For National Adoption Awareness Month, UCP would like to introduce you to the McGee family, including Israel, a young boy with a cerebral palsy who was adopted from Ethiopia. Rebekkah McGee now writes a blog about their family and their adoption story, which you can follow at http://yestoadoption.blogspot.com/.
When Rebekah and Will McGee traveled to Ethiopia to meet their soon-to-be-adopted son Israel over two years ago, they never dreamed they were actually embarking on a completely different type of journey. Adopting internationally, they understood that there may be difficulties since Israel was coming from an institution, but they didn’t know exactly what to expect.
“We were young, we had only been married a year (when we decided to adopt). But we knew we wanted to make adoption a priority. It was important to us,” said Rebekah McGee.
Even at four months old, when they met Israel for the first time in Africa, they could tell that he had some developmental delays, but having never been parents before, the McGee’s didn’t know what that meant for the future.
In May of 2011, when Israel was seven months old, Rebekah and Will brought him home to the U.S. By the time he was nine months old and not yet rolling over, a church friend recommended the family to United Cerebral Palsy of East Central Alabama for early intervention services.
“We had no idea as new parents,” Rebekah McGee said about Israel’s disability. “But I’ve had 2 ½ years of supportive help with UCP. The team there has made me feel more competent that I had the skills I needed as a mother.”
“When they say it takes a village to raise a child, well, UCP is part of my village,” she said. “They have cried with me on the hard days. Anytime we have needed something, they have helped. They are so much more than just the services they offer.”
The McGees have taken advantages of all of those services from early intervention therapy to the daycare Israel is now enrolled in. And, earlier this year, Israel was featured in UCP of East Central Alabama’s annual fundraising telethon. The McGees recently got more details on how parts of Israel’s brain had been affected and a new diagnosis. Although the UCP team had not worked with a child with that specific diagnosis and Israel was only two months away from aging out of early intervention services, the staff jumped on researching the diagnosis to figure out how to best care for him.
“The reality of having a special needs child is that you see a lot of doctors and specialists,” said Will. “We have had to go through so many specialists to find someone who connects with Israel. It’s so refreshing that at UCP we don’t have to do that. Everyone connects. He has a relationship with everyone there.”
Israel now has a one-year-old sister, Edith, who does not have a disability and the family is thriving. Israel has come a long way thanks to the therapy and services he received. He is not quite talking yet, but walks with some assistance. There were difficult times, but Rebekah is glad UCP set the bar high for him to reach.
“Just the other day,” recalls Rebekah, “I was talking to his UCP service coordinator and she said to me ‘We have never put limits on Israel…and we never will.’”