November 20, 2009

Making the right choice…

Our first experience with the special needs adoption matching process was in January 2006. 3 months earlier we had completed the adoption of our daughter Kiah from the China Non Special Needs (NSN) program. The path for that program is relatively simple. Apply to agency, complete homestudy and dossier, send dossier to China, get Log-In-Date (LID), receive referral, travel to china 4 – 6 weeks later. We thoroughly believe that God has His hand in the NSN matching process. Kiah is the perfect match for our family.

January 2006 was when God pressed the special needs children of China on my heart. I don’t remember what agency list it was but I stumbled onto their site and saw a chubby little girl with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. I hesitantly inquired about her but was told that since we had just come home from China that they would consider us to view her file if she wasn’t matched by March. It was during those next couple of months that I realized how much of a “choice” adoptive parents could have in choosing a SN child…..choices for age, gender and the type of SN.

I kept looking at lists and it was months later in Spring 2006 that I inquired about another child. It was another little girl with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. I was instantly smitten. The agency told us this little girl had a family already looking at her file so we were put on a list to view her file if the other family declined her referral. DECLINED. Oh. That was the first moment I realized on a very deep level that there was a specific choice to be made when viewing a file… YES or NO. Up until that point I think I thought that after viewing a file…. people just said YES because that’s what happened in the NSN program.

I immediately felt a little uncomfortable looking at SN lists. It truly felt like a whole child’s life was swinging in the balance. I started panicking… what if WE said NO to a child and no one else came behind us to say YES. Would our NO condemn this child to a life without a family? It seemed like such a heavy decision.

A few short months later we were called with Luke’s referral. Before I even looked at his file or his picture… God impressed upon me that Luke was our son. And I was thankful that the Lord showed up in that moment and we didn’t have to toil over a decision. Little did I know that in the future our special needs matching process would not be as simple.

We brought Luke home in May 2007. 3 months later I felt the Lord calling us to step out for another SN adoption. In my mind I thought finding a child would be easy like it was with Luke. And it wasn’t. We viewed at least 7 little girl’s files at various agencies and each time after reading the file and viewing the picture we felt clearly from God that the child wasn’t our daughter. And we had to say NO. And I would pray fervently that SOMEONE would come behind us and they would find THEIR CHILD in the child we had said NO to.

I was then contacted directly by an agency I had never spoken with before. They said they had lots of kids to place and they were looking for parents. They asked me if I would review a file of a little girl who was 15 months old. The age and gender matched our preferences and we were open to a bunch of special needs so without additional discussion I said yes and they immediately mailed the file to us. 2 days later I received the package. I opened it slowly thinking “This COULD be our daughter so I want to do this slowly and savor the moment!” The first thing I saw was the picture of the little girl. She was naked, laying on her side and she had severe scoliosis. They had placed a pink bow in her hair and she was crying… actually it looked like she was screaming. My heart instantly hurt and the air was sucked out of my lungs. I didn’t know much about this special need. All I did know was that it looked serious and she obviously needed a family quickly. A couple of days later the doctor we consulted told us that she had an estimated 35% curvature of her spine… and she was only 15 months old. It was stated in her file that she needed spinal surgery as the orphanage had watched her curvature worsen. We were overwhelmed and heartbroken. My heart actually hurt for her. And we thought about adoption. I did all the things adoptive families do when seriously considering a child…. I contacted families who had adopted children with scoliosis, I contacted our local doctor, talked to specialists, researched therapies. But at the end of each day, when we prayed about what to do, we continually felt she was not our daughter. But I wanted her to be! I wanted to bring her home, get her surgery, help her recover and watch her flourish in our loving home. But first and foremost, I wanted to be in God’s will. And God was not confirming this adoption. So, we prayed for her, sent her profile back and told the agency “no”. And I cried and I ached.

While we were in the decision making process I had lots of contact with a specific family. They had adopted a child with scoliosis however it was not as serious as this little girl’s. This family shared a lot of information with me and I was very grateful. About 1 week after returning her profile I sent this family an email to say we were not able to commit to her. The family never responded back to me. I thought it was very unusual as they had been so responsive before. I sent another email a couple of weeks later and I was not prepared for the response. This family told me all the things I had internally feared… they said that I had the means, the insurance, the time and the ability to adopt that little girl… and that I purposefully turned my back on her… when she desperately needed a family. That I should be ashamed of myself and that “these children” are more than pieces of paper and pictures. And those words stung. Those words devastated me. The words pierced me and I still cry each time I think about them. And then I was just mad. I was mad because don't all prospective adoptive parents realize what lies in the balance with these kids? That some kids sit on lists for long periods of time. That children with severe special needs and older children sometimes never get matched. But after the hurt and the pain of that email initially subsided…. I focused what I always knew was correct… that relying on God for guidance and confirmation is the only way to proceed into the vast sea that is the matching process of China SN adoption. For us, if we did not have that Heavenly guidance this whole process would be too overwhelming.

It is important for me to focus on the fact that these children… before they are OUR children through adoption… they are God’s children and He holds them in the palm of His hand. And He knows exactly what their future holds.

For us, we slowly and prayerfully consider a child’s file and then petition God for His will…EXPECTING Him to answer. I just couldn’t imagine navigating these waters any other way.

I still think about that little girl. I wonder if she has a family, if she had surgery, if she is now smiling, if she has the warmth and comfort of a home and family. I have found no way to find out these answers. I just have to rely on the fact that God is in the details. The God knows the beginning from the end. And that God has a plan for her life.


  1. Nicole, Thank you for your honesty. It is so hard to understand at times what God is doing. We also had to make a very hard decision on letting go of a child we felt was not for our family and helping her find her forever family. We feel God showed us this and we know and have confidence that God is still on His throne and everything must flow through His hands. Because of this faith we now God is in control of all things.

  2. The SN program is so different because we do have a 'say' in whether or not a child joins our family. And you're so right, Nicole, it is a huge responsibility. That is why I think it's dangerous to ever judge someone for doing what they feel they need to do.. so sorry to hear this happened to you.
    We have had to turn down a referral before and it's heartbreaking, but I knew in my heart that if we had said, "yes" to one NOT meant for our us, then we would have not been able to say "yes" to THE ONE meant for us.
    Hugs to you, my friend! Love how you always bear your heart... we could all learn so much from you!