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Adopting Our Daughters from China

two adopted daughters with mother

Tarrah and Dale turned to adoption because they had always wanted several children. They chose China because it has a well-established relationship with the U.S. and there were so many Chinese children in need of a family.

They applied to an adoption agency in November and immediately started the paperwork for their dossier. Tarrah says it was very daunting, but knowing the end result, they compiled it as fast as they could. After much research, they decided to adopt a waiting child – one with a medical need. They requested a girl as young as possible and checked off the conditions they felt they could handle. And then they waited.

The following summer, a day at the pool turned into one of the happiest days of their lives. They got the call about a child who might fit their family. There was very little information, but the file included six pictures of the most precious face Tarrah had ever seen. She and Dale knew the tiny girl in puffy clothing was meant to be their daughter. Her name was Jun Lan and she had an unrepaired cleft lip and palate. Her pictures showed she had bright, shining eyes and they immediately wanted her to be part of their family of four. And then of course they had more paperwork! Each day seemed to go slowly and painfully, knowing their daughter was living with no air conditioning and it was unbearably hot where she was in China. Tarrah checked the Weather Channel every day to see what their daughter, who they referred to as Naomi, was experiencing.

Three months after being matched, they travelled to China to meet their little girl. They flew into Beijing and then went onto Zhengzhou. She was brought to their hotel, as the orphanage was several hours outside the city. The train carrying Naomi was three hours late, which was nerve-wracking. But Tarrah says that the wait was worth it when they met little Naomi. “It was honestly one of the most wonderful moments of my life.”

Naomi was tiny – she only weighed 15 pounds at 14 months old. From the very first moments, Tarrah and Dale were just in awe of her and how sweet, kind, and joyous she was.

Tarrah’s advice to parents thinking of adopting a child with special needs is to make sure you understand what it entails. Do your research, talk to a pediatrician. Naomi has already had eight surgeries to repair her cleft lip and palate, with at least two more in future. It is a process that will take a decade or more. Naomi was sick for the first two years in the United States and has needed physical therapy and speech therapy. Tarrah said she practically lives at the doctor’s offices and specialist’s offices, but they knew what they were committing to and wouldn’t change a thing.

They had such a great experience with Naomi’s adoption that they decided to do it again two years later! They applied to adopt another girl with a cleft lip and palate from the same region as Naomi. This entailed more paperwork, but it seemed less daunting the second time around.

Twenty months later, Dale and Tarrah were at lunch when they received a call saying their adoption agency had a file for them to look at. They pulled the pictures up on her phone and saw a smiling and joyful little face. They knew they had just “met” the newest member of their family! From the restaurant parking lot, they called the agency and said they were interested. And then, of course, there was more paperwork.

They took Naomi to China to meet their new daughter Li Yu, who they named Gracie. Naomi had a great experience seeing her birth country. She recalls how she walked the WHOLE Great Wall without being carried (which isn’t true, but Tarrah and Dale let her think so).

Gracie was 20 months when she was adoption and the transition was tough for her. She was very attached to her nanny and mourned her loss. It was heartbreaking, but she slowly warmed up to her adoptive family and was smiling in no time. Gracie has had three surgeries for her cleft lip and palate, which have already helped her live a healthier life.

It took about a year for Gracie to really feel like she fits into their family, says Tarrah. Now she and Naomi are the best of friends, which is a gift. Gracie is fun and obstinate and has a laugh that will not quit. The girls love being with their siblings and they love and fight with equal measure. They love to go hiking and skiing and really enjoy travelling.

Despite the long and difficult process, Tarrah and Dale feel that adopting is one of the best things they ever did and their lives are so full because of it. Tarrah’s advice to other families interested in intercountry adoption is to be patient. Be patient with the process, it is extensive for both your interests and the child’s. Also be patient with the people who ask silly questions or who praise you for adopting your child. Tarrah says people always tell her she is amazing for “saving” the girls, but she says she is most definitely not amazing. She is just a mom who wanted more children and who loves them all.