The Emotional Moment a Special-Needs Orphan Meets Her New Family

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Mom Audrey Shook holds her adorable new daughter, Lucy. (Photo: Great Wall China Adoption)

Airports often play host to emotional family reunions. But inside a terminal at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston on Monday afternoon, one family actually came together for the very first time.

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That’s where Audrey and Brent Shook and their five biological kids finally met 6-year-old Lucy, a little girl with Down syndrome from China. The Shooks, who had always hoped to adopt a special-needs child, fell in love with Lucy after viewing a video of her singing a Chinese children’s song in the orphanage she called home — until now.

“Mama,” Audrey Shook said, as seen in heart-tugging news footage of the emotional first greeting. Audrey knelt down and held Lucy’s forearms gently.

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These 30 Chinese children up for adoption will be spending the next month with American families around the country. (Photo: Great Wall China Adoption)

“Mama,” replied Lucy, who like the other children was clad in a red T-shirt. The sound of that word turned Audrey into a puddle of tears as she and the rest of the family embraced their newest daughter and sibling.

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The Shooks were among 16 Houston families awaiting the arrival of the 30 Chinese orphans who were brought to the United States as part of a foster-to-adopt program set up by Great Wall China Adoption

This Houston-based organization finds homes for parentless Chinese children (as well as kids from other countries around the world) who are older or have special needs and tend to be overlooked by parents hoping to build their families via adoption.

The program, launched last summer and then a second time over Christmas, finds families who are willing to take in a child for about a month, helping them adjust to family life. The goal is to allow the host family already interested in adoption to get a sense of whether the child is a good fit for the family. 

“We find that a lot of families are afraid to adopt an older child or a child with special needs, but if we bring the child to them and they can see that there’s nothing to be hesitant about, they child has a good chance of finding a forever family,” Cayce Canipe, the program coordinator at Great Wall of China Adoptions, tells Yahoo Parenting.

If the host family does not adopt, odds are good that another family in the community already thinking of adoption will. “Once they see and meet the child, they’re usually much more open to the idea than if they just saw the child’s photo online,” she says.

Not all of the orphans in the group ended up in Houston; 14 took connecting flights that landed in cities around the country, where other host or adoptive families were waiting. About 75 to 80 percent of the kids in two programs run in 2014 ended up being adopted by American families, says Kanipe.

The Shooks had already started the process of adopting Lucy, and it’s clear from the photos taken in the airport that having her join their family has made them grateful and thrilled. “She’s beautiful and sweet, and we just can’t wait for her to be ours,” Audrey told KHOU in Houston.

“We don’t see it as we are going to help her,” added Brent. “We see it as she’s going to help us with our lives.”

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