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clark family adoption

This Is A Picture Of Why Adoption Matters.

Why does adoption matter? Why are some people so passionate and supportive of it? Is it worth all the paperwork, expenses, and emotional turmoil? Does it really change lives?

I know a family that would emphatically say that it does. I know a family that would say, while it has been a crazy, challenging, and exhausting journey, that it is absolutely, without question, worth any cost. I know a family that desperately wants people to truly see the needs of orphans and not just to merely observe or feel bad about their plight, but to do something about it.

When Jeremy and Nicole Clark began dating, they were already talking about adoption. They knew it was something they wanted to do, but figured it would be later on in their lives. They assumed they would have children biologically first and that adoption would come later. However, their plans changed soon after they were married.

This change didn’t come as a result of a drastic, unexpected event. Instead, as often happens in life, it came by way of small, gradual things. They met families in their church who had adopted and began to take an interest in their stories. They traveled as newlyweds to India, where, as Nicole so poignantly explained, “we were confronted with orphans for real.”

Being confronted with the actual faces of these kids for the first time changed things. Adoption, for them, no longer was a someday point down the line. They began also to see it as a way to live out their Christian faith, a way to do something “tangible for the gospel.” They further realized that they really were in a good position to pursue this and waiting didn’t really make much sense. They had two solid incomes, with Nicole’s work as a pediatric oncology nurse and Jeremy working as a teacher at a private school, and they had a good “nest egg” saved up. They also felt that Jeremy, with his master’s degree in special education, would be better prepared for any special needs issues that may come up. So they decided to take that leap from talking to doing.

Their original plan was to adopt from Africa, as they had become aware of the orphan crisis there from various books. However, due to many complicated issues, that plan fell through. It would have been easy, I think, to rationalize stopping at that point. After all, they had tried and it hadn’t worked out. Why invest more emotion, time and money into something that could just lead to more disappointment? But that isn’t what they did and the lives of four amazing boys have been beautifully blessed and changed by their determination to act.

The Clark’s first son, when he first came home at age 3.

Image used with permission from the Clark family personal photos.

The agency they had been working through for the Africa program emailed them about a country in Eastern Europe. They were matched with a little boy named Alex who had Down syndrome. While to some this might seem like a frightening hurdle, it was not for the Clarks. Nicole, in her profession, had taken care of many kids with Alex’s medical condition. She loved it and was familiar with what it would entail. Nicole and Jeremy brought their son Alex home in July of 2014.

Nicole recounts that those first few months of his homecoming were so special. She loved just seeing him get to play, to be a kid. He loved the water and spent a lot of time in the kiddie pool. They went on many walks together. She noted that “it took him a while to seek out things to do,” as in his orphanage life “things just happened to him.” Oh how we take for granted that children can just play and be kids! Nicole says that toys he was given when he first came home at age three, he still has and loves to this day, at age eight.

Alex after being home for 4 years.

Image used with permission from the Clark family personal photos.

As the months went by, the questions began to come. Long-term, what’s the best way to parent him? Nicole had to sort through her own expectations and those of everyone around her. She had to find what she believed was best for her son, in spite of what society at large might say he needed or didn’t need.

So this story could have ended there. Those long-term questions could have caused them to stop. After all, they already had a lot of things to sort through. But that’s not how this story ends — far from it! The Clarks wanted to grow their family. They wanted to give other kids the things we can so easily take for granted, things like a home, family, stability, kindness, and love. In Nicole’s words, “We were motivated to act.” They saw “tons and tons of kids who needed homes.” And perhaps the most pressing reason was once again, their faith. “It was something the Lord was calling us to,” she said.

So in the spring of 2015, they started pursuing two boys, both with cerebral palsy! When asked why, Nicole explained that they had already planned to adopt a third time anyway, so why not adopt two now in one effort? So in July of 2016, Jonathan and David joined their family.

David, soon after joining the family.

Image used with permission from the Clark family personal photos.

An early picture of Jonathan, soon after he became a Clark.

Image used with permission from the Clark family personal photos.

I would not do this story justice without pausing to tell you a bit about Jonathan’s life before he became a Clark. When he came to their home, he was four. What was his life like before this? In Nicole’s words, “I’m fairly certain Jonathan spent his days in a crib, on his back.” This is a common occurrence in overseas orphanages with underpaid and overworked staff. She explained that Jonathan would cry whenever they had to leave. “His eyes were just pleading with us to see him — he just loved the interaction.” She said that he was never taken outside. Whenever they would see him, he had a large diaper on that looked as if it hadn’t been changed in a while.

She also told me, to my honest astonishment, that he was fed while lying on his back! He was fed through a bottle, mainly baby food blended with some bread. She recounts that she was told by the orphanage staff that he was given a substantial amount each day, but just by looking at him, she knew that wasn’t true. When he first came home, he had a lot of respiratory issues, most likely due to this feeding practice. Now that he has a proper feeding tube, all those breathing difficulties are gone! Thanks to modern medicine, he has a feeding tube that hooks directly into his stomach through the abdominal wall. This means that he can be given essential nutrients through the tube and can still experience the joys of tasting fun food by mouth. Nicole says that he loves to eat by mouth, particularly cheese puffs and barbecue chips. What kid doesn’t like chips?

A recent picture of Jonathan. He has come so far.

Image used with permission from the Clark family personal photos.

A recent picture of David.

Image used with permission from the Clark family personal photos.

Once again, this could have been the end of this family’s story. What more could they possibly be expected to do? Hadn’t they already done enough? This would be a reasonable place to stop. Well, in the fall of 2017, they started pursuing their fourth son, Simon. They had seen him previously while visiting David in his orphanage. Simon was David’s roommate and has Down syndrome, like Alex. According to Nicole, Jeremy had asked her if she would want to adopt one more time. She had said most likely not. When Jeremy asked what about David’s roommate, she conceded that would be the exception.

Well, as it turned out, a few months after that conversation, Simon’s profile showed up on Reece’s Rainbow. So in December 2018, Simon came home. These four kids, all from the same country and with differing medical conditions, are now brothers. They are a family and it is truly beautiful!

Simon, soon after arriving home.

Image used with permission from the Clark family photos.

A recent picture of Simon.

Image used with permission from the Clark family photos.

Many may wonder why anyone would do all this. Why give so much to those who can’t give back in a like manner? For the Clarks, once again, it comes down to faith. “We were living pretty comfortably and were convicted by that. We wanted a life that would not let us be complacent in our faith and we got it.” She says that “the Lord” has sustained them through all the challenges.

The amazing Clark clan.

Image used with permission from the Clark family photos.

I asked her what she wanted people to know about adoption in general, and her answer reflects her heart so well. “It is so needed, and so many of us talk about it and never do it. We shouldn’t be letting fears or uncertainties stand in the way of taking that first step of bringing a child home. The need is so clear!”

I want to end this story by telling you what Nicole wants you to know about her sons. “My kids, they’re amazing. There’s so much to love about them. I just see them, not their diagnosis. I wouldn’t change a thing about them. It’s so humbling to be their parents.” This is a picture of why adoption matters. This is a picture of life-changing faith in action. This is a picture of sacrifice, love, and hope. This is a picture of family!

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