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Love for Leeya

February 12, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

February is Heart Month and we continue to share stories from parents as they navigate life with their heart babies. Each story, each post, each child is special. And for today’s post, this is especially true. Andrea was in the process of writing this post when her daughter Leeya suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Andrea chose to finish the post and share it here – it is our prayer that Leeya’s precious life would continue to impact others through the sharing of her story.

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A “Heart Mama”, what a title! I had read stories of these brave women and cried trying to understand how hard that must be, to have a heart baby. And, in the adoption world, to choose to have a heart baby? That was even harder to wrap my head around. I admired them so much, but I could never be one. I didn’t have what it took. Our family couldn’t handle that.

But then, I found myself holding the file of a “heart baby”. Not just any baby, a baby that we had met on our second adoption trip. A baby, who my eight year old fell in love with and asked repeatedly for us to adopt. A baby, who when we met her did nothing, nothing but lie on a mat and smile. A baby who was two and a half years old, but looked to be six months old and acted like a newborn. Really God? I really think this was meant for another family but okay, I’ll look.


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For two weeks we reviewed, and reviewed and reviewed. We looked over a pediatrician review, an international adoption clinic review and five reviews from cardiologists. Her official diagnosis was a congenital heart defect (that means she was born with it) called Tetralogy of Fallot. TOF is made up of four heart defects, a VSD (hole between the bottom chambers), pulmonary stenosis (the pathway from the heart to her lungs is either tiny or obstructed), overriding aorta (the aorta isn’t in the right spot), and right ventricular hypertrophy (the right ventricle is thickened because of pumping so hard). She also had an ASD (hole between the top chambers). Even with all that, TOF can be “garden variety” or very severe. Basically, blood was swishing all through her heart in crazy directions and not enough of it was getting through the pulmonary valve to get re-oxygenated but by golly, that right ventricle was going to keep pumping really hard to try to get the blood through that valve.

Other official diagnoses were corneal dermoids and severe cerebral palsy. Her file also threw around terms like hydronephrosis, citrullinemia, bronchitis, pneumonia, lag of brain development and it said she had a weak spirit. Our doctors’ reviews labeled her with global delays, failure to thrive, and they let us know there was a good chance she had a syndrome. Again, Really God??

We just couldn’t do it. We prayed. I cried. But, it was just too much, too scary, too many unknowns. I was to call our agency and say no. I tried to call, but I couldn’t dial the number. I tried to email them, but I couldn’t even type the words, much less hit send. It didn’t feel right; I was not at peace saying no to this little girl. Jon (my awesome husband) called at lunch to see if I had told them. I told him I couldn’t, and he said, “Good, I don’t want to either”. So……
WE SAID YES! A little bit scared, but with 100% confidence that it was the right decision. I took off running down the expedited adoption path because this little girl, our little girl, needed help fast.

We decided that Jon would travel alone. It wasn’t ideal, but we had only been home six months with our newest son. We didn’t feel like he was ready for us both to be gone for that long. Our little girl, Leeya YanQi Grace, was placed in her daddy’s arms on Sept. 14, 2015. No matter what happened from that point on, she had a family.

He did a wonderful job taking care of her on his own; he even kept bows in her hair every day for me. She had to be fed with a syringe because she had no suck reflex. She was so tiny and frail. She didn’t do anything other than lie there, make odd noises, and play with her fingers. And smile, she always smiled.

Finally on Sept 26, they landed back in the US. I flew to Chicago to surprise them which gave us have a few hours together before introducing her to the rest of the family. It was love at first sight; she was absolutely perfect and could do no wrong in my eyes. We made it back to Nashville the same night, and just like that we were a family of eight. I was officially a “heart mama”.


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We got 36 hours at home before the doctor appointments started. We were the first appointment in cardiology on Monday morning. She was very uncooperative for the EKG and ECHO so there were no clear answers from those. A heart cath was scheduled for eight days later. She had lots of blood work that day, a CT scan, and a chest x-ray. Not only was Leeya a heart baby, she had a lot of other stuff going on. An anesthesiologist said, “She is so special, it is going to take a long time to figure out all of her medical secrets.”

We were nervous going into the cath, she had only had one done in China, and she crashed afterwards. It was then that she was labeled “no surgical options at this time” and too complex. Leeya’s heart cath showed about what they expected for an almost three year old with unrepaired TOF. The doctors considered doing surgery the next morning, but a transplant heart came in for another little one so we scheduled surgery for one week later. We did stay overnight for observation and it was pretty unnerving rocking her at the hospital that night listening to the alarms as her O2 levels would drop into the low 50’s. TET spells is what these babies have, the oxygen levels drop extremely low, sometimes without warning, they can be life-threatening. Thankfully we were now getting her much needed help.

After only having her at home for two short weeks, surgery day came. We were so nervous. She was the first patient scheduled that morning so she went back at 7am. We didn’t see her again for about 12 hours. The surgeon was pleased overall. He was not able to save her pulmonary valve as he had hoped, and he decided to leave her ASD open to allow blood to continue to flow through it while the heart adjusted to it’s new way of beating. It took them quite a while to get her stable that evening. It didn’t take long to figure out that she was taking the more difficult recovery path that we had been told was possible.

She spent six days on a breathing tube and was only extubated because she bit a hole in the tube. Leeya spent 11 days in the PCICU. We had consults with PT/OT and feeding therapy, general surgery to check for Hirschsprungs disease, ophthalmology to check her corneal dermoids, genetics to discuss a possible syndrome (22q had been ruled out, but now they were thinking Waardenburg syndrome), infectious disease because she had an antibiotic resistant strain of E.coli, wound care because fluids were keeping her skin stretched so much that it was tearing open, she had spots where IVs had been that had to be treated with burn medicine, and of course, she got a very yucky yeast infection. Once she came off of the sedation meds, she went 60 hours with no sleep. She had more x-rays, blood draws, and other procedures than I can recall. But, she fought on and as long as there were no “white coats” around she smiled and laughed and made the best of the situation. The medical stuff was scary but being this little girl’s mama was not! She had me there beside her; she didn’t have to fight alone anymore. Finally, after a total of 23 days in the hospital, we got to take her home.

She came home on three medicines, 24/7 oxygen, and an NG tube for all her feeds. However, none of that mattered because she was home. Her happy spirit was back full time, and her five siblings were thrilled to have their baby back. We only ventured out for doctor appointments or therapies the first month back home. Thank goodness for online Christmas shopping. Her first post-op check up was good, and she was able to come off one medicine. The doctor decided to leave her on the oxygen until spring, through cold/flu season, just so that her heart wouldn’t have to work quite so hard. She didn’t like going to therapy, but we were seeing improvements. She started rolling over and even stayed in a sitting position sometimes.


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She gained seven pounds and started to thrive. It was like watching a miracle take place right before my eyes. We are all so in love with her. She has such a happy, joy filled spirit, and I am thankful each day that we didn’t give in to fear and say no to being her parents.

She is worthy of love, worthy of family, worthy of being given a chance at life.

No matter how long that life may be.

On January 22, 2016 our little Leeya passed away. She went into cardiac arrest at a local hospital as we were trying desperately to get her to the children’s hospital. The details of that day I’ll save for another post. Her heart was so very tired. Even on oxygen her O2 levels hung around 78-85, her right ventricle was just worn out. She had just seen her cardiologist 10 days prior and there was nothing to make us think this was coming.


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My heart shattered that day. We were left with so many unanswered questions, what-ifs, and why now? Things I will never know or understand this side of heaven. Those feelings, like the day itself, I will also save for another time. I do know that she left this earth as a treasured daughter and sister, not an orphan. She touched more lives in her three short years than some people do in 93.

I am honored to have been Leeya’s mom. I feel so much hurt because I felt so much love. I wish I could have been her mom for longer but aside from that, I wouldn’t change anything about the last five months. There are no regrets, and I would do it again and again, because she was worthy.

– guest post by Andrea

Find My Family: Mallory

February 12, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Mallory is an adorable 11 year old girl who is newly listed with Madison Adoption Associates via an orphanage partnership. Mallory came into care as a baby and was showing delays at 8 months of age. Because of the delays, the orphanage had her get a CT scan. The CT scan showed low density shadows of the lateral ventricle in both the parietal and occipital lobe, with the rest of the brain looking normal. Her file officially diagnoses her as having: congenital intracranial infection and cerebral softening or dysmyelination, though both of those have question marks after them in the CT result section of the file.


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Mallory started showing a lot of improvement and developmental growth in her pre-school years. Currently, Mallory is studying in the special education school in her city. She can speak some short greetings: hello father, mother, sister, aunt, etc. She can use simple communication when communicating with her caretakers and the other children. Mallory is able to ride a bike, run, climb bars, and jump rope with the other children. She can draw and count from 1 to 10. She likes singing and loves when her good friend dances with her when she is singing her favorite song. Mallory can put on her clothes, brush her teeth, wash her face, and toilet independently. Mallory said she wanted to be adopted and that she would really like to have a family of her own.


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There is a $2,000 agency grant for Mallory’s adoption with MAA. Other grants may be available based on the adoptive family’s circumstances. Agency grants are awarded as agency fee reductions. MAA also partners with the Brittany’s Hope Foundation for matching grants, which are given out twice a year and to families that already have their letter of approval from China.

If you are interested in reviewing Mallory’s file, please fill out a Waiting Child Review Form with Madison.

My 2¢ on Adoption Fundraising: Applying for Grants

February 11, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Today we continue with the second of five posts in a guest series by Laure Kline, who will be sharing everything she knows about adoption fundraising with us! We know that many potential adoptive parents say that lack of funding is the biggest roadblock to adoption and it is our hope that this series will encourage, enlighten, and maybe even help a little one find their way into a forever family!

Post 1: Writing a fundraising letter
Post 2: Applying for adoption grants
Post 3: Fundraising event and sale tips
Post 4: Using social media to raise funds
Post 5: Handling negativity during the fundraising process

Be sure to check back next month about this time to read post three in the series!


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Applying for Grants

A note to any birth families, expectant mothers considering adoption, and adult adoptees: we recognize that this kind of frank discussion of the costs associated with adoption can be upsetting. Please accept my apologies for anything that feels disrespectful and let me know if you feel there is a more appropriate way to discuss these issues.

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Of all the ways to put together the funds prospective adoptive families need to cover their process costs, grants can be the most intimidating and complex. There are a huge number of factors for families to consider and address.

First, adoptive families need to consider whether an adoption grant is right for them and their adoption process. Most grants are awarded by organizations that have a specific demographic that they focus on. Some of them are for families who are planning to adopt from a specific country or a child that has a certain special need or medical condition. Some are specific to a locale within the US or are for families of a designated religious faith. (As a side note, a family who is planning to adopt a healthy infant via domestic infant adoption in the US is unlikely to find a grant to assist them in covering adoption costs, though there may be some available.)

If you have decided that an adoption grant may be right for your family, here are my two cents about how to make things go smoothly from research to application to funds (or not).


How to Find Adoption Grants

Organizations that award grants to prospective adoptive families change regularly. When we were in process, our agency gave us a list of organization to look into; many of them were no longer awarding grants and some were simply no longer in existence. Because these organizations change so frequently, I am not going to include a list here. You’re going to have to do some research; head over to your favorite search engine and start looking.

Searching for “adoption grants” is going to give you 159 million results (seriously), so I recommend using specific search terms to narrow your results to those that will work for your family. You may be able to find grants that are more specific by using combinations of search terms including:

• Your religious affiliation (e.g. “adoption grants for Christian families”)
• The country you are planning to adopt from (e.g. “adoption grants for Chinese adoption”)
• Special needs or medical conditions that the child you hope to adopt has (e.g. “adoption grants Down Syndrome” or “adoption grants limb difference”)
• Your state (e.g. “California adoption grants”)
• Your marital status (e.g. “adoption grants for single parents”)
• The age of the child you hope to adopt (e.g. “adoption grants older child”)


Applying for Grants

When you have identified a grant that you are considering applying for, you need to take into consideration a number of factors before filling out the application form.

1. Verify legitimacy and source of funds.

Adoption is, unfortunately, a business for many shady people and organizations. Before you apply for a grant, do some research into the organization. Where do their funds come from? If donations, what percentage of donations made to the organization go toward the grants? If a private fund, how is that fund supplied or replenished.

Verify that the organization is trustworthy; after all, you’ll be sending them intimate details about your family and your finances. You can use online tools such as CharityNavigator and GuideStar to read reviews about nonprofit organizations and research how they are using their funds.

2. Verify details of the grant.

Find out how many grants are awarded each year and how many families apply. Look for information about how the grants are awarded. How are the applications evaluated, and who makes the final decision? Are there requirements that dictate how the funds can be used? At what point in the process are the funds disbursed?

We applied for a grant from a well-known organization and were ecstatic when we were awarded a much larger grant than we had anticipated. It covered nearly 20% of our process costs and filled a big gap that we had been scrimping and saving to fill for two years. We found out after being awarded the grant that the funds would only be disbursed after we finalized the adoption and returned from China, which meant that we still had to find a way to cover the costs until we returned home. This requirement was meant to ensure that their donors’ funds went to help a family adopt and not just help a family whose adoption disrupts or falls through before finalization. It makes sense to do it that way, and I am glad that the organization has those safeguards in place. Nonetheless, it was not what we had expected.

3. Verify family/status requirements.

Many grants are only available to families that are at a certain point in their adoption process—home study completion—but there may be other unwritten process requirements.

We applied for a grant that required home study approval, but we were asked to reapply when we were closer to traveling to China. We had already been matched with our son-to-be, but we were still waiting for our official Letter of Approval from the Chinese government. There was an unwritten rule that their grants could only go to families who were close to the end of their process. If I had asked in advance about their unofficial timeline, I may have been able to save us and our references a lot of time. We ended up not reapplying for the grant when it was time for us to travel because we only had three week’s notice, which was not enough lead time for the grant’s application review committee.

4. Make a note of application deadlines.

Some organizations have a rolling application and award system in which they award grants to families as the applications come in. Other organizations, usually the larger ones, have strict deadlines for applications, third party reference receipt, application review, and for awarding the grants. Make note of these deadlines well in advance so you can be sure not to miss your window.

Be sure to ask your friends and pastors for their help as references early in the process so they aren’t rushed to meet a deadline. If you are going to apply for more than one grant that requires multiple references, you may also want to ask them to keep copies so they don’t have write what they think of your family over and over. (This probably goes without saying, but you should also make sure that the people who are writing your references are people with whom you have discussed your family and adoption plans at length and you trust to be honest and supportive in their letters.)

5. Complete the application, saving your answers frequently in a separate document.

Most of the grant applications that we reviewed were online only. Some were downloadable PDFs that were to be completed digitally and uploaded. Some were online forms that could be worked on in pieces, saved online, and accessed for completion later. Some were online forms that timed out after a few idle minutes and reset all fields to blank over and over. All of them had similar questions about our family, faith, and finances.

Because there was so much overlap, we copied each of our answers to the application questions into a separate text document that we used as our own little grant application “wiki”. Some of the questions required a lot of thought and reflection, and it saved hours to have our answers saved and easily accessible.

Saving our answers about the personal financial questions saved tons of time too, though each application had a slightly different format for recording our family’s income, expenses, and budget. I would definitely not have wanted to do those from scratch each time.

When you are completing your applications, it’s important to keep in mind that you are more than your finances. The review committees are made up of people, so be sure to speak to them. Why are you pursuing adoption? Think beyond ideas of what is “meant to be” or that you are “called to adopt”. What are you looking forward to about having a new child in your family? What are you doing to prepare yourself for the challenges you may face? Why does intentionally adding this challenge excite you? Involve your spouse and your children, if they are old enough, in your application. Ask them some of the application questions, and incorporate their answers if it makes sense to do so. Why did you choose the specific grant that you are applying for? Don’t just write what you think the review committee wants to hear; they will get plenty of that from all the other applications. Write your family’s true story.


After Applying

Keep saving, living frugally, and working toward your goal in other ways.

I wrote about writing a letter last month, and I’ll be writing about a few other ways to raise funds for your adoption process including things like special events, craft shows, and other sales.

The best way to keep your adoption fund continuously filling up is to be putting money into it yourself regularly. Used a few coupons at the grocery store? Put that $12.30 into your fund. Going out to eat? Choose a cheaper restaurant and put the difference into your fund. There’s no penalty for tiny deposits, and they add up quickly! In the scope of $40,000, it may not seem like much, but every penny gets you closer to your goal. For me, fundraising was stressful and emotional, so seeing our little fund grow even the slightest bit each month helped me to feel that we were making progress and that we would, eventually, meet our goal (and we did!).

If you are awarded a grant, keep in mind:

Funds may not be disbursed before you travel, so you may need to secure a short-term loan to cover the costs until you finalize. Check with your adoption agency; ours had a program that allowed us to defer payment on a few things until after the grant funds were disbursed by signing a promissory note.

Consider how you can “pay it forward” with your federal adoption tax credit after you finalize your adoption.

Stay humble. In order for your family to receive the grant, many other families had to be denied. Pray for those families as they move forward with their adoption process in faith.

And if you do not receive a grant, keep in mind:

There are many other ways to put together the funds your family requires to complete the adoption process. Stay tuned to this series; I have some more ideas and tips for you!

Consider how you can support adoption grant organizations with your federal adoption tax credit so that granters can support a greater percentage of applicant families in the future.

Stay resolved. Just because you weren’t awarded the grant you had hoped for doesn’t mean you aren’t “meant” to adopt. It’s okay to be disappointed; I know I was. Don’t let that stop you. Keep moving forward in faith.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;
I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

– Psalm 62:5-7

Got any other grant application tips? Post them in the comments!

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Kline-Laure-Family
Laure Kline and her husband Joel have two children, a biological daughter and a son adopted from Hubei, China, in 2014. She blogs about adoption, faith, fundraising and more at One Thousand for One. You can also follow her family’s post­-adoption life at Adopting Baby K. Laure is the owner and principal graphic designer of Lime Creative, a creative studio specializing in design for churches and nonprofit organizations. She and her family dance awkwardly, sing loudly, and pretend to be completely normal from their home in Lancaster, PA.

Her History Matters

February 11, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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We have been highlighting ideas for ways to honor Chinese heritage while celebrating Chinese New Year (and Chinese holidays). I have some goals as the mother of a four year old Chinese daughter. I hope to have a dumpling making day with our family and extended family and feast on homemade dumplings, and oranges, and …Read More

Find My Family: Cam

February 10, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Courageous Cam is 7 years old and is deaf and mute. Cam was found at 2 years old and upon admission was given a name that indicates loud and clear. Although he cannot talk the staff hoped he would learn to communicate. The staff observed that Cam could understand sign language and meaning through watching …Read More

Preparing Siblings for Adoption: Five Simple Guidelines

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Rock-a-Bye, Baby

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Sherry Waits for Her Family

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This gentle, beautiful little girl is Sherry! She was born in May of 2013 and her legs are paralyzed. Sherry was found when she was about 2 years old and had an EEG, head CT, and lower limb testing (results in file). She was very timid, depressed and scared of strangers but the nannies spent …Read More

Kaleidoscope: One Year Home

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Today our family celebrates our One Year Home anniversary! I’ve often imagined what it would be like if I could travel back in time to those early days; what would I say to myself? What words of encouragement would One-Year-Home-Me have to say to Me-From-A-Year-Ago? This is how I imagine it would go… //// Hi …Read More

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