Family plans to adopt a special child with special needs

Though they already call two young daughters their own, Jerad and Anna Woods plan to soon make a special addition to their family?and in the process, save a life.

The Woods will be adopting a little boy with Down syndrome from Eastern Europe this winter.

?It just takes a leap of faith to step out,? Anna said. ?We just prayed about it, and we stepped out, and we feel like things are just coming together. It?s obviously God?s hand in it.?

The Woods started looking into adoption when, after the birth of their eldest, Leah, it appeared they would not be able to have more children.

They started looking into foster care or domestic adoption. They decided not to do foster care, and it became apparent it would be difficult to find just one child because younger children in the system are often placed as family units.

?We knew we didn?t have the room or capability to support that,? Anna said.

Around that time, the couple learned they were expecting their second daughter, Autum.

?Even then, it was still on my heart, wanting to adopt,? Anna said. ?I?d put these girls in bed at night, and hug them, and I?d just think that there?s kids who weren?t getting that.

?We have so much love to give them, and then there?s kids overseas who aren?t, so that weighed heavy on my heart.?

Anna works in Hutchinson two to three days a week leading exercise programs for people with special needs. She began getting e-mails from parents who had adopted Down syndrome children, asking advice.

?I started to get connected with people, and I started following other blogs, because it?s just interesting to read about their adoption journey,? she said.

Anna connected in particular with a woman who has six child?ren and is preparing to adopt a child with Down syndrome.

The woman introduced Anna to Reece?s Rainbow, a Christian international adoption agency specializing in placing special-needs children.

?They have all the little faces and the little stories about each child in the orphanages on their website,? Anna said. ?Just reading about these children breaks your heart.?

Unlike in the U.S., she said, in many areas of Europe, children with disabilities are placed in an institution after age 4. Children are often tied to the crib, sometimes with four to five in a single crib, and often are heavily sedated.

?The death rate within the first year is 80 or 90 percent,? Anna said. ?It?s unbelievable.

?You?re thinking, ?These children, they?re human, and they have needs and wants and cares just like anyone else.?

?It?s easier to be ignorant about it in our small, safe town. I became educated about it, and that?s when God first started tugging on my heart a little bit, saying, ?You guys could do this, too.??

Jerad was not too sure about the idea, though.

?I just wasn?t ready at the time,? he said. ?It didn?t matter who it was, I just wasn?t ready to accept it yet. It took me a little longer.?

Anna dropped the idea and she and daughter Leah picked out a special needs girl, Nadene, to be praying for until she should find her ?forever family.?

?Then I?d catch him looking at pictures at night on Reece?s Rainbow,? she said with a smile. ?I never said anything.?

One time they were both browsing pictures and they saw one of Blake, the boy they are adopting.

?After seeing him, it just felt right,? Jared said. ?Just like, he?s part of our family now. It clicked. And finding out what happens to them, and the way they?re treated, it just felt like something we ought to do. The right thing to do.?

Jerad asked Anna to find out more information about Blake, and within a few weeks, they began the laborious process of filing paperwork to begin the adoption process.

?I knew there?d be a lot of paperwork, but I don?t think you can fully fathom how much there is,? Anna said. ?By the time its all mailed, you have to start all over if you mess anything up.

?It?s a little overwhelming at first.?

After the paperwork is completed, the Woods will travel to Ukraine to file for adoption with the court there and return later to pick up Blake.

?Blake? isn?t the child?s real name. Children receive a faux name to protect their identity. The Woods will not even know their child?s real name, location, the name of his orphanage or his medical history before they arrive in Ukraine.

?It?s just a lot of stepping out in faith, as far as the unknown,? Anna said.

Thanks to Anna?s previous work with people with special needs, that aspect of their adoption will not be as much of an unknown?a factor Jerad said helped in their decision.

?The biggest challenge for me will be because I?ve never been around anybody with special needs,? he said. ?That?s one of the reasons I understood and went with it. If she hadn?t had any experience at all, I?d have been a lot more hesitant.

?If you have a child, you do it because you have to. This is a choice.?

Anna, who has worked with special-needs people since 2007, said she has always had a desire to help them.

?I feel like that?s part of God?s plan, forming that desire for them, that heart through my work with them,? she said. ?Now I can just see how everything plays out to lead us to where we are now.?

Leah has no qualms about the new addition, Anna said. She tells everyone she meets that she is getting a new brother.

Once over the initial shock, Anna said, both her and Jerad?s parents are supportive.

?They?re fully full-force now,? she said. ?Grandma keeps calling, ?Can you send us a picture???

Despite the challenges that are bound to arise, Jerad and Anna said they are excited to be able to make an impact in the life of a child with special needs.

?Just to give him something he would never get over there,? Jerad said.

Anna echoed his sentiment: ?You?re basically saving a life.?

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