Last night, my daughter fell asleep on my chest. Maybe not all that notable, except that she’s not a baby, she’s six years old. She still needs my husband or I to stay with her until she falls asleep, but last night she crawled on top of me, stomach to stomach, head on my chest, and fell asleep. It was so very sweet (though difficult to escape from!), but mostly, it reminded me how very little she still is. I get at least one piece of artwork from her every day, usually a picture of our family. She loves to hold hands and snuggle. Her favorite outfits these days are too-big t-shirts from her dad’s childhood, paired with jeans so she can stick her hands in her pockets and proclaim “Look, I’m Daddy!” as she struts around the room. When her dad and I both join in a silly dance game with her, she positively beams up at us, so happy just to be with her family. I’m often struck by how much she’s growing up, but truly, six years old is still so little. Six is running in the sprinklers, building forts, playing with baby dolls and believing in magic.
When I talk with adoptive families, they often want to adopt
a younger child, and in many people’s minds “younger” seems to end at five
years old. But six-year-olds still very much need their mommies and daddies, and
there are so many six-year-olds who don’t have any. All these six-year-olds are
still waiting for families. Some have only been listed for adoption recently, but
many have been waiting since they were younger and still haven’t been chosen. Now
they are six- “older,” in the eyes of many, but with so much childhood still to
have. They just need a family to share it with.
In my role at MAA, I talk with families who are just starting to look into adoption, and often trying to determine the right path forward. An important first step when considering international adoption is to see which programs you are eligible for. You can view general eligibility guidelines for each country on our Country Comparison Chart, but to confirm which programs you qualify for, please fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form so our program staff can review your information and clarify any potential issues in eligibility.
Sometimes you are only eligible for one program and so the choice is clear, but when there is more than one option, how does one choose? Here are some of the questions I ask families to help them think through which country is the best fit for their family:
1.What age, gender, and special needs are you open to?
While essentially all international programs today are considered “special needs,” each program varies slightly in what the common special needs are. This post goes more in depth about the types of special needs we see in each program. Most programs allow families to choose a gender, but families waiting for referral of a young child in the Philippines must be open to either gender. While we see children of all ages in all countries, in Bulgaria, young children in need of international adoption all have special needs that are usually considered more complex.
2. Do you want to adopt siblings?
We see siblings in four of our five international programs: Colombia, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic. While we very rarely see twins in China, it is so rare that China is not a good option for a family who has their heart set on adopting siblings.
3. What is your travel availability?
The length of travel requirements ranges from just one week in the Philippines, to 4-6 months in the Dominican Republic, so how long your family is able to travel will impact your program options. Bulgaria requires two trips, while other programs are only one. While MAA always encourages both parents to travel in order to experience their child’s country and culture, for families where that isn’t possible there are countries that allow just one parent to travel, including China, Bulgaria, and the Philippines.
4. What are your cultural resources?
If you live in an area with a large Chinese community, but almost no Spanish speakers, it may make more sense to adopt from China than Colombia. This isn’t to say that you can’t adopt from a country if you don’t have people of that heritage in your area, but if you do so, you need to commit to providing those cultural opportunities for your child. It may mean long drives to other cities where there is more diversity, or paying for a tutor who can teach your child their native language via Skype lessons. You’ll need to consider if you’re prepared to make those greater efforts to keep your child and your family connected to their culture. Remember, their culture is now your culture too!
5. What is most important to you?
Every country program is different, and the reality is there may not be a program that fits exactly what you are dreaming and hoping for, so you’ll have to consider what your priorities are. Is it adopting a child who is as physically healthy as possible? Then you may want to look at the Philippines, though the wait for a referral is around three years. Or is it more important to you to adopt a child more quickly? Then you may want to research special needs, find some you are open to considering, and adopt from a country like China or Colombia, where the process is often a year or less. Is it adopting from a country where there is a big need for adoptive families? Then you may want to consider the Dominican Republic, where the long travel requirement scares most potential families away.
These questions are personal, and the answers will be different for every family. It’s important to be honest with yourselves about your hopes and expectations so that you can choose a country where you are prepared for what the process will be like, and ultimately bring your child home.
Ready to get started considering international adoption? Call today or fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist and find the path for your family!
While nearly all international adoption is considered “special needs” these days, what needs we see varies widely country to country, depending on that country’s medical system, social services, and culture. Considering what special needs are common is one way to narrow down which adoption program is the right fit for your family, so read more below about each of MAA’s programs!
In the China program we see a wide range of medical needs. Typically medical care in China requires full payment up front before care is provided, so sadly many families place their child in institutional care so that they can receive the medical care they desperately need. There also continues to be cultural stigma around disabilities in China, especially visible disabilities, which plays a role in some children being abandoned. Thankfully, as resources grow more biological families are able to keep their children who have correctable conditions, and more and more domestic Chinese families are open to adopting young children with needs like heart defects and club foot, so there are fewer children with those needs in need of international adoption today.
In Colombia, some children are relinquished by their birth family, sometimes because they aren’t able to care for their medical needs. Other children have been removed from their birth families due to neglect or abuse. As a result, we see many older children who may not have any diagnosed needs, but have experienced trauma. Because we often have information about birth families, it’s sometimes known if a child had prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol, or other risk factors in their background. Many young children referred for adoption have these risk factors and developmental delays, and need families who will help them meet their full potential, whatever that may be.
While the Philippines allows families to submit their dossier and request referral of a child considered “healthy,” families still need to be open to some concerns or risk factors in their child’s background, such as prematurity, speech delays, or corrected medical needs. There are also waiting children of all ages with a variety of medical needs, including many children who have developmental delays. We also see many older children, sibling pairs and groups who are medically healthy, but experienced neglect or abuse in their biological families.
Since there is now a robust domestic adoption program in Bulgaria, there are very few young children with needs families consider “minor” in need of international adoption, as those children are usually adopted within Bulgaria. Children under eight years old typically have neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and epilepsy, or multiple diagnoses and risk factors in their background. There are also many older children and sibling groups who were removed from their biological families due to abuse or neglect. Families who are open to Down syndrome can receive a referral very quickly after submitting their dossier.
The Dominican Republic
Since the Dominican Republic is a small country, it’s also a small adoption program, but there are still many children waiting for adoptive families! We see a range of different medical needs, as well as many young children with broad developmental delay diagnoses who need families prepared for whatever their future may be. Many of the children came into orphanage care very young when their biological families were unable to care for them. Since it is a small program, it is best for families who are open to a variety of different needs if they have not identified a specific waiting child.
Though these are the specific medical and developmental needs we see in each country program, it’s always important to keep in mind that every child in need of adoption has experienced loss and trauma, regardless of where they live. The behavioral, emotional and attachment needs that result from those experiences may be not be diagnoses in their file, but will be some of their biggest needs. We encourage all our families to research how to meet all of their child’s needs to be as prepared as possible for when you finally bring them home!
It’s a strange time to be alive, and a very strange time to be adopting internationally. At a time when everyone is drawing in, staying home, closing borders, you are longing to bring someone far away near.
I see you, family who is staring at a room prepared for a loved child when you don’t know when they will fill it. I see you, family who traveled across the ocean for the first adoption trip and now has the second trip postponed indefinitely. I see you, family who waited years to be matched to your child only to have travel cancelled at the last minute. I see you, family in-country who has held your child and may now have to make the heartbreaking decision to leave because there’s no end in sight. I see you because I am you.
We are in the midst of adopting our son from China, and have had our own process slow to a crawl, heading towards a standstill at the rate things are going. I’m feeling all the feelings you are. Frustrated and angry at the things out of my control. Guilty that I am upset about this when there are people losing loved ones to this disease. Embarrassed about the tiny baby clothes purchased that now probably won’t fit. Worried when our son had to go through urgent surgery a few weeks ago without parents there to be by his side. And mostly, just terribly sad about it all.
Lately, a new feeling has started to creep in: hopelessness. Seeing the outbreak finally dying down in China, a light at the end of the tunnel, only to have it explode around the world sending our timeline spinning out even further. A tiny voice whispering that we will never get to him, that we should just give up now.
But here’s the thing: that voice is a lie. I firmly believe we will get to our son. This outbreak will end. Families will be together. No, I can’t guarantee when it will happen. Adoption has never been the realm of guarantees. The only promise I can make is this: we will never get to our kids if we give up now.
They are still there, waiting for us. For those in Colombia, they are waiting for the families they know are coming, for the first time or returning to be reunited. For those in China, they’ve already survived the worst of this crisis there, and made it through. Surely we can do the same for them. So I beg you, don’t give up. Keep fighting. Hold onto hope.
–Lindsey Gilbert, MAA Family Engagement Coordinator and Waiting Mama
Hosting an older child from a foreign country, who has been living in an institution, can seem intimidating and full of unknowns. Read Part 1 of Niki H’s story here, about they came to decide to host a child in order to advocate and find their adoptive family, then come back for Part 2 below, and learn how in searching for the adoptive family for a child, they found the missing piece of their own family- twice!
I admit, committing to adopt AiJun was probably the scariest thing I have ever done, but by faith, I agreed. On the way to the St Louis airport at the end of the hosting stay, we saw one of the most beautiful, full, vibrant rainbows we had ever seen. I felt in my heart that it was God’s promise to me that everything would work out. I was no longer anxious about adopting AiJun, and I felt a peace about our decision.
The next year was full of the necessary paperwork and preparing to go get AiJun. AiJun had been bullied in Kindergarten, and had been permitted to drop out of school for three years after the bullying took place. After the hosting visit, he went back to China and told his caretakers that he wanted to go to school again. We were thrilled to hear that he had a good experience at school during the year we were going through the adoption process. What’s more, our church immediately began raising money for our adoption. We received $6000 from our church, $2500 from a matching grant through Lifesong, $4500 in donations from friends and family, and $5000 from a ShowHope grant. We also received an adoption tax credit. After all my worrying about the money given to adopt AiJun instead of helping our son Peter with college, I felt that we had given Satan a black eye!
We have now had AiJun two full years. He is the same kid now that he was three years ago when we hosted: fun, caring, loving, and always ready for an adventure. He has blessed our family in more ways than I can count, and I feel beyond blessed to be his mom. Adopting an older child turned out to be the perfect fit for our family, as he is only six months older than our last child, Aimee. They are even in the same class at school. It is almost like having twins! As a matter of fact, I find it ironic that both their names begin with “Ai” and both their names are five letters long. The four cousins that came over are now all grown up, but we still see them often. Our first calling was to help out our niece and nephews, but our second calling was to adopt AiJun, and we are so glad that we answered God’s calling.
Our kids are 20, 18, 15, 12, and 11. Peter, our oldest, is attending our local community college this semester for cyber security certification and he also attended a training for four weeks in February in WI to become a sergeant in the National Guard. Emma, who just graduated high school, works at a local nursery and is making plans to take a gap year to volunteer at an orphanage in Haiti this winter. Ashley will be a sophomore in high school, and AiJun and Aimee will be in sixth grade. Our perspective on adoption has definitely changed drastically. Now we see it as God sees it. Adopting AiJun took something painful, hard, and sad and turned into something beautiful, happy, and healing. That doesn’t mean there won’t be days of heartache and sadness for AiJun, but I have learned that adoptions are stories of redemption. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t marvel at what a blessing AiJun has been to our family, and even though we knew he needed us, we now realize that we needed him more.
But our story doesn’t stop there. This past spring, I felt the urge to do more for orphans. I decided to let the social worker who wrote our home study know that if the hosting program needed a family to host, we would be willing to host again. By late May, we were asked to host a sibling group of three: Sara, age 13, Melany, age 11, and Bryan, age 9, from Colombia. When my husband heard we were hosting again, he said, “You know we’ll end up adopting them.” I told him we were just advocating and being helpful and that we couldn’t possibly adopt three more children! But, just like three years before, within days of hosting the three children, the thought of adopting them began to enter our minds.
However, the logistics of providing a home for
three more people was daunting. Our house only has three bedrooms, so our
sleeping arrangements would be tight to say the least. But, as usual, God was
at work to make sure everything was taken care of. Our pastor, who has always wanted a pond and who is also a skilled
carpenter, offered to finish our basement in exchange for the pond he always
dreamed of having.
Sara is sweet, smart, and very mature for her age as she has had most of the responsibility of her two siblings. Melany is adventurous and fun-loving, and Bryan is a typical boy who loved to fish in our pond. They aren’t perfect, and we won’t be perfect parents, but God’s handiwork is evident, and we rest in Him and His truths. It has been fun to watch AiJun’s face when we ask him if we should adopt, as he is on the other side of the situation now. He just beams and says “Yes! We should adopt them. They don’t have a family!” We are looking forward to spring of 2020 when we will travel to Colombia to get our three new children. We will be parents to eight children, but God will be with us every step of the way, because God is good, and He loves the orphan. Thank you for reading our story.
Many families are interested in hosting but are scared of the unknowns- what will the child be like? Will the language barrier be too challenging? How on earth will we say goodbye at the end? Read one family’s experience with hosting and how it changed all their lives for the better…
As a teenager dreaming of my future family, I wanted children and I wanted a big family. I also remember thinking how neat it would be to adopt a child someday. But for many of us, myself included, life doesn’t play out exactly as planned. As the years began to pass (eight years to be exact), God blessed us with three children, Peter, Emma, and Ashley, and a thriving business.
In the spring of 2006, we received the devastating news that our sister-in-law had died unexpectedly at age 37, leaving four children ages 11, 9, 7, and 2, whom she had been homeschooling. At the time, our children were 6, 5, and 2 and I had chosen to homeschool as well. Even though our hearts were broken, God had a plan.
I knew when we had found our house that it wasn’t a coincidence that God provided us a home within walking distance of where they lived. So I followed God’s lead and reached out to them by inviting them over to homeschool with us twice a week that fall of 2007. On September 13, 2007 our fourth and final child, Aimee, was born. I was happy to help out my niece and nephews, but as the years passed and my children grew, the prospect of adopting seemed less and less of a possibility. It had always been a dream to adopt a younger child, not a child half grown, and my children were no longer babies or even toddlers. Adopting an older child entailed a set of circumstances that I just wasn’t comfortable with.
However, time has a way of changing things, and it wasn’t too many years before some of my kids were high school age and we decided their current needs would be best met in public school. By this time I had dismissed the prospect of adoption entirely. However, my second child, Emma, had not. By the age of five she had begun to express interest in our family adopting and at a young age had a huge heart for orphans. In the summer of 2015, our church began promoting a hosting program. Emma was 14 at the time. She enthusiastically showed me pictures of the host kids and begged for our family to host an orphan. As we would arrive to church on Sunday mornings that spring and early summer, people would comment and giggle about Emma’s enthusiasm that they had seen on Facebook and ask if we were hosting. I would laugh it off and reply no. At some point during those crazy years of building a business I had given up the dream of adopting a child. But God hadn’t given up.
One morning I received a text message from a close friend named Kea who had adopted a boy named Brody from China two years earlier. She said that she knew we had been somewhat interested in hosting the year before (little did she know that I actually hadn’t had any interest in hosting) and was wondering if we would “co-host” with them this summer? After further discussion, talking it over with John, and praying, we agreed to co-host one child, with her son Brody as our helper and translator. The child would be at her house a week, then our house a week, then vice versa until the host period was over. Emma was beyond excited, and promised she would help out with whatever we needed.
Then I got a phone call from Kea. The hosting coordinator did not like our idea of “sharing” a child. She told us respectfully that these children are orphans, who have never experienced family life before. They were coming all the way from China, and even if they were never in their life to receive the gift of a family, at least they got to experience one for four weeks while in the US. She said that she understood our desire to help each other by babysitting for appointments, etc. but that we each needed to host our own child. Reluctantly, we knew in our hearts that she was right, and agreed to host a child on our own.
On the way to the airport, Kea began to describe what our Chinese child would most likely be like from her experience with her own adopted son. I was surprised to hear that our host child would have only experienced inner city life. Kea informed me that he most likely won’t want to play outside. He probably won’t like our big dogs. He will be afraid of bugs. Since we live in the country and spend a lot of time outside, I braced myself for the longest four weeks of my life.
Upon arriving at the airport in Springfield, we met our host child, AiJun. He was small for his age, nine years old, and very, very tired. He did not smile at us or try to speak. Brody tried speaking to him, but could not understand the few words AiJun said. There were many Chinese translators there, helping families speak to their host children. Several came up and tried to speak to AiJun, but he wouldn’t respond. Then one of them began to play with AiJun, to get him to say something. Soon he giggled and spoke. “He speaks Cantonese,” she told us. My hopes and dreams of Brody translating for us for the next four weeks diminished as Brody only knew Mandarin.
The next morning, AiJun quietly walked down the stairs. He saw our youngest child, Aimee, who was then eight. She began to play cars with him. I was relieved to see him smile at her and enjoy the interaction. I began to make breakfast and I set out a can of sweet milk, a Chinese children’s drink, that we had bought at an Asian grocery store in Springfield the evening before. AiJun’s face lit up when he saw it. After eating a hearty breakfast, he and Aimee played more. I was hesitant to let them play outside, assuming he would be scared of the dogs, but he wasn’t. As a matter of fact, AiJun wasn’t scared of anything we assumed he would be scared of, and we were humbled as we realized how wrong we were to label AiJun as the problem child we assumed he would be. AiJun soon proved to us that he was just like any normal kid, and it wasn’t long before he was having the time of his life going on boat rides, catching fireflies, jumping off the dock into our pond, playing with the dogs, hiking, and simply being a kid and enjoying the summertime.
We were also literally amazed to discover that AiJun was super easy going and had a great sense of humor. The only thing we couldn’t get him to do was speak into our phone to try to communicate, but he made up for that with the hilarious things he would communicate with just body language. After just two weeks of hosting AiJun, John mentioned the prospect of adopting him. And I had to admit the thought had crossed my mind as well. He just seemed to fit so perfectly into our family and he was just such an awesome kid. But I was also reluctant and scared wondering how would I teach him English? Where would he go to school? How would we pay for the adoption? Is the paperwork really as bad as everyone says it is? But I had been wrong already in so many ways, that I wondered: could God possibly be was at work in this situation? Maybe we were the family that was to adopt him all along?
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.