Down syndrome adoption. It sounded terrifying. There was NO WAY we were equipped to parent a child with Down syndrome. We both work full time and were just a typical family. Other than being teachers, we did not have a lot of experience with special needs. We also already had 3 very active boys (ages 12, 7, and 3) who were hard enough to keep up with some days. Adding a child with possible lifelong needs, multiple therapies, and learning disabilities was what everyone seems to hope their children DON’T have to endure. We couldn’t possibly consider this.
But the need was there. The need IS there. And it is HUGE. These children are so very worthy of love and a family. They have so much love to give in return. To know someone with Down syndrome is to know unconditional love. After seeing all of the sweet faces being advocated for, I could no longer say no. Without families stepping forward, their futures are bleak. The possible lifelong needs, the therapies, and the academic struggles no longer seemed like such a burden. Saying “no” suddenly became way more scary than saying “yes.”
We adopted Meilyn Joy, our 2 year old daughter with Down syndrome, from China in August 2019. She is an incredible blessing to our family. Our hearts melted the moment we met her, and we knew without a doubt that she was meant to be ours. She is sweet, hilarious, easy going, and smart. Seeing her meet milestones and experience new things fills us with more pride and happiness than we ever knew was possible. She loves her 3 older brothers, and they absolutely adore her too. I actually worried about how adding a child with Down Syndrome would affect our other children. But I truly believe that she has already and will continue to make them better human beings. They are more patient, empathetic, and selfless because of her. They see others with different abilities and now realize, that like their sister, they are really more alike than different too.
Our world has suddenly become so much brighter because of Meilyn, and we are excited to see how many more lives she touches. Her future is so bright and we can’t wait to see all of the things she is going to accomplish in life. We are so thankful that we said yes. WE are the lucky ones to get to be her family and we can’t imagine life without her.
In celebration of National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Madison Adoption Associates is pleased to be able to offer a grant of $1,000 to any family who applies, contracts, and commits to adopting a child with Down syndrome during the month of October. Please email email@example.com for more information.
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 “Laurel’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 “yes!”, 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. We are happy to offer a special grant of $1,000 in celebration of Spina Bifida Awareness Month. Any qualified family who applies, contracts, and commits to adopt a child with Spina Bifida during the month of October will receive the grant, in addition to MAA’s regularly available grants. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
While adoptive parents frequently share their stories, we don’t often hear from another family member who is obviously impacted by adoption- siblings! MAA is grateful to Jase sharing his perspective on his parents adopting his younger sister from Colombia, read on to hear about his experience…
1.What did you think of the idea of having an adopted sister when your parents first brought it up? I really didn’t think my parents adopting would have a huge impact on me because I live so far from them, but I was so wrong. Even though there is a 10 year age difference between my sister and I, we’ve bonded and talk about life all the time. I’ve learned a lot about the world from her and look forward to seeing her when I get to see my family.
2. What were you most worried about? What were you most excited about? Living across the country from most of my family, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to build a relationship with my sister while she grew up, but we’ve been able to spend time together and communicate over all kinds of technology and social media. Bonding has been so much easier than I expected. When I met Angie, she couldn’t speak any English and I spoke extremely little Spanish, so our communication had to be pretty straight forward through translating apps or yes/no questions. I was so excited for both of us to grow in our language skills to actually communicate and get to know one another. She has definitely done a better job than I have of catching up to the language barrier, but it is so awesome now to have actual conversations about things that would have just been vague gestures before. Plus, she is constantly helping me learn a new language now, which is special for a younger sibling to get to teach something so important to her older brother.
3. What is your relationship like with your adopted sister? How has it developed from when you first met her? I was surprised by how naturally a relationship with my sister developed. It took a lot of time, of course, but I can relate to her now just like I do with my other siblings. She does a great job keeping up with her three grown brothers and sister in conversation and thinking about life, and we can tell that she wants to relate to us just like we want to relate to her. I do think Angie was skeptical of me when we first met, just because I can be so different from the rest of my family who she relates to well, but through visiting my home, meeting my partner, interacting with each other from across the country, and doing activities that she really enjoys, our relationship feels naturally like a brother and sister now.
4. How has adoption impacted your life? Adopting a sister has expanded my family and changed the dynamic of how we relate to one another. I wasn’t expecting much to change for my siblings and I, with three grown kids out of the house and living in different areas of the country, but Angie brings such a center to us all. We try new languages, foods, and games that she shows us. We talk about and explain concepts like politics and faith that we may not have before. And we have to keep up with a teenager who loves sports and the outdoors. Angie has changed how we do things and what we decide to do, but it all feels natural now, like we were just missing a member of our family before.
5. What would you tell other young adults who are about to have an adopted sibling for the first time? It takes a lot of time, but it does all come together naturally in the end. It was so hard not to try to force a relationship or overwhelm my sister with attention, but I am glad that we let things progress naturally because in the end, that is how a family comes together. Even for siblings like me who may be far from home, an adoption is still a huge blessing.
So many older children wait for adoption in every country MAA works in: Bulgaria, Colombia, China, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic, as well as Pennsylvania foster care. If you have considered opening your home to an older child, please contact us today or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to learn about the children waiting for families!
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 “picked” 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 “worthiness” to be part of a loving family? We decided to act upon what we considered the “greater 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 “burden” 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, “I 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 whole heartedly 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 $1,000 in celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Any qualified family who applies, contracts, and 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 email@example.com for more information.
International adoption is an ever-changing world; some changes happen quickly, even overnight, and others are slow, gradual shifts over years as culture and societal systems change in sending countries. In China, we have seen a steady progression in the past several years, where fewer young children with needs adoptive families typically consider “minor” are listed for international adoption, especially girls. This shift is happening for wonderful reasons, because children are more often able to stay with their biological families, and more families in China adopting domestically are open to considering special needs. Additionally, in December 2019 the Chinese adoption authority, the CCCWA, made a change to the method for matching children designated “dossier only” or “LID.” These are the children who are typically younger and have needs many families consider minor. Under the new system families may wait years to be matched with a child designated “LID,” so we are encouraging all families considering the China program to be open to the type of needs seen in “Special Focus” children. “Special Focus” children are the children the CCCWA considers harder to place for adoption, due to their age, special needs, or both.
We wanted to get an accurate picture of the children who are in need of international adoption in China currently, so we looked at the last twelve groups of newly prepared Special Focus children’s files, from February 2019 to July 2020. For this first set of statistics, we focused on younger children (listed for adoption before their sixth birthday), since these children are typically matched directly with waiting families, so it’s harder to get a sense of the what the most common special needs are by looking only at waiting children. Most children over six wait for a family, and if you are interested in adopting an older child we are happy to talk with you about the many waiting children!
Notes: We counted each child by their primary diagnosis, and did not list other special needs that are typically a direct result of that primary diagnosis (ie. a child listed with a brain abnormality diagnosis who also has an epilepsy diagnosis was only counted in the total for brain differences, since epilepsy is often a secondary diagnosis caused by their brain abnormality, a child diagnosed with spina bifida and hydrocephalus was only listed under spina bifida, etc). We did not note secondary diagnoses that are typically considered very minor, including hernia, undescended testicle, heart murmur, strabismus, etc. If a child had two apparently unrelated significant diagnoses, we counted both, but only counted the child once in the total number for their age/gender group. Since many of these children were matched directly to a family, we are not able to view the details of their files, and can only categorize as best we can given the basic information on the list of files from the CCCWA. Some additional notes about some of these special needs categories are below.
Down syndrome: Many of the children with Down syndrome had additional diagnoses, including heart defects, gastrointestinal issues, etc. We did not count any of these diagnoses in the other totals.
Heart defects: The majority of these children were only listed with the generic description “congenital heart defect,” so specific diagnoses were mostly unknown. That said, special focus children typically have more complex heart defects, including tetralogy of fallot, pulmonary atresia, complex dextrocardia, double outlet right ventricle, transposition of the great arteries, and single ventricle.
Gastrointestinal: This includes anal atresia/imperforate anus, jejunal atresia, intestinal atresia, necrotizing enteritis, pyloric stenosis, etc.
Developmental delay: We only counted children who did not have another significant diagnosis besides some type of developmental delay (motor, speech, cognitive, psychomotor, etc). Many children with other diagnoses also had secondary diagnoses of developmental delay of some type, these children were not counted in this category.
Brain Differences: This included a wide variety of diagnoses, including agenesis of corpus callosum, arachnoid cysts, widened septum pellucidum, cerebral dysplasia, enlarged ventricles, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, etc.
Urogenital: This includes hypospadias, ambiguous genitalia, micropenis, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, bladder extrophy, etc.
Cleft lip/palate plus 2nd need: While most children who are only diagnosed with cleft lip and palate are designated LID/”dossier only,” there were many Special Focus children who had cleft lip and/or palate along with one or more other diagnoses, so it’s still a need parents should research and consider. Many of the children had needs commonly associated with cleft lip/palate, such as hearing loss or speech delays, others had different birth defects, such as a heart defect or microtia, that could indicate an underlying genetic cause.
Limb Differences: Many children were only listed as “limb differences” so the specific diagnosis is unknown, others included one leg being shorter, missing fingers and toes, and hand deformity.
Partial Vision Impairment: includes glaucoma, cataracts, ptosis, and loss of vision in one eye. Some of these children may be fully blind, it’s unknown without seeing their full files.
Other: Each of these children was the only child with their diagnosis, includes diabetes, widened button hole/low nose root, teratoma, neurocutaneous syndrome, leukemia, spinal muscular atrophy, myocardial enzyme, skull malformation, and Rett syndrome.
Liver: Most of these children had biliary atresia or similar diagnoses, one child diagnosed with hepatocele
Skin: Includes nevus, epidermis bullosa, eczema, ichthyosis, and scars.
Esophageal/Trach: Most of these children had esophageal atresia
Orthopedic: Includes scoliosis, missing ribs, and hip dysplasia
Kidney: Includes hydronephrosis, missing or malformed kidney
Happily Ever After. We all know what it means.
We all know not everyone gets theirs. But we also know we only do the job
we do for the kids who wait with that goal in mind. So that they can find
their Happily Ever After. And one of the hardest questions we face – why
is it for some that when you think they’ve made it to the After, they then find
themselves still in the Before?
Meet Elizabeth. She is 13-years-old and was
internationally adopted and is now in the US, in what everyone involved had
hoped and assumed was her Happily Ever After. But it isn’t always that
easy, and she is once again waiting.
Elizabeth has successfully learned English, loves to read,
and loves listening to music, especially Christian. She loves to go
rollerblading, and enjoys all watersports including knee boarding.
Elizabeth likes playing soccer, and did very well as part of a team sport.
Elizabeth should be the youngest or only child in the family. She will need a family who will be her best advocate, and secure all possible resources that she will need in order to thrive. To respect her privacy, we have chosen not to share her photo publicly. If you are interested in learning more about Elizabeth, please submit our Prospective Adoptive Parent form and we will be in touch.
Madison Adoption Associates has always focused on finding families for waiting children, so we were surprised when our NGO partner in Bulgaria encouraged us to have families submit their dossiers requesting referrals of children with Down syndrome, instead of requesting to be matched with a waiting child. But once they explained their reasoning, it made so much sense.
First, it’s important to understand what we mean when we say “waiting child”- a waiting child is simply a child who has been deemed eligible for adoption, but when adoption authorities in the child’s country reviewed families with completed dossiers, none of those families were open to a child of that age and gender, and with their particular medical or developmental diagnoses. So instead of being referred to a family, the child is listed with adoption agencies who will advocate and try to find a family who will start the adoption process in hopes of adopting that child. Nothing is inherently wrong in this process, but as our partner NGO explained, there are a couple reasons the referral process can be better for both families and children.
Waiting children with Down syndrome are periodically listed in Bulgaria, and usually pursued quickly by a family who steps forward and starts the adoption process from scratch, but when a family has already submitted their dossier before being referred a child, it’s a much shorter time until that child comes home. For families, this means less time between seeing your child’s face, and holding them in your arms. More importantly, for children, this means less time spent in an institution, and a quicker path to their family. In Bulgaria, for example, when pursuing a waiting child it takes about one year from the time a family starts their home study until traveling to complete the adoption, but for a family who has already submitted their dossier, after receiving a referral the first trip is done within one month, and the second trip to pick up their child is 3-4 months later.
So instead of families waiting until they see a child with Down syndrome on the waiting child list before they start the adoption process, MAA and our NGO partner hope to find families to submit their dossier to Bulgaria. Then we can see more children matched before getting to the waiting child list, and home with their families sooner. For young children with Down syndrome, those months saved mean they are in their families receiving medical care, physical and speech therapy, and devoted attention that much sooner, at a time that is so crucial for their health and development.
In some ways, this route is harder on families; you are taking a leap of faith without seeing a specific child, and waiting for the day you get the phone call that there is a child who needs you. But think of it this way- you are giving your child a gift. You are doing the waiting for them, so they don’t have to wait on you. If you are open to adopting a child with Down syndrome, consider whether this could be the path for your family to bring a child home, and take that first step forward knowing your child is out there, and you’ll be waiting for them when they need you.
For families who submit their dossier open to Down syndrome, our NGO will charge the waiting child fee (6600 Euros) instead of the typical fee for the traditional program (8000 Euro), and at time of dossier submission only 600 Euros are due. Families can expect to receive a referral approximately one month after dossier submittal. Couples, single women and men age 25 and older are eligible to adopt from Bulgaria. There are no specific criteria for marriage length, family size, finances or health. Email LindseyG@madisonadoption.org or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist!
I have known Ashton since 2014. We were together at our orphanage in Northern China (at Shepherd’s Field). He was one of my four closest friends and I felt like he was my brother. I have always hoped that he could find a family. He has been in the orphanage for a long time. He has watched so many friends get adopted. When I got to our orphanage he had just lost another friend who had been adopted. He was so sad.
I had heard that Ashton couldn’t get paperwork, and when I found out that he could finally be adopted, I was so happy! Ashton is a kind boy and he is really cute. He always just wanted to live a normal life.
I know that he would be happy to be in a family and he really wants one. It really is a big dream for him.
Love his friend, Xinlu/Vicki
MAA is advocating for Ashton (known as “Luke” at his foster home, Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village), a 13 year old boy waiting in China. Through his foster home he received desperately needed heart surgery last year, but he still needs a family to give him the love and support every child deserves. Thanks to generous donors we are able to offer a $5000 grant for a family that adopts him through MAA. Email LindseyG@madisonadoption.org or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to learn more about Ashton and adoption!
Two weeks ago a Colombian children’s home contacted MAA, along with the other agencies they work with, with a desperate plea: to help find a family for a sweet fifteen-year-old girl who was running out of time. Maya was hosted in the US last year and had an adoptive family in process, but for reasons that had nothing to do with her, the family had dropped out. She needed a new family who could complete the homestudy, dossier, and file I-800 by November, or she would age-out of adoption eligibility. The iapa staff raved about what an amazing kid she was, saying she’s “100 out of 100,” one of the best kids they ever had!
We put out the plea, as did other agencies, and within 24 hours had multiple families inquiring! Thankfully a family at another agency stepped forward almost immediately and submitted Letter of Intent, and Maya should have a family in time. We were so relieved. When we told the families who had been interested in her they were all happy for her, but when we said we’d love to share about the other children in danger of aging out who still wait for families… no one was interested.
I understand how a particular child can grab your heart, and children are people, not replaceable or interchangeable, but Maya is just one of thousands of children waiting for a family, one of hundreds who will age-out of adoption eligibility in the coming months. If Maya’s story touched you, surely it’s possible that another child could too? Another face could call out to you saying “Are you my family?”
Maybe it’s Harriet, just a few months younger than Maya. She likes to play soccer, basketball, and swim at the pool, but also enjoys just watching movies- all things she should be doing with her own family! Even though she missed out on two years of school, she is motivated to study and learn. She was supposed to come to the US for hosting this summer, her best chance of finding an adoptive family, but due to the coronavirus hosting was cancelled, and Harriet continues to wait for someone to see her.
Or maybe it’s Edward, whose face we can’t even post here due to his country’s regulations, but who has the brightest smile. His heart is to help and serve, and he often spends hours in the kitchen helping the cooks prepare the food and serve the children their meals. He never complains about dishes or chores assigned to him and genuinely does his very best. A gentle soul, he would never hit another child, and there have even been instances where another child has picked a fight with him and he has stood quietly, without retaliation. He is amazing at Zumba and putting dance steps to any song or beat. He likes to have discussions and talk about life rather than play or fool around like other boys his age. The older he gets, the more anxious he is that he may not get a family, but he still has hope that he could have a mother and father that will love and value him. Though he has until April for a family to file I-800, his country process moves very slowly so a family must be found very soon, or he will run out of time.
Or what about Brennan? He helps younger children in the orphanage to get food and wash their bowls. Once he found a hurt sparrow on the way home from school and brought it to the orphanage medical staff to see if they could help. He was due to age-out of adoption eligibility in October, however, due to upcoming changes in China’s adoption laws he has likely gained two more years to find a family. But while we celebrate this news, we also acknowledge that he has already been waiting almost four years for a family. MAA has already advocated for him three times! Will more time make a difference for him? Or will it just be two more years of waiting only to still age out, without the permanency, stability, and support of a family?
Maya is a wonderful girl, but children shouldn’t need to be
a perfect “100 out of 100” to get a family. They don’t earn a family by being
good, they deserve a family because they are a child. Each of these kids will
bring their family joy and challenges, but first they need someone to take the
chance to bring them home- before it’s too late.
They came on a hosting trip two summers ago. They had the time of their lives. And after many months of advocacy, a family
was found through another agency. All
was right, and their happy ending was coming.
Fast forward several months, and we come to find out that the family
backed out (nothing having to do with these sweet girls!). How did we find out you ask? Her Plea.
Her heart wrenching, emotional plea.
Teresa managed to reach out to her previous host Mom, begging her to
help find her and her sister, Tia, a family.
We will not share Teresa’s exact words with you, because those belong to
her and her alone. But what we can say is
that after hearing of her plea we immediately snapped into action. So now it is our turn to make a plea. As no 15-year-old should ever have to make
that desperate plea themselves. On
behalf of Teresa and Tia, please, share this post far and wide. Help us find a family so Teresa never has to
make another plea for one again.
Teresa (15 ½) and Tia (12) are sweet, bonded sisters who are physically healthy. Tia does have some cognitive delays, and both have experienced trauma in their past. These sisters want nothing more than to be chosen, to be loved, and to be cherished by a family. We know their family is out there! Please help us find them! Teresa and Tia’s host Mom is happy to chat with any eligible, interested family to share about their experience hosting these precious girls.