We are excited announce the Forever Family Campaign – our new matching grant campaign.
One of Dillon’s treasured families has agreed to match your donation, up to $150,000, made by December 31. Your contribution will be matched dollar for dollar through this matching grant. This campaign will help Dillon bring more children home and make more families complete.
Our Dillon family welcomed home their lovely daughter in 1988 from South Korea. She graduated from college with honors and worked as a math and science teacher before becoming a full-time mother to her two girls. And now our Dillon adoptee and her husband are considering adopting from Dillon.
Perhaps this story brings back memories for you of your own adoption journey … how you felt the day you first saw the referral photos, the tears of joy when you first held your child, the day your child called you Mommy or Daddy. Maybe you have grandchildren through the miracle of adoption. Whatever your adoption memories, we hope that you will continue to remember Dillon because the number of children who need a family is increasing. We still need your help; the need has not diminished.
Our benefactors want to celebrate their daughter and help ensure that Dillon remains a strong nonprofit agency. We hope that your family will participate in this giving opportunity. When we all work together, we can create a lasting treasure for decades to come – the treasure of Family, Love, and Hope. Make your gift today and double the impact!
Make your secure gift today, and let us know you’d like your gift matched on the form below.
It all started last summer with a craving for Korean food.
That’s when Dillon adoptee Julie Evans dropped by an Asian eatery in Detroit and the Korean owner inquired about her heritage. Soon, she was sharing her story: How she, too, was Korean-born and had joined her adoptive family in rural Michigan at 5 months old.
The restaurant owner asked if she had ever considered searching for her birth family and told how he had helped another Korean adoptee connect with her birth family.
It was a question Julie had considered several times. She had weighed the pros and cons, grappling to balance her personal curiosity with the worries of her adoptive family. And each time, she tabled the matter for another day.
Now, at age 38, she realized she was finally ready to move forward and start the search process.
Christmas 2014 came early for Julie. She received a call from Jan Dunn, Dillon International’s birth search coordinator, in mid-December. “Immediately tears were flowing as she shared the news that my mother and father were located, and I had two older sisters and one younger sister.”
Julie learned that her birth mother was excited to hear that her daughter was searching for her and she was very apologetic that she had been unable to raise Julie. “She said that she and my father were very poor and the hospital had recommended that I be placed for adoption.”
It took time to come to terms with the reality that her often-wondered-about birth family had actually been located. “My friends and family were worried about the outcome; however, I decided not to have any expectations and be grateful for each step.”
In January—three days before her birthday—she received a handwritten letter from her Korean birth parents inquiring about her health, marital status and life. “They also told me the time of my birth,” Julie said. “That was such a gift.”
She headed back to the Korean restaurant for a celebration. She arranged a birthday party, including a dinner with authentic Korean food, to make the announcement to her adoptive family and friends that her birth family had been located.
The restaurant owner, also delighted for her, offered to help her compose an email to her birth family. They sent the message and waited for two weeks. When no response arrived, he volunteered to serve as a translator and they telephoned her Korean family. “I’ll never forget the first time I heard my mother’s voice. I was a living a dream,” Julie recalled.
After months of communicating through Kaokao Talk (a Korean communications app that is similar to Skype), Julie began the process of obtaining a passport and preparing to travel to reunite with her family in Korea.
“The staff members at Dillon and at Eastern Social Welfare Society were so supportive. They provided counseling services, translation services in Korea and continuous psychological assistance,” Julie said. “I couldn’t imagine a better support team. They approached every fear with understanding, ease and calmness.”
She flew to Korea in May and was greeted at the airport by her birth parents and a sister. They were holding a sign welcoming her to Korea. “My mother ran to give me the warmest welcome, crying, while repeatedly saying, ‘I love you.’”
Her time in Korea was filled with significant moments.
A childhood friend in America arrived in Seoul, providing 10 tickets to a Paul McCartney concert. The music was significant to Julie because throughout her adolescence, it nourished hopes of one day reuniting with her birth family. Midway through the concert, it began raining and her mother said in broken English, “Tears from Heaven.” Later, she and her father stood alone together on the balcony as the band played Hey Jude, a song that was special to Julie, a part of the soundtrack of many poignant childhood memories. “It was almost like a Lifetime movie, the timing filled voids I had carried my entire life,” she recalled.
Children’s Day was also unforgettable. Julie couldn’t wait to surprise her nieces and nephews with gifts and attention on this popular Korean holiday (May 5) that celebrates kids. Instead, she was the one who was showered with attention.
“When I awoke that morning, they surprised me by treating me as the child they had missed for years,” Julie said, recounting a beautiful day filled with bike rides, a trip to an aunt’s beauty salon and meetings with extended family members.
The day concluded with a trip to the facility where Julie was placed for adoption. As they stood outside the building, now transformed to a bank, “My mom started crying, trying so desperately to communicate with me,” Julie recalled.
Separated by different languages, the two could only cling to one another. “It was a pivotal moment that shifted the voids of curiosity and fear to forever love.”
Additional clarity came on Parent’s Day (celebrated May 8 in Korea), when the family was able to sit down with a professional interpreter at Eastern Social Welfare Society and ask questions and sort out misunderstandings.
Julie said the experience of traveling to her birth country has helped satisfy her curiosity about her heritage and why she was placed for adoption. “Although I had little contact with elements of my heritage growing up, I was always attracted to Asian art and culture. This trip helped me fully realize that I really am truly, genetically Korean.”
And so, Julie—a small-business owner who is pursuing a Ph.D. in health psychology—arrived home feeling fulfilled and eager to share her experiences with close friends.
She soon learned that five of her adopted friends had also had birth family reunions of their own, but had never discussed their experiences because of feelings of shame or pain.
“I believe adoption has nothing to do with us; it just wasn’t the right timing,” Julie said, adding that she feels it is important for adoptees to share their stories. “I really encourage adoptees to talk about their experiences of confusion, identity issues and potential shame.”
Julie continues to keep in close touch with her birth family. She regularly awakens to text messages filled with love and encouragement, and the family continues their regular chats using Kakao Talk.
Her world is broader in other ways as well. “I have a bigger purpose in life. Reuniting with my family has reassured my desire to become a bridge between American and Korean culture. I believe my desires were led by a simple prayer from my Korean mother. She told me, ‘I prayed you would get a good education with more opportunity in the United States.’ My experience is the definition of a full circle.”
—By Susan Serrano
At Dillon, we are serious about finding families for the children who need them.
And when it happens, we like to celebrate!
Today, we are celebrating that in recent weeks, eight of our Waiting Children have families identified. The families are in various stages of the process, with many of them working on a home study or preparing their dossier to send to the country.
A Waiting Child is legally available for adoption and has his or her paperwork ready, but has not been matched with a family. A child may become a Waiting Child due to various factors including medical special needs, developmental delays, emotional issues, or simply being an older child or part of a sibling group.
If you’d like to meet the children who are still waiting, please visit our Waiting Child page.
We would love to celebrate with you and with even more children.
I am the son of a great man. He loves my mom; he loves my sister; and he loves me. As I write this, my dad is recovering from a stroke and a few other complications that come from being 79 years old. It’s hard to see him looking frail because my dad has always been the strongest man I have known.
But as I look back and recall my memories of my dad, there are a few things that stand out. My dad was always there. He left for work at 6:20 a.m. Monday through Friday, and he was home at 4:20 p.m. every day. He came to every game I played in and took me to church every Sunday morning and evening, Wednesday night and on Saturdays when he was the church janitor (which is where I learned to vacuum). He taught me to read the newspaper and drink coffee. He taught me to drive by sitting on his lap at the age of 9 and letting me steer on country roads (and then later let me drive all over town in a 1962 VW Beetle at the age of 13).
He taught me marriage is forever. When my mom went back to college after two kids, he supported her dreams. When my mom battled breast cancer, he was there by her side. When they both retired and started a new life, he showed me how he became my mom’s best friend all over again. He taught me to love one woman for life—and, after 59 years of marriage, he still shows his love for my mom.
My dad modeled the way of Fatherhood for me way before I ever dreamed of becoming a father. Fatherhood seemed quite elusive for me during my adult years. I did not marry until I was 33 and did not become a father until 36. And now, after 18 years of fatherhood and six boys, I look back at each of my sons and realize how much each has taught me.
Aidan, our firstborn, taught me it was possible to love something immediately. It was love at first sight even when he was nothing but 7 pounds of flesh, blood and poop. But instantly upon his birth, I knew I would die for him if need be. And now that he is 18 and a recent high school graduate, my heart is still full of love and pride for my oldest son.
Noah, our second born, taught me that even though a child has the same parents, no two children are alike. I learned it was possible to love him as much as I loved my firstborn son. It completely amazed me: that my heart had so much capacity. And now that he is 16, his discipline and maturity amaze me.
Tucker—our first adopted son from South Korea through our adoption agency, Dillon International—taught me that DNA does not make a child my son: But love does. And while he may not have the same physical features as his two older brothers, he has family traits and characteristics that only could have come from being part of our family. When I look at my 10- year-old son, I only see that he is my son.
Cade, our second adopted son from South Korea, taught me that love is a choice that has to be made each day. He was 19 months when we brought him home, and we both had to learn to love and trust each other. And that takes time and commitment to choose to love each and every day. And now that he is 10, my love for him is deep and wide.
Titus, our fifth son, was our late-in-life surprise. After being told it was practically impossible to conceive, God found a way to surprise and delight us with a child with special needs. He has taught me that we are all broken vessels in some way – but every day is a precious gift of life. And even a child born deaf and blind and immobile and non-verbal is capable of spreading joy into the lives of others. And while his lifespan may not be as long as my other boys’, I know Titus was fearfully and wonderfully made by God and one day will be made perfect. He has taught me more about my faith than a million sermons ever will.
And just when all our friends are marrying off their children and welcoming their first grandchildren, our sixth son, Grayson, has come into our lives – a 5-year-old boy from China born with no arms (but a huge heart). This delightful little boy has captured our hearts. God knew Grayson needed a family, and God knew we needed Grayson to be our son.
I am also thankful for my wife of 21 years, Becky. She is the love of my life, the mother of my children and my best friend. After the births and miscarriages, the roller coaster of infertility treatments, the marathons of adoptions and the joys (and toddler tribulations) of parenting, she still makes me laugh. Her capacity to love thrills me, her strength in caring for the children amazes me and her gentle words have helped me become a better father.
I am blessed to be a father to six incredibly diverse and talented boys. There are days they make me so proud to be their dad – and there are days I wonder if we will survive the noise and chaos. There are days I’m sure the neighbors think our house will implode with all the noise, but then there are quiet, quiet nights where I hear the whispered conversations and secrets shared between brothers.
It is a great privilege to be a son, a father and a husband. I look forward to the future and to see what God unfolds. (And I look forward to grandchildren – lots and lots of beautiful grandchildren).
—By Paul Daily
Last year these smiling dads experienced the miracle of adoption together when they traveled to China to bring home their precious children. Although they live in different states, they recently got together for a reunion to celebrate this special anniversary and sent us this great photo to celebrate the happy occasion. We’re honored to be a part of such treasured family memories and grateful to all the donors whose support allows us to unite waiting children with loving families.
As you celebrate Father’s Day this year, please consider giving a gift in honor of Dad that will ensure that Dillon’s work of finding families for children continues. Just put a note in the comments section below to let us know about your dad. We will be glad to let him know how special he is and to inform him of your donation in his honor.
By David Martin
My experiences attending heritage events over the years have helped me build friendships that I still hold dear today.
I always enjoy interacting with peers of the same background and have created relationships that have a special connection. I grew up attending Dillon International’s Korea Heritage Camp and developed a close bond with others who also attend every year. Our families always stay at the same hotel and always go out to eat together at least once during the stay. At our hotel, we always swim at the pool with our friends. And at camp, we always looked forward to meeting our new counselors and to the new activities at camp, and of course, the cooking classes and the traditional Korean lunch on the last day.
I even showed my cooking teacher at my middle school how to make the Korean cookies that I learned how to make at Korea Camp. Though as little kids, we disliked—and sometimes even dreaded—the language classes, we all LOVED Taekwondo. Some of my favorite camp memories involve yelling while trying to do simple Taekwondo kicks and punches.
Some of the results from attending Korea camp have been life changing. These camps have given me friends that I will have my whole life, and I make new friends every year. The camp classes and activities have taught me SO much about Korean culture and history.
This past summer I had the opportunity to view Korea Heritage Camp from a different perspective by volunteering as a camp counselor, and I really enjoyed it. There was plenty of time to simply relax and hang out with my fellow camp counselors and activities that allowed us to make new friends, and interact with the campers. Because we kept busy helping campers in their classes, there was not as much time to see old friends, but it gave me a greater opportunity to meet new people and make new friends while joining in learning about Korean culture and arts: making Korean crafts, eating Korean food, and learning basic Korean language phrases. As counselors, we also gained valuable experience in learning how to teach children and maintain a learning environment.
This summer I also attended Discovery Days, Dillon International’s camp for internationally adopted teens. Those 2 ½ days are spent outdoors, not inside, and we participated in many group activities that build our character and teamwork skills.
Basketball was arguably the most popular activity. This is what most of the male campers, including myself, played throughout the camp. We played large full court games with some of the counselors and campers. We learned to work together and even became more physically fit. We all would sweat a lot during those games!
We also had teamwork exercises throughout the camp’s duration. Some of them included a Lego building competition that had one person telling a relay man how to build the Lego project. The relay man then had to explain to builders how to build it. Another activity we participated in was building towers with bricks to see which group would get it the highest. The last one was a race to see how fast a group can get water into a bucket with only a sponge in a relay race style competition. These activities were great at the beginning of the camp because it forced some us to become social and helped grow relationships between people.
We also did a lot of character activities and sharing about problems we might be having and talking about problems that we face, such as bullying or racism. It was an opportunity to share problems and discuss how to confront them.
We also had a great time with water activities, including swimming and a super-fun Slip n’ Slide.
The best thing about Discovery Days was the diversity of the campers. There are campers from India, China and Korea. This gave us the ability to learn about different cultures and our different experiences growing up.
Discovery Days also offered some valuable lessons. We talked and discussed issues that we face, and for some, it may have lifted a huge burden off their shoulders. For others, it was simply a great place to bond and have fun with their peers. That’s how it was for me: I enjoyed this year, made a lot of new friends, and am looking forward to next year.
About the Author: David Martin lives in St. Louis Missouri and has a sister, Sarah, who is also a Korea adoptee. He regularly attends Dillon heritage events with his family and is having fun being a teenager.
1)Brian and Jennifer Batchelor of Arkansas with their son Christopher (Korea)
2)Caleb and Brooke Lewis of Arkansas with their son Samuel (Korea)
3)Emma, daughter of Chris and Amalia Gill of California (Korea)
3a) Emma Gill with older brother Noah, also a Korea adoptee
4)Brian and Jane Kidder of Florida with their son Ethan (Korea)
5)Jeff and Mi-Sook Kyle of California with their son Logan (Korea)
6)Alec and Katie Lawrence of Oklahoma with their son Shepard (Korea)
6a) Shepard Lawrence
7) Kyle and Caroline Lewis of Maryland with their son Paul (China)
8) Liam, son of Brad and Joanna Curtis of Texas (Korea)
9) Lina Borrego with her brothers Daniel and David and her parents Antonio and Stephanie Borrego of Louisiana (Korea)
11) Jeffrey and Shivali Ober of California with their son Akash (India)
12) Nathan, son of Jeremy and Brandy Romine of Oklahoma, with his older brother Conner (Korea)
13) Asa and Serenity Scrimsher, son and daughter of Wayne and Ronda Scrimsher of Missouri (Korea)
14) Jude Moore with his older brother Samuel, sons of Jordan and Heather Moore of Texas (Korea)
15) Mia Mitchell (left), daughter of Missy Mitchell of Oklahoma, celebrates with her family, including her sister Kaylee, at Dillon International’s Lunar New Gala (China)
15a) Mia Mitchell arriving at the airport
16) Joy Foster, daughter of Justine Foster of Oklahoma (Hong Kong)
16a) Joy Foster, at the wedding of her mother, Justine, to her new dad, Alan Anderson
By Susan Serrano
Should your family go on a birthland tour? Yes. Absolutely.
But answers to the questions “Are we ready?” and “How do we get ready?” are a bit more complex.
As with any great adventure, there are many factors to consider as you prepare for this important milestone.
Start by making it a priority. (Yes, it’s really that important.)
“It truly is something every family should experience,” said Jan Dunn, a social worker and director of Dillon International’s Lifetime Support Services. “We want families to realize that when they adopt internationally, they are becoming an international family—Korean American, Haitian American, Chinese American, etc. A birthland tour should be a family affair and a very natural and normal event.”
Children do not stay children forever. As they grow, they will encounter social expectations that they have visited their birth country and know some of its language. “There will be a great sense of pride and satisfaction for them in having achieved these things,” Dunn added.
Build a foundation.
Don’t wait until you’re thinking about a birthland tour to start exposing your child to elements of their birth country’s culture. Seize every opportunity to let your child know that celebrating their heritage is important to you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
So, what do you expect?
Don’t get on the plane without first framing a few expectations of what a birth country visit is—and is not.
This is going to be fun; you will have a great time and you will see plenty of tourist attractions. But this isn’t going to be your ordinary vacation or holiday, so don’t approach it with that mindset.
Because of the price tag associated with international travel, it might be tempting for parents to make the tour a graduation, birthday or anniversary gift. Don’t do this without consulting the adoptee first.
If your family is facing struggles, deal with those issues separately. Do not look to a birthland tour for a quick fix or magical solution to the challenges of adoptive parenting.
A birth country visit is a life-changing trip where one revisits the past, celebrates the present and anticipates the future.
And remember, this trip is about your child so talk with them about their expectations. How do they feel about traveling? What are they excited about? Or worried about?
“Their expectations could be completely different from yours,” said Lisa Leung, Dillon International’s tour coordinator. “Unless you make a point to sit down and talk about it, you’ll never know.”
Here are a few ideas for starting conversations and preparing to get the most out of this trip-of-a-lifetime:
“OK. When do we go?”
If your child joined your family at a young age, plan on making the first birth country visit when they are a pre-teen, around 8-13 years old.
“They’re old enough to remember and enjoy the trip, but still young enough that they aren’t as overwhelmed with identity issues,” Leung advised. “The first trip is the perfect opportunity for an adoptee to get to know their birth country’s culture and experience the sites.”
You should plan on taking a second trip when your child is an older teen or young adult. That trip will be an invaluable opportunity for an adoptee to explore their unique adoption story, reviewing their adoption file or exploring options of a birth family search, Leung added.
A birthland visit can be emotionally taxing for young adult adoptees. “They relish being in a country where they look like everyone else, yet at the same time, they feel separated and isolated by not speaking the language and constantly being called upon to explain why this is the case,” Leung explained.
“It’s ideal for young adults to travel with other adoptees,” Leung said. “We have heard from many adoptees who report that having the support of fellow adoptees is what got them through the pains of culture shock, identity issues and birth family searches.”
Because of this sense of camaraderie with other adoptees, traveling parents should be prepared that their child (of any age) might tend to distance themselves during the trip. “It’s natural for them to want to blend in and to spend more time with fellow adoptees in their travel group,” Leung explained.
While this can be a lonely feeling for parents, it’s actually a good thing. “This can be an important step in their identity formation while reconnecting to their birth country,” Leung said.
“What about children who arrived home when they were older?”
With more children arriving home to their forever families when they are in their tween or teen years, it is important to note that their feelings surrounding a birth country visit will be significantly different from a child who arrived home as an infant or toddler.
While a birthland tour is still a valuable experience, the trip must be approached with additional preparations, Dunn said.
“Parents would need to consider how their child has coped with the trauma of leaving their birth country and talk through with their child about how he or she feels about returning for a short trip,” Dunn advised, adding that families should seek guidance from their adoption agency’s post-adoption department or an adoption-competent counselor before departing. “The key to a successful trip would be preparation: Making sure that their child understands they are going to their birth country with their parents and coming home with their parents.”
The journey doesn’t end when you get home.
Returning to their birth country can bring up unresolved emotions, particularly feelings of loss and grief for both adoptees and parents. It might take weeks or months to process these emotions. And that’s normal.
“There’s a feeling of being at home and foreign at the same time. There’s a struggle between those root issues of ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Why am I feeling this way when I had such a great time?’” Dunn explained.
Adoptees typically feel an increased desire to know more of their history once they’ve visited their birth country. It can be difficult for them to reflect on an adoptee tour companion who was able to meet their foster family or birth family when they were unable to have this experience, Dunn added. “There’s that inward struggle of wanting to be happy for someone, but that feeling of ‘Why isn’t this happening for me?’”
Parents should be ready to be supportive as their child navigates these feelings and keep in contact with their adoption agency for advice after they get home from the tour, Dunn added.
Travel. Reflect. Repeat.
“It’s wonderful that we are seeing more and more families who make birth country visits a regular part of their child’s life, going every year or so,” Dunn said.
This is ideal since your kids will experience their birth country through different perspectives as they grow up; however, realistically, this isn’t affordable for everyone. So just commit to taking every opportunity you possibly can to connect with the country that gave you the most beautiful gift ever: your child.
Editor’s Note: This article was also published in the March 2015 issue of Adoption Today magazine.
It contains country program information, family requirements and our agency policies. The latest version has just been uploaded, so we hope you’ll find the answers to many of your questions.
Also, we encourage anyone thinking about adoption to attend one of our one-hour webinars.
I believe that every child who is adopted goes through a hard time; whether it is the “normal” coming of age difficulties or whether it is difficulties that come with our adoption because we don’t know how to properly deal with it. I went through a long period of time where I did not know how to really get by. I was going through an identity crisis and I felt completely alone.
Throughout my whole life I felt like my physical appearance did not match my mind and how I felt about myself. During one of the lowest points in my life I began attending Dillon’s Discovery Days. It was for other adoptees just like me. Adoptees who wanted to meet other adoptees and create lasting friendships. I first attended Discovery Days in 2007. It was the week that I was supposed to go to Korea to meet my birth mother. It was a very hard time for me, but that decision to go was one of the best decisions of my life. The people that I met there are still people that I talk to today.
The adults who were there watching over us were adoptees just like us. They shared their stories and experiences and they showed me that all of us have our ups and downs. It was only natural for us to have our ups and downs, but we would be OK. They showed me that our experiences would make us stronger people. It was at that moment that I decided that I would become a person just like those adults. I would become a friend to other adoptees and younger adoptee children. I wanted to become a role model for others just as those adult adoptees had been for me.
Since 2007, my life has completely changed. I have created so many friendships with other adoptees and have been able to see them change and become wonderful people. It only happens one week of the summer, where we are all together at the camps; however that week is the best week of my life. I look forward to it every year. I have seen the children that attend Korean Heritage Camp grow up for the past seven years. I feel like they’re my own brothers and sisters. I’ve seen them grow from the small little 4- and 5-year-olds who feel like their life is over when game time is over, to young teenagers who are starting to become camp counselors who are on their way to making their own difference in their campers lives. That feeling is one of the most rewarding experiences and I thank Dillon for that.
In 2013 I found out that, through Dillon and Eastern Social Welfare Society, I could participate in a scholarship program to attend a Korean University, learn the Korean language and volunteer with the children at Eastern. Luckily, I was one of the 11 applicants selected to participate along with other adoptees from America and Australia. We were all from different parts of the world and prior to meeting in Korea, we hadn’t met each other before. It was a very interesting experience to be able to meet other adoptees and see that not all of us have the same experience. Prior to this trip I believed that we all had a good experience with our adoption and our families; however, I learned that this wasn’t always the case. It opened my eyes to adoption and adoptees in so many different ways. I realized that I wanted to speak out more about my adoption story and meet other adoptees. I used to be shy and closed off to the world, to my friends and sometimes even to my family.
Through the different programs that Dillon offers along with Eastern Social Welfare Society, I realized that through all of my different experiences and feelings of adoption, I’m not alone. I was never alone in the battle. I found by meeting other adoptees that not all of us take the opportunities that their adoption agencies offer and I’m thankful that I am able to participate in the different camps that Dillon offers. If I hadn’t participated, I wouldn’t have been able to meet all of the people I have, or to have learned more about myself the way I have, or realized that I’m called to do more for the adoptee community. Dillon doesn’t want any adoptee to go through challenges alone and neither do I.