As we struggled to get pregnant, our earlier conversations about adoption began to resurface. We talked about different treatment options for the infertility issue, and while we desperately wanted a biological child, we knew that invitro fertilization wasn’t going to be an option we would choose. We have several friends who have kids as a result of IVF, but our personal decision was that it wasn’t for us. We knew that for what we would have to spend for one IVF cycle (because our insurance would not cover any of it), we could spend that same amount of money and adopt a child who already needed a home. So, rather than just taking a chance with IVF, we could give a child who was already in need of a family a good home.
During this trying time, our lives continued to come into contact with the concept of adoption. John developed a friendship with someone he worked with at his part time job (also named John), who had adopted a little girl from China several years earlier. He learned about the process, about the need in China, the condition in the state run orphanages and many other things about his adoption journey. At the time John B. adopted, the adoptive families were still permitted to enter the state run orphanages, however, that is no longer permitted. John observed large rooms that were filled to capacity with cribs. Many of the cribs held more than one baby since there weren’t enough cribs for each child to have their own bed. The “play rooms” were filled dozens of babies at one time, but there were very few workers attending to the children and few toys. Considering the number of children that were needing care, it would have been impossible for each one to have much more than their basic physical needs met. It was clear that his little girl needed a family to love her and care for her since her biological family had not been able to do so. She needed a warm environment where she could grow up getting one on one attention rather than sharing the attention of her caregivers with dozens of other babies. She found that wonderful home as a result of adoption. While the adoption process was long and complicated, ultimately, John has a beautiful daughter as a result… something he wouldn’t change for the world.
Not long after, John started working with a young man named Joe. His parents had immigrated from China to the United States before he was born. As he and John talked, Joe shared a little bit about his family and specifically mentioned they’re association with Chinese adoptions. In 2000, Joe’s parents had adopted a little girl from China, but their connection with Chinese adoption ran much deeper than just that event. Seven years before they adopted their daughter, in the winter of 1993, Joe’s parents had the opportunity to return to China. During that trip, they visited an orphanage near Shanghai. They’re hearts were touched by the overwhelming number of children in need of loving homes and they felt compelled to establish an adoption agency in the US to help facilitate Chinese adoptions. In 1994, they founded Living Hope Adoption Agency and made their goal “to provide homes for these children with a level of care and compassion that exceeded normal expectations and to bring American parents and Chinese children together to become ‘forever families’.”
Over the next few years, as Living Hope helped families adopt from China, they began to feel compelled to try to do something to care for orphans in China that could not be adopted. In many cases, children in China are not considered eligible for adoption if they have a surviving family member that can be identified, even if that family member is unable to care for the child properly. There are over 143 million orphans in the world. It’s staggering to realize that’s enough children to make up the 9th largest country in the world. Over 20 million of these orphans are in China. That’s more children than the entire population of New York State, which is currently the 3rd most populated state in the US. While some of these Chinese orphans are eligible to be adopted, the large majority of these kids are not eligible to find that kind of “forever home.” Joe’s father and the team at Living Hope decided that something must be done to help these “left behind” children. In 2001, Living Hope International was formed and opened their first, privately run orphanage which puts a focus on meeting the needs of the whole child, not just their most basic physical needs. They have since opened three other locations and continue to provide excellent care and education for these precious children. John and I were overwhelmed as we became more familiar with this concept. We felt blessed to have come into contact with Joe and as a result, Living Hope. We were thrilled to learn more about their passion for Chinese children, especially since they were focusing on children that are so often forgotten.
John spent a lot of time talking to Joe about Chinese adoption and expressed to him that we had always been open to the concept of adoption. We even had the opportunity to talked to Joe’s father a bit more about the process and began to feel more and more at peace at the concept of pursuing adoption, specifically from China and through this agency. The major issue, however, was that China will not allow you to apply to adopt until both parent’s are 30 years old. At the time, I was 27. We knew that we had nearly 3 years to go before we could begin the process. Beyond that, at that point, the wait time between filing your application and completing the adoption was about 30 months. So, we knew that we could be looking at another 5 to 6 years before we could become parents by this method. Joe’s father shared with us that since the 2008 Bejing Olympics were fast approaching, he felt that China was diverting it’s efforts away from the adoption process and towards the Olympics. The hope was that after the Olympics, that the process would speed back up again and that maybe the wait time would be reduced to 12 to18 months.
We cried many tears and prayed a lot about this option. We continued to feel a deep longing to have a child and the thought of waiting another 5 to 6 years or so was heart breaking. However, at the same point… we felt a peace about it as well. We knew that if we really wanted to adopt more quickly that we could pursue adopting domestically or internationally from a country other than China. However, at that point, we didn’t feel drawn towards adopting by any other method. So, we waited… waited for me to get older and prayed that the adoption process in China might speed up a little bit by the time I turned 30. We also continued to pray about whether or not God would have us pursue adoption. We felt very strongly that it was important that we not rush into a decision or simply make an emotional choice based on our overwhelming desire to have a child. If we were to pursue adoption, especially a Chinese adoption, we still had a significant amount of time to think and pray about it. The road ahead appeared to be a very long one.