Q: Can you tell me about your child/children with Down syndrome?
Claire came into our lives as a foster child at 10 months old and was adopted at three and a half. She is now nine years old and we could not imagine our lives without her. She is as much my baby as any of the ones I birthed. Claire is friendly, engaging, determined and of course adorable.
Q: What led you to adopt a child with Down syndrome?
I felt called to adopt at the age of 18 after working in an orphanage in Haiti. It took some serious discussions with my husband Nate for me to agree to any biological children though I treasure Alice and Makenna and I am so thankful for them. The Down Syndrome was a surprise. Just as Nate and I were getting licensed for Foster Care, very unexpectedly, his niece and nephew came into care. We felt strongly that this was God's timing and happily welcomed Claire into our home. Nate had worked in pediatrics and knew how to handle some of the medical challenges. I was exposed to people with disabilities, mainly defenses, growing up hanging out with my mom where she worked in the special ed room at my school. Both Nate and I had never met anyone with Down Syndrome before Claire. Over the years Claire was with us in foster care I could't imagine giving her to any other family. We were caring for her, painting her tiny toe nails, taking her to doctors appointments, advocating, taking her to therapy, taking her on walks, tucking her in (to her wedge) at night, praying over her... We did all the hard things and all the fun things. Who could love her like us? Love cancels out fear. We knew that this is what we were meant to do, period. (Adopted Like Me)
Q: How did you prepare yourself and your family to adopt a child with Down syndrome?
Ya, we didn't, sorry family. I had an emotional year after our adoption working through things (a post on this is regret). I could have prepared myself by getting more information about Down Syndrome (I was overwhelmed and liked denial) and finding other people who had children with DS. It would have been encouraging to meet families and see their every day, normal lives with Down Syndrome (I thought I was too busy to reach out).
Q: How was your child’s transition into your family?
When Claire first came to us it was a really hard transition. She was our first and without the 9 month pregnancy, wrap your head around having a baby time it was definitely like jumping into the deep end. My friends threw me a baby shower which was very special and something I would recommend if you have a friend adopting. I actually wrote a post on how crazy The First Few Days were last year.
Q: How did you communicate with your child during his or her transition?
In foster care you are caring for your child while you are waiting for your adoption, go foster care!
Q: How has adding a child with Down syndrome affected your family dynamic? How have your typical children reacted to him or her?
Claire was our first child which has been pretty awesome. To all the other kids Down Syndrome is pretty normal. They know a bunch of kids with DS. Adoption is normal too. Our four year old is still waiting for her adoption. She just doesn't understand why she can't be adopted too. All the cool kids are adopted you know. (siblings and down syndrome)
Q: Does your child have any health concerns in addition to Ds? Does he or she have any health conditions that were not included in the file?
We knew Claire's medial history when she came to live with us. She had already had heart surgery and had a history of pneumonia. It was not safe for her to swallow liquids and so she was on a feeding tube. She was on an oximeter to monitor her breathing and was on oxygen. This sounds extreme but over the first four years she grew out of all of these issue and is now pretty healthy. Her biggest health issue now is sleep apnea.
No. She was never institutionalized, yay foster care.
Q: Does your child go to school? If so, what does his or her IEP look like?
Claire is at our local public school, the same school her sisters attend. She is in the third grade. Her day is split between a typical third grade class and a special ed room. This is a good balance for her. She needs to spend time with her pears but also gets overwhelmed in the large class and benefits from the one on one instruction and small class size in special ed. Her IEP is long and covers academic goals as well as therapy and some class room modifications like preferential seating and a microphone her teacher wears connected to headphones she wears.
Q: Does your child receive any therapy? Does your insurance cover these therapies?
Claire's insurance has always covered her therapy. Claire did private therapy (Occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy) as well as school therapy until she was 6 and started going to school all day. Now she does more nontraditional therapy like horse back riding (which our insurance doesn't cover). When you adopt children through foster care they receive medical insurance from the state after their adoptions until they are 18.
Q: One of the biggest concerns for prospective parents is Long Term Care. How are you planning for long term care? What do you expect his/her future to look like?
Claire is a very smart little lady and we do not like to place limitations on her. There are people with DS who have jobs, live independently, live in homes with help and even get married. If Claire wants independence we will work towards that. If she feels safe at home she will always have a place with us. I look forward to the years she is grown and out of school. I'm sure we will have many excellent adventures together.
Q: To conclude, what one piece of advice would you give to families considering Down syndrome adoption?
I would say to any family considering adoption that support is so important. Find people you can be honest with and share your struggles who will understand and support you. We are so thankful to be raising our kids with people who understand their needs and love them and us where we are.