They were all born in China in 2005. For some reason, their birth parents could not or chose not to keep them. It could have been for any one of a number of reasons including: the fact that they're all girls and girls are not valued in that society as much as boys; because their families were poor and couldn't support them; or because of China's infamous One-Child Policy which was in effect back then. Whatever the reason, these babies were found or taken to an orphanage and put up for adoption.
Back in the United States, they had families waiting for them. Families who had waited three LONG years to even see their pictures. Families who filled out mountains of paperwork and had endured exhaustive background checks. These families never stopped thinking about their baby whom they'd never met. I know because one of the babies in this picture is my daughter. The babies above were part of two travel groups from the same adoption agency who eventually met up on the trip to bring their daughters home.
In honor of National Adoption Month, I'll be posting once a week on the topic of international adoption. It's gotten a lot of bad press lately because of cases where adoptive parents returned a child or abused a child. I don't know about that and I am, by no means, an expert in international adoption. I am just one parent who knows that every one of the girls in the picture above found a family who loves them more than life itself. These were WANTED children and each of us would have done anything to bring our girls home.
To start off, here's my family's story:
My husband and I already had one child: a son. We desperately wanted another child to complete our family and so that our son would have a sibling. Domestic adoption within the United States was out because the laws governing birth parents are constantly changing here; while we sympathized with the many issues of birth parents, especially since we were the biological parents of our son, once we brought a baby home, we wanted that baby to be ours and not have to worry about someone showing up on our door in 5 or 10 years saying that she or he wanted the baby back. We chose to adopt from China because our research indicated that the babies from China were healthy. After extensive thought, soul-searching, and even more research, we signed the Intent To Adopt papers in 2002.
Now, adoption is not for the feint of heart. It's not something you do on a whim or because it's fashionable It's a LONG, complicated, expensive process in which you are thoroughly investigated to prove that you are worthy to bring another being into your family. At the center of it all is the dossier which is collected by the adoption agency; it takes about two years (?) to compile and contains letters of recommendation from family, tax and employment records, copies of your fingerprints, letters from the police department in virtually every town you've lived in attesting to your lack of a criminal record,
letters from doctors attesting to your physical and emotional health, as well as the results of a home study done by a social worker. Many of the forms submitted had to be notarized and validated by the Chinese Consulate over and over again. The adoption process is meticulous with every signature checked and re-checked to make sure everyone is who they say they are. If even the littlest detail had overlooked or the slightest mistake made, our adoption application could have been denied.
Let me mention here that our adoption agency was CCAI (http://www.ccaifamily.org/) which is run by Josh and Lily Zhong who are from China ; they started CCAI in 1992 to help bring children who had no families together with American families who would want them. Over the course of the three years it took to bring out daughter home, and even after she was here and we had to finalize the adoption, their team helped us in every way possible to make sure it would happen. There were many days I would call them, crying because I was so frustrated with how long the process was taking, and their staff would reassure me that everything was going as it should. In addition, CCAI's team proved invaluable when it was time to go to China to bring our baby home.
Compiling the dossier, in hindsight, was one of the easiest things we had to do. After we sent it to CCAI (they re-check it AGAIN), they sent it to the proper officials in China. Then came the hard part – the waiting. As an adoptive couple, you've put your heart and soul into that huge packet of paper that proves what you know to be true: you WILL love and cherish that new family member and will always be there for them no matter what.
I remember exactly where I was when I got the call. We were vacationing in a waterpark in Ocean City, Maryland, My husband and son had gone off to explore the park and I was sitting with my feet in a pool of water, my phone in a Ziploc bag to protect it, in my hands. The phone never left my side once the dossier was submitted because you never knew when you were going to hear something from CCAI. Anyway, it rang and the voice on the other line said, “Congratulations, Mrs. Klonsky. You have a beautiful baby girl!” The rep told me where my daughter was from, how old she was, and a little bit about her. I screamed and then explained to the startled strangers looking at me, “I have a daughter! I have a daughter!” Then I frantically ran around this massive waterpark looking for my husband and son. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
In my next post celebrating National Adoption Day, I'll describe what happened next. Topics I also plan to cover are some of the best ways to celebrate a child's adoption along with recommended websites for adoption gifts and some of the interesting questions I've received as an adoptive parent. If you have any questions you'd like me to answer, please email using the Contact form at the end of this post.
Thank you for reading!