We are the Giuglianos, Anthony, Jennifer, Maria and Jonathan.
Anthony went on a mission trip with our church to Kenya, Africa. During that time he fell in love with the people there and it opened his eyes to so many children that needed forever families. When he returned he shared with me his heart to adopt and so we began praying and researching international adoption, particularly in Africa. My cousin and his wife adopted twice from China and so they were able to help us navigate the beginning steps to take in finding an agency and continued to help us through the process. In doing so we came across Burkina Faso and found that it was a country that was party to the Hague Convention, which then lead us to finding MLJ’s Burkina Faso Pilot Program. We set up a conference call with Caitlin and had a list of questions that she happily answered. We felt very confident in MLJ to proceed in helping us become a forever family, and we were very excited to get to be one of the first families to lead the way in the program.
It did take some of our family a little bit of time to really be where we were with knowing that adoption was how we were going to add to our family. We had to realize we had been thinking about adopting long before we ever really announced it, so they just needed time to catch up. They sure did, they helped and have continued to help us with this whole journey. MLJ guided us so well we really didn’t have any big surprises.
We arrived in Burkina Faso and was greeted by our translator and attorney. It was night when we arrived, so we couldn’t see a lot of our surroundings. At the home that we were renting during our stay we met the head attorney, his assistant and our security guard. Everyone was so kind and willing to help us with anything we might need. I was a little concerned about snakes or large bugs in Burkina Faso, we didn’t see any of those but there were tons of lizards! Some would manage to get in the house and a few times Anthony and the security guard would have to chase them out.
The day came when we got to meet Jonathan for the first time! Our hearts could just burst! We got down to his level and let him come to us. He was shy at first, but then slowly opened up. We had loved him since before we ever were matched, it was like he had always been a part of us. We then traveled to Koudougou to meet with the children’s ministry there and have a party for Jonathan with his foster family and friends. The foster mother cooked an amazing meal and it was nice to see where Jonathan had lived and the people who cared for him before coming home to us.
We waited our 15 days out doing some sightseeing, but not much because it was hard on all of us. It was better for Jonathan to be on more of a schedule, and not be over stimulated. When we did go out we used a toddler carrier for bonding and it helped soothe Jonathan during fits at home and at night to go to sleep. In country was hard not having our support team close by, but MLJ was always just an email away. Helping us with whatever we needed. The people of Burkina Faso are hardworking, kind and generous. They take pride in their country. We always felt safe. The day came to go home! We were a little concerned about how Jonathan would do traveling for so long, but he acted like he was a pro! He was intrigued by the airplane and had a blast watching movies on his iPad. Once he was giggling so much at the movie and everyone around us was laughing too.
We made it home and were greeted by our family and friends at the airport. They were gracious in understanding our request not to bombard him and we made sure Maria, our daughter, was the first to meet him. She had prepared a welcome home party for just the four of us, it was so thoughtful. Once home we nested a few weeks with Jonathan. I am so glad we did. It was a great time to bond and just help Jonathan heal.
Jonathan loves pretty much all foods! He will try anything! He doesn’t like eggs or salmon but that’s about it! When we were in country he had some food struggles like we learned about in The Connected Child book. He wanted to eat everything like right then, but we used the techniques and after being home just a few weeks and knowing that the food was going to be there for him he was able to not over eat. He still has a tendency to eat fast like he has to fight for his food, but we keep reminding him that there is enough for him and to take a deep breath. He loves to play outside. Jonathan is really good at soccer, football, basketball, t-ball, enjoys bouncing on the trampoline, playing in the sandbox, riding his bike, and just exploring. He loves books, he loves us to read to him and he has even started to “read” to us. His vocabulary is extraordinary.
We did have to help him work through his old survival techniques of manipulation, control and aggression. With the help of a TBRI practitioner and a TBRI caregiver class we have been able to teach him the tools he needs to help regulate himself and it gave us the tools to parent him to succeed and for us to connect while correcting. Without our training before and after adoption, I know we would not be at such a healthy place today. Take all the classes you can, watch all the TBRI videos, read all the books, and take the books with you when you travel because you will want to flip back through when you are living out what you have been reading about. I am thankful for our family, for our church friends, for other adoptive moms some that I’ve only connected through online, our homestudy agency, and MLJ have all been a huge support for us!
When we came home after 3 weeks we went to an International Adoption Clinic and they ran multiple tests. He did test positive for a parasite, which was cleared up quickly with one dose of a medication. His left knee does not have full range of motion and he has damage to his fat lining in his thigh. The story isn’t quite clear on how exactly it happened. He did physical therapy and he continues to do stretches at home which has made huge progress. He can now kneel, which is a pretty big deal.
For parents considering International adoption my advice to you is educate yourself on how to best help your child, never stop learning, take it minute by minute, except help, take the process at each step so the paperwork doesn’t feel overwhelming, be prepared for the hard stuff, but rejoice in the victories even the tiniest ones. I want you to know it is worth it. ALL of it. Anthony and I are honored to be Jonathan’s parents and we would do it a million times over again just to have him home.