Happy 14th Birthday, Lucas!

A boy recently adopted by a Nebraska family turns 14, the cut-off age for adoption from China.
by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Lucas (right) with brothers Christian and Stefan, about to board a plane to Hong Kong on their journey home to Nebraska.

I have such exciting news to share!  On February 1st, Yu Qing* – the boy featured in the summer 2010 Holt magazine – celebrated his 14th birthday with his adoptive parents, Ed and Sandy Kolb, and five new brothers, also adopted.

On the Kolb family blog, Sandy explains the significance of this particular birthday for Yu Qing (who now goes by Lucas):

February First marked another celebration day…Lucas’ 14th birthday!   In his honor, God proclaimed a “Snow Day” in Omaha and so, school was cancelled…(so we told him!) We spent the better part of the day in PJ’s, watching movies, eating, playing games and eating some more!
It was especially sweet to celebrate this birthday with Lucas since at age 14 in China he would have aged out of being eligible for international adoption!  He became our son, by God’s grace, in the nick of time!!
In some ways we are still getting to know each other, in other ways it is as if Lucas has always been a part of our family.

It’s always exciting when a child finds a family.  But actually having met and personally advocated for the child makes it that much more meaningful.  When I met Lucas this past summer at the Journey of Hope camp in southern China, I was struck by what a polite, thoughtful and intelligent boy he was.  A shy 13-year-old, he avoided eye contact and kept his hands neatly folded in his lap – likely to hide the fact he’s missing fingers.  He told us he hoped to one day become a doctor, a feat nearly impossible for a boy with a physical abnormality and no family name – both traits considered “unlucky” in this traditionally Confucian culture.  As an orphan in China, his educational opportunities would be limited.  When he reached adulthood, finding employment – especially as a doctor – would be even more challenging.  With our friendly gestures drawing only the slightest of smiles, Lucas seemed painfully aware of these social stigmas, and the obstacles they would create for him.

Lucas (right) with brother Christian and another new family member (resting on his shoulder).

Here today, as we interviewed children to advocate for their adoption, Lucas seemed not so much excited, but actually burdened by the gravity of the opportunity before him – the opportunity to join a family, as well as a society that doesn’t discriminate based on your family name or disabilities.  At 13, he had only six months to find a family before aging out.

But then something extraordinary happened.  The Kolbs opened their hearts to Lucas. He was home by Christmas Eve.

In looking at the photos of Lucas on the Kolbs’ private family blog, it’s heartening to see such genuinely happy, confident smiles on his face.  Within the first week with his new family, he grows visibly more at ease – and, once informed that his new family will not judge him for missing fingers, he becomes less self-conscious about his hand.  He seems so happy.  And relieved.  His 13-year wait for a permanent family is over.

No longer a looming deadline, turning 14 is now cause for celebration!

Lucas’ story is a triumphant one.  But so many children – especially older children and children with special needs – continue to wait for permanent, loving families.  Like Lucas, many of them are on the verge of turning 14 and becoming ineligible for adoption. All children deserve a loving family – as well as every opportunity to work hard and achieve their dreams!

Click here to visit Holt’s Waiting Child photolisting and read more about the children who wait.

* Name has been changed

Waiting Child of the Week: Julie

Julie, a child in China’s Journey of Hope program, needs a family of her own

Date of Birth: 11/15/98

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

This summer, several of us at Holt traveled to China to meet children in the Journey of Hope – a program to propel adoption of older children, or children with special needs in southern China. Upon arrival, I joined Holt China staff and local caregivers for a traditional dinner in the province of Jiangsu. Across the table from us sat three children who, along with their caregivers, had journeyed a considerable distance to meet us. Two little boys in matching red shirts sat side by side, charming the visitors.

And then there was *Julie.

Though shyly looking away, her eyes held a glow as bright and genuine as her smile. She giggled and chatted with her favorite caregiver – a young woman who also taught in the orphanage school. Clearly very attached to her caregiver, she also recognized Sue Liu, the sweet-faced manager of the Holt office in Beijing. Once more at ease in the company of strangers, Julie got up from the table to give Sue a big hug, and squeeze into her chair – this tall, slender, 11-year-old girl with a Mickey Mouse button on her yellow Crocs shoes. Awkwardly smooshed together, they sat like sisters – playful and laughing.

Julie’s assessment states that she often shows great kindness and easily builds attachments. That night in Jiangsu, Julie brought that description to vibrant, glowing life. She bounded down the hallways to greet orphanage directors and Holt staff, her long skinny legs sticking out of shorts – an outfit in which she seemed more comfortable than the frilly frock she wore for the official Journey of Hope camp the following day. And her hugs – warm and engrossing – landed spontaneous and often on their recipients.

Julie entered care as an infant and has lived in the orphanage ever since. Because of a medical condition that made it difficult to control her bodily functions, she entered school later than other children. But after receiving a surgery in 2005 that corrected her condition, Julie became more confident and outgoing in school. When we met her this summer, she was in the third grade. In November, she turned 12. Continue reading “Waiting Child of the Week: Julie”

Who do you see?

Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program.

Robin Munro, Senior Writer—Today, we visited a beautiful orphanage in Northern China – a place full of color and life.  Each room opened onto another group of faces – curious, apprehensive, wide-eyed faces.  Most of these children have special needs, conditions beyond which most birth families have the capacity to provide medical care – conditions like cleft lip and palate, CP, Down’s Syndrome, Spina bifida, feet and hand deformities, as well as a few cases of pneumonia.

In the first room we enter, metal barred cribs line the wall.  In each, a child sits or lays, staring at the ceiling, the wall, or nothing in particular – into middle space.   These children have some of the most severe conditions.  Most don’t seem to notice our presence in the room – don’t jump up, or cry, or reach out to us.  I walk over to one boy, who lifts his head when I touch his back.  His head is swollen from Hydrocephalus, a condition in which water gets onto the brain.  In some cases, this condition is minor and won’t interfere with the child’s life.  But this boy’s condition is serious, says Sue Liu, the Beijing office manager.  As I rub his back, he begins to smile.  When I stop, he stares at me blankly.  I gently touch him again, and his smile returns.   Continue reading “Who do you see?”

Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: The Peace House, A Place to Heal and Flourish

In July of 2010, Holt’s senior writer visited the Peace House, a haven for sick children who come from all over China to receive medical care in Beijing — many of them suffering from serious medical conditions. After leaving the hospital, the children recuperate at the Peace House. Many go on to join adoptive families. Since this article was written, Holt took over operations from Peace House founder, Teresa Huangwu. In that time, five children have received surgeries, and a sixth will soon come to stay at this nurturing and peaceful sanctuary in the heart of the city.

This holiday season, help more children in Holt’s care receive needed medical procedures. When children receive the care they need, they also have greater hope of finding an adoptive family. Click here to browse Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog online.

Teresa raised funds for Jhi Lin's heart surgery. He is now recovering in her care at the Peace House.

Robin Munro, Senior WriterAt the Peace House in Beijing, the floor is where the action is.  A ball flies at me from one direction. From another, a baby comes crawling to investigate.  The children seem intrigued by my foreign blue eyes.  My camera.  My notebook.  My purse.  Especially my purse.

While otherwise occupied in a game of catch, I feel a sudden tug on my shoulder straps, and look down to find a sticky-fingered hand first unzipping, then probing the contents of my bag.  Here I find Jhi Lin (name has been changed), who’s discovered a little bottle of hand sanitizer. Clutching it in his hand, he makes for the bedroom and tries to shut the door.  I catch it, and follow him in.  Dismayed, he takes my hand and ushers me back out.  I follow him in.  Back out we go.  The look on his face says, “Silly lady, don’t you see – I want to be alone with this bottle of green goo, my new-found treasure!”

Finally, a caretaker comes to intervene.  Jhi Lin graciously accepts his defeat, and hands the bottle back.  “Xie Xie,” I say. Thank you.  He smiles, and moves on to explore other frontiers.

Jhi Lin will turn 3 in August.  Full of life, full of moxie, he is a dark-haired, bright-eyed mischief-maker – a typical toddler.  He came to the Peace House one year ago, where he stayed while Peace House foster mother, Teresa Huangwu, raised funds for his heart surgery.  His condition was severe – a congenital heart defect that causes what’s commonly known as “blue baby syndrome.” This surgery cost over $100,000, which healed him completely – a feat accomplished by love alone.

“Teresa finds the resources to do the surgeries,” says Jian Chen, Holt’s China program director.  “It’s not her work. It’s purely out of love.”

Teresa Huangwu started her unofficial work as a foster mother after inspiration struck, eight years ago, while working as a volunteer caretaker in an orphanage.   While washing a malnourished baby with a cleft lip, she thought how much better a child could be nourished to health in a warm, cozy home environment than in a sterile institution.  A small home, where a sick child could get constant nurture from a loving caregiver.  “I just thought, ‘If we could just take the baby home and nurse him,’” she says.  “And then bring him back.”

In August of 2003, she founded the Peace House – a haven for sick children from all over China who come to Beijing for medical care.  A clean, cozy apartment cluttered with toys, the Peace House is just that: a peaceful place of healing and nurture.  Its location in Beijing is critical – it enables the children to get the best medical care in the country.  After surgery, they stay here until their condition stabilizes – until they are ready for adoption.

Continue reading “Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: The Peace House, A Place to Heal and Flourish”