“You’re adopting a little boy. That’s nice. I’ve heard that mostly girls are adopted in China.” We didn’t start out choosing to adopt a boy. Mainly our choice was to adopt a waiting child with special medical needs, after which we noticed that on the many lists of waiting children it seemed that most of the children with very serious medical needs were boys. There are comparatively small numbers of boys in Chinese orphanages and they are usually there because of medical problems or disfiguring birth anomalies that would either be socially unacceptable or medically unaffordable for their birth parents. With one and a half billion people, China has no social safety net in the form of public guaranteed healthcare or even retirement assistance and indeed only very recently has it been able to help subsidize education tuition for children through the 9th grade. The limited social welfare options available in cities and towns are usually absent in rural villages.
Then we heard that prospective parents for international adoptions generally prefer to adopt girls. Perhaps many suspect that boys might come with more behavioral or other issues.
Just one of the very difficult periods during this long process was at the very beginning; during the time we spent looking at the descriptions (generally with photos) of the children on these waiting child lists. Our goal was to step in where help was most needed, but given our ages we quickly discovered that with many of these children there were obvious risks for all concerned in trying to intervene in a situation in which a child could need lifelong special care. These children, one after another, were heartbreaking. What will happen to a small child in a poor orphanage who is, for example, blind with cerebral palsy? A small child.
One day we saw a photo of Henry and something just clicked. We knew the special challenges that children with serious clefts had in orphanages and with a little homework we were able to establish that this condition was not necessarily associated with lifelong issues. Admittedly, Henry’s cleft condition was unusually severe. But it could be addressed, in his case with many surgeries and therapies likely lasting into his adolescence or late teenage years. It was doable for us, but there was something else. We sensed in Henry’s eyes peering out at us from his photo something familiar. He was ours.
Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, we will make it so.