Lessons From The Past Ten Years


In June, MLJ celebrated its tenth-year anniversary! Personally, being with the agency since its inception, I have worked in the field a bit longer. Anniversaries are a time for reflection and a time to contemplate the road you have traveled, what you have experienced, learned and how these experiences have affected you.

Over the last twelve years, I have worked with some amazing and dedicated professionals who have collaboratively worked with our agency to help find homes for vulnerable children around the globe. I have grown close to some of these professionals as we tirelessly worked towards the same goal. I grew friendships with these professionals, growing close to them and their families. During these last ten years, I unexpectedly lost one very dear friend who worked tirelessly beside me to place children with no other options with forever families. This loss affected me tremendously and had a great impact on me both personally and professionally. I questioned why someone who was doing such good work would be taken away so early.

I have personally escorted children from their sending country to be united with their new forever families and watched as they were embraced for the first time by their adoptive families. I have cried through joy and pain with adoptive parents and even other adoptive professionals. I have witnessed politics sticking its ugly head into intercountry adoption, not caring how political decisions impacted the lives of parentless children, in numerous countries. I have cried with adoptive parents who have had to experience the death of a child, for some families more than once. Sadly, and surprisingly, I have watched as an NGO systematically worked (and continues to work) against intercountry adoption and efforts to place children in need with families who yearn to provide care for them. I have seen children starving and dying in orphanages. I have seen poverty at its worst and its impact on children in third world countries. I have seen the impact of war on children. I have seen it all and nothing surprises me or shocks me anymore. It is said that the burn out rate for professionals in international adoption is high, yet I am still here and intend to stay regardless of how difficult society, governments and NGO’s plan to make our progress. Why? All adoption professionals know and agree they work in this field because at the end of the day there is no greater joy than knowing the actions of your professional life changed the life of a child who wants nothing more than the love of a family.

In ten years, I have learned that there is no greater joy than the smile of a child, who just a few months earlier was sick and hungry.

There is no greater joy than watching a child with medical needs, receive the medical treatment needed and become healthy.

There is no greater joy than assisting with the adoption of a severely deformed child being welcomed into a family then receiving reconstructive plastic surgery that allows them to lead a “normal” life.

There is no greater joy than walking off a plane and handing an adoptive parent the child they adopted for the first time.

There is no greater joy than walking with family who comes to intercountry adoption from infertility reaching the goal of finally being able to parent a child.

There is no greater joy than knowing that you are impacting the lives of children and families for the better.

There is no greater joy than knowing at the end of the day that your actions may have impacted and changed the lives of children.

I entered this field quite by chance and I fully believe I was lead down this road for a purpose. There are days of frustration and even anger, but the joy inevitably outweighs the dark days. Twelve years ago I would have never envisioned my professional life to have landed where it has. I knew nothing of international adoption. After ten years and in celebrating this milestone with our agency, what I have learned is that I am grateful for all the professionals I have worked with, both domestically and internationally. I am grateful for all the friendships I have grown from my alliances. I am grateful to my family for their patience with my long hours and their understanding for my time away from them when I travel internationally. I am grateful to personally know some people who truly operate for no other goal, but to help children. I am grateful for all the adoptive families who have shown courage, faith and dedication to continue forward despite delays and obstacles. I am grateful after ten years, to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children and families.

Blessings to all of you! On behalf of MLJ Adoptions, thank you all for your continued support.

Sonja Brown works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptions’ programs in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Samoa. Sonja is also proud to work directly with our Individualized Country Program families who are adopting from countries where no adoption service providers currently operate.