We are the Pancoast family. We live in Washington State about 40 minutes from the Canadian border and 40 minutes from the Idaho border, in rural America, and we love it. The nearest major city is Spokane, 80 miles south of us. If we can do this, so can you. Ted had a custom cabinet shop and Brandy had a music school when our journey to China began.
Our story begins way back with our marriage and the discussion to adopt someday to make a family instead of walking a traditional path. Five years later, a special little girl recently adopted from China entered Brandy’s music school and set us on the path to China. Unfortunately we had to wait for Brandy to turn 30 to qualify, so we waited a bit more.
Then, after much adoption research and soul searching to make sure we were on the path we were meant to be on, we started the great paper chase in the traditional path to adopt from China. Never did we dream that six years later, we would be the parents of six children (ages 9, 9.5, 10.5, 11.5, almost 14 and 15.5) adopted from the special needs track and have traveled to China four times.
We changed from the traditional path to the special needs path after taking an older child adoption class online and realizing that we were both visualizing a girl who was 5 or 6 and neither of us needed to have a baby to complete our dream. The very next photo list had a little girl who quickly became our first daughter…well after another year of paperwork. She was our daughter in our hearts right away though.
Was the decision easy…definitely NOT. Did we want to adopt her..YES. Did she call to our hearts…YES. Were we afraid we couldn’t give her what she needed…Absolutely. What did we know about a deaf child? We weren’t deaf and neither of us knew sign language. Could we meet her needs? Were we really meant to do it? Time and again as we researched our area for answers in the two weeks to follow, God brought the people into our lives to confirm that yes we were indeed called to be her parents and could meet her needs. The bottom line in the end was that we knew in our hearts that she was our daughter.
Less than a month after we returned home with Amalie in 2008, she drew a picture of her family and put it on the refrigerator. It had her Dad, Mom, Amalie and a sister. It seemed indeed we were headed back to China and at Amalie’s 6 month post placement report visit, we started the next home study. Little did we suspect what was going to happen next.
Eleven months after Amalie came home, we started to watch the list again believing that we could “really look” in a month when our paperwork was ready. We saw a GWCA Newsletter that featured a small/language delayed child who had been waiting for a long time and asked to see her file in a month when we qualified again if she was still waiting. It turned out we could see that file right away since she was in the special needs track and 24 hours later we began the specific paperwork to bring Opal home. The very day after we sent in Opal’s dossier, we saw GWCA’s website for their Beijing Journey of Hope project and Amalie saw the picture of a friend. In Amalie’s words…”She cries all the time.” When asked why Amalie said “..she is waiting, waiting, waiting for a family.” Never did we dream that that statement would lead to a call to GWCA that would lead to an impossible miracle. Sophie became the first time approval was granted to a GWCA family for a special exemption to bring home two unrelated children at once. Out of the blue we were going from a family of three to a family of five.
Sophie and Opal were our greatest education into the mystery of file errors in the adoption process. Opal had her first seizure one day after we returned home…surprise…no mention of that in the file. Oh, you mean she isn’t really 9 but more likely 5. And don’t forget she only wears size 3 toddler clothes. Or Sophie’s webbed neck is actually 5 fused vertebrae…hmmm. Needless to say this adjustment period was a time blessed by love and giggles, and yet exhaustion, as we tried to find the answers to too many medical mysteries for two girls. Despite all the challenges, it was SO worth it. To see Sophie and Amalie reunited was priceless. To see the nannies study Amalie’s hearing aids with tears in their eyes and talk to her and have her reply in English and have them thank us…amazing. To see Sophie asking with gestures if she could have hearing aids and eager to go home to get some…beyond words. And to see Opal move from a shut down child unable to interact with us to a giggling, chatterbox who attached faster than we could believe…you can only know it if you live it.
Love changes lives indeed…
But our story was not done. The house had too many girls and Ted was outnumbered. Soon the girls were lobbying for brothers too, so at Sophie and Opal’s one year post placement report visit we began another home study. This time we did the paperwork for two kids at once, just in case, since the rules had changed and that was now allowed. We didn’t expect to do it again. It was too exhausting and how would we ever pay for it. Nevertheless we opened the door with the intention of reusing the dossier later.
The next thing we knew a precious little face was smiling at us from the photo listings saying “I’m yours too” and within minutes of Brandy showing Ted the picture we were filling out paperwork to bring Webster home. As the time drew closer to the end of Webster’s paper chase and we were waiting for travel approval, we saw a video of a 12 year old boy asking for a family. We asked about adopting him and in the end were not able to. Little did we know that was going to prepare us to bring home David on a fast track adoption. We saw David’s picture and his eyes had that same look we had seen in Amalie’s eyes…Where is my family? The difference…David was about to age out and he had been waiting for a long time. We ended up adopting Webster and David in an expedited trip through China making it back to the US with only a few hours to spare to clear customs before David’s 14th birthday.
At this point we were sure we were done…five kids in a little over 3 years, a recessed economy severely impacting both of our businesses and a home that was pretty full. Perhaps God laughed at us because one night Ted said that maybe we should go back for another boy to balance us out…three girls, three boys. The next morning the 12 year old we had asked to adopt was featured as an aging out 13 year old on an advocacy blog. That afternoon at lunch the kids asked for another brother and David added the request for a brother who could speak Chinese.
Well…there was no way we were going to be able to do another $30,000 adoption, but all the signs were saying ask for the impossible. We did, the doors kept opening, the dossier could be used again, the funds came together and Jonathan came home in July. We have looked at six files, six children have joined our family, we can’t imagine it any other way. For whatever reason, we have been scanning a list or website or newsletter and have known…This one is ours.
We could write a book on all of the experiences and life changes that have come with this process. Never did we dream that we would be parenting two older boys with stories that break your heart, have three deaf children and a special little giggling chatterbox. Each and every one of them is a precious treasure and we can’t imagine our lives without them!
So our advice…read everything you can to prepare, take the online adoption classes, talk to other adoptive parents…and when you find that child who seems to belong to you, step through the door and see if the doors keep opening. The doors will open if they are meant to be open and never forget to celebrate all of the special hugs and laughs and smiles you find when those children come home. You may need to fundraise like crazy, apply for grants, be blessed by donation surprises and learn to change your expectations, but it is worth it…Love always is!
Is it hard? Yes sometimes it is as you work through the junk that comes with what our kids have survived and help them relearn those survival skills they had to develop to deal with their lives. Then there are the moments when you find yourself in those wonderful conversations that let you know they are going to make it through, make it all worth it. The first time your “deaf/mute” child talks to you is incredible and the first time you hear “I love you” verbally defies description. The first time your boys who had no hope of anything talk about “when they go to college” and begin to dream of having choices is inspiring…not because they may choose to go to college, but because they begin to believe that they can do whatever they want to and DREAM. When the little girl who couldn’t see or make her brain process anything discovers she can…well…no words can describe that either.
Ted still has a custom cabinet shop and Brandy still has a music school. Now though our days are full too with all that goes with our “Pancoast Eight” family…homeschooling six kids, Irish Dance lessons and travel as several of the kids quickly move towards the top competition levels with the help of their world class teacher, basketball teams and the practicing, games and coaching that goes with them, piano lessons, guitar lessons, speech therapy, specialists, specialists, specialists, and best of all LOVE! Oh and Brandy’s mom finally quit asking when she was going to get grand kids since she has 10 now after the last 4.5 years.
One last nugget…special needs is just that…a special need…and every child is special. Sometimes they need extra love, sometimes they need extra help learning to read, sometimes they need extra medical help…it doesn’t really matter. Every child is special…they are the unique person they were meant to be. It doesn’t matter if the path you take is traditional or not, every child needs a family to love them and believe in them and support them. Every child needs LOVE!
Want to know more, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-738-4913. You can also visit the blogs of our adoption journeys.
Starting with the most current adoption and moving back through time. You can set up your own site at www.myadoptionwebsite.com. Joe and Jennifer are incredible to work with if you want an easy to manage travel website while you travel. We have loved working with them.