Ann Forti, the blogger and podcaster of Mum-Encouraging-Mum, interviewed Ashley Kellogg in early 2021. When much of the world might think you do not have enough room or financial means to love and care for yet another child, the light of Christ shines forth, paving way for another faith journey and adventure. Now let us hear Ashley tell her adoption story.
Where the journey starts
My husband and I are both trained elementary school teachers, and our hearts’ desire and calling have always been working with underprivileged children. Early on in our marriage, we talked about how adoption is a part of our family, and we pursued many different avenues from the first time we spoke about adoption until we brought our first two kids home from China, which was ten years.
We pursued working at a group home in Chicago first just helping with underprivileged children back when we only had two kids at the time. We went through a one-year interview process and were advised against us having more children. Although having felt called to have many children in our home, we stepped out of that year long process, accepting this was not for us. Later we found out we were pregnant with our third. We were then encouraged by our friends who told us that we could work with underprivileged children in your home through foster care. So we went ahead and applied for foster care.
Pursuing foster care
A year and a half later, once we had gone through all the process, we were denied a foster license in 2006 because we already had too many young children. We then had three children under the age of four. They said we would not be a good match for foster care. We pursued foster care again when our kids were getting older. I actually found out we were pregnant with our fifth when we were applying the second time. Indiana had changed their rule so that there could not be more than five kids in the home, including both biological and foster care children. Since we were pregnant with our fifth, we were denied the license again in 2009.
Our miracle baby of special needs
The process of fostering was very disappointing to us; however, the birth of our fifth child changed our whole life. Myra was born a couple of months after our foster license application was denied a second time. She suffered a significant brain injury, the cause of which we could never understand. She was just somehow stressed in the womb and stopped moving. We went to the hospital and ended up having an emergency cesarean section within a couple of hours. She was in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for 30 days and came home after being initially told to let her go and not to resuscitate her. They believed she would be a vegetable. We let the Lord lead the way, praying he would heal her body. We found that she started to grow, though her development was definitely delayed. She was not developing normally. We began with therapies and visits to specialists. She had a seizure disorder and had a G tube put in for feeding. It took us two to three years to really get a handle on her care and understand her special needs. At that time, we had five children under the age of 6. We were so busy that we really didn't talk about adoption or adding more children.
My feelings for kids who didn't have much didn't change, and I was still looking for a chance to foster. Even though we weren't approved to foster in 2009, we were approved to adopt through their special needs adoption program, which was open to all children in foster care who were over the age of two. The program is under DCS (Department of Children Services) and called SNAP (Special Needs Adoption Program). We were approved to adopt children through SNAP, though not as quickly as we would have liked. It was only for special needs kids, but anyone over the age of two in the foster care system is considered special needs.
In 2013, we submitted twenty-two applications for children across the nation but never got responses. Most of our applications were for sibling groups, as that is where my heart is, considering it is harder to place. We found out later that they just didn't think we could work, even though we had five kids and one of them had a lot of special needs. When they saw our information, they tossed us off the pile. DCS eventually told us to pursue adoption through the state of Indiana. However, at the time, they had no children under the age of ten and would not consider the younger because our oldest was ten. We were actually interested in parenting children of different ages, but they didn't think that was for us.
Change direction, go international
We decided to get our own home study so DCS would not ask us to purchase or reuse the home study that they had done. Such a private agency will certify that you have enough rooms and enough finances. They look at your history and your marriage, assuring a safe family for adoptive children, before approving you to adopt. Such a home study is not cheap, costing upwards of $2000. We put together the money and went to a private agency. We sat down with them, sharing our story and our hearts. I remember leaving that appointment so devastated. The agent said she has been doing this for 30 years, and they will never think that we're a viable option. They would never pursue my family as an adoptive family through DCS. Then we asked about infant adoption, though that was not our goal. She did not think it was possible either, as she had never seen a child placed in a home with more than three children. She suggested we really should look at international adoptions. You know we lived on one income, and I was a homeschooling mom. We had five kids, one of whom had special needs. An international adoption of $30,000 plus just does not seem to be on the table.
During Christmas of 2013, I was praying, saying, “I'm just going to have that sixth child that we always talked about, and Lord, I’ve been pursuing this for 8–9 years." I recall clearly hearing the Lord tell me that I would not have another child by birth before adopting. I remember thinking about how that would happen because I am expecting another child.
On Christmas Eve, we received an email from that adoption home city agency. She told us about a program that might work for us. With that program, they often place siblings in the Philippines. It is also one of the cheaper international adoptions. We reviewed the files and found two little girls, Sally and Larma, in the Philippines. They were healthy siblings, around the ages of my two girls at the time, nine and six. We pursued their adoption, saying to the Lord that if this is what you have for us, you are going to bring us the money, so we are able to apply in January. Unfortunately, we weren't chosen for those two girls, and we felt devastated. Our whole family was really on board for that. I will continue to research international adoptions if this is what you want me to pursue, Lord.
Frannie from China
We did a lot of research on international adoption and ended up watching a sweet video of a family whom we keep in touch with on Facebook. They were bringing home their little boy Archie from Bulgaria; the boy happened to have Down syndrome. I watched the video hundreds of times and did so much research on Down syndrome once I fell in love with this little boy. I remember taking all the information to my husband and asking if he would even consider an option like this.
We talked it over for about a month. He went on Reese's Rainbow, which is a website dedicated to advocating for children who have Down syndrome and need to be adopted. We met a little girl we called Frannie, and we decided to adopt her from China. I recall thinking that we would never be able to afford Chinese adoption. How do they look at us as a viable family, as well as our income? However, our agency encouraged us and said they have waivers on some requirements and are more open when you're adopting kids with special needs. As a result, we pursued her file and were matched in June 2014.
We started this China adoption process and felt very overwhelmed. It costs $35,000 and upwards, which is beyond our means, but we knew that was what the Lord was telling us to do. We did so much fundraising. People are unaware that there are numerous grants that we have discovered. Even prior to applying, I knew that there were grants that we could apply for. With our family size and the type of need we were adapting, I was optimistic that we would be able to get some of those. We just left it in the Lord's hands.
Not one but two and one birth
Honestly, we didn't know how we were going to figure it all out. My desire then was also to bring home two kids at the same time, as we always wanted to adopt siblings. I almost went behind my husband's back and asked our agency to look for the file of a boy younger than Frannie. They had sent me a couple of files that just didn't feel right for our family. I remember just then searching through advocacy pages on Facebook and looking at lots of little faces. I came upon this little boy with blonde hair and a pink coat. My heart jumped. I knew he had albinism, and I was shocked that that was a need. Albinism is a genetic disorder that causes a lack of pigmentation in the skin and hair. It also affects their vision; they might be legally blind. However, it is still a minor need. A little bit of vision impairment might require glasses, and sensitive skin could be managed. However, in China, this condition was so severe that they were abandoned. In addition to the little girl Franny, we decided to pursue the file of this little boy, whom we named Finton.
A little bit of backstory: My husband has two aunts and two uncles who had albinism, and he grew up hearing about these stories. They all passed before the age of eight because they also had a blood disorder. So when I saw this little boy, I thought of this family story immediately.
Therefore, we pursued his file. We actually had to fight for his file, and we almost had to change the agency because they did not want us to add another child. They said, "Oh, that is too much for you guys." They kept saying you guys can't handle it. We eventually wrote a three-page letter to the agency and let them know how we thought we could manage it by adopting both at once. We are eventually able to pursue his file and be matched with him. It was a battle worth fighting, as I knew from the time I saw him that he was ours.
Frannie and Finton came home together in 2015. We actually found out we were pregnant right before we left for China. It is incredible that the Lord said that we would adopt before we birthed another child. We did adopt in 2015—not one but two—and we had a baby girl named Trixie in early 2016.
Theo, a baby with Down syndrome
When Trixie was about two years old, we saw a file of an infant with Down syndrome who needed a family. It was necessary for a family to have their home studies prepared. Although we already had our home study done, we were required to get a new one completed. Nonetheless, we requested that this little boy be pursued. However, they had already had many families apply. We were told that there were a lot of families—30 to 40 with Down syndrome—in the United States each year looking for adoption families. So we decided to get a new home study done and be ready when another opportunity would present itself. In early 2018, we completed our home study. We learned about an organization called Special Angels Adoption and a national Down syndrome adoption network. Both agencies advocate for children with special needs here in the United States. They also work through DCFS (the Department of Children and Families), so they have children who come through foster care as well. The special angels work with people who have a variety of special needs. We got ourselves registered with both as their waiting families. We would pursue a child with Down syndrome, but we were open to other special needs. We can care for people with brain injuries and seizures because of our daughter Myra.
In the next nine months, we applied for 14 placements and got lots of notes. None of them resulted in an adoption. It has to be the Lord's timing; our child would be waiting for us. We saw our little boy Theodore in early 2019 after about nine months; he was two months at the time. Both of his parents were from Mongolia. They moved here when they were teenagers and now live in Washington. When he was born, they were just overwhelmed by his special needs and didn't feel like they could parent him well. Therefore, they were looking for a family with more experience. They actually requested a family that had other Asian children in the home. That is why they selected us, even though they initially preferred a smaller family. We went really fast and brought him home in March. He is so cute; he's almost two now.
Because I follow Special Angels on Facebook, I would see their posts. They will generally get files, be in contact with families of children, and contact people on their registry. In early July 2019, they posted about two Asian boys, ages eleven and six, who were looking for homes. I contacted our agent, Sarah, and asked why these children would be looking for homes. I came to find out that some adoptive families brought their children home from abroad but found out the children had more special needs than what the files documented. They were not prepared for the level of their needs. These families struggle for their children, and some of them opt for a different placement. This is referred to as "second-chance adoption."
This was the case for the 6-year-old boy named Micah. He came to his original adoptive family with significantly more needs than the family was expecting. They thought he had some mild cerebral palsy (CP), but he ended up with some significant physical and medical needs—seizure disorder, very delayed speech. He functioned at the level of a two-year-old, though he was six. We got matched with his family and brought him home at the very beginning of August of 2019. This was four months after Theo’s replacement. This little guy was from Virginia, so we went all the way over to Virginia to pick him up.
My last little boy has been home for 10 days. I found it very moving to see so many families waiting to be matched with their children, as well as so many children waiting for adoption families as a result of the pandemic. Many families were so ready to go to China at the beginning of 2020 but were still unable to travel. My heart was just stirred again for waiting for children, so I reached out to an international adoption agency, which helped with the adoption of our son Micah. We asked if they had any children they were advocating for, and they were in the same situation as Micah. They were actually advocating for a 7-year-old little boy named Bryant that sounds a lot like Micah. This family was overwhelmed with his speech delay, though he actually had fewer needs overall than Micah. We applied for his placement. Even though his family learned we were having ten children, they still accepted us as a good placement for him. So we just went and got him on the 5th.
[Since this interview, Kellogg has added more children. Both Island and Lottie came through second-chance adoption, both suffering from brain injuries and seizures. Islande, now 12 years old, is originally from Haiti, and Lottie, now 12 years old, is originally from China. Last year, Ashley gave birth to Norie, a beautiful and healthy baby girl, through embryo adoption. Although the couple is not infertile and could have children on their own, however, they chose an unwanted embryo to give life a chance.]
(With permission from Ashley Kellogg, this interview was transcribed and edited for China Christian Daily. For original audio, please refer to this link.)