Journeys of the Heart

3 Local Adoption Stories

The Gillingham Family

The Gillingham Family

Photo courtesy of the Gillingham family, all other photos by Dante Fontana

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For couples and individuals looking to start or expand their families, adoption is a great option.

Through a life-changing system, children desperate for families are matched with those eager to give them the love, security and support they need to start new lives. The majority of children awaiting adoption are older kids, foster sibling groups, children from other countries, and incredibly, babies not yet born. Welcoming these kids into your home is easier than you might think. Three local families share unique adoption stories that illustrate biological ties certainly are not the only ones that bind a family together.


When Doug and Theresa Buriani of El Dorado Hills wanted to expand their family through adoption, they initially hoped to find a little girl under the age of four. But through a remarkable journey, the family welcomed three siblings – ranging in age from three to six – and couldn’t be happier.
From the beginning, the Burianis wanted to adopt internationally and first looked at orphanages in Russia. “Then we decided to go with Ethiopia, because it’s such a loving country and they need families the most,” explains Theresa, citing an estimated five million orphans in that country alone.
The Burianis started their process through a Christian-based adoption agency, All God’s Children International out of Portland, Oregon, in early June 2010. On June 26, Theresa opened an email from the agency with a photo of siblings from the village of Tigray in northern Ethiopia awaiting adoption. “There were these three little kids looking back at me and they were so cute,” she recalls. “But then I said, ‘Wait, three?’” After consulting with Doug, and their sons, Brandon, 18, and Cameron, 20, both in college, the family agreed “absolutely” to proceed.

At the end of November 2010, Doug and Theresa travelled to Ethiopia to meet sisters Kidan and Medhin, and big brother Eli to petition the court system for adoption. A little more than a month later, on January 6, they brought the siblings home.

Amidst a whirlwind of jubilation and adjustment, the family faced certain challenges. “The kids didn’t know any English, so we literally played charades around our house for three months,” laughs Theresa. “Medhin would figure out what we were trying to say first and then she would repeat it to the other two in Tigrinya, their native language.” Another big hurdle was transportation. “They’d never been in a car, so they got motion sickness any time we drove, even just down to the store,” says Theresa.
Today, all three kids are completely adjusted and thriving in school. “It’s the best thing we ever did,” says Theresa. “They are the happiest, sweetest children around and our older boys just adore them.” Reflecting on their adoption process, Theresa says: “We had this small plan, but God had a much bigger plan for our family.”

The Burianis urge families looking to adopt to consider older children and siblings. “They are such a joy and they need a family so badly,” says Theresa. “There are so many out there just waiting.”

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