Overcoming Obstacles: Keely Swift’s Adoption Journey – Pt. 1

Left to Right: Esme, Keely, Rainer

When Keely Swift first started her journey as an adoptive parent, her hopes were dashed because she didn’t qualify.

Thirty-two-year-old Keely Swift is the happy mother and single mom of two children, Esme and Rainer.

Even though Keely had a good job as the program consultant for a local nonprofit in West Plains, Missouri, and was able to work from home, she didn’t qualify for adoption from China because she was a single parent. But fortunately for her, and for a young boy named Han (Rainer) from the Henan province, the rules changed.

About two months into Keely’s adoption process, China eased up on their regulations regarding single-parent adoption. China periodically changes the rules either tightening restrictions or loosening them. Allowing single-parent adoption was a loosening of a restriction, which was great news for Keely and her four-year-old daughter, Esme. Esme had been looking at pictures of Rainer and was looking forward to becoming a big sister.

For most of Keely’s life . . .

Keely admits that it may sound like a cliché, but as with many adoptive parents, the idea of adoption had long been in the back of her mind. In 2017, she took action and began looking into adoption agencies, spending the next six to eight months on research. When she started asking rather involved questions, she realized that she had become quite serious about the idea of adoption.

During the adoption process, Keely spoke with our podcast host, Rachel Cobb, and inquired about adopting kids from China and what children might be available. Rachel promptly sent her a profile of a two-year-old boy named Rainer.


Keely pursued Rainer quickly even though she faced another impediment—China’s age requirement was thirty years old, and Keely was still twenty-nine. But fortunately, China allows people to pursue adoption while twenty-nine, and Keely turned thirty during the process.

Many adoptive children from China are special needs kids.

In Rainer’s case, he suffered from a medical condition.

“Rainer has a very complicated heart,” Keely told us. “It was missing some important parts and not connected right. Love Without Boundaries, a nonprofit that provides aid to impoverished children in Asia and Africa, raised money for a heart surgery for him, but the doctors in China chose against the procedure because the surgery was too complicated.”

In China, if a child has an extreme medical condition, the country will expedite parts of the adoption process, with the hope that the child will get swift medical treatment in the care of the adoptive parents. This was true for Rainer; he received treatment within a week of landing in the US with his new mother, Keely.

Preparing for life as an adoptive parent.

Keely suggests potential adoptive parents talk with someone who is already one. In her case, she visited with Rachel Cobb, asked a lot of questions, and even wanted to know worst-case scenarios. With a good sense of humor about it, Keely felt if she prepared for the worst, odds are, it likely wouldn’t end up being the worst.

Some potential adoptive families hear about the tough road that is ahead of them with adoption and realize they’re not ready. However, in Keely’s case, she knew it would be difficult, but still she was very serious.

Being a mom already, she understood there was a lot one simply can’t prepare for as a parent. She took that knowledge into the adoption process: “It’s not the same, but there are similarities. You can’t predict anything for your kid at any point. I came from that perspective. I’m not going to be prepared, but I can figure it out.”

Keely also said, “You struggle with the unknowns. The what-ifs. Waiting is hard. It feels like pregnancy in a way. Your body, heart, and mind are getting ready for this baby who is coming. That’s hard. It’s hard to love someone you’ve never met.”

For guidance, in addition to speaking with other adoptive parents, Keely suggested reading one of the best books out there on adoption, The Connected Child. Facebook groups were also helpful to her. For those who may not like to post a lot on Facebook, that’s okay. Keely commented that she didn’t feel obligated to post frequently and discovered that simply reading to gain first-hand knowledge from others was insightful.

Esme and Rainer

To bring or not to bring your biological children with you to China?

Typically, older biological children do well to accompany parents to China when bringing home an adoptive child, but it can be difficult for little ones. They may feel threatened, scared, or jealous.

Keely chose to travel to China with her brother, Nate, to bring home her matched child, Rainer. Keely’s daughter, Esme, was just two years old at the time, and Keely felt it best that she stay home. As well, Keely believed that she and Rainer would benefit from some solo time together to get to know each other. In August of 2018, Keely and her brother began their 7,000-mile journey to Beijing.

We believe our adoption stories are special, and given its length, we split this post into two parts. We’ll continue with Keely’s journey in the second half, to be posted soon. Stay tuned!

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