With three adult daughters already out of the house, Jeri and Brian Wilson had no plans to raise another child—much less adopt a child.
But when family friends told the Wilsons about Jia Jia, a little boy living in a Chinese orphanage, the Wilsons’ pre-determined plans began to waver. Early in their relationship, they had considered adoption. Now, much later in life, they began to revisit the idea.
Would Jia Jia be a good fit for their family, they wondered? The idea grew in their hearts. After weeks of prayer and thought, Jeri and Brian submitted an application in February 2015 to adopt Jia Jia.
The Wilsons knew Jia Jia, diagnosed with spina bifida, would have special needs. In addition to his diagnosis, a complication during surgery to repair his spine had resulted in his paralysis. With these issues in mind, they connected with the University of Minnesota Health Adoption Medicine Clinic and Adoption Medicine Physician Judith Eckerle, MD, the clinic director.
Eckerle helped the Wilsons understand and prepare for Jia Jia’s health needs and became an advocate to help expedite Jia Jia’s adoption. For all families, the clinic’s staff offer pre-adoption consultations, referral reviews, travel counseling and post adoption clinical care, among other services.
Because he is paralyzed from the waist down, the Wilsons knew Jia Jia would require specialized medical care –a brace for scoliosis, wheelchair and orthotics for his feet. Eckerle helped them plan for Jia Jia’s medical and developmental needs.
“The support from the clinic has been fantastic,” Jeri said.
Jeri and Brian traveled to China in January 2016 to adopt their new son. At that point, the boy had been in orphanage care for eight years, watching his friends leave and join other families through adoption. In preparation for adoption, Jia Jia proudly chose his American name: Jason.
Now, 10 years old and in fourth grade, Jason is making great progress. For a recent school assignment, Jason wrote about his happiness being a part of the Wilson family. But Jeri said they are the ones who are blessed—because Jason has brought them so much joy.
“He has such a great sense of humor, we’ve never laughed so much. He’s funny and he knows it,” Jeri said.
When the Wilsons told their daughters about their plans to adopt Jason, they began crying at the knowledge that they would finally have the little brother they always wanted.
Jason’s sisters have been instrumental in helping the family adjust to meet Jason’s needs. They adore Jason and relish spending time with him and buying him special treats. Jeri says it has been physically challenging to help Jason with his day to day activities, so it has been a team effort for the family to help with his needs. After assessing his accessibility needs and costs, the Wilsons decided to build a new home and they hope to move next spring.
Jason’s paralysis hasn’t held him back, according to Jeri. When Jason came home, the Kansas City Royals had just won the World Series, which ignited his love for baseball. He was thrilled to play baseball this previous summer. He will try anything, and asks for help if he needs it.
Jeri says adopting Jason has changed the way the Wilsons see the world.“We get used to our comfortable day-to-day life in America. This opened our eyes to the number of children waiting in orphanages,” Jeri said.