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

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

International adoption is an ever-changing world; some changes happen quickly, even overnight, and others are slow, gradual shifts over years as culture and societal systems change in sending countries. In China, we have seen a steady progression in the past several years, where fewer young children with needs adoptive families typically consider “minor” are listed for international adoption, especially girls. This shift is happening for wonderful reasons, because children are more often able to stay with their biological families, and more families in China adopting domestically are open to considering special needs. Additionally, in December 2019 the Chinese adoption authority, the CCCWA, made a change to the method for matching children designated “dossier only” or “LID.” These are the children who are typically younger and have needs many families consider minor. Under the new system families may wait years to be matched with a child designated “LID,” so we are encouraging all families considering the China program to be open to the type of needs seen in “Special Focus” children. “Special Focus” children are the children the CCCWA considers harder to place for adoption, due to their age, special needs, or both.

We wanted to get an accurate picture of the children who are in need of international adoption in China currently, so we looked at the last twelve groups of newly prepared Special Focus children’s files, from February 2019 to July 2020. For this first set of statistics, we focused on younger children (listed for adoption before their sixth birthday), since these children are typically matched directly with waiting families, so it’s harder to get a sense of the what the most common special needs are by looking only at waiting children. Most children over six wait for a family, and if you are interested in adopting an older child we are happy to talk with you about the many waiting children!

Notes:
We counted each child by their primary diagnosis, and did not list other special needs that are typically a direct result of that primary diagnosis (ie. a child listed with a brain abnormality diagnosis who also has an epilepsy diagnosis was only counted in the total for brain differences, since epilepsy is often a secondary diagnosis caused by their brain abnormality, a child diagnosed with spina bifida and hydrocephalus was only listed under spina bifida, etc). We did not note secondary diagnoses that are typically considered very minor, including hernia, undescended testicle, heart murmur, strabismus, etc. If a child had two apparently unrelated significant diagnoses, we counted both, but only counted the child once in the total number for their age/gender group. Since many of these children were matched directly to a family, we are not able to view the details of their files, and can only categorize as best we can given the basic information on the list of files from the CCCWA. Some additional notes about some of these special needs categories are below.

Down syndrome: Many of the children with Down syndrome had additional diagnoses, including heart defects, gastrointestinal issues, etc. We did not count any of these diagnoses in the other totals.

Heart defects: The majority of these children were only listed with the generic description “congenital heart defect,” so specific diagnoses were mostly unknown. That said, special focus children typically have more complex heart defects, including tetralogy of fallot, pulmonary atresia, complex dextrocardia, double outlet right ventricle, transposition of the great arteries, and single ventricle.

Gastrointestinal: This includes anal atresia/imperforate anus, jejunal atresia, intestinal atresia, necrotizing enteritis, pyloric stenosis, etc.

Developmental delay: We only counted children who did not have another significant diagnosis besides some type of developmental delay (motor, speech, cognitive, psychomotor, etc). Many children with other diagnoses also had secondary diagnoses of developmental delay of some type, these children were not counted in this category.

Brain Differences: This included a wide variety of diagnoses, including agenesis of corpus callosum, arachnoid cysts, widened septum pellucidum, cerebral dysplasia, enlarged ventricles, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, etc.

Urogenital: This includes hypospadias, ambiguous genitalia, micropenis, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, bladder extrophy, etc.

Cleft lip/palate plus 2nd need: While most children who are only diagnosed with cleft lip and palate are designated LID/”dossier only,” there were many Special Focus children who had cleft lip and/or palate along with one or more other diagnoses, so it’s still a need parents should research and consider. Many of the children had needs commonly associated with cleft lip/palate, such as hearing loss or speech delays, others had different birth defects, such as a heart defect or microtia, that could indicate an underlying genetic cause.

Limb Differences: Many children were only listed as “limb differences” so the specific diagnosis is unknown, others included one leg being shorter, missing fingers and toes, and hand deformity.

Partial Vision Impairment: includes glaucoma, cataracts, ptosis, and loss of vision in one eye. Some of these children may be fully blind, it’s unknown without seeing their full files.

Other: Each of these children was the only child with their diagnosis, includes diabetes, widened button hole/low nose root, teratoma, neurocutaneous syndrome, leukemia, spinal muscular atrophy, myocardial enzyme, skull malformation, and Rett syndrome.

Liver: Most of these children had biliary atresia or similar diagnoses, one child diagnosed with hepatocele

Skin: Includes nevus, epidermis bullosa, eczema, ichthyosis, and scars.

Esophageal/Trach: Most of these children had esophageal atresia

Orthopedic: Includes scoliosis, missing ribs, and hip dysplasia

Kidney: Includes hydronephrosis, missing or malformed kidney

It Really Is a Big Dream

It Really Is a Big Dream

Dear Madison Adoption,

I have known Ashton since 2014. We were together at our orphanage in Northern China (at Shepherd’s Field). He was one of my four closest friends and I felt like he was my brother. I have always hoped that he could find a family. He has been in the orphanage for a long time. He has watched so many friends get adopted. When I got to our orphanage he had just lost another friend who had been adopted. He was so sad.

I had heard that Ashton couldn’t get paperwork, and when I found out that he could finally be adopted, I was so happy!  Ashton is a kind boy and he is really cute. He always just wanted to live a normal life.

I know that he would be happy to be in a family and he really wants one. It really is a big dream for him.

Love his friend,
Xinlu/Vicki

MAA is advocating for Ashton (known as “Luke” at his foster home, Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village), a 13 year old boy waiting in China. Through his foster home he received desperately needed heart surgery last year, but he still needs a family to give him the love and support every child deserves. Thanks to generous donors we are able to offer a $5000 grant for a family that adopts him through MAA. Email LindseyG@madisonadoption.org or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to learn more about Ashton and adoption!

There Are Hundreds of Mayas

Two weeks ago a Colombian children’s home contacted MAA, along with the other agencies they work with, with a desperate plea: to help find a family for a sweet fifteen-year-old girl who was running out of time. Maya was hosted in the US last year and had an adoptive family in process, but for reasons that had nothing to do with her, the family had dropped out. She needed a new family who could complete the homestudy, dossier, and file I-800 by November, or she would age-out of adoption eligibility. The iapa staff raved about what an amazing kid she was, saying she’s “100 out of 100,” one of the best kids they ever had!

We put out the plea, as did other agencies, and within 24 hours had multiple families inquiring! Thankfully a family at another agency stepped forward almost immediately and submitted Letter of Intent, and Maya should have a family in time. We were so relieved. When we told the families who had been interested in her they were all happy for her, but when we said we’d love to share about the other children in danger of aging out who still wait for families… no one was interested.

I understand how a particular child can grab your heart, and children are people, not replaceable or interchangeable, but Maya is just one of thousands of children waiting for a family, one of hundreds who will age-out of adoption eligibility in the coming months. If Maya’s story touched you, surely it’s possible that another child could too? Another face could call out to you saying “Are you my family?”

Harriet

Maybe it’s Harriet, just a few months younger than Maya. She likes to play soccer, basketball, and swim at the pool, but also enjoys just watching movies- all things she should be doing with her own family! Even though she missed out on two years of school, she is motivated to study and learn. She was supposed to come to the US for hosting this summer, her best chance of finding an adoptive family, but due to the coronavirus hosting was cancelled, and Harriet continues to wait for someone to see her.

Or maybe it’s Edward, whose face we can’t even post here due to his country’s regulations, but who has the brightest smile. His heart is to help and serve, and he often spends hours in the kitchen helping the cooks prepare the food and serve the children their meals. He never complains about dishes or chores assigned to him and genuinely does his very best. A gentle soul, he would never hit another child, and there have even been instances where another child has picked a fight with him and he has stood quietly, without retaliation. He is amazing at Zumba and putting dance steps to any song or beat. He likes to have discussions and talk about life rather than play or fool around like other boys his age. The older he gets, the more anxious he is that he may not get a family, but he still has hope that he could have a mother and father that will love and value him. Though he has until April for a family to file I-800, his country process moves very slowly so a family must be found very soon, or he will run out of time.

Brennan

Or what about Brennan? He helps younger children in the orphanage to get food and wash their bowls. Once he found a hurt sparrow on the way home from school and brought it to the orphanage medical staff to see if they could help. He was due to age-out of adoption eligibility in October, however, due to upcoming changes in China’s adoption laws he has likely gained two more years to find a family. But while we celebrate this news, we also acknowledge that he has already been waiting almost four years for a family. MAA has already advocated for him three times! Will more time make a difference for him? Or will it just be two more years of waiting only to still age out, without the permanency, stability, and support of a family?

Maya is a wonderful girl, but children shouldn’t need to be a perfect “100 out of 100” to get a family. They don’t earn a family by being good, they deserve a family because they are a child. Each of these kids will bring their family joy and challenges, but first they need someone to take the chance to bring them home- before it’s too late. 

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

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

Now We Are Six

Now We Are Six

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

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

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

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

How to Choose a Country for International Adoption: Five Questions to Ask Yourself

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!

Common Special Needs by Country Program

Common Special Needs by Country Program

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!

China

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.

Colombia

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.

The Philippines

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.

Bulgaria

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!

Interested in learning more about international adoption? Check out the Country Comparison Chart to view general info about each program, and fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist!

Don’t Give Up

Don’t Give Up

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.

Credit Jeanna Rice Photography

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

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.

-Emily Dickinson

Hosting: From Advocacy to Adoption, Part 2

Hosting: From Advocacy to Adoption, Part 2

Hosting an older child from a foreign country, who has been living in an institution, can seem intimidating and full of unknowns. Read Part 1 of Niki H’s story here, about they came to decide to host a child in order to advocate and find their adoptive family, then come back for Part 2 below, and learn how in searching for the adoptive family for a child, they found the missing piece of their own family- twice!

I admit, committing to adopt AiJun was probably the scariest thing I have ever done, but by faith, I agreed. On the way to the St Louis airport at the end of the hosting stay, we saw one of the most beautiful, full, vibrant rainbows we had ever seen. I felt in my heart that it was God’s promise to me that everything would work out. I was no longer anxious about adopting AiJun, and I felt a peace about our decision.

Niki and family in China finalizing AiJun’s adoption

The next year was full of the necessary paperwork and preparing to go get AiJun. AiJun had been bullied in Kindergarten, and had been permitted to drop out of school for three years after the bullying took place. After the hosting visit, he went back to China and told his caretakers that he wanted to go to school again. We were thrilled to hear that he had a good experience at school during the year we were going through the adoption process. What’s more, our church immediately began raising money for our adoption. We received $6000 from our church, $2500 from a matching grant through Lifesong, $4500 in donations from friends and family, and $5000 from a ShowHope grant. We also received an adoption tax credit. After all my worrying about the money given to adopt AiJun instead of helping our son Peter with college, I felt that we had given Satan a black eye!

We have now had AiJun two full years. He is the same kid now that he was three years ago when we hosted: fun, caring, loving, and always ready for an adventure. He has blessed our family in more ways than I can count, and I feel beyond blessed to be his mom. Adopting an older child turned out to be the perfect fit for our family, as he is only six months older than our last child, Aimee. They are even in the same class at school. It is almost like having twins! As a matter of fact, I find it ironic that both their names begin with “Ai” and both their names are five letters long. The four cousins that came over are now all grown up, but we still see them often. Our first calling was to help out our niece and nephews, but our second calling was to adopt AiJun, and we are so glad that we answered God’s calling.

Our kids are 20, 18, 15, 12, and 11. Peter, our oldest, is attending our local community college this semester for cyber security certification and he also attended a training for four weeks in February in WI to become a sergeant in the National Guard. Emma, who just graduated high school, works at a local nursery and is making plans to take a gap year to volunteer at an orphanage in Haiti this winter. Ashley will be a sophomore in high school, and AiJun and Aimee will be in sixth grade. Our perspective on adoption has definitely changed drastically. Now we see it as God sees it. Adopting AiJun took something painful, hard, and sad and turned into something beautiful, happy, and healing. That doesn’t mean there won’t be days of heartache and sadness for AiJun, but I have learned that adoptions are stories of redemption. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t marvel at what a blessing AiJun has been to our family, and even though we knew he needed us, we now realize that we needed him more.

Meeting Sara, Melany and Bryan at the airport

But our story doesn’t stop there. This past spring, I felt the urge to do more for orphans. I decided to let the social worker who wrote our home study know that if the hosting program needed a family to host, we would be willing to host again. By late May, we were asked to host a sibling group of three: Sara, age 13, Melany, age 11, and Bryan, age 9, from Colombia. When my husband heard we were hosting again, he said, “You know we’ll end up adopting them.” I told him we were just advocating and being helpful and that we couldn’t possibly adopt three more children! But, just like three years before, within days of hosting the three children, the thought of adopting them began to enter our minds.

However, the logistics of providing a home for three more people was daunting. Our house only has three bedrooms, so our sleeping arrangements would be tight to say the least. But, as usual, God was at work to make sure everything was taken care of. Our pastor, who has always wanted a pond and who is also a skilled carpenter, offered to finish our basement in exchange for the pond he always dreamed of having.

Sara is sweet, smart, and very mature for her age as she has had most of the responsibility of her two siblings. Melany is adventurous and fun-loving, and Bryan is a typical boy who loved to fish in our pond. They aren’t perfect, and we won’t be perfect parents, but God’s handiwork is evident, and we rest in Him and His truths. It has been fun to watch AiJun’s face when we ask him if we should adopt, as he is on the other side of the situation now. He just beams and says “Yes! We should adopt them. They don’t have a family!” We are looking forward to spring of 2020 when we will travel to Colombia to get our three new children. We will be parents to eight children, but God will be with us every step of the way, because God is good, and He loves the orphan. Thank you for reading our story.

Interested in hosting? Read more about hosting on our website, or email Adriana@madisonadoption.org to learn more and get started!