Handprints, small and imprinted in chalk, still mark the back of Kraig Kohring’s sports jacket. The prints are from a stubborn, funny and sensitive boy named Uchan. The jacket belongs to a happy father of four, Kraig Kohring. After Uchan met his dad Kraig for the first time and hugged him with chalky hands, he made his first imprint on the Kohring family. But it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Molly Kohring had it all—three healthy children, Peter (10), Emily (13), and Caroline (15), a newly remodeled home nestled in the heart of Prairie Village, and a devoted husband of 27 years. Christ-follower and soccer-mom, she wanted to share her American dream with someone who wasn’t as fortunate.
She had thought about adoption for nearly six years. A kind of maybe we could… or it’d be awesome if… thought. Then, her family volunteered through the church to host two girls from the Uganda Children’s Choir, Paska and Fiona, for a night while the choir passed through Kansas City. The Kohrings and the girls really connected; Emily and Caroline sent them off with two of their favorite American Girl Dolls, and Paska and Fiona left Molly with the feeling that she was ready to turn her dream of adopting into a reality.
“It really solidified the feeling that maybe we could do this,” Molly said.
Kraig and Molly had touched on the topic of adoption before, but never with the tone of seriousness Molly had when she started the conversation one fall morning on a run. Molly was sure that he’d have his usual “go-for-it” attitude. So as soon as they talked about it and Kraig said “yes”, Molly started her research.
Using Google, she began her hunt for faith-based adoption agencies as well as countries and continents open to U.S. adoption. She landed on the country of Ethiopia and the adoption agency All God’s Children.
The Kohrings were eager to get started. They learned from their research that the process could take anywhere from two to four years.
The first step, the application, took them nearly three months to fill out–but this was only the beginning. After they submitted the application, they decided it was time to tell their kids.
They broke the news to Caroline first, who was ecstatic but not too surprised about her family’s decision. Her siblings were excited as well, but more reserved about taking a new member into their family.
Caroline did a project for her middle school SEEK class about the culture of Ethiopia, and Emily chose the country to do a class report on. These projects were one way the girls started to tell their classmates about how they were adopting a brother. The family originally agreed that they didn’t want to spread the word too early, but once they got further along in the process they started to tell people.
In March of 2010, the Kohrings received news from the agency that their application had been approved. They were then put on a waiting list to adopt a young boy. Families were ranked in an order of first come first serve, and the Kohrings started at number 69.
Finally, in April of this year, the Kohrings received an e-mail from the agency with information about a four-year-old boy named Uchan was looking for a new family. The Kohrings looked at his profile and decided that because of his age, gender and personality traits, he would be a great match with their family.
This little boy, living in an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was soon going to be a member of their family.
The next step in the process was actually meeting Uchan and going to court to get the adoption finalized. Their court date was set for July of this year. Kraig and Molly went alone while the kids stayed at home, continuing with their busy summer schedules.
Traveling to Addis Ababa requires a thirteen-hour plane ride from D.C. to Ethiopia. Molly and Kraig were both nervous, but for different reasons; Molly gets anxious traveling and Kraig was nervous about the language barrier. He could only say a few words in the same language as Uchan, which he learned from internet programs and by practicing on flight attendants.
The adoption agency told the couple that they wouldn’t see Uchan until a day or two after they arrived, but when they checked in at their hotel they received an itinerary that scheduled them to go to the orphanage that very afternoon.
Uchan had only been at the orphanage, Hannah’s Hope, for three months. He grew up in orphanages all over Gambella, an Ethiopian country on the border of Sudan.
Hanna’s Hope is a well-kept orphanage with about 40 children from infants to ten-year-olds. The orphanage is run by “special-mothers” or women who are caretakers for the children. Though the orphanage, made of two duplexes put together, has no official school. Instead, there’s a room with a chalkboard and craft tables. This room was where Uchan was when he first met Molly and Kraig.
As soon as Molly opened the door with Kraig right behind her, Uchan, expecting their visit, ran to them with outstretched arms.
“It was weird. It just automatically felt like he was our child.” Molly said.
Molly and Kraig only stayed about a week. Along with some sight-seeing, they visited Uchan every day. They brought him Legos and a Lightning Mcqueen toy car from the movie “Cars” to play with. Also, they brought a box of Froot Loops and string to make Froot Loop necklaces with all of the kids. By playing with him and watching him interact, they learned a lot about his personality.
“What we really loved and noted was that he shared really well. He shared us [with the other kids].” Molly said.
Along with his great sense of humor, they also noticed that he was tidy; he always put his toys away without being asked.
Even though they couldn’t communicate clearly, there was no awkwardness.
“You kind of didn’t need words,” Molly said. “He knew we were his Mommy and Daddy.” Much to their relief, their court appointment was “no big deal”. The judge was a young girl around the age of 18 who wore jeans and asked the family a few casual questions about their home life and children before dismissing them.
Returning home was hard. Although Molly and Kraig were ready to be back in the U.S., they weren’t ready to leave Uchan.
They knew it would be hard going back to the U.S. when they had a child in Africa.
“The way we felt about everything–the kids our, family–all of a sudden was about to change. And there’s a part of you that’s a little sad it’s going to change but really excited and hopeful for what was getting ready to happen” Molly said.
Luckily, they received word that they could go to Ethiopia to take Uchan home less than four weeks later on August 18th. Since it was the first week of school, Molly needed to stay home, so Kraig went alone.
Kraig picked Uchan up from the orphanage as soon as he could. They went back to the hotel where they stayed and hung out for two days before catching a flight home.
“[We were] just a couple of dudes in a hotel room getting to know each other.” Kraig said.
On the plane, Uchan was intrigued by the complexity of the plane’s TV and remote and kept pushing the buttons in amazement.
The family was ecstatic to welcome Uchan home. Molly picked the kids up from school early to go to the airport where they waited for their family’s arrival.
Now, Uchan is adjusting to life in the U.S. He constantly watches TV and movies, like “The Lion King” and “Toy Story,” to help him learn the English language. He also loves listening to music—especially Justin Bieber’s “Baby”.
Though the family is communicating with Uchan through simple words and actions while he learns English through immersion, there are still some communication issues, still irregularities within their interaction. When the family went out to a self-serve ice cream place, Uchan sprinkled Cajun powder as well as other funny toppings on his ice cream. Kraig and Molly couldn’t tell him that it was a gross combination, so they just had to watch him eat around it.
According to the adoption agency, the family is supposed to “cocoon” Uchan and make him feel safe. This means that there shouldn’t be a bunch of non-family members in and out of the Kohring household and that Kraig sleeps in the same room so Uchan gets the feeling that someone will always be there looking out for him.
Kraig is on a three month sabbatical from his law firm to spend time and bond with his new son. While Peter loves his brother, it’s hard to watch his dad spend so much time bonding with someone else. But Peter and Uchan’s relationship grows each day when they wrestle and go to their sister’s soccer games and Peter teaches Uchan American sports and activities.
All of the siblings are getting along great; every day, Uchan rides his new bike to Prairie Elementary School to pick up Peter. He also runs to the door to hug his sisters every time they come home from school.
Every day isn’t all smiles, though. Uchan has good days as well as bad ones. He sometimes has breakdowns where he can’t stop crying; often they’re a result of frustration from failed communication, but sometimes he just cries for no reason anyone but him knows. These breakdowns get shorter and occur less often as Uchan continues to adjust.
But Uchan is not the only one who has to adjust to this new life. With a four-year-old in the house, everything changes. Some things are hard to adjust to, such as using simpler language around the house with a younger kid. Others are fun; Kraig recently took Uchan to the park for the first time, which was a fun, first-time trip for Uchan.
“It’s fun experiencing things you’ve done before fresh through his eyes.” Kraig said.