Family Stories

At No Hands But Ours, we love family stories. Since our inception in 2008, we’ve featured a wide variety of family stories – and we continue to add new stories regularly. Please use the links in the right sidebar to click through to stories on specific special needs, or you can scroll down this main page to read all our family stories.

If you are home with your child from China, and would like to have your family story featured here, just use this form to let us know.


Older Child Adoption: Teaching My Child What a Parent Is

May 19, 2018 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

It was just about a year ago when our family needed to seek out respite. Our teenage son had been home a year, and emotions were at an all time high – for everyone. On many occasions, we’d reached out to those who could help us or him, but it was time to really take a deliberate break and recalibrate. The respite was set up for six days, Sunday to Saturday.

For the first two and a half days, all I did was try to rest. There had been so much turmoil that I had to will myself to settle down and just stop. It was a hard thing to do! But after those couple of days, I realized I would not really be able to truly rest and let go of the feeling of constant intensity unless I knew what the plan was for bringing our son back home a few days later. Something was going to have to change, but what?
What was even the problem?
Why did he resist me so much?
Why did he hate my help so much?
Why did he take all his anger out on me, but was so kind, polite, and gentle to everyone else?

By Tuesday, it was clear this break needed some intentionality. So, that night, my husband and I went out on a date. I took a notebook.

One thing that I try and do regularly is to put myself in someone else’s shoes. So for our teenaged son, why would I have a problem being teachable if I were in his shoes? Of course, many adoption-related reasons came to mind, but one very distinct reason stood out that evening: he needed to understand what we were doing.

What was our job as parents? What was our goal?

The more we mulled over this thought, the more it made sense. How could he have any desire to trust us and be teachable when he had no perspective of what a parent’s job is?

For all intents and purposes, it looked like we were on some power trip trying to control his every move. I imagine that most of his life had been controlled before, but when it’s done in such an institutionalized setting, how could he come to understand that rules and boundaries developed by a parent are done so out of love and protection? It was like a light bulb was turning on for us. He resented me because all he felt was my control without having any of the perspective or foresight of the end game. There was no groundwork, no foundation to our relationship yet. Basically, I had no credibility. My husband and I hashed out a plan over our burgers, and once I felt like we had a strategy, the rest of the week felt productively restful. I was no longer anxious.

As soon as we brought our son back home and put the other kids to bed, the three of us sat down together to talk. As the three of us talked, I scratched out three quick posters. Ian needed to better understand our mission as his parents – what was our job and responsibility and Who is our boss. I drew out an X-Y axis with a parent-sized person on the Y line. On the X line, I drew several stick figures growing in size from a baby all the way to an adult size on the far right. We explained that when a baby was born, a parent had to control everything for that baby.

We listed out all the things that the baby needs and how the mom and dad care for him. At that time in a person’s life, the parents have complete control and the child is completely dependant on the parent, so we put a dot at the highest point on the parent line. But then we drew a diagonal line sloping down from that point to represent that as the child grows into an adult, the parents’ control diminishes. The child learns to take care of his own needs. At adulthood, the child takes full responsibility and control of his own life. We pointed to where our son was on this grid. With only four years left until he is considered an adult, we had minimal time to teach him how to fully function and responsibly care for himself.

Then we started a second poster. Since he isn’t a baby, it was important for him to be responsible for many things himself with only a few years until adulthood started. We “brainstormed” two lists with him on this poster. (On the Tuesday night date, my husband and I had already figured out some ideas for both sides of this T chart and were prepared for how we’d help the brainstorm session.) The first list was what he controls at his age and the second list was what his parents should still control. On our side, we had Education, Health, Character Development. On his side, we discussed Personal Hygiene, His Bedroom, His Clothes, His Homework, etc. We explained that there were lots of things within his control including his responses, habits, his choice to obey us, etc. If the things that he controls are poorly managed and start to become educational, medical, or character issues then we can still step in and adjust accordingly.

But for the most part, we wanted him to see that we are not being puppet masters. We are setting him up so that he can be a healthy responsible man. The more we talked, the lighter his load visibly became. Not only did he appear to feel empowered, but I would venture to guess that he started to understand a bit more about how our parenting was being done out of love and with wisdom.

Eventually, I drew a final poster for him. I drew slowly so he could continue to process the first two posters. I drew a huge umbrella with six people standing underneath it. There were lots of raindrops, but none were falling under the umbrella.

I asked him who was standing under the umbrella. Clearly thinking this was another lovey illustration, he rolled his eyes and suggested that it was his family. I asked him who specifically. He figured it was us with him. I counted the people out loud and said that there were only six people. He then realized it was just him and his siblings. Dad and Mom weren’t in this picture. I told him that for now, we are the umbrella. It is our job to protect him as much as we can. That if we had known and had God designed it differently, we’d have been that umbrella from the very beginning.

We told him that our rules are for his sake and for the sake of his siblings. We said that we want him to learn the purposes of the rules so that he can take the principles with him when he leaves home. He will always have to answer to someone.

We talked about jobs and being accountable to the boss. We explained that as parents, our authority is God and likewise, our son will always have an authority. He will always have choices to make and we want to equip him as best as we can to act wisely and seek the Holy Spirit, ask for help and be teachable, think of the impact his decisions have on others, and to be able to hold his own umbrella in a few years. He will still need to protect himself (and have a family of his own, too). Just because one becomes an adult does not mean he steps into the rain. It means he’ll need to proactively protect his mind and heart and body.

We have rules about electronics, bikes, food, running into the street after a ball, safe touch, and so on. Now, when he hears us say that he needs to keep his electronics in the main living space and not a bedroom, he knows it’s because we love him – his heart, soul, body, and mind – and want him to stay safe.

When we take him to the eye doctor, he can see that we are providing like good parents do. When I tell him he should limit how much cheese he is eating that day because that’s what is causing his stomach ache, he trusts me that I’m wise enough to know. We haven’t given away all our parenting secrets to him, but we’ve tried to catch him up so that he can start learning from us instead of resenting us as parents.

We’ve also adjusted our parenting so that if he does choose poorly in areas he controls, he can feel the natural consequences. I explain my reasoning, like for too much cheese for example, and then I back off. I often remind him that I’m a good mom to him and that he can trust me. And I ask him to forgive me if I mess up and lose my patience. I’m gaining the credibility not only through explaining our rational and where we get the wisdom from, but also by letting go more and more so that freedom can prove me right.

Teaching our teenage son what parents do and why improved our relationship drastically. But it not only impacted how he sees us. It impacted how we see him. Going through that time of respite and brainstorming, followed by the reunion and dialogue, I became more grounded in the post-adoption attachment and parenting journey. I became more excited for the job I have as his mom. I felt more excited about the road ahead of us – preparing him for his future.

A wise person once told me, “The best parenting is done in the repair work,” and there’s a lot of that! I was able to see more clearly the forest through the trees. And ultimately, God gave me a new joy, a new understanding of our purpose in His calling to teenage adoption.

– guest post by Bethany

Carrying Hope High

May 10, 2018 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

I recently reached out to my friend Emily to ask if she’d be willing share her story here on NHBO. Hers is a story that we – as the adoption community – need to hear… especially during this time of such significant and devastating changes in the China program. We need to cling to hope, hold it high and encourage one another to keep moving forward – in whatever way we can.

One way to do that is to help others.

Read the Rancourt’s story. And then consider becoming a part of it by making a contribution to their matching grant to bring a broken-hearted treasure home. Despite the changing climate of the China program, they have an opportunity to bring one little heart warrior home.

From Emily:

We tied the knot in 2004, and it’s no secret that we absolutely adore each other. The foundation for our marriage is that we are best friends, share the same goals for our lives, and have a common strong Christian faith. We are both committed to the well-being of our family, and we enjoy dreaming about the future while living in the present.

Jacques is the Lead Pastor of Gateway Bible Church in Gainesville, VA. His office is in our home so that he is always available and home for our children. I am the Assistant Director of the Forensic Science Program at the George Mason University. Prior to being asked to come and start the Forensic Science Program, I was a CSI for the local police department investigating homicides, suicides, and suspicious deaths. My job is extremely flexible as well, and has afforded me the privilege to be with our children 24/7 during all of their surgeries and extended hospital stays.

Family, next to our faith, is the most important commitment in our lives. Our children are involved in one major activity at a time, whether it is gymnastics or volleyball or something else. We intentionally guard that time because we know how precious that time is and that we can never get it back. We also believe that the family unit is the most important unit in society. And so, we believe our family has the privilege and duty to open its doors up to people who have a lot of struggles in their family.

We encourage our girls to have their friends play at our house so they can experience the love and joy of a family if they are going through things that are tough in their own home. I believe this is one of the reasons why we have such a heart for adoption. We want our home to be a place where children can experience healing and love and joy. Our home is a place where a child can receive unconditional love and thrive in a new life.

Every human being on the planet – no matter what situation they are born into – deserves to know, feel, and experience unconditional love. That is what we can give. We also believe that by bringing these children into our home, they are showing us even further what love and joy are!

Our first daughter Dryden was born in 2005, and she is currently 12 years old. Dryden loves to play the violin and hopes to be a collegiate volleyball player someday.

Soleil was born in 2007, and she turned 10 years old in December. Soleil is a huge helper with her younger siblings, and she loves to do gymnastics.

In May of 2012 we adopted Mackenzie and Lily from China when they were 3 and 2 ½ years old respectively.

Mackenzie is now 9 years old. She was diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome shortly after coming home from China. Mackenzie needed an emergency 14-hour brain/ear surgery to remove a mass from her inner ear that perforated her skull. The pathology on the mass came back that it was comprised of two ESBL bacteria. Mackenzie has significant hearing loss due to the mass and infection, and wears a hearing aide in her left ear. Mackenzie has needed intensive speech and occupational therapy to help her overcome her rough start in life. After 5 years of intense work and love, Mackenzie is unrecognizable from the child we brought home from China.

Lily is 8 years old. She was labeled as “terminal” in China due to complicated congenital heart defects. Once Lily came home we discovered that not only did she have Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, she also has complete situs inversus (all of Lily’s organs are on the opposite side of her body). Lily’s birth heart was upside down, backward, and on the right hand side of her chest.

Lily had two open-heart surgeries in China, two open-heart surgeries in the USA, abdominal surgery for a bowel obstruction, and most recently a heart transplant in June of 2014.

Our brave warrior is said to be the most complicated pediatric heart transplant ever done in the USA. Lily is now absolutely thriving with her Hero’s heart! This past October, Lily’s donor family replied to our letter of gratitude. We now have a name and face for our Hero – Parker!

In the midst of all the adoption life adjustments and surgeries we were surprised to discover that we were pregnant and expecting our fifth child. Our entire family was so excited to have a new baby in the house!

However, all of those hopes and dreams came to a crashing halt on May 6th, 2013 when we delivered our sweet Addy Hope stillborn from a congenital heart defect at 39 weeks gestation. Not a day goes by that we do not think about our precious daughter, and wish that she was living here on earth with us.

In November of 2014 we returned to China to adopt our son Thaddaeus – whose name means “courageous heart”. Thadd is now 6 years old. He was labeled as “terminal” in China due to an unfortunate combination of congenital heart defects. Thankfully he was able to have two open heart surgeries so far since coming home from China.

Unfortunately, since Thadd never had open-heart surgery when he was an infant, his pulmonary arteries will need to grow in order for him to be eligible for another palliative surgery. We are hoping and praying that his arteries will grow, and that we will be blessed by the gift of more time with our little dude.

Back in October of 2015 we learned about sweet baby LiHua who was abandoned in China with biliary atresia and was in desperate need of a liver transplant. In a matter of seconds, Jacques and I said, “Yes, she’s ours!”

We expedited our home study and were waiting for her finding ad to finish posting in the Chinese newspaper when we got the devastating phone call that she passed away.

Shortly thereafter, we were asked by Love Without Boundaries to have our cardiologist review the medical file of a very blue baby boy that they were calling Joel. The review had us in tears, and we knew that this little guy did not have much time left. Jacques and I said, “YES Lord, send us!” China agreed to allow us to re-use our dossier that had just expired from Thadd’s adoption, and they were expediting his case so quickly that our LOA was issued with our PA… this is unheard of! Two days before Christmas, and about 4 weeks before travel, we got the dreaded phone call that our precious boy had passed away.

In March of 2016, we were alerted to another sweet baby girl who was also in desperate need of a liver transplant. Of course, we said yes, and began calling her “Hope”. Since our dossier had officially expired for re-use, we expeditiously began compiling a new one. Once again, the phone rang and it was our adoption agency.

Hope had passed away.

As soon as I told Jacques through my sobs, his first response was, “Again?” Yes…again. In September of 2016 our third Chinese dossier was finally logged into China! We identified another sweet baby girl who was named “Luna” at her foster home. Luna was extremely sick and in desperate need of another open-heart surgery that could only be done here in the USA. With her case being so complicated, just like with Lily and Thadd, China had labeled Luna terminal. Her blue skin and sad expression made my Mommy heart want to jump on the next flight out to Beijing to bring her home.

In December of 2016 we were notified that Luna passed away.

Absolute devastation.

We have now lost four precious babies since October 2015. Four babies who we chose, deeply loved, and now mourn over with empty arms.

We are not braver than anyone else, and certainly not more resilient as some people have told us. We were hurting, raw, and fearful that our next “YES” could land us right back there again. One thing I promised myself was that Luna would not be our last difficult yes. We know the good we ought to do, and we will continue fighting until Hope wins out over fear.

A friend asked me how my heart could take all of this loss. How can I take it? Because I know that God is sovereign.

We said Yes so that China could see that Luna was chosen, loved, and desperately wanted… despite her “terminal” diagnoses.

We can only pray that hearts will change, and that someday when an orphan is discovered who seems too “sick” to do an adoption file for, they will remember our family, and our YES.

These faces below represent our YES to the Lord.

They say that sometimes your biggest blessings arrive in the most unexpected ways.

That statement could not be truer when it comes to our Annabella Hope – known to us as Salsa. At the end of September 2016, I received a phone call from an adoption agency in New York. The voice on the other end of the phone said, “This adoption will need to be a huge leap of faith,” before describing a teeny, tiny baby girl born way too soon.

Born at 27 weeks, weighing only 2 pounds and 10 ounces, our baby girl stopped breathing after her emergency c-section. Amazingly, she only spent one day on the ventilator before being put on C-pap for a couple of months in the NICU. The trauma of her birth caused a Grade 2 brain bleed. She was also born with a huge PDA (or hole in her heart), and Retinopathy of preemie. We were warned that Annabella “might” have cerebral palsy, or neurological defects as well.

Despite a laundry list of unknown and scary diagnoses, God unequivocally shouted, “Go”. He is the maker and author of Annabella Hope’s story, and He promises not to harm but to give hope and a future. We have been and will continue to see various specialists to make sure we help Annabella reach her maximum potential regardless of what comes her way.

Although her entrance into this world was abrupt and difficult, she is finally “home”, loved, and cherished beyond measure.

I wish I could go back five years ago after delivering Addy Hope still, and whisper into my ear, as I sat empty handed in a wheel chair waiting for Jacques to pull the minivan around so we could leave the Prince William Birthing center.

I would tell myself, “This will hurt your heart, worse than any physical pain you have endured…for a very long time. A very very long time. At times it will hit you out of nowhere, and you will feel like you are gasping just to breathe. But your arms will not always be empty. Wait. Grieve. Grow. And hope.

Always hope.

Because Joy will come on the morning of October 25th, 2016 when Salsa is placed into your arms!”

The night of what would have been Luna’s 3rd birthday my sister, Meredith (Mei) who runs the Morning Star Foster Home for babies with severe congenital heart defects, was blowing up my phone with photos of a sweet baby girl with a blue tongue.

Much to our shock, this little one has almost the exact diagnosis and congenital heart defects as Luna. Jia Ni has a heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot with severe pulmonary atresia and MAPCAS. In the USA she would have already had two open heart surgeries by now, but instead at 17 months old she is completely unrepaired.

When I read that she was listed with our adoption agency my heart began racing… and I knew. Within minutes of sharing her story and face with Jacques, I began writing our Letter of Intent (LOI) to adopt Jia Ni.

Our LOI to adopt Jia Ni was sent to China, and within 12 hours China said Yes!

When people tell us we are heroes, we make sure to be clear – we are not
Yes, we brought home two beautiful daughters and a handsome son from China, and added a sweet baby girl from the USA to our family too! 
Yes, our children all have significant special needs.
But no – that doesn’t make us heroic. 

People have repeatedly told us how admirable it is that we would rescue these children. And while we appreciate the encouragement, I want to be clear about something. 

We are not rescuing them – they are rescuing us.

How so? It has become far too easy for us to settle into North American suburbia. We can feel the pull to settle into a comfortable little life with a nice home, two cars, a couple of cute kids, and a dog. We were slowly, over the first few years of our marriage, lulled into a life in which we didn’t do anything too risky, only made decisions that made sense financially, and took on me-sized challenges that wouldn’t threaten our ability to control our own future. 

In other words, we had all but programmed faith right out of our life.
And as for the Holy Spirit – we really didn’t need Him. We hadn’t really done anything that required His power. We weren’t obsessed with following His leading. We were just kind of content to coast on our own strength… until 2011 when we began the adoption process to bring home Mackenzie and Lily. 

Because, as a family, we did something that didn’t make sense financially, that was far beyond our ability to control the result, and that could only work out if God showed up. Paul, on multiple occasions, echoed what God said through one of his prophets. “The righteous will live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). 

They do. We didn’t. We are now. And nothing tops that.

Thank you Mackenzie, Lily, Thadd, Annabella, and Luna Mei for rescuing us!

We are thrilled that we have been awarded a $4500 matching grant, funded by Lifesong – Chosen and Dearly Loved Foundation. That means that your donation will be matched dollar for dollar up to $9,000 to help us bring home Luna Mei! If you donate $25 it becomes $50, and if you donate $100 it becomes $200!

Financial contributions are tax deductible and can be given in two ways:

To Give Online:

1. Click the red “Donate New” button on this page!

To Give by Check:

1. Please make checks payable to Lifesong for Orphans
2. Please write Rancourt Family Account #7690 in the memo line
3. Please mail checks to:

Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40
Gridley IL 61744

Our goal is to have 100% of the necessary funds raised by June 15th, 2018 so we can get our baby girl home for life saving open heart surgery!


Many in the adoption community have been devastated by the sweeping changes in the China program, including a number of us here at NHBO. But the story doesn’t have to end there. There is work to do, children to come home. It may not look like we’d hoped, but that doesn’t mean the end will be any less beautiful.

Join with us in supporting this family, or another that is bringing their child home. Pray for them. We are not without hope and it should be our privilege to take part in the making of a family.

Thankful for this huge-hearted adoption community. May we carry hope high, no matter what the future holds. The children we fight for are so worth it.


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