By Stephanie Thompson, NDSAN Asst Director (guest blogger)
The National Down Syndrome Adoption Network began as a gentle nudge over 30 years ago. It began with the personal experience of a family connecting with a little girl who happened to be born with an extra chromosome. It began with an organization willing to take on a role “outside of the box”, to see a need, and find a way to make a difference.
Sometimes, life takes us in directions we never expected. Meeting Martha was one of those “life moments”. Martha was born to a young single mom who was not prepared to parent a child. So like many young single moms, she decided to leave her baby with an agency that promised they would find a family for her child. She left the agency that day with no idea that her little girl had Down syndrome. Martha’s agency had many families waiting to adopt healthy infants….but what could they do with this baby born with an extra chromosome? They made the decision to place Martha in a local group home, where she would be cared for by trained staff, who at the end of their shift, would tuck her in, maybe give her a kiss and a quick hug…. and go home to their families.
In 1975, David and Robin Steele were visiting a group home, where they met and fell in love with 4 year old Martha who was born with Down syndrome. They adopted her and brought her home. End of story? Hardly!
As a result of their experience with Martha, David and Robin went on to adopt three more children with Down syndrome. But they also created an adoption program under the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati back in 1982. The seeds for the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network were planted.
Over the next thirty years, the NDSAN grew from a handful of families and children, to a national registry that includes over 200 families and a process that enables and supports birth families as they plan for the future for their children. Robin Steele and Stephanie Thompson co-direct the 24 hour a day, 7 day a week program that responds to literally thousands of calls and requests from both birth and adoptive families.
Our mission has never changed…to ensure that every child with Down syndrome has the opportunity to grow up in a loving family. We would love to get information about our program distributed to the medical professionals who provide information to birth parents expecting a baby with DS. We would love to recruit more families desiring to add a child with Down syndrome to their family through adoption. We would love for all of you to share our information, through your newsletters or websites, request copies of our booklet, “A Loving Choice: Making an Adoption Plan for a Child with Down Syndrome” or our brochure “Planning for a Loving Future”. We also write articles for the DSAGC newsletter that you can reprint. Visit our website at www.ndsan.org to learn more!