By Joan, mom to Isabella from China with cleft lip and palate
My name is Joan and I am a single mom to two girls adopted from China with the help of Children’s Home Society & Family Services. Elizabeth is my oldest daughter and I traveled March of 2003 to bring her home. She was 11 months old at that time. The wait for Elizabeth started in November of 2001 and 14 months later, it ended with her referral. This was also during the SARS scare but luckily we traveled before the shut down. I also had to speed up my documentation so that my dossier could be sent to China before the newly established quotas were put in place. Starting that December they were going to limit the number of single parents they would accept. With the help of my social worker and others at CHSFS, we made it. On January 21st, 2003, I received Elizabeth’s referral from the regular program. It was a long 14 months but Elizabeth was healthy and continues to be so.
After a lot of soul searching, I decided that my family wasn’t complete. I contacted CHSFS in January of 2006 and requested to start the process for a second child. At that time there was a limit to the number of singles that CCAA would accept per year from each agency. Due to that, it was determined my paperwork could go in late Fall of 2006. I decided to go with the regular program at that time but was open to a waiting child. I waited that summer before I got the go ahead to start the paperwork. Once I did, I went at it full force. My dossier was in China by November of 2006. At that time the wait for a non special needs child was about 16 or 18 months. I had discussions with my social worker, Laura, about how the special needs program worked. I really wanted the ages of my girls to be closer and knew I could handle a minor special need. So, with that in mind, I let the Waiting Program staff know what level of need I would be open to. I also kept an eye on list on the web site. I found out that not all the children that CHSFS gets from the CCAA for the Waiting Program show up on the web. As the referrals come in, CHSFS checks the family list to see if any of those children would be a good fit. As a single mom I knew I would not be the best parent for a child that needed multiple surgeries or ongoing therapy. So, with that in mind, I determined what plan would work best for my family and let CHSFS know.
During my wait, I continued to go the Waiting Family meetings held the second Tuesday of every month. I found that to be a great resource for both of my adoptions. It’s a great place to get updates as well as to talk to other families in the same boat.
On January 9, 2007 I got an email titled “Referral of Wu Shuang Zhi 206-102 1 of 4”. I was shaking just like when I got the call from Laura back in 2003. I opened the emails in order and read that Wu Shuang Zhi had a repaired cleft lip and an un-repaired minor cleft palate. I fell in love with her pictures and knew deep in my heart that I was going to go forward. But, before I officially let CHSFS know, I discussed Wu Shuang Zhi’s health with my pediatrician and did research on the web. I also talked to another adoptive mom that had adopted children with varying degrees of cleft lip/palate so that I was aware of the best and worst case scenarios. Everything looked good so I officially accepted the referral and waited for travel. At that point my file was moved from the regular to the waiting child program. I wrote more letters to the CCAA to let them know I wanted Wu Shuang Zhi as my daughter and how I would deal with her special need. I then waited for pre-approval as well as the acceptance letter from the CCAA. All the requirements came through without any problems.
We traveled May of 2007 and met my new daughter on May 8, 2007. I renamed her Isabella and we call her Ella. She was very healthy and had no problems eating and has continued her good health at home. We recently visited with the cleft palate team at Gillette’s Children’s Hospital and they found that Ella’s palate is intact. She may need surgery next year to correct the muscles in her mouth but the next surgery won’t be until she needs a bone graft for her gum line. Her cleft is in the gums and very repairable. Ella completes my family in ways I never knew.
I am thankful to CHSFS for bringing me together with my girls and I can’t imagine my life without them. I would encourage anyone to think about the Waiting Child program as there are many healthy children available now.