Adopting Children With Special Needs
Why not us?
I used to wander through the empty rooms of our house and try to imagine what little souls would fill those spaces. My husband and I had been married for five years and despite hoping to start our family, most of the bedrooms in our new home remained empty. As we prayed and waited, I painted furniture and lovingly hung tiny baby items in the nursery. When that room was complete, I filled the next room with toddler toys and clothes and continued to hold on to the dream of one day having little ones filling the quiet corners of our home.
Somewhere along the way, our prayers began to change from asking the Lord to give us children to asking Him to bring us the children who needed us the most, and praying He would equip us to meet their needs. The seeds of adoption, which had been planted in our hearts years ago, were beginning to bloom. We completed our adoption home study and though we were prepared for another season of waiting, our children like to surprise us and each one came to us when we were least expecting them.
We now have four children, all of whom were adopted, and they all have special needs. Our oldest son was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and our three younger children all have Down syndrome (Trisomy 21). Our youngest child has Mosaic Down syndrome, which is where only a small percentage of his cells contain Trisomy 21 and most of his cells have a typical number of chromosomes.
Just a few weeks after our home study was approved, we were matched with our oldest son. He was almost four years old, and a diagnosis had not yet been completed. We had less than a day to prepare for his arrival. In the world of foster care, such short notice may happen frequently. However, this was a private adoption where adoptive parents often rush through their paperwork at a frantic pace only to be met by long periods of waiting. We crash-landed into parenting and the first year was challenging but also held many times of joy. After our son had been with us for two years and we were just beginning to talk about adopting again, our adoption agency called to ask if we would consider adopting a baby girl who was going to be born and had Down syndrome. They explained that our family was the only one who had marked “yes” next to Down syndrome. We were so excited to submit our profile and letter to her birth parents. One week later we met them and our baby girl was born the very next morning! She had an extended NICU stay, several surgeries, and some complications. We were thrilled (and terrified) once she was finally cleared to go home.
Adopting our daughter also opened our eyes to just how big the need is for families willing to open their hearts and their homes to children with Down syndrome. There are hundreds of children with Down syndrome worldwide who are waiting for a forever family. When we were ready to adopt again, we didn’t even have to think about it. We just knew our next child would also have Down syndrome.
Six months after joining the registry of adoptive families for the NDSAN (National Down syndrome Adoption Network) we were matched with our son. He was born several states away, and after a brief stay in the NICU, he was discharged from the hospital. We spend the next week enjoying our vacation home-away-from-home while we waited for the ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) to be completed so we could return home. Although we thought our family was complete, the whispers on my heart began to grow louder as I felt the Lord was about to do something amazing. And He did. We recently welcomed another baby boy (our third child with Down syndrome) in a very unexpected open adoption placement. We had allowed our home study to expire and therefore were no longer on the NDSAN registry. And yet God made the path clear for his birth family to find us. Just four days after meeting his birth parents, they brought our son to our home and we welcomed him (and them) into our family. All of our adoptions are open, but the relationships we hold with the birth families of each of our children are all unique.
Our family tree truly has become an orchard.
We have been asked, “Why special needs?” My answer is, “Why not?”
These babies needed a family just as much as any child being placed for adoption. Our arms were empty. Our rooms remained empty. And there were children who needed a family. Why not us? We said “yes” and allowed God to do the rest.
The Lord heard our cry and answered the prayers on our heart. But He also went way beyond that. The Lord brought us the children WE needed the most. And He did equip us to meet their needs. But He also used these precious souls who now fill our once-empty bedrooms to change us. They have made us stronger. They have changed the way we see the world and the people around us. Our children have changed the way we do life. We are constantly learning as we go. We take life at a slower pace and enjoy the simple things in life. We celebrate not only each milestone, but also the effort going into every attempt along the way. Our children are our greatest blessings.
My husband and I are not special, but we are willing and He made us able. All around the world, across the country, spanning the state, and in our own neighborhoods are children who need a family. Special needs or not, children are children and they need a family to cherish them just as they are, to cheer on their efforts and to celebrate their victories, to hold them in the hard and painful times and to let them explore the world around them.
It’s not always easy, but-- it's always worth it.
by: Lisa Miller