For as long as she can remember, Elee wanted to adopt a child. When she became pregnant at the age of 18 and gave birth to her son, Javier, she shelved her interest in adopting to focus on her new life as a single parent.
Javier was born with cerebral palsy, vision challenges and other complications. Now, at 16 years old, he’s non-verbal, uses a wheelchair, and is fed through a gastric tube. While raising her son through years of health crises and complicated childcare, Elee earned a degree in nursing and started her career at a hospital that specializes in the care of children with special needs. There she met parents who had adopted children with health challenges, which reignited her dream to adopt.
Early in 2020, Elee searched online for waiting children in her home state of Minnesota. She came across a photo of Aaron, a teenage boy with medical challenges. Elee was immediately drawn to him. “It was an absolute sign from God that this was the right time.”
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At 16 years old, Aaron is two-and-a-half weeks younger than Javier. Aaron is also blind, uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, has limited verbal skills, and is fed through a gastric tube. Elee knew the lives of both boys would be enriched by having a sibling with such similar abilities.
The following day, she called Children’s Home and was put in touch with Aaron’s social worker who ran down the list of Aaron’s special needs. With her nursing skills and experience with Javier, both Elee and the social worker agreed Aaron was a great fit for the family. The adoption process quickly went into motion.
From that first day working with Children’s Home, I never felt alone. They allowed me to do what deep in my heart I knew I wanted to do.”
The adoption paperwork and home visits were completed online because of the pandemic. Elee managed to buy an accessible house but wondered how she would transport the two boys and their wheelchairs. Children’s Home helped solve that problem with a grant through the Adoption Support Fund to subsidize an accessible van.
When the day arrived for Elee to bring Aaron home, Javier was anxiously waiting to meet his new brother. “Javier turned his head in Aaron’s direction and just giggled the entire day,” Elee said. “It was just the sweetest moment for him.”
While Javier has always been outgoing and expressive, Aaron – because of his childhood difficulties that went beyond his disabilities – was very guarded. With time, he became more relaxed.
“When you talk with him or hold his hands, he opens right up,” said Elee. “He’s got the most beautiful smile and these amazing dimples.”
Day-to-day living can be tough, but Elee doesn’t dwell on that, or what might happen in the future. She lives by the advice she heard from the owner of a group home she worked at that helped her to accept her sons’ limitations.
“Meet people where they are,” said Elee. “All we have is today, and I want my sons to experience as much as they can, just like they are.”
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