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.
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
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!
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
I have known Luke (previously known as ‘Ashton’ with MAA) 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 Luke couldn’t get paperwork, and when I found out that he could finally be adopted, I was so happy! Luke 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 Luke, 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 Luke and adoption!
Two weeks ago a Colombian children’s home contacted MAA, along with the other agencies they work with, with a desperate plea: to help find a family for a sweet fifteen-year-old girl who was running out of time. Maya was hosted in the US last year and had an adoptive family in process, but for reasons that had nothing to do with her, the family had dropped out. She needed a new family who could complete the homestudy, dossier, and file I-800 by November, or she would age-out of adoption eligibility. The iapa staff raved about what an amazing kid she was, saying she’s “100 out of 100,” one of the best kids they ever had!
We put out the plea, as did other agencies, and within 24 hours had multiple families inquiring! Thankfully a family at another agency stepped forward almost immediately and submitted Letter of Intent, and Maya should have a family in time. We were so relieved. When we told the families who had been interested in her they were all happy for her, but when we said we’d love to share about the other children in danger of aging out who still wait for families… no one was interested.
I understand how a particular child can grab your heart, and children are people, not replaceable or interchangeable, but Maya is just one of thousands of children waiting for a family, one of hundreds who will age-out of adoption eligibility in the coming months. If Maya’s story touched you, surely it’s possible that another child could too? Another face could call out to you saying “Are you my family?”
Maybe it’s Harriet, just a few months younger than Maya. She likes to play soccer, basketball, and swim at the pool, but also enjoys just watching movies- all things she should be doing with her own family! Even though she missed out on two years of school, she is motivated to study and learn. She was supposed to come to the US for hosting this summer, her best chance of finding an adoptive family, but due to the coronavirus hosting was cancelled, and Harriet continues to wait for someone to see her.
Or maybe it’s Edward, whose face we can’t even post here due to his country’s regulations, but who has the brightest smile. His heart is to help and serve, and he often spends hours in the kitchen helping the cooks prepare the food and serve the children their meals. He never complains about dishes or chores assigned to him and genuinely does his very best. A gentle soul, he would never hit another child, and there have even been instances where another child has picked a fight with him and he has stood quietly, without retaliation. He is amazing at Zumba and putting dance steps to any song or beat. He likes to have discussions and talk about life rather than play or fool around like other boys his age. The older he gets, the more anxious he is that he may not get a family, but he still has hope that he could have a mother and father that will love and value him. Though he has until April for a family to file I-800, his country process moves very slowly so a family must be found very soon, or he will run out of time.
Or what about Brennan? He helps younger children in the orphanage to get food and wash their bowls. Once he found a hurt sparrow on the way home from school and brought it to the orphanage medical staff to see if they could help. He was due to age-out of adoption eligibility in October, however, due to upcoming changes in China’s adoption laws he has likely gained two more years to find a family. But while we celebrate this news, we also acknowledge that he has already been waiting almost four years for a family. MAA has already advocated for him three times! Will more time make a difference for him? Or will it just be two more years of waiting only to still age out, without the permanency, stability, and support of a family?
Maya is a wonderful girl, but children shouldn’t need to be
a perfect “100 out of 100” to get a family. They don’t earn a family by being
good, they deserve a family because they are a child. Each of these kids will
bring their family joy and challenges, but first they need someone to take the
chance to bring them home- before it’s too late.
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.
In my role at MAA, I talk with families who are just starting to look into adoption, and often trying to determine the right path forward. An important first step when considering international adoption is to see which programs you are eligible for. You can view general eligibility guidelines for each country on our Country Comparison Chart, but to confirm which programs you qualify for, please fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form so our program staff can review your information and clarify any potential issues in eligibility.
Sometimes you are only eligible for one program and so the choice is clear, but when there is more than one option, how does one choose? Here are some of the questions I ask families to help them think through which country is the best fit for their family:
1.What age, gender, and special needs are you open to?
While essentially all international programs today are considered “special needs,” each program varies slightly in what the common special needs are. This post goes more in depth about the types of special needs we see in each program. Most programs allow families to choose a gender, but families waiting for referral of a young child in the Philippines must be open to either gender. While we see children of all ages in all countries, in Bulgaria, young children in need of international adoption all have special needs that are usually considered more complex.
2. Do you want to adopt siblings?
We see siblings in four of our five international programs: Colombia, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic. While we very rarely see twins in China, it is so rare that China is not a good option for a family who has their heart set on adopting siblings.
3. What is your travel availability?
The length of travel requirements ranges from just one week in the Philippines, to 4-6 months in the Dominican Republic, so how long your family is able to travel will impact your program options. Bulgaria requires two trips, while other programs are only one. While MAA always encourages both parents to travel in order to experience their child’s country and culture, for families where that isn’t possible there are countries that allow just one parent to travel, including China, Bulgaria, and the Philippines.
4. What are your cultural resources?
If you live in an area with a large Chinese community, but almost no Spanish speakers, it may make more sense to adopt from China than Colombia. This isn’t to say that you can’t adopt from a country if you don’t have people of that heritage in your area, but if you do so, you need to commit to providing those cultural opportunities for your child. It may mean long drives to other cities where there is more diversity, or paying for a tutor who can teach your child their native language via Skype lessons. You’ll need to consider if you’re prepared to make those greater efforts to keep your child and your family connected to their culture. Remember, their culture is now your culture too!
5. What is most important to you?
Every country program is different, and the reality is there may not be a program that fits exactly what you are dreaming and hoping for, so you’ll have to consider what your priorities are. Is it adopting a child who is as physically healthy as possible? Then you may want to look at the Philippines, though the wait for a referral is around three years. Or is it more important to you to adopt a child more quickly? Then you may want to research special needs, find some you are open to considering, and adopt from a country like China or Colombia, where the process is often a year or less. Is it adopting from a country where there is a big need for adoptive families? Then you may want to consider the Dominican Republic, where the long travel requirement scares most potential families away.
These questions are personal, and the answers will be different for every family. It’s important to be honest with yourselves about your hopes and expectations so that you can choose a country where you are prepared for what the process will be like, and ultimately bring your child home.
Ready to get started considering international adoption? Call today or fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist and find the path for your family!
While nearly all international adoption is considered “special needs” these days, what needs we see varies widely country to country, depending on that country’s medical system, social services, and culture. Considering what special needs are common is one way to narrow down which adoption program is the right fit for your family, so read more below about each of MAA’s programs!
In the China program we see a wide range of medical needs. Typically medical care in China requires full payment up front before care is provided, so sadly many families place their child in institutional care so that they can receive the medical care they desperately need. There also continues to be cultural stigma around disabilities in China, especially visible disabilities, which plays a role in some children being abandoned. Thankfully, as resources grow more biological families are able to keep their children who have correctable conditions, and more and more domestic Chinese families are open to adopting young children with needs like heart defects and club foot, so there are fewer children with those needs in need of international adoption today.
In Colombia, some children are relinquished by their birth family, sometimes because they aren’t able to care for their medical needs. Other children have been removed from their birth families due to neglect or abuse. As a result, we see many older children who may not have any diagnosed needs, but have experienced trauma. Because we often have information about birth families, it’s sometimes known if a child had prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol, or other risk factors in their background. Many young children referred for adoption have these risk factors and developmental delays, and need families who will help them meet their full potential, whatever that may be.
While the Philippines allows families to submit their dossier and request referral of a child considered “healthy,” families still need to be open to some concerns or risk factors in their child’s background, such as prematurity, speech delays, or corrected medical needs. There are also waiting children of all ages with a variety of medical needs, including many children who have developmental delays. We also see many older children, sibling pairs and groups who are medically healthy, but experienced neglect or abuse in their biological families.
Since there is now a robust domestic adoption program in Bulgaria, there are very few young children with needs families consider “minor” in need of international adoption, as those children are usually adopted within Bulgaria. Children under eight years old typically have neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and epilepsy, or multiple diagnoses and risk factors in their background. There are also many older children and sibling groups who were removed from their biological families due to abuse or neglect. Families who are open to Down syndrome can receive a referral very quickly after submitting their dossier.
The Dominican Republic
Since the Dominican Republic is a small country, it’s also a small adoption program, but there are still many children waiting for adoptive families! We see a range of different medical needs, as well as many young children with broad developmental delay diagnoses who need families prepared for whatever their future may be. Many of the children came into orphanage care very young when their biological families were unable to care for them. Since it is a small program, it is best for families who are open to a variety of different needs if they have not identified a specific waiting child.
Though these are the specific medical and developmental needs we see in each country program, it’s always important to keep in mind that every child in need of adoption has experienced loss and trauma, regardless of where they live. The behavioral, emotional and attachment needs that result from those experiences may be not be diagnoses in their file, but will be some of their biggest needs. We encourage all our families to research how to meet all of their child’s needs to be as prepared as possible for when you finally bring them home!
It’s a strange time to be alive, and a very strange time to be adopting internationally. At a time when everyone is drawing in, staying home, closing borders, you are longing to bring someone far away near.
I see you, family who is staring at a room prepared for a loved child when you don’t know when they will fill it. I see you, family who traveled across the ocean for the first adoption trip and now has the second trip postponed indefinitely. I see you, family who waited years to be matched to your child only to have travel cancelled at the last minute. I see you, family in-country who has held your child and may now have to make the heartbreaking decision to leave because there’s no end in sight. I see you because I am you.
We are in the midst of adopting our son from China, and have had our own process slow to a crawl, heading towards a standstill at the rate things are going. I’m feeling all the feelings you are. Frustrated and angry at the things out of my control. Guilty that I am upset about this when there are people losing loved ones to this disease. Embarrassed about the tiny baby clothes purchased that now probably won’t fit. Worried when our son had to go through urgent surgery a few weeks ago without parents there to be by his side. And mostly, just terribly sad about it all.
Lately, a new feeling has started to creep in: hopelessness. Seeing the outbreak finally dying down in China, a light at the end of the tunnel, only to have it explode around the world sending our timeline spinning out even further. A tiny voice whispering that we will never get to him, that we should just give up now.
But here’s the thing: that voice is a lie. I firmly believe we will get to our son. This outbreak will end. Families will be together. No, I can’t guarantee when it will happen. Adoption has never been the realm of guarantees. The only promise I can make is this: we will never get to our kids if we give up now.
They are still there, waiting for us. For those in Colombia, they are waiting for the families they know are coming, for the first time or returning to be reunited. For those in China, they’ve already survived the worst of this crisis there, and made it through. Surely we can do the same for them. So I beg you, don’t give up. Keep fighting. Hold onto hope.
–Lindsey Gilbert, MAA Family Engagement Coordinator and Waiting Mama