Journeys of the Heart Adoption Services Annual Report 2015

Stories First

Hazel

Courtney, Bret, Sister Tessa and Newly Adopted Hazel

Our journey took nine months. We know that’s not typical. From the time we did our paperwork, took our class, had our home studies, and wrote our letter, Hazel Anita Lee came in nine months. Her birth parents named her. Everyone loves her name. We hear from her birth parents. Hazel has their pictures in her room, and she will know where she came from. She will know her adoption story.

The best adoption advice we got was this: “Just go with it. Don’t try to manage it.”

It worked. We had a great experience. We wouldn’t change a thing. Journeys did a great job. We owe them a deep gratitude, and we thank them for helping grow our family.”

Bret and Courtney

Selah Lilibeth

Eric and Angie had waited more than a year to adopt two young siblings in Colombia.  Although Angie is Colombian, there just didn’t seem to be any little sisters or sister and brother group in their age category.  Since Eric and Angie already had two sons, they really wanted to add a little girl to their family.  Information was received from Colombia about a little girl with special needs whose name was Lilibeth.  Eric and Angie thought it over and decided this was the little girl they had been waiting for.  They traveled to Colombia to meet her and complete the adoption.

Eric and Selah Lilibeth

Selah Lilibeth came home several weeks later and loves her new family.  She has a sense of humor and picks up on new things quickly.  She is especially fond of her new brothers.  The boys are excited that she is home and love to play with her.

Eric and Angie took a leap of faith and brought home the little girl who was just right for their family.

Two Families Come Together As One

Ryan and Melissa with son, Jacob, and daughter, Brynn

When we signed on to work with Journeys of the Heart, we were at a place of feeling defeated.  We had years of multiple failed fertility treatments and our work with an adoption consultant on the east coast was a horrible year-long experience.  Feeling hopeless, we reached out to Journeys of the Heart. Journeys would be our last effort before walking away from the adoption process.

We felt a sense of peace the minute we talked to Chelsea (Journeys’ domestic adoption coordinator).  She answered the 8 billion questions we had with patience, honesty and understanding.  She managed to restore our hope again.

A year has passed since that initial phone call and we are sitting here with our beautiful 8-month old daughter and a relationship with her parents that is indescribable.  Journeys of the Heart was steadfast in supporting our family through our adoption process.  From our initial phone call with our adoption coordinator, to sitting side by side Chelsea while meeting our daughter's birth parents for the first time, to her navigating the entire day of our daughter's birth, to standing by our side as we cried while signing papers gaining parental rights to our daughter, to offering support after she was born.  She was by our side through it all.

When I talk to our daughter's birth mom, she says Chelsea was there and in the exact same role in her life. What a wonderful feeling to know everyone from every angle is supported by Journeys’ staff. Our lives became infinitely better the minute our daughter was born. We went from feeling hopeless to forgetting what feeling hopeless felt like the minute we saw our daughter. We gained extended family within our daughter's birth parents and they are a blessing to us. The wait was worth it and our family is complete, all thanks to Journeys of the Heart. 

Stella

In November 2013, Rhona, Journeys of the Heart’s representative in Uganda, met Stella and her impoverished mother (left).  Stella’s father had died four years earlier and her mother had been in poor health since then.  Stella’s mother got on her knees and begged Rhona to find a family to care for Stella.  Stella’s mom called Rhona several times a week anxious and hopeful and saddened as months passed by without our finding a family.  A half year went by and then a lovely family from Illinois, Julie and Michael and their two children, saw the information that we had posted about Stella’s circumstances on Rainbow Kids, a national waiting child website.  Julie and Michael told us that they were ready to commit to adopting Stella.  With great joy we called Rhona to tell her to let Stella and her mom know that we finally had a family for Stella.  When Rhona called to tell Stella’s mom the good news, we learned that Stella’s mom had died just two weeks earlier without knowing if Stella would be safe and her childhood and future secure.   

While it would be another year and a half before Stella came home to Julie and Michael’s family, Stella found peace in the knowledge that she had a loving family in the U.S. whom she would join sooner or later. 

Julie writes, “We love having Stella in our family. She is a character! She enriches our lives so much. Stella is a strong and resilient child. She has adapted so well to her new family, friends, church, and school.  Stella really likes her new life with us and yet also likes to think and talk about her life in Uganda as well. The better her language skills become, the more we learn about her past and her "take" in her new life with us. It is a joy to see life through her eyes. It would be hard to imagine life without her.”

“We would especially like to thank David Slansky and all the staff of Journeys of the Heart. They found Stella in a sad situation through staff member Rhona in Uganda. Rhona is also a gem. With Stella's best interests at heart, they all made sure she was cared for while we finished all the paperwork and waited on a court date so we could travel to Uganda. We couldn't be happier with the support we all received through the process!”

 

News Of 2015

This was a good year for Journeys – we placed 23 children and we consider each child a precious victory!  As international adoption grinds slower we find that most of our placements are now from the domestic program, although we also placed children from Uganda and Colombia.”

We have been exploring other international placement possibilities and that led us to be licensed in Honduras.  After years of a stalled program, Honduras has reorganized and has plans to place children as young as one-year-old and up.  We’ve had our first families apply and they already have children referred to them.  To say we are excited and optimistic about this possibility is an understatement.  Licensing and researching this program was all completed by our Latin America Coordinator, Julie Eagleson, who has years of experience in this area.  We are pleased to have her with us at Journeys.

Colombia slowed down in 2015, but clearly the families who adopted from there are in love with their children.  Julie keeps her families moving through the program as fast as possible and it remains a solid program for siblings and older children.

Adoptions in Uganda have also slowed with anti-adoption sentiment and growing concerns over new laws that may make international adoption prohibitive.  Nonetheless, a few children came home from there this year and we hope that this state of affairs can be turned around.  David continues to shepherd this program, which he loves.

Chelsea has been busy this year in the domestic program.  She sees women coming from so many different scenarios – married, single, students, those having difficulty navigating life and others that are doing well.  She crafts a plan in conjunction with each birth parent that meets their needs.  As a birth parent herself each person she works with in the program means a great deal to her.

We are very privileged to have a stable staff that keeps everything working smoothly.  Marsha Dennis, our office manager, has been here for ten years, and is honored to work helping children find families.  Melodie Eckland, our bookkeeper, has been with us for five years, and as the grandmother of two children from Uganda, she is as invested in the mission as all of the rest of us. 

Bob Larrance, our IT guy, has been with us since the beginning and, having a daughter from India, his heart is all in. Michal Alkoff uses her personal experience and professional expertise to guide adoptive parents through the service plan portion of our process.  Families are better prepared to deal with issues their children might face before actual events occur because of Michal’s careful approach. Tino handles our web design and his deft touch brings life to our printed materials, as well.

Journeys has also started to explore the option of reopening the India Program since we remain licensed and in good standing there.  We are also looking at other program possibilities.  Stay tuned.

As always, we are so grateful to those of you who contributed money to our annual campaign.  We could not manage what we do without you.  So many of you have contributed to us for many years and your loyalty is so appreciated.  We know there are many worthy causes, but you choose to keep funding JOH. 

Many heartfelt thanks to you!

(left to right) Chelsea, David, Susan, Bob, Melodie and Marsha