Sunday, May 31, 2009

Maryland organization assists families in adopting children with Down syndrome from around the world

From the Catholic News Service:

WESTERLY, R.I. -- A Maryland-based organization is working against the trend of aborting Down syndrome babies by placing those children from around the globe with loving families in the United States.

Reece's Rainbow ( assists couples in adopting Down syndrome children from other countries. Founded in June 2006, Reece's Rainbow has already found families for more than 175 children with Down syndrome from 32 countries around the world, including Armenia, Haiti, Mexico, Ghana, Russia, Liberia, Vietnam and Korea.

An entirely volunteer organization, Reece's Rainbow prides itself on the fact that 100 percent of every dollar donated goes to the child, family or fund designated by the donor.

For decades doctors have recommended an amniocentesis test for pregnant women 35 and older because their age dictates a greater risk for chromosomal defects. Because the test carries a slight chance of miscarriage, it has not been routinely offered to younger women, who end up giving birth to the majority of Down syndrome babies.

But a 2007 recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encouraged doctors to offer a new screening procedure to all pregnant women, regardless of age. A sonogram and two blood tests in the first trimester now can detect the extra 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome.

An estimated 90 percent of all prenatal detections of Down syndrome are said to end in abortion.

Reece's Rainbow is not an adoption agency, but a nonprofit, volunteer organization that serves as a connecting point for Down syndrome children and potential adoptive families. It focuses on saving the lives of children who might otherwise face life, or death, in mental institutions abroad.

The organization also works to help birth families who choose to keep their children, and helps them begin their own Down syndrome associations that fight for the rights and inclusion of special-needs children in their own countries.

Reece's Rainbow was founded by Andrea Roberts, who has a Down syndrome child named Reece (pictured) who has changed her life.

"Yes, my son is the catalyst for Reece's Rainbow. But I lean on my belief that God has a specific purpose for everyone, and this is his calling for me through Reece," Roberts said. "Not everyone gets such an obvious call. I spent many years drifting through life, with no idea where I was headed. I love to help others and my love for Reece fuels my passion to defend and protect others like him."

Shelley Bedford and her husband have adopted two boys from two different countries through Reece's Rainbow. Their son, Xander, adopted from Ukraine in August 2007, has Down syndrome and bilateral clubbed feet. He has had major foot reconstruction surgery and is learning to walk at age 5.

Their other son, Grifyn, also 5, was adopted from Serbia in April 2008. Grifyn was the first child with Down syndrome to ever be adopted in Serbia. Bedford now volunteers with Reece's Rainbow to assist other families who are adopting from Serbia.

The Bedfords live in Alabama where Shelley's husband is in the U.S. Army.

"The most rewarding part is seeing the families meeting their new children," Bedford said. "It is amazing to watch the journeys that families go through and how God pulls it all together. It is an honor to be a small part of helping unite children with their forever families."

Bedford said people were surprised when she and her husband announced they were adopting a Down syndrome child.

"No one understood why and they really didn't understand what to expect," she said. "Now they see our children and they realize that they are just normal kids, with personalities, likes and dislikes like everyone else. Our boys are loved and accepted by all of our family and friends."

Roberts said she opposes abortion, as do many people active with Reece's Rainbow. However, Reece's Rainbow does not take a stand on abortion or prenatal testing because its primary focus is to assist with adoptions and foster understanding and acceptance through example.

"I am sure that there are many members of our group who may have varying viewpoints, but Reece's Rainbow does not have a stated position on abortion," Roberts said.

"Our group is open to anyone with a love for children and people with Down syndrome. Discussions about such controversial things are discouraged because we want to keep the focus on the life-saving efforts of the ministry," she said.

Maureen Mulready, a Catholic from Liverpool, England, who has lived in the United States for nearly 20 years, said she thinks Reece's Rainbow represents the ultimate pro-life expression and applauded the rescuing of Down syndrome babies from lives in institutions where they would likely be mistreated.

"If society does not show compassion for its most vulnerable members, then it is doomed for worse things," Mulready said.

"In my opinion, the fact that Reece's Rainbow is helping to secure all of these adoptions of Down syndrome kids conveys to others that these children deserve the right to live just like other children," she said. "They are spreading a pro-life message of compassion and acceptance."