Ventilator-Assisted Living©

Winter 2005, Vol. 19, No. 4

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Adopting Children with Special Needs

Nora Edgar, Gould City, Michigan, neaaskmi@aol.com

Our son, Gabriel, was born with a congenital myopathy which affects his arms, shoulders and respiratory muscles. He has used trach positive pressure ventilation since birth and is fed through a gastrostomy tube in his stomach.

Gabe spent the first four and one-half years of his life in an institution and received excellent medical care, but he lacked stability. He had many loving caregivers, but no one to call "Mom" and "Dad." Gabe had never been outside, except to ride in an ambulance to the doctor's office or hospital.

Although Gabe was legally free to be adopted, we encountered numerous barriers that prevented his placement with us. Because he had a wonderful judge and lawyer, we were finally able to adopt him at 4-1/2 years of age, but it took us two years to get him home.

Gabe enjoying the great outdoors.Gabe came to us severely developmentally delayed; he could only speak a few words. After only a year and a half of living with us, Gabe blossomed. He now talks a mile a minute and is attending a regular kindergarten classroom, learning his letters and numbers. Because of Gabe's past experience, he hated the outdoors when he came to live with us, but now we cannot keep him inside. With his electric wheelchair, Gabe runs in and out, just like any other 6-year-old boy, albeit one who uses an LTV®950 (Pulmonetic Systems, Inc.) ventilator continuously.

In the United States, there are many more children like Gabe living their lives in institutions; children who do not get the chance to live with a family and not because there is a lack of experienced families. Many adoptive families like ours are faced with too many barriers that prevent ventilator-assisted children from finding their "forever families." Medical personnel often become attached to these children and feel the child could not be cared for within a family setting. There are also monetary incentives for institutions in keeping these children. Many social workers are not aware there are families trained and willing to adopt children who use a ventilator, so they don't know where to look or even try to search for one.

Adopt America Network, headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, helps social workers find experienced families that are willing to adopt medically fragile children. Their mission is "to find good families for the children who wait." As a nonprofit organization, Adopt America Network does not charge fees to parents for their services. They have many experienced families who have passed the home study and are willing to adopt ventilator-assisted children.

Home study entails a thorough home evaluation by a licensed social worker, including police and protective service clearances (often requiring fingerprints), a marital history, physicals, a philosophical discussion of raising children and discipline, and more.

Adopting Gabe has been a wonderful experience for our family. He has learned how to write his name, he has ridden a snowmobile and a roller coaster, and he plays with his trucks in the sand.

Watching Gabe's smile as he experiences life is worth breaking down all the barriers that prevented him from joining our family.

Gabe and our family pray that every child in the United States living in an institution will be able to enrich someone's family like Gabe did ours.

If your family would be interested in adopting a special needs child, or if you know of a child that needs a forever family, contact Adopt America Network, 800-246-1731, www.adoptamericanetwork.org.

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