Medical Monday – Tidyman Family

Although cleft lip and palate is a medical condition that requires providing your child with extra help and support. It is a very manageable condition and the ability to help a child with this health need is something that many professionals are trained to do. If you are willing to put extra effort into your child this is something that can be easily taken care of and your child’s life will tremendously change. The most difficult part of having a child with a known medical condition is managing trips to the doctor. Initially it seems overwhelming- and it is. However, it is sooooo worth it.


Our son has been evaluated by a speech pathologist at our local school district. We are currently moving to a larger city to provide our children with the resources our family needs. Being closer to good medical care was a major concern. This summer Jai will be evaluated by several doctors and will begin the process of reevaluating his condition and receiving the treatment he needs. This is most likely another surgery to repair his palate, some plastic surgery on his lips, and eventually braces.


The good of this condition is that is can be fixed! Most cleft lip and palate surgeries can repair a person’s physical issues and therapy, etc. can help improve speech or other needs. It just takes time and commitment also, a willingness to place their needs above your own. The bad is that it can be a process and will take some time. However, it’s worth it!!!


Jai has done very well. He initially had trouble with culture shock. Food was very difficult for him and his lack of ability to speak English. However, he eventually began trying new foods and now is willing to eat much more than Ramen noodles! He has also started to pick up on English and is able to understand most of what people say to him. He still has difficulty responding, but that is to be expected.


Do it! A child with special needs in general needs a loving family that is willing to put extra time and effort into helping them. What a gift you can give to someone else and the joy that they will bring to your family is unimaginable.

The Obwald Family

When I was eight-years-old I saw a news program talking about little girls left on the side of the road in China, abandon. I knew at that young age that adoption would be part of my life.

Fast forward to marriage and three biological children by the time I was 29. My husband and I both felt like adoption was for our family we just were uncertain how. We started down the foster/adopt road. We were placed with a seven-year-old boy in 2012 when our biological children were 8,7 and 5 but that did not work out as we had intended. We found ourselves questioning, “was adoption really for us? Or are we just supposed to advocate for children and help others adopt?” After months of prayer we decided adoption was in fact for our family and we started down the path of adopting a special-needs little girl from China. My husband reminded me after we started the process with China that we in line with what God had initially placed on my heart as an eight-year-old girl. We knew many families in our area who had adopted special needs children from China as well and we leaned on them for support and guidance.
Aunna ObwaldI was excited, the doer of all the paperwork, and anticipating our little girl. My husband was a little bit more hesitant, but trusting that the Lord had it all planned out because He had called our family to this. It took 20 months from the start of paperwork to being in China receiving our daughter. We took our three biological children with us on the trip to China. They were 11, 9 and 7 at the time. It was important to us that our older children see just where her little sister came from. We wanted them to see for themselves that not everyone lives like us. We have it so easy. We hoped that the experience would expand their worldview. Well, the Lord did just that. Part way through our 16 day trip they were ready to adopt again. I, personally, always wanted to adopt more than one child because I didn’t want our new daughter to feel like an outsider in a family with 3 biological children.
Aunna Gotcha Day_3Three months after returning home with our daughter I saw a little boys picture on the CCAI Facebook page. His file was being returned soon. The Lord spoke clearly to me to inquire about him. I could not see him staying in an orphanage or going back to the Shared List. He had just turned 3 when I saw his picture. We were in China 11 months later to adopt him.
Ty Obwald

Tyler Gotcha Day

Both of our adopted children have limb difference, which we often forget about. They are amazing! I’m so thankful that we get to see them becoming who the Lord created them to be more and more each day.






Adoption is amazing…and hard!

I have learned more about myself through our adoptions than expected. I encourage prospective and adoptive families to remember what your (or future) adopted child is coming from. Really let it sink into you the feelings of loss, abandonment, loneliness, hunger, fear and much more that your child may have experienced. I am saddened by the times I let that reality slip my mind and expect too much of my children. Don’t get me wrong, I expect a lot of them in the areas of reaching their potential, overcoming things like learned helplessness and laziness but don’t want to forget that they might need extra time to snuggle, be talked to, listened to or their need for encouragement to reassure them of love. Even though love and attachment takes time to grow we can show love to our children in the process.










Erin Obwald

Medical Monday – Our Journey – Schwedt Family

The Early Days

While living abroad in Hong Kong in 2004, I knew that adoption was in my future but my husband was not yet on board.  In 2006, we began our formal adoption journey.  Like so many other families at that time, we requested a little girl with “no known medical conditions”.  Why?  As first time parents, it simply was not on our radar to consider a special need OR a boy.  As the wait continued to increase and our frustration level grew, we began considering other options.  In June of 2009 a series of events opened our eyes and hearts to boys in the waiting child program.  After doing our research we took the leap of faith and switched to the waiting child program.  That was the best decision we ever made.

Fast-forward to April 2010.  We met our son for the first time.  He was so gentle and truly amazing.  Although we thought we were well versed in cleft parenting (thank you Google), we had only scratched the surface.  Tyler had a 3rd degree unrepaired, unilateral cleft lip on palate.  That sounds scary, right?  The first year home consisted of 2 major surgeries, lots of doctor appointments, therapies and more.  His cleft lip and ear tube surgeries occurred right away.  Speech therapy and occupational therapy began shortly thereafter.   Six months later he had his cleft palate repaired.  Within the first seven months home, we had all been through a lot.  During this time, our scared little guy had transformed into a curious, playful, happy little boy who was full of life.  He learned basic sign language very quickly and found that he could get his needs met by signing.

Tyler Match

During all this craziness, we began the adoption process again for Tyler’s sibling.  We had no doubt this time – we were open to boys with cleft and many other special needs.  In 2011 we met our newest family member, Connor.  He also had a unilateral cleft lip and palate.  This time we knew the drill – scheduling appointments with the cleft clinic, with speech therapy and all the other doctors and specialists.  We worked hard to get the initial surgeries done so we could begin functioning as a new family of four.  We spent the next several years going to therapies – speech, OT and family integration.  It was not easy working all these appointments into daily life, but it proved to be very beneficial.

Connor Match

It was an interesting time as the boys learned to be brothers.  There was a lot of jealousy and fighting in the early days.  This also brought out many tough feelings and struggles for Tyler.  We learned very quickly what it meant to parent a trauma kiddo.  We are still learning as the face of trauma changes over time.


Our Life Today

Things have really settled down in our world.  We still attend speech therapy and probably will for many more years.  It is just part of our life but it’s become a smaller part.  The boys have gained tremendous confidence and continue to improve their verbal communication everyday.  We see the Cleft Team at Children’s Hospital annually and we are gearing up for the next round of cleft-related procedures (palate expander, braces and bone graft).  We are happy to be part of a local cleft support group in our area.  This will become increasingly more valuable as the boys understand their cleft condition more thoroughly.

Tyler & Connor Today

While the boys are less than 100% intelligible (ability of the average person to understand them), they continue to improve through focused speech therapy (via an IEP) and through continuous practice.  Both boys landed a spot in their class play.  That alone is a huge honor and achievement.  We’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful and supportive teachers who encourage the boys on all fronts.

We also see a family therapy to help with life, in general.  The boys both struggle with attachment and anxiety in their own ways.  We need the support of a trained therapist to help teach us how to best navigate the waters.  Everyday we see progress, but it’s slow.  We’ve had to lower our expectations on this front.

Life is still GREAT despite these challenges.  The boys are doing well in school and have adapted quite well socially.  They also both love sports – all sports too. Most days they are best buddies and they share a deep and intense bond.  They are deeply vested in each other’s life and take of each other always.  Life gets better everyday and the cleft- aspect has become a minor hiccup in life.

Here are some pictures and videos that sum up our life today:

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My advice to potential adoptive parents thinking about CL/CP – educate, connect, prepare and enjoy.  Do your research and understand what is involved in raising a cleft kiddo.  Be honest with yourself about the condition.  They are many great resources out there.  My personal favorite is:  Also contact a local cleft team and discuss this condition with them.  Ask about surgeries, timelines and syndromes.  Talk to other CCAI families with cleft kiddos.  I cannot stress this enough.  We met with a couple of families in advance and took the fear away.

Some days have been tough, especially around surgeries, recoveries and therapies, but it’s been worth every minute.  Please reach out to me if you’d like to learn more about our journey or if you have any specific questions.  You can reach me at

Schwedt_9Here is a checklist I put together previously that summarizes my recommendations.

Educate & Connect:

  • Discuss this need with your social worker
  • Ask CCAI for a list of reference families
  • Conduct reference calls, emails or meetings
  • Research the special needs conditions that you are considering
  • Be HONEST with yourself on which needs you are OK with accepting
  • Gain a basic understanding of surgical requirements and recovery period
  • Verify your insurance coverage
  • Understand additional therapies (i.e. speech, occupational, PT)
  • Gain family support
  • Submit your Waiting Child form with confidence J
  • Wait, Wait, Wait but continue to educate (IEP’s, Early Intervention programs, join CL/CP communities including on Facebook, met with a cleft team, etc.)

Prepare & Enjoy:

  • Schedule initial visit at a Cleft Clinic as soon as possible
  • Expect to see several specialists during this visit (ENT, surgeon, pediatrician, dentist, occupational & speech therapist, geneticist, audiologist, etc.
  • Do not let the information overwhelm you – take it in stride. Schedule surgeries when ALL of you are ready.  Consider the importance of bonding prior to jumping into a major surgery.  Delaying this surgery a few extra months is not that big of a deal compared to the surgical trauma it could cause.
  • Consider combining it with other surgeries (i.e. ear tubes) if required
  • The surgeries are long, prepare to stay overnight
  • At home, you are the NURSE – be ready for it
  • Get creative while on the liquid or soft food diet – anything can be blended or pureed even mac & cheese (I have many “recipes” to share)
  • Wear the arm restraints and listen to the doctors
  • Schedule annual cleft visits to ensure progress
  • Schedule various doctor’s appointments as needed
  • Get the recommended lab work drawn
  • Consider making an appointment at the International Adoption Clinic
  • Schedule a developmental assessment with the Early Intervention organization in your area (depending on the age of your kiddo). Most cleft kiddos qualify for speech therapy (in home until age 3 and at school after age 3)
  • Begin speech therapy (state-funded &/or private).
  • Become an advocate and teacher to your child – you are their speech therapist, learn the ropes
  • Watch “Baby Signing Times” (or similar) videos with your kids – helps to ease frustration and can aid in language development (it did for us)
  • Focus on attachment with your child
  • Leverage your village and resource when it gets stressful
  • Ensure self-care
  • Enjoy every moment
  • Build your kiddos library

Here is a great list of cleft book and videos for children: Cleft Books & Videos for Children

Sandy Schwedt

Empty Nesters to a Full House

I recently heard the saying that life begins at end of your comfort zone. My husband and I could be the poster children for this saying. In 2010, we were just eighteen months away from being empty nesters however, we felt our hearts stirring to adopt again. We have two daughters adopted from Cambodia, both would soon be in college and the house would be ours again but it would be awfully quiet.

We soon found ourselves not only touring college campuses but now filling out paperwork for two adoptions. With the help of CCAI we found Mason and Reagan. Mason was 9 and Reagan was 5 years old. Mason was healthy with mild torticollis and Reagan had a congenital heart defect. In June 2011 we became a family of six. We are complete we thought and settled into our new routines. Less than a year later we found ourselves paper chasing for our fifth child, Noelle. Noelle was nine years old with scoliosis and spina bifida. A family of seven. We are done we thought.

Life took an unexpected turn. We had only been home for a couple of months with Noelle when after a routine check, Dan was diagnosed with two separate cancers. Our lives now gave way to surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. During that storm, we truly felt that we would be parents again but were not sure how. Dan recovered in record time and we got the words, “You are in remission.” We tiptoed around adoption, not sure when to jump in or even if we should. We soon realized that although our home was busy, noisy and we were living life, it was in our comfort zone.

Last year on a rainy afternoon while waiting in the pickup line at my daughters’ school, I was looking at faces and reading profiles of waiting children on CCAI’s website. I scrolled down and saw a precious face that once again tugged at my heart. On February 6th, 2017 we became the parents of that precious face. Our sixth child, our son Sonny.

The whole adoption process is truly a practice of living out of your comfort zone. And if you are a control freak like me, the process itself can almost break you. Other than filling out forms you have no control of the process. Adoption is not easy. It’s messy. And at times it’s even scary and totally overwhelming. But it is so worth it. Come on out of your comfort zone and live life.

Danae Meister

Meister Family

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#MedicalMonday – Vaughn Family

Hello!  We are the Vaughn family.  Our adoption journey began in 2010 (after 10 years of marriage) when we brought our first son home from Taiwan at the age of 6 months (through a non-CCAI agency).  He was a completely healthy baby boy, and we loved our little family of three for about three years or so until we felt as though there may be more children in our future!  We had not given much thought to adopting a child with special medical needs, but when we learned of the China program through CCAI, we immediately knew this would be a good fit for us.  We filled out our MCC with a variety of different medical needs that we were open to, and ended up being matched with our sweet, compassionate Maddox, who ended up being 25 months old when he came home.  Two years later, we stumbled across a photo of our third boy, Merritt, on a waiting child advocacy site, who happened to also be a cleft kiddo.  We knew from experience that we could handle this need — and we brought him home through CCAI just this past February.

We honestly did not know much about cleft lip and palate when we first started down this adoption route.  We knew the basics of what it looked like — and that it could be repaired with surgery.  Since that time, though, we have found so many wonderful resources to help educate ourselves, including organizations, our local children’s hospital, other families, and of course, good old experience.

While some children have surgery in China, both of our cleft boys came home with unrepaired cleft.  We waited five months with Maddox before having his surgery (as to allow time for bonding, etc), and Merritt will have been home 3 months when we have his surgery in May.  It’s can be hard during the waiting time when kids — and even adults — stare at your child, who obviously looks different.  We have always thought that both of our boys — even with unrepaired cleft had the most beautiful smiles and faces, though — even before surgery!  We are so glad our surgeon recommended this bonding time, as we have found that cleft surgery can be one of the hardest parts.  It certainly can be a painful surgery — and the recovery can be challenging, as the children generally must be on a liquid only diet for several weeks afterward.  However, the result of seeing their “new smile” at the end is just amazing.  It’s also important to note that there are typically multiple surgeries, spread across months — or even years depending on the child’s specific situation.





The other challenging part — and the part we did not fully understand until we experienced it — was the long journey of speech therapy.  This will be an ongoing process for both of our cleft boys for quite some time, and requires much patience.  However, it is also so rewarding to see growth and development in this area.  And there are some amazing resources through local school districts, even before the kiddos hit school age to help jump start speech.


So, while there are challenges of surgeries and speech, it has been amazing to see how well our boys have adjusted!  In a way, we feel like our two cleft boys will be a great support to one another in the years to come, as they navigate through facing this special need together.


We would encourage other parents who are considering a child with cleft lip and palate to reach out to other families who have been there.  They can be a wealth of information!  This is a very, very manageable and correctable condition, but certainly one that requires patience.










Annette Vaughn, Maddox (4, group 2152) and Merritt (3, group 2392)

May 15, 2017 – Post-Adoption Report Day

Attention Families! The U.S. Department of State has designated May 15, 2017 as “Post-Adoption Report Day” and calling all parents who adopted to submit any outstanding reports. The U.S. Department of State, states not submitting reports “causes countries of origin concern about the welfare and whereabouts of the adopted children and may jeopardize the continuation of intercountry adoption”

For information about post-adoption reporting requirements, please check the post-adoption section of the country specific pages at…/count…/learn-about-a-country.html.

You may also find help information about Post-Adoption Requirements and Obtaining U.S. Citizenship at…/…/how-to-adopt/post-adoption.html.

Our website is also a great resource for more information about post-adoption.

If you have any questions, please email Shelly Burkey at or 303-850-9998 x22

Welcome Home Wednesday

Happy #WelcomeHomeWednesday to groups 2419, 2420 and 2421S! Eight more children have found their forever family! Today’s featured family is the Benefield family! Dad writes:

“The last 2 weeks have been great, heartbreaking, exciting, hard, exhausting, but SO WORTH IT! We have been home 3 days and are excited for Lleyton to continue getting to know his mama and brothers. We are seeing more and more of his little personality every day and for those of you still waiting, stay strong. Whether you are waiting to be matched, in the paper chase, or waiting for TA, in the end they are worth the wait!”

Welcome home Benefield Family!

Groups 2419, 2420 & 2421S Benefield Benefield_2 Benefield_3

Medical Monday – Levstik Family

Deciding to adopt my son, Jax, was by far the best decision I’ve ever made.  Jax was 2 years, 7 months old on our Gotchya Day, and we’ve been a forever family for just over a year.  After carefully researching each medical condition on CCAI’s medical conditions checklist (MCC,) I was ultimately open to a variety of conditions.  My main goals were ensuring that my child would be able to run and play, and that his/her intellectual capabilities would be unhindered (to the extent you can guestimate that).  Considering a child with cleft lip and palate was a natural fit for me.


Jax’s initial palate and lip repair surgeries were performed in China during his first year of life.  His LID-only file said he could only say “mama,” and while that scared me, I was told that is not uncommon for children born with this condition.  Before accepting the referral, I shared his file with a pediatrician, an international adoption doctor, and three ENTs.  With as many reassurances as I could get, in the end, it still required a leap of faith to say yes.  Needless to say, I’m so glad that I did!

Jax has adjusted amazingly well to his new life.  He smiles constantly and loves to laugh.  Jax has a personality that sparkles and he draws people to him.  He’s a natural leader.  Jax is a whiz at puzzles, loves to swim and go to the zoo, and loves to read.  His ability to attach and bond has been incredibly strong and positive.


To treat his medical conditions, I found that proactively lining up a great medical support team was very important.  Within a month of coming home, Jax began working weekly with a private speech therapist that specializes in cleft lip and palate, and he also began working weekly with a separate speech therapist at his preschool, which is paid for by the state (we live in Colorado).  We also spent a day at the Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic at Children’s Hospital Colorado, where Jax was evaluated by multiple specialists and a plan was developed by their team for ongoing treatment.  We will go back once a year for an evaluation day like that until he’s 18.

We have a wonderful ENT surgeon, and Jax underwent a soft palate revision surgery last month to lengthen the palate and better align the palate muscles.  He also got ear tubes.  The surgery required one overnight hospital stay, and the two weeks of liquid diet that followed was tough, but we can already tell a vast improvement in the quality of his speech.  Jax will need weekly speech therapy through at least the first grade, another surgery when he is 8 or 9, and extensive orthodontia.


The hardest part about this condition is not understanding everything my son is trying to communicate.  I understand about 80 percent now, but strangers get only about 40 percent.  Fortunately, I know this will improve dramatically as a result of our recent surgery and ongoing speech therapy.  A great thing about the condition is that when people look at Jax, they have no idea he has a medical issue because his scarring is minimal, and he’s whip smart, very coordinated and physically active.


I’ve just completed my second dossier to adopt a little girl through CCAI.  I have specifically requested a child with cleft lip and palate, and am open to minor hearing loss as well.  This is a totally manageable condition, so much so that I’m signing up to do it again!

I’m happy to speak to anyone who would like more information or details.  You can reach me directly at:  Thank you for considering opening your heart and your home to one of these amazing children.

Tracy Levstik