Adoption in Thailand: Our Journey
Published on: November 10, 2018
Becoming a family through adoption is a long process, but absolutely worth it. Mom of two, Tricia Flagler, looks back on their long journey through adoption, to become the family that they are today.
By Tricia Flagler
There are many things you get used to as a foreign family living in Bangkok. We moved here with our two-and-a-half-year-old adorable, green-eyed, blonde-haired son. We, and he, eventually got used to all of the attention and staring that we attract around town.
Since we added our Thai son to the mix in December 2017, it has added a whole new dimension of attention. And questions. Lots of questions.
Families who don’t match on the outside often draw attention anywhere in the world, but especially in cultures where adoption isn’t commonplace. Thai people tend to ask us directly about our son, and they seem thrilled when we confirm that he’s a Thai boy. They often mention how lucky he is, but truthfully, we are the lucky ones.
…it would probably be another year before we heard anything.
Matt and I have been married since 2007 and haven’t been able to have children biologically, so we pursued adoption. In America, we chose a private agency and completed a domestic infant adoption after waiting about two years. Early in 2013, our first son joined our family at nine days old.
Pursuing adoption in Thailand
When we decided to move to Thailand in 2015, we knew we would pursue adoption here as soon as possible. The Adoption Support for Families in Thailand Facebook group proved to be a great resource. We knew, for example, that we had to be living here for a minimum of six months before we could begin the process.
We also got the list of required documents from friends, and so we gathered most of the documents and even did the required medical checks.
They often mention how lucky he is, but truthfully, we are the lucky ones.
I took pictures of all these steps and carefully recorded the events. I thought of it as a ‘paper pregnancy’ journal that one day our newest child might enjoy, seeing all the steps we took to bring him into our family.
I did the same for our first son, but many things were different this time around. The language was foreign, and the processes seemed more unusual. But for us, they were steps to bring another child into our family. Absolutely worth it.
Social worker assigned, police check
First, we went to the Child Adoption Center to have a social worker assigned and receive the application. Right away, I gave her our stack of documents and forms already gathered. We then waited to receive a letter from the Department of Children and Youth, with which we could have a Thai police background check done.
Child Adoption Center’s annual workshop
With most of our application complete, in May 2016 we were invited to participate in the Child Adoption Center’s annual workshop for prospective adoptive parents. The event is a required, two-day workshop for learning more about the procedures for intercountry adoption in Thailand.
Home study, then waiting…
Our home study was completed in August 2016, and our file then moved to the matching board. After a couple of months of no news, I contacted our social worker and she told us that it would probably be another year before we heard anything. This was definitely NOT the news I wanted to hear.
I reached out to other families we had met at the workshop, stalked all the Thailand adoption Facebook groups, and read a lot of blogs. I hated waiting, but it was also a comfort to see that other families were getting matched or moving forward. It helped to know that things were happening, even if it wasn’t for us. Yet.
Everything changed on a Monday night, last October. We were eating Beirut leftovers when I received messages from our social worker that said, “I think you were matched” and “I will get back to you tomorrow with the details.”
Apparently, I’m a dramatic person, so my husband wasn’t phased when I screamed after looking at my phone.
It was amazing to be able to see him, smell him, hear him, and touch him.
The next morning, as I was teaching, my phone started going crazy. I ran up to my husband’s classroom for the morning break. We looked together at our first information about our NEW SON and even had some pictures! It was beyond thrilling to get to see his face finally! And, to know that we now had a two-year-old son. In our minds, that was the moment he joined our family. It was all a bit surreal but so, so wonderful!
Later, we officially accepted the match from the Adoption Board and received permission to meet him.
Meeting our son
The next week, we flew down to his orphanage and got to meet our son. Our first couple of hours with our son were both thrilling and terrifying. It was amazing to be able to see him, smell him, hear him, and touch him. He was there, in real life. Real tears and real personality.
No longer a figment of our imagination, or this child in the pictures we had memorized. He was ours. Kind of.
Final approval from the Board
The next step was for us to receive final approval from the Board, tentatively set for December. This meant we could keep traveling down to visit and bond with him, but he couldn’t come home with us yet. We visited him and were even able to have him stay with us at our hotel for a weekend.
Turning him back over to the orphanage social worker after that visit was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I was so ready to have him home!
I knew I loved him and that he was learning to love me back.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too much longer. We received final approval in December, so we flew down the next day. We signed papers, gave gifts to the orphanage and to his nannies, then went right to the airport to fly back home!
It was only his third time leaving the orphanage gates, and he was getting on an airplane. I look back on those pictures and see how scared he was, even though he was trying to be brave.
Adjusting and settling in as a family
Our whole family was able to spend time bonding as a family over the holidays without worrying about school. The adjustment to a family of four has gone much smoother than we imagined, though not without its challenges.
I took maternity leave and focused on building attachment with our precious boy. Interestingly, he bonded very quickly and naturally with Matt but was terrified of me for a while. Though this was discouraging, I knew that it was natural for a child from a difficult background. I also had a lot of moral support from friends and family.
Within a few weeks, he started seeking me out more and more. By the time I returned back to work, I felt confident in our bond. I knew I loved him and that he was learning to love me back.
Today, almost a year later, he jumped into my arms and held onto me, giggling as I smothered him in kisses. Our trust and attachment are very real. Our family loves our three-year-old and cannot imagine our lives without him. He loves to dance and is great at building things. His laugh is the best!
Though the first part of his life will always be the beginning of his story, we are thankful to be part of the rest of his story.
For more information on adoption, visit the Adoption Support for Families in Thailand Facebook page, where you can join one of the quarterly meet-ups.
Interested in fostering?
Born Free Foster Care recruits, certifies, and supports families in Bangkok who temporarily open their homes to care for a child currently incarcerated in the Immigration Detention Center. With a safe home, these children have the opportunity to live in freedom. Find them on Facebook at Step Ahead Born Free Foster Care, or email: email@example.com.
Photo credit: Erin Spruell Photography
About the Author
Tricia Flagler and her husband, Matt, are both teachers and have considered Thailand home since 2015. They have two sons, ages five and three. Tricia enjoys coffee, foot massages, and quality time with people she loves. Being a mom is an extra treasured gift to her since it didn’t come easy.
The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects.
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