Our adoption story started on the TARE website. Well, actually I had been thinking and praying about adopting a child with special needs for quite some time. When I found the website and showed Joseph that ALL the children under the age of three on the site had some sort of special needs, God used that as a tool to prick his heart as well. At that time, we contacted CK to start the process of being licensed. That was in January of 2010. We were licensed by April. That, as you all know, was a great feeling. The first major step in our journey had been completed. We were told that because we were interested in a child with special needs our “matching” process would be a little bit different than most others. You see, we had the opportunity to choose who we wanted our name to be submitted for as well as look over the profiles of kids sent to us. We originally submitted our name for a little girl that we were told was not available for adoption. I was crushed! This was a little girl whose profile I looked at daily on the TARE website for months and although I had yet to meet her, I was totally in love with her. Joseph and I started looking and considering other children. This time we submitted our name for a little boy. CK was on their way to the placement meeting for us to be named as his adoptive parents when CPS called to notify them that his current foster family didn’t want to give him up and the would be adopting him. Again our hearts were crushed, but we knew God had the right child out there for us. Back to the website we went, only this time we expanded our age range. We submitted our name for three children this time and prayed that it was God’s plan for one of these precious children to be ours. Then on May 25 we got the e-mail from Shannon that we had been waiting for…we had been matched with Ashley!
We were super excited, to say the least! We finally had been told who our little girl would be. We knew from her profile on the website that Ashley was in a wheelchair and unable to walk, was a nonverbal child and functioned way below her chronological age. We also knew that she had a beautiful smile and enjoyed being around people. We couldn’t wait to meet our sweet angel. It was a long summer. Joseph and I finally had the chance to learn more about Ashley and we met with CPS and her current foster father. The foster father had some very negative things to say about Ashley. He focused on telling us all the things that Ashley couldn’t do (and things he believed she would never be able to do) and some of her more negative behaviors (such as pulling her hair). Joseph and I left the meeting feeling very disappointed and discouraged, but we still believed that it was God’s plan that Ashley was supposed to be ours. Due to the situation (she had three previous failed adoption attempts) and her special needs, CPS decided to let us meet Ashley before we made our final decision on taking her. We traveled to Killeen on August 6th to meet Ashley. I remember meeting Courtney outside of the group home and praying for God’s guidance before going in to meet her. Joseph and I walked in and immediately fell head over heels in love with our daughter! We were given permission to take her for the afternoon and all day on Saturday. It was an amazing weekend. We traveled down to spend the following weekend with Ashley then were given permission to bring her to her new home for a couple of weekend visits. Finally on September 2th, exactly 4 months since we had been matched with her, we moved Ashley home permanently!
The first couple of months that we had Ashley were trying. She was having severe reflux issues when we got her and it was imperative that we got it under control immediately. She was 9 years old and only weighed 38 pounds. We discovered, through some amazing doctors, that Ashley was allergic to the formula that had been used for her tube feedings. Once the type of formula Ashley used was changed, she has not had any major medical problems. She now weighs in at 51 pounds and is looking healthier and healthier every day. Ashley has done amazing things since having a family that loves and cares for her. We were told that she would never walk, be potty trained or have a way to communicate with us. Once we got braces that helped correct the positioning of her feet and gave her opportunities to be on the floor where she could have opportunities to move she began pulling up on her knees. Then with us standing behind her and helping to hold her body up, she began taking steps. Now Ashley has progressed to the point of being able to walk with us in front of her just holding her hands! She also started potty training once we got an adapted toilet seat making it safe for her to be in the bathroom. And although Ashley still cannot talk, she has definitely figured out how to use her sounds to let us know when she wants something or when she is excited about something.
Adopting a child with special needs had definitely been a journey for our family…a journey I am glad to be taking. Is our life different than most? Yes. We don’t go to soccer games on Saturday mornings. Instead we get to go to Special Olympics practice every week and see kids get excited about and appreciate the little things in life. Ashley won’t outgrow the need for a monitor in her room every night or be able to get up and get herself breakfast so we can sleep in some Saturday morning. But I get the privilege of having a child that won’t get too old to sit in my lap and want to cuddle. I get to go in her room every morning to get her out of bed and have her reach out to me with excitement to start the day. As much as you will hear that these kids can’t do, just remember that they are God’s children too and deserve a loving family just as much as the next child. When put in the right family, they can grow and thrive, too! Ashley is proof of that.