Special Needs Adoption

It isn’t all Rainbows and Unicorns

We at Project Hopeful believe children should live in families, not institutions or temporary families.  Ideally, children would be able to stay with their first (biological) families, even if external interventions and support are needed to make the first family a safe, healthy, and feasible option.  That said, we recognize that the first family may not always be a real option, and if all means of keeping a child in their first family are exhausted, we support adoption.  In fact, most of our volunteer staff and Board members are parenting children who were adopted.  A big part of our lives is raising adopted children and educating other families who have adopted or are considering adoption – we believe in it that much.

Since we have walked through many adoptions – our own and ones we helped other families through – we have come to realize that many of the public messages about adoption are dangerously one-sided.

Celebrity adoption photos, dreamy Facebook posts, and “Merry Christmas-from-our -’happy’-growing-family!” cards may have minimized the commitment that comes with parenting children from hard places.  We absolutely believe in celebrating adoptions but it is imperative that we begin to communicate more clearly:  adoption is hard.  While the anticipation during the paper stage, the process of being matched with a child, staring longingly at beautiful pictures of a child from another country, and even the first meeting can feel very fairy-tale like, this is not the reality of adoption.  There are rarely unicorns and rainbows.  Adoption is hard.

Children who were adopted come from broken places.  Even those who are adopted at a very young age have experienced trauma (or at minimum, great stress) in utero, which will impact their behavior and development […]

What if your mom was a T-Rex?

What if your mother was a Tyrannosaurus Rex?  You desperately need your mom to keep you safe.  You turn to her when you are afraid, you rely on her touch to comfort you.  Human babies need mommies (or daddies- a safe, loving caregiver) for survival.  What if the one person who could keep you safe was a scary, loud, rough Tyrannosaurus Rex, with a terrifying roar and sharp pointy teeth?

What happens when you come face to face with a velicoraptor?  What do you want to do?  Where do you want to run?  You run to the person who keeps you safe- your mom!  So, what if your mom is a Tyrannosaurus Rex?  Then what do you do?

Humans are blessed with an attachment system that serves many purposes.  The attachment system lays the building blocks for mental health, relationship skills, and self-regulation.  The attachment system is also a biological system that ensures our survival.  It is through the attachment system that little babies keep their parents close.  When babies are distressed, they behave in ways that brings a parent toward them.  As babies get older, they move toward their parents- with their legs or with their eyes- seeking out closeness and safety.  This system works because parents aren’t supposed to be scary.  When a small child is feeling anxious, nervous, uncomfortable, scared, or terrified their attachment system becomes activated and draws them closer to their attachment figure.

When the attachment figure is the source of the anxious, nervous, uncomfortable, scared or terrifying feelings children are left with an unsolvable dilemma.  When your fight/flight/freeze system is activated by the same person who activates your attachment system, you’ve got a big problem.  It is this unsolvable dilemma that […]

Parenting a Child with Down Syndrome

So what’s it like to parent a child with Down syndrome? How long do you have to read this article? Because I could probably fill a book with the myriad of answers to this question. So for the sake of blog etiquette, I’ll keep it as succinct as possible.

My personal experience only goes so far. Our son, Kirill, was adopted from a Russian institution at the age of five and he’s been home with us for 2.5 years. So a lot of our experience has been influenced by the neglect and trauma of living in an orphanage for the first five years of his life. Our experience is vastly different from many of our friends who have biological children with DS, or who have parented their adopted children with DS from birth or soon after.

First, let’s talk about the medical stuff because people are always concerned about that. Kirill doesn’t currently have any additional health complications that sometimes accompany DS. However, we had to do a lot of testing to rule out any of these common issues AND we had to do a lot of interventions and therapies (still do) to help him learn to do many age-appropriate skills. Medically, we had special X-rays of his spine in case there was any sign of instability, extensive heart testing to make sure there were no issues there, and a swallow study. At first, Kirill couldn’t swallow normally and we had to thicken all of his foods and liquids to make sure he didn’t aspirate on them. We worked with a speech therapist and an occupational therapist on swallowing skills for a few months and these issues quickly resolved for him.

Kirill also had a lot of […]

He took our ‘Yes’ – The Boulton Family

There were two main concerns my husband and I had about adopting a child with Down syndrome. How would it affect us, and how would it affect our other children? As we talked and prayed through our concerns we knew that this is what God was asking of our family and we trusted that He would cover it all. The truth is every time you add another member to your family it changes the whole dynamic. There is less time, and less money. But for us what we were to gain was so much more.

We mourned the loss of the dream of a one bedroom retirement house on the beach. We mourned the empty nest that will never be. We mourned the dreams we had for ourselves. And then we allowed God to anoint us with His oil of JOY for the dreams He has for our lives, which we know FAR EXCEED anything we could imagine.

We talked with our children about the changes that were to come. We would need their help. We would be asking much of them. They were excited! They were ready to welcome another sibling into our family through adoption.

As God would have it, He took our ‘YES’ and ran with it! God brought us TWO BABIES!  We took placement of our Ruby in August 2012, and Conner came home in May 2013.  Both just a few weeks old when we got them, and just 11 months apart from each other.  Both with Down syndrome.

I wish you could peak into my home and see what these babies have done to us. They are our little gifts. They are healers; they are joy; they are hope; they are angels from […]

The Faces of HIV in 2013

I was driving to work this morning and passed by a billboard that reads, “I am living with HIV and my brother is standing with me.” As I read it, there was this moment inside of me where I *forgot* that I too am living with people who have HIV. And just as fast, the flash was gone and I remembered my babies.The truth is, I never thought this would be my life. I mean, come on. MY life? Single and raising not one, but TWO children who have HIV?  Sheez. I must be crazy!  Here’s some more truth:  I never {okay, very rarely} think about it!  My boys, wrestling in full-nelson style on the floor?  Nope. Doesn’t occur to me. Wet beds, runny noses, coughs, vomit?  Never think of HIV.  Leah and Seth sharing drinks, food, baths, and germs?  Not a second thought. My children engaged in straight-up-mania in the jumping pool?  Zilch. Is there a chance one of them could get hurt and bleed? Um, yea. There’s always that chance! But if they bleed — hear this now — they are not going to “catch” HIV from each other.  Period, full stop.More truth? Listen up. I don’t think our friends think about it either. {gasp} That’s the thing about the truth. Once you know it, you’re not afraid!!!I pray that those of you who are considering adoption would consider that HIV is, as our founder Kiel Twietmeyer has said, a “cheater” special need.  It is medically manageable and not scary.  For those children who are in need of a loving home, could God be leading YOU to parent a child with HIV?  Are you willing to step out in faith for this? Or […]

Not Impressed.

A post from Tesney Davis:

Rescue those unjustly sentenced to die. Don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business.” Will that get you off the hook? God knows what you know. He’s not impressed with weak excuses. -Proverbs 24:11-12, NLT & The Message mash-up

Since God first wrecked our lives in a most excellent (and most difficult) way through adoption, I’ve gone back and forth, to and from extremes. At first I was all “full throttle ahead, everyone should adopt, and why aren’t they” with my approach.

Then I felt The Lord pressing me to be a little more graceful. I felt him nudging me to be quiet for a while, to listen, offer support, and to let him change hearts. I started learning more about adoption. I visited other countries and saw first-hand how family preservation is so much better IF it’s feasible. I got in touch with Kirill’s birth mom, learned his birth story from her perspective, and realized that family of origin is always the best option. But it isn’t always an available option. 

For Kirill, and most orphaned children with intensive special needs, adoption is probably the only solution. This is where my passion has been re-ignited over the past few months. I’ve felt God telling me it’s time to speak up again. Maybe a little more boldly than ever on behalf of orphaned children with special needs.

Orphaned children with special needs. Let’s talk about that. Let’s allow the reality of their situations to sink in for a moment. A child with special needs with a loving, nurturing family will have some obstacles to overcome. A child with special needswithout a family…well, their obstacles are almost insurmountable. Depending on the country, […]

Host Families Needed: You can help!

“Without intervention, upon leaving the orphanage, 60% of girls will end up in prostitution, 70% of boys will be on the streets or in jail, and 15% will commit suicide within the first two years on their own. YOU can revolutionize the life of an abandoned child.”                                                             - New Horizons For Children

Project HOPEFUL has been informed of a cutie that has an opportunity to be hosted. You have the opportunity to make a HUGE difference in the life of a child. Every child deserves to know what the love of a family feels like. We don’t have much time left to find Vlad a host family! Please inquire quickly if you are interested in showing this handsome guy the love of Jesus!

Ten year old Vladyslav is a very diligent student and his favorite subjects are math and PE. His director describes him as very active, polite and kind. He thinks logically and likes to analize things. Very friendly and likes to socialize with friends. Vlad attends an art studio where he likes to draw, paint, and work with clay. On his free time he plays soccer and loves to read and watch cartoons. His greatest and most cherished dream – life! Vlad is HIV positive.

Vlad is being offered for hosting via New Horizons for Children (www.newhorizonsforchildren.org) for 5 weeks this summer anywhere in the U.S. Please contact Stacey at smaljian@newhorizonsforchildren.org for more information!

Adopting from Russia: The Davis Family Story

A Guest Post by Tesney Davis~

Two and a half years ago, my husband, Greg, and I began praying for God to do whatever he wanted with our lives. Adoption became something that he was showing us he wanted for our family. We began to pray about adopting a child with special needs. Greg and I have a lot of experience with children who have special needs. It seemed like a natural fit for our family. As we prayed, God opened our eyes to children with disabilities in orphanages across the ocean in Russia. We started our adoption journey of a child with Down syndrome. We were given a referral for a child in Russia and awaited our invitation to go meet him.

Eight months later, as we neared the finish line of our adoption, one of the family members in Russia stepped forward to adopt the child for which we had been given a referral. We were devastated when we received the news that the child we had planned to bring into our family was no longer available for adoption. We grieved hard. Although heartbroken for our own loss, but God showed us that we were following him, and his ways are perfect. We knew we still wanted to adopt.

Shortly after losing our original referral, we received a new referral for a four-year-old boy with Down syndrome named Kirill. We were more guarded with our emotions this time, but we had no doubts that we should commit to this child. We had to re-file a lot of our paperwork because of the change in referrals and regions of Russia, but our commitment to this child was not something we took lightly and we gladly did whatever it […]

I slept with a girl…..and I didn’t catch HIV.

A guest post, by Jenny Clark

She is four years old. Her name is Leah Grace and she is the daughter of my friend Deb (the one I just went to Africa with). She contracted HIV through no fault of her own. She takes her meds every day like a good girl. Because of those meds, and the love of her family, she is a perfectly healthy normal little girl.

While in Uganda, I wiped her snot, drank after her, shared food with her, helped her in the bathroom….all of the things I would do with my own daughter. About halfway through the week we had some friends come and stay with us for a few nights, which caused us to have to do a little shuffle of the sleeping arrangements. I am no stranger to having children in my bed and all up in my business while I sleep, so I didn’t think twice when Leah Grace wanted to bunk with me.

But then right before I fell asleep, 1987 came back to haunt me ……for a split second.

What if she has a stomach virus and throws up on me during the night?
Is HIV present in urine? What if she wets the bed?
She got a cut on her nose today…what if it opens up while she is asleep?
  

The truth is sometimes ugly, and I really don’t want to admit it…..especially since I am on staff with Project Hopeful, and our whole objective is to shine light on the facts about HIV and to advocate for children who live with it.

But then I realized, that if I KNOW the facts, and 1987 still crept in to my mind for a split second, how would my friends react in the same […]

Meet Tesney Davis, Director of Education for Project HOPEFUL

Deanna Jones of YouParent met up with Tesney at the Together for Adoption Conference 2012. Get to know her heart for Special Needs Adoptions and Project HOPEFUL’s vision of educating, encouraging and enabling families and individuals to advocate for and adopt children with a wide range of Special Needs.