Fergus couple Adam and Heather Teeter have become experts in both domestic and international adoption, and have become passionate about the process and rewards of adopting children into their home.
“Adam and I wanted to be parents, and there are children who really need families,” said Heather Teeter, a local mom with two adopted sons.
The young couple have been married for ten years, and have always planned to make adoption a reality for their family. After multiple devastating miscarriages they decided to start their family through adoption, and officially adopted their first son Pierce in March 2015.
The family went through Family and Child Services to complete a public adoption with their first son, but Fergus couple decided that they wanted to pursue an International adoption for their second.
Both Heather and Adam knew that they wanted to adopt from the Ukraine after researching and watching various documentaries about orphanages and the treatment of orphans in the Ukraine.
“We are the first family to adopt from this specific rural town in the Ukraine,” said Heather.
The town is called Vynohradiv, where the Teeters’ son was being institutionalized in a boarding school for orphans with mental disabilities.
“I’ve wanted to pursue an International adoption since before adopting Pierce but we couldn’t afford it,” explained Heather, who spent nearly two years fundraising through a YouCaring page, and making and selling various items such as handmade cakes and jewellery to bring her son home.
The total cost of an International adoption is anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 or more. The Teeter family said the cost of adopting their son was around $50,000 by the end of the process.
Both Adam and Heather were convinced that they wanted to adopt a special needs child from the Ukraine, where orphans are institutionalized in large orphanages, death rates are very high, and children with special needs are especially mistreated and neglected.
The Teeters’ son Pierce, now 3, also has special needs, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder, and the couple felt that another child with special needs would fit in perfectly with their family.
“I saw Isaac’s photo on Reece’s Rainbow two years ago, and had been keeping an eye on him,” said Heather.
Reece’s Rainbow is one of the many non-profit organizations that the Teeter family used through the long and complicated process of pursuing an International Adoption. This specific website allows families to view the profiles of special needs children, and once approved for an adoption, helps families raise funds.
After years of thinking and dreaming about adopting, and specifically dreaming of a certain little boy, the family confirmed that they would be adopting a six-year-old boy with Achondroplasia, the most common form of Dwarfism.
His name was Zhenya, later changed to Isaac, and prior to boarding a plane to Ukraine, the Teeter family knew very little about his health.
The Teeter family decided to take the journey together to Ukraine and spent six weeks travelling throughout various parts of the country to get the proper documentation to bring their son home.
“We stayed from start to finish and we brought Pierce with us. We wanted Pierce to have a sense of what Isaac’s culture and background was like,” shared Heather.
She added that the long trip was very stressful. The family experienced culture shock and missed their home in Canada, but were determined to return as a family of four.
Within four weeks of their trip Isaac was legally adopted and in the full-time care of the Teeters, but the family had to stay in Ukraine to sort out travel visas and passports for their newly adopted son.
“Views of kids with special needs is different in Ukraine. People would yell at us, and tell us we shouldn’t bring our son out in public,” said Heather.
After six weeks the family returned to their home with their two sons, and the process of getting an official diagnosis and integrating Isaac into his new home and family began.
The Teeter family has been home since late October 2016, and have been finding out new information about their son’s health condition as each week passes.
“Adopting Isaac has been more difficult because he’s older, and bonding has been more challenging. He’s already so independent, and not used to a family unit, and being shown affection and love is a foreign feeling for him,” explained Heather.
Developmentally, Isaac has been improving by leaps and bounds since joining his family in Canada. Within three weeks Isaac was enrolled at school part-time, and is now attending school full-time in a developmentally delayed classroom.
Isaac has significant mental delays, and is functioning more like a three year old. However, his delays are due to neglect and the environment he was raised in for six years, and his brain is already making new connections.
The family is delighted to see him grow and function closer to his age level, and watch as he integrates both at home and in his classroom, where he is adored by classmates and teachers.
Isaac will also need multiple surgeries to help him grow and develop his mobility. However, Isaac was kept in a crib and unable to move until the age of four, and he now has calcification in his joints, which will likely lead to lifelong mobility issues.
The Teeter family is hopeful and excited about the new opportunities that Isaac will have in a safe and loving home with quality health care and education.
The bond that both Pierce and Isaac have developed as two brothers has been one of the most special experiences, shared Heather. The two brothers are affectionate and loving with one another, but also interact like typical brothers would, kissing and hugging one moment, and fighting the next.
Although choosing to adopt a child internationally has been a complex and long process, the family is grateful they stuck with their convictions, and chose to pursue the adoption of their son Isaac.
“When you find a child who you feel is meant to be part of your family, it really doesn't matter where they come from. They are yours. It is like looking at the face of your child who you just birthed - it feels like it was meant to be. Although a lot more practical planning goes into it, there is a reason why a child comes into your family, a reason why you know they belong,” shared an emotional Heather, a fiercely loving and protective mom to her two boys.