Bobby and Maria have adopted four children from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their boys Owen, six and a half, and Gibson, three and a half, came home in 2011. Their girls Rya, six and a half, and Adia, two and a half, came home in 2012.
What led you to adoption and international adoption?
We had always talked about international adoption being a part of how we would complete our family. Once we ran into a few roadblocks in having biological children, we quickly decided to pursue adoption as the way to begin our family, and then add to it again!
What country did you choose to adopt from and why did you choose that country?
We benefited from some research friends of ours did after the Haiti earthquake, identifying the areas of greatest need in terms of orphans needing families. Democratic Republic of Congo was near the top of the list. They shared this fact as well as info on MLJ Adoptions with us as they knew we were beginning to look at different adoption agencies. We contacted Sonja through the MLJ website that night, and had program info in our inbox by the morning. After speaking with Sonja on the phone we decided to move forward with adopting two boys from the DRC. Africa had been on our heart as the continent from which we desired to adopt, and it just seemed like the perfect fit for us. After our boys had been home a few months, we decided to start the process to add two little girls to our family.
Why did you choose to work with MLJ through your international adoption process?
After speaking with Sonja, we really didn’t look much further. We felt comfortable with the information we had, and were definitely attracted by the relatively short international adoption timeline. Because we had such an awesome experience with our first adoption, we used MLJ to adopt our girls from Congo as well.
How long did the adoption take you?
From the initial application to the arrival of our oldest son, was just under 11 months. It took about 15 months for our younger son because of a few paperwork hang-ups. However, we know we were extremely blessed to have the one-on-one time with our oldest. We expected the timeline to adopt our girls to be much longer than what it took to adopt our boys, but it actually went fairly quickly because some of our approvals we had received to adopt the boys hadn’t expired. Both girls arrived home in less than 12 months from when we submitted our application.
It’s hard to remember what I expected now that we’ve been parents for 3 years. All I know is children are a blessing, they add spice to our life that we didn’t have before, they challenge us and stretch us to have more patience, more grace, and laugh more than we ever have before. All good things!
How has international adoption impacted your family?
We have been extremely blessed to have a community of people in our church and town who have or are in process the process of adopting from Congo. Through this movement, we have connected with Congolese people in our own community and certainly expanded our cultural influences. What a joy it has been to embrace these new friends and traditions.
What was adjustment like for your family?
Since Owen was our first child, we don’t know anything different than starting parenthood with an almost-4-year-old. And we think it was just pretty great! We were so blessed by the fact that he knew our faces when he arrived, thanks to the ability to send care packages and photos while he was in foster care in the DRC. He attached extremely quickly and is an absolute joy! We read LOTS of books those first few weeks and as a result language came quickly. However, the barrier seemed to disappear long before he was speaking much English. We also kept the menu rather short the first few weeks, allowing him to get used to all that was new without being shocked at every meal with something new to try.
Gibson arrived 4 months after Owen, when he was just 13 months old. He familiarized himself very quickly with his new surroundings and fell right in line as the younger brother, following Owen everywhere. He took a little longer to adjust to the time change, but attached quickly to everyone in his new family.
Our girls, Rya and Adia, jumped right into our family upon their arrival. The language barrier seemed to disappear within a few weeks after their arrival since there was so much chatter around our house with two little boys running around. They arrived right before the holidays which allowed us lots of bonding-time as a family of six with the extra time off. We found that our kids slept better all in the same room, and this helped significantly with bedtime.
We credit much of how smoothly our transitions went with all four of our children to the love and care they received from their sweet foster mamas while waiting in the DRC.
What do you wish you could tell other families that are adopting or considering international adoption?
Find an agency you can trust, one you know has the best interest of your child. It is a long, trying process, so you have to be able to trust those who are taking care of your child as you wait. Also, it is SO worth every second of the waiting!
We got our first referral, now Owen Kabamba, on Maria’s birthday. Pretty sweet gift for a first-time mom!
What are your thoughts when you think of the families with children currently in Congo not able to leave with their adoptive parents?
My heart aches for all the parents and children waiting to be united as a family. I know how the waiting can be long and hard but can’t imagine how you are feeling in THIS wait. It is amazing how much love you can have for a child who you have only seen pictures of, who lives on the other side of the world. This love is evident in the emotions you experience, the expense you have paid, and how you make your voices heard. I hope and pray the DGM chooses to see your investment in these children as supporting evidence for how each child will be loved when they do come home. We are certainly witnesses to how love and consistency for our children have caused them to flourish in our family and in so many other families in our church network.