It is my experience that growing a family is like one big puzzle that requires many pieces to come together. Each of these pieces contains a different picture and is put together during a different time, but once all the pieces are in the puzzle they connect and fit. Just like there are different types of puzzles, there are different types of families. Many pieces came together before we adopted our son and these connections led us to the growth of our family. We believe these divine pieces and places in time led us to adopt a son at an appointed time of his life. The adoption journey still goes on even though the current pandemic is causing the world to change and pause. This was the case for the family of Briana and Brodie Heflin. This couple was inspired through various situations of life to pursue and complete a transcultural adoption from Taiwan through The Gladney Center for Adoption. It was their love of culture, hope, and faith in God that held their family together throughout their transracial/transcultural adoption journey.

About the Heflins

The Heflins are from Fort Worth, Texas, and they have four children: three boys, ages 9, 8, and 4; and one girl, age 5. The younger two children (boy and girl) were a sibling set adopted from Taiwan at two different times. The daughter was adopted in 2018 and the son in 2020. They are a family of six who is working to blend two cultures to form their family.

The Heflin Family 

After the birth of their second child, Briana and Brodie had the desire to continue to grow their family through adoption. They decided to adopt through The Gladney Center for Adoption. Briana and Brodie Heflin were introduced to the Taiwan adoption program through The Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, Texas. The Gladney Center for Adoption works with two government-licensed child welfare foundations in Taiwan. Gladney’s Taiwan program can offer transcultural adoption opportunities to families desiring to adopt a toddler or school-aged child. Families can also adopt one child or a sibling set. As for the Heflins, they desired an adoption agency that was close to their home in Fort Worth but didn’t realize that they would be working through Gladney and another location in New York. It is my experience that it is typical for an adoption agency to work from two different locations or through two different agencies during an adoption.

The Decision to Do a Transcultural Adoption: Why Taiwan?

After having two children, Briana and Brodie Heflin decided to continue growing their family through adoption. The couple agrees that this was not a decision that came overnight. There was a series of events before and after they had children that led them to adopt from Taiwan. Once they were able to piece these events together, they were led to adopt from Taiwan.

In Christianity, God calls on believers to take care of the widows and orphans (Isaiah 1:17). This was something that the Heflins took to heart. Briana went on mission trips and worked with various ministries that interacted with orphans from other countries. Additionally, the couple’s exposure to adoption came through Briana’s aunt and uncle. The couple watched as her aunt and uncle poured their hearts into their children and Briana and Brodie were inspired by this love and devotion. She says that it was this inspiration that planted the seed of adoption in their hearts. Briana remembers working with children in the classroom and caring for them like they were her very own. As a teacher myself, I could relate to this connection or piece in her life that led to the adoption because it was my connection as well. I believe it is in the classroom that a potential adoptive parent learns that they can love and give devotion to a nonbiological child as if they were a biological child. 

Both Briana and Brodie were drawn to Taiwan because of past relationships within the Asian community. They were friends with a group of people who shared with them a love for Asia. After researching by way of traveling and encountering people of Asian descent, they felt a strong connection with Taiwan and felt that it would be a wonderful fit for them. Their family appreciated the accessibility to the Chinese language and their connection to the history and culture of Taiwan once they returned to the United States. In addition to relationships formed with Asian families, they are also members of an Asian fellowship with their church. It is there they were able to form more bonds with families of Asian descent. Also, the Heflins were drawn toward families that were formed through transcultural adoption from China. They were able to follow their stories and speak with them about the adoption process. These cultural pieces led to them choosing Taiwan as a location to adopt.

After the birth of their second child, they decided that because of Briana’s health, they would continue growing their family through adoption. Brodie adds that he appreciated a book written by Russell Moore called Adopted for Life and he credits this book for drawing his heart toward adoption. Adoption for Life is a book where theologian Russell Moore encourages Christians to adopt and, if they are not called to adopt, to use their resources to help other families who have the heart to grow their family through adoption. These resources could be spiritual, emotional, or financial support. It was because of these reasons they always wanted to adopt; they just wanted to know when.

Gladney can work with families from any state. Their agency is licensed to complete home studies for families in Arkansas, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas. It takes approximately five to six months to complete the application paperwork and home study. Depending upon the child welfare institute and child preference, the adoption process could take an additional 12 to 36 months to complete.

Preparing Culturally and Emotionally for a Transcultural Adoption

Research of the cultural heritage of the child or children is important for families in transcultural or transracial adoption. In a factsheet for families to share information about transracial and transcultural adoption, Child Welfare shares that families of transracial and transcultural adoption should take the child to places where most of the people present are from his or her race or ethnic group. Before having children, Briana and Brodie formed friendships with friends who are Asian and joined their church’s Asian Fellowship. Briana and Brodie worked beforehand to form connections with the Taiwanese and Chinese communities. 

As with any child, preparation doesn’t happen perfectly, but as expecting parents we do the best we can. For both transcultural adoptions, Briana and Brodie took classes through the agency to prepare themselves for adoption. On top of taking various classes and attending a 2-day seminar through Gladney on trauma, they learned Chinese to communicate with their children and to maintain some of the language in their home for the entire family. Culturally they relied on their friends to prepare them for holidays such as Chinese New Year. They believed in incorporating these cultural events as part of family bonding.

Celebrating Chinese New Year-The Year of the Pig

They looked at Chinese cartoons on YouTube and found authors that were Taiwanese Americans like Grace Lin. They read and listened to Chinese folklore with their family. They’ve included exposure to Chinese characters and Chinese art inside of their home. The children have friends who speak Chinese. The Heflins are part of a Chinese fellowship in their church. Briana believes that adoption is good for their biological children. She believes in exposing her biological children to the world of adoption, the lives of various children in the world, and the cultures of other children. Adoption opens her children’s minds up to various ways of life beyond their backyard in Fort Worth. After she said this, I thought to myself how remarkable it was that they were thinking of the whole of their family regarding the cultural change. While each family has its puzzle, the Heflins have created the pieces to their puzzle. 

Gladney prepared the family by Skype calls with their children in Taiwan ahead of time so that they were able to meet their children. Gladney has a waiting children program and another program called Superkids that works to connect families with children from Taiwan. Also, there are specialists (occupational therapists, speech therapists, and other specialists who work with children) that go to Taiwan to see the children. The family appreciated that there was an extra set of eyes that could give them more detailed information on the children. Briana and Brodie were able to Skype with their son once a month and send care packages to him.

Visiting Taiwan with Both Transcultural Adoptions: Pandemic Versus Nonpandemic

Briana and Brodie adopted the two kids at different times. One time was before the pandemic and the other was during the pandemic. The daughter was ready for adoption in 2018 and the son in 2020. With the adoption of their daughter, they were required to visit Taiwan on two separate one-week trips. They were able to take their sons with them when they visited Taiwan the second time for the placement. They were able to meet other families who were adopting from Taiwan and friends that they knew that lived in Taiwan. They went to pick up their daughter and to view the rest of the country culturally. 

The Heflin Family: Adoption #1: Visiting Taiwan during the 2018 adoption of their daughter

With their second transcultural adoption, the total trip was four weeks. They were required by the government to be under strict quarantine for two weeks. They then had one week of “self- health management” required by the agency where they needed to monitor symptoms but were able to travel around Taiwan.  They did not bring their biological sons with them the second time because of the strict quarantine requirements. They took their daughter on the trip and used the time to bond with their daughter in her birth country and have her meet her birth family. The government typically requires couples to quarantine in two separate rooms, but thankfully Briana and Brodie were able to stay together in their room because their daughter needed both of their care. The owners of the guesthouse where they stayed were their good friends and very helpful with getting them comfortable and making their home feel like a home away from home.  Brodie and Briana enjoyed Taiwan with their daughter as they visited children’s amusement parks, children’s museums, and the mountains of Yangmingshan National Park. The final fourth week they could then meet and spend time bonding with their son for a few days before receiving placement and returning to the United States.

Briana and Brodie with their daughter and son. This was the first day that they met their son and the first time the siblings were able to meet.

The interesting thing about adoption in Taiwan is that the birth parents are typically involved in the adoption matching process. All adoptive family information shared with birth parents is non-identifying. Continued communication after placement between the birth parent and adoptive family is coordinated by the child welfare foundation and Gladney. Briana and Brodie were able to meet the birth family with the second transcultural adoption.

Life Post-Adoption

Briana and Brodie share that their family is adjusting to being a new family of six. The family is making strides as they adjust to everyday activities and each other. Their friend taught the whole family Chinese and they were able to speak Chinese with their son once he arrived home in November of 2020. As a family, they continue to celebrate American holidays and Chinese holidays. They continue to fellowship with their Chinese friends in the Chinese fellowship. Their daughter has grown in her language skills, social skills, and emotional development. Their son has adjusted well so far with being in a new country with a new family. Briana comments that he grieved the loss of his foster family in Taiwan but he’s now adjusting to being in a new family. He loves being with his brothers and playing with his sister.

Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with the Chinese group at our church.

The pieces that fit together to create the Heflin family are timely and remarkable and create an environment that helps their family grow and evolve. These pieces make this family unique and thoughtful with each other and more understanding of the two different cultures in their family. They are a remarkable witness of the success of transcultural adoption in the world we live in today. 

Photos provided by Brodie and Briana Heflin

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