Family Works

Speaking on adoption

Rob Coombs ID. Min. Ph.D.
Posted 6/25/17

Thirty-two years ago, my wife and I began the adoption process.

Our decision to adopt our second child was based on a combination of several factors, chief among them our desire to provide …

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Family Works

Speaking on adoption


Thirty-two years ago, my wife and I began the adoption process.

Our decision to adopt our second child was based on a combination of several factors, chief among them our desire to provide opportunities to a child who might not otherwise have much of a chance. For this reason, we decided to apply for a special-needs child, understanding that such children are often difficult to place.

The adoption approval process was exciting, entertaining and interesting. Over six months, along with an extensive investigation of our personal lives, we were asked hundreds of questions concerning what type of child we would consider adopting. “Would you adopt a child from an obese father?” “Would it matter if the mother had red hair?” “Would you consider a child who has a physical deformity?” “Would you consider a biracial child?” We patiently answered all the questions but stressed that any child would do — black, white, or purple — it just didn’t matter. All that mattered was that the child needed two loving parents.

Following the final session with the social worker in our home, she gathered her stuff to leave and told us that we had qualified to be placed on the “waiting for adoption list” and, then, paused and said, “Enjoy your little girl. I’ll mail you an official letter stating you have been approved, but even after approval, waiting for your special needs child typically takes two to three years.” We assured her that we could be patient.

The next day our social worker called. “I did mail your approval letter yesterday, like I promised, but I’m calling to tell you that I have a baby for you to consider for adoption today.” I still remember hanging up the phone and turning to my wife in disbelief. “We need to go to the hospital. Our son may be there.”

When we walked into the neonatal intensive care unit, we were guided to a 7-day-old infant, a pitiful 4-pound baby who had so many wires and tubes running from his body that it was difficult to get a good look at him.

The doctor seemed eager to tell the baby’s story. His mother had given birth to him the last day of the semester before having to return home from the university she attended. He had been born at least six weeks early, maybe more. Both of his lungs had collapsed in the hospital nursery. The doctor suspected that he had experienced oxygen deprivation to the brain as a result of this. Mental retardation seemed likely. The fluid in his lungs made breathing a struggle. The ongoing need for high oxygen levels on a respirator increased the likelihood that he might lose his eyesight.

We looked at the doctor and looked and listened to this young infant struggle for each breath. “What’s the best we can expect?” we asked.

“Probably the best would be a sighted child with a low-functioning IQ.”

We asked for 24 hours to think, talk and pray about our decision. It really didn’t take that long. Both Janet and I knew that this was the child we wanted. We returned to the intensive care unit and began assisting in his care. Three weeks later we took him home and our family has never been the same since.

Ironically, we had wanted to be a blessing to a child in need, but just the opposite happened. He again and again has blessed our lives. Adoption is so much fun! Because there are no genetic ties, we found ourselves amazed by his development. What would he look like? What would his personality be like? Everything was (and still is) an adventure. And not only is adoption fun, it’s a win/win situation for the parents. If he turns out wonderful, we can always claim it was our parenting skills. If he turns out rotten, we can always attribute this to genetics.

What happened to this 4-pound pitiful infant? He’s a graduate of Cleveland High School and the University of North Carolina School for the Arts. He now works in film in Los Angeles, and simply loves all the concrete, the diversity of people, and especially the challenge of his work.

Needless to say, his IQ was never a problem, unless you consider being too smart at times for his own good. As best as I can tell, there was only one lasting effect from his trauma at birth. It seems to have affected the mechanism in his brain that allows him to see the mess in his space. To this day, he still doesn’t appreciate the joy of order like his dear old Dad.

Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.


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