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African adoption changes family dynamic for GCU’s Thatcher, husband

By Rachelle Reeves
GCU News Bureau

Sarah Thatcher plans to adopt siblings from Uganda. But the Grand Canyon University student engagement manager and her husband, Caleb, need help to bring their two kids home to Arizona.

International adoption typically takes more than one year to complete. The Thatchers said the process costs as much as $45,000 to cover everything from court fees to multiple airline tickets between Phoenix and Uganda.

Caleb and Sarah Thatcher used an African jigsaw puzzle to help raise money for the adoption of two Ugandan children. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

To further complicate the process, Sarah and Caleb have not yet met their children. They do not know their ages or genders. There’s also the likelihood of language barriers and culture shock once the kids settle in Arizona.

The Thatchers came up with the idea to fundraise through a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle, showing the African continent under the title “Choose Joy,” provides supporters with an opportunity to purchase a piece of bringing their children home for $20 per puzzle piece. The couple hope to raise $10,000 to cover some expenses before they travel to Uganda to meet their children for the first time.

With each puzzle piece purchase, the Thatchers write the donor’s name on the back of a piece. Once all 500 are “sold,” they plan to frame the completed puzzle in a double-sided glass frame and then display it in the kids’ room so they can see all of the people who played a role in bringing them home.

Sarah also is writing about the emotional, spiritual and financial aspects of adoption through a blog titled “Bringing Home Baby Thatcher” (www.thatcherbaby.com). The blog title refers to the time when the Thatchers thought they were adopting only one child. Anyone interested in assisting the Thatchers with a donation can read more on the blog about how to help.

While Caleb always had dreamed about adopting children from Africa, Sarah said the couple hadn’t discussed the possibility until after seeing a group of children from the Asante Children’s Choir performing cultural dances and singing at a GCU Chapel service in January. The group of child performers included youths from Uganda and other East African nations.

By April, after applying through an international agency, the Thatchers learned that they were cleared to adopt from Uganda.

“I’ve never been pregnant, but it felt like what I think it would feel like to hear that you’re pregnant if you’re trying,” said Sarah, who serves as a mentor to GCU students through her role in the Office of Student Affairs.

As part of the adoption process, the Thatchers were required to complete “home studies” in which they discuss adoption education, review a family discipline plan for the children and submit to background checks. The Thatchers aimed to adopt siblings, which can accelerate the process because many international orphanages prefer not to separate siblings.

Social worker Debbie Johns said it was clear in her visit with the Thatchers that their children would land in a loving home.

“For Caleb and Sarah, you can tell they are truly ready to be parents and ready to open their heart to a child or two,” said Johns, who works for Building Arizona Families.

The Thatchers also are required to present their case to a Ugandan court to finalize the adoption.

The trip to Africa will be a first for both Sarah and Caleb.

“I’ve heard it’s hard and the connection to the kids can be difficult, but we know that,” Caleb said. “Obviously we’ve been called to this, and I know God is present in every part.”

Michael Ferraresi :