One of my biggest concerns in adoption was choosing our child. I worried that allowing us to be involved in picking a child would bring my fears and anxieties into the mix and somehow mess things up. When we adopted our oldest daughter through the non-special needs (NSN) program in 2005, China did the matching. I never even considered saying no to her referral. In my eyes, the process seemed like a very “divine” way to choose a child since it was out of our hands.
When we switched to the special needs (SN) program for our second adoption, we knew the referral process was going to differ greatly from our first adoption. Although we had a more proactive role in our second adoption, we discovered that our daughter Lydia had also been chosen for us by God’s providence.
Although the special needs checklist had initially seemed daunting, we found we were open to quite a few conditions. However a medical definition takes on a whole new meaning when it is connected to a specific child with a unique history. But I still wondered how we would be able to choose when the very nature of the shared list required speed and certainty.
A month after switching to the SN program, we got our first referral call. It went NOTHING like I expected. There was no warning of being “on deck” for referral. Instead I was caught completely off guard. After three long years of waiting, I was surprised to find little impulse in accepting this referral, and we declined. Our agency completely understood and set to work matching the child with another family on the list.
We were content to wait until the next month when more children would be released to the list, which explains why I was again caught off guard when the second referral call came the very next day! But before our agency could even send us the email, the file disappeared off the list to another agency.
I could now see how different this process was going to be from our first adoption. But despite how unpredictable it seemed, God was using these circumstances to guide our decision.
Just when I thought I was prepared for everything, we got a third call. Unfortunately the call came as I was driving my husband home from the hospital. He was sick as a dog and completely unable to talk with me about this very important decision. The little girl was older than we’d expected and had multiple needs… some being very unclear in her paperwork. We asked for 24 hours to review her file even though we knew that her file could disappear at any moment.
By the next day, after my husband’s fever broke and we could talk and pray, we had resolved to say yes. We called our agency to accept her file, however just 5 minutes prior to that, she was locked in by another agency. Instead of disappointment, I was so thankful for every second of that day we had spent reviewing her file and praying over her. Instead of seeing it as a loss, we rejoiced that she was going to be adopted! But we did begin wondering if we would EVER find OUR child on that list!
The day after our 14th wedding anniversary, our agency called again. I guessed who was calling at 6:30am, but was hesitant to answer the phone. This time together for the call, my husband and I poured over the file of an 8 month old girl in Jiangxi province. I didn’t allow myself to even look at her pictures until we thoroughly read her bio. Her special need was unilateral microtia and aural atresia. She also had a diagnosis of possible Hepatitis B. After a quick call to a doctor friend, we made a decision to accept her file within 15 minutes. There was not the same doubt and hesitation we felt with the first three referrals. We knew this was our daughter. Although the path to finding Lydia had been a very new and different experience, we had as much confidence in accepting her referral as we had with our first adoption.
In a few weeks, we will celebrate one year with Lydia! We rejoice daily for this wonderful child growing in our home and in our hearts. We see more and more how she was designed for our family… and we for her!
I wish there was some formula I could give you to explain how to confidently choose a child from the special needs list, but there is no formula. It’s such a varied and complex process because each child and each family going through this process are unique. Some may not feel an affirmation in their decision until after the child is home. Others will “just know” the moment they lay eyes on a picture (perhaps the story we hear most often).
My conclusion is that deciding on a child is a very personal and unique process that combines both practical and emotional considerations, assessing one’s motives and most of all trust.
All I can offer is our unique story of how we trusted God to guide our decision. Regardless of how our children come home… on the special needs list or NSN list… domestic or international… birth or adoption… we have been chosen to be their parents.
Whether they are healthy or in need of care… whether they love us readily or struggle with attachment… God has chosen us to be a family. We can find confidence in knowing that he has been purposeful in bringing us together.