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Wisconsin family grows through adoption

March 10, 2019, 21:00 2008 Author: By ANNA MARIE LUX Janesville Gazette www.theeagle.com For those thinking about international adoption, the Kingsleys advise talking to others who have completed the process.

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — Some would call it the power of faith.

On Dec. 29, the evening before her birthday, Gretchen Kingsley prayed over the photo of a young boy with Down syndrome who was available for adoption.

She had prayed and looked at his photo countless times in the preceding months.

But she did not mention the boy or show his picture to her husband, Aaron Kingsley.

Gretchen Kingsley thought it would be the best birthday present ever if Aaron Kingsley opened his heart to the child.

When Aaron Kingsley came into the room, he noticed the boy's picture.

"Who is that little cutie?" he asked. "That boy looks like he needs to be a Kingsley."

Today, the Kingsleys are working with an adoption agency for international orphans with disabilities to adopt 5-year-old Levi from China, the Janesville Gazette reported.

"We hope to have him home before Christmas," Gretchen Kingsley said.

The couple believes there are many ways to build a family.

They have two biological children, Natalie, 11, and Nolan, 9.

Last year, their family grew when they adopted Maliyah, 16, and Mira, 15, from Ukraine after hosting them through the international program Open Hearts and Homes for Children.

The Kingsleys also became Midwest representatives of the Christian-volunteer program that allows U.S. families to host older Ukrainian and Latvian orphans in their homes.

The Kingsleys match homes in the Midwest with orphans who want to stay with families for up to six weeks.

Hosts must pass home safety and security checks.

"Many of these children are true orphans, which means they have no mother or father or parental rights have been terminated," Gretchen said.

So far, the Kingsleys mostly have had families from the Green Bay, Chicago and Rockford, Illinois, areas host orphans. They hope to find host families in Rock County to continue growing the program.

"We are looking for married Christian families who are willing to open their hearts and homes to orphan children and to show them the love of Christ," Gretchen said.

Visits to homes in the U.S. give orphans new experiences and raise awareness about their need for parents.

Host families often think they will change the lives of visiting children — which they do.

But often, the visits change the host families as well, said John Devine, president of the board of directors for the nonprofit Open Hearts and Homes for Children.

"They grow closer to the Lord by being closer to a child," he explained.

He called the Kingsleys wonderful volunteers.

"They have big hearts and a desire to make the lives of orphans better," he said.

In May 2018, the Kingsleys brought home Maliyah and Mira, which is short for Miracle.

"We couldn't be more pleased and more proud of them," Gretchen Kingsley said.

Since becoming part of the family, the girls are speaking English and attending Milton schools.

Maliyah made the high honor roll, is involved in tennis and gymnastics and attended prom. Mira has had some medical complications and has not been able to get involved in extracurricular activities.

"She is so easy to please," Gretchen Kingsley said. "She loves to help cook and spend time with family and friends."

Both girls have been through a lot.

"We are so blessed to have them in our lives," Gretchen Kingsley said. "I think we struck gold. We can't imagine life without them."

Aaron Kingsley called his life fuller since bringing home his new daughters.

"Our days are often more hectic, and our house is often never perfectly put together," he said.

But he added: "Our lives have exceeded a happiness we thought we had maxed out years ago."

The challenge in successfully raising a larger family is making sure each child's day-to-day needs are met and checking in with each child to make sure he or she is happy, Aaron Kingsley explained.

"Helping with homework, communicating with teachers, keeping up with doctor's appointments, spending individual time with each one can all fill our days quite quickly," he said.

The Kingsleys, who are in their late 30s, said financing an adoption can be difficult.

The cost of hosting the girls twice at their home and making four trips to Ukraine cost the couple about $45,000.

"We were blessed by the community and had a lot of supporters," said Gretchen Kingsley, who teaches at Milton Intermediate School.

Aaron Kingsley is chief electric-metering technician for Alliant Energy.

Auctioneer Bob Johnson of Milton organized a 2016 benefit for the Kingsleys and raised $25,000. Johnson was Aaron Kingsley's wrestling coach when Aaron was in high school.

The Kingsleys know they will need to get creative with fundraising to raise the $35,000 to bring Levi home. They plan to get some of the money in grants though international adoption agencies.

Gretchen Kingsley is determined.

"This is beyond just wanting another family member," she said. "This is a calling because we know there is such a need."

To prepare, the Kingsleys are connecting with people and agencies who advocate for children with Down syndrome.

"It was scary at first, a child with Down syndrome," Gretchen Kingsley said. "We have done a lot of research and have connected with many families in the Milton and Janesville areas."

Aaron Kingsley said he believes Levi has more to teach the family than they will ever teach him.

"He is like any other little boy, but he just needs an opportunity to thrive," Aaron Kingsley said. "We know without us, the chances of Levi getting adopted and having a family are nonexistent."

For those thinking about international adoption, the Kingsleys advise talking to others who have completed the process.

"It's OK to be afraid, but don't let that fear overtake your desire to adopt," Aaron Kingsley said. "Others have gone through this and can, more than likely, give you information and advice that will eliminate your previous assumptions about the process. Those that are passionate about orphan care become closely knit and help each other through this beautiful journey."

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