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Our Story – The Murray’s {Hosting}

His room is emptier now. The baseball glove and Phillies ball cap are gone. Toy racecars that once “vrrroommmed” through the house are now silent. A single belt hangs in the closet, the only item of clothing left behind. And dust covers black and white Aztec-style chess figurines, frozen in battle, unmoved since he left.

When “Alejandro” arrived, he carried only a small duffle bag with just a few changes of clothing, some toiletries, and a notebook. Clarissa made him a blanket and since he enjoyed baseball so much, we bought him a ball and glove with a Phillies cap. He kept his belongings neatly, placing them in precisely the same spot each evening before going to bed. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

I looked out the kitchen window. “Has it really only been less than a day,” I thought as a squirrel tightroped across the wooden picket fence in our backyard and jumped. “Alejandro” (that’s not his real name) used to sit there for hours watching them, fascinated by chipmunks, butterflies, and birds.

An orange Post-It, just one of several dozen spattered throughout the house, still sticks to the glass with the Spanish “ventana” written in scratches of black ink alongside its English counterpart, “window,” just one of the many words he taught himself.

We’re Alan and Clarissa Murray. We live in the Philadelphia, Pa. area, not far from where we grew up. We both speak Spanish fluently and have lived and worked abroad, Clarissa in Spain, and Alan in Argentina. We’ve been hoping to adopt children and unexpectedly met “Alejandro” when we were invited by Madison Adoption Associates to host an orphan from Colombia in our home over the summer. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

After almost two years of researching, considering, and exploring adoption through the State of Pennsylvania, we were invited to host a 12-year-old orphan from Colombia in our home for three weeks.

Since we both speak Spanish fluently, we were excited about using our language skills to help a less fortunate child living in an institution over 2000 miles from our  home to have a good experience visiting the United States. While we weren’t seriously considering the lengthy, costly international adoption process, we had no idea how the next month would change our lives. From the moment that he greeted us at the airport with his arms wide open and embraced us, it was obvious that he was someone special. That feeling only grew as his visit drew to a close.

“Alejandro” greets us at the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pa. Before meeting, we were allowed one thirty-minute video chat, where we showed him around our home, met his chaperone, Monica, and learned that he was hoping to see a baseball game and go to the pool. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

On his last day, as we drove back to the Philadelphia International Airport, he sat in the backseat and said again and again, “No quiero ir. No quiero ir.” [I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go.]

But he had to go.

Immigration regulations and adoption policies for both countries insisted on that. Still, we couldn’t sit idly by while he resumed life without a family and a permanent home. Only a moment after he disappeared through the security line, we turned to the social worker and said, “How do we adopt him?”….

To Be Continued…

Thank you, Alan and Clarissa, for sharing your story! To read more of Alan and Clarissa’s story, follow their blog. And to learn more about hosting opportunities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Illinois, click here, or email

It Takes a Village

Community.  What does the word mean to you?  To me it means relationships, support, comradery.  It means there are people ‘in my corner’ who I can turn to not only when I need help, but for general connection as well.  And here at Madison Adoption Associates, we realize the importance of communities and connection, and we do all we can to be a part of, contribute to, and nurture the communities we are a part of.

Because we believe in the connection of community so strongly, it is the reason that we structure our hosting program the way we do – rooted in community, rooted in supports, rooted in connections.  We only work with host families in the states that we are licensed in – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Illinois (please note that while we are licensed in Delaware, unfortunately Delaware does not approve of orphan hosting programs).  We understand the magnitude of what not only our host families are undertaking, but what the children will go through as well.  And, because of this, we believe it is crucial to nourish our families and host children with support, connection, and presence.  We keep our families ‘close’ for their sake, and for the sake of the children.

Throughout the hosting session, MAA host families are provided the opportunity to connect with each other, for the children to see their friends, and to have the support of trained professionals who are all just a quick drive away.  Our staff routinely visit the children and families during the hosting session, providing guidance, counsel, and whatever supports that family needs to thrive during the host session, and beyond.

Live in PA, NJ, or IL?  We would love to welcome you to our community with open arms.  Contact us today ( to learn more about changing a life – yours and theirs – by hosting.  Or visit our website.

The Face of an Angel

It’s an exciting time of year here at Madison Adoption Associates. You see, we are very busy gearing up for our Summer hosting session, and part of that process is ‘meeting’ the children who are eligible to participate. Enter Ciara! When I opened her picture, a smile immediately came across my face because of the big smile on hers. Something about her just struck me. I saw innocence, sweetness, hope, and joy, all wrapped up in the face of an angel!

8-year-old Ciara is available to be hosted by a qualified family in Illinois, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. The tentative dates are July 22 – August 7, 2019.

What is orphan hosting? A hosting program is a strategy used to identify possible permanent families for waiting children who have been cleared for inter-country adoption and are patiently waiting for their adoptive placement. These children will be able to experience family life and be exposed to a more stimulating environment than in the institutions where they currently live. However, it is not just the children who will benefit, but you and your entire family. The hosting experience will affect you in many ways – dispel any fears about adopting an older child, teach your children a valuable lesson in compassion, expose your friends and family to the orphan crisis, and give you the opportunity to have an integral role in orphan advocacy.

Click Here to learn more about Hosting!

Not in a position to host this summer? You are still in a position to advocate for these precious children! Please share this post with your family and friends…you never know who will be moved to step forward.

Looking for the Love of A Family

My son was born with a hole in his heart.  I was a first time Mom.  Just hearing those words….”Hole” and “Heart” sent me into full-on panic.  I had fears.  I had questions.  I had so many emotions running through me.  But I also had access to doctors, cardiologists, a state-of-the-art hospital, and a rock-solid support system.  Even with all of those supports, it was still one of my hardest moments.  Turns out it was on the minor side, and only required monitoring for several years – eventually resolving on its own.

But every time I read a file of a child with CHD, I am taken back to that moment….New Mom, hearing the words…”Hole”…”Heart,” and my heart aches for the mothers in other parts of the world who had the same fears, questions, and emotions that I did, but with no supports.  With no state-of-the-art facilities to turn to.  With no way to help their baby.  And my heart aches for them.

Meet Hanna and Ashton.  Two amazing ‘heart warriors.’  Two kiddos with imperfect hearts who need access to not only medical care, but to the love and support of a family who will see them through whatever procedures they need.


Ashton and Hanna are available for adoption through Madison Adoption Associates.  Both qualify for the $1,000 For Ivy grant, as well as other MAA grants.  To learn more about Ashton and Hanna, and our other Heart Warriors, complete the Prospective Adoptive Parent form.  You can also ‘meet’ many of our waiting children by visiting our website.

Double Broken-Hearted

What exactly does it mean to have a broken heart?  Of course, there is the figurative meaning that feelings of lost love are so strong, it truly feels like your actual physical heart is broken.  And then there is the literal meaning when your heart does not work like it physically should.  But what about when both are present?  What should we call it then?  Double broken hearted?  Enter Grayson.  One of the sweetest boys I have ever encountered in my entire life.

Some might say Grayson has a double broken heart, literally and figuratively.  Literally, because it doesn’t quite work as it should.  Figuratively, because he still waits for a family.  But, after meeting Grayson, I refuse to believe that this boy’s heart is anything but pure, sweet, and amazing just like him.  Despite all he has been through physically and emotionally, he is sweet, empathetic, kind, and caring.  Grayson loves so much more than many people I know with ˜perfect’ hearts.  Not to mention his smile that completely lights up the room.

Today is Grayson’s birthday.  He’s 11.  So to celebrate Grayson today, and his perfectly imperfect heart, please share about him with all you know, in hopes that his next birthday will be celebrated with a full heart surrounded by family and love.  Include a simple heart emoji with your post or forward¦let’s light up social media with hearts for Grayson!

Grayson is available for adoption through Madison Adoption Associates.  There is a $4,000 grant (which includes the $1,000 For Ivy grant) available to the family who steps forward for Grayson.  Please email for more information, or complete our Prospective Adoptive Parent form.  And if you are not in a position to adopt right now, please share!!

For Ivy Honoring a Hero {An MAA Grant for children with complex CHD}

We are honored to be able to share Ivy’s story with you.  We would especially like to thank Mary and Bryan S., Ivy’s parents, for not only opening their own hearts to a child with complex CHD, but also for their willingness to share their precious Ivy with us.  Thank you, Mary, for your beautiful words¦

Honoring our Hero,

For those of you who are new to our story, our precious Ivy Joy went home to Jesus on March 20, 2017. Ivy had a complex heart defect with many complications and many miracles to follow. She came home at 21 months, unrepaired and very sick, but more importantly, incredibly wanted and incredibly loved. She would undergo 5 open heart surgeries in 10 months, have set back after set back, and miracle after miracle. She just never stopped fighting and she never stopped smiling. Friends, when our girl could have said, ‘why me?’, she said, ‘How blessed am I?’  Honestly, she never ever complained or felt sorry for herself. She woke up every morning, choosing JOY in spite of her circumstances. She is such a special child and she knew it, boy did she know it!!!! I know our girl is alive in heaven, singing with the angels, dancing with all the other precious children whose mommies and daddies also had to say goodbye for now, all too soon.

When I left for China to bring our precious 5-year-old daughter Charlotte home, my biggest fear was that my plane might crash and Ivy would no longer have me to mix her medicines, remember all the right snacks to take with us for her ongoing cardiology appointments, or care for her the way I do. I prepared the girls Easter baskets before I left, telling our older daughter where they were in case anything happened to me. The last thing on my mind was the thought of me, having to learn live life without Ivy.

On March 20, 2017, just hours after meeting Charlotte in China, our baby girl, the light of our lives, took her last breath at home and took her very first breath in heaven. Our lives were turned upside down in one second and I am here to tell you, we continue choosing joy because she taught us how. So, we continue to strive each day to make her proud of us as we count the days till we see her and hold her again. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t like it, but she taught me well and Jesus made a way for us to be together again so I have so much to be thankful for. He never promised she’d make it past her first surgery, but she did. I vowed to Him the day she came out of her first open heart surgery on ECMO that if He took her home that night, I’d still praise Him, I’d still thank Him, for the blessing of being her mommy even for just a few months. Well, with miracle after miracle, Ivy did come home. And we snuggled and giggled and grew and laughed and loved and learned so much from her for 5 precious years. Oh how I miss every single thing about her. It is new grief every single day and new mercies get us through every single morning.

I traveled to China on March 18th for a March 20th gotcha day. I was so very blessed to have had a friend traveling with me on this trip. And I will never forget just laying on my bed, screaming out in pain and agony and complete brokenness. She came to me, so completely broken and scared and worried and she said, ‘honey, what do you want to do? whatever you want, however you want to go about it, no one will judge you, everyone will understand that there is no wrong or right here.’

And without even having to think, with the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of all the modeling by example Ivy Joy had done for me over the 5 years I was blessed to have her on earth, I answered.

I said, ‘Kim, Charlotte waited 5 years to have a family, she did nothing wrong, and there is no way that Ivy would have any part of me leaving her in China. I am Charlotte’s mom as much as I am Ivy’s. And what I want is to get home to my family as fast as anyone could ever fathom, with Charlotte holding my hand. I want God to move mountains for me to get home tomorrow, so I can grieve with my family and see my baby for the last time, even if it’s just her shell.’

And so, with my friend’s non-stop work, and with the efforts and kind hearts of both the Chinese and American consulate, and the constant help and support of Madison Adoption Associates, Charlotte and I made history and finalized her adoption the next morning, and came home. My poor girl was so confused and scared watching this new mommy of hers cry so much. And it got even more frightening when we arrived to a group of 8 more people crying and grieving. But she was grieving too, so we quickly bonded, as we all understood what loss felt like. The beauty of our grief was that we had each other to grieve with and at that moment, it was the only thing that mattered.

February is such an important month in our home! February is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness month and February is the month that we adopted Ivy and she became our beloved daughter! We met on February 13th (her gothcha) and on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, we signed all the China documents that made it official. How perfect that her family day was on Valentine’s Day!!!

I will end this with a testimony of the gift our daughter was to us. If I had a chance to do life over, with this same scenario and this same outcome, I would have my hands in the air with the biggest YES just to be her mommy for however long God gave me! YES it was worth it, YES it was hard, YES it is hard, and YES life is so much better because she was in it. Easy is just that, easy. Easy would have meant that there was no Ivy Joy. No being Ivy’s family. We know that true joy is chosen. It is searched for and chosen. We give thanks for so much more than just things that can be seen. We have experienced the richness of life, we have seen miracles, and we have watched doctors scratch their heads as Ivy recovered from things that she was not expected.

We have seen heartache that we wish NO ONE would ever have to experience. Every moment, every high and every low, was so worth it!

Reading the file of a child with heart defects is scary stuff, it’s not for the faint at heart, it comes with no promises. But behind that file, is just a little child who needs a family! We had no idea how much we needed Ivy, but it was certainly more than she needed us. Our YES was hard; but with our YES came unspeakable joy!

Don’t let HARD scare you. Hard teaches, hard grows us, hard matures us, and hard causes us to reach out for the only hand that will always be there for us, today, tomorrow, yesterday, and infinitely.

With Love and Joy,


MAA is humbled to offer the ‘For Ivy’ $1,000 grant to families adopting any child with complex CHD.  And while we are featuring Ivy’s story in February in honor of Heart Awareness month, we are happy to offer this grant year-round, as we stand by all children with CHD like Ivy, and strive to get them all home as soon as possible.  To meet some of the children we are advocating for with complex CHD, please visit our website.

If you are not in a position to adopt, but would still like to help bring these children home, please consider donating to the For Ivy grant so that we can offer this grant for years to come!