Not every child with special needs requires very involved, lifelong care — or even medical treatment. Some children just need minor interventions such as therapy for developmental delays, as Yesenia and Nick Lenga learned when applying to adopt Xiu Xiu from China. While in care at Holt’s medical foster home in Beijing, Xiu Xiu — now Mya – overcame her delays and is now thriving in the loving care of her family.
Xiu Xiu was found abandoned on the doorsteps of an orphanage in China at just a few hours old. Months after her arrival, Holt matched Xiu Xiu with the Lenga family, who knew that she might have severe developmental and physical delays. “She had extremely low muscle tone,” says Xiu Xiu’s mom, Yesenia. “Originally the doctors thought she might have rickets.” While not in one of Holt’s care centers, Holt determined that it would be best to send Xiu Xiu to the Peace House, our medical foster home in Beijing. Here, Xiu Xiu would receive therapy as well as the care of devoted Peace House caregivers.
At Peace House, children receive attentive care from loving caregivers to help them grow strong enough for surgery and to make a full recovery afterwards. The children’s needs vary. Some have fairly minor, correctable conditions such as clubfoot or cleft lip and palate. Some have more serious conditions that require very involved care, such as congenital heart defects. While others, like Xiu Xiu, have no visible special needs, but would benefit from physical or other therapies not available at the orphanage. After recovery, many of these children go on to join loving adoptive families, like the Lengas in the U.S.
“We were so grateful to learn that our daughter was being sent to the Peace House,” Yesenia says.
Yesenia’s road to Xiu Xiu was a long one. After trying for 10 years to conceive — and after multiple in vitro fertilization attempts and multiple miscarriages — Yesenia and her husband, Nick, accepted that they might not be meant for parenthood. “We just gave up,” Yesenia says.
Then, feeling like there might be a child waiting for them somewhere, Nick mentioned adoption to Yesenia. After talking to friends who had adopted through Holt International’s Korea program, the Lengas submitted their application to Holt, deciding, instead, to adopt a child with special needs from China. “We were at ease with adopting a child with special needs because special needs doesn’t necessarily mean something serious or a lot of time in the hospital,” Yesenia says. “The Holt staff put us at ease about what special needs really means. It just didn’t seem like a big deal for us.”
Upon seeing Xiu Xiu’s photo for the first time, Yesenia says it was instant love. “You just knew there was a piece of her life that was missing, and there was a piece of our life that was missing,” Yesenia says. “We were each other’s missing puzzle piece. It just fit.”
Xiu Xiu was 15 months old when she arrived at Holt’s Peace House. She cried a lot at the beginning, and was not very engaged with her surroundings, most often sitting around and watching everyone. Her hands hung limply open beside her, and she made no attempt to crawl. Her muscles were weak. Xiu Xiu also had bald, patchy spots on her head — likely because she was rocking herself in her crib, a common behavior children in orphanages use to comfort themselves when there are too few caregivers to give them all the attention they need.
After an MRI for Xiu Xiu came back normal, doctors recommended physical therapy to help Xiu Xiu overcome the developmental delays she developed in orphanage care. Every week, she attended two physical therapy sessions — each an hour long. The physical therapist advised Peace House staff of how to continue her therapy during the week — suggesting that they surround her with toys and encourage her to crawl to each toy. The therapist also suggested the staff carry her as much as possible. After just three sessions, Xiu Xiu learned how to reach for toys, hold a walker and clap. She surprised everybody.
Xiu Xiu improved every day. She was happy, smiling, eating well and playing with other children at the Peace House. She loved to dance and sing to music, and our China staff says she brought them a lot of happiness. “We would receive updates on her progress,” Yesenia says. “We were so grateful to Peace House, and we were at peace knowing our girl who was on the other side of the world was being taken care of with such love.”
By the time the Lenga family came to China to bring Xiu Xiu — who they now call Mya — home, Mya was standing on her own and almost entirely caught up to her peers!
If Mya had stayed any longer at the orphanage, her therapist says her delays would have become much worse. The longer a child waits for help catching up, the longer it takes for them to overcome developmental delays. But once she overcame her initial delays, Mya proved to be very smart.
“Mya has come so far, and she has personality plus,” Yesenia says. “To know Mya is to love her.” While in China, Mya learned sign language to help her communicate. “And today, she says ‘momma,’ and ‘dada.’ She loves to play outside, blow bubbles, swing and play with her dog, Buddy.”
Mya received the vital care she needed to go on and reach her full potential in life. And today, she is thriving in a loving adoptive family!
“It was really hard knowing that we weren’t there to provide for her when we were matched,” Yesenia says. “But the simple fact that she was at the Peace House made it easier, because we knew she was being taken care of. It made the nights less long.”
To the Peace House caregivers, Yesenia has this to say: “Thank you for loving our girl. Love has healed.”
With a gift to the Molly Holt Fund for Children with Special Needs, you can give more children like Mya the medical care or specialized therapies they need to grow and thrive… and maybe even join a loving adoptive family of their own!