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)