The months of November and December Child of the Month donations will go towards the 2014 Christmas Angel Tree!
Angel Tree Dollars!
Angel Tree Dollars have been wildly popular every year we have had them and we hope this year is no exception! They are a GREAT way to share the Angel Tree and Reece's Rainbow with the people in your life!
Paul and Angela share their home not only with their biological and adopted children, but they’ve opened up to foster children as well! What a loving family they are with a beautiful story!
I’m Angela from New Zealand originally from UK. My husband of 29 years, Paul, and I have 8 children including Joe 26, Samuel 25, Beth 23 (all birth children), Rachel 21 (adopted from foster care aged 8), Lily 20 (adopted came to us aged 5 months has DS) Hannah 18 (born to us), Noah 9 (born to us, has Down syndrome, brain damage – infantile spasms, Hirschsprung’s disease), Isaac 3 (adopted has Down syndrome, heart surgery, fundoplication gastrostomy, hiatus hernia repair and is tube fed). We also have a foster daughter age 7, whom I call J. She has been with us 9 months.
We chose to adopt children with special needs because we enjoyed parenting and we wanted a challenge. Two of our adoptions were in UK and one was in NZ. The most surprising part about the adoptions was that we became objects of pity for having a disabled child. We had a much easier adjustment than we expected though. We had been told we’d “ruin the lives of our other children” by a family member- so I guess we were expecting trouble! The most demanding or difficult part of parenting a child with special needs is remaining patient – especially with a 20 year old, fighting health, education, benefits systems, and dealing with the attitudes of other people.
The most rewarding part of parenting a child with special needs is the personal development - overcoming challenges to me. Also, watching the child develop as well as the usual joys (and challenges) of bringing up children.
The Andrews family are an inspirational family! Their love of children and those with special needs is evident in their home!! An adoptive “second set” of children includes four children close in age- and three little ones with Down syndrome! I know you’ll enjoy learning about their family!
We are William and Rita Andrews currently live in Millbrook AL. William is in the military and Rita is a on the go full time Mom. Our story started 21 years ago when we met and fell in love. It was the summer before our senior year in high school. We dated over a year and then got married…Our twins were born the first year of marriage and we were blessed with a son (Michael) and daughter (Lyndsey). They are now 19yrs old.
Rita come from a large family of 5 siblings and William from a small one of only 2. When we met, I knew I wanted to have several children… William wasn’t sure.. When the twins were 3 yrs old, we began taking our foster parent classes so we could get registered with the state of Florida. We completed our class and found out we were moving do to the military. Once we got settled in we had our homestudy update and again registered in our new county, we waited for a placement. After a few years and no placements, we just figured it wasn’t God’s timing for us to have any more children. At the age of 29 years old, Rita had to have a hysterectomy due to cancer, so the hopes of having any more biological children were now over. I knew my God had something powerful for our family, we just had to wait and see what it was.
In the summer of 2000 we moved from Florida to Alabama. Our new church was planning a mission trip to Guatemala and we signed on. We were there for 8 days and fell in love with so many of the children and the beautiful country. It was in Guatemala, that we now knew where our future child/ren would come from. The children we fell in love with were not available for adoption, so we began looking into other avenues. We came across Project OZ adoptions and there was our future PRINCESS. Giovanna Grace was 12 months old and very sick. She needed open heart surgery very badly as she only weighed 9 pounds. At the age of 16 months she did in fact have her surgery and it was a total success. Oh, and I forgot, she had something extra special too…..Down Syndrome. We had no clue how to parent a child with any disability as our twins were typical developing. My sister’s first born was a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome, and I know that the Lord was preparing our hearts for our future children. We never lived close to my sister, but when going home on vacation, seeing my neice was joy. I never looked at her as different. It took longer to learn things but most importantly SHE WOULD LEARN them….so adopting our Giovanna….We couldn’t have been happier.
We started the long process of adopting from Guatemala and finally after 2 trips and 12 months of waiting our new girl finally comes home. She was 22 months and weighed just shy of 19 pounds. She was sitting up and playing with just a few toys when she joined our family. After only 4 months of being home she finally WALKED! Giovanna brought so much excitement to our home! Watching her learn and change was the highlight of our day. She developed so fast with the love of a family.
After just a few months of Giovanna being home, getting all her specialist taken care of, getting therapy started, I knew I wanted another daughter just like Giovanna. I wanted her to have a sister, close in her age, which would ultimately face the same challenges that she would…so our journey began again. Exactly 1 yr 1 week of Giovanna being home, we bought home our Indian princess Isabella Faith. She was born in NYC by a Indian woman here on vacation. She went into labor early and had Isabella. Finding out her new daughter had Down Syndrome and a few other minor health issues, she knew she could not return to her home country and provide for her the way she needed, thus making an adoption plan. We were one of over 300 families here in the US that applied for her….Our God was once again fulfilling my heart’s desire and preparing this birth families heart for our family. We were chosen and within 2 weeks of getting the news, we were on a plane to NYC to finally meet our new angel. Isabella was only 3 months old when she was placed with our family forever. I had prayed for years for another baby (infant) and just didn’t ever think we would be so blessed. Our family was so perfect and I never thought it would happen. Little did we know, the Lord was working it all out. Isabella is such a fun and exciting little girl. When Isabella was 7 months old we had the opportunity to meet her birthmother, 2 brothers, Aunt, Uncle and cousins while staying with them in Chicago for a week. What a treasure that was. I will always hold that week dear to my heart.
Giovanna and Isabella blended so perfectly into our family. The twins were enjoying having two new sisters and all the fun small ones are to the family. William and I were on cloud 9! Life was so good…our God was so faithful and we couldn’t have dreamt of anything better.
We started the process to adopt from Serbia after Isabella had been home almost a year and half. Unfortunately that plan fell through as the child we wanted ended up not being adoptable. Our dreams were crushed.
About a year later, we were asked about adopting a sibling group of 2, both girls, one with Down Syndrome and one typical developing from Bogota Colombia. We agreed and within 3 months we were on a plane for a months long stay in Colombia. Joining our family was Gabriella Joy age 5 and Lilyanna Hope age 3.5. Gabby has Down syndrome, thyroid problems, a cyst on her brain, nystagmus and a very short stature. The girls have been a joy. The bonding process took some time for Lily though. She understood that her world had totally changed. In her orphanage she and Gabby were one of the favorites and got away with a lot of things. Her temper tantrums were out of this world. One minute she was fine, playing with her new sisters, and the next she was hitting them and not obeying. After being home for about 5 months, this was still a huge issue for us. She would have 2 hour fits. We really had to seek our Lord for direction. After a lot of prayer, lots of research and the bonding finally started happening, our life started to settle into a regular routine. All 4 girls have adjusted wonderfully to one another and enjoy having a play group at home all the time. We have all been together now for 19 months.
Lily, Giovanna and Gabriella are in kindergarten now and doing wonderful. Giovanna is reading, knows over 200 signs and is teaching sign language to her class. Lily is learning to read and Gabby is learning many new skills as well. Isabella is in preschool and loves it. Isabella and Gabby are really trying hard to talk. Giovanna and Isabella are working really hard on potty training…
Their health is overall good, but the winter month's do present itself in an ugly way. We are not a showall kinda family so its alittle wild when we are in public. Having a somewhat large family of 8 is already enough for folks to stare, but when they notice 4 little girls all about the same age it opens up for discussion. When its noticed that 3 of them have DS we get tons of questions and alot of stares. We are so eager to share the story of our girls and the joy that each of them bring. I strongly encourage anyone thinking of adoption to please consider opening your family up to the UPside of a child with DS. ....Your life will be forever changed in a POSITIVE and FUN way.
Our world is forever changed. Opening up our hearts and family to these 4 girls, has been the most rewarding experience ever. Our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, has been the foundation to our family and in our ability to parent them. We are always looking for new ways to teach them how to succeed to their fullest potential. I pray that others will be touched by our story and will open their homes to a loving special child that just happens to have something extra special….Down Syndrome. I know our girls have touched many lives, and I pray that they will continue to be a inspiration to others in this world.
I know that the Lord isn’t through with our family yet and I eagerly await what His plans are.
The Green family is a beautiful family with lots of love for special kiddos! After two biological children with special needs they went on to add one more—and another on the way! Here’s their story…
Randy and I (Sheila) have been married for 11 years. After 3 miscarriages, we were blessed with a healthy baby boy, Michael. Our daughter, Caelia, was born 5 years later and was diagnosed with Down syndrome the week after she was born. Michael was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome at age 9.
We wanted a large family and adoption seemed the best choice for us. We considered many things before deciding to adopt a child with Down syndrome from another country. Michael is a bright friendly boy who has trouble with social interactions and with making peer friends. Caelia makes friends easily but she was having trouble keeping up with the games the other children play as her friends mature. We wanted her to always have someone that she could always relate to – a sister. We wanted a child with Down syndrome. We have experience with Down syndrome and Aspergers syndrome – Down syndrome was chosen because Caelia was younger and because Michael did not want to share his room. We chose international adoption when we became aware of how far behind the United States some countries are in their treatment of individuals with disabilities.
I was surfing the web one day and found Reece’s Rainbow. I contacted Andrea and she sent me a group of photos and information on some girls that she knew of. In that list this picture of Lera (left).
This is Caelia (right)– see a resemblance?
The journey was long and frustrating and Lera was worth it a hundred times over. Caelia and Lera are best friends. Michael dotes on Lera as much as he does Caelia . She has Daddy completely smitten and I finally have a mama’s girl! Lera is sweet and loving and funny and she is so much a part of our family that it seems like she has been with us forever.
Parenting is challenging. I have no idea if it is more challenging than a “typical” child. This is all we know and we love it. We have to take things a bit slower and each milestone is cherished and celebrated and we manage each hurdle together as a family.
Adoption has been such a positive thing for our family that we are adopting
again. This is also an international adoption and our newest little one also has Down syndrome. This is Masha.
Her birth family found Reece’s Rainbow in the hope of finding her a forever family. She is doubly loved and we are anxiously waiting to hear of our appointment date.
The Hopfenspringer family found Reece’s Rainbow and wasn’t looking to expand their family, but someone had different plans! Their story of finding “that one” and then jumping is wonderful!
We are Beth and Larry Hopfenspringer. One year ago I was totally happy with the size of our family and then I started looking at the Reece’s Rainbow web site. We had two biological sons, our youngest with Down syndrome. Now our family has grown by one which makes us a family of 5! Alex, our newest son, is a high energy 4 year old boy who likes to explore, laugh, swim, swing, play, snuggle, wrestle, eat, ride in the car, go shopping, go on carnival rides and even likes to help with chores like bringing the dishes over to the sink, sweeping and mopping! I was a little nervous about how our 6 year old son, Franklin, would react to Alex since he is so shy, but he loves having Alex around and tries to give him lots of kisses. Some of Alex’s energy is rubbing off on Franklin since we have been home-- Franklin has learned to jump and is swinging in a big kid swing and some of that shyness is fading away too.
The 4 1/2 month adoption journey (yes, it really only took that long!) has been an adventure of a lifetime and we are all forever changed by this experience. We are one of the few families that brought our biological kids overseas for the adoption and it actually went very well. What a wonderful feeling it is to be safe at home with our new boy and a great future ahead for all of us.
We are JoANN & Ruben Torres, parents to Olivia 14, Victoria 12, Sofia 10, & Julia 10 (twins), Amelia 8 Bio daughter with Down syndrome, Benjamin 7, Yulia 5 with Down syndrome, adopted from Russia
We decided to adopt a child with special needs because we were inspired by our sweet daughter with Down syndrome. Amelia he has shown us another level of love and taught us all compassion for children & adults with disabilities.
Yulia was adopted from Vladamir Russia. That’s about 2 1/2 hours outside of Moscow. She is very high functioning and has benefited greatly from a large family and early intervention & school.
Because we did an independent adoption we felt a little alone in country. This was the most difficult part. We got to spend time with another couple also adopting a girl with Down syndrome while we were there, but there were not many English speaking people. Also, Yulia's grandmother came to the orphanage to meet us and had us over for dinner twice was surprising! She also gave us a tour of Vladamir.
Our family has adjusted very well. Yulia fit right in! The kids loved her and we loved her as soon as we laid eyes on her. She is a doll baby. Really no transition period even… SO easy!
Our kids with special needs are pretty much like the other siblings. You really don't see that they have Down syndrome after they are yours. We didn’t know about Amelia having Down syndrome at birth, it was a surprise to us, but it doesn’t stand out as a big deal once you know her.
The most rewarding part of parenting children with special needs is the love that they give back to you...They put no demands, no expectations, just so happy to be in your family. Satisfied with the little things!
Please consider sponsoring the Torres family as they expand their love once again! They are adopting TWO children from Eastern Europe! View their family sponsorship page at www.reecesrainbow.org/sponsortorres.htm
Thank you, JoAnn and Ruben for sharing your journey with us!
The Heflin’s story of adoption includes beautiful little Addy and a story that is so neat! What a little blessing she is!
Scott and I (Cammie) have been married for over twelve years. We have three biological children, Jarika, Cooper and Avery. We experienced major fertility problems before getting pregnant with Cooper and I even miscarried once. After I had Avery I was having some health concerns and ended up having to have a complete hysterectomy. We never felt like our family was complete. We knew we wanted to adopt.
I am adopted and Scott adopted Jarika (she was mine from a previous marriage). We talked about adopting from China a little bit but never completely looked into it because we knew it was really expensive. In July of 2005 I attended the National Down Syndrome Society's National Convention in Chicago. I was there with four co--workers from my school where I am a speech-language pathologist. I was in the exhibit hall and came upon Robin Steele's booth discussing adoption of a child with Down syndrome. I grabbed up an application and turned to my friend and said "This is it! This is the path we are supposed to take!" I was extremely excited and all of my co-workers thought I was nuts.
Cooper has a form of Autism called Asperger's syndrome and life has not always been easy and they wondered why in the world would I want two children with special needs. All I could think of was "Why not?". When I returned from Chicago I came to Scott and showed him the application and told him "This is what we are supposed to do." He smiled at me and agreed! I mailed in the application the next day! This was in July of 05 and I didn't hear a thing until September of 2006. Robin called and told me about a baby girl in Chicago that was needing a home study ready family. We hadn't even heard of a home study let alone have a completed one! So Robin told me that we were up now on the waiting list and we should get our home study completed.
So that is exactly what we did! The home study process wasn't difficult, just very hard to wait on other people to do their job in what we felt was a timely manner! We only did one for a domestic adoption, I hadn't really thought of international for a child with Down syndrome ( I obviously hadn't stumbled upon Reece’s Rainbow yet!). After waiting on FBI clearances, references, home visits, medical clearances, etc. our study was finally complete in January of 2007. They day after it was completed we got another call! This was about a baby girl in Georgia. I was thrilled, however, another family was chosen. We didn't hear anything else for weeks. I called Robin every couple of weeks to see if anything was on the horizon, but it wasn't. We specifically wanted a girl and there just weren't any at that time.
Finally on May 17, 2007 I got a call! My cell phone had a ringtone specifically for Robin and it was ringing that tone as I was conducting an IEP meeting for one of my students! I wanted to drop everything and RUN to that phone, but being a professional, I quickly finished the meeting, then ran to my phone! It was pretty special that some of my closest friends were with me as I listened to the message! There was a family in Minnesota looking for a family for their 6 month old with DS and other medical conditions to have an open adoption. I immediately called her and heard the very first things about who is now my daughter!
The medical list was pretty intimidating at first, she was born three weeks early and suffered from chronic lung disease and was on O2 full time, was born with an imperforate anus and had a colostomy and mucous fistula, had a PDA, duodenal atresia, was on a JG feeding tube 20 hours per day, and took several medications and breathing treatments a day. I did not care! I was hoping and praying that she would be ours!
Robin sent me Addy's birthparents email information to talk to each other. I received an email back from her birth father and he wanted to call us after Memorial Day. They called that Tuesday night and we spoke on the phone for over an hour. I heard a very loving mother tell me that she loved her daughter very much but she knew that they needed to find a home for her that was accepting of her Down syndrome and other medical issues and was much more aware of special needs. Since we have Cooper and I am a speech-language pathologist, we fit that!
They did want a stay at home mom since once Addy got out of the hospital at 4 1/2 months she ended up having to go back because she had to be in daycare and got sick very easily. I don't stay at home but we had a plan to have a sitter in our home and due to my occupation the birth parents felt we were worth meeting. She asked if I wanted to see a picture and I was like YES! They emailed me the most beautiful little thing I had ever seen!
We drove to Minnesota on July 3rd (we had to wait for the paperwork trail to catch us) for our match meeting. We drove 11 hours and were so tired but so excited! We met with her birth parents and we shared pictures of Addy and her biological brother and pix of our family. Scott and I felt like this was the most important interview of our lives! Poor Scott ended up with a migraine, but we got through it! They are very nice people and love Addy but wanted more for her. We were told that they would let us know if we were chosen. On July 5th we got the call and they asked if we would adopt her! Of course we said yes! Her birthparents paid for our plane tickets to come and pick her up!
We flew out on August 4th (after major plane issues and delays, we ended up 10 hours late!). We stayed in the home of a nurse who was Addy's transitional foster mom for the week before we arrived. I could not wait to see my daughter! She let me wake her up to hold her! I just cried and cried! Scott was so sweet with her, he has such big hands and he just cuddled and cuddled her! We spent the weekend there and with her birthparents to work out the open adoption and to help her biological brother with the transition.
We have had her home now for almost fifteen months and it feels like she has always been here. Her birthparents have visited four times since she has been home. It wasn't all peaches in cream in the beginning though. As I was getting "frisked" at the airport Addy's colostomy bag leaked and we had to fly home with her blown bag all over the two of us, that was not fun! We had a horrible time with those silly bags! Her pulse ox alarm went off several times and a night, as did her feeding pump because the tube was so flimsy it would block and alarm, and I don't know how many times those first couple of nights the colostomy bag would come off and we would be cleaning a poopy bed and baby. I sat and cried and wondered if we were going to be able to do this. Scott held me and her and told me that we can do this and we will!
I look back to a little over a year ago and am so thankful that God gave me peace and strength to get through some tough times, I would not change a thing! Our kids have handled this so well. Jarika was the most hesitant but she is so close to Addy it's amazing. Avery was the most excited and still is the closest to Addy. Cooper is pretty indifferent, but that's Cooper, not because of Addy. My kids have learned to be so much more accepting of differences and challenges and it has made them much more aware of things we take for granted. I think one of the most rewarding things about having Addy in our family is how close she has made all of us. We ALL get so excited when she learns something new or does something that we can't (like sleep like a taco!) People always tell me what a blessing I am to Addy but that's not how I feel, she is a blessing to me. I get to see the love of God through all of my kids, but for some reason, more so through her. She is so loving and happy and strong and stubborn and I feel that her little grin is a gift from Him.
Kevin and Joy are a kind and very compassionate couple that have a heart for children. They are really thankful in everything and are an amazing family! Enjoy their story!
We are Kevin and Joy McClain and have been married almost 15 years. We have 5 adopted children so far: Billy is 14; Scheri and Teresa both 12; James, 10 and Caleb, 4. We are in the process of adopting another little boy who is 5.
When Kevin and I got married I was already 33 and wanted to be a mommy so badly but pregnancy didn’t come as quickly as I had imagined it would. One day I was looking in the newspaper and saw an advertisement for an upcoming class for prospective foster parents and just thought, “That’s something I could do.” Various children ages 0-5 were placed in our home, some just for a weekend, and some for a few months. Then in March 1996 Billy was placed in our home. He was 20 months old, so tiny and developmentally delayed. Caring for him became part of my salvation when I miscarried about a week later. Watching his progress was so rewarding. In July of that same year his half-sibling, Teresa, was born and placed in our home as well. I had the extreme privilege of attending her birth. Their adoption became final in March 1999.
In April of 2000 we received another call from Health and Welfare concerning a 22 month old boy. The timing seemed so horrible. We had sold our house and at that moment didn’t know where we were going to move. We were also babysitting a friend’s 2 year old for a couple weeks. But curly-haired James joined our craziness. Two weeks later we moved into a TINY house and two weeks later moved again into our present home. His adoption was final in December 2000.
About that time we received a phone call from an extended family member in Georgia: a 5 year old girl needed a home. She was an answer to prayer because I’d been feeling that our family was not complete. In January of 2001 we drove to the Boise airport and welcomed Scheri to our family. Her adoption was finalized September 2002.
I spent months and years looking at children on various online adoption sites. We unsuccessfully tried a couple international adoptions and submitted our home study to scads of domestic adoption workers. I became part of a group called Reece’s Rainbow and in June of 2007 we committed to the adoption of a little boy from Ukraine and we brought him home in February 2008.
All of our children have special needs of one kind or another but many are considered quite mild. Billy has an autistic spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol exposure, ADD. Scheri has ADHD, sensory integration disorder, auditory processing disorder, attachment disorder. Teresa has ADHD, sensory integration disorder and probably fetal alcohol or drug exposure. James has ADHD, very mild cerebral palsy, nasal allergies. Caleb has Down syndrome. I don’t know that we really set out at first to adopt kiddos with special needs, the special needs just came along with our children. However, by the time we got to Caleb, the decision WAS purposeful—we already had experience with speech and physical and occupational therapies and special education and other services so it didn’t seem like such a big deal; besides in his birth country there is no future for children with Down syndrome.
The most rewarding part of having children with special needs is that every bit of progress is something to celebrate. It is so much fun to watch Billy and Caleb learn things. Teresa’s ADHD was a great blessing in teaching Billy to talk. I hope my kids are also more sensitive to the needs of other children at school.
As silly as this sounds, the most difficult thing for me on a day-to-day basis is the constant mess. With short attention spans and easy distractibility many of our kids still just drop whatever they’re holding when their minds switch to something else. Another difficult thing is having to repeat the same directions day after day. Honestly, these two simple things ‘bug’ me the most. Other challenges include more-frequent doctor appointments and other busy scheduling issues; trying to keep everything straight in regard to medications, paperwork, schoolwork, etc.; trying to make sure I am getting each child the help they need; dealing with Billy’s temper tantrums and making holes in the walls. We have also had about 5 ENT surgeries and one eye surgery (all of these were same-day procedures)
With our children adopted from foster care, I think the most surprising part of the process was how long it took to complete.
Caleb’s adjustment to our family has gone amazingly smoothly. He is a very happy, easy-going child who just goes with the flow. The older kids love him very much. I would say that the most difficult adjustment has been with Scheri who has attachment difficulties. Though very loved in her previous homes, she had been bounced quite a bit, had experienced a lot of grief and loss, and was already nearing her 6th birthday. Teresa had been the only girl in our family—and a Daddy’s girl besides—and I think it was just tough for Scheri to find a place to fit in. She is doing considerably better now but we still do counseling now and then and I have used materials from Nancy Thomas.
If you’d like to learn more about the McClain family and follow their upcoming adoption of their newest son from Eastern Europe, follow their blog at www.considertheadoptionoption.blogspot.com Joy chose that name because she absolutely loves adoption. “Without it I would not be a Mommy,” she says.
The Reed family is such a neat family to follow! Each of their children is definitely their own individual and their parents strive to meet their children's needs without exception! This isn't as easy as it sounds when you realize that they have eleven children!
We are the Reed Family. My husband and I are John and Christine and we have been abundantly blessed with eleven children--- yes you read right--- five of them adopted. Here is a quick run down in the order in which they joined our family. Adam is 13, Caleb is 12, Julia is 10, William is 8, Andrew is 6, Jonny is 5, Sveta is 11, Anna is 10, Annalyn is 10, Rachel is 12, and Dennis is 2.
We first decided to adopt after the Asian Tsunamis during Christmas 2004. Our New Years resolution wasn't just going to be about how we can be better, but how we could be better examples as followers of Christ. Immediately, we knew that we were supposed to adopt. Our first adoption was of our two daughters (Sveta and Anna). One has special needs referred to as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She helped us to realize that all children are beautiful, wonderful, and deserving of a family filled with love, not just the so called "normal and healthy" children.
After Annalyn and Rachel joined us, we decided to adopt from Ukraine and God led us to Dennis. He has amniotic banding around the face, Poland syndrome, and a cleft palate but to us he is absolutely perfect. What was most surprising about his adoption is that in the beginning we thought that someone had actually caused his facial scarring only to later find out that everything was congenital. We were very thankful that he had not been physically hurt by another and would not have to carry that with him for the rest of his life.
When we brought Dennis home, it was amazing how quickly we all adjusted-- including him. In a matter of weeks he learned to walk on his own, feed himself, climb up the stairs, chatter on and on about who knows what, and fall asleep in my arms. Dennis has been such a blessing, that I can't even differentiate him between my kids who do not have special needs. I guess if I had to choose one thing about him that made things a bit challenging at times would be how easily he can fall and get hurt. This is normal for a "new" toddler but because we are so sensitive to him hurting his head or his eye we are extra cautious of him and that can be a bit stressful at times.
With Dennis, parenting has been extra rewarding because each milestone he hits is so amazing to watch! In the orphanage he was not allowed to do many things because of his special needs, and from the moment he left there, we watched this little boy blossom by the second. From learning to rattle a toy, to learning to chew and swallow a cookie, to brushing his own teeth, or climbing up on a stool..... all of these things have been such a blessing to witness.
Dennis isn't the lucky one because we adopted him. We are the ones that have been blessed because he allowed us to love him and become his parents.
The Lease family is such a beautiful family! With so many different journeys to have each child they are just amazing. Enjoy their story!
Hi, we are the Lease's. Sean, Lisa, Zachary, Ryan, Kyalynn, Connor, Gabriella, and Nolan. Our two oldest children grew in my belly and the other four grew in our hearts. Our journey to adoption was long....5 years long! God laid it on Lisa's heart to adopt a little girl from Asia but it took Sean five years before he felt the call to adopt. When we finally pursued adoption we were adamant that we wanted a healthy child. However, God had other plans. Our social worker called us one night and said she didn't think we would be interested but she received a call about a waiting child, a girl. We KNEW this was the child Lisa had been praying for all those years. We met with our social worker and she went over her medical history with us. We were told she had a slight hearing loss which labeled her special needs. We accepted her referral and Kyalynn Da Seul came home from Korea on March 4, 2004. She was 15 1/2 months old. What a beautiful gift we were given!! Then we felt the call to adopt again about 6 months later and began searching for another little girl. We wanted them to be close in age so we looked thru the waiting child photolistings. After a while we decided we were open to whomever God had planned for us and soon after we accepted the referral for a little boy only 1 month, 1 day younger than Kyalynn. He was developmentally delayed, hyperactive, and possibly mildly mentally retarded. Connor Myung Hoon came home June 12, 2005 at the age of 2 1/2 years old. Kyalynn and Connor bonded easily and they became two peas in a pod . Again, 6 months later we again began looking and found another waiting child that we were interested in but unfortunately she was not in God's plan for our family. After several months the search began again and we found our last Korean blessing....Gabriella Ye Rim. She was a waiting child and had been waiting for a long time due to her medical issues. She has hypoparathyroidism but at that time they weren't sure exactly what she had. They had her labeled with several different medical issues. After much research and conferring with specialists we decided to accept her referral and she came home October 12, 2006 at the age of 18 months. Since then we've also been blessed with little Nolan Elijah. He came home at 11 days and does not present with any special needs.
Kyalynn and Connor are both almost 6 years old now and Gabriella is 3. When Kyalynn was 2 1/2 she was diagnosed with autism, complete deafness in one ear and hard of hearing in the other ear. Connor has since been diagnosed with central auditory processing disorder.
The adoption process has many ups and downs but the most surprising part was that immediate connection we felt upon holding our children for the first time. They were ours, totally and completely. Our adjustment was different with each child. Kyalynn's adjustment was smooth, Connor's was much harder and Gabriella, due to her medical issues, took over 6 months for her to adjust because of medication changes to balance her body.
The most demanding and difficult part of parenting children with special needs, for us, is the emotional and mental strain of trying to nurture, train and teach them where they are at and not have your expectations so high they can't attain them. The most rewarding part of parenting these precious ones is the growth we, as a family, have attained. We are a team. We work side by side and our hearts are so much bigger now, not just for orphans but for ALL God's children. The little things they accomplish are HUGE for us and for them. Before these children entered our hearts our world was so limited, so small. Now, our world has expanded to include those that are often overlooked and to see them as precious gifts with so much to give and share. We can learn so much from them! We are truly blessed beyond measure.
Today is a special day for the Taylor family! Today is Ben's birthday! Happy Birthday Ben! I know everyone will enjoy reading about your family.
My husband, Landon, and I (Christina) have been married for nearly 17 years now. Faced with infertility, we decided to look into the possibility of adopting. After first being discouraged by the cost and length of the process, God quickly grabbed hold of us and reminded us who was in control and could work miracles.
We were living in Kiev, Ukraine when we adopted our children. We adopted Laura Rose Irina in July 1998. She was a healthy little girl with blond hair and blue eyes. She resembled me at that age. Laura was chosen for us by the then National Adoption Center head. She had met us on several occasions before adopting our children, and decided we would be the perfect parents for Laura! She was right. Laura was 16 months old when we brought her home and she weighed 16 pounds. She quickly put on weight and learned to walk and speak.
A year after adopting Laura, we began the process of adopting Benjamin Paul Ihor. Ben was at the same orphanage Laura was. When we brought him home in August 1999 he was 21 months and weighed 21 pounds. Benjamin was born with a cleft palate and cleft lip. We did not consider adopting a child with special needs given the transience of our lifestyle. We met Ben and there was no doubt he was meant to be our son. His lip and palate were repaired months before we met him. He was not walking well when we met him and he was not speaking. After a few months with us, he began attempting to speak. We recognized immediately that he would have speech difficulties. We returned to the US in 2000 and Ben was accepted into a school where his physical, occupational, and speech issues were addressed. It was very frustrating for us and for Ben because for so long he could not communicate his wants and needs. We used a lot of sign language. Today, Ben has some speech difficulties and will need therapy once we return again to the US.
I think the part of the adoption process that was so difficult for me was the idea of “choosing” a child. I was very worried about having to choose a child based on their biography and pictures. I prayed that the Lord would lead us to the children that He had chosen for us. Thankfully, He was faithful and answered that prayer. Both children we adopted were the only ones we visited and held. Seeing all the children in the orphanage that needed homes really made me sad. I couldn’t imagine having to choose.
Our children are the most amazing kids. They have been through a lot in their lives. They have positive attitudes and are thankful to be alive. Both kids have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. This presents us many challenges to us as a family, but again God has provided us with the grace and patience we need to parent our kids.
The Lambert family has many little ones, each with a special story! They are such a beautiful family, I know you'll enjoy their feature today.
Hi I we are John & Carla Lambert. We have 3 biological children: Marissa (21), Johnathan (16), and Emilea (14). We adopted Jackson (11-Thailand) he is Hep+ and Thalassemia (alpha). Ethan (10-Thailand) Schizencephaly (cp), epilepsy, cognitive delays. Kaylea (8-Thailand) arthrogryposis, scolisosis, club foot (unrepaired), g-tube, RAD, failure to thrive. Owen (7 -China) Arthrogryposis, CP. Rubea (2-China) spina bifida, tethered cord, bilateral club feet, scoliosis, holoprosencephaly, developmental delays. We are waiting to bring home Rylea (3-Vietnam) CP.
We decided about 7 years ago that we would like to have more children. We had met a family with a little girl from Thailand that was so sweet and special to us that we decided that Thailand is where we should go to adopt!! We found an agency and they had a few children to chose from and we chose our son Ethan! All we knew before meeting him was that he had Cerebral Palsy. He was such a joy to have around we decided to adopt another child from Thailand. We happen to find a girl with orthopedic needs that had been left in Thailand by another American family. Right away we knew she was meant to be our daughter. While waiting for her to come home, we were contacted about a boy in China with the same need. After much prayer we decided to bring him home, too! We have since brought home two more children and are waiting for our last child in Vietnam.
God is always opening new doors for us to enter and we keep saying "yes"! Once we adopted Ethan we knew that we would only adopt kids with special needs. We realized that they were the children that NEEDED families. We knew they would be the ones to be left behind and forgotten and we knew this was our calling in life.
The process for each adoption has been fairly uneventful other than a few immigration snags. Once we have our children in our arms, the long process is soon forgotten. Most of our children have adjusted and bonded quickly to the rest of of our family. Our kids are all very close and get along really well. We have one child that has some attachment issues, but we are managing with some counseling for the both of us.
The most difficult and demanding part of parenting multiple children with multiple special needs would be juggling the doctor visits, therapies, and educational issues weekly. Otherwise, they are our children and their special need is just apart of who they are, however, it does not define them. The most rewarding part would be that we are all extremely happy! The kids are all close and best friends. They love us and each other unconditionally and we of course, love them right back! We have a front row seat into their lives and are amazed at the progress that each child has made and the obstacles they have overcome. We just feel so blessed that God chose us to parent them!!!!
Thank you, Carla and John, for sharing your family with us!
If you'd like to see children with special needs including CP and Arthrogryposis that are waiting for their forever family please visit the "other angels" pages of Reece's Rainbow. www.reecesrainbow.org/otherangels.htm
The Bouffard family is such an inspiration! They are a larger family that I love to read about each day as I follow along on their family blog.
Hi, we're Debi & Russ Bouffard. Our kids are David (15), Stephanie (14), Gabi (13), Alex (11), Teddy (10), Henry (9), Keith (7), & Emma & Will - twins (2).
We became foster parents in the state of NJ after I had grown up in a house where my biological parents were foster & adoptive parents for my entire life. (I have 10 adopted siblings). I was a foster parent for 6 years before I started taking in medically fragile children, although technically one of my adopted children at the time was actually medically fragile. It was just the "natural" process of things that a decent foster home becomes a Medically Fragile Home. I was asked and of course, accepted. I like to say, though, that I didn't purposefully chose to adopt children with medical problems, they chose me. They came to our home and we fell in love.
All of our adopted children were adopted through NJ Foster Care. Our adopted children are 15, 14, 13, 10 & 7. Our three with special needs are David, Teddy & Keith.
David is considered mentally retarded. He was born addicted to cocaine and to a mother who had no prenatal care. Unfortunately, David's social skills lag far behind his peers, his comprehension is much lower than even 2nd grade levels and he has also been diagnosed with ADHD (and has quite honestly gotten very hard to manage his medication since he has started puberty).
Teddy was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was a toddler and also has some pretty severe speech problems. He has been getting OT, PT & Speech for many years and has come a VERY long way. Most people don't have any idea about his CP unless I tell them, as it mostly effects his oral muscles and fine motor skills.
Keith was born to a very young mom who told us she had many learning disabilities, including dyslexia. Time has shown us that Keith, in fact, shares many of his mother's disabilities and he attends special classes in school as he is still struggling with speech, writing, reading & behavior issues.
The most surprising part about adoption for us is honestly the amount of time it took. Not one of my 5 adoptions was finalized before 3 years had gone by. It was very frustrating to have the children living in our home for so long, and yet being forced to wait YEARS to finalize.
All of my children have grown up with us always adopting or being foster parents, so it's a normal way of life for them. Honestly, they all LOVED when I would get a call telling us we were going to get a new child.
The most difficult part of parenting children with special needs for me is remembering to find time for myself and my husband. But when that child reaches a milestone... there is NOTHING like the joy and pride a parent feels. I have never been as proud in my life as I have been on the days my children achieve things we didn't think they would :)
If you'd like to learn more about the Bouffard family, follow along on their blog!
The Bailey family is one of strong faith and their love for God and their children shines through their words and actions. They have shared their story with us today and I enjoyed learning more about their journey. What a beautiful family they are!
Our names are Daniel and Dorothy, we are so proud of the family that God has blessed us with. We are the proud parents of Steve, who is 20 years old and serving our country in the Army. We were blessed with our first daughter, Stephanie for 5 ½ years before the Lord called her home to be with him.
Daniel and I were married in June of 1987, I was fresh out of high school and 18 years old, he was 22 years old. Our families loved us, but many thought we were too young to make such a strong commitment to each other and our future family.
We went into our marriage with open hearts to God and each other. We made a commitment during our pre-marital counseling that the word “Divorce” would not be part of our vocabulary. We made a commitment that we would have open communication with each other, and would always be there for our future children. We made a commitment that we would raise our children to have faith and to seek the Lord in all things, not just the good, but the hard times too. We made a commitment that we would love our children unconditionally and would gently push them forward to strive to attain more then what they thought they could do. But, to love them for whom they were created to be. We made a commitment to tell them every day of their life that they were/are loved, and to hug them no less then 5 times a day. We made a commitment to pray for them every day, because one day the time would come when they were on their own. We made a commitment to pray for our children’s future spouses that the Lord would keep them safe; and bring them together in His perfect timing.
Looking back now, were we young? Yes. Did we make a mistake in choosing to marry young? No. We have been married for 21 years, and in those 21 years God has brought us through many trials. He took the broken times of our lives and used them lift us up, making us stronger to stand through the next trial. Our hearts went through many tears, but God has been faithful in meeting all of our commitments made before Him. Were there times that we tripped and stumbled? Yes… we made mistakes along the way, but we asked for forgiveness from the Lord and our children and picked up to walk onward.
In our first 9 years of marriage we welcomed our son, Steve, in 1988....we were pleasantly surprised when we found out New Years day that I was pregnant with our first child…. We welcomed our first daughter, Stephanie in 1990. We had planned on waiting two years, but sometimes God has other plans. Both of our children had special needs to varying degrees. Our son had a mild form of Tourettes syndrome, and had ADHD. Our daughter was autistic, had ADHD and had a seizure disorder. In Oct. 1996 our daughter was called home after having a seizure that did not stop even when her doctors tried to intervene with medication. Nothing would stop the seizure. In the early morning hours of Oct. 6th, she raised her arms like she was reaching for someone. I put her arms down and covered her back up. She raised them up again then laid them down herself. It was at that point that she was put on life support. We donated her heart, lungs, liver and kidneys because she loved life and everyone she came into contact with. A little boy received her heart and lungs; he lived an additional five years before passing away to unrelated complications. A little girl received her liver and is thriving today. Two men each received a kidney and both are doing excellent today. As parents you never think that you will say goodbye to one of our children….
God is ever faithful and good. He healed our grief and pain, and we look forward to the day when we will see our precious daughter again. No one will ever take her place, but we always knew that we wanted to adopt one or two special needs children. We knew it would happen in God’s timing and not our own. We began to pray and seek God’s direction asking that He would show us when, how, and where to begin.
In 2001, we had a family member who had a little boy. She was going through a very hard time and just couldn’t take care of her son. She wasn’t able to cope and became involved in drugs and alcohol losing her son to the state. She worked her plan diligently and gained her son back. Everyone was so proud of her and celebrated with her. But, in 2002 with the pull of drugs so strong and without proper help she fell back into drugs and again lost her son for a second time.
We felt that led to start the process to see if it was God’s will to seek custody and adoption of the little boy. We truly loved him very much and had watched him grow from an infant….but what we hadn’t seen was the physical abuse that almost took his life. As we went through the home study, classes and approval process our hearts knew that this precious little boy needed to stay with the family who had had him the first time. We knew he didn’t need to be so close to the memories of the abuse…so we asked if we could just go on and adopt another child. The agency was very supportive of our decision and commended us for caring so much and for thinking of the little boy more then ourselves.
We prayed diligently for the child that God had for us to love and raise ….asking Him to keep him or her safe, and to bring our paths together in His perfect timing. During the time of our wait, I continued to home school our son and focus on his needs. We helped him learn to manage the tourette’s by minimizing stress. We helped him manage his ADHD by setting small goals. Our son today is a soldier in the Army defending our country. He successfully completed home school, and is a very well adjusted young man.
From 2002- August of 2006 we were considered for six children of various ages. With each child, we placed them into God’s hands, asking Him to place this child into the arms meant for them. The sixth was for an unborn baby boy, positively diagnosed with Down Syndrome. We had always said that we would have loved to have been chosen for a DS baby. We picked out a couple of names while we waited…. Timothy Ryan, Isaiah Daniel, and Jeremiah…but could not come up with a middle name. We decided that if we were chosen we would name the baby Timothy Ryan. We found out the last of August that we had not been chosen…we were crushed, but our hearts gave praise for the chosen mom and dad because we knew that ultimately this is where the baby boy was meant to be. We heard later that the baby was born very sick, but his new parents lived within a mile of an excellent Children’s hospital and both have medical backgrounds… truly God knew best. The baby is thriving.
In 2006, I was looking for some home school materials and came across a web-site that is managed by a group of mom’s who have special needs children. They also sought to match families with special needs children needing homes. The web-site is: www.chask.org on the right side menu, there is a waiting children’s page. There is also a waiting family page where parents can enroll with Chask for free and wait to be matched.
It was the middle of September when I found Chask and saw Nicole in the waiting children’s page. She was 3 years old and a doll. She was positive for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Alcohol. She had been born with bilateral club feet that had been successfully treated. We contacted the agency and received some medical info and were asked to submit our home study and letter to the family.
Our hearts truthfully, did not hold much hope of being chosen because we had been told by the agency that over 200 home study’s had been submitted. We gave Nicole to the Lord and asked Him to guide and direct in all paths. We prayed for her future parents and family. We received a call on September 29th, 2006 saying that we were chosen. We needed to be in Florida by Oct. 9th, with $6000 for adoption expenses…. We had two weeks to get a room, raise the money, and make reservations for Florida. We were due to leave on Sunday afternoon and were $600 short…. Someone came up to us after the church service and slipped us an envelope. On the way home we opened it and found $600.
We picked up our new adopted daughter exactly 10 years to the day that our first daughter had gone home to be with the Lord. It was like the Lord was telling us: “My precious children, you have grieved the loss of your first daughter, and you have known that she is safe with me… but it’s time that you go forward and go on loving the children I need you to have, help her to be all that I have meant for her to be. You will see your first daughter one day again… she is safe with me…no one will ever replace her…but your heart is enlarged and you can love my precious children out there who need what you have to give.”
When we saw our daughter for the first time…she was standing inside a church entry way, looking out of two glass double doors. When she saw us pull up…she started jumping up and down…. When we opened the doors to come inside she ran to us, holding a picture of our family that her first family had printed off and gave to her….she gave me a bouquet of flowers and said “Okay, mom and dad, I’m ready to go home.” She wanted to get her bags and leave right that minute. We cried with the family and talked for a few minutes…..
We worked with Nicole every day from the very beginning…today she will be six years old in December and she’s came so far. Remember our hearts desire for a child with Down syndrome? We found out that Nicole’s maternal grandmother has Down syndrome and Nicole herself has Mosaic Down syndrome.
In February 2007, we lost our home and all belongings in a house fire. We praised God that we all got out safely. It took us about six months surrounded by our church family and community to get back on our feet. We felt that the Lord was giving us a new beginning and that it was also time to go with another agency to adopt one more child. We just felt like there was one more out there… we began to pray and seek God, and Nicole prayed diligently every night for a baby brother or sister.
From 2007-2008 we heard very little, and once again our hearts were getting weak wondering if it was just us who desired to have another child, or if it truly was God’s leading… the enemy loves to bring despair to our thoughts….but we kept on going praying and seeking God’s will, not our own…. In my prayer time, I asked God… “If it is your will and you have another child out there for us, I ask that you would bring the child to our hearts and arms by the time I’m 40 and my husband 45. But, if it’s not your will that you will show us by keeping the doors closed and when we reach those ages, we will know it’s time to stop and see what else you have for us to do.” On a side note: I will be 40 Mar. 11, 2009 and my husband August 25th 2009….. only a year and a half away from when I prayed the above.
In April 2008 we received a call for a baby boy, and were supposed to have picked him up the next day if the other family who had also been chosen did not take him. Well, we had gotten a call back that evening saying that the baby boy was ours, that the other family couldn’t make the commitment. My heart was anxious and I knelt down by our crib right on the spot and prayed that God would guide and direct. I prayed for the other family that the Lord would guide and direct them also…that if they were truly meant for this baby that they would know and would make the right decision. As much as it hurt, and as much as I cried, I knew in my heart that I could not go and pick up this baby without entrusting him and everything to God.
The next morning, I was ready and waiting for the phone call. It came at 9:30 a.m. The other family had called at 9 a.m. to say that they wanted the baby and were already on the way to the hospital to pick him up. Yes, it hurt our hearts deeply after waiting so long…but we knew deep down that God had answered. We knew that even if another child did not come to us, that we had lifted up this baby to the Lord for His will not ours.
We went on with life, and we daily continued to pray. On June 23rd, 2008 we had a rain storm, and found a double rainbow. As we watched the rainbow of God’s promise to never flood the world again, it reminded me of God’s promise that He hears our prayers and does answer them all. It’s just that sometimes those answers are: an instant yes, wait but yes, or no. No matter what the future held, God would be faithful and answer our prayers.
On June 26th, my husband was on his 1 hour commute home from work…and I received the phone call alone asking if we would want to adopt a newborn baby boy who was 2 hours away. He was a special needs baby, positive for drugs and alcohol, and with a cleft lip and palate….. They needed me to go to the hospital the next day and to also go that weekend as a family and spend as much time as possible with the baby. My heart beat so fast, tears ran down my cheeks as it just felt so right to say…. “Yes, yes, yes, we will love that precious baby boy and would love to meet him.” After hanging up the phone, I went to the crib and prayed over it, asking God to show us if this was the one and that He would work all things out.
My husband and Nicole were so excited….the hospital called and asked if I could come right away to begin our bonding….. I was there in two hours…. When they placed that precious baby boy into my arms it just felt so right. I asked if he had been named….the nurse looked at his paperwork and said “Yes, it’s Isaiah Daniel”. If there had been any doubt that this was God’s will it melted that very moment…. Remember the name I shared above that we had chosen? God blessed us with an Isaiah Daniel… my husband is Daniel Glenn, our son, Daniel Steven, and now a son, Isaiah Daniel. His adoption finalization will be in 2009.
Isaiah has a long road as we walk through the doctor’s appointments and surgeries to heal his clefts…but all of his medical team fell into place within the first two weeks…. We have a team of people who are walking with us through the whole way…..
Truly these are the Children for which we prayed….. But is our story done yet? We don’t know…. We still are approved for one more child with special needs in our home. If God has another child for us, we pray that He will bring him/her in His perfect timing and not ours… if He doesn’t we are content with that too and are excited to see what God would have us to do next in our lives…but no matter what….
We believe and trust Him with all our hearts and being. We will love our children with all that we are…helping them to grow and become all that they were meant to be and to help gently press them forward beyond what they thought they could do, but love them for who they were created to be.
We do have one prayer request that we ask anyone who feels led to stand in prayer with us… we are praying that God will provide our adoption finalization fees of $1800 before 2009. We know God will provide we just don’t know how or where….. God is awesome and good in all ways we acknowledge Him.
If you'd like to receive e-mail updates from the Bailey family you can e-mail them at TheProudFamily6[at]yahoo[dot]com.
Thank you, Daniel and Dorothy, for sharing your family and journey with us!
The Spencer family has a lot of love to give through their own family and impacting others as foster parents. They have a beautiful family that is not quite complete as they await travel for their next little one!
We are Scott and Lisette Spencer, living in sunny AZ. We are parents to 4 gorgeous boys. Landon is 5 almost 6 (on Nov. 10), Luke is 3, Dylan is 10 months, and Jacob passed away 2.5 years ago at the age of 1 yr and 16 days. We are waiting (still) for a travel date to go get Elena/ Aunika in Serbia. We are also foster parents. We just had one sweet little guy go back home after 7 months here. We are still missing him. We do not have any current foster placements. All our kiddos are adopted and all have some level of special needs. Luke, Landon and Jacob were all born right here in AZ, and Dylan was born in IL. We went to Chicago this past May to bring him home. Jacob, Dylan and Aunika are our sweeties with DS.
Adoption was always in our plan. I have a sister that was adopted, and a niece and nephew who are adopted. My mom was a foster parent, and I always wanted her to adopt all -- well maybe not all-- but a lot of the kids that came to our house. I told my husband after he proposed that I was passionate about adoption, and wanted to have a houseful of kids through adoption. He agreed whole heartedly. Yay! While filling out adoption paperwork, they ask you to decide what level of special needs you are willing to accept. We decided it wasn't right for us to exclude any birth defect. If we were able to get pregnant, we wouldn't be able to decide which birth defects we would accept, so why should adoption be any different? Spurring our special interest in adopting a child with Down Syndrome was the fact that Scott's baby brother has DS, and we are absolutely crazy about him.
Luke, Landon and Jacob all came to our house within a week and a half of each other. That was our biggest adjustment- going from 0-3 kids. We loved every minute of it! We had waited a long time. After our sweet Jacob passed away, we waited for a while before moving forward, but after about a year, we knew it was time again. As much as we missed Jacob, we wouldn't have changed the time we spent with him. That is when we found little Aunika. But since that is taking a LONG time, we started looking for a domestic placement. That is how we found Dylan, and we thank our Heavenly Father each day for him. He is truly a perfect baby. Dylan's adoption hasn't even phased us. We didn't feel there was any adjustment at all. He just fits right in. We expect more of an adjustment for Aunika, but we are prepared for that.
The most demanding part of being a parent of kiddos with special needs is just the time involved for therapies, IEPs, teaching moments, etc. NOTHING is done spur of the moment anymore, unless we want a couple of kids going into meltdown on us. The most rewarding thing is looking into their sweet little eyes, and feeling their goodness fill you up.
I sometimes feel like my whole life the Lord has been preparing me for the children we are parenting now. My new favorite quote is: " I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." - Douglas Adams (I admit it- I'm a Sci-fi geek)
When we sent out word to the Reece's Rainbow family and friends that we were looking for adoption stories to celebrate Adoption Awareness Month, I was pleased by the number of moms that wrote back saying they'd be happy to participate. What I was even more intrigued by, though, was this story from the perspective of the teenage sister... Big sis to FIVE little siblings ages 1, 3, 3, 3, and...3, four of whom have Down syndrome. I know you'll love what Janie has to say!
My name is Janie. I am 16 years old and I’m the oldest of six kids…Alex, Michael, Katie, Sara and Myia. Our parents are Lisa and Peter. My mom said it would be a good idea to write our story from my point of view. Since we have adopted five times in the course of the past four years, I have a pretty good idea of how the adoption process goes.
My parents decided to adopt because they couldn’t have any children after me. I am their only biological child. They also felt that God was calling them to adopt someone with Down syndrome. My mother’s brother, Stephen, is twenty-six and has Down syndrome and we all love him so much.
I have a very special bond with my uncle and he is my friend. I was so excited to hear that my parents were deciding to adopt.
My mom had been a part of Reece’s Rainbow for a long time and we had seen a number of children on the Angel Tree that we felt drawn to.
Finally, after receiving a home video of children from a lady who went to Ukraine, we found Victoria.
We have named her Katie and she is almost four. We felt especially called when we found out that her birthday was exactly a week after my brothers’ (Alex and Michael were born on the same day). She is a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome, like my siblings Alex, Michael and Myia.
When I found out how long they had to be away when they traveled to Ukraine to adopt Katie…it made me a little nervous. My aunt and uncle graciously agreed to come and stay with my siblings and me. My grandma also came almost every day, which was such a blessing.
When my parents were in Ukraine, one of the biggest blessings for me was the ability to talk to them on the computer. Thank God for Yahoo Instant Messenger!!
Katie has been home for almost a month. She is a sweet and lovable little girl who is quite a character. Her quirky little sense of humor and personality have helped her to fit right into our family. Originally she was not too keen on us, however. J Especially since a week after she came home we went to the beach in North Carolina for a two week vacation with my mom’s side of the family. As we do every year. I told my mom that it was funny that Katie had spent more time at the beach house with us than anywhere else besides the orphanage.
I haven’t had to parent any of my siblings; I am far too immature for that. But I do realize what a huge responsibility caring for four kids with special needs is. They are not that different. They are simply a little slower with learning things. But they do learn. I see kids with Down syndrome and I think of that passage in the Bible about “entertaining angels unawares”. They are my little angels. And although we have differences of opinion, as all siblings do, God has truly given me five little pieces of happiness.
I have an amazing appreciation for my siblings. They are the best part of my life and God has poured blessings on me through them. Seeing them grow and learn and laugh and pile on top of me on occasion is such a joy. I am sure that I would not be the girl I am today without them.
Each of them has a unique and individual personality that cracks me up and I feel honored to be there big sister.
Thank you for reading this little peek at my family. I hope that this will encourage you to consider an adoption of your own.
Thank you, Janie, for sharing your siblings and your loving perspective with us! And thank you Peter and Lisa for your daughter's view of your family journey!
The Rieben family has been blessed in so many unique ways! Their testimony is one of faith and perseverance! They have five beautiful children and are such a neat family! I know you'll enjoy their story!
My name is Valerie Rieben and my husband, Richard, and I have been married for 6 years. We currently have 5 children. Maren, Lukas and Jacob (3.5) are biological triplets and were the first to join our family in January 2005. Joshua (21 months) was adopted from Uzbekistan in October 2007. Evan (4) was adopted from Ukraine in December 2007.
After the birth of our triplets, I experienced several complications and required an emergency hysterectomy leaving me unable to bear any more children of my own. We both knew that there were more children who were meant to be a part of our family and our hearts immediately turned to adoption. We started to purse the domestic adoption of a healthy infant when our triplets were a year old, but quickly realized that was not the path the Lord intended for our family. Our hearts turned to international adoption. We hoped to adopt a healthy child as young as possible, but our plans changed as soon as we saw a picture of our son Joshua. Although we had not set out to adopt a child with special needs, there was no doubt in our minds that this was the little boy the Lord had intended for our family. A few months later, we saw Evan's face for the first time on Reece's Rainbow and knew he was meant to be a Rieben as well.
Our son Joshua (21 months) was adopted from Uzbekistan in October 2007. He was born with multiple limb differences (he is missing both femurs as well as the fibula in his left leg) and sacral dysgenesis. Our son Evan (4) was adopted from Ukraine in December 2007. He was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (Amyoplasia) in all four limbs. This condition effects the joints, muscles and connective tissues of the body.
The most surprising part of our adoptions was Post Adoption Depression. I had read about it on many occasions prior to bringing the boys home, but was very surprised to experience it myself a few weeks after the boys came home. Having experienced mild post partum depression following the birth of my triplets, I recognized the symptoms/feelings right away, but it definitely threw me for a loop.
Everyone has adjusted BEAUTIFULLY since coming home! The triplets welcomed their new brothers with open arms and have enjoyed having two new playmates. After 3.5 years of having to listen from his crib to the other children playing in another room, Evan was absolutely thrilled to finally be part of all of the action, even if he could not always participate in what the other kids were doing. His English is remarkable. Within a week of being home he was already reciting his ABC's, counting to 10 and singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. His language has come along so well that he tested out of speech and English as a Second Language at school! Joshua was young enough when we came home that he slipped seamlessly into our family. It took awhile for us to really learn to balance everything on our plates (doctors appts., therapies, surgeries, hospital stays, play dates, schedules, school, etc), but we have all settled nicely into a new routine and everyone is happy and well-adjusted!
The most demanding or difficult part of parenting a child with special needs for us is learning to balance all of the doctors appointments, therapies and surgeries.
There are SO many blessings and rewards of parenting children with special needs. One of the things I love the most is the added perspective my boys have given to me. My boys do not see limitations. Those of us who are "able-bodied" tend to limit ourselves to thinking inside the box. We all do things essentially the same way. When we can't accomplish something within that norm, we often give up or limit ourselves by saying we "can't." When my boys, who were assembled a bit differently than the rest of us, meet a challenge that can't be accomplished within the "norm" (walking, eating, writing, etc.) they simply find another way of doing it. They don't give up or say "I can't" they just find another way to accomplish whatever it is they have set their minds to. It is absolutely inspiring and they amaze me every day by the things that they can do. On top of that, they have so much joy in life. They appreciate the small things that most people take for granted. They infuse that joy into everyone they meet. In short, my amazing boys are my heroes!