With the new Former Shared List (FSL) program unrolled, many people within the Chinese adoption community have questions about what it means for future placements. Over the last three weeks, we’ve looked at these changes from a few different perspectives. First we interviewed Martha Osborne, the founder of RainbowKids, the advocacy site which will host the FSL files from all four agencies. Last week we heard from Erin Martin, an active parent advocate, on how she believes the program might impact adoptions. And this week, we’re pleased to offer you feedback from all four of the agencies selected to carry out the FSL program, CCAI, Gladney, Holt, and Lifeline.
We sent each agency the same list of questions, and we’ve compiled their answers below. We hope as you read this, you’ll come to the same conclusion we have — everyone is eager to work together to shine more light on children whose files have frequently fallen through the cracks.
Q: When did you first learn about the Former Shared List program? Do you know why your agency was chosen as one of only four agencies?
CCAI: We learned about the project earlier this summer. As the largest China-focused agency, we presume our selection was based on our experience and capacity to manage a large number of children’s files, but otherwise we are not aware of the CCCWA’s criteria.
GLADNEY: In 2014 Gladney learned about the proposal and idea for children on the CCCWA shared list to become more widely accessible to prospective adoptive parents. It is our understanding that it has taken CCCWA nearly three years to develop the process and program details of what is being referred to as the former shared list program. We do not know why Gladney was chosen by CCCWA as one of the agencies to be assigned files. That is a question that would need to be answered by CCCWA. But we think it is partially due to Gladney’s Superkids program which has been effective for several years in obtaining additional medical and developmental information on children designated to our agency through CCCWA’s one-to-one partnership program. The information that has been obtained by Superkids, which is not part of the child’s official CCCWA file, has been helpful to parents in understanding how a child is currently functioning and helps them to think about the abilities and limitations of child more realistically as they consider moving forward to adopt a specific child.
HOLT: On July 8, the designations started rolling in. We had heard inklings that change may be coming from our staff in China, but nothing concrete. Shortly afterward, we talked to RainbowKids and learned more about how the shared list was changing. We weren’t told why we were chosen to participate in the new shared list advocacy program, but we can guess that it’s because of the strength of our program in China — programs to improve child welfare that are holistic, child-centered and ethical — and reach way beyond adoption alone. We have a longstanding relationship with the Chinese government and maintain a number of partnerships with caregivers throughout the country, providing a breadth of services for vulnerable children and families.
LIFELINE: Earlier this summer, we were notified by our China in-country staff that the CCCWA was implementing an advocacy program that would benefit the children on the shared list. We learned that RainbowKids would be partnering with agencies in this endeavor from an advocacy standpoint. We were asked if we would like to be considered to participate in this program. “Of course,” was our reply! The next we heard of the program was about a month or so later, when almost 200 files assigned to our agency showed up on the database! That was an exciting day! We are so honored to have the opportunity to help advocate for these children and shine some light on these files that have not previously been able to be viewed by the adoption community. These “files” quickly became “our children” and we knew that we had a huge job ahead of us but also one that would be so rewarding in the end. The chance for a child to have a home is an excellent reason for our team to work very hard and accept the challenge of this new program. We are not aware of the CCCWA’s criteria for selecting the agencies that are participating in the program.
Q: How many files from the shared list did your agency receive and from what provinces?
CCAI: We have received over 400 files from the provinces of: Henan, Jilin, Sichuan, Heilongjiang, Xinjiang, Liaoning, Zhejiang, and Shaanxi.
GLADNEY: We have received about 350 profiles so far, but expect to receive between 500-550 profiles alternately. The children are from 9 provinces including: Shanghai, Tianjin, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guizhou, Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, and Hebei.
HOLT: We received dozens of files for children in Beijing, Guangxi, Hubei, Niemenggu, Shandong and Shanxi. Many of the children we’ve been asked to advocate for are already featured on the “shared list” tab of our photolisting or they are children we’ve advocated for in the past. Most of the children are older or have more moderate to major special needs, including rare or difficult-to-diagnose cognitive disabilities, common-but-more-involved physical and developmental conditions like severe cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, and other more complex physical or emotional needs. For this reason, finding a family with the resources and knowledge to offer a loving and secure home may be more difficult.
LIFELINE: We are still receiving files, but so far, have received about 300 files! These files have come from Guangdong, Jiangsu, Yunnan, Ningxia, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. We anticipate we will have approximately 565 files when all have been received. Y’all, that is 565 little ones that may not have ever had a chance be known to the adoption community without this opportunity! This is why we are so excited about being a part of this program. All of these little lives are so valuable. They were fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of a Loving Father and they all deserve the chance at having a loving family.
Q: Has your agency facilitated concurrent adoptions in the past and do you anticipate making any changes now that the FSL program has been implemented?
CCAI: We do of course support families in pursuing concurrent adoptions, provided they are approved by their social worker and home study agency to adopt two children at the same time; no changes to this practice are expected.
GLADNEY: Gladney believes that in almost all cases it is in the best interest of a child to be placed one at a time into a family. We generally only facilitate adoptions of related siblings. We currently consider exceptions in very limited situations, involving older children with a relationship who have lived together for an extended period of time. Gladney does not plan to make any changes in light of the shared list project.
HOLT: Yes, we facilitate concurrent adoptions for biological siblings or children who have a sibling-like relationship in their orphanage or foster home. We do not plan to change our policy, since our methods are in the best interest of the child or children.
LIFELINE: Lifeline has facilitated concurrent adoptions in the past and we now facilitate concurrent adoptions on a case by case basis, always looking first at the best interest of the child/children being adopted. As international adoption became more challenging, seeing file discrepancies became more frequent and the children available for adoption were now older and many had more significant medical special needs, our team looked very closely at this option; again, wanting to be sure we were acting in the best interest of the child/children being pursued concurrently. It is very important to us that families are prepared for the additional difficulties of bringing home two children and that they are equipped for these challenges through training offered by our China team and our post-adoption team.
Q: Will your agency be willing to transfer a file for a family ready to submit LOI with another agency?
CCAI: We are absolutely willing to transfer a FSL child’s file to another agency for a committed family.
GLADNEY: We are willing to share the 500 plus child files with other agencies and prospective parents. We hope that the children’s files will be reviewed by multiple agencies and parents. An agency can request to review a profile from Gladney on behalf of its families. Agencies can submit their families to CCCWA for matching through the database. When Gladney is contacted by a family that does not have a relationship with another agency, we will share a file with such a family after we learn more about the family.
HOLT: Yes, we are willing to transfer files for children featured on the “shared list” tab of our photolisting; assuming, of course, a Holt family isn’t already reviewing that file. Every agency will need to work together to find families for children from the shared list.
LIFELINE: Yes! It is going to take all of us working together to find homes for these precious children. If Lifeline does not have a family interested in a specific child, we will be open to the possibility of transferring the file to an agency with a family ready to submit a Letter of Intent; especially in the case of an aging out child or a child that is medically fragile. Lisa Kelly is handling this list and she will be happy to communicate with agency staff regarding any families that may have interest in these children. It is our hope that we are able to all work together to make a significant impact on the number of children currently on the shared list.
Q: Will your agency share information on these files with advocates who aren’t affiliated with one of the four agencies?
CCAI: We are more than happy to share these children’s files and updates with any agency or qualified family.
GLADNEY: We will share information about the files with advocates. A strong network of advocates for these children is an important part of the shared list project. We would like to invite advocates to consider applying for a volunteer position on one of our upcoming trips to China in October or November. Contact Wendy Stanley for trip information, dates, and application.
HOLT: Advocates are absolutely encouraged to share any information on our website. Please, share children’s stories. Tell your church community about the great need for families. Dispel myths about special needs. Remind the world that every child deserves a home. We need your help and appreciate your heart for orphaned and abandoned children!
LIFELINE: We welcome help in advocating for these precious children. We have currently pulled in advocates, agencies, interns, China mamas (our best advocates!) and friends of Lifeline to advocate for these little ones. We are open to sharing the information we have in hopes that we can bring as much attention to these children as possible!
Q: Will each child’s file be updated? How is your agency going about getting this information and is there a set timeline on this by either your agency or the CCCWA?
CCAI: Right now we’re working hard to request and process updates for as many children as possible, and we’ll be posting their files on a rolling basis as new information is received.
GLADNEY: Obtaining updated information on each child is a huge effort which requires extensive resources. Gladney intends to do everything possible to obtain updates. We are planning several trips to China in October and November to perform screenings on children assigned to Gladney to obtain information to supplement their files. CCCWA has not set a timeline for file updates.
HOLT: It’s hard to determine how long this will take because it requires heavy coordination with orphanages, hospitals and social workers all over China. There’s not a set timeline because the CCCWA understands these complexities, too. Our staff in China is already working to update children’s files, though. We just received our first group of updated child files, and we are excited to advocate for these kids. We will prioritize updating child files on children when families express serious interest in learning more about them.
LIFELINE: As we speak, we are working with our in-country staff to gather updates for the children we have been assigned! They are excited about their role in this program, too! They are working diligently, contacting orphanage directors and asking for updated medical/social/behavioral information and also pictures and videos. We are so excited to see this information coming in! We also have information gathered by medical professionals from the US during our orphan care trips for many of these children. This information has also been added to the files as well. We realize that updated/additional information is a treasure to families opening their homes to these children and that it is often the key to being as prepared as possible to care for child. At this time we have not received any guidelines for this program from the CCCWA regarding timeframes for having updates done. I am sure I speak for all the agencies saying we want to collect this information as quickly as possible!
Q: Are there ways people can volunteer and be part of this project?
CCAI: We absolutely welcome and appreciate your advocacy! If you see a child featured on RainbowKids who touches your heart, by all means, please help us share their story!
GLADNEY: We are in need of volunteers (with pediatric medical expertise, professional photography skills, or adoption advocacy interests, etc.) to participate in upcoming Superkids Trips. If you cannot attend a trip, but can offer financial support for an interested friend or colleague, that is another way to help out. After the conclusion of the fall trips to China we will have a further understanding of additional volunteer needs. If you would like to be considered for a volunteer opportunity for the shared list project, please provide an email address to Wendy Stanley and she will include you on a shared list update newsletter that will be distributed in November 2016.
HOLT: Absolutely! We encourage people to be a part of this project in a number of ways. Advocate for children and find adoptive families in your community. Share children’s stories on social media. Donate to Holt’s Special Needs Adoption Fund, which offsets the cost of adoption for children with special needs who will likely require medical care when they arrive home. Or give to the Molly Holt Fund, which helps provide quality care to children with special needs in their birth community — like children with HIV in China who are waiting for adoptive families. These actions will be instrumental in ensuring these beautiful kiddos come home to loving families who are equipped to meet their needs.
LIFELINE: Yes! As I mentioned earlier, this is an “All hands on deck project.” Families/Advocates are welcome to contact Lauren Taylor if you would like to help in anyway. Advocacy is the biggest need we will have with this project. We need everyone sharing the information on these sweet little children with anyone that may be interested in international adoption. Supporting families financially is also an excellent way to participate in orphan care if you are not specifically being led to adopt at this time. Lifeline is also looking into some special funding opportunities so that we can offer grants on several of these children; especially ones that may be considered to be medically fragile.
Q: Do you know what will happen to the files after 6 months?
CCAI: We don’t have further information on that at this time.
GLADNEY: We do not know what will happen to the files. We think that if the shared list project is successful, the files of children that are not yet matched to prospective parents will remain with the assigned agencies.
HOLT: No, but traditionally when child designations expire, the child’s file goes back to the shared list. However, when our child designations expire, we continue advocating for those kids on the “shared list” tab of our photolisting. So, even if the child designation goes away, the advocacy can continue.
LIFELINE: We haven’t received any information about the next steps. To be honest, I haven’t thought a lot beyond the six months we have the files. We are grateful for the time we have with these little ones. We are concentrating on the task at hand and know this time is going to go by so quickly! Our hopes as an agency are that all of us will be able to continue to work together towards these children having the advantage of being advocated for and that they remain visible in the adoption community. Most importantly is that families are able to see and get to know these children! These little faces have already touched so many hearts in the short time we have had their pictures up! We desire to see this program be as successful as possible and to know that children will have families; mamas, daddies, siblings, grandparents, cousins, etc because of the hearts represented in the adoption community!
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about how your agency is implementing this new program?
CCAI: We applaud the CCCWA’s diligent efforts to persevere in finding a loving family for these children who have been waiting for so long on the shared list!
GLADNEY: Please read our posts about the shared list project here.
HOLT: Visit the “shared list” tab of our China photolisting to learn more about the children waiting for families. Please, advocate for them as much as you possibly can. You never know when you’ll be the bridge between a child and their family.
LIFELINE: Lifeline has chosen to call this list of children, “Lifeline’s Kids of Hope.” Though this program and its implementation came as a surprise and brought with it a lot of additional work, we are very excited about the opportunity to pray for, advocate for, and shine a light on the children that have been waiting so long on the shared list. Our hope and prayer for this program is that the hope of a loving family will be realized for precious children that have, up to this point, been faceless to the adoption community. They are no longer just a “list” of names but have become real little children to us! We also hope that as these children are placed with families, it is an encouragement to the CCCWA and more files will be prepared for adoption.
Thank you to the following people who took the time to answer these questions for their respective agencies. We appreciate your candid feedback.