When I first learned that there were many children with Down Syndrome waiting to be adopted, I felt uncertain and thought, "there's no way we could do that."
We didn't even know anyone with a child with DS. But I couldn't stay off of the advocacy pages, my heart was drawn. I read, "The Lucky Few," by Heather Avis and could not put it down.
We live in the midwest and had four children, ages 12, 11, 8, and 6.
After adopting from foster care in the US, we began to consider adopting again and wondered what options were available to us. We looked over the big list of potential special needs and I was looking at hundreds of profiles on RainbowKids. We decided to focus on children with Down Syndrome because there's so many waiting for families.
Then a few months later, my youngest daughter started preschool and there was a little girl with DS in her class. We became friends with their family and quickly realized that their daughter was just a kid, a sweet adorable gentle kind and loving little kid... No special parenting skills required. We realized that DS wasn't as scary as we imagined.
We found our daughter, Joy, through an advocacy site and learned that she was with Agape Adoptions agency. When we saw Joy's picture update, we knew that she was our daughter.
Joy had just turned four when we sent in our letter of intent to adopt her. Myriam was great to answer all of our questions quickly and we decided to apply in November 2017. Agape was great throughout the process and was always one step ahead of us to prepare us for what's next. We got through the process quickly and were home with our daughter one year after applying.
She has been home for about six months now and is adjusting very well, loves Peppa pig and going to preschool. She has an IEP and gets her OT/PT/Speech at school but is in an inclusion classroom and rides the typical bus to school.
Our daily routine is very typical. We treat her just like our other children. She is the youngest, so of course she gets babied a little, and we work hard at attachment and meeting her needs, but we want her to have the opportunity to learn to do all the same things as our other children. We even took her skiing this winter and she loved it! She is very capable and has picked up basic sign language already. Her speech has a long way to go, but she finds ways to communicate what she wants.
It’s important to know that children with DS have a greater risk of heart issues, thyroid issues, sleep apnea, celiac, or they may need OT/PT/Speech. There's a few extra doctor appointments when you come home, especially at first, so they can make sure that there's no undiagnosed health conditions, but thankfully Joy is very healthy. So far she has just needed glasses!
One of the most helpful things we have discovered is that the Down Syndrome community is a very loving and welcoming group. We have become members of our local Down Syndrome association and have been regularly participating in their many free activities like swim class, dance/movement class, breakfast with Santa, night at the museum, etc. It is a very active and supportive organization.
If you are considering adopting a child with Down Syndrome, do not be afraid of the what ifs. We felt more comfortable when we were able to see videos of Joy and we were able to have her medical file reviewed by our International Adoption Clinic at a local Children's Hospital. Agape did a wonderful job to help prepare us for the challenges that can arise from adopting a child. We felt confident that we understood Joy's abilities and we could overcome the potential obstacles.
Down Syndrome is not scary. Having a child with Down Syndrome can change your perspective on life, to allow you to truly appreciate the little things and possibly change the world's perspective on their life's worth.