Healing Hearts: Special Needs Children Beat the Odds
November is National Adoption Month. USCIS determines the eligibility and suitability of prospective parents for intercountry adoptions, and the eligibility of the children to immigrate to the United States. Here, adoptive parent Mary Sammons describes her and her husband’s experiences with adopting a child with special needs.
Ivy became our daughter on Feb. 14, 2011, just two and a half months shy of her second birthday. She was born with serious heart abnormalities. I was advocating for her to find a family. We had already adopted a little girl with a heart defect in 2009, and she was healthy and doing well.
Ivy's heart needed to have been repaired at birth and here she was, almost 2 years old. People in China said the surgery was far too complicated and there was not much likelihood of her survival, so they marked her as terminal and left it at that. The more we prayed for Ivy, the more we knew she was our daughter. How long or short her life would be didn’t matter. What mattered was that she deserved a family.
Our focus over the next several months would be to do everything humanly possible to get her home quickly. We had not started a single page of our dossier before falling in love with her. From starting the paperwork to holding her for the first time would take us just five months.
Throughout the process, I remember always being overcome with fear that I would make a mistake on the paperwork and slow down the process. Sure enough, toward the end, USCIS returned my I-800 after I submitted it not realizing it was missing pages 8 and 9. I was devastated!
I contacted our immigration services officer, Gretchen, and she walked me through everything possible to speed up our case. Gretchen was such a vessel in helping us get our daughter home quickly. From answering my many daily questions, to expediting all of our paperwork, to walking me through my error, she truly cared. To this day, she checks in on our little one, and I have made sure she knows the special place she has in our daughter’s story.
On Feb. 13, 2011, I held our daughter in China for the very first time. From that moment, I knew there was something incredibly special about her: Ivy loves big! And for what she may lack in size, she certainly makes up for in personality. She is a little character.
Ivy has had five open-heart surgeries since coming home. She is now a happy little 4-year-old with a family who absolutely adores her! We cherish every single day we have with her.
Thank you, USCIS, and special thanks to our amazing officer, Gretchen, for your great efforts in helping us get our daughter home quickly!