By now you would think I would know not to compare one pregnancy to another. They are never the same. Even when you think you know how things will go, a curveball hits and you are right back to flying by the seat of your pants. So, what does this have to do with special needs adoption? Everything.
When Lucy was 4 years old, my husband and I decided to officially update our home study and toss our names in the hat once more. Initially there was a lot of comfort in seeing old familiar forms, completing old familiar training videos as part of the update. We had been down this road before and remembered the way. A few months later we were officially home study ready and had returned to the list of potential families for the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network.
Having worked with this agency
before, we knew the steps: get a phone call, agree to the match, wait for confirmation, and eventually bring home a newborn with Down syndrome. However, that’s no longer how it worked. There was a new process: large group email, confirm willingness, then wait for the email that says you weren’t chosen. I started paying more attention to the emails. The National Down Syndrome Adoption Network was now collaborating with a different agency: Special Angels Adoptions. This sparked our curiosity.
We began looking into this second agency and noticed that they placed children with a variety of needs, not simply Down syndrome. We filled out the application and joined their registry as well. Now, this agency has a slightly different process. First registered families are notified that a new situation has been posted. Then we log into a secure site to learn more. If we feel like the situation isn’t for us, no further action is taken. If, on the other hand, we feel called to learn more, we fill out an interest form.
For a while, we still were really only interested in a child with Down syndrome; after all, most people find a huge level of comfort in traveling the same path. Again, we knew the routine. We had already done it and knew what to expect – except we didn’t. One night several new situations were posted. One child with Down syndrome, many other with other things. Again, we submitted interest in the familiar. A few days later an email came out that changed everything.
The email stated that perhaps those of us on the family registry should consider other conditions. The children with Down syndrome were having overwhelming numbers of interest, while the others had little or no interest at all. It never even occurred to me that other families on the registry had similar concerns and thoughts to ours. It never even occurred to me that the other children, with other conditions, also needed parents. Parents willing to try hard. Parents willing to get creative with solutions. Parents willing to offer unconditional love and support – all of the things we were willing to provide to a child with Down syndrome. Our eyes were opened and we began sorting through other profiles.
That’s when we saw a little boy with the most angelic eyes. Unlike Lucy and our initial plan, this little guy was already born and several months old. He did not have Down syndrome, no extra chromosome here. Instead, he has a chromosome deletion. We read a little about it on Google. Unfortunately, it is a rare condition and there just isn’t a lot of information out there. Scared by what we read, we turned off the computer and did nothing. This type of special needs adoption wasn’t in the plan.
Over a month later, an email came out. There were updates in this situation. Truthfully, we were surprised the situation was even still available, but we read the updates anyway and saw updated photos. By the end of the evening we decided to put in an interest form. The next evening we were connected and talking with the baby’s birth family and two days later were officially moving towards a match. Now, this part WAS familiar. Even with our Lucy, when the right situation and the right family came along, the match just worked. It was effortless and soon we were texting back and forth like we had known each other for years.
Then, we had a wrench in the plans.
It’s amazing how those two pink lines can sneak up on you sometimes. We suddenly had to let complete strangers know that we were also expecting a new baby! We had a few more discussions and decided to move forward with our plans. Unlike Lucy’s special needs adoption, which happened in our state and required very little effort, this guy did not live in our state. This time, we had the pleasure of experiencing the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, or ICPC. Basically, the adoption proposal is reviewed by any state involved. For us, that meant the custodial agency’s state, our home state, and the baby’s home state. This means that once the adoption placement has occurred, all 3 states reviewed the paperwork and then gave approval. The baby is NOT allowed to leave his birth state until all states are on board.
As parents to 9 children at home, our travel plans had to consider child care and how to make the transition as smooth as possible. Both my husband and I traveled to the baby’s state on a Monday. We received placement on Tuesday. I returned alone on Wednesday to take care of our children at home, while my husband remained in a hotel room with the baby until the ICPC had cleared. This took 9 days.
We are now a couple months into our second special needs adoption journey. We are still learning the likes and dislikes of our new son. Unlike a newborn, he is several months old and had established routines. We have worked hard at preserving some of his old routines while blending them into our routines. So far, so good! Just a few months into this and it’s almost like he’s always been here.
We are still learning about his condition. Due to COVID, we are working extra hard at establishing therapies and specialist appointments. Because our adoption is not finalized yet, we are still very limited in what we can share. Someday, we can add more to this story. We can talk about visiting a COVID hotspot during the pandemic. We can talk more about my sweet boy – there’s SO much to say. But, once again, that’s a story for another day.
See Part 1 of Our Adoption Tale here.