Monday, July 11, 2016

Q&A on Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome

In exactly one week, a 5-year-old little girl who lives in an orphanage in China will arrive in the United States. She may not understand what's to come but will be covered in love as she stays with our family for one month. We are praying boldly that a family would step in to the gap for this precious soul, that she would be adopted as their daughter and sister. Her name is Fu Yi and while her disability does not define her, it's important to know that she has Down Syndrome.
As you pray about the possibility of Fu Yi being your daughter, perhaps you have questions about what this adoption may look like. We have been blessed with a community of friends who have not only adopted from China but have adopted children who have DS. A couple of these families have graciously agreed to help us answer questions that we are not equipped to answer. More importantly, both families have made it clear that they would be happy to discuss any concerns or further questions with interested families.
This blog post is simply a Q&A format. We've asked them questions, they've answered. One family's answers are in red, the other in blue. We pray that this brings some clarity to families who may be asking these questions silently. We encourage you to contact us through email ( with any other questions you may have about Fu Yi, the adoption process, or Down Syndrome. May God stir and soften hearts now and over the weeks to come...
1. DS children need special attention, as do typical children who are adopted internationally. How do both needs together play out at home?
Honestly, I feel like the dominant needs of my child are related to her Down Syndrome diagnosis, not as much the challenges she experiences as an internationally adopted child.  The attachment was far less of an issue than I have observed in my friends who have adopted children.  I think the best way to articulate the dual needs is that perhaps her beginnings in an institution have increased the severity of her need.  For example, she has major feeding issues for multiple reasons including poor oral motor skills and sensory issues relating to the Down Syndrome, however, these issues were amplified because of lack of therapies and awareness of the orphanage. We have had a tremendous amount of therapy to assist her with delays that could have been helped had she gotten early intervention.  I rarely seek support through the typical adoption communities because our needs and experiences are so vastly different.  There is a small community of families who have adopted children with Down Syndrome and it has been a great resource to me.
Since this is my first international adoption, as well as my first child who has Down syndrome, it is hard for me to compare which issues stem from being adopted at age 8 internationally and which issues stem from our daughter’s special need.  Showy is such a sweet, joyful child, so her need seems pretty easy to handle most of the time because of her excitement in the little things.  We obviously have to care for her need, as far as pretty constant supervision and help, however she is extremely easy going and willing to go with the flow of our family of 8.
2. What is the greatest challenge in raising a child with Down Syndrome?
I think our challenges will vary greatly depending on her stage of life.  Honestly, the greatest challenge right now is the sheer physical-ness of her care.  She really cannot be unsupervised, and every meal is one of trying new foods, self-feeding, etc.  Even teaching her to walk from Point A to Point B can be taxing. Potty training can take up to a year. I am constantly aware of her presence and her needs, and I think that detracts from my relationship with my other children at times.  However, I think as she grows older there will be different challenges of finding the appropriate education, how she will interact with society as an adult and in what role, etc.  
I think the greatest challenge is knowing how much to expect from our daughter.  Is it too much to ask her to brush her own teeth, put on her own clothing, eat by herself, etc… Evaluating her capabilities is difficult when dealing with a child with Down syndrome, especially when adopted internationally because of the communication barrier.  The easy answer for greatest challenge is of course communication, but expectations is one that I deal with on a regular basis as far as knowing how to challenge her and want her to learn and grow.
3. What does your family have the privilege of experiencing through this child, that you all wouldn't otherwise have?
My daughter has taught us about joy, pure joy.  She is an open door to the gospel, and constantly draws me back to our Father in Heaven.  She is a gift, a good and perfect gift, given to us to show us the true depth of our Father's love for us.  She has shown me how to love well and fiercely, and I wouldn't change her for the world.
We have already had so many wonderful experiences in our short 4 months home that we would never have been part of had we not adopted Showy.  We have been able to share with churches, families, friends, and even friends of friends about our experiences and our daughter.  We have joined several groups for families who have Down syndrome, and we are connecting with families we have never met.  We are stopped in public by people constantly asking our story and wanting to know more about adoption and Down syndrome.  Showy meets new friends for us all the time!
4. What therapies or medical attention is generally required for a child with DS?
It varies greatly.  When we came home, we did physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy privately.  Now she receives the PT and OT in schools, and we only do private speech therapy.  Some parents only do the therapies they receive in school.  My daughter did not have heart or hearing issues, but some children with Down Syndrome do.  
This varies based on the severity and specifics, but many children with Down syndrome have vision, thyroid, and heart problems.  Our daughter doesn’t have vision or heart issues, but her thyroid may need some attention in the future.  She also will likely participate in therapies provided by the school system including Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapy just to help her learn with a little more attention.
5. How have your other children been affected by this adoption? How do you suspect they will be affected in the future (long-term living arrangements, etc.)?
My deepest fear when walking through the adoption process was what this meant for my children.  It kept me up nights, sometimes all night.  It brought my idols and my sin to the surface, and I had to release my children back to God, knowing He is their only perfect parent, and he cares for them and loves them with a wisdom that I do not possess.  And now that she has been in our family for two years, I cannot imagine our family life without her.  My three children fight over who gets to play with her; their love and affection for her has been unwavering.  It has been the most beautiful part of our journey to watch them love her so unconditionally, so well.  There has never been a hesitation on their parts, not one doubt, not one flash of resentment or anger, and her presence has asked much of them.  I don't know what the future holds for my children, but I no longer lay awake at night wondering whether or not this adoption will damage my children or our relationship with them.  
My other children have been changed for the better…for good.
Not only has their new sister changed their hearts and brought more love than we know what to do, but at least one of our biological children plans to adopt.  She also will likely take care of Showy if she happens to need assistance and we aren’t around or able to help.  Our children love adoption now. Our children love others with Down syndrome now.  The joy in our home is contagious. 
6. Please add any information you think is important about adopting a child with DS, as well as any additional personal feelings or advice you have for prospective families.
There are many challenges, but many greater joys!
I would absolutely love to speak to anyone who has any questions or concerns about an adoption with a child with Down syndrome.  I can personally tell you that our life has never been more full.  I see the joy of the Lord in our daughter and can’t imagine life without her.  We already had 5 children in our home, and adding her to the mix has been such a blessing.  Everyone seems so united in our love for her and for adoption.  Please feel free to reach out and let me know if you need anything.  If you live anywhere close to Central Alabama, let me know and I would be happy to let you meet our sweet little one!

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