Pictured above: Elizabeth, Vivienne, Hannah, and Bear Norris
In 2012, Lifeline Children’s Services followed an opportunity to partner with an orphanage in China whose children captured the hearts of our staff.
These children needed love, care, and hope in a tremendous way. As Lifeline began building a relationship with this orphanage through medical trips and caretaker training, another opportunity to have a unique and powerful impact on the lives of these children came in the form of a foster center. After the relentless pursuit and obedience of the Father’s guidance, on July 22, 2014, thirteen children were moved from dire need into a center where they would receive love, attention, and care.
Then, a little less than a year later, the first of those thirteen sweet children came home with her forever family in April 2015.
Bear and Elizabeth Norris adopted their first daughter, Vivienne, from Chongqing, China in the spring of 2013. The privilege of loving this amazing little girl and the first-hand experience of seeing the faces of orphans still waiting for families left an unmistakable impression in their hearts: they knew they would be back in China to adopt again. Their return trip was much quicker than they anticipated, and the Norris family found themselves in China twenty-one months later.
Bear and Elizabeth did not consider that their new child may be living in the foster center. In fact, knowing the need for families to adopt boys, they were fully prepared and opened to bringing home a sweet boy from China; ultimately, though, they allowed their hearts to be opened to wherever to whomever God led them. Then, one day, the picture began to become more clear as they received a phone call from their social worker about a little girl who was living at the foster center.
Her name would become Hannah.
Hannah had been living at the foster center but had lived under tough conditions for the first eighteen months of her life. The Norrises were unsure of what to expect. Having experience with adoption, they knew to move forward with no expectations but to be prepared for anything. Knowing the difficulties that Hannah experienced early in life, they were prepared for regression, serious feeding issues, sleeping issues, delays, and hard grieving. Upon meeting Hannah, the Norrises did have some challenging transitions, because, as Elizabeth knows, “Adoption is going to be an earthquake in a child’s life no matter how old or young they are, or how much preparation they receive…” But, they also received a great surprise. Elizabeth describes meeting Hannah for the first time,
Hannah came to us in the civil affairs office knowing how to receive love—what a precious gift! She spent her last eight months in China as one of just twelve children who were known by their caregivers. She arrived with belongings she knew to be hers (labeled with her name), photos with special friends and nannies, a letter from her close nanny, and a memory book. They even laminated some of the photos, so Hannah could handle them! The foster center has financial needs; we are supposed to be the ones giving, and here we were receiving things they certainly could have used, which they insisted were [Hannah] Guang Yue’s. This is a child who was being sent into her forever family by caregivers very much wanting to know that we would love her, because they certainly did.
Throughout their first months home, Hannah continued to display behavior that is typical of newly adopted children such as needing reassurance, grieving, shock, and coping, but Elizabeth believes that “Hannah’s transition was easier than it could have been thanks to her time at the foster center.” They prepared her as much as they could, even beginning to transition her new name. Elizabeth describes the difference that foster center made in Hannah’s transition:
From her first day with us, Hannah brought her hurts and tears to us, because she knew they mattered. She expected her little boo-boos, real or imaginary, to be kissed! We did not have to teach her to look to us for help. In fact, she came to us for anything she needed or wanted, knowing someone would meet her need. We were not teaching a child how to trust, we were reassuring a trusting child that she was still safe. She knew her great worth! We have not struggled with feeding issues or anxieties. She knew she would not go hungry, and she trusted us enough to express her likes and dislikes. She needed very frequent reassurance that we were there at night, but she easily relaxed enough to go to sleep and return to sleep quickly, and so far at least, after ten weeks together we continue to have a fairly easy time with sleep.
Coming to a family with personal belongings or with that kind of trust that is unusual. Although the journey for secure and permanent attachment is still ongoing, Hannah knows that her mama and daddy are there to meet her needs. Unlike many adopted children, she came to her family knowing how to receive love. The Norrises are now enjoying time with Hannah to show her that they will love her forever.
There is much wonderful work that is happening in many children’s lives across China in orphanages and in other foster homes or centers. We want to tell you Hannah’s story to celebrate the way God is using this center to care for orphans in a tremendous way and to celebrate how He has used YOU to impact the lives of children like Hannah. YOU have played a part in funding, praying for, and visiting with this foster center. These children are thriving and are loved. Elizabeth’s words sum up God’s work through this center perfectly,
“The children there are being so well loved, and it has nothing to do with their ‘adoptability’ in the eyes of others. Their work reflects what God says about these children’s worth and preciousness to their community and anyone who hears about the foster center.”
For more information about partnering with the China Foster Center, click HERE.