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PAUSED

Why MAA Has Temporarily Stopped Accepting Applications for the China Program

This week MAA made the painful decision to pause accepting applications from families hoping to adopt from China. Travel to China for adoptive parents has been on hold since January 2020, so you may question why now stop accepting applications? And what does this mean for the future of the program? At the start of the Covid19 pandemic, no one could foresee exactly what was coming. As things changed, we at MAA made the best decisions we could with the information we had at the time, and updated families in the program and those inquiring accordingly.

At first, the adoption process all the way up until travel continued to move forward, so we were transparent with inquiring families about the halt on travel, but still welcomed them to apply. By July 2020, the CCCWA stopped issuing Letter Seeking Confirmation (LOA) and stopped releasing newly prepared files of children eligible for international adoption. As this came to light we advised families of these facts. For families who wanted to wait for referral of a young child we encouraged them to consider other programs where there was more movement, when they were eligible, but for families who hoped to adopt a specific waiting child we accepted their application, knowing they could still get through a good portion of the process and be closer to bringing their child home when travel finally reopened.

Then in the early months of this year 2021, we saw a massive slowdown in translating and reviewing dossiers, and finally this week learned that the CCCWA will no longer issue pre-approval for families who submit Letter of Intent for a specific child. Knowing that now families can get through so little of the process, it no longer seems wise or fair to accept families’ money, time and energy, even for those who understand the difficulties or hope to adopt a waiting child. This was not an easy decision, knowing how many children sit on the shared list waiting for a family. We want every child to know the love of a permanent family, but while the child is our primary client, we also have responsibility to look out for the welfare of our families.

As a final note, we want to emphasize that we consider this a pause, not a stop, because we continue to have faith that adoption travel to China will reopen. Chinese officials have emphasized to the US Department of State that they see the value of international adoption for children who can’t find adoptive families in China, the delay in adoption processing is due to the pandemic, and that they fully intend to reopen when they feel it is safe for the children to travel. So we have faith that this pause is just for now, and continue to look forward with hope to the day that families who have waited so long will be united with their children and we reopen the program to new applicants.  

Despite the pandemic, adoptions continue moving forward in all of MAA’s other programs, including Colombia, Bulgaria, Thailand, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. If you are interested in adoption please complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form or email Lindseyg@madisonadoption.org to learn more.

Searching for Birth Family: Mia’s Story

We are so grateful to share this story with you all. Mia is an adoptee from China, and has written about her experience searching for her birth family. We hope it will encourage other families and adoptees as they consider if and when to search.

As an adoptee, one question people always ask me is, ‘do you know who your real parents are?’ What they mean, is, do I know who my biological parents are. For me, and other adoptees I’ve spoken to, our ‘real’ parents are simply our adoptive parents, and the parents who are blood related are our ‘biological parents / birth parents’.

Growing up, I had always thought about my birth parents, but the idea of ever finding them never entered my mind. Why not? Because of the situation in my birth country, China. I knew there was a strict One Child Policy in place, which was most likely why I was given up, and I also knew that China was, and still is, the most populated country on earth. Therefore, the possibility of finding birth parents seemed impossible.

However, when I was 18, I decided not to focus on the impossible and began the process of searching. I wanted to see if I had any birth family out there, whether it be parents, siblings, cousins – just anyone biologically related to me. For me personally, I realized that I didn’t want to look back in years to come and regret not having done anything to search for my birth family. Even though the chances of me finding anything was very low, I wanted to know that I had at least tried. So that is what I did. Firstly, I told my parents, who were very supportive and understood why I wanted to search. (I also have an older sister adopted from China, and my decision to search also encouraged her to do the same) As a family, we ordered DNA kits from Ancestry and 23AndMe. Unfortunately, there were no close matches, but I expected this. I also looked on Facebook to see if there were any groups for Chinese adoptees, and to my surprise, I found a group dedicated to birth parent searching in my province, as well as a group for adopted children from my orphanage and many more groups! It was through these groups I realized there was a large community of adoptees and adoptive parents who were also searching for birth family. I soon came across a well recommended searcher in China, who had successfully found birth parents. We hired her to conduct a search for me, and gave her the little information I had about my birth, (where I was abandoned, who found me, my foster parents). The searcher then went to my area, hung up searching posters, and found my foster parents and the man who found me. I received a package from the searcher containing many photos, souvenirs, and letters from the people they found.  

Mia and her family walking with their searcher

Around a year later, my family and I made the trip across the world to China where we continued our search. I was very nervous about going back as I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once we arrived in the area I was from, we met with the searcher and within the hour, he had arranged for me to meet my foster parents. We went for dinner with them, and they were very friendly. There was a language barrier, as I don’t speak Chinese, nor do they speak English, but luckily our searcher also acted as a translator. Originally, I believed that I was fostered outside of the orphanage, like my sister had been, however after speaking with the foster parents, I found out that I was ‘fostered’ within the orphanage, and they looked after many babies there.

Over the next few days, we met my sister’s foster mother and hung up many searching posters in both of our areas. We covered much ground and hung up posters in public places such as the bus station, inside the busses, noticeboards, lampposts and more. Many people crowded around our posters, and spoke to us, wondering if we were the daughters they had left. There was one instance where we hung up my poster in a food market when an old woman came up to my mother and I, in tears. She told us that she had left a baby long ago, and then gave us a hug. She thanked my mother for looking after me. It was a sweet, yet sad moment and another reminder of all the pain that many birth parents had suffered.  

The crowds gathered around Mia’s family

A big part of the trip was meeting the man who found me. We met him and his family, who were kind to us and we ended up seeing them five different times whilst we were there. One night, we were invited to their home for dinner. After we ate, they took us to the town square, where there was to be dancing. However, no dancing happened and instead, my sister and I were surrounded by well over 100 people who were curious about us. We handed out our searching posters, and I had all these strangers taking photos of me, grabbing my wrist to look for birth marks and asking me questions. This lasted for over an hour, and even the police came out to see what the commotion was about. It was fantastic exposure for me; however, it was also a sad reminder that so many people in China had been separated from their babies and had no idea where they were. 

My sister and I also were interviewed by the local news station. They filmed us and our parents in the park, as well as doing a sit-down interview, asking questions such as, ‘Why are you back in China?’ ‘Why do you want to search?’, ‘What would you like your birth parents to know’. The interview was then broadcast onto WeChat, where tens of thousands of people in the area saw it. Interestingly, there were comments under the news piece. Some people wished us luck, whereas others were angry that we were trying to search. They thought we should be grateful for being adopted, and not try to search. It was hard to read comments like this, however I had to remind myself that the people who thought like that, were most likely people who had the privilege of knowing their biological family and their background. As well as being on the news, we also went to the police station where we gave our blood to be processed into their database, and if a DNA match was found, they would contact us. 

Whilst out there, we had many people get in touch via WeChat to see whether we were related. We even met up with 2 different families. One of the families went to the police station to give their DNA, which was very brave, however they turned out not to be my birth family. A hurdle we faced was that many of the birth parents were unsure of when they left their children. They didn’t know the exact month, or even year in many cases. However, we were sure to keep in touch with them and left China with many contacts. My mother was even able to find the biological daughter of one of the birth parents we met out there.

It has now been over a year since we were in China. Unfortunately, I haven’t found my birth parents yet, but I am still in contact with my foster parents and finder, via WeChat. I am eager to go back and continue searching.

The area of China Mia is from

Maybe one day when I go back, I’ll find them. Maybe I’ll open an email from 23AndMe saying that a close relative match has been found. Or maybe none of that will ever happen, but I haven’t given up hope. If anything, the search gave me more hope as I realized just how many birth families were looking for their birth children. Everyone we had spoken to had either left a child or knew someone who had. I am very thankful that I was able to go there and search. Being in China, and walking through the area where I was born allowed me to connect to my past in a way I had never been able too. Even though I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I feel like I found a part of myself.  

Thank you again to Mia for sharing your story with us! For families interested in learning more about searching for birth family in China, read the previous post by Erin Valentino of Nanchang Project where she gives advice on how to get started.

Searching for Birth Family: Nanchang Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Not Us?

An advocacy post on Facebook changed my life forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Madison Adoption,

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!

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

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.