Seven years after applying to adopt a baby from China, Madam Veronica Low, 42, was shocked to get a call telling her the authorities there had finally matched a girl to her.
During the wait, the housewife - who thought she was infertile at first - had given birth to two boys.
"We had a lively family by then, but we felt that if God wanted to give us more children, we will say yes," said Madam Low, a Catholic. "So we never took our names off the adoption list."
She and her husband, Mr Stephen Vass, 55, a senior executive at a technology research firm, are among a small group of families here who have adopted a Chinese child in recent years. Since 2004, only two charities, Touch Family Services and Fei Yue Community Services, have been allowed to handle the adoption of children from China to curb illegal transactions.
Only 25 children were adopted from China in the past five years, or about 1 per cent of the 1,849 adoptions in the period, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
The wait to be matched to a Chinese child from an orphanage is now about 71/2 years on average.
An MSF spokesman said the number of children placed for adoption is decided by the China Centre for Children's Welfare and Adoption. Couples from many countries are also waiting to adopt a child from China. Chinese nationals are also in the queue, he said.
Touch senior manager Teo Seok Bee noted that fewer girls in China are being abandoned or placed for adoption as the traditional preference for sons eases.
"Most couples give up after waiting two or three years. I always tell couples to forget about adopting from China as the wait is so long."
When Madam Low signed up with Touch in 2006, she was told she could be matched to a Chinese child in a year. That became three years, five years, and then indefinitely. While waiting for a Chinese baby, she agreed to adopt a baby from a poor Singaporean couple in their 40s, who changed their minds after the girl was born.
When the call about the two-year-old Chinese girl came, Madam Low and her husband decided to adopt the abandoned child without meeting her.
All they had were her photos, and medical and other records.
She had also asked her sons, eight-year-old Gregory and five-year-old Christopher, if they wanted a sister. Both said yes.
Her family met the girl, whom they named Madeline, for the first time in Guangzhou in 2013. Madam Low said: "She took to us right away and allowed us to hold her. I felt she was meant to be our child."
The first few months were trying as the girl adjusted to a new family. She is now four and better behaved, said Madam Low. "We are constantly thankful for her," she added.
This article was first published on Nov 15, 2015.
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