Jen and Juan Benito decided to become foster parents to a special-needs baby after having three children of their own, yet they admit there were fixed feelings of uncertainty and downright terror in the beginning.
The parents had wanted to adopt but couldn’t afford the hefty fees charged by private adoption agencies. Then a social worker called and asked them if they would be willing to adopt a child with special needs not as a foster child but as one of their own.
This was Jana, soon to affectionately be known as Peanut, who had special needs. “She needed a house and we were ready to take her in,” Jen told The Epoch Times. “And so even though I was terrified, even though I didn’t think I could do it, my answer was yes.”
When the family realized that they just couldn’t afford the $30,000 cost of adoption, they turned their sights to fostering. “We thought it would be perfect for us because we had space and love to give,” Jen said. After doing all the paperwork and preparation for becoming a foster family, the Benito family got their first call.
It wasn’t for a foster placement, however; it was for Peanut’s adoption. When the Benitos found out that she had Down syndrome and a heart condition, they were still resolved to take her, though the parents had differing reactions.
Jen said she had “very, very, very little interaction with individuals [who had] any kind of disability growing up.” Meanwhile, Juan had worked in the behavioral health system, so it was “no big deal” to him, as Jen described it.
The Benitos didn’t have much information about Peanut before receiving her, though they welcomed her with open arms, as did their other children, who were surprised to gain a new sibling. “The kids were excited, though they were probably a lot more open about it,” Jen said. “Even then, it was about their ability to just love and accept.”
The Benitos had been told by the social worker that Peanut was 3 months old. They were amazed to see how tiny she was, only 7 pounds (approx. 3 kg), the weight of an average newborn. Dad Juan gave her the nickname Peanut due to her minute size, and it has stuck ever since.
Welcoming Peanut was just the first step, though, as the family had to go through a lengthy process of getting the adoption formalized and finalized. Despite Peanut’s physical and developmental challenges, which include Down syndrome and autism, she almost immediately won the family’s heart.
“She loves to be goofy, and makes all of us laugh here,” Jen said. “She is considered a non-verbal, and she’s non-vocal, because she doesn’t talk to us in any kind of vocal communication.”
That doesn’t mean that Peanut can’t get her point across. “We laugh because the look she gives us,” Jen adds. “If she could talk, she would probably be grounded a lot.”
While Peanut was diagnosed with many difficulties, she doesn’t seem to be aware of her limitations. After long months of physical therapy sessions, she learned how to walk after her third birthday. Mom Jen says that despite having the size and appearance of a younger child, 5-year-old Peanut is “running and jumping on everything and climbing on everything.”
One of the most exciting developments is Peanut getting her very own service dog, which will help her be more independent and provide her with emotional support and comfort.
Of course, it’s not just Peanut who has changed over the years. Jen and Juan, along with their three other children, have been transformed by the adoption experience. For Jen, raising Peanut helped her find her “purpose and calling,” having become an advocate for families with special-needs children. She has kept up a blog called Raising Peanut and even published a book about their journey.
Jen’s message to potential foster or adoptive parents is to “be willing to take the risk, because you don’t know what is going to come to you.”
She adds, “If we would have trusted our … initial fears we would have missed out on someone incredible and amazing.”
This couple has never thought that one day they will adopt a special needs child…Once they did, they know it's a blessing. ❤️
Dikirim oleh Inspired pada Rabu, 24 Juni 2020
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