On adopting a child with special needs

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Amanda Preston who blogs at My Lovely Crazy Life. 



-->Daniel and I first got married at 18 and 19 years old. It was a whirlwind romance filled with mistaken career identity and high school students getting engaged. You can read about it at (https://mylovelycrazylife.com/how-it-all-began/). What brought us together, however, was our first ever conversation where we shared our desire to be involved with kids without families, particularly working in orphanages.

During our first year of marriage we did the usual married things together. We played board games, had date nights, went for walks, hung out with friends, and worked. While in that first year, however, we felt God telling us to do something different. Although it wasn't working directly in orphanages as we had thought, it was still caring for those without a family. We felt a strong desire to move forward with adoption.

The reaction we got was similar to when we got married. "But you're so young," "Don't you want to travel?" "You're crazy!" By this time we were use to these comments and carried on knowing where our desires laid. I still wonder why everyone was so obsessed with us  travelling! (Daniel had actually already been to Africa and Europe, and I moved every 18 months growing up, including living in England and around the United States).

We decided we wanted to adopt a child with special needs. Due to Daniel being only 19, and myself 20, we only qualified to adopt from our local foster care system. Once we learned about the thousands of children waiting for a family, we knew it was the right fit. We went through training and learned everything we could about adoption, special needs, attachment, FASD, and more.

As we navigated our way through the home study, our social worker commented on the challenge it might be to find a match. On our second to last home study visit, the she told us she thought we should put our adoption on hold. Although she knew our true intent, our hearts, that we were mature, and more than capable of adopting a child,  on paper we still looked like teenagers. Daniel had just started a carpentry apprenticeship and I had just started a new job at a bank, but our ages were still prominent. She said we should put it on hold for 2 years and come back when we were just a bit older. Thankfully we could come back for our last home study visit the next week in order to have a completed home study which we could utilize again when the two years were over.

We went away sad and disappointed by her recommendation, but decided if that was God's timing, that was God's timing. Instead we would focus on getting ourselves as prepared as we could during the next two years so we would be ready for a new child. That weekend we saw an add for a condo for sale and decided to go take a look. Without looking at any other homes we bought the condo that weekend. They were selling several units all at once that had been previously used as rentals, so we got it at a killer deal. The bonus is that they included several updates to fix anything from the rental use. It resulted in us getting a condo with brand new paint and flooring at a very low price. Due to the reno's, however, the condo would not be ready for 6 months.

Later on in the weekend we found out my Dad lost his job. Knowing we would be moving soon anyways, we offered to move in with them and pay their rent to help them out. We gave notice to our rental and made plans to move in June (it was currently May).  Just to make note, they lived in a 2 bedroom townhouse with my younger sister.

This very spontaneous lets-go-buy-a-condo weekend was definitely the beginning of how we would live the rest of our life. To this day we still do things...quickly.

The following week we went back to the social worker's office to finish up our home study and close it off. When we walked into the room she had a strange look on her face. Had we done something wrong?

She proceed to tell us she had a proposal for us...jaw drop.

For those of you who don't know much about the adoption process, a proposal is when social workers propose a particular child to the adoptive parents, who then decide whether or not they want to proceed. Proposal's do NOT happen until adoptive parents complete their home study and are put on the active list. Once on the list, most adoptive parents wait a few months to a couple of years to get matched.

We stared at her blankly. We had a proposal? But we weren't even finished our home study! I thought she had just said we were too young? I thought we were getting put on hold? Furthermore, she said it was for a 2 month old little boy! Everything we had learned in training taught us that most children available for adoption were over the age of three. We had started a collection of toddler items in preparation for a toddler to join our family. A baby??

She explained that in this particular case the birth mother was allowed to choose the adoptive parents (this is not common in foster care adoptions) and that the three previous families she had chosen had all said no. He had some known risk factors for possible special needs, which we had said we were happy to accept. We looked through his file and immediately said YES! We found out he was ready to come home in THREE WEEKS! Yikes! Not much time to prepare for a baby...

A week later we were given our first photo of him. We fell in love immediately. I imagine this is what parents must feel when they receive their first sonogram.

A week after the photo we were meeting him for the first time. His name was Mathieu, which means gift from God. The meaning couldn't have been more perfect. Our love for him was INSTANT, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. We were to spend the next week getting to know him in his foster home, arriving when he woke up, and leaving when he went to bed.

I quickly discovered I knew NOTHING about parenting. I had only babysat a couple of times as a child, and hadn't been particularly good at things like changing diapers. I once had to call a friend in a panic because the "poo just wouldn't wipe away." I made sure to follow the foster parent as closely as I could to learn how to make a bottle, how to change his diaper, and what his daily routine was. She was an amazing and sweet Christian lady who welcomed us in and taught us everything (She was the one who inspired us to become foster parents. Read that story here https://mylovelycrazylife.com/becoming-foster-parent/). We were so worried it would be awkward being in a complete strangers home for a week, but she was so gracious! She must have thought the workers were crazy for having a couple of teenager's come and adopt the little guy!

By the end of the week we were allowed to officially bring him home as our son. I couldn't believe they were letting us drive such a tiny little baby! By this time we had the hang of his daily schedule and how to feed and change him, and were excited to begin our new life together with this darling little child.

Today Mathieu is 12 years old and thriving!! And to our astonishment, he ended up having no special needs! Those three other families missed out on one of the most amazing kids ever! When we did testing for him he actually scored genius levels in several areas. Talk about a miracle! He has become the typical A-type first born child. He loves the usual boy things like mine craft and soccer, but he also loves math, documentaries, deep conversations, babies, and his family. I know he is going to do amazing things in his life and I am SO thankful our social worker saw past our age, that his birth mother saw past our age, and that we were given the chance to parent this awesome kid! We love him more than I can ever say!

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