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Adoption, Covid19 and Vaccines: What Prospective Adoptive Parents Need to Know

As the vaccine for Covid19 becomes available in more countries and for teens and children, more countries are instituting requirements related to adoption, but it can be difficult to follow all of the changes. If you are an adoptive parent in process, or considering starting the adoption process, here’s what you need to know about the regulations at this time:

For Prospective Adoptive Parents:

As vaccinations for Covid19 become more widely available, more countries are requiring travelers entering the country to be vaccinated. Some countries allow a negative Covid19 test within a certain time frame (sometimes 72 hours, sometimes 48 or 24) to substitute for proof of vaccination. Others require a family to quarantine for a period of 7, 10 or 14 days upon arrival and be tested before being able to move freely about the country, which would extend the required length of travel to complete the adoption. However, there may be countries that require vaccination and do not offer alternatives for adoptive parents.

At this time, the US requires all travelers over the age of two, including US citizens, to provide proof of a negative Covid19 test within 72 hours before departing for the US, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Currently, this requirement is regardless of vaccination status.

For Children Being Adopted:

Effective October 1, 2021, the US CDC began requiring all immigrant visa applicants, including adoptees, to be fully vaccinated for Covid19 before receiving their entry visa. For children under 18, whether this requirement applies to them at the time of applying for their visa depends on the situation in their individual country. Adoptees are required to be vaccinated if a vaccine is both 1. Recommended for their age range by either the FDA or WHO, and 2. Available for their age group in their country. At the time of this post, this only includes the Pfizer vaccine for children age five years and up, as all other vaccines are not yet recommended by the FDA or WHO for children under age 18. However, this is expected to change in the coming months, and as a vaccine is recommended for a younger age group, if it is available to that age group in a child’s country, the child will be required to complete the entire vaccine series before the US embassy or consulate will issue an entry visa.

Children are exempted from this requirement under blanket waivers for the following reasons:

  • A vaccine approved by the FDA or WHO for their age group is not available in their country or area
  • Their country has not yet begun providing covid vaccination to their age group
  •  Vaccination is contraindicated due to a medical condition

While visa applicants can apply for an individual waiver from Covid19 vaccination for a child under religious or moral convictions using form I-601, it can only be filed after a visa denial, and processing of this this form can take up to one year. It is therefore not an appropriate option for adoption. This is different than the standard vaccination exemption form for adoptees, which exempts children age 10 and under from other vaccinations typically required for immigration, but does not apply to Covid19 vaccination.

The information in this post is current at the time of posting, but the requirements around vaccination for Covid19 are entirely fluid, and can change every day with no notice. All parents in the process of adoption need to be prepared for the possibility of vaccination requirements for themselves and their adopted children as a part of the adoption process. For the most up-to-date information, contact your case worker or the agency you plan to use to learn how regulations apply to your situation at this time.

Truly a Bundle of Joy: Darla and Glen’s Down Syndrome Adoption Story

In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we asked some of our families who adopted kids rocking an extra chromosome to share some of their stories! Here, Darla shares about her family’s journey to adopt their daughter from Bulgaria.

After having a biological daughter with Down syndrome and experiencing the amazing amount of joy that she brought to our family, the Lord placed on our heart to adopt again. We reached out to Reece’s Rainbow, because we knew of their focus on helping people adopt children with Downs.  We found a beautiful little girl and the team at Reece’s lead us to Madison Adoption Associates to learn more.

We learned that our future daughter was currently in Bulgaria, and she had recently turned 2 years old.  Over the course of the next few months we learned more about her and spent lots of time praying for her.  It was fun to share the videos and pictures we received with our children, and we all grew in our excitement and anticipation to welcome her into our family.

Our first trip to Bulgaria was in late summer, and we were blessed with spending a week with our new daughter and the wonderful foster mom and social workers.  She was full of joy and enthusiasm, and oh so, so cute!  She was just learning to walk, so we spent a lot of time at parks and playgrounds and toddling around in the sand.  We laughed and laughed.  She loved swinging on swings, and sliding down slides, and climbing up steps, and being hugged and carried and fed.  She was very joyful and active, and walked and played with abandon.  Everything in life was met with smiles and giggles.  She was accepting and bright-eyed when engaging us, from the start and through the whole week!

Back at home we had weekly video calls to stay connected and continue to see and hear each other.  The language barrier at times made these calls seem slow and a bit long, but looking back we could see that this was a highly beneficial way to have our daughter continue to know us and bond with us, including seeing and hearing her new brothers and sisters.

We went back for a second time to bring her home 3 months later, and this time brought three of our other children.  The travel there was impacted by winter weather and had more than its share of surprises and adventure, but the Lord’s favor was on us every step of the way.  In great anticipation, we awoke on our “Gotcha Day” so eager to see our daughter again.  Through many hugs and tears we were able to welcome our daughter and with deep thanks to the foster family and social workers we set out to spend a week together finishing the adoption process as a family.  She welcomed us right away and seemed especially comfortable to be with us from the start, which we believe was due to the time we spent together 3 months earlier and the ongoing connections we made through video and talking while we were apart.

Back home all of our children have loved spending time with her.  Who wouldn’t want to spend time with an excited, joyful, eager, driven, fun-loving little sister that loved to give you a hug and smile and snuggle with you?  Teaching can take longer and with more repetition.  Growing can be slower and expect more practice and patience.  Some have commented that we’re doing a great thing for her, but we know that the truth is she is doing a great thing for us in ways we cannot even always put into words.  We are blessed beyond measure, and we wouldn’t change a thing.

Adopting a child with Down syndrome may not be for everyone, but for those who do we would say you will love more than you can imagine.  And while at times we do think that it would be great if our daughters did not have the limitations or challenges that come with Down Syndrome, when we think about what is most important to all of us – to experience and share joy, love, grace, peace, friends, family, contentment and have great faith – it is clear that those of us without Down Syndrome have the greater challenges in life.

Thank you to Glen and Darla for sharing their family’s story! If you are considering adopting a child with Down syndrome, fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an Adoption Specialist and learn about the children waiting for adoption!

They Will Amaze You Every Day: Nate and Kelly’s Down Syndrome Adoption Story

In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we asked some of our families who adopted kids rocking an extra chromosome to share some of their stories! Here, Kelly shares about her family’s journey to adopt their son Jonah from the Philippines.

How did you come to the decision to adopt a child with Down syndrome? 

Since I was a child, I have loved spending time with people with special needs. I taught special ed before having our first biological daughter and worked with adults with intellectual disabilities between school years. I have always found people with Down Syndrome to be especially kind, loving, and fun. We chose to adopt because we wanted to bring a child into our family from the special home finding list who would be less likely to be adopted than a young developmentally typical child.  

What was the adoption process like for you? 

Our adoption moved quickly compared to the average for the Philippines. We submitted our Dossier on December 22, 2018 (my 27th birthday, the age requirement) and we picked up Jonah in August of 2019. The 8-month guardianship phase actually lasted about 14 months due to Covid delays but that wasn’t too difficult for us since Jonah felt like our son as soon as we brought him home. Sometimes all of the paperwork and bureaucracy felt overwhelming but taken one step at a time it was all manageable and of course, worth it. Katie and Diana at MAA were so helpful, kind, and knowledgeable, which was invaluable. We also met many wonderful people in the Philippines that we are still in contact with and I am grateful to know them. 

What were your first days of meeting your son and taking custody like 

Our trip to pick up Jonah was the adventure of a lifetime! Nate had served a two-year mission for our church in the Philippines so he is fluent in Tagalog and familiar with the culture which allowed us to socialize and explore. With two young children at home (2 and 4 at the time), Nate and I let loose for the first time in a long time and we had SO MUCH FUN!  

The first morning that we woke up (for the 18th time thanks to a doozy of a time-zone change) we were so excited to meet Jonah. We got ready, ate breakfast, then requested a tric (motorcycle with sidecar used like taxi). Only standing on the residential road outside the hotel did we realize that we had no idea how to get to the orphanage. We showed the address to our tric driver and he got us closer to the area, then we hoped from tric to tric until we were close enough that someone recognized the address and could take us to the orphanage which was still unrecognizable right in front of us as it was a nondescript building behind a wall, tucked away with homes on a dirt road. Meeting Jonah was a joy, we now know he has a certain flair for making everyone feel special, but we were no exception. We were able to play and bond at the orphanage and eventually travel nearby with Jonah and even some of the teenagers he lived with, eating street food, sightseeing, and playing in rain downpours thanks to the encouragement of the older kids.  

We weren’t sure before arriving whether or not Jonah, who was 4.5 at the time, would be potty trained. On our second day when we were going to take him outside of the orphanage for the first time, I asked one of his caretakers. She answered “yes, he’s potty trained, I don’t know why someone put a pull-up on him today.” In hindsight there may have been a language barrier. We got him dressed sans pull-up and hopped on a tric, with him on my lap. We weren’t yet to our destination when I got a more accurate answer to my question. Our next stop was a change of clothes for Mr. Pee Pants.  

Jonah is the opposite of our daughters who need routine and consistency, making him a great travel companion. Where ever we were he would happily take in the new sights and when he needed a nap, he would power down for a few minutes in our arms or on our laps and pop back up ready for action. His on/off switch was very beneficial on our 14 hour flight home. It was sort of a strange feeling taking Jonah from the life he knew and the people who had cared for him and loved him, but he was eager to go with us. The hardest part for me was taking him away from the only remaining “baby” in the orphanage who has Cerebral Palsy and was close to Jonah. They had come in together in a group of ten babies about 3.5 years earlier. The eight others with no disabilities had been adopted, so they would have been like brothers. 

In terms of taking custody, the first few days and weeks were a honeymoon phase. I remember at the two-week mark saying, “wow, he always listens right away when I say “no” and he never cries.” Then the very next day the flood gates or tantruming opened up. I wish I could say that after two years we’ve figured out exactly how Jonah fits into our family and that parenting him has become completely natural. I’m sure others would disagree and every adoptive parent has a unique experience but to me, adoption feels a lot like marriage. The beauty of Jonah’s unique personality is that every moment is a new moment. You’ll never meet a person who lives more in the now. So, while he may not be considering the consequences of sneaking out of bed at 2am to test out the handheld bathtub sprayer, he will also totally forgive you for losing your cool about the bathroom carnage, 75 seconds later. 

What has been the biggest joy in parenting a child with Down syndrome? The biggest challenge? 

Jonah’s joy is infectious. At the orphanage they told us he brought sunshine wherever he went. It’s true, and he brings a smile to other people whenever we are out. He doesn’t know the meaning of self-consciousness or discrimination on the basis of…anything…so he will attempt to make friends with anyone he can. He’s easy going and flexible, I joke that if he was our only child, we could live traveling aimlessly in a camper van with no structure or routine and he would thrive. He’s a total dandelion, flourishing in his own way under any circumstances.  

The biggest challenge of parenting Jonah has been figuring out how to respond to his negative behaviors. As a parent with both biological children and an adopted child, I want to feel I am treating all of my kids consistently and equally. For example, with my girls I might say “if you put your pajamas on all by yourself, we’ll read an extra book” or “because you didn’t do what Mommy asked, you lost a warm fuzzy” (a jar they fill up to earn fun experiences). Jonah doesn’t grasp a lot of language, abstract concepts, or future consequences. He is non-verbal and by cognitive assessment standards, on the low-functioning side of the Down Syndrome spectrum. I call him my patience sensei because he understandably feels the need to assert control on a regular basis and I am constantly deciding which battles to choose and how. His stubbornness and impulsive behavior have forced me to face demons in myself I previously didn’t know existed. 

What is your advice to parents considering adopting a child with Down syndrome? 

First of all, I am no expert. I would say be excited for the magic that awaits and be realistic about the challenges that will come with it. For us it means having a child who is the majority of the time delightful, hilarious, and sweet, and it means waking up to the poopy pull-up of an almost 7-year-old and hoping he hasn’t committed any major crimes in the middle of the night. Before adopting Jonah, I had spent plenty of time with individuals with Down Syndrome but they were mostly teenagers and adults. You may want to seek out parents of children in the age range you are considering to adopt for a better understanding of what to expect. Then there’s the adoption variable. Jonah didn’t have the same early interventions and optimal pre- and post-natal care that children in an ideal situation would have. I have my suspicions that if he had, he would be different in many ways. That might sound scary and undesirable but it’s not meant to. Jonah is in many ways our easiest child and he brings happiness to everyone he interacts with. In good moments he makes me laugh and smile and in challenging moments he teaches me patience and compassion. There is a pre-natal genocide being waged against individuals with Down Syndrome. My message to anyone faced with the possibility of parenting a child with Down Syndrome is that they will amaze you every day with their goodness and unique intelligence and you will feel privileged to have them as a part of your family. If you are considering adopting a child with Down Syndrome, there is a child worthy of your love and your last name, waiting for you to be brave enough to take the leap. 

Thank you to Nate and Kelly for sharing their family’s story! If you are considering adopting a child with Down syndrome, fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an Adoption Specialist and learn more about the children waiting for adoption!

All About Adopting from Thailand!

MAA recently opened our newest adoption program in Thailand. While it is new to us, it is not new to Program Director Lindsey Gilbert, who previously ran a Thailand Adoption Program for almost five years. Here she shares more about the process and the children in need of adoption!

Thailand is a beautiful country, called the “Land of Smiles,” and when you visit it’s easy to see why! The people of Thailand are so friendly and welcoming, with warm hospitality and generosity. Like all countries, it has its challenges, and this includes vulnerable and orphaned children who are in need of adoption. MAA is partnering with the Thai Red Cross (TRC), a small children’s home in Bangkok that is part of a large hospital complex. The TRC provides comprehensive child welfare services, assisting families who are struggling to provide care for their children by connecting them with support. When the challenges a child’s parent is facing can’t be overcome, the TRC will see if any extended family can care for the child. If that isn’t possible, then at that point they will turn to adoption. While there is some domestic adoption in Thailand, there are still many children who do not find a family within their country and are in need of international adoption to provide permanency.

Families who meet the eligibility guidelines can submit their dossier to the TRC requesting the referral of a young child or toddler. The youngest children are around 12 months at time of referral, though most are 18-48 months. Families typically receive a referral within 1-2 years. From match to travel is about 7-12 months, and that long wait is probably the most challenging part of the program! Occasionally families slightly outside the eligibility guidelines may receive an exception from the adoption board, so inquire even if you are not sure you are eligible.

Children referred to waiting families are considered healthy by the TRC’s adoption board, however, most will have some background risk factors or minor concerns, as children coming from difficult history and living in an institution. The most common include:
– Prematurity
– Prenatal exposure (most commonly drugs, amphetamines or opiates, though this can also include tobacco or alcohol exposure)
– Birth parents with mental illness or cognitive disability
– Birth mother testing positive for HIV, syphilis, or Hepatitis
– Respiratory issues/recurrent respiratory infections
– Recurring ear infections
– Medical needs that have been treated or resolved (hernia, undescended testicle, tongue-tie, heart murmur)
– Mild developmental delays (speech, motor, cognitive)

There are also a small number of waiting children at the TRC, who have more complex medical or developmental needs, or may be medically healthy but older (age 7 and up). We see a range of special needs, but some of the common ones include heart defects, respiratory issues, cerebral palsy, ADHD, developmental delays and other neurological diagnoses. The children are not yet listed on our website, but contact us to learn more about the children we are advocating for! The adoption board considers families case by case for waiting children, and are open to matching waiting children with families who don’t meet all the eligibility guidelines.

Travel to Thailand is one trip, typically about 10-16 days, and both parents must travel. Adoptions are not finalized in Thailand, families must complete post-placements reports until 6 months after placement, and then can finalize the adoption in US courts.

While it is a small adoption program, it is a wonderful option for some families! Contact us to learn more about Thailand and whether it could be the path for your family. Email Lindsey or complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to learn more!

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!

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.

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

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!