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China Special Waiting Child Program

Program Note:  We will be updating this page to reflect agency changes announced on our home page.  We are not accepting applications for the China Program.

La Vida has been approved by the Chinese Center of Children's Welfare & Adoption  (CCCWA) and entrusted to seek adoptive families for children with special needs. These children are pre-identified and typically have one or more special needs which can range from mild correctable to severe and uncorrectable. Occasionally the children might be healthy, but are simply older. The goal of the program is to unite waiting children with families as quickly as possible; therefore the time frames for the process are significantly shorter than for adoption from China through the standard "healthy" program.

La Vida participates in two CCCWA program paths. The first is the “shared list” which is a CCCWA online database of waiting children and the second is through various CCCWA programs through which we receive direct referral of waiting children. We are then charged with finding forever families for these pre-identified children. Please do not be frightened by the words “special needs”, which don’t describe the children who come, but only one facet of what they will bring. If you take the time to learn more, you will be amazed at the wonderful children who have joined their families through this program and the joy they have brought to their forever families.

Program Overview

The children who wait range in age from infant/toddler to teens. Significantly more boys are available than girls. The special needs range from mild correctable to severe, uncorrectable. Love Without Boundaries, a non-profit organization which provides medical and other assistance to children in China, has released a wonderful video entitled “Adopting the Waiting Child”, available on our Links page, that will really help you gain understanding of special needs adoptions. Love Without Boundaries, has also created a manual of special needs commonly found in waiting children and we have been granted permission to share it with families.

La Vida asks that families review these 2 resources, consult with others, including healthcare providers and conduct individual research in order to determine the age, gender, and needs that they feel prepared to parent. We then ask that you complete a match form which we will review to determine if, there are currently any waiting children that match your preferences, or if a child with those needs would be likely to be placed on the list to be matched with your family in the future.

Path 1 - Online Shared List

In this program, CCCWA maintains children’s files on an online database which is available for viewing and accessing by all special need participating agencies. When a child is identified by the agency as being a possible “match” with a specific family, the agency may “lock” a file for 72 hours and share the information with the family. When CCCWA first posts a child’s information, it is required that the family for whom the agency “locks” the file has a completed dossier submitted to and registered by CCCWA. If, after 30 days, the file is not “locked” by any agency, the CCCWA will remove the requirement that only a family with a registered dossier may apply to adopt the child, and will permit a specified amount of time by which a dossier may be submitted. Most often this ranges from 3 to 6 months. Within this program, there are children designated as "Special Focus" children. They fall into 2 categories: 1.) children who have waited more than 2 months for a family since their file posting on the list and 2.) children whom CCCWA has designated as having more severe or multiple special needs.

CCCWA permits the adoption of "Special Focus" children by both married and single female applicants. CCAA permits the adoption of children not identified as "Special Focus" by married applicants only.

What does CCCWA’s online “shared” list structure and process mean in terms of our family being matched to a child? It means that the children with more mild or correctable needs will almost certainly be “locked” by agencies on behalf a family with a dossier already completed and registered by CCCWA. Because of this, we recommend that families, who may wish to adopt a child from the “shared” list, choose an agency to assist them, complete a home study and dossier and submit it to CCCWA. Once the dossier is registered, then child identification efforts may begin.

Additional Special Focus Child Information

CCCWA permits the adoption of "Special Focus" children by both married and single female applicants. CCCWA permits the adoption of children not identified as "Special Focus" by married applicants only.

CCCWA implemented the Special Focus Child program on Sept. 1, 2010. Upon doing so, married couples adopting a Special Focus child have the opportunity to adopt another child using the same dossier. The second child could be 1.) another designated Special Focus, 2.) another child designated special needs, or 3.) a healthy child assigned to the family based upon their original log-in date in the standard China program. Families do not have to wait a full year between placements, and in some instances families can adopt 2 children at the same time. La Vida will carefully counsel those families wishing to adopt 2 children concurrently to make sure this is in the best interest of the children and the family. La Vida will work together with you to carefully consider the impact of a concurrent adoption on their ability to care for the needs of both children. At the encouragement of CCCWA, families wishing to adopt 2 children will be required to complete additional post placement requirements for La Vida.

For families considering La Vida, at no cost, we will provide you with and promptly review a preliminary application and to determine general program eligibility and a match form to determine whether the Special Waiting Child Program is likely to be a good fit for your family. If so, then we will provide you with an agency application and guide you through each of the steps of the adoption process with a goal of sending your dossier to China and obtaining a “login date” from the CCCWA.

Path 2 – Agency Specific Program

CCCWA permits both married and single female applicants to adopt through this program.  CCCWA regularly changes the name and design of agency specific programs.  You mayhear it referred to as Journey of Hope, Help and Assistance or One on One Program.  The names and programs change from time to time, but the goal remains the same; to give harder to place children a chance to receive the advocacy of one agency with the hope of finding him or her a forever family.

In this program, CCCWA has assigned specific children to La Vida for the purpose of finding a forever family. The children from this program can range in age from young children to children in their early teens. Sibling sets and twins are occasionally in need of families.  In many cases, the CCCWA deems some children in this program as Special Focus.  Given the desire not to "hold" a child's chance to live with a forever family, the time that it takes to complete the necessary front end paperwork and obtain the necessary provisional approval to adopt from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), families with completed and approved home studies may apply to adopt a child in this program. Exceptions may be made for children with serious special needs, however in all cases, formal preliminary match to a child may only take place once you have an approved home study.

If an application is made on behalf of a family with an approved home study only, the family must make a commitment to promptly apply to the USCIS and quickly compile the documents required for the China dossier (aka: country application). La Vida provides full service assistance with both of these tasks.

The CCCWA permits families who have a dossier logged in with another agency to transfer their file to La Vida if the family will be adopting a child through the Journey of Hope Program.

Please contact us to learn more about the children who currently await their forever families in the Journey of Hope Program.

The Children Who Need Families

Typically, each waiting child has an identified special need(s) or is an older child with no known health issues. In general the youngest children available will be toddlers at the time the child profile is presented and many older children are available. More boys are available than girls. A profile of each child will be available and generally includes: photographs; available medical and developmental information; and specific information regarding the special need(s). Families enrolled in this program must have appropriate expectations for the types of special needs commonly associated with the children. Because the types of needs are so varied, we strongly encourage families interested in this program to view the Love Without Boundaries video and manual of special needs noted earlier in this program description.

General Health of the Children

In addition to the identified special need(s), all children are at risk for minor medical conditions such as colds, respiratory or ear infections, and rashes. Hepatitis B is common in Asia and national statistics show that approximately 3% to 5% of Chinese children adopted by U.S. citizens have later tested positive as carriers of Hepatitis B. Additionally, as with any internationally adopted child, there may be emotional, developmental, medical or other challenges that face the child and family outside of an identified special need(s). Most children, who receive the attention of a loving family and appropriate nutritional, medical and developmental care, catch up quickly and thrive. La Vida provides comprehensive health and developmental resources to all families and requires each family to extensively research health conditions, both general and specific, and to utilize medical experts and professionals to guide their decision making. We can provide you with resources to accomplish these tasks.  Our Links page contains resources to aid in learning more about typical special needs.

Family Eligibility

For married couples, the family eligibility requirements for adoption under this program follow the general guidelines for adoption from China with the exception that families must be physically and emotionally qualified to care for a child with a special need(s) and financially capable of providing for and accessing community resources that the child may need. Additionally, at the time of dossier login applicants may be between ages 30 and 55, which is 5 years older than the standard China program permits. Exceptions to the general criteria may be made in this program on a case-by-case basis. For example, families are permitted to be parenting more than 4 minor children at the time of dossier registration. If you do not meet China’s general criteria please call us to discuss your individual circumstances.

For single female applicants adopting a "Special Focus Child", the criteria varies slightly and these differences are detailed below.

Adoptive Parent Evaluative Criteria and Family Qualifications

The CCCWA evaluative criteria and qualifications include the following seven categories:

Both parents must be at least 30 years old and under 55 years old at the time the application is received and registered by CCCWA. Please note that this is 5 years greater than the upper age limit in the standard China program.

Single female applicants shall have reached the age of 30 and are under 50. For single applicants over 50, the age difference between the child to be adopted and the applicant shall be no more than 45 years.

Financial Status
Approximately $10,000 income is required for each family member, including the child to be adopted

Married couples must have a minimum net worth of at least $80,000

Single female applicants must have a minimum net worth of at least $100,000

Applicants must be at least high school graduates (or equivalent)

For married applicants there may be no more than 4 minor children already living in the home (see exception below) and the youngest child must be at least 1 year old
Single female applicants must have no more than 2 minor children already living in the home and the youngest child must be 6 years old

Exceptions to the number of minor children guideline are made for married families adopting children in this program.

Marital Status
Married couples may adopt a "Special Focus Child" or a non "Special Focus Child". Single female applicants may adopt a "Special Focus Child".

Couples must be married for at least 2 years (if neither spouse has a previous marriage).

For married couples, if one or both spouses were previously married, the couple must be married for at least 5 years and there are no more than a total of 2 prior marriages allowed (combined between spouses)

Criminal History
Couples with no criminal history are preferred, however older, minor crimes may be considered. CCAA's new criteria for single applicants indicates that they must have no criminal history. Please see note below.

Generally healthy parents are preferred who are free from communicable diseases. This includes parents who have a normal life expectancy, and who have no significant physical or mental conditions that will affect their ability to parent.

Additionally, a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculation of 40 or less is required for both parents. To calculate your body mass index please visit the Center For Disease Control’s web site at

End Notes for CCCWA specified parent eligibility requirements

i. For the calculation of income, earnings derived from disability, insurance settlement, or retirement income are not recognized. Additionally, at least one parent must have a stable job.

ii. For determination of family size: children not living in the home are not included; adult children are not included; for the Special Waiting Child Program, the limitation of 4 “minor” children living in the home is waived.

iii. Free from major criminal history is currently believed to include: no history of domestic violence, sexual abuse or child abuse; no history of criminal activity; no history of felony or violent criminal activity. Certain minor non-criminal charges, including DUI convictions may not disqualify from a preferred or priority classification, depending on the circumstances of the event. “Adoption application will be given consideration on a case by case basis when either the husband or the wife has less than 3 criminal records of slight severity with no severe outcomes, and the time for correction of wrong has reached 10 years, or has less than 5 records of traffic law violation with no severe outcomes”.

iv. General good health is considered to include: no drug history; no use of psychotropic medicines for at least 2 years; no medication for depression or anxiety for at least 2 years; no currently infectious diseases; no blindness, no hearing loss; no "defects" (no deformity of limbs or missing limbs or paralysis); no significant facial deformity; no disease or illness that requires permanent medical treatment; no disease or illness that will shorten a normal life span; and no organ transplants within the past 10 years. For any other past major health issue, ten years should have passed.

Additional General Requirements for Married Couples and Single Applicants

In most cases, families must have an approved home study prior to identification of a child (Agency Specific Program) or a dossier logged in by the CCCWA (online “shared” list). On a case-by-case basis, exceptions may be made for a family who wishes to adopt a child for whom no application has been received on the “shared” list for 30 days after the CCCWA originally posts the information or in the Agency Specific Program.

Families must have carefully researched and evaluated the types of special needs that they believe they are capable of caring for. A match form documenting this information as well as age and gender desired will remain on file with La Vida for our use in identifying a child from CCCWA’s online system or the Agency Specific Program.

Due to CCCWA's file "locking" deadlines, for adoption of a child on the online “shared” list, families must pre-identify resources and have the ability to have the child’s medical information and photographs evaluated by an appropriate healthcare physician (s) within 2 and ½ days of our agency placing the child’s profile on hold on behalf of your family.

Families must possess realistic expectations about the typical special needs and ages of children available in this program
CCCWA has specified that single applicants shall be experienced in child caring or be occupied in child-related fields such as doctor, nurse, teacher, child psychological counselor, or caring for a child with special needs.

Additional General Requirements for single applicants as specified by CCCWA

Single applicants shall be experienced in child caring or be occupied in child-related fields such as doctor, nurse, teacher, child psychological counselor, or caring for a child with special needs. Please call us to discuss your individual circumstances.

Single applicants shall describe the reason for being single, attitude toward marriage, shall have a clear willingness to appoint male figures as role models for the adopted and shall welcome male friends to join family gatherings.

If the applicant has a stable relationship and lives with a male partner, the male partner shall be include in the home study process just as if the couple were married.

Overview of the Special Waiting Child Adoption Process

Families will be provided with a preliminary application (if not currently enrolled in a La Vida adoption program) and a “match form” to complete indicating the desired age range, gender, and special need(s) of the child they wish to adopt. The form includes a check-off list of commonly identified special needs among children in this program. Careful review, research, and consultation with an appropriate healthcare provider regarding each medical need on the list will be necessary to appropriately complete the form. Submission of the form will assist La Vida in identifying a specific child for your family as well as ensuring that the program will be a good fit for your family.

After receiving child-specific profile(s), pictures and health information, families are required to consult with their own medical professionals to better understand the child's health status. Under China’s online system, the same list of special waiting children is available to many adoption agencies around the world. We will work diligently to match each child to the best possible family for him or her.

The time it takes to receive a match through any one of the two paths in China’s Special Waiting Child Program will depend upon flexibility with regard to age, gender, and the types of special needs you have identified; however the overall timing is much quicker than the standard China Adoption Program. We have matched families with children within 1 day of program enrollment and others have waited approximately 1 year.

Time Frames

To complete a home study generally takes 3 to 4 months from the time that you initiate home study services. Obtaining immigration provisional approval generally takes an additional 6 to 8 weeks (after completion of home study). In parallel, you will work to compile a dossier (aka: country application). Families who are beginning the process without a completed home study and immigration approval can expect a total upfront paperwork process of approximately 5 to 6 months. Upon identification of a child, it takes approximately 3 to 5 months to obtain the necessary US government and CCAA required approvals/paperwork which culminates in official "Travel Approval" from CCAA. Travel then takes place approximately 2 weeks later.

Application to adopt a child in the Agency Specific Programs and certain children listed in the online “shared” list may be made by families who do not have a dossier logged in by the CCCWA. In these cases, families who come to us with an approved home study only or a home study and immigration pre-approval will need to take steps to have the home study amended to reflect approval to adopt a child with the identified special needs. The USCIS will then need to review the amended home study and issue the appropriate pre-approval.

The timing for this process will vary depending upon whether you already have pre-approval, the date of that pre-approval from the USCIS and if you do have pre-approval, whether your case is a Hague or non-Hague case. Please call us to discuss your individual circumstances and rest assured that La Vida directly handles all immigration preparation and filings on behalf of families.

China Travel Requirements and Arrangements

Travel to China by at least one parent is required. Friends or family may accompany the adopter(s). Children of adopters are always welcome to travel with parents. The length of stay is usually about 11 days. In most cases, families in this program travel individually and are fully support by our in-country guides. La Vida provides families with full preparation for travel including what to expect each step of the way, general information about international travel, Chinese culture, your child’s adjustment, and what to take along with you.

La Vida’s Representative in China

La Vida has experienced representatives in China, who are managed by our primary facilitator. He has been helping families to adopt children from China for over 15 years. Our representative and those who assist him have established working relationships with Chinese authorities and significant expertise in the adoption process.

Post Placement Requirements
Post-placement supervisory visits are required at 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years, 3 years and 5 years after return home to the U.S. All families are required to provide proof of U.S. citizenship within 6 months of placement. The purpose of these visits is to offer support to your family, if it is needed, and to gather basic health, development and adjustment information about your child. This information is compiled and forwarded to the Chinese adoption officials to assure them that the children who have come to the United States are healthy, happy and thriving with their new families.

Program Fees

Please see the Fee Schedule for Adoption From China for detailed fee information.

Special Notes Regarding Fees:

1. The fee schedule for families who transfer from another agency with a completed dossier will be reduced to reflect credit for work already performed.

2. Families who identify a child in the Agency Specific Program and who come to La Vida with a completed home study will be responsible for a reduced initial fee of $1,000 at the time of application submittal. Upon receipt of CCCWA preliminary approval to adopt the child, the balance of the standard initial fee will be payable.

How do I apply to adopt a waiting child?

A preliminary application and completion of a match form are required to begin the process. Families currently enrolled in one of La Vida’s adoption programs do not need to complete the preliminary application. There is no application fee. If, for any reason your application is not accepted, we will notify you and if possible offer alternative options for your family.

Upon acceptance of your preliminary application, a formal agency application, service agreements and an initial fee are required to begin the process of adopting through the Special Waiting Child Program.

Special Waiting Children Program Strengths

Opportunity to provide a chance in life for a special child in need
Reasonable processing time frames
Stable and predictable process and program
La Vida's exceptional experience base and good relationships with
Chinese adoption officials
Many children are in need of families
Many great support groups and resources are available for families and

For more information about the Special Waiting Child Program please call Emily Bell at 610-688-8008.

La Vida International 
101 Lindenwood Drive, Suite 225, Malvern, PA  19355
Phone: 484-318-8543 / Fax: 484-318-8562
e-mail: web: