She’ll always be my daughter.

May 12th, 2011

I have three children.
Two live in my house.
One no longer does.
She came into my life last June and lived here until March.
Sometime around the holidays we began to notice a change. Not bad things, just changes.
Changes that showed us some parts of her past that were a surprise to everyone.
And changes that showed us she was not were she was supposed to be.
In April we made the decision to allow her to move to a new home, another family.
A place that, we hope, can provide what she needs and can devote all of their time and energy into helping her heal.
I wanted so badly to be that person. To be the one to help her heal.
But it was clear that living here was not what she needed from us right now.
What she needed from us was a chance to move on.

She doesn’t live with us anymore.
We’re legally not her parents.
But she will always be my daughter.

Two Years Ago

March 20th, 2011

Two years ago today.

We were in Ethiopia.

Meeting Milo.

Milo 5 months

#30b ‘That’ Adoption Poem

November 30th, 2010

I’m just going to say it: I hate this poem.










There are three things that just grate me the wrong way.

1) One you don’t remember, one you call mother. Do a survey of people who were adopted, especially people who were adopted after the age of 2. How many of them do you think don’t remember their mother? I know this poem was probably written with an infant adoption in mind, but even still, in many (if not most) adoptions today, a child’s birth mother plays a significant role in the child’s life. There is still a connection in some way – pictures, phone calls, maybe even visits. The child’s parents talk about birth family.

Children remember their mothers.

2) One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name. Both of my children have the names they were given at birth. Yes, we added names but we were not the first to name them. And we aren’t the exception to the rule.

3) In general, the dismissal of birth parents. Maybe I’m being oversensitive, but to me the tone of this poem is that adoptive parents are just this much better than birth parents.

#10 A few thoughts on Orphan Sunday

November 10th, 2010

Here are a few (very simplified) thoughts on Orphan Sunday.

A few things to clarify:
1. Yes, I am a Christian and I believe that means I am called to care for the orphan and the widow. It’s talked about over and over in the Bible.
2. I am not anti-adoption. (You’ve seen my family, right?)

Now, my thoughts on November 7 – Orphan Sunday
1. Biblically speaking, the church as a whole needs to do more to care for the orphans.
But it needs to be done in a way that is non-manipulative. No staggering statistics, no “before and after” type slide shows, no sappy music. It needs to be a call to action. It needs to have the mind-set that in the future there will not be a need for “Orphan Sunday” because the church has been working towards social change – keeping families together. Providing for the needs of the family– sustainable resources, clean water, access to medical care. Adoption is a last resort.

2. Stop using the Bible as an excuse to dismiss ethics.
Adoption is complicated and heart-breaking. Yes it creates a family and that is a joyful thing but there is grief and loss and sadness and suffering. When your child asks you the tough questions are you going to be able to honestly say to them “We knew that the only option left was adoption.”?

3. No more “rescuing” children.
Every single time some says “Thank you” or “Bless you” to me for adopting our kids, I cringe. I am not a hero. I wanted more kids. And we decided to add to our family through adoption. Period.

4. What I want to see happen
I want to see change. I want to see churches stand up and say that caring for the orphan means fighting for ethics in adoption, ending the sex trade and ending human trafficking
I want to see people providing access to medical care, clean water and an education.
I want to see education on adoption and the complexities that surround it.

#3 National Adoption Month

November 3rd, 2010

Lexi & Milo

Waiting for Yeshumnesh

November is National Adoption Month.

This is your chance to ask questions.

What do you want to know about adoption – the good, the bad, the ugly?

Adoption is a personal subject and it’s easy to open mouth and insert foot (trust me, been there, done that)

Now’s your chance…ask away, post under a fake name if you want. I’ll answer what I can.

I’m pretty good at these topics: international adoption, older child adoption, waiting child adoption, attachment, how to prepare your family/friends, transracial/transcultural adoption, how to talk about your child’s story (to your child), how to answer the questions that are too personal without making people feel bad, books to read, resources.

So, what would you like to know?

Family Photo!


Question 1: How’s it going with a teenager?

Answer: Um…she’s a teenager. Seriously, she’s doing well. For her sake, I won’t go into a lot of details but considering all she’s been through, she’s adjusting well. We take a couple steps forward and then a step back, then a few more forward. She talks about her future with us (“you’re going to pay for my college, right?” “you’re going to help me buy a car, right?”) which is a good sign. She also reminds me how mean I am because I don’t let her eat school lunch every day like everyone else or get a cell phone like everyone else. We’re taking it one day at a time and picking our battles….like I said – teenager.

Question 2: Adopting out of birth order.

This is a debated subject. Some say you shouldn’t muck with birth order but I don’t agree. The birth order of the children in the home does not trump the birth order of the newest child. For example, let’s say your kids are 8 & 6 and you adopt a 3 year old. But your 3 year old is the oldest of 2. Now he’s the youngest of 3….so who’s birth order is more important?

What I do feel is important is taking your family’s personality into account. Are your kids “go with the flow” types or are they very set in their routines. Can the new child handle being the oldest, youngest, stuck in the middle? We got lucky. Milo didn’t care. He was the baby and still is the baby. Lexi cares when she’s in a crabby mood. But I think she’d have the same reaction if she were still the oldest.

I think what worked for us is there is enough of an age gap between Yeshumnesh and Lexi (they are 6 years apart) that there isn’t a power struggle to be the oldest.

Question #3 How come you didn’t adopted from America? There are so many kids here who need families too.

Fair question. There are so many different types of adoption – foster care, domestic infant adoption, international adoption, Waiting Child programs, etc, etc. Every person/couple has to look at the programs, look at their current family situations and decide what is best for everyone involved.

When we adopted, we picked an agency we trusted. Then we looked into the programs they offered (and they offered everything) but the one that fit our family the best was Ethiopia and the more we looked into it, the more “right” it felt. It’s a personal decision that each family has to make.

We were aware of the need in America but at that point in our lives we didn’t think we would be the right parents for kids/teenagers who need that amount of emotional support.

I don’t think any type of adoption is better or worse. But there are programs that are better than others. When you are deciding on adoption you need to decide what type will best fit your family and then you need to evaluate how ethically an agency runs that specific program and make your decision based on that. (and ethics is a whole other separate post.)

Clear as mud, right?

Christmas Shopping and Helping a Family at the same time

October 25th, 2010

My friend is hosting an online silent auction to raise money to bring her son JohnMark home from Ghana.

It’s a pretty amazing story. I’ll give you the short version but go get a box of tissues and read her story here.

The short version is this: about 2 years ago, they adopted two older girls from Ghana. They knew the girls had a baby brother but he was not in need of a family at the moment. While visiting an orphanage in Ghana, guess who they met? Yep, BabyBoy. So, after much paperwork, waiting and red tape, they are bringing home their daughters’ biological brother.

Now, they are trying to cover a few costs. They are auctioning off quite a bit of cool stuff, a lot of it hand made in Ghana – including raw shea butter. If you’ve never used this stuff, you are missing out.

Here’s the deal – the items can be shipped to you at your expense or they can be picked up the night of the auction if you win. But I’ll throw out this offer – if you are from out of state and win an item, I will pick it up and ship it to you at no cost – just to say thanks for helping out a family.

Happy Christmas Shopping. Ready? Go.

Adoption and Luck

July 29th, 2010

A while ago, Kevin blogged about how adoption isn’t so lucky.

Since we’ve been home, I feeling the need to reiterate that point. Adoption is not lucky. Milo and Yeshumnesh are not lucky to have been adopted. It’s a very sticky point in adoption but it’s an important one for people to remember. Our children came to our family because there was a need. There is grief, loss, and sadness in their lives.

‎”They have lost their original father, mother, grandparents, siblings, extended family. They have lost their language, culture, and country of origin. They have lost any connection whatsoever to their beginnings, to their identity, to the …most basic elements of who they are. They have lost any knowledge of what happened and why.” (Source: Yoon’s Blur)

That’s not luck. As my daughter put it “you don’t know what it’s like to leave the country you know and move to a place where you know nothing.”

Here are two other articles one on the concept of being grateful and another on luck.

We’re a family of five.

July 28th, 2010

Last night, I got back from 6 days in Alaska.

I left on Thursday to meet my daughter.

Kevin blogged all the details here.

Long story short, this adoption fell into our laps. We were preparing to adopt an older child but we thought it would be next summer before we welcomed a child home. But a friend was talking to a social worker who mentioned that a girl from Ethiopia needed a new home. The friend contacted me and told me to contact the social worker. I did.

A flurry of paperwork, phone calls, meetings with lawyers, social workers, home-studies, more paperwork and 7 weeks later the call came to book plane tickets.

Her name is Yeshumnesh – she’s smart, funny, talkative and pretty much all around a great kid.

An Open Letter to Our Family and Friends (Round 2)

July 22nd, 2010

An Open Letter to our Family and Friends,

We announced earlier this spring that we were pursing the adoption of an older child. We never imagined that a few short months later we’d be welcoming an 11-year-old girl into our home. But that’s what will happen the last week of July.

Just like we did with Milo, we want to share with you some of our expectations and rules. Because of the nature of this adoption, it’s a lot different and we’re going to be sharing more. This is more than we’ve shared online, for reasons that will become obvious, and we’re trusting that you will keep this information offline. It will eventually come out, but for privacy and safety reasons we need it to be kept confidential.

On July 22 Abby and our good friend Nicole will be traveling to Alaska to meet Yeshumnesh (pronounced Ye-shem-nesh). They’ll return on July 27. She’s a bright, out-going and active Ethiopian girl who will turn 11 in August. She originally came to the United States on Christmas Day 2009, but that original adoption is being disrupted (that’s adoption lingo for what happens when a child is placed with a family and it doesn’t work out). The reasons behind that disruption will remain private, but we can say that in general it’s due to a clash of personalities and parenting styles. This family was not the right fit for Yeshumnesh.

Yeshumesh is now enrolled in 6th grade at Heritage Middle School, which is only a few blocks from our house. She’s very athletic and enjoys soccer, biking, cross-country skiing and ice skating (hockey!). She likes to color and do crafty things, and she enjoys listening to stories. She’s quickly catching up on her English as well. She’ll have her own bedroom across from Lexi & Milo’s and we hope we can decorate it together.

Adopting an older child is always a lot more complicated than adopting an infant, and in this case the disruption further complicates the whole thing. Because of these issues there are few things you should be aware of:

First and foremost, you can throw standard parenting rules out the window. We’ve talked with other parents who have adopted older children, and all the standard parenting tactics simply don’t work. So if you thought we were weird parents before, we’re going to get especially weird now.

Tantrums & Extreme Behavior
Secondly, it’s common for older adopted children to exhibit extreme behavior. There can often be a sizable difference between their actual physical age and their emotional or psychological age. It’s common for older kids to regress, to be stuck in earlier developmental stages and to bounce around between stages.

This is where some creative parenting will come in to play as we help Yeshumnesh deal with the loss in her life and find appropriate ways to express her feelings. She’s been through a lot and will need to throw a lot at us to make sure she can trust us. Tantrums and extreme behavior like running away are not uncommon. As intense as this may be, it’s important to remember that it’s not reflective of Yeshumnesh as a person, it’s because of everything she’s been through. Think scary circumstances, not scary child.

Food Issues
Experiencing any type of malnourishment can be hardwired into kid’s brains and results in a lot of food issues. It’s common in older adopted kids and we’ve even seen this with Milo. The best approach is to not get into battles over food. This means letting the kids have access to food whenever they need it. Building the trust with them and letting them know their needs are always provided for is more important than spoiling supper. This will mean things like having healthy snacks available all the time, giving the kids water bottles, having a stash of sealed, healthy food in their rooms, etc.

Yeshumnesh’s Story
We’ve been told that Yeshumnesh readily talks about her birth family in Ethiopia, so don’t be surprised if this comes up. However, keep in mind that this is a volatile and emotional topic for her. Validate her feelings, but don’t question or deny her statements. It’s possible she’ll tell you something that contradicts with the story we’ve been told. In general it’s best to let Yeshumnesh lead these discussions and not try to pry information out of her. Let her share what she’s comfortable with. If you have questions about what she told you, please talk to us.

Possessions can be a common source of strife for kids, but especially for older adopted children. They may have had few possessions in their birth family and even less in the care center. Combine that with an impression of the United States as a land where everyone is rich and you can have whatever you want, and these kids are set up for intense issues with materialism. We’ll be teaching Yeshumnesh proper attitudes about stuff (just like we teach Lexi & Milo), though it may mean some unique approaches for a while. In general we try to share most things in our family and we’ll need to continue to emphasize that. One common tactic we’ve heard is that everything needs to come from us as parents. This is more about knowing that we are the ones providing everything. We may need to remove tags from gifts and let Yeshumnesh assume everything comes from us. Later on we can let her know who gave her what.

Coming Home
We don’t know what the first weeks home will look like. It may mean having a strict routine and few visitors. Yeshumnesh is also out going and visitors may help her settle in. We don’t know how it will go. We want friends and family to be in touch with phone calls and e-mail, but don’t be offended if you’re not invited over and we’re not hanging out with anyone. We’ll need to get used to Yeshumnesh and she’ll need to get used to us. Milo and Lexi will also have their own adjustment periods and we’ll really need some normal routine so everyone can settle in. It’s common for these types of adjustments to take twice as long as the child’s previous adjustment took, so it’s possible it will take a year for things to really become normal. We don’t really know. So some of this may need to last for a while and we may be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas at home. If we are visiting someone else we’ll likely need to implement our routine there. At this point it’s all unknown but we just want to prepare you for what it might look like.

We talked about this with Milo, but it’s always helpful to have a reminder. Phrases like “real mom” or “natural family” can have some really negative implications. We like to stick with neutral terms, like “biological mom” and “birth family.” We also don’t talk about children being “given up”/”put up” for adoption, but instead say “parents created an adoption plan.” We also need to be careful when we talk about how “lucky” or “blessed” someone is to be adopted. This can be a difficult because it’s confusing your feelings with Yeshumnesh’s. Remember that Yeshumnesh is not lucky to have had all this stuff happen to her. Instead of telling Yeshumnesh how to feel (whether explicitly or implicitly) by saying “You must be so happy to be with your new family,” tell her how you feel by saying “I’m so happy you’re a part of Kevin & Abby’s family.” She may or may not reciprocate those feelings—she may not be happy to be a part of our family for a while—and that’s fine. Don’t tell her how she should feel.

It’s also likely that Yeshumnesh will call us Kevin and Abby instead of Mom and Dad for a while. Family members should be prepared for something similar.

Pre-Teen Girl
On top of all of this, keep in mind that Yeshumnesh is a pre-teen girl. Everything is emotional and dramatic and drowning in hormones already.

What Do We Need?
We’re really excited to welcome Yeshumnesh into our family. We’ve been thinking about our next adoption for a while and we started preparing for an older child adoption early this year. Lexi is pretty excited and just asked Abby to make a princess dress for Yeshumnesh.

But the process itself is hard. It’s been a lightning fast rollercoaster. We got the initial call about Yeshumnesh on June 8. By way of comparison, Milo’s process took 19 months. Summer trips have been cancelled and we’ve been living in limbo, going from extremes of frantic preparation to deep lows at news of each delay. Due to the sensitive nature of this process, we’ve been pretty quiet about it online, which means we haven’t shared much, been able to commiserate, or fundraised at all. Also, the issues involved are heavy and it’s been physically exhausting trying to process everything. In a nutshell, this is brutal.

We’re preparing for a difficult transition with Yeshumnesh as well, so things may be tough for a while. We’re trying to be realistic about what to expect, which can sound intimidating, but we’re also excited about winter ice skating and family activities and all the positives.

In the end we need a lot of support. We just need general sanity and will be turning to friends to provide babysitting and date nights and sleepovers and whatever might work to share responsibilities and maintain sanity. If you’re the praying type, we could use plenty of prayer: Legal issues (we’re making travel plans in good faith that legal issues will be sorted out), travel, transitions, family bonding, logistics and even financial considerations could all use prayer.

Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive of Milo’s adoption and we’re hoping to find the same love and support this time around. We need and crave that and we appreciate everything people do for us. This is going to be hard and we will screw up and need help and grace.

Please let us know if you have any questions and thank you for being understanding and accepting in this turbulent and exciting time for our family.

Kevin & Abby Hendricks

Our Newest Addition: It’s a Girl!

June 15th, 2010

We haven’t talked about it much but we started down the paper trail of adoption this spring.

We figured we’d be bringing home our kid(s) next summer.

Plans changed. A lot. And it’s really exciting.

She’s an 11-year-old girl going into 6th grade and she’ll be joining our family this summer.

Due to the sensitive nature of this whole process, we won’t be sharing a lot of details.

But we can tell you that she’s almost as tall as me, her smile is amazing, she likes to ice skate and color.

It’s been a crazy week of checking paperwork, making “to do” lists and getting things ready.

And yes, it’s slowly sinking in that I am now the mom of a pre-teen. A middle-schooler.

This is going to be an adventure.