When it comes to adoption, stepping into the unknown can be intimidating, but connecting with a community of people who understand what you’re going through changes the game.
Each year in November, we mark National Adoption Month by celebrating families who have opened their hearts and homes to children in need and also by increasing awareness for the world’s estimated 144 million orphans. Families are especially critical for older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs.
Every child deserves a loving family, and Desirée’s story is one of many that illustrates the difference a family makes for a child with special needs.
Desirée White was 17 when God placed adoption on her heart. Then, five years ago—“on a normal Sunday morning in church”—she sensed God speaking to her again.
“It was a very clear word from the Lord that the time to adopt was now,” she said. “The picture I had was a child with Down syndrome.”
When Desirée called the Bethany Christian Services office in Seattle, Washington, she had no idea that she was at the start of an incredible journey that would result in families across the United States adopting children from China with Down syndrome. Today, she is a passionate advocate for Bethany’s Bamboo Project.
Speaking the Same Language
At the time of her inquiry, children in China with Down syndrome were considered unadoptable. Desirée’s son, Isaac, was the first to be released for adoption. As Bethany reported back to the orphanage in China how Isaac was thriving in a family, the orphanage responded by releasing another 14 children with Down syndrome. Bethany turned to Desirée and asked her to share her experience with other families. To date, 13 children have been paired with families in the U.S., and another 30 children in China have been released for adoption.
The families who are part of the Bamboo Project have become a supportive and tight-knit online community who are walking this path together. Stepping out into the unknown can be intimidating and even frightening, but connecting with a community of people who understand exactly what you’re going through changes the game.
“There’s a specific community that understands what it’s like to adopt,” Desirée said. “Adopting a child from China is really specific. Our families adopted a child from China, with Down syndrome, and they all lived in the same orphanage. We not only speak the same language but the same dialect of adopting children with special needs.”
Walking the Same Path
In June, seven families who had been supporting one another online for more than a year came together in Chicago for a Bamboo Family reunion at a water park. The families enjoyed sharing meals, swimming, playing, and praying together.
“It was like summer camp,” said Desirée. “You’re tired, you’re wet, you’re making new friends, and you can’t wait until it happens again.”
Plans are already in motion for ongoing gatherings, including some regional advocacy events to mark Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October and World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. They also hope to make the large group gathering an annual event.
The Bamboo families continue advocating for children in China—Bethany is currently seeking families for 25 children, 10 of whom are under 18 months. Desirée and others want prospective adoptive families to know that Down syndrome is nothing to fear. For those interested in adopting children from China, they emphasize that you don’t have to walk this path alone.
“These children do not need to be institutionalized,” she said. “They need better resources and an opportunity to thrive in a loving home. Ask any family, ‘Is it hard?’ and we’ll say ‘yes.’ But ask us if it’s worth it, and we’ll say, ‘One thousand times YES.’ Our children bring joy into our lives like nothing else.”
In this 20-minute podcast interview, Desirée shares more about her adoption experience and her work with the Bamboo Project.
Click the “visit website” link below to learn more about Bethany and the impact you could make in a child’s life through infant, international, and foster care adoption.