A Family’s Special Needs Adoption Journey

Bernie and Sheila were married in 2006 and both wanted to have children, however Sheila knew she was unable to conceive. Once married, the two immediately began to research different adoption agencies, and came to Adoption STAR after their friend referred them.

They are now the proud parents of Grace, their two-year-old daughter. Grace was born with Down Syndrome. Special Needs adoption

“We really didn’t know about the adoption process from beginning to end, and once we were here and went through the classes, we learned that there are so many different options that you have to check off if you are interested in them,” Sheila said. “I have a friend who’s child has Down Syndrome, so we said ‘yeah, let’s see what’s out there.”

Bernie and Sheila both had experiences with children through their friends and family, but Bernie said the experience is completely different once the son or daughter is yours.

“We both have nieces that we’ve grown up with and we’ve watched grow from childhood to young adults, and it’s so exciting. But you never really get that full experience until that child is with you full time,” Bernie said. “We made a number of changes, we focus more on family, that’s really important to us. You give up some things, but you gain a lot. You learn so much, you get to see the world through their eyes. That to me is the biggest difference.”

Sheila said that the biggest thing Grace has taught them is unconditional love.

“Grace is as normal as a child can be at two-years-old. She’s extremely busy; she’s into everything just like every two-year-old out there is. She’s taught us about unconditional love for sure. She’s the sweetest thing going, she just has love, love and more love to give,” Sheila said.

Because Grace has Down Syndrome her speech has been delayed, and she instead communicates through sign language. She knows more than 60 signs, and when she was in the office with her parents, she continually did the sign for “fish” asking for her fish crackers.

“It’s hard for me (to keep up with her signs), I have to keep watching the videos with her,” Sheila said. “Her frustration is when I don’t know what she wants. Most of the time I know her signs, but sometimes she’ll have to keep telling me and I’ll have to go look them up.”

This summer the the family had fun introducing Grace to nature, and she got a special kick out of the look and feel of grass, and as winter creeps closer and closer, Bernie and Sheila are excited to introduce Grace to snow.

“It’s fun to watch her explore and see new things, so I’m really excited about the snow. She knows what snow is from her baby signing videos but she doesn’t know what it is to see it, touch it, feel it and be out there in it,” Bernie said. “For us, I just want to enjoy every moment, it’s not about 20 years from now, it’s about now.”

Grace was born in Indiana and her birth parents have other sons and daughters in their home, who at this point may not know of Grace’s existence. However Bernie and Sheila send Grace’s birth parents photos and letters in the hope that one day Grace will have the opportunity to meet her brothers and sisters

“We’re currently talking about that amongst ourselves, we’re trying to figure out how to tell this child that ‘you have siblings, but no you can’t see them until your birth parents want you to see them,’” Sheila said. “…That’s something that we’re struggling with, that she has sisters and brothers, and no she can’t see them, when in our life she is an only child. We’ll work through it though.”

Sheila said that she and Bernie have spoken about adopting a second time, maybe an older child, but right now, according to Bernie, they’re happy as can be as a family.

“I’m looking forward to all of the fun years that we’re going to have together, that’s very exciting,” Bernie said. “When she grows older, just spending time with Grace, that’s the most important thing to me. Just watching her learn new things, you learn so much watching your child do that.”

If you are interested in learning more about growing your family through adoption, please visit the adoptive parents section of the Adoption STAR website. You can contact the agency by email or call us toll-free at 1(866)691-3300.