April and David began the foster care journey more than five years ago to give girls who needed a home a safe, loving environment. Thirteen foster sons, including five adoptions, later, they finally received the first little girls, Addison* and her older sister, Ashlyn*, into their home through foster care.
“Ashlyn is pretty sassy and stubborn,” says mom April. “She’s goofy, silly, loving and sweet.”
Addison, who suffered a brain injury at birth, came to the McCarthy home straight from the NICU, where she had spent a month recovering from a difficult birth. The extent of her brain injuries was unknown at the time, but she had several doctor’s appointments scheduled with specialists to follow-up on her case.
“All we knew is she had a brain injury from birth, but we really didn’t know what we were getting into,” April said.
When Addison was just shy of three months old, April took her to the hospital for an MRI. For April, it was just another of a multitude of appointments for Addison. But later that day, their pediatrician called and told them to take Addison immediately back to the hospital. She already had a bed waiting for her.
The MRI showed fluid on her brain, a secondary injury to her original brain injury at birth.
“It was causing so much pressure, it was actually crushing her brain, making her brain shrink,” David said.
They immediately had a surgery to place a shunt. Then at the end of the month, they did another surgery to insert a feeding tube, since she still wasn’t gaining any weight. After the second surgery, Addison’s constant crying ceased.
“They put in her feeding tube and that flipped a switch,” April said. “She stopped crying.”
“She was just so hungry all the time,” David added, “and she couldn’t get the nutrients she needed.”
Addison is now 1-year-old and hasn’t had any more surgeries though she often has follow-up MRIs with the neurosurgeon. She has since also been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She is still little for her age, but the feeding tube has helped tremendously.
At times, caring for a child with special needs can be challenging, but David and April see it as a privilege to care for her.
“It did take some time to get used to,” David said. “Some people questioned if we were sure we wanted to do this, and we’d [answer] ‘yeah.’ If she was our own child, we wouldn’t just give up on her. That’s not fair to her. It’s not her choice. She will still be loved just the same way as any other child.”
“Addison is our sweet little princess,” April added. “She’s our precious little angel.”
Cristian Garcia, director of foster care and adoption in Lubbock, said children with special needs are harder to place and having families like the McCarthys who can love and support children like Addison is important and needed.
“Many times, you see families wanting children who are certain ethnicities or nationalities, but children with intellectual disabilities are often overlooked,” Garcia said. “Every child deserves a loving family regardless of their needs and abilities.”
While caring for a child with special needs has been challenging, David and April also see the joy.
“It’s been surprising,” April said. “They’re called special needs because they are special. They just touch your heart in a special way I would have never imagined.”
The parental rights for Addison and Ashlyn have been terminated, and April and David intend to adopt them at the end of this year or early next.
“We’ll just take it one day at a time,” David said. “We already know there’s a good chance Addison will need care her whole life and that’s OK. They only gave her 40 percent chance of living past seven months. We’re passed all that. She’s an amazing little girl – our miracle baby.”
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*Name has been changed to protect privacy