Last month I wrote about the Rosenows, their 14 adopted children, and The Shepherd's Crook (TSC), their adoption ministry ("Called to Adopt," Dec. 4). TSC works with agencies to find adoptive families for international children with special needs. It also accepts donations on behalf of families as they struggle to pay adoption-related expenses that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
Readers wanted to hear more about TSC, so here's the experience of Eric and Kim Elder, who have 10 biological children. They did not plan to adopt, but then a 7-year-old Ethiopian girl with a heart defect appeared on TSC's email list. That caught their eye because ever since their 3-year-old daughter died of a heart defect, they have had a special concern for children afflicted with heart problems. TSC worked with an adoption agency to find a home in the United States where the child could receive needed medical care.
The Elders prayed for the little girl but did not consider adopting her: Their youngest child was only 3 months old, they were starting a new year of homeschool, they had two children in college, they were still hurting from the death of their daughter, and they didn't have money for adoption. But when one adoptive family for the Ethiopian girl backed out, and "email after email saw no family stepping forward," Kim says she and her husband began praying about what to do: Adopting her was still "something neither one of us really thought we could do, or even wanted to do."
They had been reading through John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion and Russell Moore's Adopted for Life. Kim recalls, "As we read Calvin, we were becoming more attuned to the gospel, until finally one day Eric said, 'This orphan has been placed in front of us. God says to take care of orphans and widows. Are we going to obey God and care for her or are we going to walk away? We need to adopt her.' This was a long process-it took us about three months to make the decision."
Before the adoption occurred they had a chance to talk to a doctor who had done heart surgery on the girl in the United States when she was 5. They discovered from him that she also had a hearing loss and scoliosis: "This did not cause great joy on our end, but we knew we were facing an obedience issue-that God had called us to adopt this girl and really what did it matter what her issues were. Were we going to obey?"
When they brought Anna home in May 2010, they discovered that she had a 95 percent spinal curve and was virtually nonverbal because of her hearing loss (which is correctable). But there was also good news: Her heart is doing well, and spinal surgery went much better than expected, resulting in a nearly straight spine, although she will need some future surgeries on her legs and feet.
"We cannot say that the road has been easy-in fact I think it is the hardest thing we have ever chosen to do. We have learned so much more about our adoption in Christ-the parallels are so striking."
Couples involved with TSC have many more stories, and here are two in brief:
Steve and Chris Jack already had two adopted children when they began thinking about adopting special-needs kids. Through TSC they first adopted Sasha, a 2-year-old Russian burned in infancy with scars and a disfigured right hand; later José, a 1-year-old Guatemalan with cerebral palsy; and last year they adopted through another agency 15-year-old Alex from Russia, who lost both hands and his right forearm to bacterial meningitis when he was 15 months old.
Each has brought challenges. Sasha had several surgeries and painful skin grafts, but is now healthy and able to use his right hand. José in the last two years has gone from a wheelchair to a walker and can now run. Alex, according to Chris Jack, "is amazing in all of his abilities and is also a joy and quite a funny guy."
After talking to the Rosenows, James and Micheline Moorhouse in 2003 decided they could adopt children with spina bifida, so the Cincinnati couple, working through TSC, traveled to China twice in 2004 and 2005 to pick up Melanie Joy and Bella. There, Micheline says, "We were able to witness firsthand the plight of orphans. . . . Bella's neurosurgeon told us after her spinal surgery that Bella would soon have become paralyzed had she not gotten the surgery she so desperately needed." Contrast that with Bella's current reality: "She insisted that I watch the back flip she learned in her dance class."
The strains of adoption
When families don't sufficiently consider the strains of adopting older or special-needs children, Bob and Ramona Edwards of Huntsville, Ala., step in. They have adopted eight of their 11 children, and their specialty is adopting older children (ranging in age from 8 to 14). Their experience helps them to counsel other families who struggle with older adopted children: They hope, Ramona says, "to avoid dissolutions and keep families together."
The Edwardses have also adopted children whose previous adoptions have dissolved: "Parenting a child from an adoption dissolution brings tremendous emotional challenges (more so even than the three teens we had previously adopted from Russia), as the adopted child has gone through the process of having been rejected at least twice, once by biological parents, once by adoptive parents." Ramona tells the story of her daughter, one of a sibling group of three sisters from Vietnam, whose adoptive mother realized soon after bringing them home "that she was ill equipped to handle parenting these young girls, whose ages were approximately 3, 6, and 11."
The adoptive mother contacted TSC to help her find another home for these children, resulting in an urgent message to the email list. The Edwardses contacted the adoptive mother and learned she had decided to separate the siblings, with the two younger girls going to another adoptive family and the older girl going to a state agency. The Edwardses "pleaded to adopt all three of the girls, but when it became clear that this would not be possible, we set out to adopt the older girl, sight unseen."
The process to adopt went quickly. Within a week of hearing about her, the Edwardses had guardianship of their new daughter. About 10 days later Ramona and her daughter flew home to join the rest of the family: "Our daughter was deeply traumatized by having been separated from her siblings, but by the grace of God we were slowly able to win her heart and truly have her as a part of our family."