Gladney’s Ambassadors of Love Program facilitates one-week programs to China. It is for volunteers who support international adoption and want to help children with special needs increase their chances of finding a permanent family.
While prospective adoptive parents are welcome to participate in the program, a plan to adopt is not a requirement. People who are professionals such as PT, OT, social workers, educators, photographers, etcetera are welcome to attend. Many volunteers participate in the trip in order to gather information on children available for adoption so they could present it to families in the United States who may be interested in adopting in the future. Adults from other countries are welcome to apply for the trip as well.
A Journey of Love
I interviewed Wendy Stanley, the Director of Asia Program Social Services from the Gladney Center for Adoption, regarding the Ambassadors of Love trip that took place during November 22-30 of 2019. Volunteers stayed with children in the Jiangxi Province on the eastern seaboard of China, an urban center. Visitors stayed in the same hotel as children available for adoption, although orphanages themselves were not visited during the trip. Children stayed in separate rooms with their Chinese caregivers. Arrangements were made for their food, housing, and transportation.
Americans were counseled beforehand in order to balance expectations and prepare for children’s social and emotional needs. The ages of children ranged from 2 to 12.
“Volunteers visited with eight children over the course of five days,” she explained. “They spent the better part of the day with them. Kids and volunteers participated in circle time, dance time, and movement activities. They also went on local, accessible field trips that included parks, zoos, and the mall.”
Indoor activities included playing with legos, journal writing, and hopscotch. The variety of activities gave guests a good idea of children’s abilities, strengths, and personalities.
Children on the trip have already been deemed eligible for adoption. The children had a range of needs including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, limb differences, cleft palate, and congenital heart disease.
“Some needs improve greatly after adoption with the right therapy and home environment,” Stanley said. “Other times, it is a matter of managing the need. Most children have moderate special needs, and great strides can be made with constant one-on-one attention. Adoptive parents need to be comfortable and open. Most children will become able to attend school and live as independent adults.”
Stanley stated that some of the volunteers were adoptive parents who went on the trip to help advocate for future adoptions. They can let prospective adoptive parents at home know about the types of children that they met and saw.
“Two of the families who went on the trip had a plan to adopt, and the other three went on to help the other children find families. They will reach out to parents on social media and keep things visible, welcoming parents who plan to adopt from China.”
Two of the children visited during the trip are now being seriously considered by prospective adoptive families. They should be matched by the end of the year and are expected to come home by the end of 2021.
Families seriously interested in adopting should complete paperwork before going on the Ambassadors of Love trip. They will need a home study and dossier with all of the necessary background checks. This will make it easier for them to return again in three months to bring their child home. If parents do not complete their paperwork before traveling and meet a child they wish to adopt, they would need to wait at least six months before returning to complete the adoption.
A Great Trip
Allison Capps is a mother with a degree in child development and has a child adopted from Taiwan. She went on the Ambassadors of Love trip in the hopes of gathering vital information that would be important to prospective adoptive parents in the United States. She found the experience to be a wonderful collaboration between a group of professional women from a variety of backgrounds.
“We took the children to the zoo, walked around the mall, and let them experience city life,” she said. “I could tell they had never been to a zoo before. I enjoyed seeing it through their eyes. Throughout the trip, I was trying to grab facts and see their skill sets so that I could pass along the information to families thinking about adopting.”
Allison remembers a special moment when a little boy with cerebral palsy grabbed the volunteers’ hands at the zoo and began singing in Chinese. She enjoyed giving them the time and attention they may never have had before.
“Many of us came with the intention of getting valuable information that would get kids adopted. After four days, we got to know what they were really like.”
Capps found that most of the children were between 5 and 12 years old. One little girl, however, was only 2. She was very attached to her caregiver but warmed up to the volunteers by the end of the trip.
“In China, people are not allowed to visit the orphanages,” she said. “We were getting information for children’s profiles so we could begin searching for good adoptive families.”
Who Can Adopt from China?
If a couple in the United States wishes to adopt from China, at least one parent must be an American citizen. Both adults must be between the ages of 30 and 49. Couples and single women between the ages of 30 and 55 may be considered to adopt through China’s Waiting Child Program. Single women may also adopt.
If a couple is in their first marriage, they must be married for at least two years before they will be allowed to adopt. If either spouse has been divorced, the couple must be married for at least five years.
Parents are required to have a high school diploma in order to adopt. Families must show a positive net worth of at least $80,000, and single women must have a net worth of at least $100,000.
You are allowed to adopt if you have previous biological or adoptive children. There should, however, be at least a year between your last birth or adoption before you travel to bring your Chinese child home. Parents with five or more children are allowed to adopt through China’s Waiting Child Program. Both parents need to be in excellent health.
Who Is Available for Adoption in China?
Many children in China have been left in orphanages due to poverty or China’s restriction on children. Most of these are between the ages of 0 to 13 with minor to severe special needs. These may include a cleft palate, orthopedic issues, or developmental delays. Most children adopted from China are between the ages of 1 and 2 years old. Healthy children between the ages of 10 and 13 are also available.
Because many of these children have special needs, children in China’s Waiting Child Program may require surgeries and ongoing medical care. Families in China’s Waiting Child Program are matched through the China Center of Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) shared list.
The Process of Adopting from China
When you start the process to adopt from China, there is a training course that you will need to complete which is required by the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention training is an eight-hour online course, and Gladney’s training requirement includes an additional 16 hours of on-campus, in-person training. Gladney’s program is unique and is called Pathway Train; it is conducted by the post-adoption department.
Additionally, you will need to complete a dossier before being considered to adopt from China. Your agency will contact a social worker who will collect information on your family through a home study.
A home study is nothing to be worried about. Just make sure your house is really clean that day! Your social worker will likely want to gather information about your background, parenting philosophy, and motivation for adoption. In turn, you will be able to supply information about the gender and need range of the type of child you would feel more comfortable adopting.
You will need to undergo several background checks and provide paperwork such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and character references to complete your dossier. You will also need to pass a medical exam.
After your dossier is approved and sent to China, the matching process can begin. Families in the healthy infant program are matched through the CCCWA.
Families in the Waiting Child Program, however, are invited to play a more active role in the matching process. They can request the files of children on the China Waiting Child photolisting. Once a family with an approved home study finds a child, they can submit their paperwork to request a match through the CCCWA.
Many families choose to have their referrals examined by an international adoption specialist in the United States before accepting a referral.
Once you have accepted your referral, you may travel to China to meet your child. China currently only requires one trip that averages around twelve to fourteen days. Your adoption is finalized in China, and your child will become an American citizen upon entering the United States through immigration.
The Cost of Chinese Adoption
The total cost of adopting from China is just over $28,000. This includes the cost of home studies, documentation through USCIS, and travel.
Many families make international adoption more affordable through the national tax credit, which is $14,080 in 2020. If your combined family income is less than $211,160, you are eligible to receive the full credit after your adoption is complete. If your income is between $211,160 and $251,160, you are eligible for a partial credit. Families earning over $251,160 per year are not eligible.
You can also check with your human resources department about any adoption assistance that is available. Some employers offer a flat amount per child as they would for infertility treatments. There are also a number of adoption grants available for families to apply for.
Tips for International Adoption
International adoption is an exhilarating experience. If you share a heritage with the country you are adopting from, you can gain a little piece of your past when you visit abroad.
If you don’t know much about the country before you travel, you will by the time you come home! International adoption may even allow you a chance to sightsee and explore the cuisine and highlights of a different country.
Be sure to dress and act respectfully while you are abroad. Remember that you really are an ambassador! While it is fine to wear casual clothes while you are out and about, you will still want others to see you in a positive light.
If you are adopting a younger child, you will need to bring a stroller, crib sheets, and blankets. If you are adopting older children, think about packing some new clothes, toys, and games to keep them busy. Additionally, a simple children’s painkiller can help you prepare for minor illnesses that may occur.
It is important not to overpack! Remember that you will be flying home soon and will have to cart your baggage through the airport along with your new child.
Be sure to make a plan to communicate with your family before you travel. Skype and FaceTime are great, inexpensive ways to stay in touch if you get homesick. Many cell phone companies have international plans that will allow you to communicate affordably from another country for a short period of time. Don’t forget to bring an adapter so you can plug in overseas.
Enjoy your time abroad, but remember to prepare your child for the trip home. Flashcards and books with English words can help your child to get ready for a big transition.
The Benefits of Adopting from China
China’s short travel time is appealing to families interested in international adoption. Costs are also affordable and predictable compared to those of other countries.
If you are considering Chinese adoption, the Ambassadors of Love Program is a great way for you to get better acquainted with the children and the process. You can also attend to help make the decision easier for families longing to bring a child into their home.
Another Ambassadors of Love Trip will be scheduled in the near future. Interested individuals can email Superkids@gladney.org or call Mary Chapman at (347) 574-3320 for more information.
Visit Gladney’s SuperKids Blog for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families.