World AIDS Awareness Day: Considering HIV-positive orphans

aidsThe climate of international adoption is constantly changing and new challenges seem to continuously arise. Few know this better than our founders, Lily Nie and Joshua Zhong.

They founded CCAI in 1992 after seeing the devastating orphan humanitarian crisis that arose from China’s one-child policy firsthand. Since then, CCAI has grown to become the No. 1 ranked China adoption agency in the world by the CCCWA (China’s adoption authority) and has finalized close to 12,000 adoptions.

China is not the only country CCAI works with, however. Nie and Zhong have held tight to the belief that all orphan’s lives matter and CCAI has remained dedicated to assisting in adoptions in all ways ethically possible. CCAI maintains adoption programs for US citizens through Latvia, Bulgaria and Ukraine, offers home study services, has a robust charity program, and offers post adoption support indefinitely for adoptive families.

On this World AIDS Awareness Day, Dec. 1, 2016, CCAI asks for your consideration of HIV-positive orphans residing in Eastern Europe.

“Orphans in Eastern Europe are generally older children or children with special needs and can be harder to advocate for because their home countries often don’t allow for specific child advocating on social media,” said Allison Miner, CCAI’s Bulgaria, Latvia and Ukraine Program Coordinator. “Beyond these challenges, there is a larger percentage of children from Eastern European countries that have the HIV infection than children in other areas of the world.”

This is true to a staggering degree. Between 2001 and 2009, diagnoses of HIV in the Eastern European/Central Asia region grew by 66 percent, while globally the same measurement decreased by 17 percent, according to an article by the Sofia Echo.

The World Health Organization released a report stating Ukraine leads Europe in rates of infection, with 1.6 percent of the adult population infected with HIV or AIDS.

“Despite the advances in medical treatment since the ‘AIDS epidemic’ in the 1980s, many people are still very hesitant to consider adopting a child that is HIV-positive,” Miner said. “There is a heavy stigma around the infection, but it is important to consider the advances in medical technology and the treatability of the disease due to antiretroviral drugs. More than that, it is important to see these children as just that—children in need of loving families. It is heartbreaking to think that a child may not have a family because they have a disease beyond their control.”

CCAI asks for your support and consideration of HIV-positive orphans in Eastern Europe. If you are interested in learning more about adoption through CCAI’s Eastern European programs, please contact Allison Miner at 404-250-0055 x206.

Send a Christmas gift to a child at Luohe LOCC!

img_0909Today is the first day to send gifts to the children in Luohe Lily Orphan Care Center! Please consider brightening the holidays of a child without a family through this simple way to contribute to children in need.

Please be advised that at checkout, you may receive a message stating that “your package will not clear customs without the recipients citizen ID number.” You may also receive a follow up email of the same nature from Amazon. Don’t worry! We have input this number and these messages are simply reminders for anyone sending items to China. 🙂

To send a gift to Luohe LOCC, please visit our Wishlist through Amazon Smile: https://smile.amazon.com/…/wishlist/3OPT…/ref=cm_wl_list_o_1?.

#CharityWeek: On the job with our charity director

xia-athenan-orphangae-2016_croppedFour time a year, CCAI’s Charity Director Xia Zhong makes her way to China to check in on our Lily Orphan Care Centers (LOCCs), meet new orphanage directors, build relationships with partner orphanage staff, train CCAI’s LOCC managers and our China charity team, coordinate hosting logistics and… whatever else needs her attention.

These visits may feel very busy, but with each orphanage visit, Xia’s heart swells.

“I feel so privileged that I get to meet so many of the children that CCAI eventually goes on to adopt before they meet their families,” Zhong shared. “I get to see how wonderful they are and my heart aches, wishing I could make their adoptions immediate.”

Aside from working with orphanage staff and encouraging directors to report, create/update children’s files with haste to quicken their adoption, Xia also helps train the children participating in our hosting program, who might have a harder time finding a family through their adoption file on paper alone. Hosting greatly increases a child’s chances of being adopted by making them tangible and helping families understand their personalities. The majority of children hosted through CCAI’s China Host Program have gone on to be adopted by their host families or another family that learned about them through their host family’s advocacy.

“Hosting changes these kids’ lives,” Xia said. “One of the boys I met who was hosted last summer was very disruptive before he went to the US. I met him again on my most recent trip and he was so well behaved! The orphanage director told me he comes to her office three times a day, asking when he will be adopted. Now that he has had a taste of what it is like to be a part of a family, he behaves in hopes that someone will hear that he is a good boy and want him as their son.”

This experience wasn’t the only heart-tugging one Xia experienced on her last trip to China in September.

“Three years ago I met a baby with clubbed hands and feet and a mouth so small that his nannies had to feed him milk with an eye dropper,” Xia explained. “The nannies named him what translates to English as “swimmer” because it was likely he would never walk, so they hoped he would one day swim. There was a low chance he would survive infancy. Even with the best-tending nannies, it was difficult to give him enough food. He was very skinny. It broke my heart.

I had not heard about him in the time that followed that trip, so I assumed the worst. It was to my great surprise when I returned to his orphanage this September that he ran to me on his ankles! He gave me a hug and clung to me as if to say ‘Help me find a family.’ I held him and bawled. He is so special to me. His file is being prepared by his orphanage currently and I hope he will find a family.”

Xia’s next trip is scheduled for January 2017.

If you would like to support CCAI’s charity efforts, you may make a tax-deductible donation at http://ccaifamily.org/Charity/Donation.

Our adoption story: The Carpenters


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“My husband is six years older than I. When first married, Don wanted 3-4 kids and I wanted 0-1 kids. As the years went on, however, I was READY to start a family and Don had switched to thinking perhaps he’d like 0 kids. Neither one of us had a medical condition that prevented us from starting our ‘bio’ family, but I had no interest in being pregnant. In fact, we initially looked in to adopting from Zimbabwe. That was not possible, so we went on a summer vacation to remote Alaska. We used Alaska Discovery as our tour guides and we camped across Hubbard Glacier after taking a SMALL plane and landing in Yakatat, Alaska. We hiked with a small group, and the owner of Alaska Discovery was on the tour, checking out the newly hired tour guide. After three days of deep talks while hiking in bear/glacier country, I felt instantly bonded to the tour company owner. It turns out, she and her spouse were in the final stages of adopting through CCAI. Don and I talked and both agreed to choose CCAI as our adoption agency based on the extremely positive feedback we received from the tour owner. We’ve never looked back.

Alison was in travel Group #103 and Janelle was in Group #340. Both girls have always been healthy, happy, and caring. We can’t imagine what our lives would be like had we not adopted Alison and Janelle. Alison was 10 months when we met her, and she is now 19, in her first yr at Eastern Michigan University, majoring in Arts Management/Nonprofit Management. Janelle was 11 months when we met her, and she is now 15 yrs old, in her second year at Jackson College/LISD Academy (middle college). She is mechanically inclined, has an interest in engineering, computers, robotics, and welding, and enjoys playing electric guitar. Both girls attended ‘Heritage Camp’ in Grand Rapids, MI for 8 years. We flew from MI to Colorado for three CCAI National Reunions and attended one regional reunion in Ohio. Both girls took part in the first CCAI Heritage Tour and both attended an Adopteen summer camp in Toledo, Ohio. We are thankful for CCAI’s guidance and support and are forever grateful to have our family.”

~Leslie

2016 CCAI Thanksgiving Heritage Tour

img_3278A sudden cold front has settled in on Beijing, but it hasn’t dampened the excitement of the 35 children and parents who are travelling on our CCAI 2016 Thanksgiving Heritage Tour!

img_3280Bundled up, they have braved the Great Wall, Tiananmen square, the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. The families then received a warm welcome at the CCCWA, where “matches” are made!

In addition to being thankful for warm coats, families are also bonding with each other and adoptees are able to reconnect with their place of birth. The next stops on their tour are Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors.

To learn more about CCAI Heritage Tours, please visit the Heritage Tour section of our website.

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Making adoption affordable: How we did it and you can too

van-de-hey-lemonadeOver a decade ago, I had a seed planted in my heart for orphans. Since then, my husband and I got degrees (and debt) and had three children. We struggled to make ends meet for years. We ended up in a place where adoption felt like a fleeting wish or dream that had died in our hearts due to our circumstances, and a journey that only the wealthy and big-hearted could obtain. That’s the thing about dreams: that often we think they have died and really they are just hidden away ready to sprout when the timing is right. One winter day, we decided to investigate international adoption, and just as things seem to happen in our lives when we least expect it, the doors flung open. We agreed to run after a child who would complete our family. My husband and I had said yes in our hearts but our bank accounts said something very different. The fees associated with adoption are terrifying. They nearly stopped us dead in our tracks. I am a school teacher and my husband is an art director at a design firm—we are truly middle class. We do not have a ton of extra money. But we decided that it is better to risk failing chasing down our dream than spend a lifetime wondering.

I committed to fundraising the money we needed. With shaking knees and little knowledge of how to do it, we began.

We began slowly, asking for donations for a garage sale. It felt less vulnerable, asking to take things off people’s hands that they didn’t want anyways. It felt like less of a burden to people. We were putting our toes in the water of asking for help. The garage sale made just under $2,000. We were able to pay a fee and we felt a bit of wind in our sails.

We then were lucky enough to receive tax money as well as a side design job my husband took in order to bring in another $5,000.

van-de-hey-tshirt-fundraiserThe next fundraising endeavor was t-shirts. I have seen this done and not do well. I was committed to making it work. My husband designed a great shirt and we paid a bit extra to get a high quality t-shirt. I slung these bad boys like my life depended on it. I ended sending them all over the country. There were a few hiccups, but it was manageable. The shirts made roughly $1,000 and created what felt like a united front. I felt at this point we had a village working to bring our wee one home.

I then decided to sell Krispy Kremes. This wasn’t my shining moment, but I figured I could turn a quick $700 by selling 100 dozen at our local grocery store in one day. It was brutal, but I sat there and told our story and slung every last donut. I also may or may not have eaten a dozen that day. No one said this adoption thing was making me any skinnier.

We had vision to have a farm-to-table dinner and auction. I had a dear friend who owns a farm and beautiful wedding venue. It holds 160 people and I was committed to selling every last seat. I decided I could get everything that was needed donated. This was wild and outrageous of me to think I could make happen. The good news is that I am a fierce momma, who is incredibly bold. I began asking. I got wine donated from a local winery, beer from a brewery, hard cider from a local company and a caterer to commit to doing the whole event for free. I asked a local boutique to make live succulent centerpieces for cost, and I sold them to turn a profit right off table. I asked every store I ever shopped in to donate for the auction, and every farmer and local grocery store to donate food. People said yes. In the end, we threw a beautiful event where children ran through the orchard meadow barefoot, playing croquet and cornhole. Friends and strangers drank and ate and laughed. I had a musician friend play while we ate and a friend tell her adoption story, as well as sharing our hearts. The event was perfect. It was so beautiful and effective that we plan to do it next year, but give the money to someone else. It was a lovely invitation for my community to step in and play a role in making our child a son. This event made $9,000 in the end and was a huge chunk of fundraising.

van-de-hey-dinnerWe also have an open Pure Charity account which has generated about $2,000.

My husband took side jobs of photography here and there.

A local farmer donated their bumper blueberry crop to us and we paid a dollar per pound for 1,000 lbs of berries and sold them out of my house in one day for $2 per pound. A fast $1,000 dollars. The work was hard, but it was only a day and it was done!

We are only five months into the process and we have paid nearly $20,000. I am a normal person. I had none of this before we started. We are blown away that we are here today, two-thirds done with our payments, and now matched with our newest little love.

Currently, we have a weekly fruit sale starting, where I have purchased local fruit at cost and am selling boxes of peaches, pears and apples. Hoping to rake in some money with that!

Sure, we have maybe $10,000 left, but we have a plan. Success breeds success and now we know that we can do this. We also have learned to invite people along on our journey. Everyone isn’t called to adopt, but people love to be part of a story that is weaved together beautifully. We envision this being our only adoption, but we don’t envision this being the end for helping change the lives of children. Someday soon we hope to be on the other end of this beautiful adventure, helping others along.

This is possible. We have acquired vandehey-peachesno debt so far, and haven’t even applied for grants yet. This money didn’t fall in our laps. We have worked hard, but it also wasn’t back-breaking work. We are gaining momentum and people are joining in. This journey has taught me how much beauty and hope is in our world. It has shown me how much relationships matter. People are rallying with us and carrying us along, reminding us that we can do this.

vandehey-flowers-for-partyFriends, you can do this. Money won’t fall from heaven like some winter’s day snowfall, but there is money out there. There are people willing to partner with you. Find your people and open your story and lives to them and watch it all unfold. Also, write your thank you notes—I have gone through over 200 so far of handwritten notes. Gratitude makes hearts swell.

You got this.

~Julie and the whole VanDeHey crew

 

CCAI dad wins award for child advocacy

dick-fischer_croppedDick Fischer and his wife Annie adopted through CCAI in 1995 and again in 1997. Their beautiful adoption experience has had such an impact on Dick’s life that he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to child advocacy. He launched the Adoption Today magazine, then Fostering Families, which attracted readers from all over the country and changed many lives. To honor his commitment and accomplishment, Dick was presented with the inaugural For the Children Advocacy Award on November 6, 2016, during Orphan Care Weekend 2016 at Timberline Church in Fort Collins, Colo.

Josh and Lily attended the event in support of Dick and his family. “We are so thankful to each and every one of our families for making a difference in the lives of orphans,” Josh said. “Dick has really gone above and beyond and his impact on children in need has been immeasurable.”

Congratulations to Dick!

Adding Joy: The Joy family’s story of adopting a child with Down Syndrome

My husband and I were only teenagers when we found out we would be parents. The road did not begin as an easy one for our growing family, but today we are so thankful we have persevered through the difficulties of parenting, marriage, growing up and learning who we were as people all at the same time. Today our son is almost 16 and our daughter is 12. We have a new addition of whom I will speak of in just a minute. But right now let me just back up a bit.

When we started the adoption on May 9th, 2015, we hoped to adopt a healthy 0 to 3 year old girl. Our MCC (medical conditions checklist) had a few mild to minor-correctable needs. We felt that was all we were equipped to take on. We began looking online and joining different groups, getting to know other adoptive parents. We also began sponsoring babies through a foster home called Morning Star. This is where we began seeing babies, sweet precious faces of children needing homes with severe heart defects. This led us to read and learned more about heart babies. The more we learned, the less intimidating heart defects seemed. We re-evaluated our medical conditions checklist and checked all the little boxes next to all heart conditions. Now, we were saying yes to heart babies.

Throughout the year, we saw many sweet babies with joyful smiles who had Down Syndrome. One little girl stood out because she was so stinkin’ cute! She did some pretty cute things. She made us giggle. She made us smile and even cry happy tears. She had that joy and wonder about the world that was just so special… so different, and it really imprinted itself on our hearts. Looking back, God was already preparing our hearts. And He was using this child to mold us.

If I may be honest, cognitive disabilities have always made me uncomfortable. I didn’t know the appropriate way to act or respond. I had never been exposed to how that reality would look. Yes, the cute faces and joyful personalities brought a smile to my face, and for some reason they drew me in, but I did not feel that I had what it takes to mother a child with this type of disability. So, we put Down Syndrome out of our minds.

Then we began to sponsor a little tiny frail girl who not only had severe CHD, but also Down Syndrome. Unfortunately, this baby lost her battle here on the earth because her heart just could not handle its own brokenness. She died without ever knowing the love of a family, a mommy, a daddy, brother or sister. I remember holding my phone, seeing the news of her death. It rocked my heart to its core. Yet again, a molding of our hearts took place.

Her battle ended here on earth leaving so many raw hearts, including ours.

God showed us a glimmer of the brokenness of this world and used it shape our hearts yet again.

Lilah Lu’s short life changed our whole family forever. When I look back now, I can see the fingerprints, as clearly as the potter working the clay. Adjusting it in a specific way through the series of many life altering paths. Our eyes were being opened. The scales slowly removed. The layers peeled off our hearts to reveal something which was hidden to us.

I couldn’t run away from it any longer. It was like a magnetic force urging, pulling, pushing towards the same idea. I was drawn to explore the world of Down Syndrome adoption.

I began to seek out every article written by parents who were beyond blessed by kiddos with DS. Through my reading and searching I also learned some pretty disturbing truths. The two that stood out, among many, were facts that babies with DS in China were unadoptable for years and years because they were “unworthy.”
Did you hear that label?

God’s creation labeled by humans–UNWORTHY.

Unadoptable.

Unwanted.

It wasn’t until about 2013 that a law changed because of one determined mama who fought for the rights for these children with DS born to mothers in China.

Another article spoke of a baby born with Down Syndrome to a young Chinese mother. A mother who was urged by the nurses in the hospital to leave without her child with these words: “This baby you have is bad. She is broken; she is a no good baby. You go home, we take care of this.”

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

My tears could not be stopped. How can this be? A human is still human, no matter their disability! I was angry. Sad. Enraged. Confused.

The molding of my heart continued.

Many articles later and hearing families speak on how much richer their lives were because of this amazing road they have walked with children who have Down Syndrome, was incredibly refreshing. It intrigued me, actually. How can a child with such a lifelong disability bring that much joy into a human life? The pulling was so strong, and by this time we were certain there was nothing else to do! We knew this is what we were called to. We knew deep in our hearts this is what was meant for us all along. Our hearts just needed a bit of weeding, of removing our wants and desires.

So, on May 15th, we took the huge leap of faith. With every ounce of confidence, pushing fears aside, we added Down Syndrome to our Medical Condition Checklist. I remember telling Kevin, “If God doesn’t have this for us, He won’t send a child our way with DS.”

Our hearts had amazing peace. The peace which cannot be described…not unless you have lived it do you know what I am speaking of… it’s the very center of a beautiful plan. This astounding knowledge deep in your heart that you have done what you have been called to all along.

Everything calm.

Everything still.

Beautiful.

Then.

A day later…

Did you hear that??

Only ONE day after we added DS to our MCC, on May 16th at 11pm, I received a private message request from a China director of a different adoption agency on Facebook pleading with me to take a look at their children with Down Syndrome. She said 80 percent of their babies have DS and none of their families were open to this need.

We knew we wouldn’t switch agencies, but we looked at their waiting kiddos anyway.

This is where our world would be changed forever!

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My hubby was at work and logged into the waiting children’s website first. He saw the faces of the babies waiting for someone to say ‘yes’ to them!

My hubby and I chatted on Google messenger as I was trying to log in, when he sent me a photo from the website…

The most beautiful China girl I have ever laid eyes on!!

I don’t know what happened next, but everything faded out of existence, my heart paused for a split second, a deep sob came out of my chest and tears fought their way to the surface.

Here looking back at me from the computer screen was the face of a stunningly beautiful little girl – as if reaching to the deepest parts of my heart.

Her eyes, piercing. Calling. As if saying “Mama.”

My husband, my best friend, the man with whom I feel so connected with, our minds so often thinking the same thoughts, was feeling the same emotions towards the same child.

A feeling he later described as a “lightning bolt.”

We just knew! This was our girl.img_6719

In that very moment, nothing else mattered. Not the fears of her lifelong need. Not the fears of being totally uneducated, having no experience with Down Syndrome, nor the fact that we had no time to learn. It was time. She was our daughter. This was the girl whose face we had waited to see for a year. I searched for her among the hundreds of faces over the last year. And here she was, staring back at us. A child so beautiful, so perfect in every way! I covered my face and cried right there! My heart just knew…

Because she was with another agency, we knew we would need a miracle in order for us to get our hands on her file. We knew agencies do not typically share files with other agencies. However, this child has been waiting SO long, her file was just three days from going back to the shared lista huge sea of kids with more severe disabilities, kids unable to be matched to families and their medical condition checklists.

Kids often forgotten.

Kids left to tumble through the system.

Kids just wanting to know the love of a family.

A miracle occurred, our agency worked very hard with the other agency and we were handed our daughter’s file. We said yes, and the rest is history. We have been home for a month now and it is beyond amazing how well she is doing. It is absolutely mind blowing the love you can feel for a child born to another mother. I struggle to keep my emotions calm as I write this.

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This child has filled our life with so much joy and laughter. The second she hears music her body just cannot help it, but move to the sounds she hears. She shrieks with joy at the mention of bath time. She soaks in everything we show her and mimics every move we make. It’s so cute and hilarious. Let me tell you, this girl has so much sass and knows exactly what she wants and how it should be done. Even her grumpiness makes her laugh at herself. She stays mad two minutes tops before the laughter and giggles erupt.

img_3011We simply could not imagine life without our girl in it. There was a time when I was afraid to say yes to Down Syndrome, but it has been the greatest blessings onto our livesand it is only the beginning!

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