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Chloe Crossland was born in China with a cleft palate birth defect. Abandoned at birth, she spent the first nine years of her life in orphanages.

In June, Chloe was adopted by Jay and Angela Crossland of Rapid City and welcomed into a family that includes three siblings:  Garrett, 12, Wyatt, 9, and Laurel, 7, plus two rambunctious mini-goldendoodle dogs named Tucker and Carlo.

Additional surgeries are needed to completely fix Chloe’s cleft palate and her new family seems uniquely qualified to make that happen. Her dad is Dr. Jay Crossland, an oral surgeon with a medical partner who specializes in soft palate repair, speaks Mandarin and already has a treatment plan in place for Chloe.  Her mom’s brother has lived in China for the last 10 years, so Chloe’s bilingual Uncle Doug serves as built-in translator for his new niece.

For all those reasons, and more, this adoption feels like a ‘God thing’ to the Crosslands.

“I like to think that perhaps it is God working in our lives to put these things together,” said Jay Crossland.

The Crosslands adopted through the Denver office of CCAI Adoption Services, the largest international adoption agency working in China today. But because they needed a home study conducted in South Dakota, they turned to the Family Services Department at Catholic Social Services, which is Hague-accredited agency qualified to work on international adoptions.

Adoption specialist Hannah Ceremuga worked with the Crosslands to complete their home study and help finalize the adoption.  “Hannah is amazing. She was terrific,” said Angela.

Nora Boesem, director of CSS Family Services Department, will host an International Adoption Open House at CSS on Thursday,  Nov. 29, beginning at 6 p.m. for families interested in learning more about the process, costs and timelines involved with international adoption.

Angela and Jay are now experts in the rigorous application process for international adoption. Their journey took 18 months and was – as advertised — “demanding, time-consuming, expensive and invasive,” Jay said.

And they’d do it all over again.  The Crosslands want other prospective adoptive couples to know that while fear of the process is normal, adoption is a dream worth pursuing.

“So many people warned us about all the problems and difficulties of the international adoption process,” Jay said. “But I wish someone had also told me that ordinary families can do this, that you don’t have to be perfect to adopt.”

Adoption may be in Angela’s DNA. Her father and his siblings spent part of their childhood in an orphanage, and he always spoke of those years as a formative part of his life.  One of her paternal aunts was adopted from that orphanage, and Angela has fond memories of a trip she took with her father to visit the orphanage site.

“So the seed was planted early for me,” Angela said.  Her father died in 2012, but she knows he would be “so thrilled” to have Chloe as a granddaughter. “Oh, he’d be thrilled. He loved to travel and he loved China, too.”

Two pregnancy losses also got the Crosslands thinking early in their marriage about adoption as an option for growing their family.  “I thought about adoption for years, but I was very nervous about it,” Angela said.

Two years ago, their family participated in a short-term CCAI exchange program for special needs children from China. They thoroughly enjoyed hosting a young boy with cerebral palsy in their home. Chloe was part of that exchange group, and both Angela and Jay felt drawn to her without realizing the other was, too. When Angela inquired about Chloe’s availability for adoption, she was told that several families were already on a waiting list for her.  Months later, CCAI called out of the blue to say that all the other applications had fallen through and asked if the Crosslands were still interested in adopting her.

They were. Then, just weeks before the entire family, including Angela’s mother, Victoria, flew to China in late June to finalize Chloe’s adoption, their daughter Laurel was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition.  In August, they traveled to Omaha, where Laurel underwent successful open heart surgery.

The Crosslands took it all in stride, and they say Chloe’s adjustment to life in an upper-middle class American family after years of austerity in a Chinese orphanage is going well. She’s in third grade at Wilson Elementary School, where brother Wyatt is a 4th grader and Laurel is in 2nd grade.  She already comprehends English well, but is slow to speak it around adults, perhaps due to the natural reserve of Chinese children around adults, Jay said.

“Chloe is a very compliant child. We’re all more stressed by the new puppy than anything else,” jokes Jay about the 10-week-old ball of fur barking in the background. Chloe knows she’s lucky to have landed in a family that has plenty of love, parental attention and resources to go around.

But Jay and Angela say people get it all wrong when they praise the Crosslands for changing Chloe’s life through adoption. “These kids change your life. They transform you,” Jay said.

Chloe, Angela, Jay and Laurel Crossland at their Rapid City home with the newest family member,  a goldendoodle puppy named Carlo.

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