Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit adoption and child welfare agency, values every child, including those who may be viewed by their own culture as unadoptable.
Through its special initiative, The Bamboo Project, children with Down Syndrome in China find adoptive families. East Cobb residents Lauren and Patrick Childers adopted two children through the Bamboo Project.
In June 2014, the Childers were the first Bamboo Project family to travel to China and bring home their daughter, Ellie, now age 4. The Childers also have two biological children, Georgia, 8, and Molly, 6. Their second adoptive daughter, also with Down Syndrome. Maggie, 4, was also placed through the Bamboo Project.
“When we started our journey we decided that we are a family looking for a child and we were going to find a child looking for a family. We realized that children with special needs were the ones who waited a long time for families,” said Lauren Childers, who had an aunt with Down Syndrome.
“I felt like (Down Syndrome) was something we could definitely handle. We found out that children with Down Syndrome were one of the largest populations of children waiting for families. When Bethany (Christian Services) posted their Bamboo Project, we jumped right on it,” she said.
When Ellie came to the family at age 2, she was infant-like. “She was still on a bottle. She played with baby toys. She could crawl. Within a few months after we got her home, she was walking, babbling, playing with her sisters and eating solid food,” Patrick Childers said.
Ellie continues to thrive at age 4. “She is running, kicking balls and putting words together, communicating,” he said.
The Childers, who exhibit a strong faith in God, believe in all children. “Our view is all children have value and worth in life. We don’t make any difference in all kids that are out there,” Patrick said.
“(Children) all need homes. They all need people to love them enough to run to them, and bring them and give them a family,” Lauren said.
The Childers said they built a support system through excellent resources in the Atlanta area for Down Syndrome children such as Emory Down Syndrome Clinic and GiGi’s Playhouse.
“We’ve learned so much about how to bring the best in Ellie out. I thought we could definitely do this for another child. We should do that. We should go back and do it again for somebody else,” Lauren said.
Founded in 1945, BCS has worked in China on adoptions since 1992. In 2013, BCS founded the Bamboo Project. To date, 26 children have been matched with families.
Elisabeth McGinnis, International Services Coordinator for BCS, said that the culture in China and the emphasis of its orphanages was to help children with the best chances of being adopted.
“They didn’t realize that, while there may not be thousands of families knocking down their door to adopt a child with Down Syndrome, these kids do have an opportunity to find a family. There are families who are thrilled to welcome them into their home,” she said.
The Bamboo Project gives hope. “(The Bamboo Project) is helping those in China, who are helping those children with Down Syndrome, see how loved and cherished they are by adoptive families. It is giving those children an opportunity to live in a family,” McGinnis said.
On Sept. 17, 2016, the Childers returned from China with their second adoptive daughter, also with Down Syndrome. Maggie, 4, was also placed through the Bamboo Project.
“Don’t let (special needs) scare you. It’s like any other kid. It’s one day at a time. It’s so rewarding. You find so many people who are willing to come along side you, walk alongside you. You’re not alone on a journey with special needs adoption,” Lauren said.