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!
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.
The 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.
- Contact our China matching specialists
- Visit our China Waiting Child photo listing
- Learn more about the China adoption process
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.
And 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!
Before 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!
- Read Part One of Naomi’s Story Here!
- Visit GWCA’s Waiting Child Photo Listing to learn how YOU can be matched
- Learn more about China Adoption and the matching process
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!
After 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.
- Visit GWCA’s Waiting Child Photo Listing!
- Learn how you can be matched with a Waiting Child
- More about the China matching process
- Contact a Matching Specialist
Eleven 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.
The 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!Read More
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.Read More
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 email@example.com.
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.I 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 HelpI 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:Read More
Last 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:
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?
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!Read More
One of the distinguishing aspects of China’s Waiting Child adoption program is that families are able to find the child that they want to be matched with rather than simply receiving a referral from the country. While this is a huge part of the reason that so many families decide pursue their adoption through this program, as they can look for a child with a need that they feel comfortable with, it also means that every single family’s matching process is different. Some families begin their adoption journey knowing exactly what they’re looking for and exactly where they want to end up, while other families nay need a little bit more time to find their child. Below is the story of how one family came to be matched with a young lady named Lou. Lou participated in our China Orphan Hosting program, and as a 13 year old girl, she was in danger of aging out until her Forever Family found her!
- Learn more about the China matching process!
- Visit the China Waiting Child photo listing
- Contact a China matching specialist
One of GWCA’s amazing adoptees recently wrote a letter about adoption for a March Madness fundraiser at her school and won one of the grand prizes! In her letter, she wrote about the impact that adoption has had on her life as it brought her to her Forever Family. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Ting!
In August the year of 2006 a couple decided to add a new addition to their family. On November 2 of 2009 a little girl was able to officially have a family of her own. What the little girl didn’t know was that it was all because of one organization that brought them together. That little girl was me. The “Great Wall China Adoption” agency has helped more than 9,000 children find their forever families. In addition, they help guide these families along the adoption process, from the multitudes of paperwork to traveling to their waiting child. Why is Great Wall China Adoption agency so special from the other adoption organizations? Well it’s because they have an international office in Beijing, the capital of China. Great Wall’s China Division is fully staffed by bi-lingual employees, who have strong relationships with the Chinese government. They are there for families every day of the week and not to mention, I’m here! Their mission is to help children around the world find loving and permanent families of their own. One of Great Wall’s core values is that children should grow up in a setting that offers them the “optimal conditions for full emotional, cultural and physical development”. I strongly agree. If a child is suddenly moved into a new environment that he or she has no clue as to where they are and who these people are who are trying to play with them, speak a totally different language and even smell different, a nurturing and loving environment is a must, in order to attach to that particular family. Great Wall China Adoption agency’s main goals are: to work with countries around the world to find homes for children who were abandoned and orphaned, help the United States and foreign governments to improve the international adoption process, to develop laws to protect children and act as ambassadors to educate people toward creating a better relationship between US and other countries. The organization was founded by President and CEO, Snow Wu, who has felt dedicated to helping children.
Every year on November 2nd, my “forever family day”, my family and I do something special like going to a Chinese restaurant and my parents give me a special gift that was brought from China while they went there to get me. I was around 7 months old when I was found in front of an orphanage gate with nothing but clothes and a pink blanket that was wrapped around me. I was taken in and cared for, provided with food, clothes, few toys and friends. When I was just turning 7, I met my parents. Of course at the time, I didn’t want to do anything with them, crying when I first met because the one place I knew was home and my friends, I would have to leave behind. Now as I look back, I am thankful for everything I have. For all the good memories and sometimes I look through all the videos and photos of when I was in China with my parents, and just smile and laugh. It was the Great Wall’s ambassadors that led my parents to the agency and Great Wall’s dedication, that my parents found me. It Great Wall which helped my parents come get me. It was Great Wall that helped me know what a family truly is.
The number of abandoned children in China has dropped steadily in the last decades but the numbers still remain too high. Today, almost all of China’s unwanted children have disabilities. In addition, Chinese law says kids can no longer be adopted at the age of 14. If you think about it, some people might not want a child who is has already established their personality or is mentally and physically ill. So those children will grow up knowing nobody ever wanted them. The estimated cost of adopting China is 20,000 to 25,000! But someone will spend that much, when they know that they’ll get a daughter or a son that they can call their own. People from the U.S. had adopted nearly 13,000 children from the 106 different countries in 2009, just a little more than two-thirds of all children come from only five countries: China (23%), Ethiopia (18%), Russia (12%), South Korea (8%) and Guatemala (6%). As you see here, more people like my parents, have decided to take a leap of faith and go through with adopting a child that is not their own blood. These families sometimes can’t create a family on their own so they look to adoption, desperate to have kids running around the house.
I want to give back to the people who helped me and many others to find an everlasting family. And I want a family to fall in love with the sound of a child’s laughter, their screaming, and their love. I want a family to be able to hug a child in their arms, to read a bedtime story. Or just simply hear the words “I love you”. You too can help many child or a waiting family.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org today to learn how you can share your family’s adoption story!Read More
When you get a baker’s dozen you get thirteen. You get twelve plus a bonus. A surprise bonus. Most people think of doughnuts and bagels when they think of a baker’s dozen, but our baker’s dozen is children, and our lucky 13 is a little girl in China.
Lillian Pamela Xuan is two years old and living in China. She is paralyzed from the waist down after being born with severe spina bifida and hydrocephalus. We think she is perfect. The rest of the Henderson baker’s dozen consists of our three biological sons, one daughter from Vietnam, one daughter from South Korea, one son from the United States, two daughters from the United States, three sons from Ethiopia and one daughter from Ethiopia. Our kids range in age from 2-20 years, and all of our adoptions, besides our first, were either special needs or older children.
I know that thirteen kids sounds a little crazy, but it is a beautiful, happy, wonderful kind of crazy that works for us, and I would not change a thing. Yes, my hands are full, as are our house, our van, our hearts, and our lives (and as our fridge and check book often are not). Many look at us and see that we have “taken on” a lot, but we see it as we have been blessed with a lot. We are not rich, we do not have outside help, and there is not anything extra special about us. We just love being parents and have big hearts for adoption.
Josh and I never set out to have a large family. In fact from the time we completed our very first adoption we proclaimed emphatically that we were DONE. Now people just laugh when we suggest that we are “really done”. With our first adoption, it was all about what we wanted. We had three kids and could not have any more, and we wanted another child. We had three sons and we wanted a daughter. We wanted a baby.
Then I traveled to Vietnam to pick up our beautiful baby, and things changed for me. I saw in the orphanage just how many kids there were without parents, or families, or hope. I saw babies. I saw toddlers. I saw older kids. I saw kids with obvious disabilities. I knew I was just seeing one orphanage in one city in one country. A piece of my heart broke.
Although we thought our family would be complete once our Maggie was home, I could not shake the thought of all of those children. Along with that, I loved being a mom and I felt it was something I was put on this earth to do. I knew we could parent more children, and we had a deep desire to do so. Vietnam had closed to adoptions so I started researching other options. My search brought the to Rainbowkids, and that is where I found our Amanda Mee Yeon, waiting in South Korea.
Amanda had quite a list of special needs. In fact, she was about to be deemed “unadoptable” because they had not been able to find a family for her. We had no experience at that point with special needs adoption, but we researched and we prayed. It wasn’t that we ignored the list of medical concerns and conditions. We moved forward with our eyes wide open. But we saw the little girl behind all those big words and knew she was so much more than her diagnosis’s. And we knew she needed a family, and we wanted to be it.
Today Amanda is a healthy, thriving 14 year-old who runs cross country and earns straight A’s. She has checkups every few years with cardiology and is small for her age, but her special needs that seemed so intimidating years ago are a non-issue.
A year later a domestic newborn adoption brought us into the world of high special needs and I quickly became an expert on feeding tubes, oxygen, monitors, medications, advocating for my kids with doctors and therapists, etc. Marcus grew into a happy, healthy, typical preschooler and we had been able to balance his care and needs while still raising the rest of our kids. Special needs didn’t seem like a scary thing any more at all.
When the idea of adoption touched our hearts again, we were drawn to Ethiopia, and specifically a 5-year-old little boy who would become our son, Benjamin. During our travel to adopt our son, we chose to deliver donations and medical supplies that had been donated to AHOPE, an orphanage for HIV+ children. It was while I was sitting on the floor of an orphanage in 2006, that a shy little girl came and sat down in my lap. I knew nothing about HIV at that point. I knew nothing about the adoption process for HIV+ children. But I knew she was our daughter. As i educated myself about parenting an HIV+ child and on how to get through the adoption process for an HIV+ child, I began advocating for other HIV+ children. Eventually I was hired by an agency and worked as the coordinator for adoptions for children with HIV and special needs. What was once unheard of now is quite common and hundreds of HIV+ children have been adopted from Ethiopia and other countries. My two HIV+ children are in excellent health and have normal life expectancies. They take medication twice a day and that is the only sign that they are any different than any of the other kids.
Our youngest son came to us at nine months old after his first adoptive family chose to disrupt his adoption due to not being prepared for a child with significant medical needs. Noah’s prognosis was grim, and with epilepsy, brain damage, cerebral palsy, vision impairment and feeding disorder, we were given little hope of him making much developmental progress. We brought Noah into our family with the same love, hope, faith, and joy that we brought our other children home with. We were realistic about his challenges but still hopeful, and we dedicated ourselves to helping him reach whatever his full potential in this life is. All of my earlier experience with feeding tubes, monitors, medications, doctors, therapists, etc. came in very handy!
Noah is now six years old. He walks, he says quite a few words, and he understands almost everything. He goes to school for a few hours each day and has friends of all ages. He makes progress every day at his own pace. He plays and laughs and learns and loves. He can work an IPAD better than many adults. He has an awesome sense of humor. He is still tube fed and still has significant delays, but every day he amazes us and brings us so much joy.
After Noah we really thought our family was complete. Then our two oldest kids moved out. I started eyeing babies and feeling that longing and that empty space in my heart again. I had no idea where we would or could adopt from. I did a little bit of research here and there. Then one day I was on Rainbowkids and I saw our Lillian, and I just knew. Josh looked at her and he knew too.
Yes, we know there will be challenges bringing home a child that is paralyzed and incontinent, and yes, hydrocephalus is a little scary. But we know from experience that these kids are so much more than big medical terms and bleak diagnosis’s. We know the joy, the happiness, the laughter,and the blessings that will come. And we know that the biggest special needs these kids have are the same that we all have – the need for love, the need for family, the need for home, and the need for hope.