Family: Where Life Begins & Love Never Ends
Family: Where Life Begins & Love Never Ends
I knew I wanted to be a parent my whole life. In my mid-30’s, I realized it wasn’t going to happen “naturally”. Once I decided to adopt, I waited 3 ½ years as a single mom to adopt through the state/ foster care system. During that waiting period, I took any/every class I could ﬁnd and read every book suggested about caring for special needs children. After that long wait, a representative for the state foster/adoption program told me that there was not a very good chance for me to adopt as a single parent – because the level of needs for kiddos adopted through the state programs was SO great, they believed two parent families were the best ﬁt for their kids.
Of course I was devastated. I felt I had wasted 3 ½ years of my life waiting for something that was never going to happen. However, that truth opened the door for me to realize I should pursue an open adoption through a local, private adoption agency. And, because of the multitude of training I had received to prepare for a special-needs child, I was quickly selected by a birth mom to adopt her baby. The birth mom was a developmentally delayed special needs young adult, so the agency knew her baby would most likely have special needs, too. Within two weeks of meeting the birth mom (who we refer to as a “tummy mommy”), my son was born via emergency C-section, 6 weeks early. Welcome Gabriel! He had a very rough start. His cord wrapped around his neck twice; he had to be resuscitated and he spent several days in the NICU.
Gabriel stopped breathing a few times in the ﬁrst week after arriving home, and has suffered seizures since birth. He developed life-threatening food allergies at 6-months old following an anaphylactic reaction to baby formula. Gabriel was diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder and “likely” ADHD at age two. We also suspected Asperger’s or high functioning autism (though we are still awaiting a deﬁnite diagnosis). Gabriel has deﬁnite behavioral, emotional, social and learning delays, and has received services through the local Educational Services District (ESD). He was placed on an IFSP and it transferred to an IEP when he started kindergarten. Gabriel received occupational therapy for several years, and continues to receive hippotherapy.
Just prior to Gabriel entering kindergarten, we were approached by ‘a friend of-a-friend’ in the community who asked if we would be interested in adopting again. The family disclosed that the baby was exposed to drugs and alcohol throughout the pregnancy, so delays should be expected. We agreed to an open adoption through an adoption attorney. Welcome Samuel! Thankfully, Samuel’s entry into this world was much less medically-challenging. Samuel has been diagnosed with global developmental delays and is receiving services from the local ESD, as well as physical therapist for problems with his walking.
Gabriel has been attending a Special Education program for kiddos like him through our local public school programs, and has recently transitioned into ﬁrst grade. Samuel is attending a daycare program where he receives a lot of stimulation and interacts with peers, which has greatly aided in his development.
It has been quite challenging over these past six years! Would I change it? NOT A CHANCE! I never realized how MUCH love I could have for such tiny beings! My sons are a joy to be around, and every day is a fantastic new adventure! Special needs kiddos take A LOT OF TIME and PATIENCE. While I work full time, my work schedule has afforded me the ﬂexibility to make the myriad doctor and therapy appointments that my sons both require. I was always told “God will Bless you with the RIGHT child for you”. Even though the initial waiting period was SO hard, that has long since been forgotten. I am ever grateful and blessed to be a mom of two fantastically wonderful special needs kiddos!
10 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN ADOPTING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
- Determine what kind of special need you could be comfortable with: physical disability; emotional challenge; sibling group, etc…
- Is your home able to accommodate a child with physical limitations?
- How much patience do you have? Do you recognize that feedback from the child/ren may be slow in coming?
- Are you prepared to recognize that the child you are adopting has a past that you have to consider as you are parenting him/her?
- Have you discussed the prospective adoption with your partner, your children, or your extended family? Are they comfortable with the adoption and prepared to be supportive?
- Are you involved with a religious or other community group that can offer support?
- How well is your lifestyle suited to a child with special needs? Are you and/ or your partner working outside the home? What kind of ﬂexibility do you have at work?
- Are you prepared to seek and use the services you will need? Psychotherapy? Special education services?
- How supportive is your adoption agency? Will it direct you to the services you may need?
- Are you open to connecting with a parent group or other parents of children with special needs?
There is no “ideal” parent. Many kinds of people can successfully parent a child with special needs. We welcome single people, members of the LGBT community and those who themselves have a disability. The most important attributes of prospective parents include the ability to love, to have a capacity for patience and to see the potential in every child. We believe that there are no unwanted children…just unfound families. Since 1972, the National Adoption Center has created families for more than 23,000 children. For more information visit www.adopt.org
Photoes courtesy Heidi B.Photography – www.heidibphotography.com
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This post originally appeared on our November/December 2014 Magazine