The Unadoptable Child

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We had three boys and a girl. One would think that would be family enough. Yet I wanted another child—a girl—so our daughter would have a sister. We really couldn’t afford another child, so I felt I’d found our answer when I read a newspaper article about foster care. I pushed the paper in front of my husband.

“Jerry, look at this. Read this article and tell me what you think.”

After he’d had time to read it, I said, “We could afford another child if it were a foster child, as the state would pay us for her care. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get a girl close to Eva’s age, so they could enjoy growing up together?”

After we’d had time to mull over my latest idea, we agreed to contact the state social services. A social worker visited us several times, asking a myriad of questions. Then came the bombshell. “Would you be willing to take a handicapped child?”

We already had one child with serious health issues. Arthur was thirteen and had already lived more than twice as long as the doctors had predicted. He had cystic fibrosis but was doing very well. The social worker was impressed with the attitudes we had about raising him and felt she had another child in mind that would be well-placed with us.

“Tina is four-years-old and has cerebral palsy. Here, I have a picture of her.” The social worker handed us the photo of a little girl in a wheelchair with dark hair, curled fists and a plaintive look on her face. The worker left the photo with us while we met with our children over the coming days and discussed whether we should take Tina into our home.

As I prayed over our decision, I realized this would be a way we could do something for God, who had done so much for us in keeping our son healthy. But it would be important for the whole family to agree to bring this child into our fold.

The neighbors two doors down from us had a son with cerebral palsy and were very willing to share their experiences with us. That helped, as we had never known anyone with this affliction.

A few days later, my husband and I arrived at the institution where Tina was living. She was so tiny! Her name definitely fit her. When she came into our arms, she hugged us so tightly. She now had a momma and daddy.

Her new brothers and sister awaited our return home. On our way, I told my husband, “We’re never going to be able to let her go.” She had captured my heart quickly and completely.

In our earlier family conference, our oldest son was the only one who did not want to bring Tina into our family, as he felt she would hold us back from our many activities. Since he was the only one who objected, he was outvoted. It took him a week before he warmed up to her.

I was so proud of every child, as they helped Tina do all the things we did. They pushed her in her wheelchair up mountains, took her on carnival rides, and they even went water-skiing—my favorite. After Tina had spent a few years with us, one of my sons gave her a piggy-back ride, and she loved the experience. At first, she was afraid to try anything, but with her new siblings she learned to love trying every new thing. We put water wings on her and let her swim around the pool on her own. She loved the independence.

Within two years, we decided to move to another state, so we asked the social worker if we could adopt Tina. The support money would stop if we did this, but we’d decided we could handle that after all. But then the social worker told us Tina was on the unadoptable list. Flabbergasted, I asked what that meant. She said it was because Tina had three strikes against her. Most adoptive parents wanted white, healthy babies.

Tina didn’t fit in any of those categories. She was now six-years-old, was severely handicapped and was a minority. But none of that mattered to us, so she was soon a legal member of our family.

Tina has almost unintelligible speech, cannot walk and is unable to use her hands to feed herself or work a zipper or buttons. She remains at a preschool academic stage, yet she socially understands at an adult level. She does everything she can for herself and isn’t afraid to ask for help with what she can’t do. She has a happy outlook on life—inspiring family and friends all of these years. We’ve been so very blessed with this “unadoptable child.” And thank God for the faith to step out on uncharted waters.

Janice Grady is a writer from Carson City, NV.