During my 19 years as a priest, I have been told by too many special-needs parents that their doctors recommended abortion when Down syndrome was diagnosed in their unborn babies.
I have come across many women who carry the heavy burden of having trusted a doctor’s opinion — and bought into the argument that the burdens of a special-needs child are simply too much to take on in this life.
Every time these women see a special-needs child, they are dramatically reminded of their fatal decision. This psychological and emotional suffering can become almost unbearable.
Thankfully, there are many couples willing to go the extra mile and endure the painstaking process and financial sacrifices of adopting and raising some beloved children.
Some go to foreign countries, some go to their local adoption agency — but very few go the route of intentionally adopting a special-needs child.
So I was deeply moved to hear a recent story from Jody and Bob Infanger, residents of Harrison, New York. The couple welcomed another family from across the country into their home, as this couple needed a place to stay while their paperwork to adopt a child cleared state lines.
This very special couple already had four children of their own — but felt called to adopt a child with Down’s syndrome.
Jody Infanger shared a bit of her experience with this family (who chose to remain anonymous for their children’s privacy).
“They had tried three times before [to adopt], and each time the birth mother wound up keeping the child,” she said. “Although these were beautiful and emotional experiences for the once-hesitant mothers, it had left this couple feeling they might not be called to adopt, as they had planned. Then they received a call that changed their life. Their little angel was born prematurely and was in the hospital for a few weeks, and then was lovingly cared for by a foster mom.”
Within a few days, the couple arrived in New York and “met their sweet daughter,” Jody Infanger continued. “My family has been so blessed and enriched to have had them in our home for 12 days. Waiting to hear they were cleared to fly home was such a happy day. Their beautiful choice enriched me and my family — and our hearts are forever touched. I am now lovingly called Grandma Jody.”
Another generous group of parents are those who choose to be foster parents. The children involved typically come from very difficult family situations, and there is often a high risk of their having serious developmental issues.
Once again — it comes down to the dignity of human life and the desire to give children a chance at a normal life within the structure of a loving home.
Matt and Mary McCormick of Rockville, Maryland, have fully embraced the temporary role of foster parents for newborn babies who need them.
“The program has us picking up newborn children from the hospital two days after they are born, and we keep the infants for usually 30 days before they go to their adoptive families,” Matt McCormick told me. “The children come from all different backgrounds and situations, and each has their own story.”
“I personally love this program,” he added, “because our five children know they have to ‘step it up’ and really help. This has been such a blessing to our house, and I love seeing our children with the infant of a different background, giving the baby love and affection. At the end of the 30 days, we hand the baby over to a loving couple — who have often been waiting in the system for years.”
He added with poignance, “This is a very sad and emotional time for our family, but our children know that the baby will be given a great chance with the new family.”
Such a beautiful ministry — and such an incredible gift for these innocent children to have a chance in life.
Every child is a gift from God, but God also needs generous people to give these babies a home.
These selfless and kind couples will never make the front page of The New York Times. Many people in our society today cannot even imagine anyone doing this — yet clearly God has put this desire in their hearts, and He will reward them abundantly.
Every child is a gift from God, but at times, God also needs generous people to give these little babies a home with caring parents — parents who can reflect His heavenly love and concern.
Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.