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Searching for Birth Family: Nanchang Project

We are so grateful to be sharing this piece today from Erin Valentino, co-founder along with Faith Winstead of Nanchang Project, an NGO working to connect adoptees from China with their birth families and culture, along with other educational and awareness work about the complexity of adoption in China and internationally.

Our first article in a Chinese newspaper was published after our press conference in 2018.

My name is Erin, and I am the co-founder of a nonprofit called “Nanchang Project”. Our goal is simple, to assist Chinese adoptees in reconnecting with their birth families in China. I, along with my friend and fellow adoptive mom Faith, started Nanchang Project in 2018 as a group video featuring 32 searching adoptees from just a single orphanage (Nanchang SWI, Jiangxi Province). The video went viral in China, and soon we were being interviewed by The Beijing News and being contacted by a well-known journalist who offered us a press conference if we were able to visit Nanchang in person. Within 6 weeks of the video premiering on Weibo (Chinese Twitter), we were on a plane to China. 

Tina, one of our volunteers, handing out flyers in a public park.

Since that time, we have added over 200 Jiangxi adoptees to our group, we have been able to provide free DNA testing to approximately 50 birth parents (from all parts of China), and we have assisted in 15 reunions. We believe it is a fundamental right for adoptees to have access to their roots. Our group is 100% volunteer-run by both adoptive parents and adoptees. We offer assistance with utilizing Chinese social media to increase searching efforts and free DNA testing for birth parents. Yearly, we visit China along with two adoptees (we have been able to cover the costs in full for our adoptee travel mates since 2019). These trips have become the soul of Nanchang Project. We spend each day of our visit meeting people in parks, markets, and squares, handing out posters, and hearing their stories. Our initiative has been covered by many major Chinese media outlets, including South China Morning Post, Tencent News, iFeng News, and Jiangxi TV. Phoenix TV featured our story in a two-part documentary that aired throughout mainland China (for those of us outside of China, the series can be viewed on YouTube). 

I have learned a lot in the years I have spent privately assisting my daughter with her search and since forming Nanchang Project. I will share with you some key takeaways for anyone who is considering searching but may feel overwhelmed by where to start. 

A birth father showing us a picture of his daughter, during the filming of our two-part documentary in 2019.

The Basics
The very first thing I recommend doing is gathering all of the documents you would have received in China, along with the adoption file sent to you by your agency. Have them retranslated. It wasn’t until I went back through our paperwork that I realized my daughter’s finder was listed by name. Things like this can easily be missed or forgotten if you haven’t read through it in detail. From there, I connected with others from the same orphanage (there are many Facebook groups dedicated to specific SWIs, cities, and provinces in China, join them!) to compare our information with other adoptees. Was the finding spot unique or were there many babies “found” there? Did my daughter’s note appear to be similar to other notes? Was our finder also listed in other adoptee’s paperwork? Comparing this info with others will help you draw a more realistic idea as to what you are working with.

Hiring a Searcher
Coming from a smaller town or village and/or if your information appears to be “unique” compared to others from your SWI, will increase your chances of success utilizing a private searcher. Typically, the searcher will visit the area you are from, they will try and make contact with the police officer who filed the paperwork, and they will try to contact your finder. They may attempt to check hospital records in the area, and they will most certainly hang posters in various public places. The price to hire a searcher will vary greatly, much of the fee is their travel costs as many searchers will search in any part of the country. I would expect to pay a searcher around $500-$800 for a 3 day search.

DNA Testing
While I know there are lots of different thoughts and opinions on doing DNA, ultimately a DNA test will need to be done in some manner as a way to confirm a biological connection. I will provide you with some basics to get started searching with DNA, and then it should be up to the adoptee how he or she would like to move forward. 

We held a DNA event during our 2019 trip. Multiple families showed up to test.

Two main types of DNA tests should be considered, the first one is known as a CODIS test in the US or STR DNA globally. This is a very simple test, similar to a paternity test. It works best for parent to child matches (although some sibling or other close relatives have been found this way) and is the most prevalent type of DNA test currently used in China. For any Chinese adoptee starting their search, I highly recommend obtaining this test. Currently, we are partnered with MyTaproot.org for CODIS testing. From their site, “MyTaproot is the first large-scale, internationally-coordinated effort to provide an opportunity for Chinese adoptees to potentially reconnect with their birth families”. In addition to MyTaproot, there are multiple localized family reunion efforts throughout China. Historically, these groups have focused on domestic cases, but as we have been able to bring greater awareness to the sheer number of children who’ve been adopted overseas, many of these groups have started welcoming International adoptees to join their databases as well. Currently, they all are working with the CODIS style test, so you will need this type of test to be added.

The second type of test is an autosomal test. This type of test takes a much larger sample and more complex look at the DNA and can provide biological relatives going back multiple generations. The most common autosomal testing company for Chinese adoptees is 23andMe. Doing this type of test will not only allow you the opportunity to potentially connect with siblings or cousins that were adopted but in some cases, birth parent DNA has been added there as well. *Please note, 23andMe does not operate in China, so you can expect that most of your matches in this database will be people living in various countries outside of China, mainly in America. Like all of the various CODIS databases existing in China, the same is true for autosomal tests. ICSA (https://www.icsachina.org/adoptees) has a detailed breakdown of all the places your DNA results can be added to, increasing your chances of success. 

Please keep in mind, although “surprise matches” do occur, most families are reunited by utilizing a mix of search efforts including hiring a searcher, visiting China to search in person, and Chinese social media, in addition to just doing DNA. 

Chinese Social Media
In the absence of being able to travel to China, utilizing social media can be a very powerful tool to help spread your search info quickly. I do recommend hiring a searcher first to conduct a private search (as finances permit of course), but there is no denying that social media has allowed us to connect quickly and conveniently with people all over the world. Most adoptees who utilize Chinese social media are using a few main apps including WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, and Youku. There are so many apps and platforms to look into, I couldn’t possibly list them all here, but these are some of the most popular ones to start with.

On a personal note, many of our matches with Nanchang Project originated from social media. In fact, our very first match occurred because someone shared one of our digital posters to a local WeChat group, and as luck would have it a family friend saw the girl’s info and thought it sounded a lot like their friend’s daughter. They sent the family the poster, and DNA was confirmed a few weeks later. After being separated for 20 years, it was just a single post to social media that helped reunite a family. Miracles do happen!

Our 2019 travel mates Rebecka and Julia were both featured in multiple newspapers and TV programs.

Cultural Expectations
One of the most common questions we get is, “Will there be legal ramifications for Chinese parents by coming forward”. No one can know for sure what the future holds, what I can tell you is, to my knowledge, there have not been any documented cases where this has happened. In fact, in recent years, China has really embraced these reunions. In 2017, all of China (like much of the western world) become swept up with Kati Pohler’s story, “Meet Me on the Bridge”. Since then, many reunions between adoptees and their birth families have been showcased both locally and nationally in the media. There is no doubt in my mind that Nanchang Project’s success is in part due to the changing public opinion of searching and reunion within China. 

Rebecka was swarmed with press when she visited her hometown during our 2019 trip.

Final Thoughts
Searching can take a huge emotional toll on you. Make sure you have a good support system in place both during and after your search efforts. It’s ok to take breaks as needed and start back up when you feel like you are in a good place to do so. Some people search for years, including visiting an area multiple times, going on TV, using social media, etc., before the right connection might be made. Some people get lucky with a single poster. Searching is not “one size fits all” and realistic expectations are important. It seems like most databases or searchers who are open to sharing their success rate, all sit at right around 10%. I also feel like this is a fair representation of what we’ve seen with Nanchang Project.

There are many Facebook groups dedicated to sharing information about searching in China. Many have existed for a number of years now and provide a wealth of information.

For general searching information, start with Family Ties: Chinese Adoptee Birth Family Search , from there you can connect with more regional based groups. If you happen to be searching in Jiangxi, please also join us in the Jiangxi Province Birth Parent Search Group.

Any searching adoptee needs to keep in mind, if a birth parent comes forward, even if the info doesn’t match yours, they are someone’s parent. Submitting DNA will increase their chances of success in eventually being reunited with their child(ren). Please refer them to our group so we may provide them with further assistance in locating their child, including a free DNA test.

To learn more about Nanchang Project’s work, or to donate to help keep DNA testing free for birth parents in China, please visit their website or connect with them via social media below:

NanchangProject.com
facebook.com/NanchangProject
IG: @nanchangproject
nanchangproject@gmail.com

Meet Willie – A Little Boy

He is 3, his favorite color is yellow, and he LOVES to dance.  He’s always up for an adventure, and loves to walk around and explore new places while carrying a bag on his shoulder.  Did I mention that he knows almost all of the emotions, and loves showing off by ‘showing’ them on his face – “Willie, show me happy.  Show me sad.  Show me scared.  Show me silly!”  This is who Willie is.  Just a little boy.  Who loves adventure, yellow, and dancing. 

But Willie isn’t just any little boy, he’s a little boy with a not-so-little medical diagnosis.  Willie has Diamond Blackfan Anemia.  He requires blood transfusions on a regular basis, and a bone marrow transplant is recommended so that he can live to his fullest potential.  His caregivers report that on transfusion day, Willie is noticeably more cheerful and full of life, as the procedure allows him to feel better and more energized.  He is ready to throw his bag over his shoulder and explore the city!  But Willie needs more in order to truly thrive.  He needs a Mommy and Daddy to sit with him during his transfusions.  He needs siblings to go on epic adventures with!  Willie needs a family.  He needs the love and support of a family to not only see him through his medical challenges, but to make sure he gets to be the little boy he deserves to be.  The dancing, silly, adventure seeking little boy!

Willie is waiting for adoption in a South American country. Interested in learning more about Willie and the adoption process? Email Lindsey Gilbert to learn more, or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent Form today!

Cancelled… Again

Top row: Lily, 17 and Luna, 15; Jordyn, 13; Nolan, 10, Nick, 8, and Noah, 5; Javier, 13.
Middle: Layla, 10; Roman, 15 and Reid, 12; Luisa, 12; Jago, 9.
Bottom: Antonio, 16, and Arlo, 9; Slade, 4; Maddox, 10, Miles, 9 and Mason, 5; Marko, 7

It was nine months ago that we cancelled hosting for summer 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak, heartbroken for the children but knowing the safety of all involved had to be at the forefront. We reassured ourselves “This time next year, this will all be a memory.”

Now here we are, almost a year later, cancelling summer hosting… again. Even after months of cancelling trips, weddings, school, and more, this stings afresh. We look at the faces of children from Colombia who we were preparing to host, and worry “will they still find an adoptive family?” Hosting has always been about finding families for the children who wait the longest for adoption: older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs. As a result of our last hosting session in 2019, every single child found an adoptive family! Hosting gave families a chance to get to know the child and prepare for when they come home forever, making sure they had the resources in place to parent well. Without that reassurance, will they still come forward, taking the leap?

It’s a question we can’t answer; only you can. This requires you to be brave. Adoption is always a step into the unknown whether you host your child or not, any family who has hosted will tell you they learned new things about their child after adoption. So we implore you, to dig deep and find the courage to say yes, even if it’s with a nervous heart and trembling hands. We will come alongside you and walk you all the way to the finish line of adoption and beyond, supporting you after you come home and start the hard work of becoming a family. 

As of this post the Colombia adoption process is open and moving forward. Travel to Colombia for adoptive parents is open at this time; no quarantine period is required, just negative covid testing before and after arrival. Colombian adoption authorities understand the importance of preparing children for adoption, and most families can Skype/Facetime with their child regularly leading up to the adoption. Our Post Adoption Support Specialist Adriana Chaves is from Colombia and fluent in Spanish, and is ready to support you and your child after you come home. View the children waiting for adoption here, and complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist and start the process to bring your child home!

More Than Numbers

38- that’s the number of children who came home to their adoptive families through MAA in 2020. Just half the number of children who came home the previous year. If that reduction were due to fewer children needing to be adopted, that would be good news, but unfortunately that is not the case. The reduction is due almost entirely to the coronavirus pandemic, mainly amongst families in the China program, where travel is still not open, though families adopting from every country were delayed, and many families are choosing not to start the adoption process during the pandemic, for understandable reasons.

So why even share the number when it’s so, well, small? Because it’s not just a number; it’s children.

22 siblings who were adopted together, keeping their connection.

14 children age 10 and older, when chances of adoption are so much lower.

12 children who were hosted, reunited with their host families.

38 children who had no permanency and stability for the future, now beloved sons and daughters.

When you see behind the number, the faces of the children whose lives are forever changed, it’s easy to celebrate 38. We would celebrate even one child gaining a family. So congratulations to the children and families who came together in 2020, and we look forward to celebrating all who come home in 2021.

Considering adoption in 2021? Email Lindsey Gilbert or complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with us today!

Brothers

Brothers.  It is one of the most special bonds there is.  And I get a front row seat.  I never thought I’d be ‘just’ a boy-Mom.  I always envisioned a girl in the mix, because, well, I know more about being a girl than I do about being a boy.  But here we are, me and my two princes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

One of the greatest things I love about being a Mom to boys has not so much to do with their ‘boyness,’ but everything to do with their brotherhood.  The bond these two share is stronger than anything I’ve ever seen.  They are best friends.  They are pals.  They are confidants.  They are soul mates.  They are BROTHERS.  Yes, they argue.  But at the end of they day, they each worship the ground the other walks on.  It is a beautiful thing to not just watch them grow, but to witness their bond get stronger and stronger with each passing year.

So while reading about Harris, Kallen, and Jacob, and seeing them in pictures and videos, I can’t help but be struck by their bond.  By their brotherhood.  The adoration they have for each other is so very apparent.  And that is why it is crucial that these boys, these brothers, stay together.  But that is only possible with a very special family.  A family rooted in Bulgarian culture.  A family who understands that the special, strong bond these boys have with one another may make it more challenging for adoptive parents to permeate.  But we know that family is out there.  And Harris , Kallen, and Jacob are hopeful they are too.

~~~~

Madison Adoption Associates is advocating for Harris (10), Kallen (14), and Jacob (11), who are waiting for an adoptive family. They are medically healthy, though do have some delays, likely as a result of their past.  They are very bonded with their foster families, so we are seeking an adoptive family with significant experience in older child adoption and trauma, as a difficult transition could be very possible.  We are also seeking a family with strong ties to Bulgaria and a thorough familiarity with the culture.  Please complete and submit a Prospective Adoptive Parent form if you are interested in learning more about these special brothers.

How You Can Support Post-Adoption Families and Adoptees

Dear Friend,
What a year it has been! We pray that you and your family have weathered this crazy COVID storm, and that this letter finds you and yours healthy. We surely are living through history, with the pandemic affecting every aspect of life, adoptions included. While many countries are allowing adoptive families to travel, others have not yet reopened, and our hearts break for the families and children waiting to be united. Despite the closures, despite the painful delays, and despite the unknowns, MAA remains dedicated not just to finding families for the children who wait, but supporting those families and children for life, and this is the reason I’m writing to you today.

We know that when an adoptive family finally meets their child, that’s not the end of the journey, it’s just the beginning. Attachment, culture shock, and challenging behaviors of all kinds are the norm for adoptive families, and the uncertainty of the pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges. Prior to the pandemic, we were already busy working behind the scenes to strengthen our post-adoption support for all of our families, and now that work is more needed than ever.

Over the past several years, we have recognized that the face of ‘the adopted child’ is changing. The children in need of adoption are almost all older, medically fragile, and/or sibling groups, all with histories of trauma, and families frequently need support and guidance to successfully emerge as a bonded family. Adriana Chaves initially joined the MAA team as the Hosting Coordinator, but as hosting became impossible this year due to covid, a new purpose emerged. Adriana has her master’s degree in Clinical and Family Psychology, so it was a natural fit for her to step into a new role as MAA’s Post-Adoption Wellness Therapist. She has been running virtual support groups for adoptive parents and adoptees, helping families identify needed resources in their area, and providing one-on-one post-placement support to families going through significant challenges. Additionally, she’s provided cultural education for families in our Colombia program, with 30 families attending her recent webinar on Colombian culture!

The Colombia Kids Group has been a great safe place for our daughter to socialize during these unusual times with kids just like her. She has been able to connect with children that she interacted with at her orphanage and has also been able to talk with other children with similar stories to her. It is a unique, friendly, no pressure group that she looks forward to participating in.

-Michelle, MAA Adoptive Mom

So on this Giving Tuesday, we are reaching out to ask for your help in supporting our mission to bring hope, love, and connection by serving children, individuals, and families in the areas of adoption, foster care, and support services. Thanks to a generous donation this summer, we were able to offer our post-adoption support groups to all families, whether they adopted through MAA or not, but for that work to continue and grow, we need donations to continue too. Visit our new donation page, and when you select “Post-Adoption Services” 100% of your donation will go to our work supporting post-placement families and their children. For those who can, please consider a recurring monthly donation, so we can consistently provide these essential services to any family who needs them!

From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of adoptive families and children, thank you for your consideration. We are all ‘in this together’, in more respects than one.

Please stay safe and God bless!

Sincerely,
Diana Bramble, MBA, LMSW
Executive Director of Operations

National Adoption Awareness Month: Adoptee Voices to Learn From

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and who better to share about adoption than adoptees? We’ve gathered a variety of resources from adoptee voices below, and encourage adoptive families to check some of them out, whether you’re in process for your first adoption or have been home with your children for years! Even when an adoptee is not from the same country as your child or of the same race, they will likely share some of the same experiences and feelings. Some of these voices will challenge you, as adoptees share their sadness and grief around their adoption, but we encourage you to sit with their experience and see what you can learn. These adoptees take the time to share their stories to help the next generation of adoptive families and adoptees.

Blogs/Websites

  • Red Thread Broken: Grace Newton was born in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, and adopted by an American family when she was three years old. Her site has myriad resources, including blog posts, film and book reviews, and more. Be sure to check out her recent post about using the game Jenga as a conversation starter with your child!
  • Lost Daughters– “Lost Daughters is an independent collaborative writing project founded in 2011.  It is edited and authored exclusively by adult women who were adopted as children… Our authors come from a variety of walks of life, world views, religions, political stances, types of adoption, countries of origin, and countries of residence. Our ages span from early 20’s to late 60’s. Although we cannot possibly cover every experience and perspective of adoptees on our blog, we try our best to provide insight on what it is like to live adoption from the adoptee perspective.”
  • Dear Adoption– Founded by Reshma McClintock, a transracial, intercountry adoptee from India, Dear Adoption accepts submissions from adoptees of all views and backgrounds to share their experience.
  • Only Black Girl– Rebekah was adopted domestically; she’s Black, her adoptive family is white. She writes about her experiences being the only Black person in her town, and shares the stories and experiences of transracial adoptees.
  • Therapy Redeemed– Cam Lee Small was trans-racially adopted from Korea. He holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed clinical counselor, focusing specifically on adoptees and adoptive families. He offers many resources online in addition to his counseling services, including workshops, and shares essays on a variety of topics.

Films

  • Found– After DNA tests reveal them to be cousins, three girls adopted by different American families travel to China in hopes of meeting their birth parents.
  • Closure– Angela Tucker is a Black woman, adopted by a white couple at one year old and raised in a large, multiracial family. Her adoption was closed, and this documentary follows Angela for two years as she searches for her birth family.
  • Side-by-Side– 100 short films, each interviewing one Korean man or woman who was either adopted internationally, or who aged out of orphanage care.
  • Somewhere Between– Filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowles adopted her daughter from China, and made this documentary to learn more about the experience of older adoptees. It follows four teenagers adopted from China to the US as children, as they journey back to China and attempt to understand their own identities and stories.
  • Lion– Based on the book (listed below) by Saroo Brierley, detailing his experience getting accidentally separated from his family in India at five years old, before being trans-racially adopted to Australia. Twenty-five years later he begins to search for his birth family.
  • Calcutta is My Mother– This documentary by Reshma McClintock tells her story of being transracially adopted by a family in the US, and many years later returning to the city of her birth, to try to connect to her roots and culture that she feels so distant from.

Books

Podcast/Youtube

  • Yes I’m Adopted, Don’t Make it Weird– Brett and Daveaux were both adopted from Korea, and have a ton of videos covering a wide range of topics, which they discuss with honesty and plenty of humor!
  • The Adoptee Next Door– Angela Tucker (of the film Closure, listed above) interviews adoptees of all different backgrounds on a variety of topics.
  • Adoptees On– hosted by Haley Radke, she talks with adoptees from different backgrounds as well as adoptees who are therapists to gain their expertise.

Social Media

We hope you enjoy and learn from these varied voices from the adoptee side of the adoption triad! If you have questions or want to discuss what you read reach out to your case worker or email us.

Max’s Story

In honor of October being National Visual Impairment Awareness Month, we are privileged to be able to share Max’s story! Thank you to Max and the S family!

The morning of March 19th, 2018 we had the amazing blessing of becoming the forever family of Max Xiaonan, who had fought, at his short age of 4 years old, a battle with cancer (bilateral retinoblastoma), he had won the battle but had lost one eye, his left eye.  He received numerous treatments, including systemic chemotherapy and doctors in China were able to save his right eye, though it was left with poor vision.

Our precious Max came home with us March 30, 2018 and we started the journey of becoming his new family, his new life. He is always smiling and happy! Asking all kinds of questions and wanting to touch and smell everything! Haha!

After getting adjusted a little bit we took Max to his first eye doctor appointment, which went well, the doctor said he could see there was something but couldn’t tell if it was scaring or something else, that Max needed to see a specialist and be checked under anesthesia.

The day was finally here…his first EUA (Examination Under Anesthesia)…as a side note when he was asked what kind of smell he wanted for his mask (they have different smells for the kids: bubble gum, strawberry, cotton candy, etc.) he said chicken!! I want chicken smell)..LOL.

Anyway the EUA was supposed to take 30 to 45 minutes but instead took 1 hour and 15 minutes and when the doctor came into the room he had two more people with him and their faces said it all…Max had 4 active tumors!  4!  And they were big ones!

Wait..what???..our son..the little one we just brought home??!..the one who barely understands English and is just learning to love his family?! The one who asks why daddy’s face is dirty because he doesn’t understand that men can grow a beard?! ..The one learning to eat cake? The one who can’t eat ice cream because is too cold?! Noooo! He can’t start fighting cancer again….not again!! He is only 29 lbs ..4 years old and 29 lbs! He can’t fight cancer when he is so tiny!

Well..here we go…July 30, 2018 we traveled to St. Jude in Memphis, TN, August 1st we got his second EUA, doctors couldn’t understand how he could even see because his eye was so damaged but they said they were going to do their best to save it as it was his only eye. They started treatment right away, they also ran tests looking to see if the cancer had metastasized, which it hadn’t , thank God!.

Every 10-14 days we went back to St. Jude in Memphis for treatment, or to the ‘Big House’ as Max calls it…because to him it just looks like a big house and it has toys everywhere, the nurses and staff love Max…he always has a smile or something funny to  say…oh!..always hungry..wanting to eat chicken and discovered St. Jude’s cafeteria tater tots! Ha! His favorite! The volunteer from the EUA playroom said she has never seen a kid as full of joy as Max, even when his eyesight was getting worse and worse he was still so happy and didn’t mind playing and just living his life to the best!

Unfortunately, September 19, 2018, yes, six months from Gotcha Day! We got some sad news, Max had some new tumors, these ones were looking really bad and the doctor was really concerned that the cancer could spread to the brain if we didn’t enucleate his remaining eye soon enough. Although the decision was really hard, we didn’t want to take the risk of metastasis so we scheduled the surgery for October 10th, 2018.

We went back home for the next two and half weeks and decided we were going to help Max experience everything we could and give him all the fun visual memories so that he could remember all that before going blind. With the help of family and friends he got to see a police car, fire station, fire trucks, went to Branson, MO and the amusement park, got on a monster truck, he saw a Christmas tree, we painted pumpkins, we celebrated his birthday (early) so he got to see his cake and blow his candles. He had so many good memories! We pray he will never forget them!

On October 10, 2018 Max had enucleation of his remaining eye, which left him completely blind, he has reacted amazingly well, he is as joyful and perky as he has always been! Nothing stops him! Not even a week after surgery he was bouncing and jumping around singing and praising God singing one of his favorite worship songs.

Although he has a few bad days, where he feels a little overwhelmed, the majority of the days are excellent, our child is teaching us that no matter the circumstances we have the choice to be happy and play or to stay in a corner and cry and even though doctors and experts have told us that we saved his life by adopting him, we believe that God brought Max here and in the right time for a reason and our son will show the world living his life as a testimony.

In celebration of National Visual Impairment 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 a visual impairement during the month of October.  Please email lindseyg@madisonadoption.org for more information.

Why Not Us?

An advocacy post on Facebook changed my life forever.

In the spring of 2016, God broke my heart for a little girl who was waiting for a family in China. She was precious – an adorably chubby baby sitting on the floor, arms stretched above her head, sweetest little joyful grin on her face. My heart shattered as I realized when she reached up to be held that there was no Mama (or Dada) to pick her up and love on her. This precious little one also happened to have Down syndrome.

Before her little face, we’d always talked about adoption. “Some day.” When we were more ready, when our children were older, when we had more money in the bank. Before her little face, I never thought that WE could say YES! to parenting a child with Down syndrome. Only “special” families were called to do something like that. We weren’t spiritual enough, rich enough, brave enough to walk that road.

After her little face, I began to wonder “Why not?” Why not adopt? Why not Down syndrome? If not US, who?

Many tears were shed, many prayers said on behalf of a little girl whose joy-filled face I could not forget. Were we missing out on our daughter? God eventually granted me peace through a dream that this little girl’s family would give her older brothers (something our family could not provide) and that she would be HOME. Over the years, I’ve continued to think about and pray for her.

A week before we left for China to meet our own darling girl, I connected with the Mama of the child God used to crack my heart wide open. She does, indeed, have a Mama and Dada. And two older brothers (and two big sisters to boot!) who love her dearly. I am so thankful that God orchestrated her story so beautifully. I will also be forever grateful that God used her face, and the idea of her, to change me and my family forever.

When you see the photos of little ones waiting for their families maybe you think the same things: “Not now!” or “Not me!” But maybe – just maybe – God will break your heart for that specific child, or one of the MANY other children, who waits.

We did not know anyone with Down syndrome before adopting. In fact, Cora was the first person with DS that we ever knew in person. I found so much support through online groups, where parents had already walked some of the roads we were about to take. There are so many groups, so many resources. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask to connect! Most families in “The Lucky Few” (because WE are the lucky ones!) would love to talk to you about raising a child with DS, or can point you in the direction for resources that may help you. Places to start: The Lucky Few Podcast, the Down Syndrome Adoption Questions Facebook group, or start following families or people with Down syndrome on social media!

The best thing about parenting a child with Down syndrome is getting to see the world from a new perspective. Cora has changed the way we think about almost every aspect of our lives. After our relationships with Jesus, getting the privilege of parenting her has been the next biggest catalyst for adding joy to our days, slowing down to appreciate the truly important things, and having a more eternal view of what our purpose is in this life we’ve been given!

On the flip side, the hardest thing about parenting a child with Down syndrome has been adjusting and responding to how the world views our child. Even though we thought we were prepared, there have been so many instances where I’ve been taken aback by people’s archaic, negative, or prejudiced views of people with Down syndrome. We knew we’d have to advocate for her in certain educational situations, but I’ve learned that advocacy is a day-in day-out process as we navigate the world. Helping others see beauty and worth where the world doesn’t can be exhausting, but what a joy and privilege it is to shout their worth. So much is changing in the world for inclusion. I cannot wait to see what the world looks like for Cora when she’s my age!

I wish others understood that each person with Down syndrome, like every other human who has ever walked this planet, was created in the image of God. We are ALL more alike than we are different. We are all created to contribute good and beautiful things to our world. I’ve had others tell me how tough adopting a child with Down syndrome would be, ALL the things that our child would likely never do, all the “hard” we were walking into by saying yes. But you know what? Zero of that matters. Because every child is worthy and deserves a family. 

Emily and her family are currently on their adoption journey to bring home their second child with Down syndrome. Thank you for sharing your story! Are you considering adopting a child with Down syndrome? Email Lindsey Gilbert to learn about the children who wait, or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent Form today!

WE are the Lucky Ones {A Family Perspective}

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 lindseyg@madisonadoption.org for more information.