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Follow this family's journey to adopt a special needs toddler from China.

Adopting a Special Needs Child from China

story jaelyn china picture betterDeciding on International Adoption
Our adoption journey for Jaelyn first began with my overwhelming conviction that our family was not complete. We have two biological children (ages 9 and 7), but somehow I knew we were not finished and that we should consider adoption. After MUCH prayer, I began to discuss this with my husband. He also began to pray about it, and in a very short time, God revealed his clear plan to us. We didn’t know initially if God was leading us to domestic or international adoption so our next phase of praying was in that direction.
We really tried hard not to allow factors such as cost, length of travel and whatnot influence our decision. Although those are important things to consider, we knew God had a plan and our biggest consideration was trying to discern that plan.
We have friends that had adopted two little girls from China and they agreed to meet us for lunch one day to tell us about their experience. Little did I know she would bring the complete photo albums of the girls and their trips. After that meeting we knew our baby was in China.

Deciding on an Adoption Agency
There were several factors we considered when we chose our agency. We wanted an agency fairly close by since we wanted help in exposing our daughter to her birth heritage. The agency we chose provides a Chinese heritage program in the summer and also birthland tours. You want an agency that has a philosophy of being there….always, not just during the adoption, but providing a lifetime of support. The relationship with your agency shouldn’t end as soon as the last post placement report is done… should carry on. Another advantage of a local agency is that we personally knew several of their families and could ask directly about their experiences. In choosing an agency, we also considered their size. We knew we wanted a smaller agency with smaller travel groups. Finally, it was important that the agency we chose was a Christian agency.

Adopting a Child with a Special Needs
When we applied we were asked to fill out a special needs checklist on what special needs we would be willing to accept. We were a bit overwhelmed by all the diagnoses listed on the pages and did not check any that we wanted in our referral. We were uneducated on what the term special needs meant. In our eyes, special needs were pretty big issues (and some are), but in reality some are not a big deal.
We began to think about the fact that we were given no guarantees in the births of our other two children. They could have been born with a birth defect and we would have loved them just the same. Our second child was born with reflux as a baby, and she might have been on a waiting child list for feeding problems. It was something that passed with time and in no way or shape affects her today. I was born with a heart murmur. If I was a parentless child in China, I would have been on a waiting child list for sure, and yet I live a normal life just like everyone else. God really began to speak to our hearts that we should consider a special needs child.
We began to research several special needs, including hepatitis B, cleft lip and palate, and minor heart issues. For some reason, He kept bringing us back to the clefts. We researched this birth defect, and to be honest, we were not quite comfortable with the palate portion of this special need. Knowing that in some cases cleft palate requires on-going surgeries did intimidate us.
We began to voice our interest in special needs children to our agency and even specifically asked if they ever received cleft lip only children. The answer was no. Not that this doesn’t happen, it was just very uncommon. Then about two weeks later, we received the call about a little girl with a cleft lip and that was all the confirmation we needed that this was our child! What surprised us was that she was considered special needs even though her cleft lip had been repaired in China.

Financing International Adoption
Jaelyn’s referral came much sooner than we expected and our finances were nowhere close to being in order. Unfortunately, international adoption is not inexpensive so we tried a few different avenues to raise the needed funds. We got some information from our agency but much more from We applied to Shaohannah’s Hope and were denied, but because we had accepted the referral of a special needs child, we were approved for a $1,500 grant from China Care which gives preference to special needs children.
China Care told us about an organization called Lift International which accepts tax deductible donations in the child's name and places them in an account for adoption expenses. When we first heard about them we were skeptical, but they provided us with references, and they have turned out to be a real blessing for us.

Waiting to Travel
The wait for to travel was a grueling one (77 days to be exact) and I found myself wondering about her all the time….and worrying as only a mom can. Was she warm, was she being loved, is she hungry…you name it….I WORRIED IT!
We used our waiting time to catch up on immunizations and read the required books from our agency. Our agency also required us to attend a seminar on the emotional and physical care of an adopted child. We learned A LOT at this class that we would never even have thought of. For example, don’t bathe them right away as this is a very vulnerable thing to a child. Let them sleep with an article of clothing that they were first wearing (the smell of the clothing can be a familiar and comforting smell for them). This class really opened our eyes!

Bringing Older Kids on Adoption Trip
We decided to bring our older kids with us to China, and I think that was a great experience for them. They were able to bond with Jaelyn outside of our home environment and this was helpful to us all. I know that sometimes money plays a role on who gets to go, but based on our experience, I would recommend it.

Meeting our Daughter
We received Jaelyn only one day after arriving in her province and it was truly the most wonderful day. We were to meet at the Civil Affairs Office in Guangzhou to receive Jaelyn at 2:30 pm and, of course, we arrived a little early. But, the orphanage director was stuck in traffic and was running late. So, we paced the floor for almost an hour before she finally arrived.
When she finally did arrive, I was the first to hold her. We had told ourselves to try and keep our emotions in check for her sake as the last thing we wanted to do was scare her. We used very soothing, calm tones and she took to us immediately. Our time of emotions came later that night as we watched her sleep and we thought how lucky we were that God had included us in the plans for her life.
We cherished our time in China and would have been glad to have stayed another week or two. We found ourselves just trying to absorb as much of the culture as we could. We did go on several tours of various areas, but I wish now that we had been able to see some of the villages and how most people live. I would have loved to spend time with a common Chinese family.
I had such a rush of emotions when we came home. On the one hand, our bed and all the comforts we are so used to were so nice to have; but on the other hand, I so missed this land and people that I have fallen in love with.

Jaelyn’s adjustment
Jaelyn was not quite 20 months when we brought her home and she has adjusted AMAZINGLY well. She truly has had no spells of grief or emotion. She was smiling for us on day two and she slept wonderfully for us in China and at home.
Our biggest hurdle on the adjustments was with our older daughter. She was displaced from her position as the baby and the only girl, and we had to deal with some jealousy issues once the “new” wore off. But, now that Jaelyn has been home 6 months, that has subsided, and everyone seems very comfortable with their place in the family.
Jalelyn faced a lot of changes too (obviously), but one of the biggest was food. She had been on a diet of rice milk only and had never been given solids, much less been fed from a spoon, so that was quite challenging. We just had to be very patient and slowly introduce her to new foods. Before long, she figured out that what we ate was MUCH better than her bottle. When she turned two, we took her off the formula altogether and transitioned her to a sippy cup. It worked great. She now eats everything, has gained 4 pounds, and grown 3 inches in 6 months time!
When I look back, I am very glad that she was on the bottle when we got her. Feeding her with a bottle allowed us to bond with her even more and we treasured those times in the rocker. We still have the rocker time now, just with book and her sippy cup! We also made it a point that we were the only two that fed her (and still try to). The kids can feed her also and of course the sitter, but we know how much kids associate food with security and wanted to make sure that was well established.
Since Jaelyn’s cleft lip was repaired in China, it hasn’t required additional care. She does have a little pimple-like spot on her scar they our doctor thinks is a stitch under the skin that didn’t dissolve. We are seeing a plastic surgeon soon to have it removed. It will be an easy procedure, and we feel blessed that this is all we have had to face so far! We do anticipate that she may need a minor revision to her nose later in life (9-10 year old probably). Our insurance has covered everything so far, even the plastic surgery for the stitch will be covered, since it will be accompanied with the cleft lip diagnosis and falls into the birth defect category.
We prayed for God to prepare her for us and us for her. There is no doubt in our minds His hand has been upon this. We hope to adopt another toddler (age 18 month to 2 years or so) in the future. It was just the perfect fit for us.

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