Connecting to Cultural Heritage with Hosting

Iris and host family photo

Connecting children with their cultural heritage can be so helpful for children and your family. A great place to start is at home, and what better way than to host an exchange student!

Meet the Wynn Family!

Last year, we hosted Iris- a 17 year old student from China. We were lucky because she was able to teach us all about China and shared so much joy with us! It was especially exciting for us because our daughter and son are adopted from China! Iris was able to teach us to cook some dishes, share some Chinese traditions with us, and introduce us to the Chinese community in our city!

She was wonderful to host and we had an incredible year with her and were able to share things we loved with her too! She joined a basketball team and did very well in school. We are so thankful that Iris shared such a special relationship with our children. She was like a mentor and our daughter especially looked up to Iris. We took her trick-or-treating, on road trips to the beach, shared all of our holidays and celebrations with her and our kids loved to play with her!

Host families should offer their students a place to sleep, 3 meals a day, and support as they adjust to their new school. While exchange students are expected to have a reasonable command of English, adjusting to classes does take a little time and families should be patient and resourceful to help their students. Overall it is a very rewarding experience, and I highly recommend everyone to check it out- even if only for a few months or a semester to start off. What a fun way to bring culture into your home!

Ms. Wynn, host parent with Student Ambassador Exchange
Iris and tea ceremony photo

Hosting an exchange student is a great way to connect over shared and new experiences. Students come to the US to study at a US public high school, and live with host families. These students are ambassadors in their host communities. Students are encouraged to share their country, and culture with their host family and their community. Plus, Great Wall China offers its own program called Student Ambassador Exchange!

Students are from nations all over the world and are between 14-18 years old and have a wide variety of interests. Students are selected for the Student Ambassador Exchange Program based on their academics and comprehensive English abilities.

Host Families can host for a few months, a semester or a full school year.

And there are NO application fees or direct costs for hosting! The only things host families have to provide exchange students are:

  1. A bed in a shared room, with a child of the same gender or in their own room.
  2. Three meals a day. (Students bring their own money to cover meals when going out)
  3. Transportation to school and activities if a school bus is unavailable.
  4. A supportive and caring home.

Start your hosting journey today by meeting our exchange students and filling out our FREE, NO COST application and you can bring cultural exchange home to you!

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As part of our #WaitingChildWednesdays series on older child adoption, we wanted to share with you a family story. This family adopted an aging out boy from China almost three years ago.

This is a REAL story in the family’s own words (emphasis ours) that shows that adoption can be hard and take time – even after the finalization is official. But it is worth it.

On June 23, 2015, a Facebook video crossed our paths and we both felt this boy was our son.  We really had never seriously considered adoption for our family, and any idea of adoption had certainly never included a 14 year old.  We already had two biological children who were 9 and 13 at the time. But there was something about him, and after talking it over with each other, our children, our family and friends, they all felt it too.  We called seven agencies who all told us there was no way we could complete his adoption before his 14th birthday – October 19, 2015.  Our eighth call was to Great Wall, and after some lengthy discussion, they said it was highly unlikely we could complete our adoption in that short window, but if we were willing, they would help us try.  

Over the next couple of months, we worked with a sense of urgency like never before, and with a lot of help from above, we flew to China on September 11, 2015, and brought our new son home to America exactly three months from the date we completed our application for adoption with GWCA.  They told us we set a new record for completing an adoption in such a short period of time. We were proud, excited, and ready for all of our dreams to come true as a new family of five.

And then the real hard stuff started.  We had dental and medical issues to take care of.  We could barely communicate without the help of Google translate, and that wasn’t perfect and created additional challenges. We both worked full-time jobs and had busy lives and Isaac started school as an 8th grader with our other son two weeks after being in America.  Isaac was overwhelmed and frustrated and mourning everything he knew and thrust into a different life on the other side of the world.  For the first time, he was expected to brush his teeth twice a day, shower daily, keep the toilet seat clean, chew with his mouth closed, sit through a church service, share, follow a new set of rules and expectations, etc.  All the food was new and different, he could not escape the constant stimulus of a foreign language, he felt like an alien and could not talk to anyone. We were eager to listen to him pour his heart out and connect with us and love us and share every feeling freely with us.

I remember some particularly hard times that first year.  On a family vacation to a theme park in Orlando, he got upset about something and took off.  Once we found him, we were all so stressed and upset we had to go back to the hotel room. The next two days of our vacation, one of us had to stay in the room and try to keep him in the room while he emotionally melted down.  The other one took our other children to the theme park. Another time, he got upset and decided he was running away, and took off to the field behind our house. We could see him, so we let him stay for over an hour while we watched.  When he finally came inside, he was covered with huge welts from mosquito bites. I felt horrible.

Every night when I tried to sit him down and review English words, he would belch (or worse) repeatedly, or lay his head down on the table, or anything else he could think of to frustrate me until I gave up.  It often worked. We tried to limit his electronics, and he would melt down and rant in Chinese for hours in his room, and refuse to eat. We all worried about him so much and wondered if we had done the right thing for him by adopting him.  I would go to great lengths to cook anything and everything, somedays, all at once, because food felt like the only way we could make him happy. We walked on eggshells and tried not to upset him. Things weren’t fair and we kept the scales tipped in his favor in an effort to keep peace in our house.  When we had family and friends over, they usually got to witness the chaos firsthand. It was embarrassing and we felt like it was damaging to our relationships, and we withdrew from a lot of people in our lives. We loved him deeply, but often hated what we thought our family had forever become. We occasionally entertained the idea of disruption, but knew in our hearts that we would continue to destroy a soul that had felt the deepest sense of rejection at least twice in his life already.

That feels like a different universe to me today.  Somewhere between year one and year two, it got a little easier for us.  Somewhere between year two and year three, it became easy. And normal. And happy.  Isaac is an amazing person. He is very smart and earned all A’s and B’s during his sophomore year of high school.  He can read very well and we have no trouble communicating. He still has a strong accent and sometimes we all have to repeat ourselves, but he understands the language fully now.  He’s kept a part-time job for over a year and will work hard. He loves to play video games and has his license but is still a homebody.

We know him now.  We know his heart and his likes and his dislikes.  We know what makes him laugh and what motivates him.  He is always kind to animals and children. He is quick witted and clever and a good cook.  He is a good brother and has finally built strong bonds with his brother and sister. They laugh and play together, and generally enjoy each other’s company.  He loves us and loves being part of our family and he shows us that through his actions more than saying the words. Our last theme park trip was filled with joy and nothing but good memories together.  I can look back on those though times now and know they were the result of a complete lack of trust in us, fear of rejection, and the stimulus of a completely different world. He is truly a great son, and while the road was nothing like I imagined, this is what I hoped for him and for us.      

Older children are WORTH IT.

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SIX New Kids On The Block!

We have six new children listed on our photolisting! Please see a short bio for each below.

Hannah is a precious 4 year old girl who was born with Marfan’s syndrome. She is very active, outgoing, and friendly. She is self-independent and loves to read! She is a fast learner and has been described as a curious and smart little girl!
Landon is an adorable 2 year old boy who was born with a clubbed foot, which he received surgery for, and spastic hemiplegia that effects the muscles on the left side of his body. He is involved in daily rehabilitation training. Landon is an introverted little boy who loves to play with all sorts of toys!
Charlie is an adorable 8 year old boy who was born with a language disorder, but he has made great strides in his progress. He can now express his needs, cite poems, and sing! Charlie is self-independent and has been described as a handsome, outgoing, and active boy!
Tommy is an adorable 5 year old boy who was born with epilepsy. He is a self-independent boy that can express his needs, have simple conversations with others, and understand simple instructions. Tommy loves to watch cartoons and his favorite toys are trains!
Megan is a precious 2 year old girl who was born with a strabismus in her left eye and a need related to her brain. Megan is more of an introverted little girl who is closest to her caregivers. They’ll put a towel over their head and Megan will pull it down and they’ll laugh loudly together!
Isaac is an adorable little boy who just turned 4. He was born with was born with a cleft lip, palate, and an arachnoid cyst. Isaac has been described as an active and clever little boy! He is closest to his caregivers and loves to cuddle.

To learn more about any of the children above, you can request a file today!

Please note you may request a file of a child even if you have not begun the adoption process, so please contact us to learn more.

Visit the China Waiting Child photo listing
Contact a China adoption specialist
Learn more about China adoption

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Sending Love with Care Packages


Some of the children in our China adoption program recently received a wonderful surprise from their soon-to-be families- our Connecting Hearts care package! While adoptive families get to put a face to their child once they’re matched, the children who are being adopted often are unaware of their family until shortly before they arrive. By sending care packages, our families have the opportunity to let their child know that someone in the world is thinking of them!

Here are some photos of an adorable kiddo enjoying gifts from his forever family:

Are you adopting from our China program? Our Connecting Hearts Care Package includes a camera so your child can bring home photo memories with them, a decorated cake, stuffed animals, a pillow with your family picture, and more. To learn more about our care packages, visit our Legacy Journey amenities!

Care Package

If you’re not adopting but want to send love to kids in the orphanage, you can order a cake package to brighten up their day! The kids are so happy whenever they discover that a special cake was gifted to them, and you’ll receive photos of them enjoying it. The kiddo below was super excited to receive a birthday cake and celebrate with his friends! For more information, contact today.



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Intercountry Adoption Changes

Dear Families,

As you may already know, each adoption service provider (ASP) is licensed to process adoptions within their state, as well as accredited by the Department of State (DOS) via an approved accrediting entity. An accrediting entity effectively governs compliance with the Hague Convention rules and regulations, under the supervision of DOS. Since the inception of the Hague Convention, the accrediting entity governing compliance has been the Council on Accreditation (COA). Recently, due to conflicts with DOS centering on how ASPs should be overseen, COA has resigned from its role as an accrediting entity. In its stead, a new agency, Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity (IAAME), has been approved. The transition of duties is still taking place, but in the meantime new requirements have been announced and we would like to make everyone aware.

Last week, IAAME released its fee schedules for accreditation, monitoring, and oversight, which are applicable to every ASP currently operating. Included in this fee schedule is a “Monitoring & Oversight” fee of $500 per adoptive child that will be assessed on any new adoptive families contracted on or after February 15, 2018. GWCA/CAN (and all other APSs) will be required to report new adoptive families each month, and then pay this fee per family the following month. As this is a fee charged by IAAME (and approved by DOS), this is what we would call a “pass-through fee,” wherein GWCA/CAN is merely a third-party processor. We want to stress this fee is NOT charged by GWCA/CAN, nor does GWCA/CAN have any say in this fee moving forward other than the requirements of reporting and billing. This fee is non-refundable per IAAME.

Beginning February 15, any contracts signed will be assessed this fee. In addition to other fees due with the signing of your contract, you will need to remit payment for one child (or the first child, if intending to adopt multiple children). If you are a family intending to adopt two or more children, please note that you will not be required to pay the additional fees for each child until you accept the referral which will be unique to each family’s case.

We understand that additional fees in an adoption, especially those not expected, can be frustrating. For this reason, we would like to once again stress that this is not the choice GWCA/CAN (or any ASP). GWCA/CAN is following the directions of IAAME, who is operating at the direction of DOS. If you do have any questions, please feel free to contact your application case manager.


Great Wall China Adoption/Children of All Nations

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Gotcha Day Anniversary

Meet Caroline! She’s a sweet girl with an infectious smile, and we’ve enjoyed following her adoption journey from her matching process to her Gotcha Day to her life since she came home.

One year ago, she was united with her forever family. Since then, she’s grown and learned so much, and her parents are incredibly proud of her. Congratulations to sweet Caroline and her family on their first year Gotcha Day Anniversary! We’re excited to see what’s in store for them in the future. Watch the video below for highlights of Caroline from the past year!

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American Holiday Traditions

It’s the perfect time to enjoy fun winter activities together with your adopted child! They might be new to American winter traditions, so here is a list of 10 ideas to help get you started. Have a blast creating new memories together this season!

1. Cook Traditional Dishes

Make holiday meals from classic family recipes or foods that you ate growing up! You can also cook dishes from your child’s birth culture to celebrate their cultural heritage.

2. Go Ice Skating

Ice skating is a classic winter activity that can be done indoors and outdoors! If you or your child are new to ice skating, you can try taking lessons together.

3. Give Gifts

In America, it’s typical to give gifts to friends and family for the holidays. You can play fun gift games like White Elephant or Secret Santa!

4. Build a Snowman

If it’s snowing in your area, building a snowman is a fun winter tradition! You can decorate your snowman with materials like sticks, vegetables, and more.

5. Have a Snowball Fight

Have a ball battling with each other in a snowball fight using real snowballs or “indoor” snowballs!

6. Drink Hot Chocolate

When it’s cold outside, it’s the perfect time to stay indoors and drink hot chocolate by the fire to stay warm and cozy.

7. Make a Gingerbread House

It’s fun to build a gingerbread house with candy and icing! Be creative with how you assemble and decorate your gingerbread house.

8. Watch Holiday-Themed Shows

Watch a holiday-themed performance like “The Nutcracker” and “A Christmas Carol” or listen to a holiday concert together.

9. Watch Holiday Movies Together

Winter is a great time to watch classic holiday movies like A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and more.

10. Volunteer Together

To give back this holiday season, volunteer together as a family at a local soup kitchen, food bank, or other organization that helps people in need.

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Giving Wishlist

To celebrate the 4th day of Christmas, you can give a gift that supports orphaned children around the world. Your thoughtful gift will have an incredible impact on these kids’ lives! Read below for ways you can bring joy to orphans this holiday season. Stay tuned on our Facebook pageChina adoption blog, and Children of All Nations blog each day for our exciting 12 Days of Christmas!

Haiti Holidays Donation Drive

Our annual Haiti Holidays Donation Drive runs until January 1st, 2018! All of the proceeds directly help the orphanages meet the needs of children under their care. To learn how you can make a donation to benefit these precious kids, contact our Orphan Care Team Leader Hilary at today!


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

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 by sending them a special gift!

Cake Packages

You can send a cake package for any occasion to an orphanage to spread holiday cheer! Imagine the children’s excitement and happiness when they discover that a special cake was gifted to them. Click here to for more details about how you can order a cake package!

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12 Days of Christmas


Today we are kicking off the beginning of 12 Days of Christmas at GWCA and CAN! Be on the lookout for adoption tips, holiday traditions, ways to give back, and more.

Stay tuned on our Facebook pageChina adoption blog, and Children of All Nations blog each day for our exciting 12 Days of Christmas!

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Special Needs Adoption

Have you considered adopting a child with special needs? Special needs seen in our China program range from mild to moderate to severe. The minor needs can either be surgically correctable, medically managed, or remedied with therapies. They’re typically classified as needs that wouldn’t prohibit a child from living a healthy life. Cleft lip and palate is an example of a minor need.

Most of the children 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 Down syndrome or congenital heart defects.

While the idea of special needs can seem overwhelming, it’s important to realize that many needs fall on a spectrum. It’s possible for children with special needs to live long, happy, and healthy lives! Read below to learn about common conditions and advice from adoptive families on how to prepare for them.

Cleft Lip and Palate

Cleft lip and palate are common birth defects which occur during pregnancy. The majority of clefts appear to occur due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. A cleft lip is a separation of the two sides of the lip, which can affect the upper jaw and/or gum. On the other hand, a cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. It’s possible for a child to have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both. Also, a cleft lip and/or palate can occur only on one side (unilateral cleft) or on both sides (bilateral cleft).

If a child is born with a cleft, it can be treated with services like surgery, dental care, and speech therapy. In fact, children with cleft lip and palate generally lead happy and healthy lives, and some children will require less intervention than others.

Tips from Adoptive Families

“If you’re thinking about adopting cleft- pray about it, it is so ‘doable’! As with any minor disability- educate yourself, find physicians in your area that specialize in cleft repair.” –There’s No Place Like Home Blog

Down Syndrome

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has an extra copy of chromosome 21. This changes the course of development and causes physical characteristics associated with Down syndrome, including small stature and low muscle tone. However, each person with Down syndrome is unique. They may possess these characteristics to different degrees or not at all.

Most people with Down syndrome have cognitive delays that are mild to moderate. However, this doesn’t indicate their many strengths and talents. Although people with Down syndrome are at an increased risk for certain medical conditions, healthcare and treatment of these conditions allow for most of them to lead long and healthy lives. To learn more about Down syndrome, visit the National Down Syndrome Society!

Tips from Adoptive Families

“My biggest piece of advice is to get involved in your local Down syndrome community. Most cities have organizations to support and celebrate people and families with Down syndrome and it’s easy to join and get involved.” –No Hands But Ours Blog

“Make sure you have videos and good information on the child, such that you understand your child’s mental, emotional and physical condition as much as possible. Be prepared for unexpected things, but also be prepared to embrace the love these kids have to offer.” –No Hands But Ours Blog

Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) occur when a child is born with an abnormally structured heart. In many cases, CHD presents itself as one or more holes in the walls between the heart’s chambers, an issue with the vessels, or incomplete development of a portion of the heart. This can compromise the heart’s ability to pump blood to deliver oxygen to the body.

While most cases of CHD are treatable with medication and/or surgery, many of the children in our programs are in situations where they may not have access to necessary treatment. However, we’ve seen countless families open their homes to children with heart conditions, and it’s incredible how quickly we see improvement in a child’s condition once they’re home and receiving the treatment they need.

Tips from Adoptive Families

“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.” –Adopting with a Medical Expedite Blog

“Ask for help. Whether reaching out to other adoptive parents, hospital social workers, or mental health professionals, be sure to create a network of care around yourself even if you don’t feel that you need it right in that moment.” –No Hands But Ours Blog

Our China and CAN matching specialists are currently advocating for many kids with special needs. If your family is interested in learning how you can be matched with one of these wonderful kids, visit our Waiting Child photo listings below or contact our matching specialists today!

Visit the GWCA Photo Listing
Visit the CAN Photo Listing

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