Valerie’s future looked bleak in 2003, when she was placed in an orphanage in the Fuling province of China at just four months after being born. Now 10 years old, her photo shows a girl with silky black hair and doe eyes, but aside from her physical appearance, her mother, Christine Meade, knows very little about her.
“I have two photos,” Meade said.
That’s because Meade is not Valerie’s biological mother but rather her soon-to-be adoptive mother. She and her husband, Robbie, have spent countless hours during the last 12 months filling out paperwork and applying for the visas and immigration documents that will help them bring Valerie home to Richmond Hill.
But if all goes according to plan, Valerie will join the Meades and their two other adopted daughters, ages 7 and 11, in October or November.
“This is something we’ve thought long and hard about,” Christine Meade said of her family’s decision to adopt for the third time. “We prayed long and hard about it and felt that this was something God was calling us to do.”
Unlike Valerie, her sisters came home with the Meades when they were less than a year old, and accordingly they have little recollection of their lives in China or their native language. At this point, Meade can’t say what kind of education Valerie is receiving at the orphanage in Fuling, but she suspects she isn’t learning English.
“We’re going to wait until she gets home and just assess the situation,” Meade said of placing Valerie in the public school system. “She may need some time to just absorb everything around her and learn the language a little bit better. I have already contacted the school principals and counselors and they have been extremely helpful. She can come in and just do art and music if need be, or just come in and eat lunch with her sisters.”
The family knows all too well the expression, “it takes a village to raise a child.” But Meade said they are still amazed by the amount of community support from their church, First Baptist of Richmond Hill, and local businesses.
The Ice Cream Stop in the Publix shopping center was the most recent business to help the Meades “take a lick” out of their adoption fees with an Aug. 9 fundraiser complete with a drive-in showing of the movie “Mulan,” bouncy castles and ice cream. The proceeds are expected to help the Meades organize the trip to China that will bring Valerie home.
“Community support has been amazing. It’s just a blessing,” Meade said. “Once somebody finds out that you’re adopting — whether it’s those who have adopted or those who are interested in it — it’s like a huge community within itself. Everyone kind of rallies around each other and it helps get you through the paperwork and the uncertainties of the whole process.”
Despite the waiting game the family continues to play until they receive their letter of acceptance from the Civil Affairs Office in China, Meade said she remains resolved in her commitment to Valerie and that she believes every child deserves a loving home — no matter where they are born.
“There are so many children that still need homes, and it seems like such an overwhelming task,” Meade said. “But if we can help even one more child, it will still make a difference for that one child.”