By Andrea Huls
She had been used to sleeping on a wooden plank, just like the other 300 children in her orphanage. She had never slept with covers, either, and learned to early to do things on her own. But now, two-and-a-half year old Grace Randall has a crib, a home and a family who protects and loves her.
At the end of August, senior Caleb Randall, 21, went with his mother Patricia, 49, to Hongzhou, China, to meet and pick up a new member to their family: Grace, or Gracie as everyone calls her.
This is not the first time that the Randall family adopted a baby from a foreign country. In December 2001, Patricia Randall and her younger daughter Ansley, 18, who had been really involved in the process, went to Guatemala to meet and bring back one-year-old Gabriel.
“With our first adoption, we were going to go to China, and we really prayed about it,” said Mrs. Randall, “but God was directing us to Guatemala.” The process of their first adoption ran smoothly. It only took a few months before all the paper work was done and Mrs. Randall had little Gabe in her arms.
However, the Chinese government is far more strict and demanding. According to the U.S. Department of State, Chinese authorities are extremely sensitive about the operation of foreign entities in China, where adoption is a very sensitive subject. People who are interested in adopting a child from China need to act with discretion and decorum to be eligible for adoption.
Chinese children must be identified and approved by the China Centre of Adoptions Affairs. They usually match individual children with prospective parents whose completed applications have been submitted to the CCAA by a registered agency.
The Randalls applied for adoption in May, but usually the process of adoption in China takes from 10 to 12 months. Gracie’s adoption was faster because she was in a list of “waiting children,” which are for the most part children with special needs.
“She was a considered a special needs adoption because she was born with a cleft pallet and needs more surgeries in the future,” Caleb Randall said.
Even without surgery, the adoption process is tedious and expensive. Some of the expenses include traveling to China and staying there for two to three weeks, a $365 fee to the CCAA, plus $200 for translation of documents and the process of applying for visas, etc. There is also a fee for registration, and most orphanages will charge from $3,000 to $5,000 for having taken care of the child.
The first time Caleb’s parents talked about adopting, he did not take it seriously.
“I remember mom talking about it for years, but I never thought it was going to happen,” he said.
After the experience of Gabe’s adoption, when his mom talked about adopting a new child, Caleb was really supportive.
“We [he and his sisters] have the right kind of parents to deal with this kind of stuff, so we might as well do it,” he said.
The family really wanted a little girl from China.
“There are so many little girls there who are still being killed,” Mrs. Randall said. “I have read articles of how they smothered them in ashes out in the country because they want a boy.”
In the 1970s the Chinese government instituted a policy, known as the “one child” policy, which demands that couples living in the cities should only have one child. In most rural areas, couples might have more than one child after waiting several years.
Still, this policy has promoted abandonment and infanticide. The availability of resources does not help either. China does not provide clean water, sufficient food or electricity to its rural areas, where 71 percent of the population resides.
The Randalls started the process by doing a lot of research. Ansley and Mrs. Randall found Grace in an adoption agency web site called “Children’s Home society of family services” from St. Paul, Minn.
“We started looking at Grace and fell in love with her eyes,” Mrs. Randall said.
When the adoption was approved, Caleb really wanted to go to China, not just for support.
“I wanted to see how the process is done, but also I wanted to see her face first,” he said.
When Caleb and his mom went to the Chinese Consulate in Hongzhou, Gracie was sleeping.
“I went over to her and I just picked her up. She snuggled to me,” she said, “It was just like she had always been mine.”
Mrs. Randall started crying, and so did Caleb.
“It was real emotional, such a joy. It was so amazing, I can’t even explain it,” he said.
When they met Gracie, they discovered that she had been in the hospital a year ago for almost four months. They think that Gracie was abused because of a fracture in her femur. Gracie also had a severe cough and once they returned to the U.S., she was taken to a doctor who prescribed her with antibiotics that have helped her recover.
According to Caleb, he got her to laugh the first night. However, “the first couple of days she was in a state of shock,” he said. “She wouldn’t do anything, she wouldn’t move.” Gracie now is unstoppable. She plays, runs around the house, and laughs.
“From last week to this week, she has totally changed too,” she said. “She is so much happier,” Ansley Randall said.
Her father, James, agrees. “Children cannot resist being loved, especially when they have not been loved before,” he said.
Gracie gives hugs and kisses all the time.
“The other day in church I was holding her, and she was not really responding to me since I have been away,” Caleb said, “But then I said ‘Wo ai ne,’ which is I love you in Chinese, and right then she just turned her head, puckered her lips and gave me a kiss.”
Both James and Patricia talked about adoption since they were young. “You really feel like it’s a calling.”
“It bothers me when people tell me, these are your biological children, and these are your adopted children,” Mrs. Randall said. She says that some people can be very ignorant and very mean about it, even friends. “We had a friend that said to me: are you trying to kill your husband by adopting another child?”
The Randalls say the sacrifices and efforts they made to bring Gracie to the U.S. have all been worth it, and that they feel Gracie has brought more life to their house.
Caleb has created a group on Facebook called Gotcha Day where he talks about how amazing adoption is.
“I love my sister,” he said. “I just want everyone to realize that adoption isn’t for everyone, but if the passion is there, do it…it can happen.”
Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 Mark of Excellence Award Winner