By Kim Cissell
Executive Assistant, International Family Services
Home Study/Post Adoption Coordination
Passing the Torch
Since the mid-1990s International Family Services has offered a wonderful China adoption program to which I have been privileged to provide leadership in recent years. When IFS had the opportunity of inviting Esther Haines to join our staff last spring as China Program Director I had mixed emotions. You see, I dearly love working with families preparing for adoptions in China. But, I was also relieved. In my personal family life I was finding that my energies were needed more at home caring for an ailing parent. The timing was perfect for me to step out of my China management role while continuing my other IFS responsibilities. (Read more about Kim Cissell). Over the next few months I completed my work with the China families I had been working with while Esther assumed her new IFS leadership duties.
Through the past 18 years Esther has helped over 600 Chinese orphan children find adoptive homes. Much of Esther’s work in has been with families living in the Northeast, many from New York State. Every month Esther’s families host an adoption support group at the Church of Saint Anthony in Nanuet, New York, just north of New York City. When Esther invited me to attend the IFS Chinese New Year Celebration on February 6 of this year I jumped at the chance.
Esther lives in the western part of New York and I live in the Houston area of Texas. We both chuckled when I got off the plane in Rochester and met the frigid northern New York air in my flimsy south-Texas-style winter coat. Esther assured me that she’d help with my obvious winter needs, but we were soon creating another kind of warmth as we enjoyed each other’s company for the next couple of days and for the hours we drove enjoying the winter beauty of New York. Occasionally we were interrupted by families calling Esther needing advice and assistance related to their adoption plans. I have fallen in love with this lady and so appreciate her personal and professional style. And, obviously, the local New York group loves her as well. The moment we arrived at the Chinese New Year Celebration with our sesame balls filled with red bean paste (those little things are delicious!) people swarmed us, and throughout the event I was told by family after family what an important person Esther is in their lives.
About 200 joined us at the celebration. One family showed off their darling toddler girl, home two months. Another family brought their little boy, home just one week! Some of the children were dressed in Chinese finery. Little boys chased each other around. The children took turns doing the Dragon Dance. There was a lot of food, Chinese of course, and families had the opportunity of spending time with other adoptive families and admiring the beautiful children. It was a comfortable hubbub.
While I was honored to share in this wonderful event, it’s particularly heartwarming knowing that the adoption program I have been so invested in through the years is in great hands with Esther. I still love to talk about China adoptions and am always glad when someone engages me on the subject.