The Jackson family was excited to add another little girl to their family. But about halfway through the adoption process, they decided to be open to a boy. Now, they are absolutely in love with their son, Luke, and the wonderful new adventure he is to their family.
One-and-a-half-year-old Luke had been home for just a few weeks when he fell while playing outside. His legs couldn’t keep up with his toddling gait and before long he was on the ground with a bloody knee.
“I was ready for the drama!” says his mother, Lisa Jackson, recounting the moment.
So she brought him inside and began cleaning him up. Lisa and her husband, Tim, have three older biological daughters, so they knew the drill. While it was just a scraped knee, nothing serious, Lisa doted on him with the loving care and attention that she knew would make him feel better and stop the tears.
“But he kept crying and crying,” she says. Maybe the fall had scared him more than she realized.
But the next word out of Luke’s mouth cleared up any confusion: “Outside!” he sobbed.
He was “over” his bloody knee and falling down — this boy wanted to get back outside to play!
In this moment, Lisa knew that raising Luke would be different than raising her daughters. Their family was embarking on a new adventure. An adventure that was different, full of joy and one that would completely change their world.
But it’s an adventure that almost didn’t happen for the Jackson family. Lisa and Tim Jackson considered and prayed about adoption for years before finally deciding to apply with Holt International — to adopt a little girl.
“The whole girl thing was very easy to us — it was our life,” Lisa says. She says the idea of having a boy even scared her a little. She assumed that any boy would be too rowdy and active, a drastic change from their lifestyle with their three girls, Grace, Halle and Avery.
“It’s silly, but in the beginning I even thought, ‘we have all the girl clothes, all the toys,’ she says. “We also never felt the need to have a son. We thought our family was complete with just girls.”
But about halfway through their adoption process, everything changed.
“The more we thought about it,” she recalls, “we thought that if I got pregnant, we wouldn’t be able to pick [the gender].” That was when they decided to open their hearts to the possibility of a boy and the unforgettable moment when they changed the checked box on their form from “girl” to “either.”
After making this change, they were matched with their son, Luke, just five days after their dossier was sent to China.
For families who are open to adopting a boy, the season of waiting is almost always shorter. For families pursuing adoption of a child with correctable needs in China, it takes about 6-9 months to be matched with a girl. But to be matched with a boy it usually only takes 1-3 months — and sometimes just a matter of weeks!
The Jacksons’ path to adopting a boy is a common one in the international adoption community. Studies show that the majority of adoptive parents prefer to adopt a daughter, not a son — statistics that are reflected in the applications Holt receives every year from hopeful adoptive families. The Jacksons are among the majority of families who apply to Holt’s China program — one of the few country programs that allows families to specify gender. Of these families, up to 90 percent first request a girl.
Why is this? Theories abound. Maybe it’s because boys are considered rowdy, rambunctious and difficult to parent. Maybe because girls are assumed to be ever-sweet, docile and “safe.” For most adoptive parents, this gender partiality is not even realized.
“I think the misconception that boys are harder is subconscious and goes against reality,” says Abbie Smith, Holt’s director of clinical services.
The deep-rooted perception that only girls need adoptive families is, however, probably the most commonly cited reason for the gender gap. And for a period of time, this was true. In the early 1990s, when China first opened to international adoption, a disproportionate number of girls in China were abandoned as an unintended consequence of the country’s one-child policy. Recognizing the need, adoptive parents from around the world stepped up to welcome these girls into their families.
But today, for a number of reasons, this is no longer the case. The perception that girls are in greater need of families is in fact now a myth.
“China used to be all about girls,” says Kris Bales, Holt’s China adoption counselor and intake manager. “Ten to 20 years ago, we rarely saw boys being released for adoption. But now we are seeing more boys than girls, and we are placing equal numbers.”
Today, the greater need for families has shifted from girls to boys in China. Although just as many boys are abandoned every year, because most adoptive families request a girl, boys wait far longer to join a family.
There is nothing at all wrong with wanting to adopt a girl — girls still need adoptive families and the joy they can bring to families is priceless. But there is an imbalance, one that leaves boys waiting longer for adoptive families.
“We want families to know that they can still wait for a girl, if that’s what they truly want,” says Kris. “But we’re hoping they make a more conscious decision, based not only on what they want, but on what the need is.”
So few families request to adopt a boy that today, being a boy is considered a special need.
For many of the boys on our waiting child photolisting, their only special need is their age and gender.
“I can’t believe how many boys go unnoticed because they’re boys,” Lisa says. But many adoptive families are unaware of the gender gap in international adoption. The Jacksons themselves hadn’t even known of this need.
“I had no clue that it was that big of a deal that people weren’t adopting boys,” Lisa says. “Now my eyes are so open to it, and it eats at me.”
It can take some time to emotionally and mentally process the decision to adopt a boy if you initially planned for a girl. But as shown by the Jacksons and many other Holt families, the change maybe isn’t as different as they expected.
“At first it was a little bit to wrap your brain around, but it wasn’t hard,” Lisa says. “The Lord prepares you for that kind of stuff — and now I’m beyond thrilled that we’ve been blessed with a boy.”
Now a newly turned 3-year-old, Luke is thriving in his new life with his family. Luke has ear microtia and atresia, a deformity and loss of hearing in his right ear. While he only hears a little from this ear, his other ear hears perfectly. As of now, the Jacksons aren’t planning to do any surgeries to change the form or hearing ability of his ear, but they will fully support Luke if this is something that he decides to do when he is older.
He loves Thomas the Train, cars and playing outside. For his recent birthday party, he enjoyed going to see the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie.
All in all, Luke has found happiness and peace in his new family. And the feeling is mutual. “We have fallen head-over-heels for him and his sisters absolutely adore him,” Lisa says. “He has been so good for our whole family.”
Today, the Jackson family can’t imagine life without Luke. They look forward to continuing to learn the differences and joys of parenting their son. They look forward to building more railroad tracks through their living room, to completing daring obstacle courses outside and to making silly chipmunk voices.
Lisa’s advice to other families in the adoption process?
“Be open to whatever is out there,” she says, with consideration to both gender and special needs. “Look what you could be missing.”
Megan Herriott | Staff Writer
There is currently a huge need for families to adopt boys from our China and Korea programs. If you are interested in beginning the adoption process, or want to learn more about adopting boys, please contact our adoption counselor, Emily Lund, at firstname.lastname@example.org.