Adopting a Child in Need of a Medical Expedite

The following post from a family is intended to shed light on what it is like to decide to adopt a child with severe medical needs and to pursue this adoption with a medical expedite. Adoption, in any of its iterations, is unique to every family. This post reflects their experience adopting a waiting older child from China. It is their hope that it will help families who are considering adopting a child with severe medical needs.

He received a care package from his new family, including a photo album of them!

“I do not know what it is like having a child with a severe, life-threatening medical condition.

But I soon will.

The weight of parenting a child with a complex medical need will soon sit firmly on my husband’s and my shoulders. Some parents face this reality in the doctor’s office after an ultrasound—that event so many expectant parents await with nervous-yet-joyful anticipation. Or they hear the news shortly after their child’s birth. Either way, it can be devastating news. Either way, that moment forever alters those parents’ lives. Their lives will already change because they have a new child. However, now they have a child with special or medical needs, and they must learn in a HURRY about the need and how best to care for this precious child.

Adopting a child with medical or special needs is different and backwards. It is a surreal experience looking at a list of medical conditions and determining what conditions you think you could handle or not. In a crude comparison, it is like choosing the features on a new car. It made us feel uncomfortable. That said, it is a crucial exercise because not every adoptive family is prepared for or able to handle every condition. This step in the process requires a lot of soul-searching and reflection. It requires researching a variety of conditions ahead of time in order to understand what each condition will require in terms of medical or therapeutic intervention.

Adopting a child with medical or special needs is also a transformative act of faith and love. It requires considering all the risks involved—the unknowns of the condition, the questions of life expectancy, financial and emotional hardship, long-term medical care needs, surgeries, medication, many sleepless nights, being misunderstood by family or friends, feeling isolated, alone, and afraid—and making a choice. Choosing to say yes to adopting a child with a severe medical condition means weighing these risks against what would happen if you said no. It is an important decision to consider carefully and prayerfully.

We were contacted on a Friday about whether we wanted to adopt a five-year-old boy with a severe congenital heart defect. Our agency did not pressure us into adopting him because they knew there were a lot of unknowns about the severity of his condition. One family backed out of his adoption because of the unknowns. Keeping that in mind, we requested his medical records to get as much information as the adoption agency could provide, and we set out to research all the terminology pertaining to his condition. (They had records from his hosting trip to the U.S., which not all waiting children will have.) All I can say is thank goodness for the Internet! Search engines were our friends that weekend because heart experts we are not.

We discovered that his heart condition was quite serious and complicated, which explains the devastation his host family felt after his pediatric cardiologist appointment during the hosting trip. It explains why the other family felt unprepared to pursue his adoption. I will be honest that after researching the different aspects of this child’s condition, we were scared. We doubted not whether we could love him but whether we could risk the heartache of truly knowing him, holding him, celebrating birthdays with him, and raising him up as our son in addition to going through all the doctor’s visits and surgeries only to face the possibility of losing him too soon. That thought is enough to stop anyone in his or her tracks when considering adopting a child like this. Were we strong enough to face such a devastating loss if it happened?

In the midst of this fear and doubt, I did a Google search for ‘adopting a child with severe congenital heart defects.’ I came across a blog post written by an adoptive mother who had adopted not one but four children from China all with severe heart conditions (not all at the same time mind you). She wrote that she questioned whether they should adopt one special little girl whose condition was truly life-threatening. This mother was not sure their family should risk adopting her because it seemed too hard, the risks too big for them. She wrote that she confided her doubts in a friend, and this friend asked one simple yet loaded question that changed everything for this adoptive mother: ‘Doesn’t every child deserve to be mourned?’

After reading that post, we knew unquestionably that we were chosen to adopt our boy. We knew he was meant to be our son, and we already loved him as our own. We resolved that the risks were worth loving him and giving him a forever family. We had faith we would be given the strength to do whatever needed to be done. We heard a whisper of hope that was loud enough to be heard over the shouts of fear, hopelessness, and uncertainty threatening to overwhelm us. We had to ask ourselves whether we would let fear change the decision we felt we were meant to make?

The next day, we contacted the agency to tell them we absolutely wanted to adopt this boy. Our agency would be pursuing a medical expedite for the adoption. A medical expedite adoption means the overall adoption timeline will be shorter in order to bring the child to the U.S. and receive the needed care for his urgent medical needs. How much shorter remains to be seen since we are still waiting to travel to China. Typically, adopting through the waiting child program can take approximately 12-14 months. As I am writing this post, it has been about 8 months since we applied with our adoption agency and began the dossier phase. We hope to be on a plane to China before the end of this year, so that is a shorter timeline than what is typically estimated. In the time remaining before we travel, we have some practical and heart preparations to make.

Even though it is an expedited adoption, not every step in the process can be expedited. We can go only as fast as the adoption systems in the U.S. and China will allow. Certain stages have gone much quicker, while others have gone no faster than a typical adoption. The whole process can feel very hurry-up-and-wait at times. Honestly, it is unbearably hard to wait for the next step in the process when all we want to do is bring our son home to start loving him in person and getting him the medical care he needs! The paperwork can be tedious and redundant. The encouraging thing to know is that adoptive parents seeking to adopt through the waiting child program and especially with a medical expedite will not be alone in the process. We have had an incredibly knowledgeable and compassionate group of people at the adoption agency helping us along the way. They have been honest, realistic, and completely supportive the entire journey, so we have not had to navigate any of this on our own.

Adopting a child with a serious medical condition is especially challenging and is not a decision we took lightly. The fortitude and resolve necessary to go through the process seems super-human at times. Yet, I will ask prospective adoptive parents to think about it this way: some of these children have been waiting for a family for one, two, six, thirteen years… Many of these children will never know the love of a family. They sit. They wait. They die. They age-out at fourteen in China. Considering that overwhelming reality, adoptive parents waiting ten, twelve, twenty-four, or more months is a drop in the bucket compared to the endless years of waiting for a family that may or may not ever come. What would it really take to love these children? Doesn’t every child deserve to be mourned? Doesn’t every child deserve to be LOVED? The truth is that not every adoptive family is a good match for every waiting child. But we would not have known what was possible unless we made ourselves available, step out of our comfort zone, and open our hearts to love.

We were not merely opening our hearts to the love we could give. Adoption requires a supernatural kind of love—a love that cannot be accomplished through sheer human determination. Our hearts and love are too weak to conjure up that kind of love. If we all possessed that type of love, these children would never have been orphaned. There would be no orphan or foster crisis in the world. Many of our world’s problems would not exist if we humans possessed such perfect, beautiful love. But there is a love like that out there. A love that is perfect and so much greater than any form of love we can imagine or demonstrate to others.

It is this love that is being worked out in our adoption process. My husband and I were called to let a power greater than ourselves work through our imperfect, impatient, easily frustrated lives and open our hearts to something so much bigger than ourselves. So much bigger than two people loving one child who has no one else. We were called to be available and to be willing to love someone more than we love ourselves. To love a child more than time, money, sleep, comfort, ease, and control. We have had to risk being misunderstood and looked at like we are crazy when we tell our story, but this kind of love is crazy!

Will it be easy? I seriously doubt it. It is, after all, adoption. Adoption means accepting a stranger into your family and forming trusting, loving relationships (I am referring to the much-dreaded adoption word: attachment). These relationships are not formed from the beauty and tenderness of holding your newborn child moments after he or she is born, though. No, this process begins in utter brokenness and abandonment. In adoption there will be tears, some of which will be joyful. However, mostly they will be tears of fear—the adoptive child’s and the adoptive parents’—born from the uncertainty of the future and the pain of the past.

Our pale, weak love cannot pick up these broken pieces and put them back together. Only the supernatural love of God is capable of that. It is armed with our confidence in this greater love and the miracles it can wield that we said yes to adopting our son. It will take A LOT of time. A LOT of prayer. A LOT of support from our family and friends. But when faced with the question of whether we could or should adopt a child with severe medical needs, we really felt there was no question. Only the answer: yes.”

If you would like to follow their adoption story, it can be found on their blog:

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Giving Tuesday

Happy Giving Tuesday, the global day of giving! With your help, we can support orphaned children around the world. Your generous gift will have an incredible impact on these kids’ lives. There are many ways you can make a difference!

Haiti Holidays Donation Drive

Our 3rd annual Haiti Holidays Donation Drive runs until January 1st, 2018! All proceeds will be used to purchase supplies for the orphanages in Haiti that we work with. You can donate funds or order a limited edition Haiti Holidays T-Shirt to help the children in Haiti this holiday season! The deadline to purchase a t-shirt is December 1st, 2017, so don’t miss out!


Are you looking for an easy way to give back? When you shop through AmazonSmile, 0.5% of eligible purchases is donated by Amazon to Great Wall China Adoption and Children of All Nations’ orphan care programs! All you have to do is click on this link to select our organization as your charity of choice. Then, shop like normal and know that with every purchase you make, you’re making a positive impact on the life of an orphan. We appreciate your support!

Make a Donation

Your charitable donation helps children who have been orphaned or abandoned! Even if you’re not able to adopt a child, you can still make a difference by supporting our global charitable missions. You can make a financial contribution at this donation page and choose to donate in honor of a child, friend, or family member!

Gifts of Love

Our organization is committed to improving orphanages and enhancing the lives of children living there. You can support this cause by donating a gift to a child! Click here to learn more about how you can brighten a child’s day this holiday season with a special gift.

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Meet Alexandra!

1. What is your job title and description here at GWCA/CAN?

I am an International Adoption Counselor for our China Program! I talk with families when they inquire about the adoption process, and I serve as a matching specialist.

2. What do you enjoy most about your job?

My favorite thing about my job is being a matching specialist and helping families find their son or daughter. Nothing brings me more joy than knowing that I was a helping hand in building a loving family. Adoption is an emotional process for every family, and I love being there as their support through their journey.

3. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

The most difficult part of my job is not being able to match all the children we advocate for. There are so many children out there without a family to call their own, and its heart-breaking knowing that you can’t help them all. Although, I am very thankful for all the children we do get to help! You just always have to ensure you work very hard to help as many children as you can.

4. Why do you love adoption?

I love adoption because it gives abandoned children a shot at finding their forever family, and it gives families a chance to either start or add to their existing family. If international adoption was not in place, all of these children would be sitting in an orphanage and would never know what it feels like to be part of a loving family, where they are provided with consistent care and opportunities to succeed in the world. GWCA alone has helped over 9,000 children, and we are just one agency… imagine all of the children adopted worldwide. It’s truly mind-blowing and beautiful how many children’s lives have changed by finding a family to call their own. I am honored to be working in this field!

5. Fun facts about Alexandra:

  • Fitness is a hobby of mine. I train at the gym about five times a week.
  • I am working towards becoming fluent in Spanish.
  • The beach is my happy place.
  • When I traveled to Denver, I conquered my fear of spiders and held a tarantula. Eeeeek!
  • I am from a town right outside Chicago and was in Wrigleyville when the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. It was truly a legendary experience!
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3 New Kids on the Block

Meet Aiden

Aiden is a precious 3-year-old boy who was born with Down syndrome. He is described as being a bright, extroverted and happy kiddo! He loves to be around people, and he’s happiest when he’s playing with other children. His file indicates that he is attached to his caretakers and likes having their attention. Aiden loves to watch cartoon movies and play with toys. He does not appear to have any mobility delays and can walk independently. GWCA is working on requesting an update on Aiden! Please contact us if you would like to learn more about him.

Meet Jasmine

Jasmine is a precious 11-year-old girl who was born with congenital scoliosis and malformations of her limbs. Her file was last updated in 2014, so the information we currently have for her is slightly outdated. According to her file, Jasmine requires a wheelchair when going outside and a little assistance with some daily tasks. Despite the differences of her hands, Jasmine is able to complete puzzles, dress herself, feed herself, and turn the pages of a book. She is described as being a bright little girl who loves to help her teachers at school. Jasmine loves to read picture books and tell stories to other kiddos. If you’d like to learn more about her, contact us at GWCA today!

Meet Chase

Chase is an adorable kiddo who is 8 years old. He was born with a facial hemangioma and has hemiplegia on the right side of his body. However, his facial hemangioma does not cause him any pain. His caretakers note that he walks well, and his right arm moves freely and can support light weight. He is currently receiving massage rehabilitation treatment for his hemiplegia.

Chase attends school in the orphanage, and he has learned to write! He speaks a little slower than his peers, but he is able to express his needs, answer questions, and follow directions. Chase has been described as a self-independent and obedient boy who loves to help his caretakers and teachers! He expressed that he wants to be adopted. It has been noted that his eyes will shine when talking about having a mom and dad. Chase is a sweet, little boy who is in need of a forever family! Please contact one of our matching specialists today if you’d like to learn more about him!

Click Here to Watch Chase’s New Video!


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Top Questions About Adoption

For National Adoption Month, our adoption counselors share answers to the top questions they receive about the China adoption process. If you would like more information, please contact our adoption counselors today!

What kinds of special needs do we see most often in the China Program?

“Special needs that are seen in the China program range from mild to more moderate and severe needs. The minor needs that are seen can either be surgically correctable, medically managed, or remedied with therapies. The minor needs are typically classified as needs that wouldn’t prohibit a child from living a healthy life. Examples of these needs include cleft lip and palate, clubbed hand, clubbed foot, and minor heart defects.

Most of the children you might see on our Waiting Child photo listing will have more moderate to severe special needs or a combination of special needs. Examples of these needs might include cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, congenital heart defects, hydrocephalus, spina bifida, hearing loss, and vision issues.”

How long is the process?

“The timeline is different for every family. The length of a family’s process is dependent on the family’s adoption parameters (i.e. special needs being considered, gender, age range, etc.). A family who is open to more minor needs typically has about a two year process overall, whereas a family who is open to more special needs might have a process that lasts about a year.”

How much does a typical adoption cost from China?

“The average cost for an adoption is about $35,000. That estimate includes fees for the program through GWCA, fees from the U.S. government, fees from the Chinese government, and travel costs.”

Check out more FAQs here!

Learn about our China Program

Visit our photo listing to meet the available kids!

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6 New Kids on the Block

Meet Hoyt

Hoyt is an adorable 6-year-old boy who we’ve advocated for before in the past! He was born with anal atresia and an extra digit on his right hand. He has received surgery for both of these special needs and is doing very well! Also, he appears to be on target developmentally. According to his file, Hoyt has been in a foster home since 2014. His caretakers are always mentioning how clever and curious he is. Please contact one of our matching specialists if you’d like to learn more about him!

Meet Amelia

Amelia is an adorable little girl who is 5 years old. She was born with Thalassemia and receives blood transfusions once a month. Amelia loves to sing and dance and play games with the other kids! She has made tons of progress since she came into the orphanage’s care. She is currently in preschool, and her overall development is normal compared to her peers. She is a confident and polite little girl who is described as being introverted. She can complete some simple self-care tasks like getting dressed on her own, washing her hands before meals, and tidying up with her caretakers. Contact us at GWCA today if you’d like to learn more about Amelia!

Meet Miles

Miles is a precious 9-year-old boy. He is delayed compared to his peers, but he would thrive once placed with his forever family! In school, Miles is the class monitor, and his teachers have spoken very highly of him. Miles is super helpful around the orphanage: he takes initiative to assist his caretakers by sweeping the floor, washing dishes, and caring for the younger children. Miles is a shy boy who is very observant of his surroundings and uses direct eye contact when speaking. Contact a GWCA matching specialist today to learn more about him!

Meet Derek

Derek is a sweet 5-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. We’re working on obtaining updated information, as his file is currently outdated. According to an update in September 2016, Derek was attending rehabilitation training twice a day for language and limb flexibility. With his hard work and persistence, Derek is able to walk freely. He has been described as a happy and introverted little boy. Please contact us at GWCA today to learn more about him!

Meet Bentley

Bentley is an adorable 4-year-old boy who was diagnosed with rickets and a growth development delay. According to an update in August of 2016, Bentley was living in a foster home and had formed an attachment to his caretaker. Bentley is self-independent, as he he can walk by himself, dress himself, eat by himself, and was starting to become potty trained. Bentley has been described as a happy and extroverted boy who is active, obedient, and cheerful. He loves to dance, listen to music, and play toys with his friends. Bentley would thrive with the love, care, and support of his forever family! Reach out to us at GWCA today to learn more about this sweet little boy!

Meet Evan

Evan is a precious 4-year-old boy who was born with microcephaly. He has average gross motor skills and some difficulty running, but he has great understanding ability and can follow instructions. Evan can imitate adult’s actions and behaviors, and his caretakers note that he has great observation skills. He has good memory and judgment and generally enjoys learning! Evan is warm and outgoing, and his file states that all the nannies and kiddos in the institute enjoy him very much. He gets along very well with other children and is fond of playing games with them! Contact one of our matching specialists if you’d like to review his file!


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The Adoption Tax Credit Is Preserved!

We have fantastic news to share about the Adoption Tax Credit! On November 9th, 2017, both the House and Senate agreed to preserve the tax credit in their tax reform proposals. The Adoption Tax Credit has helped thousands of families afford the cost of adoption. Because of that, we believe that the continuation of the tax credit is vital to ensure as many children as possible find loving families.

Big thanks to everyone who took action to support the tax credit! However, the fight is not over. Beyond maintaining the current credit, improvements can be made. This includes expanding availability, increasing the credit amount, and making the credit refundable. That way, more families can benefit from the credit and welcome a child into their home.

How You Can Help!

You can make a difference by sharing this blog on social media (using the hashtag #SaveTheATC) and sending a message to Members of Congress about improving the tax credit. Visit the “Save the Adoption Tax Credit” website for more ideas about how to take action!

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Meet Mallory!

1. What is your job title and description here at GWCA/CAN?

I am an international adoption counselor at GWCA for our China families! I help families through their initial inquiry phase and through their matching process. I have also done some work previously on our Referral and Post Adoption teams.

2. What do you enjoy most about your job?

It is very difficult to narrow down a part that I enjoy the most! I really love getting to know families in the beginning of their process and helping them navigate the ins and outs of adopting a child from China. I of course love the days when families decide to move forward with a kiddo’s adoption! There’s no greater feeling than hearing the excitement that family has and knowing there is a kiddo on the other side of the world that now has a family to call their own.

3. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

Although I experience many more happy moments than negative in my position, adoption can sometimes be very emotional and tough to navigate. Giving families unfortunate news about wait times or unexpected updates on how a child is doing tends to always be a struggle for me. When working with a family as their adoption counselor, I always want to be able to give them as much information and support as I can. However, working with foreign governments is tough and I don’t always have all of the information I would like to provide to a family. I am grateful that I can play a part in their adoption story – through the positive and negative times.

4. Why do you love adoption?

I love adoption because each family’s story and journey is unique and inspiring in their own way. These kiddos are coming from some of the most difficult situations and it is incredible to see how resilient and strong they are. Adoption allows us to bring the love, support and security a family brings to a child to these kiddos who deserve it. I feel very humbled to have played a small part in uniting these kiddos with such amazing families.

5. Fun facts about Mallory:

  • I used to be an intern for GWCA when I was in college
  • I have lived in Austin for almost 7 years now
  • I love listening to live music and going to concerts!
  • In true Austin, TX fashion, I could eat a breakfast taco for every meal
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4 New Kids on the Block

Meet Kyle

Kyle is a sweet 10-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with exotropia and postoperative cleft lip and cleft palate. Kyle was placed in a foster home when he was 1 year old. He is developmentally on track and attends school regularly in the 3rd grade. Kyle quickly shines as the leader when placed in groups in school and among his friends. He takes initiative to help do chores around the home and assists his teacher by tidying up the chairs and encouraging his classmates to line up for lunch and recess. He has been described as an intelligent, outgoing, and curious boy who is always asking questions. Kyle is in need of a family to call his own. Contact us at GWCA today to learn more about him!

Meet Maddie

Maddie is a darling little girl who is 7 years old. Maddie has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, and her legs are slightly different lengths. She’s been engaged in rehabilitation training for years, and with her hard work and persistence, she is able to walk steady and faster than ever before. Maddie has been described as a happy, self-independent girl who always has a smile on her face. She is always able to brighten up her caretaker’s day! Contact us at GWCA today to learn more about sweet little Maddie!

Meet Mia

Mia is a kind little girl who is 3 years old. She is developmentally delayed compared to her peers. Her file is currently outdated, and GWCA is working on obtaining current information. According to an update in April 2016, she can locate the direction of a sound, grasp her favorite toys, look for dropped toys, imitate sounds, and rise and stand with assistance of a chair.

Mia has been described as a shy little girl who is very curious and observant of her surroundings. She is always intrigued by what the other children are playing. She is sweet as can be and loves receiving hugs from her caretakers. It always puts a big smile on her face! Mia would thrive in the home with the love and care of her forever family. Please reach out to our GWCA adoption counselors to learn more about Mia!

Meet Kayla

Kayla is a precious little 2-year-old girl who has Down syndrome. She has just started to walk and is starting to say a few words. Kayla is very active and likes to play in the ball pool with other kiddos. When there is music playing, you’ll catch Kayla dancing. She has been described as curious, yet obedient little girl. Kayla is in need of a family to call her own. Reach out to us at GWCA today to learn more about this sweet little girl!


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Halloween Photo Contest 2017 Winners

We are so thankful for all of the families who submitted photos for our Halloween Photo Contest! If you missed the deadline, you can still email your pictures to to land a spot in the album.

Our staff at GWCA and CAN voted on the winners, and it was a tough decision to make! We loved all of the amazing and adorable costumes. Without further ado, here are the 2017 Halloween Photo Contest Winners!

Honorable Mentions

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