Bryndal’s Story

October is the National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Before it gets away from us, we wanted to make sure that we featured one of our amazing  GWCA families and their little Bryndal. The power of unconditional LOVE shines through this family! Check out their story below and take a minute to visit their adoption website, as it is truly a touching story.

Adopting a child with special needs can be a difficult and intimidating process, but with blind faith and love it can absolutely be done. The road will never be easy. For a family like this one, they already knew the difficulty of bringing home a healthy child through adoption, but never a special needs child. Adopting a child with special needs was never in “their plan.” However, they have changed this little girl’s life forever all thanks to their family’s willingness to love. It doesn’t take an expert to see that she fits right in, and is right where she belongs!

Bryndal’s Story

In 2006, we traveled to China to bring home our precious daughter, Bria.  Exactly one year later, we submitted paperwork to return to China to adopt another Chinese Princess.  During the course of that year, the process to adopt a non-special needs child from China had gone from a one year to a six to eight year process.  We decided to leave our dossier in China knowing that God had another special angel for us in China, and we would wait on His timing to bring that child home.

bryndal31-300x203During our wait, we traveled to Africa twice to bring home two beautiful daughters and we completed one domestic adoption for our youngest jewel, a precious son. Throughout the years, we discussed our “future child” in China and wondered when God would finally introduce us and bring that child home.

In May of 2012, we opened our weekly email from Great Wall that introduced two special focus children of the week.  The moment the photos loaded in the email, our hearts skipped a beat and we KNEW this was the precious Princess we had been waiting on for years.  She was not a baby, she was not on the non-special needs track, she was not who we expected…BUT she was beautiful with a smile full of pure JOY and she was OURS!  We called Great Wall and quickly received approval to adopt a special needs child and were matched with our precious, amazing Bryndal!

As we flew through the steps to bring home our new daughter, we faced many days when we were scared to death about what the future would hold for us once Bryndal came home.  This was our first special needs adoption, and this was not really in “our plans.”  How would she react to us, how would our kids react to her, what would our family think, how would we communicate with her, what would the attachment process be like adopting an older child, how would we parent a child with Down syndrome…  We had to place these fears in God’s hands knowing that He had led us to this child at this time with this special need, and He would take care of all of these details.

On July 1, 2013, God calmed all of our fears when we finally met our sweet girl.  She walked through the door full of smiles, hugs and kisses, and her amazing love has continued to blossom each day.  Words cannot describe what a blessing this precious child is to our family and to everyone she meets.  She is FULL of joy, laughter and LOVE!

Our other precious jewels have enjoyed Bryndal just as much as we have.  They take turns sitting by her at meals and argue over who gets to sit by her in the car.  She has blended into our family as if she was with us since birth.  She has added so much love to our family…our hearts are truly overflowing! We expected to bless a child with a forever home, but we had no idea what love and blessings she would bring to us! We could never have dreamed of such a smooth transition and not a day goes by that we do not thank our Heavenly Father for bringing us to this child at this time with this special need…our forever Chinese Princess!

Each day Bria thanks God for giving her a family and she prays for all the orphans in the world to find a family too.  She is so happy to have Bryndal for a sister and refers to her as her “China twin.”  Bria is four months older than Bryndal.

To learn more about our journey to Bryndal please visit our site here! 

If your family is interested in learning more about the children with Down syndrome that GWCA is currently advocating for, please visit our China Waiting Child photo listing or contact our matching specialists today! 

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Ya Ya’s Story

I was innocently browsing through Facebook one day this fall when I saw the post. “Host families needed” it read. Intrigued, I clicked on the link and quickly requested a password to see the profiles of the waiting children. One smiling face stood out and I was immediately drawn in. I called and received more information over the phone and the anticipation set in; the anticipation of having a familiar conversation with my husband. “So, I was on the internet today and I saw this little girl…” it began.  We agreed to host Ya Ya over Christmas and advocate for her.

We drove through the night that cold December morning and arrived at O’Hare airport before the sun rose. We met with some of the waiting families and soon, a group of children, led by chaperones started towards us. And there she was! She was much, much tinier than we had imagined, full of smiles and not afraid.  I motioned to her and she came right over and gave us hugs. Our 9 year old daughter gave her a doll and she latched onto her right away. She was amazed by everything around her, automatic flushing toilets, doors that opened on their own, everything was new and exciting.

We arrived home and were greeted by the rest of the family. Ya Ya immediately was drawn to our son, Ashton, who shared something in common with her, Down syndrome.  They became good buddies over the month she was here. Ya Ya was sweet, gentle and kind with him. She fit in very well with everyone, after a few initial struggles between her and our almost 3 year old son. I believe he thought she was much closer to his age as she was so small. Once they (he!) worked out their “differences,” all was well!

Ya Ya fit in incredibly well! Everyone around us wondered how she would adapt, how would she understand us, what if she is upset, how will you communicate with her??? We used Google Translate and she understood very well! She is very expressive and we could tell by her reactions if she understood or not. Her English was pretty limited, but that did not stop her from playing and interacting.  She enjoyed showing us that she could count in English and liked to use the phrases that she picked up. We discovered her love of dancing around the second week here and dance parties were a regular happening around here!

Ya Ya is bright, inquisitive and catches on quickly. The fact that she had Down syndrome really wasn’t a concern of ours as our son has Down syndrome. She could do far more than we imagined! She was completely independent with her personal hygiene; showering, brushing teeth, getting dressed, combing her hair she did all by herself. Honestly, I think she trumps our 9 year old when it came to taking care of that independently! She enjoyed playing with dolls, our play kitchen, coloring and painting. Her artistic “skills” were a bit lacking, but she played well with toys.

As our visit drew to a close, I found myself panicked and a bit weepy thinking about sending her back “home.”  After some discussion, we made the decision to move forward with adoption. It just felt right, especially after being able to see how she fits in with our family. I have to admit that while she was here, I found a message board discussing hosting programs. Several people posting on the site were aghast that children with Down syndrome were being brought over as part of the host program. They wondered how they would understand what this was all about and how would they react when it was time to go back? I can say first hand that she handled it great! We started talking about going back to China about 10 days  before her departure. We talked about how excited her friends would be to see her and that she could share her new things with them.  At the airport, she played and interacted with her friends while waiting for the plane. When it was time to go, she gave Baba a big hug and boarded the plane waving with a smile on her face. We are so grateful for this experience and for this ray of sunshine we will now have in our home forever!

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NEW UPDATE: Back in Their Arms

finalizingEach year our Orphan Hosting team has the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing and kindhearted families in the world, as they work together to bring children to America with the hope that they will find their Forever Families. Among these families from our 2015-16 Holiday Hosting program were “K” and “C,” a couple that welcomed a little girl named “L” into their family for four weeks. During their time hosting “L,” the two fell completely in love, immediately beginning the process to bring her home. Now, less than one year later, they’re in China finalizing their adoption and welcoming their daughter into their family forever!

Here are a few of their most recent blog posts from their trip. Check back soon for updates!

Forever Family Day – 9.5.2016

 Today we were reunited with L at the Civil Affairs Office.  Our guide, Kelly, helped us with some paperwork and we waited with several other families.  She walked out wearing a beautiful white dress, pink headband, and pink sparkly shoes.  She was immediately happy and smiling and called us mama and baba.  We spent time looking at old pictures and videos on my phone.  She keeps asking for Kinsley and wants to call her.  We had to tell her she was asleep.  She keeps says, “sshh Kinsley sleeping.”  In the van on the way back to the hotel, she asked for jewelry and painted nails.  This girl didn’t skip a beat and we picked up right where we left 8 months ago.  Back at the hotel, she found her new shoes lined up against the way and immediately had to change.  She had some ramen noodles.  It seemed like she was starving and had two helpings.  I delayed showing her her drawer full of clothes knowing that would instigate a wardrobe change.  She pointed to the drawer all on her own and wanted to change.  She pulled out several outfits but settled on a jean jumper.  She also was focused on when we would be painting her toenails and fingernails so we accomplished that.  Only tears were when we were running down the hallway to the elevator and she slipped and fell.  The tears were pretty short-lived.  We ran up to the lounge so C and I could grab something to eat for dinner.  And she had a few snacks.  Our evening was spent playing Candy Land, taking a bath, and reading books.  A very successful forever family day!


China Adoption Finalization – 9.6.2016

So today we finalized our adoption as far as China is concerned.  Today K’s sister, Lilly, was our guide.  She was very engaged with L.  Lilly asked her lots of questions and she answered.  This is by far the most we have heard her speak.  The great part is Lilly was able to translate for us during our van ride to the Civil Affairs Office.  She told Lilly that she wants to be adopted and live in America.  Sounds good to us kiddo.  We met with two different female officials who asked us questions and completed our paperwork.  We are approved and they are working to issue our final certificate.
After returning to the hotel, we let L explore the garden of the hotel, which includes the waterfalls and coy fish ponds.  She also walked by the pool and spent a lot of time the playground.  She loved going down the slide, especially if one of us startled her on the way down.  We walked to an Italian restaurant for lunch.  She ate some beef spaghetti like a champ.  It was so hot and humid today that we were all drenched in a short period of time.  The pool was calling us but we agreed that nap time was probably more important.  Unfortunately, it was raining with thunderstorms whenever she woke up so we had to delay it.  We played in our room and the beach ball I brought along was a huge hit.  The rain cleared so we were able to “go swimming” in the kiddie pool.
We had dinner in the lounge here at our hotel and we have found that our girl has a deep love for prawns.  We have no idea if this is something she had at her orphanage, but we doubt it.  This was the one thing she picked out as we walked through the spread.  So I spent most of my dinner, cleaning, peeling, de-heading, and deveining shrimp.  She is not a fan of cocktail sauce after trying it and telling us it was hot.  Last night, she had two shrimp.  Tonight she devoured four large shrimp.  We had a low key evening in the room and did some coloring.  I see significant improvement in staying in the lines.  We are also really impressed by her speech and vocabulary.

Medical Exam – 9.7.2016

Today was another great day of making memories. After breakfast, our official business for the day was having her medical exam completed which is one of the requirements to finalize the U.S. portion of the adoption. Our guide, Kelly, took us to the Guangdong International Travel Healthcare Center. First, L had her photo taken for her Visa. Then we went upstairs to the medical clinic where she made friends with everyone. The measured her height and weight, checked her eyes and ears, drew blood for her TB test, and did basic medical exam. Similarly to when she visited the U.S., she did not cry when they drew her blood. She has had a nasty, deep cough the last couple of days that we have been treating with over the counter meds. She was also a little lethargic this morning and has been running a fever on and off. Despite not feeling 100%, she has continued to be her happy and pleasant self. They prescribed an antibiotic because her throat was red and inflamed. She has had one dose so far and it seems to be helping.

We ventured out for lunch and went to the Noodle House near our hotel. Of course, she selected a picture with noodles and shrimp. She ate the best we have seen so far. We stopped by the playground to burn off some energy. When housekeeping came to clean our room, she watched intently and brought her one of the trashcans. She seemed concerned that they were removing the linens from our bed. She kept putting her hands on her hips and looking at me like “aren’t you going to do something?!” We have also noticed she is highly organized. Always wanting to put back what she has been playing with and straightening and organizing the shoes by the door.

This evening our hotel hosted a reception with food and live music for all adoptive families. L really seemed to enjoy the music. She “sang” along, danced, and bobbed her head to the music all night long. A few of the kids took turns getting pulled up on stage, and I could see she desperately wanted to be up there. We had to move closer and she eventually got her chance. I’m sure this was a highlight for her, but she did get a little shy once she was up on stage. She made some new friends and even shared some food with one of the little girls. It was great to mingle with other families although we see most everyone at breakfast. It was a great event and afterwards she thought we needed to eat again:)medical-exam

Free Day #1 – 9.8.2016

Today we had another free day. At breakfast, we were reunited with the new friends we made at last night’s reception. We spent time playing on the playground and hung out in our hotel room. The days are going so fast and yet we are so ready to be home. This afternoon our guide, Kelly, took us on a shopping trip. Our first two stops were to pick up some traditional souvenirs. Common purchases are jade and pearls. She took us to the pearl market which was a multi-level building with literally hundreds of wholesale vendors. All types of jewelry were available.

Our excursion turned from shopping to learning pretty quickly as she walked us through several local “markets.” We walked along a pedestrian only street that was filled with people. She said Guangzhou has a mere 16 million. The street was lined with clothing stores. We turned down a side street and entered the “pet market.” This consisted of a whole section of vendors selling cats and dogs in crates. Then we entered the “herbal medicine market.” We saw all sorts of things but the worst was the bins of creepy-crawly scorpions. I still have creepy-crawly skin just thinking about it. Next, we visited the “food market.” Shoppers could buy fruits, vegetables, and meat. We saw a lot of fish and black-skinned chicken which is used for soup. Our senses were on overload with all of the unusual smells. She said it is common for younger people to shop at Walmart but people her parents’ age prefer to shop at the local markets.

We opted for McDonalds for dinner and also enjoyed some ice cream. Our two extra value meals and happy meal were less than $10 USD. As soon as we got back to our room, L thought we needed to eat again so we headed upstairs for a nightcap of shrimp.


Orphanage Visit – 9.10.2016

Today started out very early as we prepared to travel an hour and a half to Dongguan to L’s orphanage. It was an educating day and one filled with lots of emotions. We have been told it is one of the better orphanages which is mildly comforting. Due to the long drive, L had some carsickness but once we gave her some medicine she slept the whole way.

As we drove up, the main building looked very nice. L was an obvious favorite as many of the adults (nannies/caretakers) knew her and were excited to see her. As we walked around, we noticed how bright and colorful everything was. There was a lot of natural light and it seemed like a good environment for learning. We were able to see the sleeping area with bunk beds, bathroom, and classrooms. We saw a few older children but most were very young. We were told most of the school-age children were at the Sunshine Academy, a school affiliated with the orphanage but a few blocks away. One of the caretakers told a story that when L was younger, she would get up in the middle of the night and make her self a bottle when she was hungry (even when she was too old for a bottle). They all got a good laugh reminiscing about her.

L seemed to show minimal emotion during our visit. So we started asking some questions and learned that once the young children can take care of their own basic needs they are moved to a different building. Then they estimated that it had been three years since L had lived there. They explained that she was living in an outside dormitory. It isn’t a foster home but basically a small orphanage, maybe only 15 kids, with two to three nannies in a building offsite. Although we didn’t get to see where she lived most recently, we did see where she spent a lot of time.

L slept again on our return trip and we ate a late lunch at an Irish Pub. We both ordered cheeseburgers and ordered spaghetti for L. It wasn’t quite an American cheeseburger but the french fries were great. L didn’t want anything to do with the spaghetti and instead ate off of our plates. I even convinced her that coleslaw was noodles and surprisingly she ate it.

We decided it would be another great day to go swimming. The kiddie pool was closed today so we had to swim in the big pool. L was quite the fish. She loves watching the other kids and thinks she needs to put her face under the water too. She was much more relaxed and really seemed to enjoy kicking and splashing around.


Free Day #2 – 9.10.2016

We had another low key day today.  We visited an H&M store right by our hotel and L enjoyed trying things on and having a fashion show.  We also walked to Martyr’s Park which is several blocks from our hotel.  Our hope was that L could play on the children’s playground.  It rained on and off but we still enjoyed our afternoon out and about.  The park was beautiful and the pictures do not really do it justice.  The park included monuments, temples, tombs, pavilions, and a cemetery.  There was live music playing in several areas, but the children’s playground was lacking so L just rode around in the stroller.

Tonight we went on a river cruise with two other adoptive families from our hotel and met several others there.  The cruise consisted of riding on a boat for one hour and twenty minutes up and down the Pearl River.  It included a dinner buffet.  The guide told us to eat as soon as we could and not to wait.  There was no organization or line formation; people would just go to the dish they wanted and often would remove the serving tongs to take to their next dish of choice.  It was crazy.  The food was okay but not anything special.  The kids all seemed to love it.  Leave it to my child to select chicken feet and proceed to eat them.  It was disgusting!  Our table was on the second level and after dinner, we were able to visit the open third deck to take photographs of the City at night.  There was also an entertainer which made the children balloon animals and juggled.  Many of the kids got to be part of the show.  L really seemed to enjoy the evening with friends.


Free Day #3 Plus Sightseeing – 9.11.2016

Today was another free day for us. After breakfast, C and I got foot and shoulder/back massages. They applied much pressure but we felt very relaxed afterwards. L pretended to help and she was very patient. We grabbed lunch at OGGI which is a pizza place. It was a nice change and even L seemed to enjoy it. We did some boutique shopping near our hotel. L had fun trying on different dresses and twirling around. We were trying to kill some time because it was raining again. We were getting close to time on when we were supposed to be meeting our guide for sightseeing and it was not letting up at all. So we had to run several blocks in the pouring down rain back to our hotel. There were several inches of water in the road because the rain was coming down so quickly. By the time we made it back, we were all drenched!

Our guide, Kelly, took us and another family to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall which is a family temple and not religious at all. It was one of the few activities we could do because it was partially inside to protect us from the rain. We toured the temple and viewed the intricate displays of wood carvings, porcelain painting, ivory carving and more. There were also several souvenir shops. After we were finished, we visited OneLink Plaza which is a multi-level wholesale toy market. It is a misnomer because they actually have many items in addition to toys (household, gifts, etc.). There were literally thousands of vendors. We wondered around and did some more souvenir shopping. It was great to be inside and out of the rain.

We stopped at the Guangzhou Friendship Store and ate dinner at a place called the Banana Leaf. They serve Thai food and L was thrilled to be eating noodles. This girl requests to eat noodles all day long and generally eats 3-4 servings per sitting.


US Adoption Finalization – 9.12.2016

Today we had our U.S. Consulate appointment to finalize L’s adoption. We were there with many other families who have become friends. Unfortunately, our bag and phones had to stay at the security checkpoint so we were not able to take any photos inside. All of our paperwork is finally finished and we will receive her VISA tomorrow. As soon as she lands on U.S. soil, she will be a U.S. citizen.

Afterwards, our guide, Kelly, took us and another family to Yuntai Garden. The park was really beautiful and full of bright, vibrant colors. This was our first day here that it has not rained which was nice but it was extremely hot and humid. After a short stroll around the park, we were ready to be done with sightseeing. We decided to spend some time in the pool. L likes to “swim,” put her head under water, and today C taught her how to blow bubbles.

We headed to dinner with our favorite hotel buddies. We went to an Italian buffet and L ate really well (3 plates full). The kids had fun playing together and I’m sure are going to miss each other when it is time to part ways. Speaking of which, we begin our trek home tomorrow. It has been an enjoyable trip and great bonding time, but we are beyond ready to be home. L wants to ride the airplane home everyday although she is not too eager to see Bessie, our dog.

We are so appreciative of all of the thoughts, prayers, and supportive comments during this journey to bring L home as our child.us-adoption-finalization

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Mitchell (Feat)

Meant to Be

Every family’s matching experience is unique, we say it every day. Whether you’re matched with a child that you’ve hosted or a child that you find on our Waiting Child photo listing. The one thing that all families have in common, however, is that moment when all of the pieces fall into place and you know it’s meant to be. For this family, that moment of clarity came when their local medical specialists confirmed that they would be able to provide their child with the care they needed once they got home. If your family is interested in being matched through our China Waiting Child adoption program, visit our China Waiting Child photo listing today!

MitchellWe had been in the US process for a year, so we had already met with a social worker and answered some questions about age of child, etc. My husband travels 3-4 weeks per month for his job and I work fairly long hours–occasionally needing to take calls into the evening–so we were advised that an older child that might need therapy or with severe health issues might not be best for us as we are unavailable during the day. This led us to believe that a child under 3 years of age would be best. So as we evaluated the ‘special focus’ needs that we could handle, we knew we needed to look at things that could be corrected with surgery or which would not require a great deal of therapy. This meant needs such as cleft palate were okay but cerebral palsy was not something we felt we could handle. Heart issues and other needs that are more severe were considered on a case by case and would have to be evaluated by a physician before we could make a decision.Based on the age range that we were open to, and knowing that it might take 6-12 months to bring the child home, we looked at children 2 years old or younger so that the child would be less than 3 when we got home.

Generally, I did the first review through the GWCA website looking at the pictures and brief profile. The first review was for the children’s age and basic “correctable condition” analysis. Based on that, I would ask for more information from GWCA. If review of the additional information, photos and videos was positive, I would then ask my husband to review it as well. He usually had more questions. His initial pass on our son was negative based on our need to return the file in 24 hours so that we could look at another file too – the file indicated a possible developmental delay. I had seen a video of our son, however, and did not think he behaved like a child with developmental delays. So I asked a friend with experience in this area to look at the video. The friend agreed with my thoughts, so we decided to have a doctor review his file.

IMG_0238The medical review came back very positive — with a potential diagnosis of a primarily cosmetic birth defect and a recommendation to talk to a specialist in our city. The specialist reviewed our son’s files and concurred with the GWCA doctor’s diagnosis and said that if we brought him to our city he could perform surgery.At this point it seemed that this child met the profile of what we could handle and indeed that with a specialist for his condition in our city that it was “meant to be”! We immediately sent in our LOI and began the paper chase to bring him home.

Since then other families have asked us how to decide which special needs are “OK”. The best advice we can give is that there is no right answer. Each family’s answer is different based on resources (time, money and access to health care specialists in your area and people to assist the parents or give respite care when the parents need a break). If we had lived 10+ hours away from a craniofacial surgical center then we might not have been the best match for our son. I also think it’s a good idea for the parents to agree up front on the criteria and then let one of them do the initial searching/sorting and have the other be a check and balance (i.e. Not look at all the pictures on the website). It’s easy to get caught up in the sad stories of the children and to forget that as a family you’ll have limitations that might not fit their situation. By having my husband as the check/balance man he could reel me back in when my heart overstepped our agreed upon criteria because he had not spent the heart wrenching hours looking at all the children’s profiles. That may sound harsh, but it’s important for one parent to remain a little above the process or detached while you are going through it.


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Welcome Home, Naomi!

The Girl in the Pink Dress

When we were in the adoption process, my mother had a dream. She saw our daughter wearing a pink dress. She said our little Naomi was trying to be brave and was not crying. A sweet friend of mine had a dream that Naomi would come to us and she would know us.

We certainly did not expect either of these things to happen. We knew that the day we met our daughter would be stressful for her. She would likely cry and feel overwhelmed. Who knew what she would be wearing? In all of the videos I had seen of families meeting their daughters I rarely saw a pink dress.

As we were ushered into a room to meet our daughter, I said to my husband, “If she is in a pink dress, I am going to lose it.”

We could see several children peeking around the corner from a back room. They were waiting for their turn to come out and meet their parents. I looked that direction and that’s when I saw her. A tiny girl, in a pink dress with sweet little piggy tails. She was spinning around in a circle, dancing about while she waited. I grabbed my husband, “I can see her! She is in a pink dress!!!” We both welled up with tears. It was a moment we will never forget.

Naomi HomecomingAnd just like that. A little girl who was labeled a “foundling” was now a beloved daughter.
She was brave. She did not cry. She just looked at us like she was studying our faces. She liked the toys and snacks we brought. We just watched her in amazement. It was almost as though she knew us and we knew her. During the months of waiting, we prayed nightly that God would prepare her heart for us and our hearts for her. The first night was hard for her. That sweet little smile faded to sobs of grief and fear as we settled in for bed. We were so glad that she let us comfort her through her tears. Each night got better.

The days in China were full of lots of snuggling, playing and exploring. We met amazing new friends while we were there. Having other families with us gave us a sense of camaraderie. The trip felt long at times and we all got homesick for our children back home. Having friends to grab a bite to eat with or see the local sights was a blessing. In addition, our guide Kelly made our adoption trip smooth. She kept all our paperwork and appointments straight. She got us where we needed to go, answered all our questions and she was a joy to spend time with.

I searched high and low for just the right toddler carrier for my almost 4 year old daughter. I obsessed over it. I prayed she would like to be carried. I hoped that would encourage bonding between us. I was thrilled when she showed me immediately that she loved to ride in the carrier with me. We went all over the place in that thing!

We had the opportunity to tour Naomi’s orphanage and say goodbye to her friends and nannies. This visit was important to us. We want to be able to tell her about it when she is older. She will have so many questions in her future that we cannot answer. We know that will be hard for her. Two years of her life are unknown. We also went to Naomi’s finding spot. This place is sacred ground. It was powerful to stand with her in that place. She is restored to a family now.

When we arrived home, we were greeted at the airport by our family. The joy we felt when we saw their faces is indescribable. We were thrilled to have all our children together. It was precious to watch Naomi greet each of our family members. She knew they belonged to her.

The next few days were a blur due to jet lag. Thankfully, Naomi slept very well once we got her to sleep. I expected her to be up all hours of the night with the intense time change she was experiencing. This is just one of the many ways she has exceeded our expectations!

Mei Me 1Before we adopted, we read and researched the effects of orphanage living on a child. We were also prepared for severe grieving behaviors and general culture shock. We expected bonding to be a long, difficult process. We expected her siblings to struggle with the new arrival. We expected the worst but hoped and prayed for the best. We still cannot believe how smooth her transition has been. It is as though she has always been in our family. We can only assume that her infant hood with her birth family gave her the important brain development she needed to develop strong attachments. The word we were given from the Lord for her adoption was “restore”. Her heart was more than ready to be restored to a family.

This adoption has been an incredible journey of obedience and trust in the Lord’s leading. He called us on behalf of one tiny girl in China. Oh how happy I am that we listened!

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Finding Caroline!


This past June, we heard from one of our adoptive dads, Jesse, as he prepared to celebrate his very first Father’s Day. Now we’re excited to share a bit from his wife, Lindsey, on their search for a child with special needs, their matching process, and how they came to find a beautiful little girl named Caroline!

Before we even married my husband and I talked about how we wanted to adopt a child with special needs.  We were initially inspired by the family of a friend who had just adopted two children with special needs from China.  One with spina bifida and the other with a cleft palate. Their children were beautiful and sweet, bright and loving, and so deserving of a happy home. It was incredible to hear their story of where these children came from and how they had thrived coming to a loving home. We recognized that we were fortunate enough to have the means to provide a happy and healthy environment for a child with disabilities to live comfortably, supported, and happy. When we tell people that our waiting daughter has Down syndrome, some are surprised and others say that they wouldn’t expect anything different from us. What I have learned from my occupation in working with individuals with intellectual disabilities is that they are always full of surprises.  Constantly challenging stereotypes and rising above the barriers placed before them in their own unique way. Just like any child, all they need is the love and support of a family who believes in them and wants the best for them. The only difference being that the journey might look a little different but it will be covered with more beautiful moments of joy and discovery along the way.

Caroline1-300x300After taking the weekend to do research, talk at length, and compile a list of questions, December 7th was the day we reached out to several adoption agencies to get more information as we anticipated this was a long and tedious process.   Almost as if it were fate, the first agency to call us back was “Children of All Nations – Great Wall China Adoption” and after speaking with their matching specialist, Meredith, for only a few minutes she couldn’t hold back her excitement at the feeling she had about us and an updated file that had just been received that morning.  Once Meredith shared this special little girl’s pictures and video with us and before even finishing reading her file and watching her videos, we had already fallen in love with her. We don’t see her as a little girl with special needs, we see her for her bright smile, adorable pigtails and the daughter we will call Caroline and love with every fiber of our being.

If your family is interested in learning how you can be matched with a Waiting Child in GWCA’s China adoption program, visit our China Waiting Child photo listing or contact us today!




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Welcoming Naomi – A Dream Come True!

naomiEleven years ago, we requested information from Great Wall China Adoption to learn more about their adoption program. At that time we had no children, but we were praying we would become parents soon. Our hearts sank when we realized that you had to be 30 years old in order to adopt from China. We tucked that dream away. Life began to move quickly as life often does. Before we knew it we had a busy household with six children! Four of our children are biological and two of our children were adopted domestically at birth. We assumed adopting from China would never be part of our story.

One morning our oldest son came out of his bedroom and announced, “Mom, I had a dream that you and Dad told us you are adopting from China.” We thought his dream was precious but we knew our hands were full. We had not considered adopting from China in over a decade. Sometimes the Lord whispers in our ear and sometimes He has to yell. Our second son, not aware of his oldest brother’s dream began to pray fervently for another little sister. He prayed all the time! I thought it was sweet and wondered if down the road we would visit adoption again. I had a long list of reasons why now was a bad time. Then it happened. Those whispers became yells right into our ears. We jumped right on it. Trusting the Lord to work out the details. The word He gave us in regards to our adoption was “restore.”

When we began to research adopting from China we learned that most of the children being adopted had Special Needs. The word restore started to make sense. These little ones needed to be restored to health. Also, in China all adoptions begin with abandonment. These little ones need to be restored to a family.

We wondered who our child would be. In our past experiences we have given birth or adopted at birth so we had no clue what future issues could be present in our children. We just had faith that it would work out. In this case, we were asked to give our matching specialist a general list of special needs we would be open to. We talked and prayed about this thoroughly. We researched, spoke to other families and consulted our doctor. We had six children at home who needed our time and attention as well. We felt it best if we chose special needs that would not require frequent lengthy hospital stays or overwhelming therapy appointments each week. We also knew that a medically fragile child would not be safe in our crazy, busy house full of active children.

Please know that we recognize that life has no guarantees and any of our children could experience an illness or accident that would change the way our family operates. We would do anything to meet the needs of our children. We selected needs that we felt we could manage as a family. We have a loving, supportive extended family that steps in when we need them. They have helped us through emergencies, surgeries, and therapies in the past. They have also provided support through family transitions as we have welcomed each one of our children home.

naomi2The website nohandsbutours.com offers adoptive families a look at the day to day experiences of families who have adopted from China’s Special Needs Program. This website was an invaluable resource for us. Also, we connected with other families through social media groups. There is no better place to start than with the people who have actually experienced these special needs. There is also a documentary called “Find Me” that we found encouraging and helpful. That film follows several families through the adoption process and offers a touching look at the women who care for China’s orphans.

The matching process was very exciting. We reviewed files of several different children. First, we reviewed the files of children who were waiting on the website. This gave us experience in reading a file. It felt a little overwhelming at first. How would we know which child was ours? We prayed about each child. We asked clarifying questions of our matching specialist. We tried to be realistic about what special needs we could manage as a family. Believe me, I wish I could bring home all the children and give them a family. We waited for our daughter, believing we would just know when the time came.

When we were presented with Naomi’s file something felt different. She was found at the approximate age of 2 in a public place. Once in the orphanage they discovered that she had a heart murmur. She was in need of heart surgery. She endured that heart surgery without her parents by her side. It is hard for me to consider how scary that must have been for her. There was something about the story of this precious little girl that screamed out “restore” to me. There it was, that word again. I poured over her file and shared it with my husband. By the time he arrived home from work I was a mess. He found me weeping on the laundry room floor. I wept for Naomi’s birth mom. I wept for Naomi. I couldn’t get over this little girl. She was now 3 1/2 years old. Only a few months younger than our only daughter.

I tried not to get my hopes up just yet. I asked our matching specialist a lot of questions about her file. Next, we needed to have her file reviewed by a doctor. We contacted an international adoption doctor and we also consulted our local family doctor. All the professionals agreed that Naomi’s heart report looked great. The surgery had been a success. She also presented with a couple of other minor needs that we felt equipped to handle. We have a plan to manage those needs once she is home. We will also follow up with our pediatric cardiologist.

Once the medical review was complete, we were relieved. We wanted Naomi to be our daughter. We prayed. We talked. We prayed some more. A peace came over us and we confidently moved forward with Naomi’s adoption. We are thrilled to say that we are just weeks away from meeting our daughter! The day we meet her face to face cannot come soon enough!

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A Familiar Face – The China Matching Process

When we began the matching process it seemed so overwhelming at first.  In my heart I wanted to bring home all of the sweet children I saw.  How could I choose just one?   As we were beginning the process of looking through photos and files of children, my daughter came home from school to tell me that her friend´s mother would love to speak with me about adoption as they had adopted three children.

When I called her the first question on my mind was, How do you know which child to choose?  I was not prepared for the amazing and profound advice she gave me.  She said, ¨If you were to walk into a room and start scanning that room for your daughter, your eyes would immediately stop when you found her because her face is familiar to you.¨  She said, surprisingly, you will have a similar experience when you see the child that you will adopt.

Of course, it isn’t exactly the same, because this is a child you have never seen before.  However, there will be a familiarity and a knowing inside your mind and your heart that this is your child.  I was grateful for this advice and prayed that I would have that feeling when I saw the child that we would adopt.  I never could have imagined how true this was and how beautiful it would be to feel that sense of familiarity in a child´s face.

The next day, I began scanning through pictures of waiting children and as my eyes came across this little 5 year old girl, there was a familiarity in her face, for a moment she looked like my daughter when she was 5 years old.  I clicked on the picture and read a little about her,  there was a sense of knowing, of familiarity in her sweet little face.  I became so excited at the thought of adding her to our family. There was a joy in my heart and something different that I felt when considering this little one than I had felt with any other child we had considered. Though I felt excitement I also felt a little hesitation, I had never thought we would adopt a child who was blind. Despite that little hesitation, I couldn’t deny that familiarity I felt and I knew in my heart she was our child.

When I approached my husband to tell him how I felt about this little girl he was a little hesitant at first as well.  I knew that blindness was not a special need we had ever considered before and that he would have a lot of questions.  We reached out to a couple families who had adopted blind children and in a matter of a couple of days learned so much and our minds began to be at ease.  My husband continued looking through waiting child profiles and wanted to continue considering other children.  I prayed that we would be able to make this decision in unity and I waited patiently for him to come to know what I already knew in my heart.   He knew how I felt about her and prayed to know for himself and when he woke up the next morning, he turned to me and said, she is supposed to be in our family and I know it for sure now.  Our hearts were both filled with excitement, anticipation and joy in knowing that she was our daughter.

Looking back I now understand that you must have an open heart and open mind when searching for your child.  When we found the little girl that was to be our daughter, her special needs were not what we had expected, but even as we wait to bring her home, our lives have been enriched as we prepare for her.  Learning Mandarin to help her adjustment, studying all we can about her condition and how to help her succeed in life has been a beautiful experience.  My best advice is to let that beautiful experience into your life when that little familiar face finds you.

For more information on the China adoption or matching process, visit our website or contact us today!

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Josiah Needs Your Help – $1,000 Grant Available!

Josiah (2)This past April we had several amazing families travel to China for our very first JOY Mission trip. Among these families was an adoptive father who had the pleasure of spending his week getting to know two kiddos, Josiah and Amelia.

Josiah is a 10 year old boy with a heart condition that needs medical attention. This is the second hosting program of ours that Josiah has participated in, as he came to America a year and a half ago for our Winter Hosting program, and we’re absolutely determined to find this incredible boy a Forever Family. In fact, the JOY family that spent time with him in April is so confident that Josiah’s Forever Family is out there, that they have provided him with a $1,000 grant towards his adoption fees! Below is a blog post that was written by Josiah’s JOY family.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about Josiah, you can contact his JOY family at the email address listed at the bottom of the post. For more information on the China adoption process or to learn how you can be matched with Josiah, contact our China Matching Specialists at mallory@gwca.org.

The Empty Cup

What are Josiah and Amelia doing now? As I write this from the end of a sunny, spring, Wisconsin day, they are experiencing another Monday morning of their years of routine behind their walls. A routine I am hoping to free them from, in order to establish new routines with families, who  will help them grow stronger.

JOY BlogI came back from China knowing  the JOY Program would be different from last summer’s hosting program, when we hosted Jacob. I When I reflect on Josiah and Amelia, and their future, I am not handling the unknown for them well. Conversely, I know  that Jacob and Wen have met their new families and will be landing in Wisconsin next week. Jacob and Wen are both finding families who, 12-months ago, were not even entertaining the thought of expanding their families. But there they are, in China, awaiting to bring home two tween boys. They know there will be many challenges. Their families are not doing this because it is easy, but because they had room their cups that needed to be filled for these two boys.

There are people who want to help, have some room left in their cup, to help Josiah and Amelia. It might not be to commit to adopt, but will share the stories to connect two hands. They will give words of support and strength. To enlighten others on the greatest gift that can be given: a forever family.

A lot of friends have asked me what I hoped to gain out of my trip to China. They asked if I had fun. Seeing Josiah smile as he was making dumplings (video below). And seeing Amelia grow with pride as she mastered writing another Chinese symbol or master walking down stairs: that filled some of my cup. But that is not what I was hoping to gain from my trip. I am, and was, hoping to connect these two souls to their forever families. Families who still have room in their cups. Families who will enter into the unknown, but who have the knowledge that I will pass on, about how awesome each of these kids are. The knowledge that these children WANT most line their lives, a forever family. They love. They cried. They wanted. Are you their Forever?

How to Help

JOY Blog 1I have gotten a lot of questions about how to help Josiah.  The question is usually prefaced with comments like “What a great kid he is,” and “… it was amazing he could translate between you and Amelia,” and, “he just needs to find a family.”

Easy right?  Well no-one advocating says adoption is easy (neither is childbirth).  But sharing the message is.  I respond the question of how to help with the answer of amplify the message.  But what does that mean?

We all have different circles we run between.  We have our social media networks, we have our work networks, we have our neighborhood networks, we have our church networks, and we have our other research networks.  Your voice can carry a long, long way if you look at all the concentric circles you go between. But what do you say?

Tell your friends, colleagues, co-volunteers Josiah’s story.  It is something to talk about.  People like talking about kids. Tell them he is looking for a family.  Point them to this blog.  Point them to me.  And point them to Great Wall China Adoption if they are interested in learning more.  Share the information:

Blog Linkhttp://wahe.us/AdoptionJOY/
My Email: stefan@wahe.us
The Adoption Processhttp://www.gwca.org/china-adoption/the-process/

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A Family for Eva!

EvaLast month I wrote a blog post for our Great Wall China Adoption website detailing a little bit about what my journey to China was like. I went to China this past February/March for two weeks to visit some of GWCA’s 14 Orphanage Partnerships. My main goal while being there was to meet the kiddos whose files we have already received or will be receiving in the not to distant future, and to get as much additional information on those children as possible. It really helps potential adoptive families move forward with a child when they have newer information on them, including good photos and videos. Everything I did on my trip was in an effort to get more orphaned children from China adopted.

The short blog post I wrote wasn’t long enough to write about my entire experience in China (you’ll have to read my blog for that), so I instead focused on one girl I met while I was in China named Eva. This is the part I wrote about Eva in last month’s blog:

There was one girl, who I’ll call “Eva,” that I met while I was in China who is 13 years old and will be aging out of the Chinese Orphanage system next February. Aging out means that a child will not be able to be adopted after their 14th birthday, so kids like Eva will never get a chance to have a family after they turn 14 years old. Out of all 99 kids I met over the two week period I was in China, Eva was one that really stood out to me. Eva walked up to me as soon as I entered the orphanage and with a big smile and lots of confidence she said, “Hello! I’m Eva. Good Morning!” Eva was such a happy kiddo, telling me somethings in English, some through a translator, what her favorite games to play were, that she is in school and what grade she is in, what her favorite sports are and who her best friends are. As you can imagine, after years of not being adopted, Eva really wants to be adopted and have parents and a family. She only has about 10 months left before that will no longer be a possibility.

Every day since I’ve been back from China I have thought about Eva and what a special little girl she is. Eva is so very deserving of the love and attention of a forever family, as are all of the wonderful kiddos I met in China. I have been hoping that there is a family out there who will want to adopt Eva and give her the family that she has always dreamed of! Could you be that family?

Well, I have some very good news! Eva has been matched! A family that has a lot of great personal experience with Eva’s special need is moving forward with adopting her! I am so beyond excited! When my teammate told me that the family she was talking with was definitely moving forward with adopting Eva, I literally jumped out of my chair and started jumping up and down, with tears of joy streaming down my face!

Eva is the first child from the group of children that I met while I was in China that our China Home Finding Team has matched. I can’t tell you what an amazing feeling it is to know that a child you met in real life, half way across the world, is getting a Forever Family! I am so hopeful that there will be dozens more over the next several months! But for now, I will bask in the joy of knowing that this amazing girl is not going to be aging out of the China adoption system, but instead will be brought into the loving embrace of her Forever Family very soon!

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