Special Needs

Special needs. When thinking about adopting our first child (and starting our family as a very young, tight-budget couple), we didn't even entertain the thought of special needs at first. During your homestudy, you have to be so very specific about what types of needs you will be open to during your referral. Vision problems? Speech delay? Minor correctable issues? HIV? Skin or bone Deformities? It was humbling to go through that list and think about what we thought we could handle as parents.

The first time we did our homestudy, we decided to just be safe and basically put "as healthy as possible" as our guideline. The unknowns of our child's medical and family history were one thing, but to know about issues, well that seemed to be too much for us.

Thankfully, our adoption journey was over two years long, and we ended up moving, had some financial changes, and needed to update our homestudy. At the time of our second homestudy, God had really moved our hearts to expand beyond our original parameters. Although the expansion was not as much as we would probably agree to today, it was enough for God to work sovereignly to match us with our son.

Our son Israel came home at 7 months old, having lived 6 1/2 months of his short life in institutionalized care. It was clear when we met him during our first trip to Ethiopia that he had some developmental delays, and that the institutionalized care was already shaping his behavior and interaction with us. That awareness did not deter us from moving forward, of course, and we were immediately knit together with this precious boy who needed a family so much.

Israel has been home 11 months now, and we have had a long, emotional process of evaluating and caring for Israel's special needs. I am careful not to put a checklist of his issues anywhere on the internet, because I feel that his situation is sensitive and I am in charge of protecting his story. But what the Lord has done in me over the last year, I feel that I have been given the authority to share.

Having a son with special needs has taught me:
1. God is sovereign. He gives to each of us exactly as He sees fit. Sometimes I question myself and my ability to parent Israel and his specific needs. But I am reminded that God didn't make a mistake - he chose me because HE will be glorified in my weakness and in our story.

2. I have more reasons to celebrate. Sometimes it is really discouraging, and I find myself caught up comparing Israel's milestones to other children. But then, when Israel does something small that is actually really big, like banging toys together for the first time, or holding his bottle or sippy cup- we rejoice so much! I am sure other parents are proud of their kids for those things, but for us, they are REALLY big deals. And I am so thankful that amidst the hard days and slow seasons, we have so many reasons to celebrate, and those things we may have overlooked if we had different expectations.

3. I need the help of others to be a good parent. Without our excellent team of case managers, therapists, family members, and even equipment, I would be lost. I am so thankful that God saw fit to provide us with a support system for our family, and that I wasn't given the opportunity to think I could do this thing alone. My personality can be introverted and do-it-myself at times, and Israel's needs have humbled me and allowed for some amazing people to be in our family's lives. I also have an excellent online community of mamas who are my prayer warriors and friends who I have cried and laughed with.

4. God is the Healer. We are trusting God to meet our needs and we are hopeful for Israel's future. We know that Israel won't be healed by therapy or by exercises alone. We trust in God's sovereignty and that God is doing a mightier work in us through this season than if he was 100% healthy.

5. I wouldn't want it differently. Having a son with special needs makes us long for more special needs children. Not that we have the ability to parent special needs kids better, but it has opened our hearts to see the joys and blessings. We know that if we do another homestudy, the checklist will be much different than our first one!

To God be the glory, for He has been faithful!


  1. Thank you for writing this! I actually just received our homestudy for review (to adopt from ethiopia) today and have struggled all along with how many special needs to be open to. Thank you for helping me/us be more open to more of what God could have in store.


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