Susie and I chatted for years about adoption but never took action until one evening when, gazing off to the horizon, she sighed and said she’d be “unfulfilled” if she died without adopting. Which surprised me. I hadn’t realized the desire ran so deep.
“Ok. Let’s do it,” I said, a response so unexpected it didn’t register.
“Do what?” she asked—thinking, Rent a movie? Go to dinner?
“Really?” She was stunned.
“Yes, really.” And so it began.
Our assumption was “buy American” and go through the California Foster-Adopt system. Several friends had done so and had wonderful experiences, and we dove in; but for many odd reasons, too many to enumerate here—personal conflicts with Foster care staff, paperwork issues, no sense of humor—the cards seemed stacked against us. After nearly a year of effort, as if destined to be denied, we gave up, shut down our application and walked away teary-eyed, empty-handed, believing our dream had just died.
We didn’t realize our peculiar experience with the California Foster Care system put us on track to one of God’s greatest blessings in our life: China and Casey.
Why did we chose China? Actually, China chose us.
We were homeschooling our kids, and daughter Nikki taught dance classes. She had about 45 students; two of whom were young Asian sisters, delivered to our home everyday by their white Dad. One day Susie asked him what their nationality was.
“Korean,” he said.
“So when am I going to get to meet your Korean wife?”
He chuckled. “My wife is not Korean, we adopted our daughters.”
“Really? Tell me more.”
He did, elaborating on the process and the agency, Holt International.
Twenty minutes later, much to his surprise, Susie declared, “We’re in.”
We contacted Holt and started the process. China, it turned out, was the only country that would work with us. We were too old for everyone else, but China would work with parents whose combined age was less than 100 years old. When our paperwork was submitted, we clocked in at 98.
The reams of paperwork were atrocious. Thank God we enlisted our bookkeeper, Ann, to assist with (aka ‘do’) the endless forms.
Holt International was wonderful! Our Holt liaison/social worker interviewed our family and each child individually, and then asked if we were open to some advice. Sure, yes, please, bring it on.
Because of stories we’d heard about older kids not getting adopted, and because of our age, we had requested an older child, age 6-10. Nobody chose kids in that age bracket, and those kids were neglected. Our social worker broached this sensitive subject with some tender-but-brutal truths: there was a veritable ocean of unwanted children, the majority of whom would never be candidates for adoption. The adoption pool was just a sliver of the total number of kids, the tip of the iceberg. Most would not be adopted—they would be children of the state, named after the orphanage in which they grew up.
She told us this harsh reality, then seeming to switch topics, said she was ‘very impressed’ with the tone & tenor of our family.
“You have a very balanced, healthy environment here—and therefore I suggest you opt for a younger, more malleable child, young enough to be conformed to your environment rather than an older child who could disrupt it…”
Her advice was heartbreaking yet thoughtful, tender, kind, heartfelt, and under the canopy of those gloomy truths, seemed wise. So we revised our paperwork, requesting ‘Girl, age 0-2’.
We already had three daughters, so why select ‘girl’? Simple: boys were not available. China only put girls up for adoption. The Chinese government had a ‘one child per family’ rule. Families with one child were paid stipends and shown preferential treatment by the government; but families with two children not only lost the money but had to pay additional taxes. By tradition, a son would care for his parents in their old age, whereas a daughter would marry & go away. So many times, when a family had a baby girl, they were either aborted or given up for adoption—try again for a boy.
Adopting a boy from China was not just unlikely, it was impossible, inconceivable, not an option—like ordering pizza at Panda Express. Not. happening. period.
Which made Susie’s comment all the more ludicrous when, with paperwork already submitted to China, she floated the wistful idea, “Wouldn’t it be great if we got a boy?”
“What?? Why would you say that? Sure, it’d be swell, but no way it could happen. This is CHINA. Girls only. No boys. Why would you even entertain that thought?”
“Oh, you know…”
“Look honey, there is zero chance, don’t even think about it.’
“Well”, she said softly, “I’m praying for a boy.”
“Ok—good luck. Just don’t get your hopes up.”