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Statistics: Special Needs of Special Focus Children in China Age 0-5

Statistics: Special Needs of Special Focus Children in China Age 0-5

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?

Happily Ever After?

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.

Wait For Your Child, So They Don’t Wait For You: Down Syndrome Adoption in Bulgaria

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!

It Really Is a Big Dream

It Really Is a Big Dream

Dear Madison Adoption,

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!

There Are Hundreds of Mayas

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?”

Harriet

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.

Brennan

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. 

Just some of the hundreds of children who will “age out” of adoption in the next two years: Elise, Hudson, Luna and Lily, Davie, Mahlia, Brennan, Timothy, Ruby, Cyrus, Orlando, Harriet, Ryan

Interested in learning more about older children waiting for adoption? Email Lindsey Gilbert, or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form today!

Her Plea

Her Plea

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.

Tia and Teresa are available for adoption from Colombia. Interested in learning more about Tia and Teresa, and about Madison Adoption Associates? Please complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form and an Adoption Specialist will be in touch with you!

June is Apert Awareness Month

June is Apert Awareness Month

June is Apert Awareness Month!  In honor of these amazing children, we are thrilled to be able to offer a $1,000 grant to any eligible family who commits to adopting a child with Apert in the month of June!  Apert syndrome is a genetic disorder characterized by craniofacial differences, as well as often syndactyly of fingers and toes. 

Over the years, Madison Adoption Associates has found forever families for several children with Apert syndrome  – one those families is the Singleton family!  And we are honored to have Amie share her experience with you all about adopting a precious boy from China who just so happens to have Apert syndrome.

Thank you Amie, Jean, and James!!

Please ‘meet’ Ramona, Harley, and Daisy. Three amazing children who do not let having Apert syndrome slow them down! These kiddos are full of life! The only thing they are lacking is a family.

Harley (8) & Daisy (7)
Ramona (7 1/2)
Harley (8)
Daisy (7)

Interested in learning more about Harley, Daisy, Ramona, and other children with Apert syndrome available for adoption? Please complete our Prospective Adoptive Parent form to learn more! Or visit our website for more information.

Now We Are Six

Now We Are Six

Last night, my daughter fell asleep on my chest. Maybe not all that notable, except that she’s not a baby, she’s six years old. She still needs my husband or I to stay with her until she falls asleep, but last night she crawled on top of me, stomach to stomach, head on my chest, and fell asleep. It was so very sweet (though difficult to escape from!), but mostly, it reminded me how very little she still is. I get at least one piece of artwork from her every day, usually a picture of our family. She loves to hold hands and snuggle. Her favorite outfits these days are too-big t-shirts from her dad’s childhood, paired with jeans so she can stick her hands in her pockets and proclaim “Look, I’m Daddy!” as she struts around the room. When her dad and I both join in a silly dance game with her, she positively beams up at us, so happy just to be with her family. I’m often struck by how much she’s growing up, but truly, six years old is still so little. Six is running in the sprinklers, building forts, playing with baby dolls and believing in magic.

When I talk with adoptive families, they often want to adopt a younger child, and in many people’s minds “younger” seems to end at five years old. But six-year-olds still very much need their mommies and daddies, and there are so many six-year-olds who don’t have any. All these six-year-olds are still waiting for families. Some have only been listed for adoption recently, but many have been waiting since they were younger and still haven’t been chosen. Now they are six- “older,” in the eyes of many, but with so much childhood still to have. They just need a family to share it with.

Top Row: Atticus, Dominic, Evelyn, Sherman
Middle: Coco, Thatcher, Davis, Eric
Bottom: Peyton, Marc, Rece, Lyric
Top: Zavier, Jackson, Marigold, Birger
Middle: Wallace, Cecelia, Davis, Phoenix
Bottom: Carlin, Sean, Jed, Lucio

Interested in learning more about adoption or one of these waiting children? Complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent Form to connect to an Adoption Specialist, or email LindseyG@madisonadoption.org.

Madison’s Story

Madison’s Story

One family’s journey adopting a child with Scoliosis

Since June is scoliosis awareness month, it seems only fitting to introduce you to Madison. Not because she has scoliosis, but because she is a person whose spirit shines despite scoliosis. Madison was adopted from China about 4 years ago. Her story is like so many others who have been fortunate enough to have Madison Adoption Associates involved in their adoption journeys.

Madison had been on the shared list as a young girl, but was taken off that list because she was seen as “unadoptable”. Not only was Madison’s scoliosis severe, but it was complicated by a muscular dystrophy that left her in a state where any mobility at all was severely limited. Fast forward many years and Madison Adoption arrives to advocate for hard to place children. Our Madison was not on the list of kids to be interviewed, but the team saw her in the periphery, were drawn to her smile, and inquired about her. They took a personal interest in her and convinced the staff that she was indeed adoptable and they would find her a family.

Madison came home to us and her 16 siblings not long after that. She is a sassy, loving, considerate and strong individual. Her scoliosis was of utmost concern as it was so severe it had already caused most of her left lung to collapse. Her scoliosis put her in a position where any activities of daily living were impossible, and it left her at a level where she could not engage in life on the same level as others.

Surgery for scoliosis was not taken lightly. There were many unknowns and many factors to consider. Foremost in our minds was quality of life for Madison – that included physical quality of life as well as emotional and social quality of life. It was 2 years before we were able to get Madison to a place where she was physically strong enough to handle the major surgery.

Madison’s curve was the largest surgical  correction of its type that her surgeon had ever performed. Her plan of care was altered from the norm in order to give her the best chance for the fullest amount of correction. She entered the hospital and was placed in halo traction for 3 weeks. She underwent another surgery to release the muscles in her back and continued on traction for another 3 weeks. She then underwent rod and hardware placement to stabilize her back. She never lost her smile during all that time. We were looking forward to going home and getting our family back together, Madison missed her siblings more than anything.

However, there were complications. Madison had to be taken to emergency surgery for removal of the rods due to nerve damage. A few other complications occurred and Madison was starting to lose her smile for the first time ever. We consulted with doctors and determined a short reprieve at home with halo in place was what she needed. Family had become so important to her and she was missing that security so much. After 10 days at home we returned to the hospital once again to start the process over again. Since her back muscles had been released, she needed to have stabilizing hardware put in.  We could not just stop at this point in the journey. Madison was the smiling champion we knew her to be and sailed through the remaining time in the hospital. After almost 4 months in the hospital we came home with a much taller Madison who was able to engage in life like never before. She continues to thrive and build strength. Her smile only gets brighter.

We share our journey because we want to provide encouragement if you are considering adopting a child with scoliosis. Every case is different, but there is a person held up by that bent back that makes the journey so rewarding. One of the greatest rewards of adoption is having the privilege to watch your child grow and become the person they were created to be, and sometimes that happens through the challenges they face. It was so apparent that having a family to support her through the most difficult parts was what gave Madison the strength and motivation to endure. She fills our life with such joy and inspires each of us to live better lives as we watch her live a life full of joy despite her physical challenges.

Thank you to Madison and the Bernadsky family for sharing their journey! In honor of June being Scoliosis Awareness Month, Madison Adoption Associates is pleased to offer a $1,000 grant to any qualified family who commits to adopt a child with Scoliosis during the month of June. Please complete our Prospective Adoptive Parent form today to learn more about our adoption programs and the children who wait, like Quaid and Legend below!

Quaid – 10
Legend – 8

It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village

So often, a specific child touches the heart of one of our staff, and that staff member makes it their number one priority to do whatever they can to find the perfect family for that child.  Don’t get me wrong, ALL waiting children are our priority – we wouldn’t be in this work if they weren’t!  But for each of us, there are several children who, over the years, stand out in our minds.  Several that really imprinted on our hearts, and will stay there forever.  For me, the tears of joy were indescribable once ‘Max’ and ‘Jayne’ came home!  But the tears shed for ‘Lizzie’ were much different, as, despite our best efforts, she ran out of time to find a family.  At the end of the day, it is the tears and the passion from both outcomes that urge us to keep pressing on for the next child.  To keep marching forward, and to keep doing ALL we possibly can to get even just one.more.child home to a forever family.

‘Doing ALL we possibly can’ looks different for every child and every agency, especially in the midst of a global pandemic!  Once we have exhausted every single thing we know to do, we must sometimes think outside of the box.  So when we received the email from our colleagues at Agape, or rather, the plea, on behalf of Harry, to help advocate, to jump alongside them to collectively do ALL we possibly can to find this boy a home, we didn’t hesitate.  Not even for a moment.  Because it doesn’t matter what agency.  It doesn’t matter who finds a family for him.  ALL that matters is that his family IS found.  Before it is too late.

Harry is a sweet boy, who will ‘age-out’ of China’s child welfare system in October of this year, losing his last chance at a family.  He loves fried chicken, steak, and hamburgers (a boy after my own heart!).  And he’s very interested in learning how to cook.  From those who have met him, Harry has been observed to be very helpful and attentive towards others.

Harry (formerly Hudson with MAA) is waiting in China.  He is 13 ½ years old, and will ‘age-out’ in October.  Harry’s file is currently with Agape, and there are grants available to the qualified family who commits to adopt him.  Please contact myriam@agapeadoption.org or lindseyg@madisonadoption.org for more information about this precious boy.  Or feel free to complete and submit our Prospective Adoptive Parent form and an Adoption Specialist will be in touch to discuss your international adoption options!