In five years of doing foster care, David and April McCarthy have had 13 foster children stay in their home – all of them boys. They have eight children, three biological sons and five sons adopted through foster care. Even still, when they got the call one year ago asking if they would foster a 1-year-old girl and her 1-month-old sister who suffered a brain injury at birth, they never hesitated. They answer was yes.
Addison came to the McCarthy home in Lubbock, Texas, straight from the NICU, where she 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.
At 1-month-old, Addison was seven pounds, and they couldn’t get her to gain weight or stop crying. At night, Addison would continue to cry and scream. April and David were lucky if they got 30 minutes of sleep.
“It was just us,” David said. “I was trying to work and April was trying to take care of the other kids. We were like zombies.”
When Addison was just shy of 3 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, an issue possibly related 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.
Doctors immediately operated, putting a shunt in her brain. Then at the end of the month, inserted a feeding tube since Addison 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.”
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 been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
At times, caring for a child with special needs can be challenging, but David and April see it as a privilege.
“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.”
Caring for Addison has prompted April to go back to school this year and become a registered nurse.
“I’ve actually always wanted to be a nurse,” April said. “I’ve been busy raising a family, but after getting Addison, she’s really motivated me. I feel it will help me parent her better as well just to have that extra education.”
The parental rights for Addison and her sister 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.”
Editor's note: On Dec. 22, David and April McCarthy adopted Addison and her sister Ashlyn. To see a picture of the entire McCarthy family on adoption day, click here.