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Mother gives adopted Chinese daughter new life

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Updated: 6/17/2013 10:44 pm
RIENZI, Miss. (WTVA) -- Niki Smith realized that -- half a world away -- she had found the newest member of her family.

"It was just one of those things that we just knew, that was what we were supposed to do," Niki Smith said. "Guan Ya's picture came across my computer screen, and I knew when I saw her that she was my daughter. But I knew that we weren't ready to adopt again. Or so I thought."

It wasn't that easy, though. Guan Ya was a 13-year-old Chinese orphan. And law in that country prohibits adoptions for children after they turn 14.

They had maybe six months to get it done.

Experts say adoptions from foreign countries can also be quite difficult. The process alone takes months and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in many cases.

Niki already knew that because one of her three children -- 3-year-old Gigi -- was adopted from China.

That ordeal alone took about a year.

Niki knew they didn't have that kind of time.

"Niki literally worked night and day to get stuff," husband Phil Smith said. "It was a race against time, I guess, is the best way to put it."

There's something else, though. Guan Ya is deaf, meaning the language barrier was even more challenging because of her inability to speak.

That only fueled Niki's efforts further.

"With Guan Ya, she was at high risk for child trafficking. That's a major problem with children who go through the system and then get put out on the streets," Niki Smith said. "She has no physical defects as far as someone could see, and she couldn't report anything because she doesn't speak. I just couldn't let my daughter be out on the streets in those circumstances."

Her leap of faith paid off.

The Smiths flew to China and officially adopted Guan Ya days before her 14th birthday.

Three months later, Phil Smith says she's become a perfect fit.

"We knew from the moment she walked in the room, we knew that she was our daughter. It just sort of solidified that this was it," Phil Smith said.

Some might wonder how they communicate with her, though. Guan Ya knows sign language, but Chinese sign language is different than its' American counterpart.

That's where Google Translate comes in.

"We started sending messages back and forth. She was sending them in Chinese, and I have Chinese friends that could translate it, but as soon as I got her message, I wanted to know what it said immediately," Niki Smith said.

And that's how they communicate even now, exchanging ideas, even if some things are lost in translation, Niki says it's enough.

"Even if she doesn't know..someone may never know sign language, she's able to communicate," Niki Smith said. "And it's been an amazing resource for us."

Some may ask if it was all worth it. The Smiths have four children, and with Niki being a stay-at-home mom and husband Phil working as a teacher, both agree it's hard making ends meet.

The two adopted daughters also have special needs. The Smiths are hoping to send Guan Ya to the Mississippi School for the Deaf soon to allow her to reach her full potential. And little Gigi was born with scoliosis, which means future surgeries and spinal corrections.

Despite that, Niki can't help but smile.

"I can't look at these children and ever regret it," Niki Smith said. "Every child just deserves a home. You may think, 'I can't afford it,' but can these children afford not to have a home? When I say these children, I mean children here in the United States, in Africa, in Nepal, in China, anywhere."

She also insists she didn't save her adopted daughters.

"A lot of people say how lucky she is, but I feel how lucky we are," Niki Smith said.
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