That Smile…

We are honored to share this guest post by MAA Mom, Charmon….

Hello everyone. I want to introduce myself. My name is Charmon, and we adopted a little boy from China who has a special need of Cleft Lip/Palate. We choose CL/CP because I have a close friend that has two kids from China that had the same special need. I also worked at an OB/GYN office and knew we had a awesome cleft team that was in driving distance from our home. Kyle had just turned 3 years old when we adopted him. We were prepared when we arrived for him not to be able to drink through a straw or eat noodles that were not cut up and all the other things we had read prior to going. Kyle had NO problems at all with eating or drinking! His lip had been repaired when he was 10 months old, and he had figured out by then how to manage eating and drinking with no issues.  Cleft kids have trouble with speech, so he only spoke a few words in China. In fact, the caregivers only heard him talking to the other kids and this was only one word.  He would look at you or do hand symbols to let you know what he needed and wanted. Our first night of being a family, our guide called to make sure we were ok. He ran to answer the phone and said ‘Hello” and then when she talked back to him he said “hey auntie.” He was not afraid to talk to us even though we had no clue what he was saying, he let us hear his quiet voice! I guess with our southern accent he figured we sounded different like him and wasn’t afraid anymore.  He learned English very quickly and could say “Hey Y’all” by the time we got to Guangzhou. 

Once he was a little older, the biggest challenge was that he would get frustrated when people couldn’t understand him.  He would say it was because he was “from China.” We had to encourage him to speak louder and that it was ok.  Kyle started speech therapy three months after arriving home. We were able to get in the program Kidnet and he went to a local elementary school. He went just for therapy and it was free. We went twice a week for 30 minutes and continued once he started school. Once in 3rd grade he has been cut down to only going to speech for 30 minutes once a week.

Now for the medical history… we had his palate repaired two months after being home. This was an overnight stay in the hospital. Then a limited diet for six weeks. When he was seven his permanent teeth were starting to come into place (development wise), he wore an orthodontic expander to expand his palate. Six months later he had his bone graft surgery. For this surgery they went into his hip bone (about a one inch scar) and took bone out and put it in the cleft area so there wouldn’t be an empty space there anymore. This surgery was an overnight stay too and a limited diet (fluids and soft foods) for six weeks.  Six months following surgery he had a CAT scan (done at the orthodontist office) to see if the graft was successful. His did not take. We had to redo the surgery again 6 months later and they took bone from the other hip. This surgery was successful!! He just finished wearing another device to pull his upper jaw out to correct his under-bite. We now have braces on the front 6 teeth to turn them and get them straight. The plastic surgeon said he is done with surgeries until he is around 15. He has a deviated septum and if it doesn’t correct itself during aging they will repair it at that time. Cleft lip and palate is a genetic disorder, and most insurance will cover this as a medical conditional and will go through medical benefits instead of dental insurance. 

Please do not let this diagnosis scare you. This is a fixable issue and the love these kids have is well worth any challenges you may experience. We can’t image our life without our boy! He is nine now and has come such a long way! Strangers understand at least 98% of what he says. I wouldn’t change our journey for anything! I thank God that he allowed us to be this special boy’s family. His special smile can light the world!

Thank you, Charmon, for sharing your story!

In honor of National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, we are happy to be able to offer an additional grant of $1,000 for a family who commits to adopting a child with a craniofacial
diagnosis from any of our programs.  Please email for more information, or complete a Prospective Adoptive Parent form.

Beauty Abounds in Bulgaria

Beauty Abounds in Bulgaria

I’ll admit it…when presented with the idea of a trip to Sofia, Bulgaria, I had no idea what to expect.  While, of course, I had heard of Bulgaria before (and not just because we have a program there), I still couldn’t pinpoint a famous Bulgarian monument, or quintessential Bulgarian food.  But, when the opportunity arises to travel in order to grow a program and ultimately find more families for waiting children, you go!  In the days leading up to the trip, I spent a lot of time scouring the good old internet trying to get more of a ‘feel’ for the country and her people.  I learned a lot, but ultimately knew that I wouldn’t truly know Bulgaria until getting there. 

Street in Sofia

8 hours to Frankfurt, 3 hour layover, then another 2ish to Sofia (pretty easy in comparison to some other trips I’ve been on!), we were finally there.  We were tired, it was rainy, but I was immediately struck by how friendly everyone was!   

Our first full day thankfully started with the rain gone, and the sun shining.  While we had an agenda for the day that was packed with meetings, just being out, and driving around Sofia was amazing!  So many little streets and alleys, cafes and restaurants, and people going about their days.  And, again, the friendly disposition of all who we encountered made us feel so welcome in this beautiful city. 

Vitosha Boulevard

Towards the end of the day, we had the chance to sit on Vitosha Boulevard, the main promenade in Sofia, and have a quintessential Bulgarian meal.  Boy do the Bulgarian people know how to eat!  Meats, cheeses, salads, veggies, you name it….they made it!  The food was divine, and to be able to eat and relax, while watching Sofia go by along the promenade, was the moment I fell in love with the city, and the country of Bulgaria. 

We spent several more days there, mainly in productive meetings with various partners, discussing how we all can work together for the good of the Bulgarian children. But we got to enjoy Bulgaria too. We left with not only a newfound love of the country and people, but also with a strong desire to do all we can to find families for the precious waiting children of Bulgaria.

Interested in learning more about adopting from Bulgaria?  

We are pleased to offer a $1,000 grant to families who apply in the month of June!

Visit our website, or email!

The Perfect Combination


Trip planning.  Just reading that phrase may stir up a variety of emotions in you – excitement, anticipation, and maybe even anxiety for those of us whose vision of a trip is very different from the vision of our travel mates!  Perhaps you like to visit landmarks and museums, but your partner likes to relax at a country club.  Or maybe your son loves amusement parks, but your daughter would rather go bowling and watch a movie.  And while you are navigating all of those different likes and dislikes, perhaps you realize the common thread for your trip is that you all want to do something to make a difference.  But how?  How could all those different fun activities also be combined with doing something that will make a difference?  I’ll tell you how.  Reverse Hosting.

Salt Cathedral

You’ve likely heard of the concept of hosting before, where a child available for adoption comes to the US to stay with a host family and experience a new culture, while we work hard to advocate for that child.  Well, reverse hosting is similar.  But instead of the child coming to you, you go to the child!  You and your travel mates will travel to Bogota, Colombia in October 2019 for 10(ish) days.  You will be paired with a waiting child, and will spend your days getting to know that child, all the while getting to experience the sights and sounds of Bogota!  Your role is to get to know the child you are paired with so that you can assist in advocacy efforts to find a permanent family, and, of course, you are also expected to have fun!

Bogota Country Club

Reverse Hosting allows the host family to get to know the child in his or her own culture.  It allows the host family to participate in not only advocacy, but also gives them the chance to truly experience the child’s culture.  It’s the perfect combination for an international trip – exciting, thrilling, and life-changing.  Life-changing not only for a waiting child, but for your whole family as well. 

To learn more about Madison Adoption Associates‘ Reverse Hosting Program, please visit our website. Or, email


I know I throw numbers at you a lot to make my point.  But they are just so compelling, I can’t help it.  So, here’s my latest #.  463.  Any guesses what it is referring to?  Before you surmise what it could be, please just really see that number.  Say it.  Four hundred and sixty-three.  I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that it must have to do with children.

Before I tell you what the number refers to, let me back-track a bit.  Very regularly, we find ourselves advocating for a waiting child who is about to ‘age-out.’  We send out a plea to all we know in hopes of finding a family for said child.  Sometimes we find a family, often we don’t.  But, every.single.time, that single post evokes so many emotional responses from so many.  “Please let her find a family in time.”  “We hope his family is out there.”  “We would do it if there was time!”  And we get inquiry after inquiry.  Sadly, oftentimes, there is no time left.  Sometimes, there are 6 weeks to complete an international adoption, home study included, start to finish, and we dive in head first with the family to get it done.  Can it be done in such a short amount of time?  Yes.  Is it easy?  No, no, no, and no.  Did I mention, No?  Is it worth it?  Always.  And we will continue to advocate for these children.  We will continue to send out pleas, and pray for a family to step forward in time.  And we will continue to dive in head first with a family if it is the right fit, and if there is even the slightest chance it can get done in time.

But I digress.  Back to the number.  463.  Are you ready?  OK.  It is the number of waiting children on the China shared list aged 12 through 13 ½.  463 children so close to aging out.  463 kids who still have time for a family to complete the process (without having to rip all their hair out and pray for a miracle).  463 children who are close to becoming ‘urgent,’ but not quite yet.  So why not share these kiddos with the same level of urgency?  Why not share these advocacy posts thousands of times in hopes of finding families in time?  They are there.  They are waiting.  For you.  And if we share them now (instead of when they only have 6 weeks left), we have a much better chance of finding them a family.

Interested in learning more about these 463 waiting children?  Call me.  I will tell you about each and every one of them.  I promise you that.  Take Aiden for example.  He turned 13 this past January.  You can expect to see our desperate pleas for him come October and November.  But I challenge you.  Let’s not wait until then.  Let’s share this boy, and the 462 like him, NOW, so we don’t get to that crisis point.  Because once there, the chances are slim.  But now.  Now, these 463 precious children have a chance.  Let’s give them their chance.

Interested in learning more about the children available in all of our programs who may soon be at risk of aging out? Complete our Prospective Adoptive Parent form and an adoption specialist will be in touch.

Keep on Keeping on

Keep on Keeping on

Mother’s Day. It means so much, to so many. We rejoice in this day with you, no matter how you ‘fit’ into it. Happy Mother’s Day, from your friends at Madison Adoption Associates.

Dear Mom of toddlers,

Hang in there.  You can’t pee alone, eat alone, heck, do anything alone.  But you do it.  Day in and day out.  You put yourself aside, and do it.  You push swings endlessly, know the names of all the Thomas engines, make sure they each have their favorite cup (even if it means constantly washing it, though you probably have 43728 other cups).  You give hugs, time outs, kisses to boo boos, ultimatums, but mostly, love.  Keep on keeping on.  The days are long but the years are short.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Dear Waiting Mom,

You’ve done all the paperwork.  You’ve done all the research.  You’ve done all the training, and invasive interviews.  You have everything in place for when your little finally comes home.  Now you must wait.  You must hurry up and get everything done, and wait.  Though your child isn’t home yet, you are a Mom.  You are an advocate for your child.  You are a Mama Bear. You fight for your child with each form, each document, each requirement.  Keep on keeping on.  She’ll be home soon.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Dear Adoptive Mom,

You are a heart healer.  You hold the burden of your child’s pain in hopes that they don’t have to.  You love them unconditionally, even when they don’t even like you.  You are their rock.  You are their constant.  You are their forever.  Keep on keeping on.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Dear Birth Mom,

You kept them safe.  You kept them warm.  You nourished them.  You chose life.  You made the hardest decision a Mother has to make, and you set them free.  Know your pain is not forgotten.  Keep on keeping on.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Dear Foster Mom,

You love them fiercely, day in and day out, knowing you won’t have them forever.  You take it one day at a time, and give them the world each and every day.  When others say, ‘I couldn’t do that, knowing I’d have to say goodbye,’ that’s exactly why you do it, because you know how important love is for them, even though you know it will shred your heart.  You are their Mama, for one day, or for 500, because it is best for them.  Keep on keeping on.  Happy Mother’s Day.  

Dear New Mom,

You’ve been dreaming and praying for this for years.  And now it’s here.  You are a Mom.  And it is H.A.R.D.  Harder than you ever though possible.  But you do it.  You wake up each morning (or maybe you haven’t even slept yet), and commit yourself to this child.  Because with each hard moment, there are a million sweet moments that melt your heart.  Embrace the good, and get through the not so good.  Keep on keeping on.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Dear Single Mom,

You do it alone. You are both parents. While some of us ‘share’ the parenting responsibilities, you do it all. The weight of that can often feel overwhelming. But you keep at it. Every day. You are their everything. Keep on keeping on. Happy Mother’s Day.

Dear Mom of teenagers,

You embarrass them.  Maybe they embarrass you.  They want nothing to do with you.  According to them, they have the whole world figured out, and you know nothing.  Even still, you pack their lunch, you go to every game, you make sure their laundry ‘miraculously’ gets in their drawers.  Keep on keeping on.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Dear Grandma,

Without you, we wouldn’t be Moms!  Without you, we wouldn’t know what to do.  You kissed us, so we know how to kiss them.  You taught us, so we know how to teach them.  You guided us, so we know how to guide them.  Thank you.  Keep on keeping on.  Enjoy the joys of grandmotherhood.  Happy Mother’s Day.

To all the Moms today, no matter how you ‘fit’ into this day, we celebrate you. Enjoy the day, and bask in the celebration of YOU. Keep on keeping on. Happy Mother’s Day.

The Light

The Light
We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are. ~ J. K. ROWLING

This quote couldn’t be more perfect to describe Lizzie.  And just who is Lizzie?  Lizzie is a girl.  An orphan.  Surrounded by mostly darkness, both literally and figuratively.  But who chooses the light whenever she can.  It guides her, and she is often found seeking it out.  Lizzie, who could so easily choose the darkness and let it consume her, she does not.  She chooses the light.  She can sense the goodness in the light, and it draws her in.  Just as we can sense the goodness in her.  She is captivated by the light, and somehow in that act alone, those around her are captivated by her.

But Lizzie needs a miracle.  Lizzie ‘ages out’ in 57 days.  F.I.F.T.Y. S.E.V.E.N.  Let that number sink in.  It seems totally impossible.  But we witness miracles every day, so we pray that now it is Lizzie’s turn for her miracle.  So while Lizzie continues to seek out the light, we will continue to seek out her forever family.

Lizzie is available for adoption from China through Madison Adoption Associates. There is a $5,000 Bright Futures grant available to the family who commits to her.

Please complete our Prospective Adoptive Parent form for more information about Lizzie, and the adoption process.



I was packing for my trip to Bulgaria, and my six-year-old was sitting on the bed watching me.

Son: “Mom, why are you going to Bulgaria?”

Me: “To help more kids find Mommies and Daddies.”

Son: “Why don’t all kids have Mommies and Daddies?”

Me: “Well, every kid has a Mommy and Daddy, but those first Mommies and Daddies can’t always raise their kids.”

Son: “Why not?  Don’t they love their kids?”

Me: “They do love their kids.  Usually, very much.  But, it takes more than love to take care of a kid.  It takes resources, and support, and community, and a home, and access to doctors, and food, and so much more.”

Son: “But it takes love too, right?”

Me: “Yes, of course it takes love too.  And, a lot of times, it is that love that drives these Mommies and Daddies to hope that a new Mommy and Daddy can be found for their kid.  They love them so much, they want them to have a Mommy and Daddy who can give them the things that they can’t.”

Son: “And that’s why you’re going to Bulgaria?  Because the old Mommies and Daddies need you to find new Mommies and Daddies?”

Me: “Kind of, I guess.”

Son: “That’s good Mom.  I hope you find Mommies and Daddies for kids who need Mommies and Daddies.”

Me: “Me too buddy.  Me too.”

Of course we all know summarizing the orphan crisis isn’t this easy.  And the solution isn’t this simple.  But then again, maybe it is.  Maybe my six-year-old is onto something.  Maybe it is just that the ‘old Mommies and Daddies’ need ‘new Mommies and Daddies’ to be found.  And please know I don’t say that to imply that ‘old’ means disposable, or that first families shouldn’t always be the first choice, or that it means anything derogatory at all towards first families.  But that this is simply the word of a six-year-old.  A six-year-old trying to justify in his innocent mind how a child like him could end up without a Mommy and Daddy.  And as much as I too have tried to justify it to my 38-year-old self over the past 16 years working in the field, his simple explanation makes more sense than anything I’ve ever come up with. 

I often feel like we’re getting buried by new regulations, laws, and rules. And I feel like it’s harder and harder to find families for waiting children. But over the past several weeks I keep coming back to what my son said – “Because old Mommies and Daddies need you to find new Mommies and Daddies?”  And I can’t help but think Yes.  Yes, that is why I do what I do.  That is why I travel across the world.  That is why I sometimes answer my phone at dinner.  That is why I spend day in and day out searching.  Because I am searching for new Mommies and Daddies.  New Mommies and Daddies for these children whose first Mommies and Daddies could no longer care for them.  So thank you, sweet son.  Thank you for reminding me why each trip matters.  Why each phone call matters.  Why each email matters.  Thank you for bringing me back to the simplicity that regardless of new regulations, new accrediting entities, and new guidelines, that no matter what, kids need Mommies and Daddies.  And please forgive me, sweet son.  Forgive me if I am not present for you every moment that I should be.  But my hope for you one day is that when you are a Daddy, you will fully understand why I do what I do.  I truly do it for you, and because of you.  I do it because the love that I feel for you is so all-consuming.  It is a love that permeates my soul, and I want all kids to feel that same passionate, raw, fierce, pure love of a parent.  So, I will keep searching sweet boy.  I will keep searching for Mommies and Daddies for kids who don’t have them, and I hope you’ll be sitting on my bed asking me why every step of the way.

Our passion for children drives our work. But our work is useless without families.  We can only search for Mommies and Daddies if there are Mommies and Daddies to be found.  That’s where you come in.  Interested in adoption?  Please contact us today.  We have programs in Bulgaria, China, Colombia, and Philippines

Please complete a Prospective Adoptive Parent form, and an adoption consultant will be in touch with you regarding programs that you qualify for.  Waiting children need families now.  Please do not wait.

Journey to Benjamin {a family story}

Journey to Benjamin {a family story}

        Adoption first became a serious topic of discussion in our home in January of 2018.  I (Brooke) had begun reading The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkerst, and while doing so adopting a child came to the forefront of my mind.  My original intent in reading Lysa’s book was unrelated to adoption so when instead adoption became a recurring thought, I felt compelled to begin seriously considering it. 

Over the next month, God helped to lay the foundation for me to see the correlation between my spiritual adoption in Christ and the physical adoption of orphans here on earth. The Lord allowed us to see that if we believe that God knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139), if He knows how many individual hairs are on our heads, if everything about us was on purpose, then it is no accident that we live in the most affluent country in the world, in a home that keeps us warm, with plenty of food in our refrigerator, and water that flows at the twist of a knob.  During our time of discernment, the Lord simplified adoption for us into three questions. “Do you have room in your home for another child?  Do you have room in your finances to care for another child?  Do you have room in your heart to love another child?” When all those questions were answered ‘yes’, God assured us that He would take care of the rest.

Over the next year we began the process of adopting from China with Madison Adoption Associates, and we officially met our son, Benjamin An Xia Yang on March 24th of 2019.  Benjamin is an active, expressive, all-boy, 2 1/2 year old.  While he has a heart condition, aside from the scars you would never know.  We were blessed to be able to adopt him from an orphanage with wonderful nannies who loved him very much (we’re still keeping in touch over WeChat) and his needs were provided for beyond what we expected.  Because of their hard work and gentle love, a little boy who, while still overcoming a language barrier and grief, is adapting exceptionally well to our family.

Our days have been full of sign language, smiling, laughing, tickling, teaching, loving, caring, hand-holding, trying new foods, learning to recognize emotion, sharing, rocking, and more.  It’s been a whirlwind of a month and with so many things still yet unknown we’ve seen the biggest success come from the closest possible one-on-one attention and utilizing all the things we learned during the educational portion of our adoption process with Madison.

It was in response to God’s prompting, His love for us, and His love for the parentless, that we decided to adopt. We have been adopted into God’s family, being allowed to partake of His riches. And now we are excited to do likewise for Benjamin, a child who needed the same thing.  We are so thankful to Madison for helping us make our adoption a reality.  We’re looking forward to the days ahead and are excited that God chose us to be Benjamin’s forever family.

With the deepest gratitude,
Brooke Varner (and Brad, Abilene, Andrew, and Benjamin)

To learn more about adopting from China, please visit our website, or email us at



мартеница, or, in English, Martenitsa. We saw them all over Bulgaria when we were there. So, of course we had to find out the significance of this red and white tassel! We learned that this small red and white ‘tassel’ is often found in the form of a male and female doll. It signifies the start of spring, and is worn by Bulgarians from March 1 (also known as ‘Baba Marta’ aka ‘Grandma March’), until they see a stork or blossoming tree. Wearing this red and white ornament, or adorning trees with it, is said to bring spring!

Happy Spring! Interested in adopting from Bulgaria? We need families open to accepting children from this beautiful country rich with culture! Contact for more information.

Or complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form, and we will get in touch with you to discuss the Bulgaria program in depth.

MAA visits Bulgaria

MAA visits Bulgaria

Our staff just returned home from a week in Bulgaria.  It was a busy, productive week of meetings with partner organizations, touring an orphanage and group home, and meeting with the Ministry of Justice (Bulgaria’s Central Authority).  We were thrilled to have been immersed in the culture, enjoy the food, and to gain a deeper appreciation for the Bulgarian people and their customs.  It was more than apparent, of everyone we met with, their passion and dedication to the children who wait.  And we are humbled to be able to stand alongside the Bulgarian people and do all that we can to find families for their beautiful, waiting children.

MAA meets with MOJ
Signing agreements with a partner agency
Happy to finally meet our partner who we have been working with for years!
Outside MOJ with partner agency
Promenade on Vitosha Street
Quintessential Sofia city street
Sveta Nedelya Church
Typical Bulgarian food
Ivan Vazov National Theatre

There are two different tracts for adopting from Bulgaria – submit a Dossier and receive a match directly from MOJ, or identify a waiting child and apply to adopt that specific child.  The first tract will allow a family to be matched with a child with less severe needs and/or healthy sibling groups or healthy older children.  The second tract typically consists of waiting children with more significant special needs.  Either way, there are children waiting who need families!

The requirements to adopt from Bulgaria are straightforward:

  • Married couples and single parents are eligible
  • Parents must be at least 15 years older than the child(ren) they wish to adopt
  • There is no specific requirement regarding length of marriage or prior divorces, however the strength of the current marriage and relationship history is taken into account
  • Parents should have good general physical and mental health
  • Parents should not have an extensive criminal history
  • Parents should have an annual income over the poverty guideline 

We return from our trip not exhausted from travel, but instead with a new found passion ignited to do our part to find families for the waiting children of Bulgaria. Could your child be waiting for you there?

Please visit our website if you are interested in learning more about this wonderful program, and the beautiful children who wait for you! Or, email for more information!

MAA Adoption Programs

Madison Adoption Associates currently offers international adoption programs in the countries of China, the Philippines, and Bulgaria. Our programs mostly focus on placing children who have special medical needs.
September 2019
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