All of the money we needed arrived in record time. Approvals until this point were smooth and swift. For everything to have fallen into place the way it had, how could anything go wrong?
We attempted domestic adoption and checked into fostering, but after our family interview, our social worker believed that international adoption was the best fit for us.
Already having three children, the countries that would accept us were limited, and after speaking with a friend–a former orphan who aged out of her orphanage as a teen–our hearts were turned to India. My husband has always enjoyed learning about the Indian cultures, so he was more than interested.
We applied with an agency, paid our fees, assembled a very detailed and lengthy Dossier, and in a very short time, we received a match and accepted the referral of a beautiful little girl. We were told that the families in India receive priority when choosing a child from an orphanage, but this little one had been passed by many times.
When I saw her picture, I fell in love. Being told that this tiny abandoned girl spent her days in a crowded, short-staffed orphanage only made me long to bring her home even more.
Soon, I received her file, her very limited medical information, and after paying the remainder of our fees, we just had to wait for our court approval.
For several months, we planned the nursery, chose a name, and prepared for her arrival. Everyone in our family looked forward to bringing her home. I couldn’t wait to pick her up from the orphanage and introduce her to her Forever Family–her new siblings, grandparents, and her new home, where there were many arms ready to hold her and many hearts ready to love her. She would no longer be an orphan but would be part of a family that would provide anything and everything she needed.
When I saw the Caller ID on a Sunday afternoon, my heart felt as though it would jump out of my chest. At any moment, we were expecting our court approval, stating that she was officially ours and to book our travel arrangements.
A couple of months before we accepted her, we learned that I developed a condition that would make it difficult to conceive (that’s a story for another time), but I knew that God had more children for our family. This had to be it!
“We’ve run into a problem. The orphanage won’t release her since she probably has special needs.”
“But I don’t care. I already have a child with special needs. Do they know that? We’re approved for special needs! I know the system, the therapists, the Pediatricians. I still want her.”
After being told their hands were tied, I hung up and cried.
I felt as though a hospital staff member had told me that they decided to keep my baby because it had Down Syndrome, Epilepsy, or Autism, and I had no choice in the matter. Being a special needs mom, this shook me to my core.
I became emotional towards the whole system, with the powers-that-be that decided this little girl, who may or may not have special needs, was better off living out her days in an orphanage than in a stable family home. We did the leg work. We followed the directions. And just as I came to terms with being told I couldn’t conceive, this little girl, whose picture had been framed on my piano for so long, was taken away.
Already an advocate for special needs orphans, I knew the statistics of those who are very young. But what would happen if she survived into her teen years? Would she age out? Would she age out with special needs? How would she care for herself?
For a week, I could hardly sleep or eat, and whenever anyone approached me, I broke down crying. Our emotions were met with different points-of view–some tried to rationalize by saying she wasn’t really our daughter, some were more concerned about the monetary loss, while others were quick to ask if the agency would simply assign us a different child.
But I was still grieving for this child. I didn’t care that she was born on a different continent or that she likely had special needs—in my heart she was our daughter, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to help her or to take care of her. I simply had to trust that she would receive adequate care in the orphanage. Our agency did all they could to help us through the process, even staying up until the early hours of the morning relaying messages back and forth with the coordinator there.
I often wonder how she is, if she’s still alive, if she’s still in the orphanage. She would be 8-years-old now.
Time and our faith helped to heal the pain, but it was a long road. It took awhile for me to watch a movie set in India, to read about it, or to even visit with the adopting families without tearing up. But there is healing. A few months later, when we felt ready to receive other matches, this time focusing specifically on special needs, our surgeon gave us a letter of infertility to help open the doors to other orphanages. A few weeks after that, we were surprised to learn that we were expecting our 4th biological child! While we were still open to adoption, our family size was now too large to adopt from India.
I’m open about mothering special needs children, and it breaks my heart to think of the special needs orphans in the world without a mama to advocate for them. But only those who’ve known us for several years know the story of this little girl we lost. Experiencing this journey gives me an even bigger heart for them. While I wasn’t able to bring this little girl home, I can advocate for those still needing Forever Families.
Families want to give a home to these children who are often not chosen because of their diagnoses, and the families who are open to them covet the prayers and financial help they receive.
To learn more about special needs orphans and how you can be an advocate, visit Reece’s Rainbow to read about the different children available for adoption and the families who’ve committed to them.
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