In anticipation of Our Shining STAR Event, we are featuring a weekly blog series on Special Needs Adoption. On Wednesday January 29th, 2014, Adoption STAR will be hosting Our Annual Shining STAR Event to benefit special needs adoption. Adoption STAR has found many wonderful adoptive families for children with special needs. Adoption STAR helps adoptive families afford to make a commitment to adopt a child with special needs by waiving or greatly reducing fees. To learn more on how to donate, participate and/or volunteer to this great fundraising event, please visit our Shining STAR page.
Adoptive Parent Linda Groat shares her journey to her daughter Megan Ling
I couldn’t explain it more than that. People asked me, “Why China? Why not a baby from around here?” I always answered, “Because my baby is Chinese”.
In our late 30’s, Eric and I were unsure about the size of our family. We had two biological kids, intense intelligent and great kids with fairly demanding needs for attention and support. However, we both felt the family seemed incomplete and we had a strong desire to share our many resources and advantages with another child. We began to try to become pregnant, but it did not feel like the “right thing”. After a while, recognizing my ambivalence, I gave away all of my maternity and infant things and assumed that I was not meant to have another child.
I was very surprised several weeks later, when I woke up one morning with the idea of adoption stuck in my head. I had not considered this consciously before, but it was probably something that was there always, deeply buried in a sea of everyday activity and it was only when I let go of my Preconceived Ideas, that I was able to hear my inner thoughts. I asked Eric what he thought and felt about adoption. Of course, being the very amazing man that he is, he was open to it. We agreed that I would do some research and read about it. I am fairly intense myself, and immediately read about 5 books in 4 days about adoption.
Within a week I knew that my baby was in China. We selected Great Wall China Adoption as our international agency and Adoption STAR as our local adoption agency, and applied right away to adopt in April 2006. The process of gathering our documents went smoothly and we logged in with China in August 2006. The wait at that time for a baby was about 6-12 months, but quickly and steadily grew to become 18 months.
During this time Eric and I longed for our child, to know who and where she was. We were on the non-special needs track, and waiting for an infant. As the wait began to get to 12 months and more, I began to feel that our child was not an infant, but rather an older child and possibly one with special needs. This was confusing to me because every time I looked at the listing of waiting children, I felt tremendous anxiety and so just gave up looking at them.
During the summer of 2007 I received Great Wall’s invitation to the fall East Meets West conference, which was to take place in Tampa, Florida. I felt it was important that our family go to it. I guess I needed to be connected in some tangible way. My mother joined us as she lives nearby in Florida. We had a wonderful time and learned so much. Plus we met a family who had just been matched with their daughter, who was older and was diagnosed with a special medical need, called Hydrocephalus. I was struck with their description and photos of her; especially the fact that she was thrilled that she was being adopted and could not wait to meet her family. She was absolutely stunning and displayed a smile so full of life. Despite never having known much about Hydrocephalus before, I was so assured by her new mom’s matter of fact discussion about the available treatments and normalcy of life. It sounded like a very manageable condition to me.
After that, my mind was open in a way it wasn’t before. Still at the conference, I went to a session on “waiting children” and I was struck again that the speakers both agreed that the most difficult part of dealing with their adoptive children wasn’t their special need, but their adjustment because they were older. They described tantrums that were reminiscent of those my biological children had and I thought to myself; that I could handle. I knew that I would easily and intuitively be able to work through any attachment, bonding and behavior issues that may come up.
Shortly after that we had to renew our paperwork because it was coming up on 18 months. Our Adoption STAR social worker did a home study update and I requested that she use language including both “a child with special needs and non-special needs” in her recommendation. Our previous home study had said birth-18 months, but I raised the question of extending the age range. I initially agreed to raise it to 2 years old, but after I got the final copy from Adoption STAR, I felt again a strong compulsion to raise it to 6 years old, and I trusted my instincts and called them immediately and asked them to change it. I picked up the revised copy later that day and felt such unexplainable relief. That was in early January 2008. Less than 3 weeks later, I found 3½ year old Megan Ling on the next Waiting Child list. I knew she was meant for me when I saw her, and she had the same special need diagnosis, Hydrocephalus, as the girl whose family I met in Tampa.
I immediately called Eric and told him about her, he was willing to trust my intuition again, and we applied to adopt her right away. Less than 5 months later, in May 2008, we met her in China and all my dreams about her were absolutely true. Although we were expecting and prepared to deal with her Hydrocephalus, amazingly, she was examined by a pediatric neurologist twice since coming home, and she demonstrates no symptoms of it whatsoever. This is an incredible and unexpected blessing.
Although very healthy physically and emotionally, Megan Ling did present with very significant learning needs and appeared to be functioning about two years below her age level. She had only developed minimal expressive language in China, even though she was almost four years old. She understood everything that was said to her, but simply could not form the sounds and motor movements to make words. She also did not seems to know any concepts such as number, color, shape, or what a book was all about, even in Chinese. She could, however, fold her clothes in perfect formation and make her bed without a wrinkle! She fell all the time when walking because she “slapped” her feet on the ground.
Upon arriving home, we immediately had her evaluated for all kinds of special education therapies and she began receiving Speech, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Special Education Services (all free through the public school system). She is now in a general education classroom with special education supports. Her language has exploded. She is still a little behind her age peers, but she is catching up more and more every day.
The most wonderful thing about adopting an older child to me, is watching her learn so rapidly. I am really amazed that we have been able to see her grow from an infant stage right through to the age she really is. It’s like I have had a child of all ages. I just responded to her as if she were born to me the day I received her into my life.
Megan Ling is compassionate, loving, and affectionate and soaks up everything we offer to her, and gives it back ten-fold. It was truly an amazing blessing in our lives to adopt her.
Read More by Adoption STAR’s Annual Shining STAR Event and Special Needs Adoption:
- An Interview: Parenting Children with Special Needs
- Adoption STAR’s Annual Shining STAR Event
- Special Needs Adoption Videos from the University of Chicago
- Every Child Deserves a Forever Family
- Supporting Special Needs Adoption with Shining STAR
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