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Patty Voorhies can’t stop talking about her eight children. She and husband Gary answered God’s call to adopt infants whom others might consider undesirable. The daily life of the Voorhies family just outside the small college town of Hamilton, New York, is an incredible witness that every child is a beautifully unique gift from God put on this earth for a purpose. Yet in a society that generally regards adoption positively, the Voorhies family story provides important responses to many of the objections and misperceptions that continue to be roadblocks to adoption today.
Today, some couples wanting to adopt are reluctant to adopt a child with special needs. Infants with disabilities are, therefore, less likely to be placed in loving homes. All but one of the Voorhies children was born prematurely, and all were born with either chemical dependency or a severe chronic medical condition. Although doctors predicted several would be deaf and blind, many of the expected conditions never developed or were simply outgrown through their parents’ loving and attentive care. Patty and Gary saw their children not as problems, but as gifts. “I can’t imagine thinking ‘this child is less than perfect, so I need to get rid of it.’ We are all imperfect and God loves us anyway,” says Patty.
Fourteen-year-old Kolbe has TAR syndrome, a rare genetic disorder defined by the absence of the radius bone in the forearm. Though he stands just several feet high and his short arms extend out of his shoulder bones, Kolbe swims regularly at the local pool and recently dove off the high-diving board for a cheering crowd. To the woman who once asked Patty “What are you going to do with him?” Patty answered, “We’re going to love him.”
Some believe that children placed in homes of a racial or cultural background different from their own will suffer from ridicule or a lack of identity. The Voorhies children include two African Americans, one Chinese-American and one Syrian-Jew, yet the children all get along and are very devoted to each other. Kolbe is being raised Catholic, but has also chosen to keep the Jewish Sabbath and is learning Hebrew to honor the heritage of his Syrian-Jewish birth mother. “All of our kids would normally never even meet each other in a mall and here they are brothers and sisters,” says Gary.
Husbands and wives with medical challenges, such as infertility, who feel called to raise children are encouraged by the Church to “give expression to their generosity” through adoption (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2379). Several years into their marriage and still childless, Gary and Patty decided to adopt. In Patty’s words, “Adoption is just another way to have a family.” God calls us His children because every member of the human family is an adopted son or daughter of God.
Some past stigmas associated with adoption are being overcome. Today people more readily describe the brave and selfless actions of a birth mother as “placing a child for adoption,” rather than “abandoning” a child. Yet efforts to increase support and awareness of adoption must continue. Pregnant moms who feel that they cannot raise a child on their own should be encouraged to place their baby in a loving home. Legislators need encouragement to expand adoption tax credits and adoption assistance programs. The story of the Voorhies family is just one among many to share to help promote adoption. It celebrates and affirms the ultimate gift that one stranger can give to another: God’s precious gift of life and family through adoption. Through these efforts, we can each be a part of eliminating abortion and living God’s plan for love and life.
For more on adoption, contact Catholic Charities by visiting catholiccharitiesusa.org/program/adoption/.
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