Maddox is an active kid who loves to spend time outside, playing soccer and swimming. In many ways he sounds like a lot of ten-year-old boys, but he has been through more than any ten-year-old should. He first came into the child welfare system in Colombia in 2014, and after reunification efforts failed he came into care again in 2016. Through all of this, he had his brothers by his side, but that is about to change. Colombia is separating Maddox from his two brothers for adoption, so that they can all get their needs met the way they deserve in their adoptive families. While we are saddened by this we trust the judgement of the social workers in Colombia, who always try to keep siblings together if it is in their best interest. So we turn to the goal of finding families for all of them so they can continue their relationship, even in separate families. Maddox’s brothers have a family interested in adopting them, but sadly we have not yet found a family for Maddox. Our hope is that he can find a family quickly so they can be adopted around the same time and will not have to watch his brothers leave, not knowing if a family is coming for him.
So who is Maddox, and what kind of family does he need? He is a shy boy, and can be insecure, so he needs a family who will take the initiative to bring him out of his shell and help him find areas he can shine in to build his confidence. On the occasions where he has been able to interact with animals he is calm, friendly and playful, and would probably love a family with pets! He is careful, kind and protective of younger children, and equally respectful of teenagers, as long as they are respectful to him, and he would likely do well with a small number of siblings, older or younger, but not close in age to him.
Maddox is diagnosed with ADHD and has had many of the challenging behaviors common for kids with this diagnosis. However, he has really grown during his time in care and is making improvements! He has had surgery for a cleft lip and palate, and while his speech is on target for his age in terms of building sentences, expressing his feelings and needs, he does have some challenges with pronunciation. He has been teased by peers for his cleft palate and speech, and is sensitive about his appearance as a result.
Maddox has been through a lot in ten years, but this isn’t the end of his story and it doesn’t define him. We imagine a story for him where he is embraced by a family who gives him affection and nurture, structure and opportunities to boost his confidence, and we see a future where he is happy and loved. Could your family play a role in that story? Maddox has a $2500 Grant available for families adopting through MAA. Email Lindsey Gilbert or complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to learn more about this sweet boy!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 mostprevalent 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!
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.
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.
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:
Top row: Lily, 17 and Luna, 15; Jordyn, 13; Nolan, 10, Nick, 8, and Noah, 5; Javier, 13. Middle: Layla, 10; Roman, 15 and Reid, 12; Luisa, 12; Jago, 9. Bottom: Antonio, 16, and Arlo, 9; Slade, 4; Maddox, 10, Miles, 9 and Mason, 5; Marko, 7
It was nine months ago that we cancelled hosting for summer 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak, heartbroken for the children but knowing the safety of all involved had to be at the forefront. We reassured ourselves “This time next year, this will all be a memory.”
Now here we are, almost a year later, cancelling summer hosting… again. Even after months of cancelling trips, weddings, school, and more, this stings afresh. We look at the faces of children from Colombia who we were preparing to host, and worry “will they still find an adoptive family?” Hosting has always been about finding families for the children who wait the longest for adoption: older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs. As a result of our last hosting session in 2019, every single child found an adoptive family! Hosting gave families a chance to get to know the child and prepare for when they come home forever, making sure they had the resources in place to parent well. Without that reassurance, will they still come forward, taking the leap?
It’s a question we can’t answer; only you can. This requires you to be brave. Adoption is always a step into the unknown whether you host your child or not, any family who has hosted will tell you they learned new things about their child after adoption. So we implore you, to dig deep and find the courage to say yes, even if it’s with a nervous heart and trembling hands. We will come alongside you and walk you all the way to the finish line of adoption and beyond, supporting you after you come home and start the hard work of becoming a family.
As of this post the Colombia adoption process is open and moving forward. Travel to Colombia for adoptive parents is open at this time; no quarantine period is required, just negative covid testing before and after arrival. Colombian adoption authorities understand the importance of preparing children for adoption, and most families can Skype/Facetime with their child regularly leading up to the adoption. Our Post Adoption Support Specialist Adriana Chaves is from Colombia and fluent in Spanish, and is ready to support you and your child after you come home. View the children waiting for adoption here, and complete a free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist and start the process to bring your child home!
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
November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and who better to share about adoption than adoptees? We’ve gathered a variety of resources from adoptee voices below, and encourage adoptive families to check some of them out, whether you’re in process for your first adoption or have been home with your children for years! Even when an adoptee is not from the same country as your child or of the same race, they will likely share some of the same experiences and feelings. Some of these voices will challenge you, as adoptees share their sadness and grief around their adoption, but we encourage you to sit with their experience and see what you can learn. These adoptees take the time to share their stories to help the next generation of adoptive families and adoptees.
Red Thread Broken: Grace Newton was born in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, and adopted by an American family when she was three years old. Her site has myriad resources, including blog posts, film and book reviews, and more. Be sure to check out her recent post about using the game Jenga as a conversation starter with your child!
Lost Daughters– “Lost Daughters is an independent collaborative writing project founded in 2011. It is edited and authored exclusively by adult women who were adopted as children… Our authors come from a variety of walks of life, world views, religions, political stances, types of adoption, countries of origin, and countries of residence. Our ages span from early 20’s to late 60’s. Although we cannot possibly cover every experience and perspective of adoptees on our blog, we try our best to provide insight on what it is like to live adoption from the adoptee perspective.”
Dear Adoption– Founded by Reshma McClintock, a transracial, intercountry adoptee from India, Dear Adoption accepts submissions from adoptees of all views and backgrounds to share their experience.
Only Black Girl– Rebekah was adopted domestically; she’s Black, her adoptive family is white. She writes about her experiences being the only Black person in her town, and shares the stories and experiences of transracial adoptees.
Therapy Redeemed– Cam Lee Small was trans-racially adopted from Korea. He holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed clinical counselor, focusing specifically on adoptees and adoptive families. He offers many resources online in addition to his counseling services, including workshops, and shares essays on a variety of topics.
Found– After DNA tests reveal them to be cousins, three girls adopted by different American families travel to China in hopes of meeting their birth parents.
Closure– Angela Tucker is a Black woman, adopted by a white couple at one year old and raised in a large, multiracial family. Her adoption was closed, and this documentary follows Angela for two years as she searches for her birth family.
Side-by-Side– 100 short films, each interviewing one Korean man or woman who was either adopted internationally, or who aged out of orphanage care.
Somewhere Between– Filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowles adopted her daughter from China, and made this documentary to learn more about the experience of older adoptees. It follows four teenagers adopted from China to the US as children, as they journey back to China and attempt to understand their own identities and stories.
Lion– Based on the book (listed below) by Saroo Brierley, detailing his experience getting accidentally separated from his family in India at five years old, before being trans-racially adopted to Australia. Twenty-five years later he begins to search for his birth family.
Calcutta is My Mother– This documentary by Reshma McClintock tells her story of being transracially adopted by a family in the US, and many years later returning to the city of her birth, to try to connect to her roots and culture that she feels so distant from.
Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood– In a true story of family ties, journalist Mei-Ling Hopgood, one of the first wave of Asian adoptees to arrive in America, comes face to face with her past when her Taiwanese-Chinese birth family suddenly requests a reunion after more than two decades.
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung– Nicole is a Korean-American, adopted domestically by a white family. As an adult pregnant with her first child, she becomes more curious than ever about her birth family and begins to search for them.
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!
While adoptive parents frequently share their stories, we don’t often hear from another family member who is obviously impacted by adoption- siblings! MAA is grateful to Jase sharing his perspective on his parents adopting his younger sister from Colombia, read on to hear about his experience…
1.What did you think of the idea of having an adopted sister when your parents first brought it up? I really didn’t think my parents adopting would have a huge impact on me because I live so far from them, but I was so wrong. Even though there is a 10 year age difference between my sister and I, we’ve bonded and talk about life all the time. I’ve learned a lot about the world from her and look forward to seeing her when I get to see my family.
2. What were you most worried about? What were you most excited about? Living across the country from most of my family, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to build a relationship with my sister while she grew up, but we’ve been able to spend time together and communicate over all kinds of technology and social media. Bonding has been so much easier than I expected. When I met Angie, she couldn’t speak any English and I spoke extremely little Spanish, so our communication had to be pretty straight forward through translating apps or yes/no questions. I was so excited for both of us to grow in our language skills to actually communicate and get to know one another. She has definitely done a better job than I have of catching up to the language barrier, but it is so awesome now to have actual conversations about things that would have just been vague gestures before. Plus, she is constantly helping me learn a new language now, which is special for a younger sibling to get to teach something so important to her older brother.
3. What is your relationship like with your adopted sister? How has it developed from when you first met her? I was surprised by how naturally a relationship with my sister developed. It took a lot of time, of course, but I can relate to her now just like I do with my other siblings. She does a great job keeping up with her three grown brothers and sister in conversation and thinking about life, and we can tell that she wants to relate to us just like we want to relate to her. I do think Angie was skeptical of me when we first met, just because I can be so different from the rest of my family who she relates to well, but through visiting my home, meeting my partner, interacting with each other from across the country, and doing activities that she really enjoys, our relationship feels naturally like a brother and sister now.
4. How has adoption impacted your life? Adopting a sister has expanded my family and changed the dynamic of how we relate to one another. I wasn’t expecting much to change for my siblings and I, with three grown kids out of the house and living in different areas of the country, but Angie brings such a center to us all. We try new languages, foods, and games that she shows us. We talk about and explain concepts like politics and faith that we may not have before. And we have to keep up with a teenager who loves sports and the outdoors. Angie has changed how we do things and what we decide to do, but it all feels natural now, like we were just missing a member of our family before.
5. What would you tell other young adults who are about to have an adopted sibling for the first time? It takes a lot of time, but it does all come together naturally in the end. It was so hard not to try to force a relationship or overwhelm my sister with attention, but I am glad that we let things progress naturally because in the end, that is how a family comes together. Even for siblings like me who may be far from home, an adoption is still a huge blessing.
So many older children wait for adoption in every country MAA works in: Bulgaria, Colombia, China, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic, as well as Pennsylvania foster care. If you have considered opening your home to an older child, please contact us today or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to learn about the children waiting for families!
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
Madison Adoption Associates has always focused on finding families for waiting children, so we were surprised when our NGO partner in Bulgaria encouraged us to have families submit their dossiers requesting referrals of children with Down syndrome, instead of requesting to be matched with a waiting child. But once they explained their reasoning, it made so much sense.
First, it’s important to understand what we mean when we say “waiting child”- a waiting child is simply a child who has been deemed eligible for adoption, but when adoption authorities in the child’s country reviewed families with completed dossiers, none of those families were open to a child of that age and gender, and with their particular medical or developmental diagnoses. So instead of being referred to a family, the child is listed with adoption agencies who will advocate and try to find a family who will start the adoption process in hopes of adopting that child. Nothing is inherently wrong in this process, but as our partner NGO explained, there are a couple reasons the referral process can be better for both families and children.
Waiting children with Down syndrome are periodically listed in Bulgaria, and usually pursued quickly by a family who steps forward and starts the adoption process from scratch, but when a family has already submitted their dossier before being referred a child, it’s a much shorter time until that child comes home. For families, this means less time between seeing your child’s face, and holding them in your arms. More importantly, for children, this means less time spent in an institution, and a quicker path to their family. In Bulgaria, for example, when pursuing a waiting child it takes about one year from the time a family starts their home study until traveling to complete the adoption, but for a family who has already submitted their dossier, after receiving a referral the first trip is done within one month, and the second trip to pick up their child is 3-4 months later.
So instead of families waiting until they see a child with Down syndrome on the waiting child list before they start the adoption process, MAA and our NGO partner hope to find families to submit their dossier to Bulgaria. Then we can see more children matched before getting to the waiting child list, and home with their families sooner. For young children with Down syndrome, those months saved mean they are in their families receiving medical care, physical and speech therapy, and devoted attention that much sooner, at a time that is so crucial for their health and development.
In some ways, this route is harder on families; you are taking a leap of faith without seeing a specific child, and waiting for the day you get the phone call that there is a child who needs you. But think of it this way- you are giving your child a gift. You are doing the waiting for them, so they don’t have to wait on you. If you are open to adopting a child with Down syndrome, consider whether this could be the path for your family to bring a child home, and take that first step forward knowing your child is out there, and you’ll be waiting for them when they need you.
Families can expect to receive a referral anywhere from one to four months after dossier submittal. Couples, single women and men age 25 and older are eligible to adopt from Bulgaria. There are no specific criteria for marriage length, family size, finances or health. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist!