Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My White House speech

Good afternoon.

My name is Bethany and this is my husband Kyle. Never in our lives did we think we would have the opportunity to present our story in this type of forum. But, we are here. We are completely honored.

Kyle and I were married in 1999, nearly 11 years ago. Shortly thereafter, we were ready to expand our family. We experienced infertility for three years before finally conceiving our son via in vetro fertilization in 2003. During that time, we browsed many photolistings of children available for adoption. Our hearts were touched, but our desire to have a biological child was greater.

Little did we know, we were being prepared for what was to come.

In January 2004, our son Mason, was born … and exactly two years later, I gave birth to our daughter, Payton. Shortly after her birth, we learned that she has Down syndrome. Her diagnosis rocked our world. It is difficult to put into words the range of emotions that you experience after receiving a diagnosis like this. Happiness, sadness, hope and fear. None of those things, however, can conquer love. If there is one thing that Payton has taught us, it is to love unconditionally and to appreciate the simple things in life.

And it is because of Payton that we have this little girl here with us today.

Meet Addison. For the first two years of her life, she was an orphan. She lived in a baby home in St. Petersburg, Russia, never to be visited by her birth family and never to be visited by a potential adoptive family. Why? Because she has Down syndrome.

In November 2008, we welcomed Addison … or “Nika”, as we call her … into our family. After having Payton, our eyes were opened to international adoption of children with Down syndrome. Quite frankly, although we had previously browsed photolistings, we ultimately were able to have our biological children and adoption was not really something we needed to pursue.

But we pursued adoption because Nika needed a family. And our family needed her. After hearing stories about children with Down syndrome being institutionalized at age four simply because of their disability, we knew that we were being called to adopt. We fell in love with a picture of this little girl. We knew that we could give her a great life. We were familiar with Down syndrome. We already had the resources to get her the help she needed.

But finances stood in the way.

International adoption is not cheap. And we most certainly did not have the cash sitting around to complete an adoption. But we found a way.

We raised funds. We received incredible support from family and friends. We had garage sales, bake sales and raffles. But the fundraising only took us so far. That is where the Adoption Tax Credit kicked in. It became our life line in allowing us to complete our adoption. Knowing that we could count on the tax credit to reimburse us for a good portion of our expenses, we were able to proceed. It allowed us to get back on our feet, so to speak, after our adoption was complete.

Adopting a child with special needs brings a lot more expense than that of a typical child. Doctor visits, therapies … it all adds up. We needed all the financial support we could get. The Adoption Tax Credit was a huge part of that. … as it is for so many families throughout the United States. International adoption of children with Down syndrome has recently become a movement, for lack of a better word, in the Down syndrome community. Our community is intertwined on a national level and so many of us have watched each other bring these children home. Most of these families have relayed that finances were the #1 hurdle in their adoption. Knowing that we have the support of the Adoption Tax Credit goes without saying … it is helping to make it possible for these children to come home where they belong.

Our family has been forever changed by Nika. Being able to experience an international adoption is in and of itself amazing. The bond that we have formed with her is something I never thought possible. She has grown in so many ways since coming home from Russia … we are so excited for what the future holds for her. The bond that she has with her brother and sister is unbreakable. Yes, there have been challenges … but those challenges have been far outweighed by love. We are so excited that our girls have each other. They will have each other for the rest of their lives. They are thriving, as is the heart of their big brother just for being who he is … the big brother to two very special little girls with Down syndrome.

Outside of Nika’s impact on our family, so many around us have been equally impacted by her adoption. Adopting a child with Down syndrome is not the norm, but to be honest … it is moving to see how people’s hearts are touched by something that seems unbelievable to so many. If we have inspired just one person to adopt, then our job is done. I know for a fact that the Adoption Tax Credit is what seals the deal for so many families.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nika. Or, Addy.

Addy ... Addy ... Addy.

That is what Payton now calls Nika ... and we have no idea why. Or where she got it from. We assume that one of her teachers or therapists are referring to her as Addy, given that her name is Addison. But we rarely call her Addison ... and we have never called her Addy!

Quite frankly, we think it is adorable that Payton has her own little name for Nika. And we love how she says it ... oy, time for a name change?

Poor Nika.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who am I and how did I get here?

A couple days ago, I received a phone call from our adoption agency asking if we would be interested in attending a White House event having to do with adoption, The Adoption Tax Credit and the Affordable Care Act.

Umm, yes please!

I experienced a wee bit of intimidation after I received a call stating, "You will be receiving a phone call from the White House shortly. The number will likely show up as being private, so make sure you answer your phone."

Umm, yes sir!

Everyone I have dealt with has been more than nice ... and not intimidating at all. But, that doesn't mean I am not nervous as all get out ... because I am.

Kyle, Nika and I will be there. I will be giving a five minute speech about our adoption and what the tax credit has meant for our family.

The invitation from the White House ...

Please forward this invitation widely


You are Invited to a Webcast:

Helping American Families:
The Adoption Tax Credit and the Affordable Care Act

Date: Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Time: 12:30 PM Eastern, 11:30 AM Central, 10:30 AM Mountain, 9:30 AM Pacific

Watch live at: www.hhs.gov/live

You are invited to join senior administration officials and leading advocates for a webcast to discuss the importance of the Adoption Tax Credit, and the key improvements made to the Credit under the Affordable Care Act.

This event will feature two families who are benefitting from the Adoption Tax Credit and who will share their stories about what adoption has meant for their family.

They will be joined by leading advocates on the Credit: Bill Blacquiere, Bethany Christian Services; Barbara Collura, RESOLVE; and Chuck Johnson, National Council for Adoption.

White House and HHS officials will also join this roundtable.

Please forward this invitation widely.

You do not need to RSVP for this webcast.

PS ... Please pray I do not stumble on my words. That would be fantastic. ;)