BORN WITH ALBINISM Jon and Liz Grabowski adopted five children from China, four have Albinism

Tonight TLC premieres a new special, Born with Albinism, about a U.S. family who adopted five children from China, including four with Albinism, which a group of disorders that share the trait of lacking melanin in the skin, hair, and eyes. Melanin is a dark pigment that occurs in the human body, and Albinism is extremely rare.

In previews for the special, parents Jon and Liz Grabowski tell the narrative of their relationship: they met in college, started dating after eight months of knowing each other, and got married a year after that.

They have seven children altogether: two biological children, and five adopted children. After their oldest two sons were born, they tried to have another biological child, with the hopes of having a girl. When that didn’t work out, they turned to adoption. They looked into options in China because they knew that China had a larger pool of girls who needed to be adopted.

“I dreamed of this little, petite, brown-eyed, dark-haired little girl,” Liz says. She was surprised when a child with white hair showed up in her inbox as an optional match for adoption. “We named her Lily, and immediately we fell in love,” she says.

Liz says that the term “albino” can be offensive or derogatory and that the best language to use when discussing this condition, is to say “this person has Albinism.”

Albinism, which not only causes a lack of color in the skin and hair but also can cause diminished eyesight, can affect anyone of any race. The four Grabowskis with Albinism are legally blind. One child says that in general they can “see the main object that we want to see, but without much detail.”

The children also have to make sure to wear sunscreen. Part of melanin’s role in the skin is to protect it from sun damage. Not having any melanin at all puts people with Albinism more at risk than anyone to sunburns and skin cancer.

In another clip Liz explains that in China Albinism is often seen as a “curse,” and children with Albinism are routinely abandoned by their parents.

Teenage model Xueli Abbing, who was adopted by German parents after being abandoned by her Chinese birth parents, also advocates for Chinese people with Albinism. She says children who aren’t abandoned like she was are sometimes locked away, or their parents dye their hair to try to make them blend in with other children. Because her birth parents did not leave her with information about her birthday, she got an x-ray of her hand to get her approximate age, which she only recently learned was 15.

Born with Albinism airs tonight at 10/9c on TLC

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