'We have a heart for them'
Updated: 2015-08-14 11:05
By May Zhou in Houston(China Daily USA)
Jack, who stayed with the Johnson family in Garland, Texas, blows out his birthday candles while surrounded by the Johnson's sons (from left) Aaron, Jared and Caleb. provided to China Daily
A summer stay with American families is ending for 30 Chinese orphans with special needs. All will return to China, but about two-thirds of them have found parents who want to adopt them, May Zhou reports in Houston.
In Garland, Texas, Jack, a 10-year-old Chinese orphan boy with medical issues, blew out his birthday candles on the last Saturday of July, surrounded by his American hosting family, the Johnsons, including their four sons, 16 to 22 years old.
Jack is one of 30 Chinese orphans with special needs who arrived in the United States in mid-July for a four- to five-week stay with families across the nation. Of the 30, 17 stayed with families in Texas. All the children will return to China at the end of their stay, but about two-thirds have found parents who want to adopt them. The remaining children are still looking for a home, but "it changes daily," said Shannon Phillips, director of the orphan hosting program Great Wall China Adoption (GWCA).
The Austin, Texas-based agency has been running China hosting programs in the summer and winter for three years. Phillips said the program, designed for older Chinese children ages 5-12 with special needs, has improved their odds to find a permanent home in the US. In addition to hosting children from China, GWCA has similar programs for older children from the Philippines, Ukraine and Latvia, with or without special needs. Phillips encourages anyone who wants to find out more about these children to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"So far we have a success rate of 75-80 percent. With each program we learn more on how to excite people about hosting and how to find the right family for each child," said Phillips.
Jack's hosts are Jill and Thomas Johnson, an elementary school teacher and a software engineer, respectively. The program helped to prompt them into adopting.
"We have for a very long time wanted to adopt an orphan because we have a heart for them. Their parents for whatever reason were unable to take care of them. However, we have the opportunity and means to do so, and we want to help," said Jill Johnson.
In February, the Johnsons read about the GWCA program on its website. "When I saw Jack's profile, I just knew this is the boy we could bring into our home," she said. "He has such sparkling eyes. I don't know what it is, but there is something about him that says to me: 'This is your son'. Something in my heart tells me that it's him."
"At one time we thought we would adopt a girl, but then we realized that we know boys well. It'd be great for him to have big brothers. The boys are getting along very well. They go swimming, play basketball and just have a blast," she said.
For Jack's birthday, Jill Johnson went online to search for what a birthday celebration should involve for a child from China. She ended up with a traditional American birthday party - cake, balloons, ice cream and gifts.
Even though Jack is not yet officially a member of the Johnson family, she has started to plan his future: "I want to keep his cultural heritage alive, it is part of who he is. We will get him in class to continue to learn Mandarin. Chinese is a world language that people need to learn anyway. We will figure out where he is heading, what his passion is, where he is going to excel most and encourage him in that."
Besides trips to doctors for checkups, Jack's summer stay has involved a great deal of swimming in a pool and trips to museums and parks. Jill Johnson also plans to take him to her school to see what an American school looks like. "We will also take him on the trip to the University of Alabama when my son goes back to college," she said.
Michelle and Scott Morell, a part-time physical therapist and a leadership trainer in Allen, Texas, are seeking an American family to adopt Jay, a 13-year-old boy with a mild liver condition who is otherwise healthy.
The Morells have five adopted children, 7 to 14 years old - three from the US and two from China. They are also adopting another Chinese boy, a 3-year-old who has some colon malformation, and expect to bring him home from China in December.
"Last summer we thought that our family is done, but how can we help more? We found out about this hosting program, we figured we could help other kids to find a family. That would be something good that we have done in this world," said Michelle Morell.
Jay is not the first Chinese orphan the Morells have hosted. Last summer they had 6-year-old Teddy, who has cerebral palsy.
"We had great experience hosting Teddy. He is smart, sweet and precious. I created a private advocacy page for him. I had a friend take professional photos of him and posted those. I talked to a lot of people. GWCA also helped to get his story out," said Michelle Morell.