Meet Jennifer Taylor!

We are excited to give our families a little glimpse of the staff here at GWCA and CAN, so that you can see who we are and why we love doing just what we do. Every day we come to work and love to connect with our families, but now we are going to show you whose faces are behind every phone call, letter and E-mail received.

This week we want to introduce you to someone with a great big heart, our Africa Adoption Counselor, Jennifer Taylor! Jennifer is all things great. She is poised, intelligent, and collected. This partnered together with her natural spunk and zeal for life makes her one phenomenal woman! Around this office she is a tried and true visionary. She has this ability to look out into the distance and start formulating needs before the rest of us even know that they are there. We couldn’t ask for a better staffer than that!

So without further ado… Meet Jennifer!

  1. What is your job title and description here at CAN?

Africa Adoption Counselor- Families begin working with me once their dossier has been submitted. I work with them through the waiting phase, and then once they are matched with a child I help them complete their adoption. I work with 4 countries- DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Uganda.

  1. How long have you been working at CAN?

Since June 2012

  1. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love working on developing new ways and programs to support the children in the orphanages. My “baby” is our JumpStart program which is a really AMAZING education + counseling program we started in DRC. There is NOTHING better than getting those updates from our instructor and watching these amazing children learn and get excited about meeting their new families.

  1. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

Not being in control of the adoption processing in the foreign countries. It is quite a challenge to feel like you are successfully supporting families when there is just so much that is completely out of your control. We all just want to unite these families as quickly as possible!

  1. How have you grown personally from working at CAN and with their families?

This job certainly keeps you humble, and as I learn more and more everyday through my job about the struggles of others living in the countries I work with, it reminds me how easy my life is! I see pictures, videos, and hear stories about these children who have nothing yet they are laughing and playing. I follow these children throughout their adoption journey and am constantly amazed at how brave they are- leaving everything they know when they come to the US.  It is inspiring and helps to keep everything in perspective.

  1. Why do you love adoption?

I love adoption because it gives these children a chance to feel unconditional love, to have a home where they are safe, to be kids, and to have a real chance at life. The reality of what these children face if they are never adopted is terrible. I also love the kindness of families to open their homes and hearts to children who they have never met who may be older, or have special needs. They take a big risk on these children and I really admire that. It is always such a great love story!

Fun Facts about Jennifer:

1. Im obsessed with my French Bulldog, Hazel. She is the cutest little stinker!

2. My husband and I got married in Macerino Italy in October of 2011- a year and a half later and I am still having withdrawals from my “Italian” way of life.

3. I consider myself a margarita connoisseur and am determined to find the perfect margarita in Austin Tx.

4. I majored in Anthropology at the University of Texas and am fascinated by primate studies (social behavior, anatomy, ecology, etc).

“Jennifer is the best co-worker one could ask for! She is always there to help other colleagues and she deeply cares about the families, the children, and the in-country staff she is working with. I know her job is not always easy, and she goes above and beyond to do her best!”– Jennifer’s co-worker

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Meet Lora VanHoogstraat!

We are excited to give our families a little glimpse of the staff here at GWCA and CAN, so that you can see who we are and why we love doing just what we do. Every day we come to work and love to connect with our families, but now we are going to show you whose faces are behind every phone call, letter and E-mail received.

This week we want to introduce you to someone that works so hard that she makes the rest of us look bad, our Dossier Specialist, Lora VanHoogstraat! By description, Lora’s job is one that requires dedication, hard work and paying attention to the little things. Fortunately for us, she embodies those characteristics!  We like to say that this job is not for the faint-of-heart, and she knows this more than anyone. She goes above and beyond at all times, and for that she is very loved. Today we are thankful for Lora’s commitment to our purpose. She’s a gift to our families and our agency.

So without further ado… Meet Lora!

  1. What is your job title and description here at GWCA?

Dossier Specialist – Advise, advocate and provide knowledgeable information to families working through the dossier process.  From the very beginning whether they are already matched with a particular child or whether they are waiting to receive their LID, I am there every step of the way until dossier is sent to China!

  1. How long have you been working at GWCA?

May 2012

  1. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love making the “dreaded paper chase” process as smooth and exciting as possible. It is the first big step in the adoption journey and I like that I am able to make it enjoyable.

When a family signs up for the Dossier Dragon Service, it allows me to take some of the burden off of their hands. Maybe I’m a little bit of a control freak, but I love that it helps families worry a little less.

Finally, I enjoy talking to families about their little ones, advocating for families and most definitely receiving pictures when the adoption is complete!

  1. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

Working with outside government entities can be difficult. Sometimes documents going through the process can encounter delays that are not in my control.  It is difficult to have to explain this to the family especially when they are matched and have a little one waiting for them in China.

  1. How have you grown personally from working at GWCA and with their families?

I have learned a ton! Not only about the adoption process as a whole, but how there are so many amazing families in this world. I never knew until working here that so many families considered a special needs adoption… and from another country! It continues to amaze me every day.

  1. Why do you love adoption?

There is nothing to not love about adoption! It brings a family together. It makes a child who has had no control over his/her life thus far, be able to live a new life with a loving family. It brings hope to families who are not able to have children or who just want to expand their family to a child in need. It is an amazing process and I’m lucky to be a part of it!

Fun facts about Lora:

1. I am from the mitten. (That’s what Michiganders call Michigan) Go Blue!

2. My boyfriend of 5 years and I recently purchased our first home.

3. I have 2 cats (although I am a dog person at heart), named Kiki and Pooka. They drive me crazy, but I love them.

4. I am a very picky eater, but breakfast tacos are my favorite food.

5. I might have an addiction to Groupon. This is not a paid advertisement- they just have great deals!

“Lora goes out of her way to make sure families feel comfortable and secure in the process for their China dossier. She answers all their questions, helps fill out all their forms, and goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure her families are on the right path. Lora goes out of her way to help her co-workers anytime, and forges a positive attitude within the agency! Our families always walk away from the China dossier process feeling supported and ready for the next phase of their adoption journey!”- Lora’s coworker

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STUCK

Come out and join CAN/GWCA staff on March 15th (next Friday night) at 7:00 PM for the Austin premiere of STUCK! We will be supporting our good friends over at Both Ends Burning and we want YOU to join us! Tickets are on sale here, but hurry and get your families’ tickets now because they are going to be sold out fast!

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Meet Leigh Anne Graf!

We are excited to give our families a little glimpse of the staff here at GWCA and CAN, so that you can see who we are and why we love doing just what we do. Every day we come to work and love to connect with our families, but now we are going to show you whose faces are behind every phone call, letter and E-mail received.

This week we want to introduce you to someone that we don’t think we could really live without around this office, our Vice President, Leigh Anne Graf! Leigh Anne is the kind of person that everyone can count on 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Her empathy level runs deep and it translates into the way she so easily identifies with families and serves them throughout their adoption journey. Leigh Anne can always be counted on to go that extra mile, and in today’s world that’s a hard quality to find. She truly inspires each of us to meet the bar that she has set- and we strive everyday to measure up.

So without further ado… Meet Leigh Anne!

  1. What is your job title and description here at GWCA?

Vice President of Great Wall and Children of All Nations. I have a variety of tasks that I work on throughout the agency. A lot of my work involves oversight/consultation for our international programs and staff, strategic planning, Hague and State licensing compliance, Quality Improvement, Program management, Staff Training and work with the Children of All Nations Waiting Child Program.

  1. How long have you been working at GWCA?

I started with Great Wall in 1998.

  1. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love that each day is different and that I get to share the happiness and challenges of building families. I also love the staff we have here at Great Wall/CAN. Everyone is passionate about the work that they do and we have an amazing crew!

  1. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

Feeling frustrated when the bureaucracy and red tape of international adoption adds barriers and additional challenges to children uniting with their families.

  1. How have you grown personally from working at GWCA and with their families?

In looking back at my time spent here – a few key things come to mind:

  • Children are resilient. Never, ever give up on their possibilities and potential – no matter what challenges you think they may face.
  •  Being a part of something greater and more global is essential to being happy with my work.
  •  I feel I have a stronger sense of taking things “one day at a time”, at work and on a personal level.
  •  I have learned that when something changes – it is important to bend with the changes and look for the opportunities and lessons provided by the change.
  1. Why do you love adoption?  

Every child deserves a loving home no matter where they come from, or what challenges they may face. Adoption provides these amazing children with a chance to have a family of their own. I am honored to be a tiny part of their story.

Fun facts about Leigh Anne: 

  1. I have a 2 year old – Avery Kate who amazes me every day!
  2. I’m an Aggie – Whoop!!
  3. I wanted to be a truck driver when I was 10 years old.
  4. I’m a music junkie! Love all kinds
  5.  Family Bucket list:  visit every National Park in the U.S.

“I can always count on Leigh Anne, and I know our families feel the same way.  Leigh Anne is the best person to go to for problem solving.  She is also detail-oriented…which is necessary in international adoption!  Above everything else, Leigh Anne is extremely caring and passionate.  I feel very lucky to have her as a coworker!”-Leigh Anne’s coworker

 

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A Child’s Perspective: Life with Hydrocephalus

This is the story of one very brave little girl, living life with Hydrocephalus and refusing for it to do anything but empower her. We can’t get over how much Hannah inspires each of us, and we know that she will do the same for you too. Hannah now resides with her loving parents and 3 siblings in Orlando, Florida. GWCA had the great privilege of facilitating her adoption in 2007.

This is My Story
By: Hannah Eadan Miao Moore, Age 10

Hi, my name is Hannah. I have two sisters and a brother. I am scared sometimes because I think that I won’t be as good as other people because I have some problems from being sick, but I am not scared anymore. My Mom told me to remember that I am one of a kind, and I make a difference on this earth.

I was born in Henan, China. I was an orphan until a great family adopted me in 2007. Before that my condition was bad. When I was left at the orphanage, I was 4 months old. The orphanage did not have enough money for the surgery I needed. I was born with Hydrocephalus & Spina Bifida, and I was very skinny and sick. They told us that the Director, paid for my surgery out of her own money. I was the first baby brought to this orphanage in 2002. When I was 2 years old, I got an infection in my brain. I was in the hospital for 3 months. They shaved off all my hair & took out my shunt. They did not have more money to put in a new one. I did not like looking like a boy.

When I was adopted, we went back to see where I had lived. The Director cried. I got to keep the clothes I was wearing from the orphanage, and I keep them in a bag under my bed.

When I came home from China with my new family, I had a surgery to help my head, it was called an ETV. I can’t say the big name. Anyway, in about 8 months my Doctor said that it had closed back up, so I needed another surgery to put in a new shunt. When Dr. O. put in my new shunt, he tried to remove the parts still left in my brain from before, but it was stuck. He could not get it out. He is very nice. He did not cut off my hair, and he put in the new shunt where I had my old scar. I have lots of scars, but they don’t hurt anymore, sometimes they just itch.

Last year and again this year, I got slit ventricles. The Doctor examined me, and told me I would have to stay in the hospital again. I was crying, it hurt so bad. I kept getting sick. My head hurt & my stomach hurt. I kept telling my Mom I don’t want to stay here forever. I was so scared. My Mom Told me it would be OK, and I would not have to stay for long. My head hurt all the time, and the lights made it hurt worse. I know when I have a headache, I have to tell my Mom, or call my Mom if I am at school. That’s how I got here, with the best parents ever. When I am in the hospital they never leave me. My Mom comes in the morning and stays all day. Then my Dad comes at night, and sleeps on the sofa in my room next to me.

Do you ever wonder what hydrocephalus means? It means water on the brain. I have had to get many tests because of my hydrocephalus. Some hurt and some don’t. I had to get an implant in my arm when I was six. I was growing up too fast, they called it CPP. They put a new one in every year after my Birthday. My eyes sometimes don’t work right, that is from the Hydrocephalus too. I sometimes run into things, or lose my place. This year after the slits, they did something called an EEG. They told my Mom that I have Epilepsy, so now I have to take medicine so that I do not have seizures. I hope no more children have to have hydrocephalus. It is not fun, and can make you very sick. I sometimes have to
miss doing things with my friends because I have to be careful that I don’t get hit in the head.

Last year I got a new sister named Haven. She has hydrocephalus too. We can talk to each other about it, because we both know how it feels. It feels good to have a sister who knows what hydrocephalus is. Now I am not alone, we can help each other get through this.

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Meet Michael Wenhold!

We are excited to give our families a little glimpse of the staff here at GWCA and CAN, so that you can see who we are and why we love doing just what we do. Every day we come to work and love to connect with our families, but now we are going to show you whose faces are behind every phone call, letter and E-mail received.

This week we want to introduce you to someone that many of you might not know yet, our Administration Director, Michael Wenhold! Michael is one of this office’s best kept secrets. He is well-known and loved by all of our staff, but due to his behind-the-scenes role, you may have never had the sincere privilege of meeting Michael! He is consistently taking care of the staff and working diligently to make sure that everything around here goes off seamlessly. He is someone that will make your grey skies a little brighter, and put a big smile on your face- mainly because he always has one on his.

So without further ado… Meet Michael!

  1. What is your job title and description here at GWCA?

My title is Administration Director.  I function as the Accounting Manager, Human Resource Manager, and Office Manager for GWCA/CAN.

  1. How long have you been working at GWCA?

I started here in June 2012.

  1. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy getting to work with all the Great Wall/CAN employees as they help families through the adoption process.  Our staff is filled with dedicated individuals that constantly go above and beyond to make sure families have the best adoption experience.  Getting to work with such selfless individuals makes my job great!

  1. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

My commute and dealing with Austin traffic.

  1. How have you grown personally from working at GWCA and with their families?

Although I don’t get to work with families directly, I still feel like I have grown from working here.  Working at this organization has opened my eyes to the real problems around the world.  When I think about the problems in my life, they don’t compare in contrast to what others are dealing with.

  1. Why do you love adoption?

I love adoption because it can help a make family complete.  Not everybody has the ability to have children but through adoption everyone can have a family.  Every child deserves to have loving parents and a place to call home.

Fun facts about Michael:

  1. I was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts (where the Pilgrims landed).  I guess that’s why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (and the food)!
  2. I love football.  My favorite team is the New England Patriots.  I have a man crush on Tom Brady.  Who doesn’t. I also play in a flag football league.
  3. I am married to my high school sweetheart.  I have 1 son in the 6th grade and 2 dogs.
  4. My wife and I have a retirement plan to open a bed & breakfast on the East Coast.
  5. I have never had any broken bones.

 “Michael is a great representation of GWCA because he embodies the values of the organization. He is hardworking, always willing to help others, and very resourceful. I love working with Michael because he takes pride in his work and makes everyone’s day easier because he works so diligently, consistently going above and beyond what is asked of him. He’s here early and stays late everyday, and that is just one example in how he makes a big difference for the families we serve.” -Michael’s co-worker

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St. Valentine

By definition today is the day of love. The funny thing is, that it’s a day that we either love to love, or rather we love to hate; a day that can elicit a variety of emotion, but many of us can’t even recall why we celebrate it. The story of St. Valentine is indeed a nebulous one. Historians believe that Valentinus was a martyred Saint sometime around 269 AD in Rome—this much we know. After this, the details become a bit hazy. Was he a priest or was he a bishop? How many St. Valentine’s were there? Did the poet Chaucer invent the day as a fallacy? The bottom line is, we don’t really care.

Over the years we have seen and heard some of the greatest love stories of all time waft through our hallways. They usually involve a loving family who feel like there’s just one more of them out there. Someone they’ve never met, but they know that they love from the deepest parts of their being. And they never stop knowing until they meet.

We maybe a little biased, but to us—that’s true love. So with that, we wish you the happiest of days!

Here are some of our favorite quotes about LOVE:

“My heart is, and always will be, yours.” – Sense and Sensibility

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” – Ali MacGraw, Love Story

“A simple ‘I love you’ means more than money.” – Frank Sinatra

“To be brave is to love unconditionally without expecting anything in return.” – Madonna

“Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.” – Lao Tzu

“Where there is love there is life.”-Mahatma Gandhi

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Meet Lizzie Kovach!

We are excited to give our families a little glimpse of the staff here at GWCA and CAN, so that you can see who we are and why we love doing just what we do. Every day we come to work and love to connect with our families, but now we are going to show you whose faces are behind every phone call, letter and E-mail received.

This week we want to introduce you to someone that most of you know, our Adoption Consultant/Outreach and Promotions Manager, Lizzie Kovach! Lizzie is one of the first people that gets to connect with our families and wow, is she perfect for the job… Not only is Lizzie a rockstar, but she is so patient, caring and diligent as she walks with each family through the process of decision-making. There are so many decisions that families must make in the beginning of their journey, like eligibility and adoption desires. Lizzie never misses a step and makes herself available for families to count on 7 days a week. Mostly, we admire how she treats each family as if it were her first—with the utmost sincerity.

So without further ado… Meet Lizzie!

 

1.       What is your job title and description here at GWCA?

I am the Adoption Consultant/Outreach and Promotions Manager at GWCA and CAN!  I help families just beginning their adoption journey by chatting with them about possible adoption options, eligibility and how to get started with our agency. I also make sure all of our literature, programs, and social media are looking great!

2.      How long have you been working at GWCA?

I’ve been with GWCA/CAN for a year and a half.

3.      What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love getting to know why families wish to adopt.  I remember one family telling me adoption was their “first choice,” and they wanted their child to know they chose adoption to grow their family.  This really touched me because I think all children deserve a family.  I like knowing I can help start a family’s journey…in some small way.

4.      What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

I wish there were more hours in the day!  I constantly have new families inquiring about adoption and new ideas for improving our services.  I am so passionate about finding more adoption resources and being a trusted resource for my families.

5.      How have you grown personally from working at GWCA and with their families?

I have grown so much from my work at GWCA/CAN.  I have learned people value someone listening and advocating for them.  I might have single-parent families or first-time parents…and they so badly want to adopt.  I am genuinely excited when I help them find a program that fits their adoption desires…and even more excited when their kiddo comes home!

6.      Why do you love adoption?

I love adoption because it gives a child a chance to have a family.  Sometimes, it even gives parents a chance to have a family.  Adoption also allows families to be unique, accepting, and patient.  There is a passion in adoption no one can describe, but it is definitely felt.  I see this passion each day, and I love it!

Fun facts about Lizzie:

  1. I love potatoes. Baked, twice-baked, French fried, mashed, scalloped, tater-tots…I just love potatoes.
  2. A good quote can make my day! Here is one for you to enjoy: “Every adult needs a child to teach; it’s the way adults learn.” Frank A. Clark
  3. My favorite movie is Back to the Future I, II, & III. I count the trilogy as one movie.
  4. I enjoy traveling.  I usually spend my vacation time in NYC visiting my older brother. J
  5. My favorite holiday is New Years Eve because it is a time to reflect on the last year and make goals for the new year.

“Lizzie works tirelessly to make sure we provide families with current information on the country requirements and the adoption process.  She thinks outside of the box and consistently comes up with new and innovative ways to overcome obstacles and problem solve. She is always positive and enthusiastic about her work. Lizzie is truly dedicated to helping families with their adoption journey, and can always be counted on to offer her assistance and support to her coworkers.” –Lizzie’s co-worker

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Big Things a-Brewin’

There are some exciting changes going on here and we wanted to update you on all of them! Over the past couple of months our promotions & web development team have been meeting to discuss how we can better serve our families through our existing website and media. Through these meetings we began to formulate new concepts and ideas that we would eventually share with our GWCA families.

After working diligently, last week we began to launch our new website and logo for Great Wall China Adoption. You will notice several changes, mainly to our website and including any literature that includes our logo.

 Introducing our new GWCA logo and design…

When building this website, it was our desire for it to be as straight-forward as possible for our users. From everything from the tabs to the content pages, we wanted to communicate simplicity.  It is our sincerest hope that you find this to be true and are able to access the GWCA website with ease and clarity.

We do have some other exciting, new features and programs coming up that we will be launching in the coming weeks, so please be checking back here for the newest updates! As always, we thank you for your loyalty and it’s our highest honor to serve as your agency choice.

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Media {almost} Monday.

**Yesterday we were having a few minor server issues and were not able to post. Please excuse the tardiness.**

Well the weekend is officially over and everyone is back to the grind at work! With the next week in sight, what better time to catch up on all of your current adoption news from the past week—including country and domestic updates, relevant articles, book recommendations, interesting websites, even how we are seeing adoption being talked about in movies, television, the media, etc.

At GWCA and CAN we know that you, the parents, are our experts so we are calling for your help. Our desire is to make this as interactive as possible, so if you ever have any suggestions about things to add please comment below or E-mail them to Mary at mary@childrenofallnations.com.

This past week in adoption:

  • Shoe Collection

Here is the story of one mom helping another mom in her quest to adopt a special needs child. Covered by the local news station, this story is truly one of kindness and the human spirit!

Photo courtesy of MyFOX Phoenix

Here is the direct link to the adoptive family’s blog.

  • Adoption & The Foster Care System

Coverage on adoption is everywhere. This is a recent segment produced by well-known Washington D.C. radio personality, Kojo Nnamdi. He addresses the trends we’ve seen in recent news about the decline of intercountry adoption, and consequently advocates for the adoption of children in the domestic foster care system.

Click here to listen. 

**If you follow the link there is a button in the top left-hand corner that says “Listen.”**

  • 7 Tips on Reputable Adoption Grant & Loan Organizations

We know that many of our families are always actively pursuing ways to make adoption affordable for their individual family. Grants and loans can be two excellent ways to make that happen, but sometimes those organizations are not legitimate. You are trusting people with your private information so it is important to proceed with caution. Here are 7 tips from Resources4adoption.com Founder and Director, Cherri Walrod, on how to recognize signs and verify that an organization is legitimate. Read more here…

Photo courtesy of Resources4adoption.com

Have a wonderful week and check back with us next Monday for more top coverage on adoption!

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