Sunday, January 3, 2010

Article in the News and Record (Front Page!)

Family takes journey of adoption

Sunday, January 3, 2010

(Updated 5:02 am)

By Jennifer Fernandez Staff Writer

GREENSBORO — This is the story of a family.

John and Sarah Pell arrived in Greensboro in 2005 . He came to study for his master’s degree in English at UNCG; Sarah started working part-time as a certified public accountant.
Two years later , Sarah gave birth to bubbly, blond-haired Emma .

But they realized their family wasn’t complete. So began their journey to adopt — a journey that will end Jan. 15 when they return from Ethiopia with 6-month-old Johnny Tibebu Pell.
Building a family

“What does it mean that love can so drastically change you that you can’t imagine your family being complete without a person you have never met that lives on the other side of the world?”
John Pell posed that question in January 2009 on the blog,, that he and Sarah started to chronicle the adoption of their child from another country.
“It was a way of saying, let’s make our story — our family — about inspiring and encouraging (others),” he said in an interview.

The day-to-day writing of “The Story of a Family” on the blog became a part of Sarah Pell’s coping mechanism to get through the adoption process. Online, she met families in various stages of adoption. They helped each other survive the disappointments and celebrate the good news, she said.

“It was just so great to have someone who knew what we were going through,” she said. “That’s been a great advantage to the blog that I hadn’t expected.”

The Pells are among an increasingly smaller number of American families adopting outside the United States.

Foreign adoptions have declined since 2004. That year, Tar Heel families adopted 610 children from other countries. That compares with 413 last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, according to the State Department .

Nationally, 22,990 children were adopted in 2004. That dropped to 12,753 in 2009.
Many countries are tightening rules on who can adopt and be adopted, said Diane Kunz , executive director of the New York-based Center on Adoption Policy. Many have long waits, sometimes years before an adoption is finalized. Some, such as Guatemala, have closed new adoptions.

Then there are countries such as Ethiopia, which has a wait time of a year, sometimes less, Kunz said.

Adoptions from celebrity parents, such as actress Angelina Jolie , along with more awareness of that country’s plight, have raised interest in adoptions there, she said.

By comparison, adoptions from the U.S. foster care system have seen the first increase in several years, said Joe Kroll, executive director of the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

About 55,000 foster children were adopted in 2008, up from about 50,000 annually for each of the past several years, Kroll said.

The Pells considered adopting locally, but wanted Emma to be the oldest child and didn’t feel they were prepared to raise an older child.

Most children adopted from foster care are older; children in foreign adoptions tend to be 2 years old or younger, Kroll said.

The journey

“It’s been something that’s been in our hearts,” Sarah Pell said of choosing to adopt. “We both just feel like every child should live in a family that loves and supports them.”

John and Sarah started the process with the All God’s Children International agency last January . They learned May 15 that they had been approved for adoption and placed on a waiting list. On Aug. 11, they received word that a 1-month-old boy, Tibebu, would be theirs if the adoption was finalized through the Ethiopian courts.

They thought he’d be home in time for Thanksgiving, but a paperwork mishap derailed those plans.

And he wouldn’t make it home in time for Christmas, either.

“I have been overwhelmed with feelings of dissapointment (sic) and sadness,” Sarah Pell wrote on the blog Nov. 25 . “Our baby boy will be spending his first Christmas in an orphanage due to a piece of paper not getting to where it needed to go.”
Two weeks later, she wrote, success at last.
“We were approved and passed court last night! Thank you so much for all of your encouragement and prayers. I am once again breathing a sigh of relief.”
“It’s a roller-coaster ride. It definitely is,” she said in an interview.

When John, 30, and Sarah, 29, fly out Friday, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, they’ll take with them 175 pounds of donated clothing and baby formula for the orphanage where their son is staying.

They talk to Emma about Johnny, explaining as best they can how the newest member of the family will arrive.

“She understands it better than we thought she would,” Sarah Pell said.
When they put up the Christmas tree, Emma stood back to look over the scene.
“Mommy, it’s perfect,” she said. “Baby brother like this ... he be happy.”
A present that Emma wrapped awaits Johnny’s arrival on Jan. 15.

Which will end this chapter in the story of the Pells, now a family of four.

Contact Jennifer Fernandez at 373-7064 or


  1. Wow! I love this article, they really did a nice job! Good for you getting the word out about the blessing of growing your family through adoption! I pray that many eyes will be opened to the possibilities!
    I am so pleased to have found your blog and will be following you closely over the coming weeks as you travel and I wait anxiously for our referral of our baby boy! I wonder if you will meet him? Please post as much as you can!!

  2. i read it online earlier... i think she did a gerat job! i'm so so happy she wrote this article and that she found you guys! i heard a stat on another blog today that if 7% of the church would adopt just one child, there'd be no more orphans... wow. i pray this article reaches someone's heart!!!

  3. What a great article. I didn't check your blog after you gave the notice it was coming so yesterday I'm laying on the sofa watching the Panthers and mom is looking at the newspaper. She says we know the Pells and I said yes. Then she said well there is an article about them on the front page - she was so excited - so were we. We have a gift for Johnny but I think we'll bring it after he is home - ok? love you guys!

  4. Thanks for posting the article. Many blessings on your coming travel!