Couple adopted girl from China, named her after new hometown

Date: 2005-02-17

Olympian, The (WA)
Author: KARI NEUMEYERLACEY TODAY

Kite Girl helped Eddy and Donna Whisenhunt settle on a name for their adopted daughter from China.

Each had made a list of possibilities, hoping to have at least one name in common.

"None of them matched," Eddy said.

The couple drove past the statue at the entrance to the city where they had lived for more than a decade. The bronze girl flying a kite inspired them to name the baby Lacey.

Lacey celebrated her fourth birthday Feb. 5.

"I blew all the candles out," she said.

The orphanage in China didn't have an accurate record of Lacey's birth date, so they had to estimate her age, Eddy said.

The Whisenhunts adopted Lacey through Faith International Adoptions because the cost of a local adoption was too high. Most of the babies in the agency's China program are girls between 6 months and 18 months old.

The Chinese government formally approved international adoptions in 1992, according to Adoptive Families Magazine. In 2003, U.S. families adopted 6,859 Chinese children.

"In the Puget Sound area primarily, China is the No. 1 choice of adoptive families," said John Meske, director of Faith International in Tacoma. "We have a large Asian population in this area. It's well-accepted."

The process is streamlined and efficient in China, because it is regulated by a government agency, he said.

During the past decade, Faith International has helped about 20 families in Lacey, Olympia and Shelton adopt international children, mostly from China, Meske said.

The agency also has adoption programs in Nepal, Vietnam and Panama.

The Whisenhunts spent about $22,000 on the paperwork and travel required to bring Lacey home. Relatives in California helped them out financially.

"We can support her," said Donna, 42, who works from home as a telemarketer. "We didn't have a lump sum."

Eddy, 46, is a driver for Intercity Transit.

Lacey was 11 months old when they flew to China to get her. They traveled with a group of new parents who met their babies at a hotel in Nanjing.

While taking the elevator to the floor where their children waited, Donna broke the tension by quipping, "My water just broke."

When they entered the room, the baby was turned away, but when Donna saw her face, she knew.

"That one's mine," she had said.

"It was so touching," Eddy said. "She held up her arms and said, 'Mama.' "

"They teach them that at the orphanage," Donna explained.

"Of course, Donna lost it right then," Eddy said.

As the couple reminisced, Lacey chimed in, saying "Watch me," before demonstrating a hula dance learned from Disney's "Lilo and Stitch" cartoons. Then she shot a small orange ball into a basketball net hanging above the television set.

Asked if she likes sports, she said, "You got it."

With her long hair pulled back with a Hello Kitty barrette, she wore a red shirt with hearts on it for Valentine's Day. She played with her cat, Puff, while her parents talked.

Cultural ties

The Whisenhunts intend to raise their daughter with an awareness of her heritage. When they went to China three years ago, Donna bought traditional silk dresses in several sizes to accommodate Lacey as she grew.

She has two sizes to go.

Last week, they took Lacey to Panda Express to celebrate Chinese New Year.

"She notices other Chinese people," Donna said. "She's just now saying, 'She looks like me.' "

The Whisenhunts taught Lacey sign language before she learned to speak.

Although she was delayed in starting to talk, now she can count to 10 in German and Spanish as well as English.

Lacey showed signs of residual trauma from living in the orphanage, Donna said. Until recently, the child ate very quickly, a habit learned to prevent others from taking her food.

In the orphanage, babies had little human contact, and mostly were confined to their cribs, Eddy said.

When they brought Lacey home, she could hardly sit or hold herself up.

"She was like a newborn," Donna said.

"Everything revolves around her now," she added, as Lacey plopped down in front of her with some plastic cupcakes and baking tins. "I wonder what we did before we got her."

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