Advocate is a powerful word. It carries so much meaning in its 8 little letters.
1. one that pleads the cause of another
2. one that defends or maintains a cause
3. one that supports or promotes the interests of another
This definition sure sounds mighty familiar. It seems as if Mr. Webster might just have sought some scriptural help from the prophet Isaiah who eloquently stated, “learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” This is who an advocate is.
An advocate is someone who speaks up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Today, we would like to introduce you to four moms who spend countless hours a week as advocates. They are a dedicated bunch who volunteer for a cause that is so close to each of their hearts. They each have an individual platform through which they share children waiting to be chosen for adoption. They are, in fact, responsible for countless children being found by their families.
It is our pleasure to have each of these women tell you a bit about their journey and about their diligent work as waiting child advocates within the China community. They are leaving a beautiful legacy. One child at a time.
Jessica McComas – Twenty Less
My husband Carson and I have 6 children and live in Spokane, Washington. Carson owns an agency that builds e-commerce websites for clients and I spend most of my days in an assortment of doctor offices and therapy centers with our children. I really love advocating for their needs. We have six children ranging in ages from 19 down to 7 years old, three of whom we adopted from China. We try to maintain our sanity with family hikes and vacations, playing Tenzi, and watching movies together.
When we were ready for our fourth child, we watched a documentary about orphans in China and in that moment we knew that was where our next child was. Our first adoption was a healthy 6 month old baby girl, for whom we waited 2 ½ years. On the trip to get her, we met families adopting children with special needs, and our hearts were quite touched by this.
Our next adoption was a 2 year old girl with multiple special needs. She was so delayed when we got her, we knew that our lives would change forever in some hard ways, but we loved her deeply and it hurt to think that she might still be sitting in an orphanage alone and misunderstood.
After her adoption, I started grasping at how I could possibly help all of the other “Averys”. I joined a Yahoo group and then a Facebook group where others were finding families for children. It was exhilarating to know that I could do something! We went back to China in 2012 to adopt an older boy with right side hemiplegia (a form of cerebral palsy). While we were there, we took photos and videos and wrote down info on as many children in his orphanage as we could. My husband and I still talk about what a beautiful experience that was and the miracles and families who came forward for those children.
I started TwentyLess in 2013 hoping to manage my overwhelming feelings for ALL of the children who were alone and needed a family… a future. I thought that 20 children at a time was a manageable amount. I decided not to give up on these children. I would keep advocating until a family came for them. The site eventually turned into a place to advocate for 40 children, The Twenty and the Urgent Twenty (children aging out or who are medically urgent). I couldn’t help myself.
An advocacy memory that sticks with me was a 6 year old girl I called “Naomi”. She was one of the first sweet girls I put on my site. She had pretty severe cerebral palsy affecting all of her limbs. She did not speak, but she had the most beautiful smile! I prayed for her, but nobody asked me about her. I shared about her and I never gave up on her. I got an update with a sweet video showing her amazing smile, but still no one asked.
Later, I tried to get a second update on her and no update came back, just the message that she wasn’t doing well. I tried again a few months later and got the message that she had passed away. I felt like my heart had broken. There didn’t seem to be a reason she should have passed away, but someone suggested that many children die because the winters can get really cold.
I grieved that she probably would be living, breathing, and smiling if she had a family, and I grieved that I didn’t go get her myself. I think of her often, and forgotten children like her are why I keep getting their little faces out there.
When a child has been waiting for 2 or more years and finally does get a family, it reminds me to never ever give up on one child. One child matters. I choose the children for my site with my heart, and usually they are the ones that will not be chosen quickly, but I’m patient, hopeful, and prayerful.
Lori Saylor – Red Thread Advocates
I always chuckle when people refer to our “big” family. After all, I only have 4 children and that seems very average to me. My husband and I are blessed with 3 amazing bio children and one incredibly cute China boy.
Although our adoption story started long before getting involved in advocacy, my advocacy started because of our adoption. And because of these six.
It has been almost three years and these six little faces still linger in mind and heart.
Honestly, I was nervous about our orphanage visit the week that we adopted Mycah. I was worried that my son, whose voice I had barely heard and who I had yet to see smile, would not want to leave with me. He was 4 and quite obviously in shock. But I wanted this piece of history for him. And I needed to see where my son had spent the entirety of his life thus far. So we went.
We were allowed to visit the classroom run by Half the Sky. Treats were shared with six little girls. Laughs and giggles were heard. The first real smiles from Mycah and glimmers of his real personality were seen. Thankfully, my friend had the presence of mind to ask if the girls had had their files prepared. We were assured that they had, but none of them had families.
Walking with the group towards the dorm so they could get ready for dinner, it was time for us to leave. The orphanage had denied our request to enter the dormitory. The sweet six entered the building waving and chattering, all while pointing and commenting on the funny ladies with the blonde hair. All was going well. No meltdowns or begging to go in with this friends. Whew! What a relief. We stayed outside and a few more good-byes were said to ayis who obviously cared deeply for my newest little guy. We soon heard more chattering of little voices, only to look up and see the sweet six plus a few more kids talking and yelling and waving to Mycah through the second story barred windows.
And my heart sank.
I had been so worried about Mycah’s reaction and how difficult this may be when we left, that it hadn’t really sunk in how many children I was leaving behind. The six. And dozens more. How could I walk away? I was incredibly grateful to finally have my son in my arms, but also incredibly grieved to walk away from so many more. I was forever changed. I could not forget them. They needed families too.
Eventually after coming home, I connected with a sweet friend who was starting an advocacy blog for some harder to place children. She poured SO much time and energy into the blog already, and I was honored to be able to help out however I could. Now 18 months later, Red Thread has been blessed to advocate for over 400 children. Although emotionally wrecking at times, it has been so incredible to watch how God has connected children and their families. How children who were previously to many just a line on a spreadsheet with scary needs and one bad mug shot for a file picture are now cherished sons and daughters.
And it all started with six.
Rebecca Coleman – Waiting Child Info
Never in my life have I felt so led as when we began walking the Waiting Child adoption path. My husband and I desired a family and after many years of fertility treatments, miscarriages and lots of prayers and tears we were blessed with our two boys.
Shortly after our younger son turned one I discovered I was pregnant again. No doctors, no drugs, just pure nature; but at 11 weeks her little heart stopped beating and she became my 4th and final miscarriage. My doctor said it was time to stop but in my heart I wasn’t done becoming a mother. I grieved deeply and my desire to have another child wasn’t going away.
About 6 months later an angel was dropped into my life who would open my eyes to the China Waiting Child program. I jumped in with both feet and began to connect with people in the adoption community online. We were complete strangers exchanging emails in the middle of the night… and I’m still here, 4 years later, sending and receiving emails about adoption in the middle of the night. The difference is that now it’s no longer about me, my family or my adoptions; it’s about them, the children who are still waiting, unchosen.
I recently came across Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Wow. God knew. While I was grieving my losses He knew my heart would break even more for these orphaned children once I learned about them. He knew my desire to do something would be strong.
Our first daughter came from a very poor, very understaffed orphanage in China. After she had been home with us for 8 days I posted the following on my adoption blog: “We’ve had her less than 3 weeks and as I watch her soak in all of the affection we pour over her in our home it breaks my heart to think how lonely she must have been. And then I start to think about all of the children that are still there waiting in an orphanage. Still laying in their cribs 20+ hours a day. Still scratching their scabies bites and suffering from diaper rash and bed sores. Still not knowing the love of a mother. Still lonely. Still waiting.
I know it’s not part of God’s plan that children should suffer. I believe that God’s wish is for us to do what we can to help those who need us. He whispers to us but we have to be willing to listen. If it’s in your heart to adopt, follow the calling. It’s scary, it’s expensive and it’s hard work; however, sometimes in life the hardest things we do prove to be the most rewarding.”
That’s when I really started advocating for Waiting Children in China. I had no idea how to best advocate but asked our agency if I could post their agency specific children down the side of my adoption blog. Once I realized that kids were being seen and chosen because of my little blog a seed was planted. It was, and continues to be, incredibly and amazingly humbling to be used in this way.
In the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to volunteer in China through the agency we used for our first adoption. It was a life changing experience to spend a week playing with, photographing and writing about the children we met – most of whom were harder to place boys. I really connected with one little guy in particular and cried every night over him in my hotel room because I was afraid he wouldn’t be chosen.
I’ve prayed for him often, as have many others in the adoption community, and am beyond thrilled that just this week, two and a half years after I first met him, a sweet family received pre-approval to adopt him! I love it when any of the kids I’ve highlighted are matched, but when the ones I have personally met and spent time with are chosen by adoptive families… there are really just no words for what my heart feels. If you find an opportunity to travel through an agency to help with their advocacy efforts please do it! These kids are so much more than their medical files can express!
Every picture taken and every sentence written by someone who has met them makes a huge difference. Shortly after returning from that trip I realized that my advocacy had outgrown my adoption blog and Waiting Child Info was created so more children could be effectively highlighted.
My goal is to advocate for children until they are chosen, or become “unadoptable” due to their age. Although it can be hard to always know the status of a particular waiting child there are so many amazing people in our growing adoption community that are instrumental in helping advocates like myself keep track of the kids as their files move from agency to agency.
I hope everyone who helps by sharing advocacy posts knows how deeply appreciated you are and what a huge difference you make in the lives of waiting children. We just never know who among our friends, our church or our very own families will look at the face of a waiting child we’ve shared and feel led to adopt.
Right now our sons are 10 and 7 and our daughters are 5 and 3. We just recently brought home our youngest (whom I was asked to advocate for) and think we’re done adopting, but I can’t imagine advocacy not being part of my life. These children need us to be their voices. Proverbs 24:12 says “… For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew…” I’ve seen them, held them and loved them. I know. My eyes are opened and my faith is strong that this is where God wants me. How could I possibly walk away?
Liberty Joy – No Hands But Ours
I am the blessed mama to six gifts, ranging in age from 2 to 17. Our three sons are in our family thanks to adoption, the oldest through an open domestic adoption, and the youngest two came home through the China Special Needs Program.
My husband and I traveled to China for the first time in 2013 to adopt our son Daniel. We traveled with two other families, one of whom was adopting a little girl who was very weak and definitely in shock. She would not eat or drink anything for days, and her color began to take on a dusky hue, her skin became dry and loose, and she became even more frail and limp than she had been on gotcha day. As a nurse and as a mom, I had a gut feeling that something was very wrong. In great fear I told my husband, this little girl is dying. Her parents began syringe feeding her tiny sips of pedialyte and sustained her life until they could get her home to proper medical care.
Something happened to my heart at that point. It was at the moment my soul understood what my mind had known all along. The true plight of the waiting child took on a whole new meaning. These children were no longer just numbers, nor were they just the medical names, nor something I could ignore. I was faced with the understanding of what life must have been like for this fragile little girl in her orphanage. What it must be like for so many others. “Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows we know and holds us responsible to act.” Proverbs 24:12
It was after this that I joined the world of advocacy. I began slowly by advocating for children with my adoption agency. And then by God’s divine intervention, I landed the dream gig of coordinating the Children Who Wait page for NHBO. Working in this capacity has been such an amazing experience, and a time when I have felt that I am truly The Lord’s instrument and He is using in a powerful way.
One of the greatest joys in my life is seeing pictures of families meeting their children who they have met through the advocacy of NHBO. There is just about nothing better on earth.