Voices from Ohio: The Farrell Family on Special Needs Adoption


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.

We interviewed adoptive mom Sue Farrell about parenting children with special needs.

1. Tell me a little about your family/children.

We have four daughters. Our oldest, Carrie, is 20 years old. She is our only biological child. My husband and I both come from families of five and always assumed we’d have as many children as we wanted, maybe more. So we were never quite settled with just the one God gave us. We considered adopting when she was young, but the thought of receiving a child who was not “perfect” frightened us and kept us from moving forward.

Carrie’s relentless desire to have siblings led her to search for them on the internet, a site she had permission to visit. One day she found a little girl with special needs and I just remember this overwhelming desire to want to help her, even though I wasn’t quite sure what her condition entailed. We requested more information on her, and when we received her first photo, I knew I was looking at the face of my child! It only took about a week to sign the first set of papers and move forward. It took 8 ½ months to complete the paperwork and bring her home from China. She was 20 months old when she got home. We named her Caitrin. Caitrin had only been home a year, when we decided it would be nice for her to have a same-age sibling.

Within a couple months, we found another special-needs child, just 4 months older than Caitrin. She had cleft lip and palate, a condition which ran in my family and one which we felt comfortable with. Once again, we started the paperwork. It only took 7 ½ months to bring Christa home from China. She was now age 4. We felt our family was complete. But 6 years after Christa came home, I “happened” to open an adoption email and saw the photo of a little 4 year old who had the same condition as our first adopted daughter. Again, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted to help her. Within about a week, we realized that God wanted her to be a part of our family as well, even though my husband and I were both approaching 50! 10 ½ months later, which was just one year ago this week, Jiamei joined our family.

2. What made you decide to specifically pursue adopting children with special needs?

We started going to a new church and just “happened” to sit in front of a family who was pursuing their first special needs adoption. As we watched their family grow by special-needs adoptions, it seemed so natural to us. It began to remove our fear of having a child with special needs, and we actually began to pursue a special needs child.

3. What are the most challenging aspects as the parents of children with special needs?

For me, the most challenging aspect has been dealing with the unexpected. Two of our girls had more severe needs than we expected. We didn’t know this until they came home and went through numerous tests through Cincinnati Children’s International Adoption Clinic. One daughter had severe urinary tract defects and a defect with her aorta, both of which required surgery. The urinary tract will involve a lifetime of monitoring. The second daughter was diagnosed with a tethered spinal cord. We are monitoring this and might someday need surgery to untether it. These unexpected challenges have required us to regroup, rely on our faith, family, and friends, and then revise our expectations so we can move forward with a new set of “norms.” Obviously it was manageable or we would not have done it again and again.

4. What has been the most rewarding aspect?

I wouldn’t pursue any adoption without much prayer and research. Think about what conditions you might be comfortable with. Especially try to connect with a family who has a child with a condition similar to the one which you are pursuing.

Adopting special needs children can almost be “addictive.” When you realize how much you can change the life of just one child, you think, “Maybe I can do just one more, and one more…”

Click here or on the picture to receive your invitation to the Shining STAR Gala Event.

Click here or on the picture to receive your invitation to the Shining STAR Gala Event.

Read More by Adoption STAR’s Annual Shining STAR Event and Special Needs Adoption:

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