Many people tend to think that writers are loners, possibly a bit unstable when it comes to socializing and fitting in to the real world or, if they are authors in the horror genre, that they might be that quiet person next door that twists off and next thing the neighborhood knows the police are pulling multiple bodies out of the duct work and freezer. But in reality, most writers are very normal, they just have a great ability to stretch their imagination and don't limit their minds to act a certain way when it comes to imagining things.
Two writers in the horror genre that live in the DFW Metroplex are the husband and wife team of Christopher Fulbright (Of Wolf And Man and When It Rains) and Angeline Hawkes (Shades of Blood and Shadow and Symphony of the Forgotten), whom each write their own separate books and short stories as well as occasionally collaborate and write together (Then Comes the Child and Blood Coven).
The couple also appear at conventions together and occasionally appear on the same panels. At last year's FenCon VI the couple conducted a panel of their own talking about the difficulties as well as the joy of adopting a child. In the case of these two very friendly and personable authors they were finally able to bring another child into their home. Here is Part I of their story:
Ethan Nahté: Your family received a very special "gift" just before Christmas of 2009. Tell our readers what that "gift" was and why you decided to adopt.
Angie: We adopted a (then) 19-month-old baby boy, Daniel, from South Korea who came home just in time for Christmas. The timing was perfect as Christopher had vacation time, and the older kids were on holiday break, so we got in a lot of good bonding time with him. We decided to adopt because we wanted to add to our family, and God directed us to Holt International Children’s Services and to our son. Sometimes families are built in non-traditional ways. Our son is such a perfect fit for our family, if he weren’t visibly Korean, I’d think Daniel was genetically our child.
Chris: A lot of thought and research went into our decision to adopt. Looking back, with Daniel being such a perfect part of our family and bringing us so much joy, I can’t imagine ever having doubts. But I think my main concern was that I might not be able to love a child that was not “of my blood” as much as a biological child. However, experience in a past marriage taught me that being a parent is much more than blood relation. I have stepdaughters that I love as my own, and reflecting on those relationships was what ultimately convinced me. Turning to God for the answer to the question of whether or not it was the right thing for us always yielded the same answer – absolutely, this was the right thing to do. In times when I have listened to God, I have unfailingly received amazing personal rewards. Having Daniel as my son is definitely the ultimate of those rewards.
EN: How many children did each of you have before your new son came into your family?
Angie: I have two biological children from my previous marriage. Both of them took years to conceive, so I was already familiar with the adoption process as my former husband and I had also considered adoption as an option. Apparently, adopting then wasn’t part of God’s plan. He wanted me to wait for Daniel.
Chris: I have no biological children, but two stepdaughters from a previous marriage.
Daniel in San Francisco on his way to Dallas.
(Photo provided by Angeline Hawkes)
EN: It's now been approximately 6 months. As young as he was I'm sure it couldn't have been too much of a culture shock but had to have been more of a change for your family. How have the family adjusted? How has your son adjusted?
Angie: Actually, it was a huge shock for him. He had been with the same foster family since he was two months old, so everyone he knew and loved was suddenly gone. He was removed from their loving home, and put on a plane with an escort (a very kind, loving Korean mother) he didn’t know, flown to San Francisco, then flown to Dallas, then given to us -- people he had never seen before, who looked different than his foster family, talked in some crazy language he might never had heard before, and here he was 19-months-old without a clue of why or how or anything. All he knew was that his foster mother was nowhere around and he didn’t understand why. It was heartbreaking. He grieved for a few weeks, every night. We would be in tears rocking him for hours. That was all the consolation we could offer. He didn’t know what we were saying to him. We had to hope and pray that our love for him was conveyed through our touch and our voices and expressions. It was very hard for all of us as a family to watch and listen to him grieving, but our pain was nothing compared to the complete and utter sorrow he was experiencing on a nightly basis. The older kids often would be crying as well because they felt so much compassion for this little guy and no one could do anything for him other than just be there and love him. It was really hard.
He came home speaking Korean, so he had to completely abandon one language and begin processing another. His food is different than what he was used to. As a result of the difference in cuisine, we smelled different to him. His television and music was different in Korea than what he watches/listens to here. His foster family had a grandson a few months younger than him in the household too, but he came here and suddenly acquired two older siblings who were very anxious to know him and doted on his every move. There were times when I had to find things for the older kids to do simply because their exuberance was overwhelming Daniel. It was hard, but I had to stay in tune with the needs of three children of different ages, all at different emotional maturity and development levels -- and do so on about 3 hours of sleep every night.
Chris: I can’t add much to what Angie wrote. It was very hard at first, but I’ll say that Daniel showed signs of amazing resilience. Yes, he was grieving for what he had lost in his foster family, but he is such a little survivor with a wonderful heart. He had a great sense of humor, and even the first evening with us at home, he was doing little things that he knew were “cute” – probably as a defense mechanism – to charm us. (This is referred to in Adoption-Speak, as the Honeymoon Phase: when a child does what he/she knows is cute in order to make you want to love them and take care of them. It’s an instinctual process that babies/children do. - A) Naturally it worked. At the time it was such a shock for all of us, but he would laugh with this great belly chuckle, and we would laugh, and I think we all knew that everything would be all right … just as soon as we were able to sleep again. It's now been approximately 6 months. As young as he was I'm sure it couldn't have been too much of a culture shock but had to have been more of a change for your family.
EN: You adopted from outside of the country. Many Americans wonder why people adopt from countries other than our own. Any comment on the process. Also, how many times did you try to adopt from another country and for what length of time before the adoption came through?
Angie: We went with international adoption primarily because we were not fans of the open adoption process that is now the standard in U.S. agencies. We wanted to adopt a baby not a whole extended family tree. There are some that would say, well, that’s what you do when you adopt. Yes, and no. We didn’t want other birth family members butting into our decisions and ways of doing things -- scheduling visitations, etc. I think you give that right up when you decide to make an adoption plan and relinquish a child. We have a process through Holt that allows us to send letters/photos for Daniel’s birth and foster family, and they can do the same for us if they choose. When Daniel is older, if he wishes to search for his birth family we will be 100% behind his wishes. We also looked into the U.S. foster system with the foster-to-adopt program, but I couldn’t wrap my brain around fostering and giving up a child. I’d be too emotionally invested to give that child back to the system or birth parents. That process wasn’t for us. We wanted to be permanent parents, not a stopping off point in a long road of future unknowns. International adoption provided us with a healthy child where we could choose the gender (most U.S. agencies don’t allow you to choose the child’s gender because you’re matched with a birth mother before the baby is born), without the open adoption elements that we weren’t comfortable with.
Chris: As Angie mentioned, we did not want an open adoption, but there were some other factors involved, too. Number one, the Holt foster care program in Korea is fantastic … generally one child per family, and those foster families are usually better-off, older folks, who’ve already raised children into adulthood. And we really can’t say enough good things about Holt International. The people there really care about these children, and genuinely want to help families get matched with the best children for them.
We found that many domestic adoption programs required a certain level of church-involvement that we don’t have. We went to a foster-to-adopt seminar that really left me hurting inside for all of the kids in the program. But CPS places restrictions on how you may and may not interact with children still under their care, and there’s a lot of emotional scarring, poor treatment by former parents, and (in a few cases) foster parents … plus trust issues and behavior problems galore. You want to help, but in the end, you have to do what’s best for your family. And what was best for us was Daniel: a great kid, no strings attached. We’re raising him from a very young age, and we don’t have to worry about how he was treated in the foster home because we know he received stellar care from loving foster parents, nor do we have to worry about anyone showing up on the doorstep and deciding to be a part of his life a few months or years from now. As Angie said, we’d support his decision to seek out his birth parents when he gets older, but Daniel is our child, and we enjoy the freedom of being able to raise him the way we see best … without outside influences.
Christmas Eve 2009 (photo provided by Angeline Hawkes)
EN: You gave a joint panel at Fen-Con, a literary convention, in 2009 on adopting, which was a bit unusual and probably a first for a convention of this sort. Did you have people interested and receive a favorable reaction?
Angie: FenCon is run by many, many family-oriented individuals who shared our journey from the very first stages. The support and love, and encouragement we received from members of the organization was incredible. We felt like they were a part of our journey. We received a grant from Brittany’s Hope Foundation for Daniel because he was considered an older child (he was over a year old). One of the requirements for our grant was that we hold a public speaking event to share information about Brittany’s Hope Foundation. The foundation places grants on individual children who have special needs, are older, or have some other issue that makes them harder to place for adoption. This is different than most grant services that award the parents grants based on financial situations or on religious affiliations. We were matched with Daniel August 5, 2009 and notified of the grant at the same time. FenCon was coming up in the next month and the members were more than happy to fit an informative panel into the program for us to share the information about Brittany’s Hope. FenCon also allowed us to have a fundraiser table at our normal author table, which raised over half of the money we needed at the time to pay an upcoming immigration fee. We have a deep sense of gratitude for all that the organizers of FenCon did for us -- and continue to do in the way of encouragement and support.
The panel stirred a lot of conversation which allowed us to be able to talk about adoption, what it meant for our family, and about Brittany’s Hope Foundation and our agency. It’s our hope that we provided the encouragement someone needed to take the plunge and request information on adoption from our agency or any accredited agency. If we motivated just one family to reach out to a baby or child through our panel or through our daily discussions, we would be thrilled. The reaction of the convention goers was overwhelmingly positive from every angle.
Chris: We’re so grateful to know people like the folks who run FenCon. It was an amazing thing to be able to have an international adoption panel at a spec-fic convention. The panel wasn’t crowded by any means, but the people who did attend were genuinely interested in adoption and learning about our experience. They even let us have a fund-raising sale in the outer hall that boosted the Bring Daniel Home coffer in a small but nice way. We’re also thankful to Brittany’s Hope for the grant that made bringing Daniel into our family so much easier. Incidentally, the Brittany’s Hope Foundation is focused on helping children worldwide. They are always open to donations, which they accept through their Web site: http://www.brittanyshope.org/