When Eric and Jen Grabill first read about their son, Landon, on Holt’s China photolisting, they knew they could give this boy with a severe birth defect the love and care he needed. They also knew that at home with them, he would have access to something he would likely never have in China: an education.
Adoption was something that Eric and I had always planned. We never knew when or where, but we knew we wanted to make a difference in a child’s life. Just like having biological children, no one ever thinks they are ready, but when they do have children they figure things out as they go. So we decided to move forward without “feeling” we were ready and just trusting that it was the right thing to do.
We were early in our process when I found a little boy on Holt’s China photolisting. His innocent little face with his big almond-shaped eyes really caught me. Without hesitation, I clicked on the button to request more information about this little guy.
His advocacy name was “Kasen” and he had a very severe birth defect that I had never heard of. His little face looking back at me was enough for me to start researching. As I read more, I learned that this 2-year-old little guy was going to need surgery, he was going to have a lot of unknowns, and yet none of this was a hindrance. When Eric and I sat down to discuss moving forward with Kasen’s file, I gave Eric the worst-case scenario. This involved extensive surgeries with long hospital stays, urinary incontinence, catheterizing, stomas, etc…
Without missing a beat, Eric said, “If we don’t adopt him, who will?”
I had already fallen in love and knew this was my son, so to hear those words, I was ecstatic. The more we learned, the more we knew we had to help this boy.
We already have a daughter with special needs, and we have been down the road of surgeries, hospitalizations and unknowns and come out the other side stronger. As hard as caring for special needs can be, we already know the blessings it can bring as well. And as many of our friends tell us, it takes special people to deal with special children. But I think it takes special children to make special families. We knew that we could give this little boy a family and medical care and that for all it would cost, it would bless our family and friends much more.
The more I read and learned about China, the more I also knew we were doing the right thing. Access to advanced medical care is more limited in China, and if he stayed in his orphanage, this little boy wouldn’t be able to receive the care he so critically needed. In fact, we were told by his recent surgeon that it looked like doctors in his home province tried to correct his condition at least twice, without success. He was running out of chances for being adopted and having a normal life. He would not have the ability to go to school, he would never be treated as “normal” and that was heartbreaking. Without schooling and medical care, what would his future hold? Without a formal education and no chance to attend a higher level of schooling, he would likely have no job possibilities. Our imaginations ran wild. This boy, just like many others with special medical needs, had a chance with our family to avoid all of that and grow up in a family that loves him.
To children in China, an education is one of the most important things their parents push. But very few children living in orphanages get the opportunity to go to public school. They have to be really bright, and without parental motivation and guidance, many of these children do not meet the testing requirements for public school. They may get an education if they live in a province with the funding and resources to run a school inside the orphanage, but these schools are generally of poorer quality and less rigorous than public school. And still, they are missing a parent to nurture their learning. I’m sure it is also hard for them to see why it matters if they learn the basics. If they want to continue their education, they would likely not be able to compete with the other children who have families and income for the supplies they need.
Adoption into an American school system, however, means that children with special needs are not given less attention, but often quite the opposite. In our experience with our daughter, our local school system goes above and beyond, with extra funding and resources to make sure she catches up and is given the skills she needs to eventually live on her own. So often, when you adopt a child, you are not only giving a child a home and a family, but access to an education that would not be possible for them in many countries.
There are a lot of unknowns and uncertainties with adoption. The process is long, you never know how accurate your child’s files are, and you never know how your child is going to initially react to you. But one thing is very true: adoption is hard, but it is absolutely worth it.
Our son, Landon, is amazing. He is exactly what we didn’t know our family was missing. He now has access to top medical specialists and hospitals. He will be able to go to school and learn. But best of all, Landon has a family. He is a son, a brother, a grandson and a nephew who is loved fiercely.
Jen Grabill | Tampa, Florida