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Determination & Spunk – A Family Perspective

We were deep in the process of adoption from India when I received an email, advocating for an 8 year old boy, who had the most incredible smile. I committed to pray for a family for this little boy, and I was faithful to do that over the next few months, as we received updated emails and pleas for a family for him. In the meantime, India denied our request to adopt due to our family size (we had five children at the time). Though our hearts grieved for the little girl from India whom we had hoped to adopt, we also felt confident that my prayers had been answered for the precious little boy from China. God had found him a family¦ours!

We scrambled to update our paperwork for China, and also to learn more about this child’s special need, spina bifida, or myleomeningocele. We learned that it was a complex special need, requiring care from various specialists, but we were so certain that this child was our son, that we did not hesitate to move forward.

After Stephen Yuankai came home, we were on a steep learning curve. We waded through the many appointments and specialists and it wasn’t always with grace. But, our new son’s beautiful smile and wonderful disposition kept us fighting to learn more about how we could care for his needs.

Fast forward five years and we felt that God was leading us to put our knowledge of spina bifida to use again. We contacted friends, who were advocating for children, and asked them to let us know about any children that they knew who had spina bifida. When we saw 6 year old œLaurel’s video on MAA’s special needs registry, we felt sure that we had found our daughter! She seemed to have a great deal of determination and spunk, and we were absolutely smitten. There were a few roadblocks to overcome before we could give our absolute œyes!, but God used the time to strengthen our resolve.

On July 2, 2018 we finally met our beautiful daughter, Ruby Xiaohong, in Taiyuan, China. The spunk and determination that we saw in that first video were immediately evident. It was also evident that this little girl was one smart cookie! What she lacked in mobility (Ruby Xiaohong does not walk, but Stephen Yuankai does), she made up for in strength of character and will!

At just three months home, she has stolen the hearts of her siblings and parents. She is quite the dynamo! She chops vegetables with the best of them, plays wheelchair basketball with her brother, sings songs all day long, and knows almost all of the consonant sounds.

Ruby Xiaohong has had many doctor’s appointments over these past three months, but we can honestly say that it is much, much easier the second time around! One issue that is not uncommon for children with spina bifida is that they can have significant kidney issues without certain types of treatment. Ruby Xiaohong has grade 5 reflux in her left kidney that most likely would have caused her serious problems if she had remained in China. For that reason alone, we are incredibly grateful that she is here with us! It is a joy to attend to her medical needs, knowing that we are significantly improving her future quality of life.

Our family has eight children now, seven of whom are adopted. While it’s true that medically speaking, spina bifida is the most complicated special need of all of our children, we can honestly say that it is just a small part of who our son and daughter are, as people. Stephen Yuankai and Ruby Xiaohong are both bright, courageous, strong children who are absolute blessings to our family. We thank God for the privilege of raising these two precious children!


For more information about adoption, and our programs, please visit our website.  Or email for more information.

Cold Dirt Floor

Our post about Jorge caused a lot of buzz.  As did our post about Stellan.  And Max.  And Aimee.  And Zelena.  And Joe.  And Jayne.  And, they all found families (almost¦we are still working on Jorge)!  Job well done, right?  Not quite.  Don’t get me wrong, for these children who are/will be orphans-no-more, absolutely.  We fell in love with them, their stories tugged at our heart-strings, we shared, we pleaded, and we found their families.  But for each Jorge, for each Stellan, for each Max and Aimee and Zelena, for each Joe and Jayne, there are millions of other children.  Waiting.  Millions of others just as amazing.  Just as worthy.  Just as in need of a family.  And while we celebrate each and every child that finds a family, our thoughts are also always pulled back to the others.  To those still waiting, to those who we don’t have the time to share, and to those who have lost their chance because of age, or because of death.

I wrote this a while ago after a trip.  I won’t tell you where to, as that detail isn’t important.  Because it could be anywhere.  In fact, it is anywhere and everywhere children wait¦

It’s taken me a lot longer to write this post than I had ever imagined.  I had grand plans of blogging throughout the trip about the kids, the experiences, the food, the people I met, and everything else that I encountered.  That changed the second I walked into that place.  One of my travel mates who had been there before warned us to use the restroom prior to arriving, as we would not want to use the dirt hole dug in the earth of the communal ˜bathroom.’  When we arrived, there were kids meandering around the grounds.  But, as opposed to the orphanage we were at the day before, they had no interest in us.  They looked scared, they were dirty, they just seemed completely lost.  They continued to wander while we had our meeting.  Following our meeting, we were led into the first ice cold ˜school’ room.  The silence of a room filled with 15-20 toddlers was deafening.  They all looked at us, but it was as if they were looking through us.  My eyes were met by glazed over stares of children who not only had no desire to interact with us, but had no idea how.  The baby girl with Down syndrome in the jumper chair, in the corner, stared right through me.  I went over to her.  As soon as I got close enough to touch her hand, she recoiled in fear.  I sat close to her on that cold, dirt floor, for what felt like hours.  Not looking at her, as I did not want to scare her further.  I was just there.  Waiting.  For her.  Finally, she accepted my touch of her hand.  Not a holding, just a touch.  She almost reached out for more, but then reconsidered.  That was ok.  I touched her hand for as long as she let me, without looking at her.  Just being there with her.  My heart was internally shredded into a million pieces.  This was all she could handle.

To say the trip changed me is an understatement.  Rocked me to my core is more like it.  But I’m ok with that.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about sitting on that floor.  Feeling cold myself, and then guilty that I, the privileged American, felt cold.  How dare I feel cold.  These children have to live like that.  And I was cold for an hour.  I know that hour did not have an impact on her life.  I know that touching her hand did not change her reality.  I’m not that naïve.  But boy did it change my reality.  And I am not saying that in an egotistical way.  I know this isn’t about me.  And I guess that’s my point.  If I even have a point in this post.  The trip pretty much slapped me across the face with the reality of the lives these children live.  These children that I work to serve.  These children who I share with you all, day in and day out, in hopes of finding families for.  The trip not only spurred in me a stronger work ethic to try even harder for these kids, but it has knocked me off my materialistic, privileged pedestal.  And to those of you who know me, know that pedestal was not tall to begin with.  But now, almost every minute of every day, brings me back to that moment.  That moment on the cold floor.  Simply touching the hand of a lost soul, while looking down so as not to scare her with my gaze.  I think of her every time my ˜to-do’ list overwhelms me, I think of her every time the fleeting thought goes through my mind as to if my kids ˜have enough,’ I think of her when I burn the appetizer that I was making for the party starting in ten minutes.  I think of her over and over and over again.  And she brings me back.  Brings me back to what is important.

I don’t even know where I’m going with this.  Whenever I’m asked to compose a letter for the agency, or a blog post, I always start with ˜what is the purpose?’, ˜who is the audience?’¦I can’t answer either of those questions with this post.  I guess this post is just me still trying to process what I experienced on that trip.  And, not sure I ever will fully process it.  Not sure I ever want to fully process it.  As, fully processing it might mean forgetting it.  And I know that will never happen.  Those moments are seared into places in my being where they can never be erased. 

When I think of Joe, living out his happily-ever-after in his forever family, I smile and well up.  As I do when I think of Stellan and Max’s families racing to get to them in time, and Aimee, and Jayne, and Zelena, and soon Jorge.  But as soon as I wipe that tear of joy that comes when thinking of these kids, another takes its place as I’m transported back to that cold dirt floor.  And I think of all the others who still need us.

My plea to you is this if you have been touched by a post, or a particular child, but didn’t take the leap because the child was matched with another family, please, we beg of you, leap anyway.  Start your home study.  Dive in head first.  Because for every Jorge.  For every Stellan and Max and Jayne and Zelena and Aimee and Joe, there are millions.MILLIONS of others waiting.  Waiting for you.

Madison Adoption Associates is a fully Hague accredited non-profit adoption agency with programs in Colombia, China, Bulgaria, and Philippines, as well as Home Study services for adoptive families in DE, PA, NJ, and IL.  For more information about any of our programs, please call our main office at (320) 475-8977, or email



The Home Study – A Social Worker’s Perspective

The adoption home study is the cornerstone of any adoption, be it international or domestic.  A family is required to have a current, valid home study in order to be considered for a specific child.  Once you apply to have a home study completed for your family, you will be referred to a home study Social Worker who will lead you through the process.  So, what do Social Workers think of the home study?  We caught up with Regina Levin, MSW, LSW, Adoption Social Worker for Madison Adoption Associates, to get a social worker’s perspective on this important process and document!


What is your favorite part of the Home Study process with a family?

Identifying how I can be most helpful, whether it is clarifying all the paperwork, as the paperwork can be very overwhelming!  Or helping them understand the parent preparation training, be it understanding the challenges of trans-racial adoption or the challenges of adopting a child from an orphanage or another topic that they have more questions about.


What are your expectations when entering a home?

I know that many prospective adoptive parents are usually very anxious about “feeling judged,” so my main goal is to help them relax and help them view the home study not only as an evaluation, but also as an opportunity for me to get to know them. I usually share that I have adopted my two children (now adults) from other countries, and my husband and I were the subjects of two home studies before I became an adoption social worker, so I truly know what it feels like to be in their shoes.


What do you hope a family takes away from the home study process?

I hope they are as comfortable as can be with their expectations of what their family life will be like after a child arrives, but with a realistic understanding of the potential challenges.


How prepared for adoption do you expect a family to be at the start of the home study?

I do hope that they have done some research as to the typical age and health status of children available for adoption, but I don’t expect them to be well-informed since that is my job to help them with this. However, it is better if they have done some research so that they have some realistic expectations about the process.



What would be one thing you want ALL families to know before they meet their home study social worker?

That we social workers are a great resource for support and information, and they should feel comfortable enough to disclose even difficult background information about themselves since we are not looking to “reject” parents, but rather to enable them to adopt by looking at their strengths.


What is your least favorite part of the home study process?

Tracking down the one or two outstanding documents holding up the completion of the Home Study.  I am always eager to finish up the Home Study with the applicants’ approval so that they can move on to the next phase (dossier, USCIS approval, become active on the wait list for a referral)!


Thank you for your insight Regina!

Madison Adoption Associates is licensed in DE, PA, NJ, and IL to conduct both international and domestic home studies.  If you are thinking about adoption, get your home study started today, so that you can provide a tomorrow to a waiting child!  Email Laura Taylor at for more information about getting your home study underway.


She Is Worthy – A Family Perspective

Our decision to adopt came from a feeling we had over the course of several years.  Specifically adopting a child with Down syndrome from China wasn’t initially part of our plan, but we’re so glad that we made that decision.  Our little Lucy is the light of our lives.  She is the joy we didn’t know we were missing.  She makes every day better and makes every person in our house better.  She makes us smile and helps us to remember the things in the life that are important.

The decision to adopt domestically or internationally is a very personal choice.  Our family dynamics and personalities led us to international adoption because we knew that once we got our little girl home, it was final.  We didn’t feel like we could handle the emotional roller coaster of foster care and the thoughts of being on a list waiting to be œpicked by birth parents was too much.  We felt the pull towards international adoption largely because of the great need for parents for these precious children.  Why should a child’s country of birth determine their œworthiness to be part of a loving family?  We decided to act upon what we considered the œgreater need.

Once we opened our hearts to adopting a child with Down syndrome, we felt a pull that we can’t even describe.  Lucy is quick to hug and offer a smile.  We knew that her joy and happiness would greatly benefit our family, and it has.

It’s a hard decision to take on a child with special needs.  We know that Lucy will most likely be with us for the rest of our lives, and now that we have her in our family, we are so glad!!  It was a scary step to take at first.  We worried how it would affect our family dynamics.  We worried about what would happen when we passed away.  Who would care for her after we were gone?  We worried about placing that œburden on our other children.  We no longer worry about that.  Lucy is so loved by her siblings.  The immediate bond has been a miraculous thing to witness.  Our other children will have the opportunity to love and care for their sister for many years to come.  Who wouldn’t want that glorious opportunity for their children? To have someone that will unconditionally love them forever?  Priceless.  Our 13-year-old son (who was the most worried about adopting) recently said to us, œI was worried that Lucy would make our lives harder, but she hasn’t!  She makes our family so much better.  I know that in the future our other children will want to come back and visit us because they long to see their sister Lucy.

People don’t believe me when I say that things are nearly perfect with her in our family.  But it’s true.  She fit right into our family without a hitch.  Honestly, the hardest part has been scheduling and making it to all the doctor’s appointments that come with a newly adopted child.  But those are mostly just a one-time deal.  The language difference was hard at first, but after about 5 months, we communicate really well.  We aren’t very experienced travelers, so the adoption trip was hard at times, but it was such a wonderful adventure and we would go again in a heartbeat.  We are so grateful for this opportunity and would adopt another child with Down syndrome without question!

It’s so hard to describe how much joy Lucy brings into our family.  Sometimes words aren’t powerful enough.  We have learned to be more loving, selfless, kind, and understanding.  Lucy loves everyone she meets.  She can bring a smile to the face of anyone.  She has taught us about acceptance and has opened our eyes and hearts to all of those around us.  My children are more kind to those they come in contact with at school who have special needs.  They have more love and tolerance than I could have ever asked for.  Lucy has brought a sense of unity to our family.  We are so immensely grateful for the opportunity to have Lucy in our family and would wholeheartedly recommend to any family to open their hearts and homes to a precious child with Down syndrome.  Your life will be greatly enriched and you will love like you never knew possible!

For more information about adoption, and our programs, please visit our website.  We are happy to offer a special grant of $1,500 in celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  Any qualified family who commits to adopt a child with Down syndrome during the month of October will receive the grant, in addition to MAA’s regularly available grants.  Email for more information.

The Interrogation

Usually we are the ones asking the questions.  Not this time.  Not with Jorge.  From the moment he walked into the room, we (Diana Bramble, Executive Director of Operations, and Misty Lucas, Colombia Program Director) could tell we were in for it!  Totally reminded us of the above movie scene.

The interrogation began¦

Jorge: What’s your name?

Diana: Diana

Jorge: How old are you?

Diana: 40-something

Jorge: Where do you live?

Diana: Delaware, USA

And the list goes on and on!  How many kids?  Any pets?  What kind?  Can I see pictures of your pets?  Can I see pictures of your kids?

And then it was Misty’s turn¦.

Jorge: What’s your name?

Misty: Misty Lucas

Jorge: How old are you?

Misty: Also 40-something

Jorge: Where do you live?

Misty: Illinois, USA


While normally we would gently shift the questions back to the child to get to know him better, not this time.  Jorge’s ‘interrogation’ delivery was just too captivating!!  He didn’t demand answers.  There was no arrogance, or expectation for us to answer.  We could tell that he was just so curious to get to know us.  He was as captivated with us, as we were with him!  And when we started showing him pictures of our lives, our families, our pets….well….we all became even more captivated.  Jorge was genuinely giddy to get a glimpse into our lives.  And by showing this genuine giddiness gave us a glimpse into Jorge himself.  Witty, sweet, funny, kind, smart, energetic, charismatic.  The list goes on and on and on.  It turns out, we didn’t need to ask Jorge a single question in order to get to know him!  For the first time, it was the child asking us questions that gave us the best impression of who he is as a person.  Jorge will be a blessing to the family lucky enough to adopt him!

Jorge is 10-years-old and is available for adoption from Colombia through Madison Adoption Associates.  There is a $1,000 grant available to the family who is lucky enough to adopt this boy as their son.  Email for more information, or complete the Prospective Adoptive Parent form.


Are we crazy? – A Family Perspective

MAA family, Candace and Joe, graciously share their adoption story¦

œAre we crazy? œCan we really do this?  So many questions were swimming through our minds as we sat there looking at the most precious face.  A dark hair, pig tailed, dimpled cheek, sparkly eyed little 3-year-old girl stared back at us on the screen with an extra-large smile and such a joyful spirit about her that we couldn’t stop looking at her.  Over the next few days we couldn’t stop thinking about her too.  œIs this our daughter? We hadn’t necessarily been thinking of adopting a child with Down syndrome.

Our oldest son, Wyatt, was born back in 2004.  He had catapulted us into the roles of mother and father, and special need parents at the same time.  Although we were surprised and scared to find out around 23 weeks that Wyatt would be born with Down syndrome, we have since had 14 years being his parents.  Experiencing the wonderful blessings that his uniqueness brought to our lives, we were cautiously open to the thought of welcoming a new little one with the same uniqueness.

Still, there were lots of questions and prayers placed on the table as we felt more and more drawn to this girl who had stolen our hearts. So, with excitement and a little fear we pushed œsend on the email requesting more information about her.  Over the next few days we felt more and more confident that God was asking us to move forward with this adoption and to trust him with the details.  The year long process of paperwork came and went with lots of anticipation among all the members of our family.  Besides our 14 yr old, we also have a 12 yr old son Owen, and a 9 yr old daughter Ruby, who was also adopted back in 2009 from Ethiopia.  There was lots of talk about how our new life was going to look after we brought our new daughter home.  But the truth is you can never really fully prepare for your new normal until you meet your child and begin it.

So on that hot, humid day in July, in the most northern province of China, in the City of Harbin, after what seemed like a never ending process and airplane flight, we walked into a conference room at the social services building. There, sitting sweetly in a big black office chair was a pigtailed little girl in a pink lace dress and white sandals.  She was gently ushered over to us and we were introduced to her as her mama and papa.  Through all the uncertainty that had proceeded this meeting, through all the uncertainty that surrounded us in that room, and through all the uncertainty that we knew would still be waiting to come, through all of this, we KNEW that this was our daughter.  We also knew there would be challenges to come, there would be losses to grieve, attachments to begin and adjustments to be made, but through all of this we knew she was ours and we were hers forever.

Since that first meeting a few month ago so much has changed and love has grown exponentially as we have become a family of 6.  All of the children have fallen head over heels for their little sister.  She is cuddly and independent, sweet and a little naughty, curious and timid.  She is learning that we are her mom and dad and whatever she needs we will provide.  She is her own unique, perfectly formed self.  Her future is bright and exciting to us and we see her impact on earth as limitless.

When we were discussing names back before we ever met this beautiful child, we knew that it needed to embody her little personality well.  We decided on the name Chloe Joy.  Chloe means new tender growth. So her full names means: New tender growth of Joy! To us this is perfect and could not be more accurate as she continues to bring joy into every new life that she encounters.  We are so blessed that God chose us to be together forever.

For more information about adoption, and our programs, please visit our website.  We are happy to offer a special grant of $1,500 in celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  Any qualified family who commits to adopt a child with Down syndrome during the month of October will receive the grant, in addition to MAA’s regularly available grants.  Email for more information.