(Rienzi, MS) A Mississippi family is racing against the clock to adopt a 13-year-old special needs child from China before it's too late.
Their adoption agency told News Channel 3 that Chinese orphans older than 14 are no longer eligible for adoption.
The girl they want to adopt, Guan Ya, cannot hear or speak. She turns 14 in 45 days.
Phil and Niki Smith may have decided to do this quickly, but the desire to give a home to orphans has been a longtime goal. Last summer, they brought home their toddler, Gigi, after about one year of going through the long process of adoption.
Gigi, who has scoliosis, is now three years old. She has bonded quickly with the Smiths' two biological children, Colt and Macy.
The Smiths decided they must adopt again, when they were in the process of picking up Gigi in China.
First, they were touched by the poor conditions of Gigi's rural orphanage.
"There was no doors. It opened completely to the outside, with what looked like the plastic from a meat hanger. And many of the children don't survive," Niki Smith said.
They saw a teenaged orphan,"lying on the ground in the fetal position. And it was just heartbreaking," Niki Smith said.
Another teenager they met kept following them. Phil Smith ended up buying her food when she told them she was hungry. The Smiths believe she was an orphan left to fend for herself.
"It was God's way of showing us...this is what happens to these children afterwards," she said.
After coming home, they continued to receive email lists of eligible orphans. When they saw Guan Ya's face, they knew she too, was their daughter.
Through many emails, translated via Google Translator, they've gotten to know her.
In one message, Niki Smith said that Guan Ya wrote: 'Mom, we've got a whole lot of work. Would you please hurry up and come get me?'
A process that sometimes takes years is rushed into a few months, so that the Smiths can bring her home before she's no longer eligible for adoption.
They feel strongly that they can learn American sign language as a family, and eventually learn Chinese too.
Phil Smith admitted it would be easier to have left their family as is, after Gigi came home.
"It would be financially easier, and psychologically, emotionally, mentally, and all those other things easier. It's been crazy. But we believe that's what we're supposed to do."
"No is just not an option," Niki Smith added, "I don't think we're anybody special, or doing anything great. We're not doing anything anybody else can't do. You just have to do it."
The problem is, they need to raise close to $30,000 for the adoption fees, flights and visas to make this happen. Meanwhile, they're still paying their bills for Gigi's adoption, which required them to sell vehicles and take a loan on their house.
The Smiths' two biological children have helped by making videos to post online and creating Facebook pages to raise money:
They also have a blog, where people can donate via PayPal:
Supporters can also donate in person to any Trustmark National Bank, by contributing toPhillip Smith or Niki J. Smith's Adoption Account.