.

And sometimes… we struggle.  I once emailed another adoptive parent I deeply respect and said, “I think we might be doing this wrong because it is hard!  It is supposed to be hard sometimes though, right?”  He assured me we were still on the right track.  No matter how much I want to make up for my daughter’s pain and loss, I’ve had to accept that hard truth that it isn’t in my power to “fix it”.  What our adoption sometimes looks like is simply sitting with our daughter in her grief.  Success right now isn’t an absence of pain, but letting her know she isn’t alone in it.   I believe in exchanging beauty for ashes, but when I quietly admit that there are still hard moments of hurt and anger and heartache it might sound like I am doubting the power of redemption.  It’s difficult to admit that faith doesn’t immediately disperse ashes when it feels like people are waiting for beauty’s dynamic reveal.  

A few years ago, I opened up about the pain and loss in our adoption with a spiritual mentor of mine.  She listened to me as I tentatively “dropped the veil” and shared that while the joy and love she saw in our family was real, so was the pain and hurt that we work through privately.   She paused for a moment after I finished talking and then declared resolutely, “But it was all worth it!”  I was caught completely off guard by her response.  I had no idea why she felt like this was some conclusion I needed her to draw for me.  I realized much later that while I didn’t need that reassurance, she did.  I don’t think she understood that the words “hard” and “good” are not mutually exclusive when it comes to adoption.  

What I have worked hard to find is my own small community in which I have the safety to sometimes say “Wow. This is hard today.”  I want to be able to say “Our adoption is hard” and not have people hear “Our adoption is without joy” or “Our adoption isn’t worth it” or “Our adoption isn’t successful”.  I don’t believe any of those things.  Honestly, I don’t think any of those things.    What I mean is that adoption comes with profound pain and loss, our love doesn’t automatically erase that pain, and we are all in the joy and the sorrow together.   Sometimes we are all weary.  Sometimes we are all hopeful.  We always need encouragement.  So let me express my heart with transparency and hope – our adoption is hard, but it is good.


November 28, 2017

Our Perfect Set of Twins

by Jenn Long

I wanted to be the mother of twins for as long as I can remember.  When I was a little girl, I always played house with my older sister and I was the proud mother to boy and girl twins for many, many days of my childhood.  When I grew up, got married, and became pregnant for the first time, I could not wait for my first ultrasound when it would be revealed that I was having twins.  I was surprised when the ultrasound technician only found one baby (it certainly did not help that everyone kept asking if I was having twins, I am only 5’2” people, there is not much space for a baby to go!).  We were excited to find out that we were having a baby boy and I figured God knew I needed practice with one before He gave me twins the next time.  After the delivery of my son, I swore we were never having any more biological children. But, when Brady was 13 months old, we found out we were pregnant again.  This time, I knew it would be my twins.  At the ultrasound, we found out once again that there was only one baby.  This time a sweet baby girl, Ella.  As happy as I was that we would have a boy and a girl, I was still confused because I thought FOR SURE that God had been preparing me my whole life to be the mother of twins.  

When Ella was almost two, we found out that we were pregnant again.   Yes, we know how that happens (why do people always ask that?)  Now, I knew without a doubt, that this was going to be my twins.  This was going to be the big day.  At our ultrasound we found out that we were having another girl.  This time our Kinsley.  While I was thrilled to have another healthy baby girl on the way, I could not believe how wrong I had been about God giving me twins.  Little did I know, this was the time I would have twins.

Nineteen weeks after that ultrasound, I was in the hospital in the operating room having my third c-section to deliver my baby.  What I did not know, is that halfway around the world, a little baby boy, ten days old at the time, was also in a hospital recovering from surgery.  

Our Bennett was born in China on December 19, 2012.  He was born with a life threatening condition that required immediate surgery.  He was given that surgery and then he went to live in an orphanage before entering foster care.  I did not even know he existed until July 14, 2012.  That was the day that I felt the tug on my heart to google “special needs China” and of the thousands of faces on the website, my heart stopped when I saw Bennett.  I clicked on his picture and saw his birthday and immediately, felt what I knew to be true, God had twins for me, just not the way I had always imagined.  I would have my boy and girl twins. My girl would just have the blondest hair and crystal blue eyes and my son would have silky brown hair and eyes the color of Hershey kisses.  

Many people discourage “artificial twinning” and we actually had to get a waiver from our agency to allow us to adopt Bennett because they typically did not allow it.  There are certainly some challenges.  When we brought Bennett home, he and Kinsley were both a few weeks shy of turning 3.  Kinsley had to learn to adjust to not only a new child in the house, but a new child that was her age.  We send our kids to the same preschool, so there can be some natural challenges with sibling rivalry in the classroom when one child receives an award and another child does not.  However, the benefits have far outweighed the difficulties for us.

Kinsley and Bennett really did develop their own “twin” language when Bennett first came home and did not know English. She would tell us what he was trying to say.  They have confidence going into any room (whether church, school, playing) because they have each other. 

 I credit Kinsley with how well Bennett adjusted to being at home because she took on the role of being his best friend as soon as she realized that her place in the family was secure.  I love, love, love that this was the way that God chose to give us our twins.  We prayed for a twin bonding to occur in their hearts and I can say without a doubt, that God answered that prayer and they feel a twin connection, just like biological twins.  We could not have asked for a more perfect set of twins.

November 27, 2017

How Adoption Ruined my Big Kids.

by Kristin Wooten

I’ve always known I wanted to be a mom. A mom to 2 kids to be exact. That’s the kind of family I came from: a boy and a girl. Seemed like the safe, midwestern thing to do. Until adoption entered my worldview and changed everything.

When I was pregnant with our first child, we met a family who had adopted from China. We were broken by the stories of kids without homes. Very quickly, my husband and I knew adoption is how we would grow our family in the future. When our son was a year old, we started looking into adopting from China. We weren’t old enough and we sure didn’t have the finances to support an adoption. So, we let the idea pass and had another biological son. (Good thing–we would have missed out on a cool kid!)

Another year had passed. I came home from work excited to tell my husband that something called a home equity loan existed and we could use it to remodel our kitchen! You see, we had the tiniest kitchen, a few inches of counter space and no room for a dishwasher. My husband’s response: “Yes, we could do that, or we could use the money to adopt. I’m open to either. You can decide.” Well, no real decision to make there, off on our journey to adoption we began.

Zoe joined our family in 2005. Zoe still teases me saying “Dad chose me mom, you were going to get a kitchen.” We were complete. Life was full with 3 kids five and under, a job, and a husband.

I remember going to a conference and hearing Donald Miller speak. He told a story of a friend who had a teenage daughter who was making poor decisions, doing drugs and dating a boy the family didn’t approve of. The dad knew his daughter needed a better story. Their family had a meeting where the dad announced they were going to raise money to build an orphanage in Mexico. His daughter ended up jumping on board with this plan, traveled to Mexico and eventually, dumped the boyfriend. That story really resonated with me. I knew I wanted to build a story for my kids that would be more attractive than the one the world was painting for them, but I had no idea what that story would be.

The kids are now 10, 12 and 14. We had always told our kids we would go to China one day so that Zoe could see and explore the country she was born in. It was important for our boys to come too and do this as a family. One night, I was researching heritage trips to China and landed on an adoption agency website that said “Effective, January 1, 2015, a few requirements for adopting from China have changed” and it went on to list the changes. Changes were made that would make us eligible to adopt from China again. I got that crazy feeling in my stomach, I just knew what this meant. I sent a text to my husband to tell him about the requirement change and his text back said, “I guess I know what our China trip will be”. Oh my gosh, he’s thinking the same thing, we’re adopting again!

We shared the news with our big kids. The youngest were onboard immediately. They have always wanted to adopt again. Our oldest, not so much. He’s our responsible one. He was worried about the time it would take away from the other kids, the money, how could we afford the adoption, let alone raising another child. Others were worried too. You have such great kids, aren’t you afraid this will ruin them?

They were right. It did ruin them. In all the right ways. They were with us every step of our adoption process. When each donation was made, they rejoiced with us. When we received grants, they got to see God work. When our adoption was fully funded, they got to experience a miracle. When we got each new picture of our future daughter, they got to oooh and aaah over her. When they

 traveled to China with us, they got to see how other kids live. They saw how hard life in China is. They learned how to bond with their sister, how to make her laugh, how to comfort her.

My boys have gotten to learn dad skills. At 16 and 14, they know how to protect a girl. How to make her lunch. That taking her on Starbucks runs makes her so happy. These are things that most boys don’t get to learn until they are dads themselves.

My older daughter, Zoe, isn’t the type of girl that babysits or naturally knows how to take care of kids. But, her younger sister adores her and calls her “sissy”. She feels more confident and can change a diaper like a pro now.

Our family experienced something together that was so special and brought us together. Their faith in Jesus is stronger. I’m grateful that adoption ruined my big kids.

These adoption stories are funded by YOU.  All grants provided by the ONE17 Foundation are made possible through the generosity of our donors.  To become a one-time or recurring monthly donor, click here. Donations are tax deductible. Thank you for creating a ripple.

It will be the Best Family Christmas Ever!

by Heather Dunn

The Dunn Family!

We are The Dunn Family. We are Jeff and Heather and we have two grown children, Genevieve, age 23, and Jeremiah, age 20. We are on the edge of an empty nest but have decided we have some great years in us to still parent and there are lots of kids waiting for their forever families! We are in the process of bringing home an amazing little boy, a waiting child from China, publicly known as Ryker.

After our daughter, Genevieve, came home from a trip to China in the summer of 2016 working with orphans she shared with us about the culture, the orphan crisis, and the KIDS! The photos and stories of these children broke us. There was one little boy that found a special place in our hearts, Ryker.

Ryker is currently in the care of Maria’s Big House of Hope (MBHOH), a care center run by Show Hope for orphans with medical needs. Ryker is 8 1/2 years old. Ryker was born with Spina Bifida and relies on the use of a wheelchair. He is one of the oldest kids at MBHOH. He has waited a long time for a family of his own. He has asked volunteers visiting MBHOH to take him home and be his family.

Ryker is smart. He is learning english and sign language. He even helps teach American workers at the care center Mandarin (Chinese). He likes to teach other children in the care center to share.

Ryker is creative, he LOVES craft time. I hear that his favorite is glue, or as he says it, “ga-loo.” Ryker loves taking pictures. When he comes home our phones will be filled with sefies galore! Being a photographer, I can’t wait to share a love of taking photos with him.

Jeff and I have been approved by the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) to pursue the adoption of Ryker. We submitted our official adoption contract in January. It’s been almost a year long process to bring him home.

Our family of 4 is on it’s way to be a family of 5! We are expecting to travel to China in December of 2017. We are expecting a to be with Ryker ON Christmas Day! It’ll be the best family Christmas ever.

You can read more about the Dunn’s journey to Ryker on their blog Bringing Home China.

These adoption stories are funded by YOU.  All grants provided by the ONE17 Foundation are made possible through the generosity of our donors.  To become a one-time or recurring monthly donor, click here. Donations are tax deductible.  Thank you for creating a ripple.

Nov 17, 2017

We Could Find No Reason to Say No.

By Vicki Starting

The Starting Family

Our adoption story began about two and a half years ago. At the time we had six children and my husband felt we were done having children. I still felt a yearning for more children though and knew that if God had more children for us, that he would stir my husbands heart.

Up to this point my husband had said my that if a child was “dropped in our laps” that he would never say no.

In June two years ago, we received a text late one night asking if we would adopt a little boy with Down syndrome that was in foster care. We were overwhelmed and it wasn’t at all a story I had imagined, but our hearts were stirred and we took that little boys in as foster parents (something we had been certain we would not do with all our young children) and eventually little Joby became our son.

Healthy, Happy Joby.

He is almost four now and though he is lots of work, he is also a blessing and joy in our lives. He changed our family.   By this last summer we were both feeling like we would not pursue another child, that indeed God would have to once again “drop a child in our laps”.

We got a message from an acquaintance telling us there was an 11 year old girl, named Octavia from Poland that they were advocating for and searching hard for a family that would host her. We could find no reason to say no.

Three weeks later she was in our home. It was a very different kind of experience from taking in a baby- she had emotions and a will and drama and fears that we didn’t really experience with Joby. In other ways, the experience was very similar. When she sobbed in our arms, begging to not go home after her visit, we knew quickly that she had brought her to our family for us to fight for her and to offer her all that we have.

We had been certain that we would never do an international adoption. We live frugally on one income and could see no way that we could come up with the money for such an adoption, let alone the time away from work for my husband. I couldn’t see how I could home school 6 kids and care for Joby’s needs AND fundraise at the same time. But we had committed to this child and were going to find a way. We are amazed at the support that people have given in the first three months but we still have a long way to go. We are leaning hard into Him to guide us, prepare us and provide for us.

We think the best “voice” for adoption is people living it out. People have watched us adopt Joby. They’ve seen him transform inside a loving stable family with all these children loving on him, challenging him and stimulating him- he has blossomed! His kidney’s have healed dramatically, we taught him to eat and his g-tube was removed after one year, he learned to walk and sign and is just doing amazing. Not only that, but people have seen my reticent 15 year old who didn’t really want Joby fall in love and be transformed by Joby in his life. God has shown the beauty of adoption in our home and family and we want to continue to be a living picture of this beautiful thing called adoption.


You can read more about the Starting family and their journey  on their YouCaring site and on their Facebook page.


Nov. 14, 2017

His First Mommy.

By Susanna Filippi.

When my husband and I first discussed adoption, I knew that my preference would be to pursue an open adoption. I’d learned about how much it helps a child incorporate adoption into their identity in a healthy way when they know the story from where they came.

When we met our son’s birth mom, my hope was that we could be great friends. I imagined all of us together cheering him on at baseball games and watching him at school plays. I figured that conversations about adoption would come more naturally if we had relationship with his birth family, and he would simply have more people to love him.

Shortly after we took our son home from the hospital, his birth mother came for a visit. I remember how intimidated I felt at those first few visits. I wanted her to see that we loved and cared for him well; that she had made a good choice in placing him with us. I felt insecure in my new role as a mom and I worried she would see that.

She seemed so comfortable with him as she scooped him up and cooed at him. She commented on his eyes and his hair and his fat little legs. He was so content all curled up with her. They fit together.

I sat there watching as they shared these precious moments, wanting to document them in my mind for my son. I wanted him to know how much his first mom loved him. What she had sacrificed for him. The thought brought tears to my eyes.

Then I heard her coo, “Mommy loves you!” In that moment I felt my heart leap in my chest and the air escape from my lungs. I hadn’t heard her refer to herself as “Mommy” before.

My mind scrambled, searching for a thing to say. “Mommy” was mine! But it was hers too. My heart and my head battled. I acknowledged that she was his first mom, but hearing her say it, I felt this growing roar rising up inside of me. This protective battle cry to defend my place and say something.

In that moment, I chose to stay quiet. Everything about motherhood and adoption and navigating relationships with his birth family was new to me; and I hadn’t slept much either. I didn’t trust my feelings to navigate the situation well.

As I thought about that moment over the next several weeks, I determined that if I truly wanted for him to understand her place in his life, I needed to be okay with her as his first mom. As hard as it was to hear, I needed to fight the urge to correct her and silence the mama bear within. She’s his first mom and she always will be. She is a part of him. I want him to know that I’m okay with that.


These adoption stories are funded by YOU.  All grants provided by the ONE17 Foundation are made possible through the generosity of our donors.  To become a one-time or recurring monthly donor, click here. Donations are tax deductible.  Thank you for creating a ripple.

Nov. 9 .2017

Adoption is Beautiful, at Times Brutal, and Life-Changing in Every Way.

By Rebecca Barlow

We are Rebecca and Ted Barlow, a nurse midwife and an IT guy living and working in Haiti.

Adoption has been woven into our family from our early days of dating. Ted is adopted, so when we started talking family it always included the idea of adopting along with having biological children. What we didn’t know is that we would have infertility issues, and conceive one biological child who was a “miracle” himself. We felt this was guidance towards adoption, as it was already in our hearts.  In the late 90’s, we were attending a church that began an adoption ministry in Russia, in the early days of adoption there. We ended up bringing 4 daughters home from Russia over 2 years. It was beautiful, at times brutal and life-changing in every way. Our 4 girls are now young adults and seeing how important having a “forever family” has been for them prompted us several years ago to consider adopting again.

In 2010, we were leaders of orphan care at a large mega church in Texas and working with the adoption ministry as well, when a devastating earthquake hit Port Au Prince, Haiti. We knew little about it, but were immediately drawn into trying to help. Our family was touched by the need and by the enormous increase in orphans after the earthquake. Also, our experiences with adoption had taught us a lot about the effects of institutionalization and we had become strong advocates for either stabilization/reunification of families or adoption.  This led us to accept a ministry position living and working in Haiti where we focused on keeping kids that had been taken in by family members or friends after the earthquake versus placing them for adoption or institutional care. We stabilized these families through local churches and international partners. It was very effective!

At the same time, we met a little girl in an orphanage in 2011 whose biological mother had died in the earthquake, and who had was rapidly deteriorating due to chronic health issues. The orphanage she was in was unregistered and unstable and she was not getting her medications properly.  She needed better care. With the help of social services, we received  custody of her 3 years ago and we are now in the adoption process. 

If the process of adoption isn’t challenging enough, it has been even more challenging to manage it from Haiti! So much of our paperwork has had to be gathered and authenticated in the US.

Our work here is on a volunteer basis at present. Current projects include an IT outsourcing business to address poverty and the economy in Haiti and developing a freestanding birth center providing maternity care here.   I (Rebecca) have been flying back 

and forth during this time of transition to work as an RN and keep us afloat. Our little Syndie, who has blossomed in the 3 years since we have had her is very ready to be able to visit her family in the U.S. once her adoption is completed.


You can read more about the Barlow’s adoption on their blog or by visiting their facebook page.

These adoption stories are funded by YOU.  All grants provided by the ONE17 Foundation are made possible through the generosity of our donors.  To become a one-time or recurring monthly donor, click here. Donations are tax deductible.  Thank you for creating a ripple.

November 6, 2017

Don’t Give Up on Your Miracle, By Mandy Cormier

This little girl, Adriana, is my miracle. During the adoption process, there was a time when I almost let others convince me to give up on her. Her case was actually a “hopeless case” headed for the Supreme Court and I was told to grieve and move on because there was no way it would go in my favor and it could be 3-4 years before I found out anything. Fast forward a bit, I had an updated home study, paperwork, etc. ready to mail off to begin pursuing twin girls that my agency felt were a perfect fit for me.  I was excited because I always dreamed of having twin girls. The agency didn’t even know that, so I thought it was God’s way of comforting me through the loss of Adriana, which was really hard to accept.

It was a Friday. I held the big sealed envelope that was ready to be shipped to begin the process of adopting the twins. I knew that as soon as I dropped that envelope in the mail, I was canceling every possible chance of being Adriana’s mom. That Friday afternoon, I could NOT make myself drop that envelop into the mail.

Fast forward to the very next week. I got a phone call that everything had turned around in Adriana’s case (the case that was supposedly hopeless and impossible) and that there was now a good chance things would go in my favor. Had I dropped that envelope in the mail the week before, I would have been turning in all of the paperwork that basically cancelled everything for Adriana.

Not long after things turned around (the case didn’t have to go to Supreme Court to add at least another year or 3 to the wait), I met this beautiful angel and became her MOM! We are the perfect match. I am so thankful that I didn’t give up on my miracle even though I was so close to letting others convince me to do so. I knew in my heart that she was my daughter the second I saw her picture and read seven sentences about her.

This little girl is proof of why you shouldn’t give up on YOUR miracle either.

Mandy was the recipient of the very first ONE17 Adoption Grant.  You can read more about her adoption of Adriana on her blog (this blog follows her journey from the time she announced she was adopting through her first few days with Adriana)  You can also see the happiest little girl around in this sweet video she shared with us last fall. 

These adoption stories are funded by YOU.  All grants provided by the ONE17 Foundation are made possible through the generosity of our donors.  To become a one-time or recurring monthly donor, click here. Donations are tax deductible.  Thank you for creating a ripple.


November 2, 2017

Congratulations Lindsey and Ross Games!

“We had to make an extremely difficult decision to continue pursuing our adoption from the states, separating us from our daughter.” by Lindsey Games

My husband and I decided that adoption was plan A for our family. We’ve both wanted to adopt since childhood. Ross has family who have and are adopted, and he grew up understanding the redemption that adoption can bring. I remember learning about orphans as a little girl, and God has never let it leave my heart.

We met in Uganda in 2012 on a mission trip, serving a home for children with special needs.  Our hearts broke as we met these “unseen” children longing for them all to be in a family of their own. During this trip, a little girl named Gift captured both of our hearts in separate moments. Before we were ever a couple, God whispered to Ross and I both that this girl would be our daughter. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the moment our family met for the very first time. Throughout our marriage, we prayed for an opportunity to adopt Gift.

Fast forward a few years, Ross and I found ourselves serving as directors of this same children’s home in Uganda. Without hesitation, we knew God was also answering our heart’s deepest prayer. We began the fostering process of Gift with the hopes to adopt. However, a few months into fostering, God abruptly shut the door on our time in Uganda. Earlier this year we had to make an extremely difficult decision to continue pursuing our adoption from the states, separating us from our daughter. It has been so challenging, but we have seen God’s hand abundantly over our situation.

We sold everything we owned prior to moving to Uganda, but thanks to God’s great provision we are settling back in the states and just waiting for our family to be whole again. Currently, we have submitted our Dossier, and we are waiting to hear from our Ugandan lawyer and agency when we are to travel for court.

You can read more about the Games and follow along on their journey on Lindsey’s Facebook page, their instagram account (or follow #thegamesadopt)  You can also help fund their adoption of Gift further by visiting and donating at


November is National Adoption Month!

November, 1, 2017.

Originally started by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 as National Adoption Week and then expanded to a full month by President Bill Clinton in 1995, National Adoption Month was a campaign to raise awareness of the hundreds of thousands of foster children awaiting adoption in the U.S.  Today, while that is still a primary focus of the month, the scope has expanded over the years to include raising awareness of any adoption-related topic including domestic and international adoption, foster care, foster-to-adopt, the worldwide orphan crisis, best practices in orphan care, trauma, open adoption, orphan prevention and family reunification and much, much more.

Since we here at ONE17 firmly believe the best way to bring awareness and Create a Ripple Effect of Care is through story, we are excited to spend National Adoption Month sharing stories with you, right here on the ONE17 website.

Stop by tomorrow to read the story of one of the two October grant recipients. Then come back regularly throughout the month of November to read the second family’s story and posts by guest authors and bloggers on topics from all sides of adoption.

Have a story you ‘d like to share? (These stories should be personal experience and not be geared toward advice or opinion.) Email us at and we just might share your story!