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Adopted children are no consolation prize
Couple seeks to add 5th child to family
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Over the years, Scott and Rhonda Ballard have added to their family, adopting their children, from left, Kelli Ann, 8, Eric, 9, Brandon, 5, and Lindsay, 11. The Ballards soon hope to add one more child to their happy family. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

She can still remember the magazine's glossy pages, the images of small children in need of a family.

Rhonda Ballard was just 14 when she read about the policy restricting some Chinese families to having only one child. But she knew then that she would become a mother through adoption.

"I really thought ‘One day, I want to adopt a child,'" Ballard said. "I mean, I was only 14. But it made an impression on me, reading about why children are available for adoption in China."

Twenty years later in the conference room of a Chinese hotel, Ballard and her husband, Scott, stepped forward from a group of soon-to-be parents and accepted their daughter, Lindsay. It was, she said, a beautiful and overwhelming moment.

Ballard learned to make her first bottle in their hotel room, using supplies she had brought from home. Their new daughter was just a few weeks shy of her first birthday.

"I bought a cake at the Hard Rock Café in Guangzhou, China, and had a card and had her a little birthday party," Ballard said.

The family's adoption journey, however, didn't end there. The Ballards have since adopted three other children: Eric from South Korea in 2002, Kelli Ann from China in 2004 and Brandon from South Korea in 2006. Today, they're working through the paperwork and anxiously waiting for their fifth child, a young girl from China with special needs who they are hoping to adopt later this year.

While her children played on the floor in their North Hall home, Ballard said her life is a dream realized.

Most people have embraced her family. There are those with questions, sometimes critical ones, but Ballard has gotten better over the years at using those opportunities to explain why her family is no different than any other.

There was the woman who asked if her children speak English. The man who asked her how much they cost.

The mother and daughter who stared with such disgust Ballard found herself comforting their crying waitress.

"I've had people say, ‘Why don't you want your own?' And I say, ‘They are my own. They are who I wanted. They are not a consolation prize,'" Ballard said.

The family talks openly about their multicultural identity. They call themselves a "forever family" but the children each know they have another mother and that there were other people who cared for them before their adoption.

"We are their forever family and we're forever indebted to those people, the nannies in the orphanages, the foster mothers in Korea," Ballard said. "... We still talk about and pray for their birth mothers and nannies in the orphanages."

When her kids are older, Ballard and her husband hope to take them back to their birth countries.

"I think it's like a puzzle. They can put together all the things I've told them, all the facts that surround adoption," she said.

For now, the family is waiting for their latest addition. A picture of their new daughter is on the fridge and Ballard says she felt an instant motherly connection with each of her children when she first saw their pictures.

"Blood does not matter," she said. "... We're all put on this earth to live together."

 

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