Upheld

We are connected, you and I. Our stories different, our kids’ needs unique, but I’m guessing we’re on a similar trek.

Is your family being refined and blessed by a medical needs child? Yep, mine too.

Are you worn out, and a bit fragile? Uh, huh.

Feeling deep gratitude for the care of friends and family, but somehow just a bit alone? Yes.

Your new journey intensely hard, but profoundly beautiful? With ya.

Worry that you are burdening friends with too much medical talk? Same here.

God is writing such stories with our families. We face heart defects, vision & hearing loss, blood disorders, cerebral palsy, kidney disease, deficiencies and syndromes. Some of us said yes to conditions pre-adoption, and others received diagnoses post adoption. Some have one condition and others have multiple. We are living in different states and our syringes administering different meds, but each of our hearts carry the weight of parenting a child with medical needs.

Connections have been made through Instagram, agencies and adoption events. We share stories and have quicker than customary, intimate conversations. We cheer each other on, pray, grieve, and follow along; carrying each other’s burdens in a tiny way.

Much of our experience is shared:
We are worn out.
Our planes touched down on US soil, and it was game on.
Some test results have rocked us, and others have driven us to our knees in thanks to a great Healer.
Our faith is both depleted and intensified.
Some days we are hopeful, and others, full of fear.
Nurse, advocate, and momma are the hats we wear.
At dinners with friends, we zone out during talk about TV shows or vacations.
We are on our knees more than ever, but have missed lots of Sunday services.
The little bodies we care for carry surgical scars, and we ponder how their hearts will process it all.
Our calendar boxes are filled with doctor appointments, surgeries, therapies and tests.
Our marriages are stronger, but stretched thin.
We need only five minutes to know if a doctor is going to be the advocate we seek.
Late nights are spent researching and typing questions to mentor mommas in FB groups.
We’ll travel long distances for the best doctor.
IVs are dreaded.
Strength is found in the faces of our little people, and we lean in for the lessons.
Weekly, we coordinate babysitters, not for date nights, but appointments.
Ice cream is spooned up post doctor visits, because we must celebrate as we go. 


We know the ins and outs of our insurance policies, deductibles and medical caps.
Our medical needs child has siblings, and we wonder if they are getting enough attention.
Still, we are in awe of the profound work being done in the hearts of those siblings, as they soften with a deeper kind of love.
Our mailboxes usually hold at least one medical bill.
Our kids need to be catheterized, dilated and medicated. They need therapy, glasses, wheelchairs, blood transfusions, cochlear implants, casts and ostomy bags. They’ve had MRIs, echocardiograms, X-rays, scans and blood draws.


rebecca

We are different, but the same. Many of us are FB, blog or adoption group friends. I read of your surgeries, and stop to pray, checking back later for an update. I grieve over hard test results. I celebrate with you when your child rolls out of a hospital in a red wagon with balloons. I’m humbled that you do the same for our family.

God has given us the blessing of this sisterhood, and calls us to “consider how we may spur one another on” (Hebrews 10:24). So be spurred on, friend, knowing that you are not alone.

I can’t be with you in the waiting room, or sit with you on your bathroom floor as you give a high volume enema, but I can pray. I can give you the name of a neurosurgeon and offer advice. I can tell you that your family is a light in this world, and is making much of God. I can tell you that I see such hard won beauty rising in you. The roots of your faith are deepening, and I’m challenged to dig deeper too. Most importantly, let me remind you that Isaiah 41:10 promises that each of us is upheld.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
 I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10


Dear sister, you are also the daughter of a Most High God, and He upholds us. Dictionary.com tells us that to uphold means to defend, raise, support, lift upward and keep from sinking. Um, yes, please.

So, as much as we medical adoptive mommas “get” each other, as much as we hold each other up, let’s lean most deeply in, as daughters, to God who is with us. His hands are so much stronger than ours. Let’s find rest first in He who promises strength and help. Let’s give Him whatever hard thing is penciled in next on our calendars. While at it, give Him the bills, the antibiotics and the therapy sessions.

Mentors and encouragers are a gift as we traverse this path, but ultimately this is bigger than you and I, or even you and your child. It’s about Him and us. Let’s let the needs of our little people draw us to God.

Be spurred on, sisters, knowing that we walk together. Pray for my family, and I’ll pray for yours?

Take your next step with brave faith, daughters, knowing your Father is actively keeping your family from sinking. You are fully and perfectly upheld.



four more ways to raise funds for your adoption

When I talk to most people, their number one roadblock to adoption is MONEY, and I am so thankful to be invited to share a second blog post about funding your adoption. You can read the first post with fundraiser ideas HERE.

After becoming more and more involved in the adoption community, I have seen family after family begin their adoption journey without the necessary funds. Then, through grants, fundraisers, extra jobs, and frugality, they have every penny they need to bring their children home. One woman wrote me and said:

“There was only one time we doubted [that we would have enough money] near the beginning. We had a payment due and didn’t have enough. I started to really doubt. The very next day a check for the EXACT AMOUNT we lacked was in our mailbox with a note that said “God prompted me to give you this amount at this time.” They had no way of knowing! Totally God. He funds what He favors!”

Moreways

We can read story after story in the Bible about how God provided when His people were in need. Why do we believe that He would stand by without blessing us – without helping us – if we follow His command to care for the orphan? When we step out in faith, God provides! Experiencing that first hand has helped me believe it all the more.

When we made the decision to adopt, we cancelled our contract to buy 4 acres of land and build a house that we had designed ourselves. This gave us $25,000 at the start of our adoption process. My husband’s employer reimburses $5,000 of adoption expenses, so we asked people to sponsor puzzle pieces in order to raise $5,000. We would then take the reimbursed money from Ryan’s work and pay it forward to another adoptive family. In 9 days, our friends, family, and coworkers donated $5,425. It still blows my mind! We can’t wait for God to show us where to pay forward that money. We also held a garage sale for 3 days with many of our own items but also dozens and dozens of donations from other families. This sale resulted in just over $1,000.

We knew that bringing Tucker home would cost more than $31,000. Just as I was beginning to wonder how we would find the rest of our funds, I got an email from my friend who said that her husband wanted to raise money for our family during his 100 mile race. I was blown away!! These friends gave us $6,000 of the donations to fully fund the rest of our adoption, and with the remaining $5,000, they gave $1,000 to five different families who were also adopting. God provided for our family through a combination of our own financial decisions and the generosity of so many friends, family members, strangers, and coworkers. When God leads you to it, He will see you through it! To doubt that would make us just like the Israelites doubting God in the wilderness, Sarah and Abraham doubting that God would give them a son, and Gideon doubting that God would use him to defeat the Midianites.

Below you will find four different ways to help acquire the necessary funds to care for orphans through adoption: Adoption Tax Credit, Grants, Interest Free Loans, and Employee Assistance Programs.

1. ADOPTION TAX CREDIT:

For families who completed their adoptions in 2013, they might be eligible for the Adoption Tax Credit of a maximum of $12,970. Eligibility is dependent on your family’s tax liability. Your family might only be eligible for a portion of the Adoption Tax Credit the first year, but the remainder can carry forward through four additional years. For example, if you only are eligible for $7,000 the year following your adoption, the remaining $5,970 can be received in subsequent tax years. For more information, please view my post explaining how this credit works.

2. GRANTS:

Adopt Together - This nonprofit organization allows your family and friends to make tax deductible donations to your family, and then they will match or exceed the amount donated.

Hand in Hand - Tax deductible donations are made to this organization by your family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. Matching grants are then provided to adoptive families.

Lifesong - Matching grants ($1,000-$4,000) are provided to families adopting, and donations made by family, friends, coworkers, and strangers are tax deductible.

JSC Foundation - The amount of money awarded varies and is at the discretion of the foundation. I know one family that was given $10,000 by this incredible organization. Applications are due January 15, March 15, May 15, August 15, and October 15 of each year. Families are notified by the end of the following month.

Show Hope - This organization was founded by Steven and Mary Beth Chapman in honor of their daughter, who they adopted from China, but passed away tragically. The six application due dates are Feb 28th, April 30th, Jun 30th, Aug 31st, Oct 31st, Dec 31st. These grants are $4,000 on average.

Families Outreach - Families must be adopting through a nonprofit agency, have a completed home study, and have endorsement from their pastor.

Global Orphan Foundation - Applications are due June 1st and December 1st. Grants awarded up to $11,000 to aid families with adoption.

NAMB - This organization provides grants to pastors/families in ministry.

Chosen for Life - Their mission is to educate and engage the people of our local churches and communities on ways they can live in obedience to God’s command to visit orphans in their affliction in our neighborhood and around the world. They provide grants to families in the adoption process.

Salvation International - Applications are due April 1st and October 1st. Grants awarded range from $500-$5,000.

Rollstone Foundation - Aids with the adoption of children with special needs (FYI: Tucker is considered special needs). One family reported a grant of $2,000 from this great organization.

ABBA Fund - Your family, friends, coworkers, and strangers can make a tax deductible donation to ABBA fund, and then the money is awarded to your family at the end of your fundraiser.

Affording Adoption Foundation - Many grants are around $1,000.

Brittany’s Hope - Families are asked to raise half of the money granted to them.

A Child Waits - Grants up to $5,000 for people pursuing international adoption through a nonprofit agency.

Gift of Adoption Fund - Grants between $1,000-$7,500 for families who have completed their home study.

God’s Grace Adoption Ministry - Provides matching grants to families who are Christian, are a two parent family, and make less than $60,000 per year. A typical matching grant is $2,500.

Help Us Adopt - Provides up to $15,000 grants to families adopting. Applications are due in April and October.

Katelyn’s Fund - Provides grants for families making less than $100,000 per year.

National Adoption Foundation - Grants range from $500-$2,000.

Parenthood for Me - Grants range from $2,000-$5,000 for families who do NOT have any children.

Sea of Faces - Applications accepted in March, June, September, and December. Their goal is to provide three $1,000-$3,000 grants per quarter.

3. INTEREST FREE LOANS

Lifesong

ABBA Fund

Pathways for Little Feet

Forever Family Ministries

*Many people will use their Adoption Tax Credit money to pay off these loans immediately.

4. EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE

Check to see if your employer provides a benefit (like my husband’s company) for adoptive families. Holt has published an extensive list here. This is an amazing benefit for employees!

At the end of the day…

Money cannot be the reason that these children stay in orphanages.

Money cannot be the reason children with treatable medical conditions do not survive.

Money cannot be the reason that children do not get to experience the love of a family.

It is my sincere hope that this post gives you hope that resources are available to help families bring these precious children home. Don’t let the fear of money hold you back from experiencing one of the amazing gifts you will ever receive.

amy


Amy Abell My Passionate Balance

Created Perfectly

Today, 3/21, is World Down Syndrome Day! (Get it? 3-21? Trisomy 21!) A day intentionally set aside to be aware of and to embrace the overwhelming BLESSING that is Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is indeed a spectrum of special needs; some children & adults with Down syndrome are much more medically, developmentally & emotionally affected than others, but I believe DS has been wrongly labeled a disability. In fact, the more I learn about my son the more I realize that it is I that have the ‘disability’.

Isaac’s ‘genetic aberation’ allows him to see and feel and interact with people in a way that I will never be able to do; I have been crippled by selfishness, pride, ignorance & social morays. If he sees someone who is hurting, he simply hugs them. It doesn’t matter if we are in the middle of Costco, that person needs a hug! And not just any person… THAT person. Sadly, it wouldn’t even cross my mind to minister to a stranger that way, especially while shopping for fifty pounds of hamburger. What crushes my ignorant heart is to see that stranger just melt in the short little arms of my sweet boy. They needed that hug deeply. They were starving for the hands of my Lord to physically touch them and He did… through my child with Down syndrome. Isaac pats them on the back and looks them straight in the eyes as if to say, “it’s going to be alright, you’ll see. Me and Jesus love you!”

It’s true, Jesus does love them and my son just loved on them. Do I love that stranger? I mean, really love them, like I know Jesus does… like I’ve been asked to by my Loving Creator? Like my son in his ‘disability’ seems to do so easily? The truth is no. I’m the one with the disability, and now with fifty pounds of hamburger.

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Down syndrome is not a disease. It is not a health hazard. It is not a disability. It is an extra chromosome of love placed PERFECTLY by our Heavenly Father with intention and purpose.

Today is a day the entire world stops to acknowledge that very fact. What could we learn by letting go of our selfish, ignorant, crippled hearts and really loved like our friends with Down syndrome do? Would we love like Jesus? Would we be overwhelmed by the joy of the Lord like my son is? I can guarantee it’ll make your trips to Costco more interesting!

You can see some precious children with Down syndrome who are currently waiting for their forever family here, here and here.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other.” – John 13:35 MSG

For more information regarding World Down Syndrome Day events in your neighborhood, please visit the World Down Syndrome Day website here.



what we’re reading: 3.20.2014

From the last few weeks, some good stuff we’ve read that relates to adoption and/or parenting a special needs child.

As always, if you’ve read or written something you think would be a good addition to a future What We’re Reading post, we’d love to hear about it…

To share a blog post or news article go here.
To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling to China family go here.

Around the Blog World:

Did you know that boys outnumber girls on the shared list, 5 to 1? Andrea at Home is Where the Heart Is shares transparently about her initial preference for adopting a girl instead of a boy from China… and how she feels now, two little boys later.

On Brain Child, Avra Wing, mom to a teenaged daughter from China, reminisces on the surprising and unexpected effects of a return trip to China.

Our own Amy recently experienced one of her worst fears – her daughter Grace was hospitalized with pneumonia. And here she shares the rest of the story.

Six weeks after bringing home daughter Kaili from China, mom Jodi shares her thoughts on special needs adoption on the America World blog.

Rebecca at The Sweet Life follows up her first homeschooling post (found here) with this post about homeschooling Pre-K. Great ideas for encouraging learning between toddlerhood and kindergarten.

Johanna from Stop and Smell the Flowers writes about their word for the year – and how it has affected their adoption journey.

On Forty Days, find forty days worth of Chinese orphan charities to help, support and fund.

In the news:

News anchor in Dallas is surprised by the on-camera visit of the formerly orphaned teen for whom she helped find a forever family five years before. Have a tissue.

Down Syndrome: A Year of Grief and Joy – a mom looks back at all that has changed since she first discovered the little boy she was carrying had Down syndrome.

‘Baby hatch’ in Guangzhou closes – unable to care for any more than the 262 babies with special needs and/or illnesses that have been abandoned since it opened in late January.

Read something inspiring lately? Informative? Encouraging? Share the link HERE.

Traveling Families:

alisa

Alisa at A Family4Him with her family – now grown by one adorable little guy

In China now, or just home with their child…

NowHere – our very own Carrie!
A Family for Him
Shouts of Joy
A Mother’s Love
Polkadots on the Windshield
We Are Coming for Chu
His Plan. Our Joy.
Seeing Double
2 Red Threads
The Oasis – Adopting HIS Children

Getting close to travel for your little one in China? Share the link HERE.

P.S. A special thank you to everyone who submitted recommendations for What We’re Reading this week.


Six Pills a Day: A Cure for My Ignorance Regarding HIV

Mike is dad to six. Two of his children, adopted from China, have HIV. Today he shares from-the-heart about their journey. You can read a previous post he shared here.

Growing up in the Midwest in the 80s, my picture of HIV was framed by after-school specials, the evening news, and MTV. I had never met anyone with HIV or AIDS, and its only real impact on my life was that I used extra toilet paper on the seat of public toilets.

In my naïve picture of the world, HIV was something that happened to other people. It happened to people who made bad choices. It happened to people who lived far away in scary places like San Francisco and New York where a lot of those bad choices were made. (I cannot imagine how much toilet paper I would have consumed on a class trip to one of those cities…)

There were only two exceptions to my simplistic view of HIV – People who got HIV from a blood transfusion and kids in Africa who got it from their parents. Those two groups were more likely to receive my pity than my self-righteous judgment. (Have I been clear enough that I was both ignorant and a jerk?)

With this as background, you can imagine my surprise in 2013 when my wife called me at work to talk about our pending adoption from China. Anne and I had four kids at the time – two “tummy babies” and two “airplane babies” from China, and we had recently decided that we could muster the love and capacity to add one more child to our family.

With our paperwork fully filed, we were in position to review the profiles of available special needs kids. Our first two adopted kids live with hearing loss, so I assumed that the third would as well. You can imagine my surprise when Anne said that we had NOT been called about a child with hearing problems. Oh no. Her three-word description remains as one of the most shocking phrases I have ever heard – “Twins with HIV.”

I could write a book about everything that went through my mind in the next few moments. I think I laughed out loud when she said it. That’s how ridiculous it seemed to me. I literally could not decide which half of the equation scared me more… TWINS or HIV. I just knew with absolute certainty that neither of those were going to work…

Three months later, we arrived in Changsha to meet Sam and Ellie… my twins with HIV. When I consider how much I love them today, I cannot imagine that it was ever an option NOT to adopt them. (God’s plans are not our own; they are far, far better. To quote CS Lewis… “He’s not safe, but he’s good.”)

Our healthy, bright, hilarious and much-loved Ellie and Sammy, celebrating their first Christmas at home. My mind cannot reconcile the fact that they would be considered the lowest of the low in many parts of the world today.

Our healthy, bright, hilarious and much-loved Ellie and Sammy, celebrating their first Christmas at home. My mind cannot reconcile the fact that they would be considered the lowest of the low in many parts of the world today.

 
That was one year ago today. And in that year, I have worried about a lot of things relative to Sam and Ellie. I have worried about the tremendous losses that they have already had to face. I have worried about how old they really are and when to send them to Kindergarten. Sometimes on the same day as my kindergarten worries, I have worried about how I am going to pay for their college. A surprisingly common worry is precipitated by the question, “Does anyone know where Sammy is?”

One thing I have not worried a lot about is HIV. The primary reason for this is a miracle of modern medicine called Antiretroviral Therapy. Sam and Ellie each take 3 medicines in the morning and the same 3 pills again at night, and those six pills a day literally keep my children alive.

I should note that this life-saving cocktail of drugs only exists because of the courage, perseverance, and sacrifice of those same people I was so quick to judge in my youth. Those communities which faced the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s bravely fought uphill for the acknowledgement, funding, and research necessary to fight this terrible disease. Many of them lost their lives during the pursuit of the drugs which now keep Sam and Ellie alive. It would be difficult to overstate the respect and gratitude I now feel toward the HIV/AIDS community.

You see, my 1980’s picture of HIV is as outdated as my pleated pants from that same decade. (I have become more informed on HIV. My pants remain a problem.) Some of the things I now know:

How HIV is Spread (or not) – HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact – this includes hugging, sharing snacks and drinks, diapering, or even the dreaded toilet seat. The virus is only present in blood and sexual fluids/breast milk. Since none of our family members or friends plan to have sex or exchange needles with Sam and Ellie, we are not at risk. We “glove up” and use a few extra Band-Aids when they fall off their scooters and have bloody knees, but that is more because of their love for the printed Dora or Buzz Lightyear than protection from the virus, which cannot survive outside of the body. (The 8 of us do go through a shocking amount of toilet paper, but none of it is used to cover the seat at home.)

Day-to-Day Life with HIV – My children are not defined by their HIV status. They have to take their medicine each day. They visit our wonderful Infectious Disease team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital quarterly to draw blood for viral load and immune system monitoring. Because of the drug therapy, the level of the virus in my kids’ blood is so low that it is considered ”undetectable,” and their immune systems have been within or above normal ranges during each of their five visits so far. A slew of illnesses have passed through our family since the kids’ arrival, and Sam and Ellie have recovered at the very same rate as our other kids. Some HIV patients experience side effects from the meds, but we have been blessed by a lack of any issues to date. Aware that the medications can be very expensive, we braced for a serious hit to our budget upon Sammy and Ellie’s arrival, but we were pleasantly surprised by the availability of generics, and we are thankful, as always, for great insurance. For both kids, our after-insurance cost is around $150 per month at the pharmacy and about the same for each round of labs.

The Long-term Prognosis – With proper treatment, people living with HIV have normal life expectancies and they can expect to live normal lives, including marriage and parenting healthy children. Our specialist has genuine hope to be out of a job in the next 10-20 years when she believes a cure will be available.

How Others Will React – Importantly, we have been warned that “HIV stigma” would be one of the most difficult aspects of parenting kids with the virus, especially in light of our choice not to assert privacy rights. After one year with Ellie and Sam home, we have not experienced any of the negative reactions that were anticipating. Everyone we’ve encountered has been positive, interested in learning, and so loving to our kids. We were prepared to lose relationships – potentially a lot of relationships – but we have experienced nothing but open arms eager to welcome our kids home. We know that others have not been so fortunate and also know that the challenges may shift in nature as the kids get older, but our experiences to date have been almost universally positive.

As hopeful as I want this article to be, it is essential to highlight that there are kids just like ours who are dying from HIV and AIDS every day, almost always because they don’t have access to the medicines Ellie and Sammy casually throw back with their Cheerios in the morning and in their PJs at bedtime. A significant percentage of the orphans in the world today are kids who acquired the virus during birth and lost their parent(s) to AIDS.

Our family today

Our family today

 
In the face of so much ignorance and misinformation, that may be the only area where I have been consistently right in my understanding of HIV. There are a lot of kids in far away places who have it. Kids who will die… and die alone… from HIV if they don’t get the help and hope we have the power to give them. Kids in desperate need of a mom, a dad, and six pills a day.

Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. Psalm 24:25

Waiting Children

Wilma Update: My family has found me!

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Wilma is six years old and described as a sweet and smart little girl. She is gentle, optimistic, and is able to find joy in many places. The nannies say that her happy laughter makes others smile. She gets sick a lot and usually has a cough. She has just started kindergarten and enjoys school. She is listed with Lifeline. For more information or to review her file, please email Lifeline.

Zeb

Zeb

Zeb is almost thirteen and is from Southern China. He is waiting on the shared list and is HIV positive. Zeb has a provincial accent, can express his needs, but can not pronounce clearly. He likes playing with other children when he was in institute, knows to share food and toys; he is popular with caretakers and children. He gets along well others, respect teachers and get along well with classmates in school. He is a good kid who is praised by parents and teachers.

Daniel Update: my family has found me!

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Daniel was born in February of 2006. Daniel’s birth mother was tested HIV antibody positive. Right after she gave birth to Daniel, she disappeared from the hospital and left Daniel at the ward. Because the birth mother was tested positive in HIV antibody test, Daniel’s HIV antibody was suspected to be positive at the age of one month. The doctors suggested doing another HIV test one year later. Daniel also had a hemangioma on his arm. Daniel was admitted into the CWI in April of 2006. He has received loving care from the staff members at the CWI. The HIV test done after he turned one was negative. In May of 2009 the hemangioma on his arm was broken and needed surgery. The surgery was successful. Now there is a scar on his arm. Daniel is active, energetic and affectionate. He likes playing with other children and is good at expressing himself. He can speak fluently and likes dancing. He is helpful with younger children at the CWI and knows how to share. Daniel is looking forward to having a loving home of his own. He is listed with BAAS.

You can view Daniel’s videos via youtube here and here.

Jack

Jack

Jack is a sweet 8 year old who is HIV positive. At 6 years old, Jack was described as active and “naughty,” liking to play. He attends school and can prepare his bag and clothes every day. He is said to obey the traffic rules and cares for his little foster sister. Jack is also stated to like making friends and playing with friends. He is said to be able to finish his homework carefully and is independent. His file states that he can put on his clothes, go to the bath, brush his teeth, wash his face and make the bed. He is also said to like to talk, to draw and to do math homework! Apparently wonderful Jack has a “pet phrase.” It is, “I am a little tiger!” So cute! Jack is listed with Lifeline. For more info or to review his file, please email Annie.

Resources for prospective parents:
HIV Adoption Yahoo Group
Project Hopeful

For more information on beginning the adoption journey, please contact the Advocacy Team.

Wonder

My daughter and I reclined comfortably together at a park yesterday, beside a calm lake in which Chinese men, bent with age, stood stirring the water around their boats with long oars. A thousand Chinese faces passed us by, upturned at the sunny sky and squinting at their beloved kites in the wind. Some of the kites were fighting it, dipping and wobbling, wrapping around the tops of trees. But some of the kites positively soared, as if their strings didn’t exist at all.

This is where we live. My daughter’s birth family might be only miles from us for all we know. And yet we’ll never know, for she was laid on a street corner in a box when she 6-days old, give or take. Sometimes I look at the faces around us, and I wonder “Could any of these people be her people? Is that lady in the red sweater her mother’s cousin, who moved from the village to the city to get married? Is that one her father’s brother, a migrant worker, living in a shanty beside the construction site, working his fingernails off in order to send a small amount of money home to his wife?”

And then I look at my daughter, with her soft brown cheeks bitten red by the March winds, and her bright eyes dancing from kite to kite, and I feel so connected to her that I could cry. In all this big world, she and I came together, mother and daughter. We are an island in a sea of relatives, and because of reasons we will never know, we are related now, too, in the most wonderful way imaginable.

Adoption.

Take part in the miracle if you can. It will leave you in wonder for the rest of your life.

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How To Find Your Child!

At least, this is how we found our children!

We started with prayer. Prayers for strength, perseverance, guidance, grace and for the child that HE was leading us too. Once we felt God’s presence we proceeded.

Qian_Bao_Xin_2

This is a good place to start! The NHBO site is filled with information on different special needs, parenting in adoption and current waiting children. Start by looking at all the other posts on this blog! You will see pictures of children along with a little bit of information on each child. This site has so much information on it! Take it all in, educate yourself and be proactive.

This is how we started- we knew our child was out there so we felt led to search for her/ him. Many times we both agreed- that’s her or that’s him but sometimes we had to step back and pray over it. We had to wait for God to move our hearts.

The children on the NHBO site are listed with different agencies. Most likely, if you find a waiting child on an agency list they will want you to adopt that child through their agency. Of course I have my favorite agencies but then so do others and the good news is my favorites are different from others- meaning so many of the agencies are wonderful! There are occasions when an agency has had the file for over 6 months and they are willing to transfer the file to the agency you are working with.

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The next step is to join this yahoo group: advocateforwc-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. They continuously advocate for the waiting children in China. They answer adoption-related questions and they are extremely helpful! This group is so active you may have to sign up for the daily digest! We have found a few of our children through this advocating group! We are so thankful for that!

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Next you will want to check out Rainbow kids. This website has pages and pages of waiting children from many different countries and agencies! They also have articles on different special needs that you may or may not be considering. It is very informative!

Arizona update_2

At this point I would start making a list of special needs that would work for your family. Sometimes the names of the special needs seem rather confusing and the information on the internet can be overwhelming but once again pray over it and look for God’s guidance. Sometime the actual need of the child is not as serious as it sounds.

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The first time we adopted, our list of acceptable special needs was very short. After the first adoption, I couldn’t fill that list out any more. Our agency would say to me “we need your list,” “we need your list” and I just wouldn’t fill it out… I couldn’t… What if I did and missed our child because I was afraid to include a certain special need?

I will tell you right now we never intended to adopt a child with
Cognitive delays
Cognitive disabilities
Imperforate anus and a colostomy
HIV
Cataracts
An older child
An incontinent child

Thankfully GOD intended us to do all of this and we have been blessed because of it!

Unlike me you should still fill out the list of acceptable special needs. But with time other special needs may feel more comfortable to you. Giving your agency this completed list will help them find a child that may be a fit for your family.

Once we know a child is ours their special need becomes insignificant. They simply become our child and we will do what ever we can to help them! We have also found that many of the special needs are more doable than we originally thought and caring for the child becomes part of our routine and daily life.

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So let’s keep searching!

Next I would start checking out the advocating blogs!
Here are just a few that I know of:

There are so many more blogs and websites on the internet, so start searching! Your child is waiting for you!

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At this point you have seen many children that need families. You may have even found a few that make you heart skip a beat. Now it’s time to find an agency if you haven’t already found one. You do not need to go with an agency near your hometown. You can go with any agency in the USA. Cell phones, faxing, attaching, emailing, and overnighting has made it a small world. Our family is in Minnesota and we have adopted with agencies in Minnesota, Colorado and Alabama.

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After this I would contact a few agencies that you are interested in adopting through and see if you can view their waiting child lists. You will need to fill out a form to have access to their lists. However, this does not mean you are committed to adopt through that agency. There may be a small fee but many of the agencies will allow you to see their lists with just filling out the form.

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I hope that this information will be helpful to you and at least get you started on the amazing journey of adoption! I am unable to have a comprehensive list because there is so much information available. We have found that one list or one contact will lead you to another! Somewhere out there is your precious child. The journey to your child will be filled with excitement and challenges! It is amazing and you will see God at every turn! ENJOY!


22 ways to raise funds for your adoption

Hello! My name is Amy Abell, and I am so excited to have this opportunity to be a guest blogger for No Hands But Ours.

I began blogging soon after I became pregnant with my first son, Noah, in 2007 and continued to blog when my second son, Liam, surprised us with a cleft lip at birth. We knew Liam’s smile had a purpose for our lives, and when it finally led us to adoption in July 2012, we were both shocked and excited! I chronicled our adoption journey and grew more and more passionate about orphan care every day. After bringing our son, Tucker, home from China in October 2013, my desire for more families to get involved in helping the fatherless has gained a stronger sense of urgency.

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Typically, I hear people name MONEY as the number one reason they are afraid to move forward with adoption. Few people have $30,000 lying around to use toward an adoption, and they think they must finance their adoptions alone. Men seem to feel especially ashamed or too prideful to ask for help. When people adopt this kind of attitude, they miss out on three critical opportunities.

First, people miss out on the opportunity to see God work through the people in our lives. Seeing people donating items to our garage sale, running a 100 mile race, fundraising on our behalf, sponsoring puzzle pieces, and selling t-shirts was all so very humbling. The appreciation, love, and reverence we experienced for our friends, family, coworkers, and strangers is still carried in our hearts today. I was brought to tears so many times seeing the people around us supporting us and sacrificing for our family. It still gives me chills to think about how we felt God’s presence through all of their actions.

Second, when people hold fundraisers, their family, friends, coworkers, and strangers have an opportunity to get involved in orphan care. For many, this will be the first time they have lived out James 1:27. When people give their time and money to any cause, it automatically becomes more personal to them.

Third, when people donate time and/or money to help a adoptive families bring home their children, they experience the intrinsic reward of helping someone else, which can result in wanting to get more involved in orphan care. Your adoption could be the door God uses to open other people’s hearts to the fatherless. Maybe they will become foster parents. Maybe they will find a way help children who will never be adopted. Maybe they will host orphans or even adopt themselves. You will never know unless you invite people into your journey.

Information is power, and if you are scared to pursue adoption because of the finances involved, then today I am going to empower you with many ideas to raise money for your adoption.

1. Garage Sale – When you add your items to the collection of items donated from friends, family, coworkers, and strangers, you can really raise a lot of money for your adoption. One family told me that they raised $6,000 just through garage sales! Here are some tips for holding a successful garage sale. Here is a recap of our garage sale adventures.

2. Craigslist or Ebay – Sell more significant items through these websites. I even know one woman who sold her wedding ring. Seriously, when you make the decision to bring a child into your family through adoption, you will do nearly anything to get that child home.

3. Photography Session – For those of you who are amateur or professional photographers, this is another way to raise money.

4. Selling Items for Businesses - Scarlet Threads, Mudlove bracelets, Goat’s Milk products, Mixed Bags, Tukula Bags, bed sheets, cookie dough.

5. Selling Handmade or Homemade Items – nursery letters, quilts, jewelry, key chains, coasters, self-designed cookbooks, Christmas ornaments, hair accessories, knitted or crocheted items, paintings, pizzas, desserts, etc. If you have a gift for creating, you can sell your creations to others.

6. Food-Related Fundraising Event – Ice Cream Socials, Spaghetti Dinners, Banana Split Social, Soup Dinners, Chili Dinners, Lasagna Dinner, Pancake Breakfast, or Murder Mystery Dinner.

7. Restaurant Fundraising EventChick-fil-A, Orange Leaf, Panda Express, Pizza Hut, Fazoli’s, etc.

8. Benefit Concert with Dinner – If you or someone you know is gifted musically, this could be a great option for you. One family shared with me that they planned a nice meal, had a silent auction (63 baskets filled with everything from donated Diamond Rio VIP tickets to oil changes) and had a group of friends come and perform (singing). They charged $10 a ticket and sold between 80-90 tickets. The food was donated, the location was donated, the entertainment was donated, and most of the baskets and items were donated. They had great success with their benefit, raising $4,000!

9. Make and Sell T-shirts – Everyone wears t-shirts, and it is fun to have t-shirts to remember various events in your life. Contact local printing companies or even use an organization like Fund the Nations, 147 Million Orphans, or Adoption Bug.
 
10. Puzzle Piece Fundraiser – Your family, friends, coworkers, and strangers can sponsor puzzle pieces for $5, $10, or any amount that helps you reach you goal. Then, you can hang your completed puzzle in your child’s room as a constant reminder to all of the people who worked to bring your child home. Here is my post about our puzzle piece fundraiser, along with the You Caring webpage we created (our video is still there) and used to process donations. Here is my post at the completion of our fundraiser after people donated $5,425 in just nine days.

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11. Change Collection – One family wrote and shared they passed out containers (paper printable) to their friends, family, and coworkers and asked them to put spare change into them. It is amazing how quickly loose change can add up and help bring these kids home.

12. Grow Your Blog Giveaway – For those of you who have a network of bloggers, one family held a Grow Your Blog Giveaway. Various bloggers donated their ad space for a chance to win a prize. To be honest, I know less about this option, but for those of you who are serious in the blog world, I’m sure you understand what this means.

13. Online Auction – Families can use Facebook or their blogs to host an online auction. You can post pictures and descriptions of various items and services, set minimum bids, and hold an auction. Many artisans from Etsy will donate items and appreciate the free marketing you provide.

twelve year old Grace held a China-themed babysitting night and raised $430 to bring our son home

twelve year old Grace held a China-themed babysitting night and raised $430 to bring our son home

14. Lawn Mowing  or Babysitting Night – Do you have older children who want to help bring their siblings home? They can mow lawns or hold babysitting nights and donate their earned money.

15. Create an Etsy Shop – For those of you who have the ability to create, opening an Etsy shop is an easy way to sell your craft. This is an easy way to raise money if you can make desirable items.

16. Send a Formal Letter - Sending a formal letter to friends, family, and coworkers explaining what led you to adoption, who the child is (if that is known), why their support would be appreciated, and how grateful you are for their consideration. If you have a matching grant or a way for people to make tax-deductible donations, make sure you provide that information, as well. If you have a blog or a website where they can follow your journey and/or make donations online, provide that, as well.

17. Painting Party – Are you a talented artist? If not, could you find someone to donate their time to hold a painting party? You could charge a set amount to cover the materials, and the remainder could be applied to your adoption fund.

18. Both Hands Fundraiser – The purpose of a Both Hands Fundraiser is to help people raise funds for orphans while serving widows through home improvement projects. I have seen several families hold a Both Hands Fundraiser with great success. Not only do they team up with their friends, family, and coworkers to serve a widow in their community together – donating hours of service time – but they are able to then raise money to bring home their children. One family shared that $8,000 was donated to their fundraiser!

19. Create a You Caring Website for Online Donations – The best website, in my opinion, for adoption fundraisers is You Caring when you do not have a matching grant where people can make tax deductible donations. This website only allows certain types of fundraisers, and adoption is one of them. You Caring does not retain any portion of donations. The only fees collected are through PayPal (2.7% + 30 cents per transaction). All other fundraising websites that I viewed kept a percentage of the donations for themselves. This ended up being 10% of total donations for some websites, and to be honest, I will not make online donations to those websites, as I want as much of every dollar I donate to be used. Our total PayPal fees collected on $5,425 worth of donations was only $117 (note: we had some donations made offline by check, so fees were not taken). Here is an example of a family trying to raise funds through You Caring to bring home four brothers from Haiti.

20. Hold a Sporting Event or Participate in One - If you are someone who likes to organize events, create your own 5k, 10k, volleyball tournament, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, or golf outing to raise money for your adoption. If organizing events is not your specialty, participate in an existing event such as a mini-marathon, marathon, or in our friend Andy’s case, a 100 mile race. You can ask people to sponsor you per mile or just donate a lump sum. Have friends participate with you and ask them to do the same! Having friends and family working to support your cause is one of the most humbling feelings in the world.

21. Christmas-Related Fundraisers – If you are going to fundraise around the holidays, you could easily incorporate the theme into your fundraiser. If you enjoy gift wrapping, offer to wrap others gifts for a set price or ask for donations only. I also remember a family having a Meet Santa fundraiser where they provided breakfast, the opportunity to meet Santa, a craft, games, etc. and charged for tickets. You could sell individual tickets or charge per family. I can’t remember how much money they made specifically, but I remember it being a successful fundraiser!

22. Be Willing to Make Personal Sacrifices – This is so important! When you are fundraising for an adoption, you are putting yourself under a magnifying glass in some ways. People can be very judgmental, and they will appreciate seeing you make financial sacrifices. Working overtime, getting a second job, cancelling your gym membership, cancelling your cable/satellite service (that can be $1,200 easy), going out to eat less often, etc. are all ways to show that you are being responsible. Taking several trips or vacations, buying unnecessary items, and obvious overspending can deter people from wanting to help your family.

Not every single one of these ideas will work for your family, nor do I suggest having 20 different fundraisers at once. People get overwhelmed and confused by how to get involved. Keep it simple and be intentional about choosing your fundraisers. You need to feel invested in them and excited about them if they have any chance of being successful.

example photo we emailed or posted on Facebook for each family who donated to our puzzle fundraiser with a personal thank you note

example photo we emailed or posted on Facebook for each family who donated to our puzzle fundraiser with a personal thank you note

As you determine how to fund your adoption, please remember to raise money with a grateful and humble heart. I cannot stress this enough! People want to know that you appreciate their donation no matter if it is $5 or $500. Find a way to thank each person individually if possible in order to show your gratitude. Making someone feel appreciated goes a long way. Try to use language such as “$5,000 was donated to our fundraiser” rather than “We raised $5,000 with our fundraiser.” By saying it the first way, you are recognizing the support of other people rather than your own efforts. This is so important! Yes, of course you worked hard to execute your fundraiser, but without donations, they would not be successful.

I hope you find these fundraising ideas helpful! My goal is to remove any barriers that exist to bringing more children home. Next week, I will share some other ways to fund your adoption through grants, interest free loans, employee assistance programs, and the adoption tax credit. Additional fundraising ideas can be found at a blog called Walking by the Way. I wanted to highlight these top 22 ideas in order to give you the idea that there is a variety of ways to raise money for your adoption.

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Amy Abell
My Passionate Balance

the need is great

This month I meant to share with you about a difficult conversation one of my kids and I have been dancing around for months now. And I will share that conversation at some point.

But it won’t be today.

Today my heart is broken, my thoughts are disjointed and my emotions are raw.

I just got a text from my sister about a boy she and her family have gotten to know during their three trips to work at the orphanage their church sponsors. My nephew, himself less than four years removed from orphan status, considers “Pedro” one of his best friends and talks excitedly about visiting him when they return to Honduras later this year.

But it looks my nephew will not see his friend again. Last week it was discovered that the cancer that took his leg early last year has come back..and apparently with a vengeance. After his exam today the missionary doctor has given him weeks at best.

Weeks.

While I’ve never personally met Pedro, I’ve seen pictures of his contagious smile, I’ve heard stories about his delightful personality, and I’ve seen how he’s impacted my sister, and more importantly, how he’s impacted my nephew. So today I’ve openly cried for him in front of my children. We’ve talked about cancer, lack of good medical options, and facing death as a child in an orphanage.

Then I stopped to think about the thousands of other kids in institutions across the globe with stories like his.

The tragedy of children walking through difficult times without a family to lean on is almost too much to bear.

There are days that I wish I could close my eyes to this crisis. That by distracting myself I could disconnect from the injustice. But eight “ish” years ago when we stepped into the waters of international adoption our eyes were opened and the crisis of the orphan has become part of our reality.

Some days it hurts. It hurts nearly to the point that I feel I will break. I become almost paralyzed at the vastness of the need. I just want to throw my hands up in the air and give up. But giving up won’t make the tragedy disappear.

My family can’t solve it all. And neither can yours. But I have to believe that if we continue to link arms…to support adoptive families…to make more people outside our little adoptive community aware…to sponsor organizations that are working both to provide life-giving surgery to orphans and to keep birth families together…that we will make a difference.

One life at a time.



special need highlight: adopting a child with thalassemia

In August 2011, my daughters and I returned to China as part of a mission team working to help orphanages assist their children with special needs. It is no coincidence that my background as a pediatric Occupational Therapist would be needed in the place so close to my heart. I partnered with the incredible organization Grace and Hope for Children, just as I had done almost every year since 2005, and was close to adopting Mia who was living in a different orphanage within the region with a diagnosis of beta thalassemia major. When we arrived at one particular orphanage, children were everywhere. It was a much different experience than 2008, when I was only shown a few of the kids living there. This time, we were to see every single child. Every single life. My heart broke for all of the children, orphans, who needed to be wanted, cherished, and loved.

The orphanage already knew I was in process for the adoption Mia and had some questions. They were very curious as to why I was adopting Mia, and what the medical care would be for children with thalassemia in the US. As I explained how we live in an area where one of the centers of excellence for thalassemia is, they brought out a baby. He was pale, yet playful. Lianna held him and he looked at me, calmly and cautiously. I was told he had thalassemia, and they never had a child with thalassemia survive. Ever. I tried to encourage them. I told them that there are families who are open to adopting children with thalassemia. That this sweet baby had a chance. Several months later, I was told that this sweet baby had not survived. He never got his chance.

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In October 2011, as I was adopting Mia, her orphanage begged me to help find a family for another child with thalassemia who had been on the waiting child lists for adoption for several months already. He was getting sicker and the orphanage was very worried. They already had several children with thalassemia adopted from the orphanage, and were hopeful someone would adopt him too. Nobody had come forward for the boy with a sweet smile who was at the top of his class. He had many friends. He was adored by his foster family. The orphanage pleaded for a chance for him. He never got his chance, and is now smiling that brilliant smile in heaven.

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A few months later, I received word from that orphanage we visited in August 2011. They had two more baby girls with thalassemia. They wanted these babies to have that chance. The chance that the pale baby boy never had. They asked me to help, so that they could live. They asked me to find each of them a family, and they would begin the paperwork needed for adoption. The photos were heartbreaking. One of these children was so fragile. So sick. The other had such a sadness in her eyes. These babies needed someone. Someone to come forward and give them a chance. Someone to say yes. I thought back to the baby I met whose eyes seemed to beg me to give him a chance. And how he never got that chance. I started advocating for these two Guangxi girls, and a year later one of these precious baby girls came home to me. She was to be my Hannah Joy. Her orphanage sister came home a few months later to a very special family. The orphanage finally had two survivors of beta thalassemia. First.Time.EVER.

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When the orphanage saw these two girls survive, and then thrive, they had hope. Despite the fact that Guangxi typically suffers blood shortage, they committed to trying to transfuse children as much as possible. Three more children entered the orphanage with thalassemia, and they quickly prepared paperwork. And yet, I learned last week that one of them, a precious baby boy, would not survive. Another chance lost.

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The thought of my Hannah Joy being one of two who lived from her orphanage, one of the survivors, is a thought that haunts me sometimes. She brings insurmountable joy. A joy that never would have been experienced if she did not survive. If she had been one who did not have a chance, it would have been a void in my life and a void in the world. She is a gift, and it is a privilege to be her mother. Her infectious laugh, her brightness, her sweetness, her inner beauty is gift to all who experience her. And yet, it’s a fact I struggle with this week learning that one more life was lost to thalassemia. The world is now void of these other children who did not have a chance. We will never again have the opportunity to experience the love they could have given to us. The hope they could have shown us. And the courage they could have displayed to us.

I am determined to not let their short lives be in vain. Children with thalassemia intermedia and thalassemia major are just like any other children. They develop, learn, are playful, and add so much to a family. I know this first hand. The difference between kids like my Mia and Hannah Joy and other kids, is that they are anemic, and their anemia is not fixable with iron. They need donated blood for transfusions and then chelators to remove the consequences of these transfusions. The transfusions are given under the care of a hematologist, at a hospital, every 21 to 28 days. It is likely Mia will need transfusions every 14 days as she reaches adolescence or young adulthood. These transfusions continue for life, or until the current research enables better treatments or a cure.

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People will ask me how I do it. How do I parent two children needing such care? I just do it. Just like any other parent would. I take care of them, and we live our life with school, piano lessons, Sunday school, and dance class. It really is no different than learning a biological child or family member needs medical care. Biological children develop chronic medical conditions all the time. Unfortunately, no child is immune to diseases such as diabetes, learning disabilities, cancer, lupus, syndromes, asthma, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, cardiac conditions, or thalassemia. And yet, we learn to live with these things in our lives, as a small part of what we do in taking care of our children. As parents, we learn to adjust to whatever medical or developmental issue befalls our children. And we do whatever it takes to help them live as normal a life as possible. The issues or conditions never steal the joy our children bring and what they add to our families or give to the world. The same is true for my sweet girls with thalassemia. The world is a better place because they are in it. And I believe that the world is awaiting the gift of the presence of the many other children with thalassemia who continue to wait to be chosen. Take the chance. Choose the gift of a child. A child who just happens to have thalassemia. It’s a chance which will never be regretted.

~Guest post by Cindy

Waiting Children with Thalassemia

These children still wait
These children still wait as well

Micah with Lifeline UPDATE: My family has found me!

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Contact the Advocacy Team for more information on beginning the adoption journey.