Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dear Birth Parents

Dear Birth Parents, 
            We want to begin by expressing our appreciation for you. Birth families have played a vital role in our lives, and we want you to know that because you are a birth family we care about you, we admire you, and we’re thinking about you!
            We are aware of the choices one has when discovering unforeseen circumstances in regards to their baby. We want to share with you our admiration for the courage you demonstrate in considering an adoption plan. This leap of faith is evidence of your tremendous love, courage, and selflessness. Thank you!
           In this blog we want to share with you our personalities, life-style, experiences, and why we have a desire to adopt another baby girl with Down syndrome. We hope you can sense our deep love for all children, especially those with special circumstances and needs.
            We want to express our love to you again. We want you to know that if you place your baby for adoption with us, we will always consider you a part of our family. We want you to know that future relationships with us and your child are completely up to you. We will be as open as you feel comfortable with. Our number one desire is that you find peace in whatever decision you make. We know you are making an adoption plan out of love for your baby. We are confident that you will be guided to do what is best for you, your family, and your baby.

Much Love,
 R and J

Sneak peak into our lives

We were married in March 2002. We met on a blind date. We quickly fell in love and were married shortly after. Soon after getting married we moved to Hawaii where R received a Master’s degree. We enjoyed our time in Hawaii. We loved the people, culture, and the simple life of the islanders. At the end of our time in Hawaii, we adopted our two sons.
We have a tremendous support team. We live close to each of our families, and visit them often. As a family we help each other, and support one another. Our children feel loved and secure when they are with our families. There is an African proverb that talks about how it takes a village to raise a child. We have an exceptionally strong village and support one another.
As a family we love to do many things, and have many traditions. We enjoy the simple pleasures in life! We love going for walks, going to the park, playing games, going for bike rides, throwing Frisbees, and hanging out together. We love going to Nana and Grandpa’s cabin, and playing at the lake. We love cutting down our own Christmas tree each year. We enjoy little weekend get-aways, and love swimming. We love going on camping trips and singing songs together. We also enjoy serving neighbors. We recently discovered that we love listening to books on cd while driving in our van.
Our greatest joys come from the simple times together. We try to eat dinner as a family most week nights and on Sunday evenings. We have fun chatting, playing games while eating, cleaning up, and carrying out our dinner duties. We read and study together. We pray together as a family, and we have a family motto that we try to live by. Every Monday night is our family night. We talk about important things, sing together, play together, and eat treats together. In the past, we have had a family store. During the week we earned tickets by doing chores, being kind, and serving others. Monday evenings our store was open to purchase prizes by cashing in our tickets. (J’s always setting up incentives.) Currently they earn tickets for Monday movie night. They can cash them in for pop-corn and treats. Wednesday nights are parent/child date nights. Each Wednesday mom or dad takes one child out for a date. It is so wonderful to spend one on one time with each other. It is also a great time to teach dating etiquette. We’re trying to raise respectful ladies and gentlemen. Friday or Saturday nights are mom and dad’s date night. We love being together as a family. We know that in the end…family is what matters. We try to strengthen our marriage and family each day.

Why Adoption?

J’s sister was never able to have biological children. When J was in High School she was able to go to China and to the Marshall Islands with her sister to adopt her children. Her sister adopted children from these beautiful places. This experience changed J’s life. From that moment, she KNEW that she would adopt one day. She truly experienced the miracle of love that takes place with adoption.
            R’s aunt was unable to have children as well. R saw firsthand the blessings of adoption in the life of his family and with his cousins. R desired from a young age to adopt children one day too.
            When we were ready to begin our family we immediately pursued adoption. We adopted our first two children BEFORE we ever tried to get pregnant. We knew that we would love adopted children the same as biological children, and so it didn’t matter what order our children came to us.
            Later on, we found out that we did indeed have fertility problems. We are so thankful that we had already experienced the blessing and miracle of adoption in our lives.

Open adoption

It has been said that adoption is more like a marriage than a birth: Two or more individuals, each with their own mix of needs, patterns, and genetic history, coming together with love, hope, and commitment for a joint future. You become a family not because you share the same genes, but because you share love for each other.

All of our birth families have placed their children for adoption because they love them! We love our birth families and consider them family! Four of our five adoptions are EXTREMELY open. We love it! We care for our birth families and enjoy sharing as much as they want...with them. We took a special trip to Hawaii for our boys to meet their birth families. We plan on arranging a special trip for C and D in a couple of years so that they can meet their birth families. We talk to the birth families on the phone often, and through email. We also send lots of pictures and letters. We love them so much.

E’s parents have chosen to have a closed adoption. They did set up an email account in her name. We send updates to it along with pictures. We don’t know if we will ever hear back from them, but we are grateful for the opportunity to pass on information to them. As all of our birth families…they are such wonderful, dear people!

We set up a family blog that would enable you to follow our lives too. It is in the beginning stages. This will serve as a great way to see all the many fun, wonderful, and crazy moments in our lives.

If an adoption plan is made, we will be honored to respect your level of openness whatever that
might be.

Why Down syndrome?

The desire to adopt a child with Down syndrome comes from an inner, natural interest that we have for people with special needs. J has always had a special love for children, especially children with special needs. When J was ten years old, and in the fourth grade she decided to give up her recess time at school for something more. During her fourth, fifth, and sixth grade years she volunteered in the special education rooms at her school during every recess. She became close to the children, and loved them. They loved her as well.
 After sixth grade, her service to others with special needs did not end. In Junior high school, she was a teacher’s aide for the special education classroom. She would spend time each day with them. She loved teaching them life skills, and being a good example for them.
In High School, J headed up a summer day camp for people with Down syndrome. She contacted the Special Olympics. They provided her with individuals, and she provided them with a fun day camp. J went around to different church youth groups educating them about Down syndrome and inviting them to volunteer. The day camp was a huge success, and everybody involved was touched.
After J married, she continued her service to individuals with special needs. She worked a summer for the Easter Seals program. This program provides summer care and fieldtrips to people with many different disabilities.
Because of J’s love for people with special needs she took a couple of special education classes in college. The education she gained from these classes has been invaluable in assisting her in educating others about children with special needs and in advocating for E.
R also has a special place in his heart for those with disabilities…Down syndrome in particular. Growing up, his neighbor and friend had Down syndrome. R enjoyed growing up alongside of his friend. R always welcomed and loved him. He always went out of his way to include him, and to be his friend.
In 2008, our love for children with Down syndrome became more intensified. This occurred when R’s cousin had a child with Down syndrome. When we first learned about our new little cousin… our hearts were immediately filled with love for this special boy who had just joined our family. At the same time, our hearts yearned for this blessing in our own personal life. We cannot explain this feeling, except to say that it was a deep desire within in our hearts.
In June 2010 we were able to adopt E. She is a sweet and charming girl who has Down syndrome. Adopting her was truly a miracle in our lives, and we know that she is meant for our family. It has been so exciting to see her reach different developmental milestones. It has been so rewarding to learn more about her specific needs, and to advocate for her. It is also touching and heartwarming to see our children with her. They truly treat her as a special girl. They love her, protect her, and watch out for her. She has already opened their eyes to the importance of focusing on peoples ABILITIES, and not disabilities. B, our son that is eight years old wants to be “a movie maker” when he grows up. He goes onto say… “I will make the first Disney princess who has Down syndrome.” He along with the other children sees E as a wonderful sister. Most importantly, we love E because she is E.

Why we want to adopt another child with Down syndrome

Our children have come to us in twos. We believe this was not an accident, but truly a blessing for them and for our family. We see the closeness they share and the bond they have. They are truly best friends, and are grateful for each other. When we see them together, we just can’t imagine their lives without each other.

We feel that a sister with Down syndrome would be a wonderful blessing to E, and to the other child with Down syndrome. We have talked with several people that have older children with Down syndrome. They have expressed to us that the later part of elementary school has brought challenges and differences for their children with Down syndrome. They have explained that it seems that during those years is when their friends realize and recognize that the child with Down syndrome is different than they are, and on a different social and cognitive level. Consequently, these families have found that this is when the play dates slow down, and they have less and less friends coming over. We hope this will not be the case with E as J has advocated at an early age for E to have many friends with Down syndrome. (see the section: extra support for a child with Ds) We know that E will always have friends, and siblings to love her, play with her, and help her. However, because of the closeness we see between our boys and C and D we feel that a sister with Down syndrome will bless E’s life, and the child’s life forever (not to mention our life). What a blessing to always have a sister to be with, and to share life with… now, and as they grow into adulthood. We picture adding an apartment onto our house and letting them live together there. What a blessing to always have a best friend.

This desire is something that we feel we must act upon. By following our previous desires, we have been blessed with five remarkable children…meant specifically for our family. We love all of our children, and count them as our greatest blessings and treasures. Each one of our children is different and unique. Our family is diverse on the outside and on the inside. We view this as a great strength! We feel the same is true by welcoming another child with Down syndrome into our family. We know that another child with Down syndrome will bring certain strengths, qualities, and talents that only they can contribute to our family. We are committed to advocating for each child through their hardships and challenges, and are committed to loving them forever.

Extra support for a child with Down syndrome

We know the importance of reaching out to our children and their individual needs and interests. J attends a weekly playgroup for families that have adopted African-American children. We feel it is essential for our girls to see others that look like them, and who have families similar to theirs. J also helps to organize a Marshall Island adoption reunion each summer. People from all over the world come. Again, it is a way for our children to connect with their culture, and to be reminded that their differences are strengths!

In January 2011 J set up a yahoo group for Utah families that have been touched by Down syndrome. It is a wonderful group and resource. It is so wonderful to be able to go to a group of people who have experience. It is very helpful to be able to ask them questions as they arise. We truly learn from each other. J has learned of many services available to those with Down syndrome from the members of this group. We enjoy getting together and letting the kids play. We have had a couple of mom’s night out. We plan to have panels, family activities, music class, and more.

We also participate in activities sponsored by the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation. They provide outreach, training, counseling, support, education, and information for us as well. As with the yahoo group we share experiences, challenges, goals and dreams.

When we as parents gain knowledge, we are empowered to become better advocates for our children, thus providing them with increased opportunities to reach their highest potential.

Our church also advocates for those with disabilities. You can see what resources they offer within the church for those with disabilities. They work hard to ensure that every member in the church has their needs met and are treated equally.

How many children do we want?

The saying goes, “never say never.” We won’t say that after we find our second daughter with Ds that we are finished adopting. We will say though… that at this time, we believe that is true.