We know 2021 continued to be a challenging year for so many of us, but as the year comes to a close, we wanted to share some of the great things that happened this year thanks to your support, and the exciting projects coming in 2022!
2021 saw amazing growth in so many of our programs!
Philippines: 6 children home this year, and 14 waiting children currently matched with families!
Bulgaria: 2 children home this year, and a sibling group of 5 just matched with a family!
Colombia: 31 children home this year, and 24 currently matched with families!
Dominican Republic: Our first 2 referrals of waiting children matched to families!
Thailand: 4 families received pre-approval to adopt waiting children!
Ecuador: Our first family to apply and join the program!
There are still so many children in need of families around the world. If you are considering adopting in 2022, don’t delay! Fill out the PAP form to connect with an adoption specialist.
Thanks to your generous giving, we were able to provide over $250,000 in humanitarian aid around the world:
Sanitizer, masks, and test kits in Thailand
Vitamins and educational toys in Ecuador
Onesies, socks and underwear for kids in Colombia
Clothing in the Dominican Republic
Funding three child caregivers for a child care agency in the Philippines
Providing ongoing support to children in China through MAA partnerships
Building clean water stations for refugee families from Venezuela
Providing counseling and post-permanency services for struggling adoptive families
We know 2022 will bring more hardship to vulnerable children and families around the world. Donate to MAA and designate your gift to Humanitarian Aid to help us be ready to meet needs as soon as they arise!
Many exciting new projects are in the works or returning for 2022:
Children from Colombia will be coming for summer hosting in July
We are opening an office in New York that will provide home study and post-placement services, with another state in the works!
The continued expansion of our SWAN post-permanency services to families in Pennsylvania
Travel to our partner countries to strengthen relationships and learn about children waiting for families
We are exploring new countries for potential adoption programs!
We are so thankful for all of our families, friends and partners who support us in this crucial work. Please consider MAA in your end-of-year giving to help us continue to expand and support more children and families.
As the vaccine for Covid19 becomes available in more countries and for teens and children, more countries are instituting requirements related to adoption, but it can be difficult to follow all of the changes. If you are an adoptive parent in process, or considering starting the adoption process, here’s what you need to know about the regulations at this time:
For Prospective Adoptive Parents:
As vaccinations for Covid19 become more widely available, more countries are requiring travelers entering the country to be vaccinated. Some countries allow a negative Covid19 test within a certain time frame (sometimes 72 hours, sometimes 48 or 24) to substitute for proof of vaccination. Others require a family to quarantine for a period of 7, 10 or 14 days upon arrival and be tested before being able to move freely about the country, which would extend the required length of travel to complete the adoption. However, there may be countries that require vaccination and do not offer alternatives for adoptive parents.
At this time, the US requires all travelers over the age of two, including US citizens, to provide proof of a negative Covid19 test within 72 hours before departing for the US, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Currently, this requirement is regardless of vaccination status.
For Children Being Adopted:
Effective October 1, 2021, the US CDC began requiring all immigrant visa applicants, including adoptees, to be fully vaccinated for Covid19 before receiving their entry visa. For children under 18, whether this requirement applies to them at the time of applying for their visa depends on the situation in their individual country. Adoptees are required to be vaccinated if a vaccine is both 1. Recommended for their age range by either the FDA or WHO, and 2. Available for their age group in their country. At the time of this post, this only includes the Pfizer vaccine for children age five years and up, as all other vaccines are not yet recommended by the FDA or WHO for children under age 18. However, this is expected to change in the coming months, and as a vaccine is recommended for a younger age group, if it is available to that age group in a child’s country, the child will be required to complete the entire vaccine series before the US embassy or consulate will issue an entry visa.
Children are exempted from this requirement under blanket waivers for the following reasons:
A vaccine approved by the FDA or WHO for their age group is not available in their country or area
Their country has not yet begun providing covid vaccination to their age group
Vaccination is contraindicated due to a medical condition
While visa applicants can apply for an individual waiver from Covid19 vaccination for a child under religious or moral convictions using form I-601, it can only be filed after a visa denial, and processing of this this form can take up to one year. It is therefore not an appropriate option for adoption. This is different than the standard vaccination exemption form for adoptees, which exempts children age 10 and under from other vaccinations typically required for immigration, but does not apply to Covid19 vaccination.
The information in this post is current at the time of posting, but the requirements around vaccination for Covid19 are entirely fluid, and can change every day with no notice. All parents in the process of adoption need to be prepared for the possibility of vaccination requirements for themselves and their adopted children as a part of the adoption process. For the most up-to-date information, contact your case worker or the agency you plan to use to learn how regulations apply to your situation at this time.
In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we asked some of our families who adopted kids rocking an extra chromosome to share some of their stories! Here, Darla shares about her family’s journey to adopt their daughter from Bulgaria.
After having a biological daughter with Down syndrome and experiencing the amazing amount of joy that she brought to our family, the Lord placed on our heart to adopt again. We reached out to Reece’s Rainbow, because we knew of their focus on helping people adopt children with Downs. We found a beautiful little girl and the team at Reece’s lead us to Madison Adoption Associates to learn more.
We learned that our future daughter was currently in Bulgaria, and she had recently turned 2 years old. Over the course of the next few months we learned more about her and spent lots of time praying for her. It was fun to share the videos and pictures we received with our children, and we all grew in our excitement and anticipation to welcome her into our family.
Our first trip to Bulgaria was in late summer, and we were blessed with spending a week with our new daughter and the wonderful foster mom and social workers. She was full of joy and enthusiasm, and oh so, so cute! She was just learning to walk, so we spent a lot of time at parks and playgrounds and toddling around in the sand. We laughed and laughed. She loved swinging on swings, and sliding down slides, and climbing up steps, and being hugged and carried and fed. She was very joyful and active, and walked and played with abandon. Everything in life was met with smiles and giggles. She was accepting and bright-eyed when engaging us, from the start and through the whole week!
Back at home we had weekly video calls to stay connected and continue to see and hear each other. The language barrier at times made these calls seem slow and a bit long, but looking back we could see that this was a highly beneficial way to have our daughter continue to know us and bond with us, including seeing and hearing her new brothers and sisters.
We went back for a second time to bring her home 3 months later, and this time brought three of our other children. The travel there was impacted by winter weather and had more than its share of surprises and adventure, but the Lord’s favor was on us every step of the way. In great anticipation, we awoke on our “Gotcha Day” so eager to see our daughter again. Through many hugs and tears we were able to welcome our daughter and with deep thanks to the foster family and social workers we set out to spend a week together finishing the adoption process as a family. She welcomed us right away and seemed especially comfortable to be with us from the start, which we believe was due to the time we spent together 3 months earlier and the ongoing connections we made through video and talking while we were apart.
Back home all of our children have loved spending time with her. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with an excited, joyful, eager, driven, fun-loving little sister that loved to give you a hug and smile and snuggle with you? Teaching can take longer and with more repetition. Growing can be slower and expect more practice and patience. Some have commented that we’re doing a great thing for her, but we know that the truth is she is doing a great thing for us in ways we cannot even always put into words. We are blessed beyond measure, and we wouldn’t change a thing.
Adopting a child with Down syndrome may not be for everyone, but for those who do we would say you will love more than you can imagine. And while at times we do think that it would be great if our daughters did not have the limitations or challenges that come with Down Syndrome, when we think about what is most important to all of us – to experience and share joy, love, grace, peace, friends, family, contentment and have great faith – it is clear that those of us without Down Syndrome have the greater challenges in life.
Thank you to Glen and Darla for sharing their family’s story! If you are considering adopting a child with Down syndrome, fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an Adoption Specialist and learn about the children waiting for adoption!
In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we asked some of our families who adopted kids rocking an extra chromosome to share some of their stories! Here, Kelly shares about her family’s journey to adopt their son Jonah from the Philippines.
How did you come to the decision to adopt a child with Down syndrome?
Since I was a child, I have loved spending time with people with special needs. I taught special ed before having our first biological daughter and worked with adults with intellectual disabilities between school years. I have always found people with Down Syndrome to be especially kind, loving, and fun. We chose to adopt because we wanted to bring a child into our family from the special home finding list who would be less likely to be adopted than a young developmentally typical child.
What was the adoption process like for you?
Our adoption moved quickly compared to the average for the Philippines. We submitted our Dossier on December 22, 2018 (my 27th birthday, the age requirement) and we picked up Jonah in August of 2019. The 8-month guardianship phase actually lasted about 14 months due to Covid delays but that wasn’t too difficult for us since Jonah felt like our son as soon as we brought him home. Sometimes all of the paperwork and bureaucracy felt overwhelming but taken one step at a time it was all manageable and of course, worth it. Katie and Diana at MAA were so helpful, kind, and knowledgeable, which was invaluable. We also met many wonderful people in the Philippines that we are still in contact with and I am grateful to know them.
What were your first days of meeting your son and taking custody like
Our trip to pick up Jonah was the adventure of a lifetime! Nate had served a two-year mission for our church in the Philippines so he is fluent in Tagalog and familiar with the culture which allowed us to socialize and explore. With two young children at home (2 and 4 at the time), Nate and I let loose for the first time in a long time and we had SO MUCH FUN!
The first morning that we woke up (for the 18th time thanks to a doozy of a time-zone change) we were so excited to meet Jonah. We got ready, ate breakfast, then requested a tric (motorcycle with sidecar used like taxi). Only standing on the residential road outside the hotel did we realize that we had no idea how to get to the orphanage. We showed the address to our tric driver and he got us closer to the area, then we hoped from tric to tric until we were close enough that someone recognized the address and could take us to the orphanage which was still unrecognizable right in front of us as it was a nondescript building behind a wall, tucked away with homes on a dirt road. Meeting Jonah was a joy, we now know he has a certain flair for making everyone feel special, but we were no exception. We were able to play and bond at the orphanage and eventually travel nearby with Jonah and even some of the teenagers he lived with, eating street food, sightseeing, and playing in rain downpours thanks to the encouragement of the older kids.
We weren’t sure before arriving whether or not Jonah, who was 4.5 at the time, would be potty trained. On our second day when we were going to take him outside of the orphanage for the first time, I asked one of his caretakers. She answered “yes, he’s potty trained, I don’t know why someone put a pull-up on him today.” In hindsight there may have been a language barrier. We got him dressed sans pull-up and hopped on a tric, with him on my lap. We weren’t yet to our destination when I got a more accurate answer to my question. Our next stop was a change of clothes for Mr. Pee Pants.
Jonah is the opposite of our daughters who need routine and consistency, making him a great travel companion. Where ever we were he would happily take in the new sights and when he needed a nap, he would power down for a few minutes in our arms or on our laps and pop back up ready for action. His on/off switch was very beneficial on our 14 hour flight home. It was sort of a strange feeling taking Jonah from the life he knew and the people who had cared for him and loved him, but he was eager to go with us. The hardest part for me was taking him away from the only remaining “baby” in the orphanage who has Cerebral Palsy and was close to Jonah. They had come in together in a group of ten babies about 3.5 years earlier. The eight others with no disabilities had been adopted, so they would have been like brothers.
In terms of taking custody, the first few days and weeks were a honeymoon phase. I remember at the two-week mark saying, “wow, he always listens right away when I say “no” and he never cries.” Then the very next day the flood gates or tantruming opened up. I wish I could say that after two years we’ve figured out exactly how Jonah fits into our family and that parenting him has become completely natural. I’m sure others would disagree and every adoptive parent has a unique experience but to me, adoption feels a lot like marriage. The beauty of Jonah’s unique personality is that every moment is a new moment. You’ll never meet a person who lives more in the now. So, while he may not be considering the consequences of sneaking out of bed at 2am to test out the handheld bathtub sprayer, he will also totally forgive you for losing your cool about the bathroom carnage, 75 seconds later.
What has been the biggest joy in parenting a child with Down syndrome? The biggest challenge?
Jonah’s joy is infectious. At the orphanage they told us he brought sunshine wherever he went. It’s true, and he brings a smile to other people whenever we are out. He doesn’t know the meaning of self-consciousness or discrimination on the basis of…anything…so he will attempt to make friends with anyone he can. He’s easy going and flexible, I joke that if he was our only child, we could live traveling aimlessly in a camper van with no structure or routine and he would thrive. He’s a total dandelion, flourishing in his own way under any circumstances.
The biggest challenge of parenting Jonah has been figuring out how to respond to his negative behaviors. As a parent with both biological children and an adopted child, I want to feel I am treating all of my kids consistently and equally. For example, with my girls I might say “if you put your pajamas on all by yourself, we’ll read an extra book” or “because you didn’t do what Mommy asked, you lost a warm fuzzy” (a jar they fill up to earn fun experiences). Jonah doesn’t grasp a lot of language, abstract concepts, or future consequences. He is non-verbal and by cognitive assessment standards, on the low-functioning side of the Down Syndrome spectrum. I call him my patience sensei because he understandably feels the need to assert control on a regular basis and I am constantly deciding which battles to choose and how. His stubbornness and impulsive behavior have forced me to face demons in myself I previously didn’t know existed.
What is your advice to parents considering adopting a child with Down syndrome?
First of all, I am no expert. I would say be excited for the magic that awaits and be realistic about the challenges that will come with it. For us it means having a child who is the majority of the time delightful, hilarious, and sweet, and it means waking up to the poopy pull-up of an almost 7-year-old and hoping he hasn’t committed any major crimes in the middle of the night. Before adopting Jonah, I had spent plenty of time with individuals with Down Syndrome but they were mostly teenagers and adults. You may want to seek out parents of children in the age range you are considering to adopt for a better understanding of what to expect. Then there’s the adoption variable. Jonah didn’t have the same early interventions and optimal pre- and post-natal care that children in an ideal situation would have. I have my suspicions that if he had, he would be different in many ways. That might sound scary and undesirable but it’s not meant to. Jonah is in many ways our easiest child and he brings happiness to everyone he interacts with. In good moments he makes me laugh and smile and in challenging moments he teaches me patience and compassion. There is a pre-natal genocide being waged against individuals with Down Syndrome. My message to anyone faced with the possibility of parenting a child with Down Syndrome is that they will amaze you every day with their goodness and unique intelligence and you will feel privileged to have them as a part of your family. If you are considering adopting a child with Down Syndrome, there is a child worthy of your love and your last name, waiting for you to be brave enough to take the leap.
Thank you to Nate and Kelly for sharing their family’s story! If you are considering adopting a child with Down syndrome, fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an Adoption Specialist and learn more about the children waiting for adoption!
When our staff met him on an advocacy trip in November 2016, we knew this boy was special. His advocacy name was ‘Bernie,’ and he was all smiles from minute one. And my gosh, was that smile infectious! Little did we know that while we were enjoying his smile and silly little giggle in person, across the world a Mommy and Daddy (HIS Mommy and Daddy) were also falling in love. In honor of Mighty Micah Smith, we are humbled to share his story. Though his time here on earth was brief, his impact on those around him will last forever. Rest in peace Mighty Micah.
Micah’s Adoption Story
Our journey to bring Micah home began in 2016. God opened the door for us to adopt Internationally from China, and we begin praying that God would lead us to the right child for our family. We already had two kids, one boy (age 6) and one girl (age 9). We had a heart to adopt an older child after some involvement we had with a foster child in our church.
I soon learned that a group of advocates were going on a mission trip with Madison Adoption Associates to some of the orphanages in China, and I immediately started following their journey. I became drawn to one of the boys in the pictures/videos. This sweet boy would later be known as our Mighty Micah. We locked in the paperwork to adopt Micah in November 2016, and begin the long journey of paperwork to bring him home. I prayed frequently that God would show him our faces in a dream or a vision so that we would not be total strangers when we arrived.
God honored that prayer, and when we traveled to China in November 2017, Micah was full of giggles on Gotcha Day. He laughed and giggles so much that the adoption worker who was with us could not translate much of what he was saying. He told us “I think something may be seriously wrong with him. If you want to give him back, now is the time. After you adopt him tomorrow, he’s your child and he has the same rights as your other children.” That was a very scary moment. I couldn’t speak Mandarin and Micah couldn’t speak English. This was the only translator we had, and I trusted what he said. However, I also knew what I had prayed for the past year and a half. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt (before I ever got on the plane) that God had orchestrated this journey, and I trusted that more than I trusted what he was telling me. As an Occupational Therapist, working with disabilities was not foreign to me. However, my husband would think differently. We had agreed hydrocephalus was something we could both handle, and we were determined to bring Micah home with us.
We adopted Micah the next day, and he officially became a Smith. It was a great day! Micah came home just in time for Christmas 2017, and begin life with a forever family. People always ask how we communicated in the beginning, and I explained it’s just like talking with a toddler. Lots of pointing and shaking your head. Eventually the language develops slowly but steadily, and ever so cute with his little accent attached. Over time, he grew physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He LOVED people, especially kids. He never turned down an opportunity to play and was happy in every situation. The more he became familiar with our home and our routine, the more he laughed and smiled. He was happy with the simplest things and always said thank you. He liked to eat and could eat more than a grown man which eventually leveled off when he began to realize the food would always be there and he would always have access to it.
Micah loved his siblings and bonded to them very quickly following there lead in almost everything. He was always their biggest fan. He didn’t like us to be separated and would ask a hundred times for the missing person until they returned. He loved to go to school and church, and enjoyed being around all the other kids. Micah never met a stranger.
I suspect Micah was born with hydrocephalus. However, he was never shunted. His head was larger than normal (which I grew to love). We brought him to the Neurosurgeon once we adopted him. She said his head grew to accommodate the extra fluid. Subsequently, the problem had resolved itself so no need for a shunt. Micah’s hydrocephalus was maintained for years, and he lived a relatively normal life (with some developmental delays).
Then, one day he began having symptoms that were intermittent. We made him another appointment with the Neurosurgeon to follow up. She said “in my experience, hydrocephalus does not have good days and bad days”. She agreed something was going on and wanted to do an MRI, but it would be 3 weeks before she could do it. That was on a Monday in June 2021. That following Saturday, Micah symptoms suddenly worsened and he became unresponsive passing away July 2021.
Our time with Micah was cut way too short, but those were some of the best days of my life. I would adopt him again and again if I had it to do all over. He brought so much love, laughter, and joy to our family. We loved him so much and are so grateful for the time we had. He left a mark on our hearts that nothing can erase. He became known as Mighty Micah who not only left an impact on us, but on an entire community. I pray that Micah’s story inspires others to adopt a child with hydrocephalus, and provide a forever family to a child. I wouldn’t trade the time we had for anything, and I would do it all over again. Adoption can be scary especially when it’s international and there are so many unknowns. But at the end of that scary road, there is a sweet precious child longing to be loved. The simplest if things…love. I know Micah is in heaven singing in the angels choir and playing with all the other kids who left too soon. I know we will see him again and what a day that will be. Until then, I will strive to share his story and honor his memory in any way I can. Choose Joy. Choose Love. Choose adoption.
During this Hydrocephalus Awareness Month, we are humbled to honor Micah by announcing an MAA grant for children with hydrocephalus. The ‘For Micah’ grant is a $1,000 grant available to any eligible family who commits to adopting a child with hydrocephalus. To learn more about our programs, and eligibility, please complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form, or email email@example.com
We are so excited to be able to have our family picnic again this year! We have missed all of our MAA families and hope to see many of you there. Details below!
Sunday, August 8th, 2021, 1-4 pm CST Rochester Community Park (pavilion by the playground right off of Wild Rose Lane) Rochester, Illinois
Please bring your own food and drinks. We will provide activities for children (water balloons, bubbles, etc.). Come celebrate your family and connect with other adoptive families! Contact Misty or Bailey with questions (217) 498-9700
Why MAA Has Temporarily Stopped Accepting Applications for the China Program
This week MAA made the painful decision to pause accepting applications from families hoping to adopt from China. Travel to China for adoptive parents has been on hold since January 2020, so you may question why now stop accepting applications? And what does this mean for the future of the program? At the start of the Covid19 pandemic, no one could foresee exactly what was coming. As things changed, we at MAA made the best decisions we could with the information we had at the time, and updated families in the program and those inquiring accordingly.
At first, the adoption process all the way up until travel continued to move forward, so we were transparent with inquiring families about the halt on travel, but still welcomed them to apply. By July 2020, the CCCWA stopped issuing Letter Seeking Confirmation (LOA) and stopped releasing newly prepared files of children eligible for international adoption. As this came to light we advised families of these facts. For families who wanted to wait for referral of a young child we encouraged them to consider other programs where there was more movement, when they were eligible, but for families who hoped to adopt a specific waiting child we accepted their application, knowing they could still get through a good portion of the process and be closer to bringing their child home when travel finally reopened.
Then in the early months of this year 2021, we saw a massive slowdown in translating and reviewing dossiers, and finally this week learned that the CCCWA will no longer issue pre-approval for families who submit Letter of Intent for a specific child. Knowing that now families can get through so little of the process, it no longer seems wise or fair to accept families’ money, time and energy, even for those who understand the difficulties or hope to adopt a waiting child. This was not an easy decision, knowing how many children sit on the shared list waiting for a family. We want every child to know the love of a permanent family, but while the child is our primary client, we also have responsibility to look out for the welfare of our families.
As a final note, we want to emphasize that we consider this a pause, not a stop, because we continue to have faith that adoption travel to China will reopen. Chinese officials have emphasized to the US Department of State that they see the value of international adoption for children who can’t find adoptive families in China, the delay in adoption processing is due to the pandemic, and that they fully intend to reopen when they feel it is safe for the children to travel. So we have faith that this pause is just for now, and continue to look forward with hope to the day that families who have waited so long will be united with their children and we reopen the program to new applicants.
Despite the pandemic, adoptions continue moving forward in all of MAA’s other programs, including Colombia, Bulgaria, Thailand, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. If you are interested in adoption please complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form or email Lindseyg@madisonadoption.org to learn more.
MAA recently opened our newest adoption program in Thailand. While it is new to us, it is not new to Program Director Lindsey Gilbert, who previously ran a Thailand Adoption Program for almost five years. Here she shares more about the process and the children in need of adoption!
Thailand is a beautiful country, called the “Land of Smiles,” and when you visit it’s easy to see why! The people of Thailand are so friendly and welcoming, with warm hospitality and generosity. Like all countries, it has its challenges, and this includes vulnerable and orphaned children who are in need of adoption. MAA is partnering with the Thai Red Cross (TRC), a small children’s home in Bangkok that is part of a large hospital complex. The TRC provides comprehensive child welfare services, assisting families who are struggling to provide care for their children by connecting them with support. When the challenges a child’s parent is facing can’t be overcome, the TRC will see if any extended family can care for the child. If that isn’t possible, then at that point they will turn to adoption. While there is some domestic adoption in Thailand, there are still many children who do not find a family within their country and are in need of international adoption to provide permanency.
Families who meet the eligibility guidelines can submit their dossier to the TRC requesting the referral of a young child or toddler. The youngest children are around 12 months at time of referral, though most are 18-48 months. Families typically receive a referral within 1-2 years. From match to travel is about 7-12 months, and that long wait is probably the most challenging part of the program! Occasionally families slightly outside the eligibility guidelines may receive an exception from the adoption board, so inquire even if you are not sure you are eligible.
Children referred to waiting families are considered healthy by the TRC’s adoption board, however, most will have some background risk factors or minor concerns, as children coming from difficult history and living in an institution. The most common include: – Prematurity – Prenatal exposure (most commonly drugs, amphetamines or opiates, though this can also include tobacco or alcohol exposure) – Birth parents with mental illness or cognitive disability – Birth mother testing positive for HIV, syphilis, or Hepatitis – Respiratory issues/recurrent respiratory infections – Recurring ear infections – Medical needs that have been treated or resolved (hernia, undescended testicle, tongue-tie, heart murmur) – Mild developmental delays (speech, motor, cognitive)
There are also a small number of waiting children at the TRC, who have more complex medical or developmental needs, or may be medically healthy but older (age 7 and up). We see a range of special needs, but some of the common ones include heart defects, respiratory issues, cerebral palsy, ADHD, developmental delays and other neurological diagnoses. The children are not yet listed on our website, but contact us to learn more about the children we are advocating for! The adoption board considers families case by case for waiting children, and are open to matching waiting children with families who don’t meet all the eligibility guidelines.
Travel to Thailand is one trip, typically about 10-16 days, and both parents must travel. Adoptions are not finalized in Thailand, families must complete post-placements reports until 6 months after placement, and then can finalize the adoption in US courts.
While it is a small adoption program, it is a wonderful option for some families! Contact us to learn more about Thailand and whether it could be the path for your family. Email Lindsey or complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to learn more!
We are so grateful to share this story with you all. Mia is an adoptee from China, and has written about her experience searching for her birth family. We hope it will encourage other families and adoptees as they consider if and when to search.
As an adoptee, one question people always ask me is, ‘do you know who your real parents are?’ What they mean, is, do I know who my biological parents are. For me, and other adoptees I’ve spoken to, our ‘real’ parents are simply our adoptive parents, and the parents who are blood related are our ‘biological parents / birth parents’.
Growing up, I had always thought about my birth parents, but the idea of ever finding them never entered my mind. Why not? Because of the situation in my birth country, China. I knew there was a strict One Child Policy in place, which was most likely why I was given up, and I also knew that China was, and still is, the most populated country on earth. Therefore, the possibility of finding birth parents seemed impossible.
However, when I was 18, I decided not to focus on the impossible and began the process of searching. I wanted to see if I had any birth family out there, whether it be parents, siblings, cousins – just anyone biologically related to me. For me personally, I realized that I didn’t want to look back in years to come and regret not having done anything to search for my birth family. Even though the chances of me finding anything was very low, I wanted to know that I had at least tried. So that is what I did. Firstly, I told my parents, who were very supportive and understood why I wanted to search. (I also have an older sister adopted from China, and my decision to search also encouraged her to do the same) As a family, we ordered DNA kits from Ancestry and 23AndMe. Unfortunately, there were no close matches, but I expected this. I also looked on Facebook to see if there were any groups for Chinese adoptees, and to my surprise, I found a group dedicated to birth parent searching in my province, as well as a group for adopted children from my orphanage and many more groups! It was through these groups I realized there was a large community of adoptees and adoptive parents who were also searching for birth family. I soon came across a well recommended searcher in China, who had successfully found birth parents. We hired her to conduct a search for me, and gave her the little information I had about my birth, (where I was abandoned, who found me, my foster parents). The searcher then went to my area, hung up searching posters, and found my foster parents and the man who found me. I received a package from the searcher containing many photos, souvenirs, and letters from the people they found.
Around a year later, my family and I made the trip across the world to China where we continued our search. I was very nervous about going back as I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once we arrived in the area I was from, we met with the searcher and within the hour, he had arranged for me to meet my foster parents. We went for dinner with them, and they were very friendly. There was a language barrier, as I don’t speak Chinese, nor do they speak English, but luckily our searcher also acted as a translator. Originally, I believed that I was fostered outside of the orphanage, like my sister had been, however after speaking with the foster parents, I found out that I was ‘fostered’ within the orphanage, and they looked after many babies there.
Over the next few days, we met my sister’s foster mother and hung up many searching posters in both of our areas. We covered much ground and hung up posters in public places such as the bus station, inside the busses, noticeboards, lampposts and more. Many people crowded around our posters, and spoke to us, wondering if we were the daughters they had left. There was one instance where we hung up my poster in a food market when an old woman came up to my mother and I, in tears. She told us that she had left a baby long ago, and then gave us a hug. She thanked my mother for looking after me. It was a sweet, yet sad moment and another reminder of all the pain that many birth parents had suffered.
A big part of the trip was meeting the man who found me. We met him and his family, who were kind to us and we ended up seeing them five different times whilst we were there. One night, we were invited to their home for dinner. After we ate, they took us to the town square, where there was to be dancing. However, no dancing happened and instead, my sister and I were surrounded by well over 100 people who were curious about us. We handed out our searching posters, and I had all these strangers taking photos of me, grabbing my wrist to look for birth marks and asking me questions. This lasted for over an hour, and even the police came out to see what the commotion was about. It was fantastic exposure for me; however, it was also a sad reminder that so many people in China had been separated from their babies and had no idea where they were.
My sister and I also were interviewed by the local news station. They filmed us and our parents in the park, as well as doing a sit-down interview, asking questions such as, ‘Why are you back in China?’ ‘Why do you want to search?’, ‘What would you like your birth parents to know’. The interview was then broadcast onto WeChat, where tens of thousands of people in the area saw it. Interestingly, there were comments under the news piece. Some people wished us luck, whereas others were angry that we were trying to search. They thought we should be grateful for being adopted, and not try to search. It was hard to read comments like this, however I had to remind myself that the people who thought like that, were most likely people who had the privilege of knowing their biological family and their background. As well as being on the news, we also went to the police station where we gave our blood to be processed into their database, and if a DNA match was found, they would contact us.
Whilst out there, we had many people get in touch via WeChat to see whether we were related. We even met up with 2 different families. One of the families went to the police station to give their DNA, which was very brave, however they turned out not to be my birth family. A hurdle we faced was that many of the birth parents were unsure of when they left their children. They didn’t know the exact month, or even year in many cases. However, we were sure to keep in touch with them and left China with many contacts. My mother was even able to find the biological daughter of one of the birth parents we met out there.
It has now been over a year since we were in China. Unfortunately, I haven’t found my birth parents yet, but I am still in contact with my foster parents and finder, via WeChat. I am eager to go back and continue searching.
Maybe one day when I go back, I’ll find them. Maybe I’ll open an email from 23AndMe saying that a close relative match has been found. Or maybe none of that will ever happen, but I haven’t given up hope. If anything, the search gave me more hope as I realized just how many birth families were looking for their birth children. Everyone we had spoken to had either left a child or knew someone who had. I am very thankful that I was able to go there and search. Being in China, and walking through the area where I was born allowed me to connect to my past in a way I had never been able too. Even though I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I feel like I found a part of myself.
Thank you again to Mia for sharing your story with us! For families interested in learning more about searching for birth family in China, read the previous post by Erin Valentino of Nanchang Project where she gives advice on how to get started.
That title was hard to write. Two simple words that mean so much. Here at Madison Adoption Associates we take advocacy very seriously. It is so very often life or death for these children, and the advocacy work we do over the course of several months can mean a whole different forever for a child. We rejoice each and every time we find a family for each and every child we advocate for!!! So when we find ourselves having to advocate for a child again who we had previously rejoiced for, it is a hard pill to swallow. But we do it. We press on. And we advocate again. Because he is worth it. He is worthy of a family. And worthy of a forever.
You may recall The Best Update I’ve Ever Seen. And if you don’t, go read it. Now. And meet Seth. This kid is amazing. Smart, funny, kind, loves reading, especially Harry Potter! Likes math, doesn’t so much like learning English….but he’s trying! He has expressed that he wants to be adopted, specifically by an American family. And he came so close to living out this dream! But then the pandemic hit, and for reasons having nothing to do with him, he no longer had a family. So we are advocating. Again. And we will continue to advocate again and again and again, until we find Seth his family. Because he is worthy.
Seth is 11 years old, with his only medical special need being a possible inguinal hernia. If you are interested in learning more about Seth, and about the China adoption process, please complete our Prospective Adoptive Parent form, or email LindseyG@madisonadoption.org.