Family of 6 hopes to keep Chinese sisters together through adoption

ST. GEORGE — A St. George family is taking on the challenge of adopting two sisters from China, despite already working to raise two of their own teenage boys, and two small children also adopted from China.

The Neaville family plays outside their home, St. George, Utah, June 6, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News
The Neaville family plays outside their home, St. George, Utah, June 6, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News

Wendy and Kyle Neaville adopted their first child from China, Lily, in 2013 after six years of trying to adopt, and adopted another boy, Enoch, a year later.

The couple already had two teenage boys, Spencer and Jacob, but Wendy Neaville said she knew ever since Jacob was a baby that she wanted to help children in the packed orphanages in China.

The idea first took root one night when she was holding her baby Jacob and saw a documentary showing the conditions of the orphanages in China.

From there, her first challenge was convincing her husband – which took a few years, she said.

“Don’t do it unless you’re both on board,” Wendy Neaville said. “It’s a lot of work, so you need to make sure you’re on the same page.”

After that, the couple jumped headfirst into filling out the paperwork to adopt, but ended up waiting for six years with the first agency they tried to go through.

They then switched to Holt International Children’s Services, who referred them to a child in about a month.

Enoch Neaville runs to his dad, Kyle Neaville and sister Lily Neaville, St. George, Utah, June 6, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News
Enoch Neaville runs to his dad, Kyle Neaville and sister Lily Neaville, St. George, Utah, June 6, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News

They were able to bring Lily home quickly, and decided to adopt another child so Lily could grow up with a sibling her own age who shared a similar background; in 2014, the Neavilles went back to China for Enoch.

They were able to adopt Enoch easily, and even had a tax credit from Lily’s adoption that helped them pay for Enoch’s program fees.

Since they already had all of the required paperwork in place, they decided afterward to try to adopt a child that is harder to place. These are children with either multiple special needs or older children who are harder to place in permanent homes.

The agency referred them to a 13-year-old girl, with one catch: she had an 11-year-old sister, and the agency did not want to separate them.

There was also a time crunch, Wendy Neaville said, as children “age out” of adoption elegibility at age 14 in China, and the older girl is close to that age.

Wendy Neaville said it took some prayer, but they decided to adopt both girls.

When they said “yes” to the girls, however, they expected they could qualify for another tax credit, like they did for Enoch. After consulting with an accountant, they found that they did not qualify.

Since then, they have had to ask for help from those around them to help pay to adopt the girls; Wendy Neaville said it has been humbling for them.

The Neavilles are close to being able to cover the $21,000 program fees through a grant, Wendy Neaville said, but still need help covering the expected $15,000 in travel costs to bring the sisters home in September.

A picture of the sisters the Neaville family plans to adopt | Photo courtesy of Wendy Neaville
A picture of the sisters the Neaville family plans to adopt | Photo courtesy of Wendy Neaville, St. George News

“We’re not afraid because we know it’s what God wants,” she said. “He’s taken care of all of the paperwork so far, He’ll raise the money and He’ll prepare both of us.”

The story doesn’t end for them once they adopt the two sisters, however, as there are two older sisters who are no longer eligible for adoption, but have bleak future prospects once they are adults and cannot live in the orphanage anymore.

Unless orphan children in China find a trade or some way to provide for themselves, they are often sold into labor or sex trafficking, clearly a fate the Neavilles hope to keep the older sisters from.

Wendy Neaville said they’re worried about the older two sisters since they consider them part of the family now as well.

She said they have tried to help the girls understand that they don’t want to tear them apart from their family in China, including the foster family that raised them since they were 3 and 5 years old.

“That’s important, that they’re not having to say ‘goodbye, we’re never going to see you again,’ that it’s ‘goodbye until we see you again, until we talk to you again.’ That’s a big deal to me,” Wendy Neaville said.

While the family has made many adjustments with the addition of Lily and Enoch, it seems they will have to make even more adjustments now, starting with a move to Texas.

Enoch Neaville smiles for the camera while playing with a sandbox, St. George, Utah, June 6, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News
Enoch Neaville smiles for the camera while playing with a sandbox, St. George, Utah, June 6, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News

This move will bring them closer to a larger Chinese community, as well as hopefully let them enroll the girls in a trilingual school where classes are taught in Spanish and Mandarin, as well as English.

The Neavilles said they hope the school, along with a tutor, will help them with the language barrier, which hasn’t been as much of an issue with the younger kids.

“It’s America, they’re going to have everything they could possibly want, but we need to make sure that they are not totally cut off from what they experienced before,” Kyle Neaville said. “If they just come over here and they have to totally leave behind everything, it’s going to be a much bigger shock for them.”

While they did have to start Lily off at a newborn-level of English skills, Wendy Neaville said she has picked it up quickly and is doing well. Enoch, however, lived with an American foster family in China before he was adopted, so English is the only language he knows.

The older boys, however, don’t seem as excited by the prospects. While Spencer Neaville said the change won’t affect him as much as he just graduated from high school and is off to college, 16-year-old Jacob Neaville isn’t as ready for the change as his parents are.

Wendy Neaville said his apprehension is because he only sees what he’s leaving, instead of the opportunities he will have somewhere else, but they are glad they’re moving before his junior year, because it would be harder for him to make the change afterward.

However, Wendy and Kyle Neaville said they know this is God’s plan for them and will continue to go through with the adoption, despite the setbacks.

We feel God picks his children and puts them where he wants,” Wendy Neaville said, “and if you’re open to receive his child, He’ll give you whatever He wants you to have.”

They do admit they’ve had to make many changes, such as childproofing their home again – and giving up going to the movies as a family, since the kids don’t make it through more than 15 minutes.

But, Kyle Neaville said, having the children in their family has been a blessing.

“You don’t realize, you know, what you’re missing in your family until all of the sudden they come along,” he said.

Wendy Neaville said she hopes this is a good opportunity for those who want to help orphans but don’t have the ability or resources to adopt themselves.

To help the Neavilles, click on the donation site below.

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