After multiple surgeries during this baby’s stay in the NICU that resulted in the loss of most of her bowels she was proclaimed to be “total parenteral nutrition (TPN) dependent” which means she will be fed via G-tube throughout the rest of her life. Her long and lonely 5 month stay in the NICU had come to an end and this baby was released to her now 18 year old mother who hadn’t seen her since the night she had given birth. A mother who was an orphan herself, with no family, no support, no home and no medical training. The years following seemed to only fight against this baby’s already low survival rate.
Three years passed with many investigations pertaining to this child’s care. Investigation after investigation, all ending in the same sentence, “This investigation was closed with verified findings of medical neglect.” Substance abuse, inadequate food, environmental hazards, threatened harm, and inadequate supervision were all investigated at different points throughout this child’s short time here. Social services were put in place to help strengthen the family and help this child to no avail. On Dec. 9th, 2007, shortly after this child’s 3rd birthday the following report was filed:
“The mother was Baker Acted due to suicide attempts and her child was left in the care of her sixteen year old brother. The Child Protective Investigator (CPI) arrived at the home where three unknown men presented themselves. The home smelled of a mixture of urine and marijuana from the front door. The home is in deplorable condition. Various items were scattered throughout the home, trash covered the floor, there were piles of dirty clothes and soiled diapers on the floor, there were plates with old food that had grown mold, there were ashtrays with ash and cigarette butts on the ground within children’s reach, and there were exposed wiring from wall outlets. There were empty alcohol bottles scattered throughout the home. The home was deemed hazardous. The toilet in the bathroom was full, backed up and could not flush. Two boxes of macaroni and a box of spaghetti was the only food in the home. There was no food or drinks in the kitchen cabinets or refrigerator. The refrigerator contained a pile of dead bugs and the child’s molding feeding tube. Three unopened brown boxes, which contained the child’s formula were in the hallway. No children’s beds or cribs were found. The child was found lying filthy in a pool of her own urine.”
The child was seen by medical professionals who advised that she would be considerably bigger if she had been being fed properly. They stated she appeared wasted and weak and was in a severe state of crisis. Biologically she was three years old but developmentally she was assessed at a three month old level. She was admitted to the hospital for a week before released into a foster home. Although all man’s efforts failed this little girl God was still with her. Although it may seem as if He was negligent of her care, but God had great grace and favor upon this girl, for it was Him that was sustaining her every breath and keeping her alive against all human odds.
The next 8 years are a blur of different foster homes, doctor appointments, specialist visits, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, medication after medication and extended stays at the hospital every year. Foster parents, medical professionals and modern medicine helped this young girl grow, learn to walk and learn to talk but they couldn’t heal her biggest problem, she was still an orphan. But God had great grace and favor upon this young lady and ordained a family to be called who committed long ago, “Lord, whenever we receive a call for a child we will view it as if a call directly from You. We will commit to love and care for any child You call us for.”
God has taught us a lot since that initial call in January where I shook with shock and terror, “Lord, You wouldn’t call us to parent a special needs child, would you?” I pleaded my case, “Lord I don’t feel worthy of the ones You already placed in our care, how can I rise up to care for one even more needy?” My lips kept our commitment as I uttered, “yes, we will take her” but my heart raced, my thoughts presented excuse after excuse and my eyes opened the floodgates of worry. I am normal, made of flesh, weak and seeking the path of least resistance. But God had great grace and favor on me and, ever so gently, is teaching me, again, what His great and boundless love looks like.
Love sees past our abilities or disabilities, but sees in us intrinsic value because we are made in the image of our Creator. Love sees past our blemished history, but sees our future hope as adopted heirs to a Father of an extraordinary inheritance. Love sees not the challenges too difficult to overcome, but sees a great Savior that has overcome all difficulties and that has loving bestowed His perfect strength and grace upon us.
God has turned that initial great fear into greater excitement. I stand here excited to tell you that the little girl in this story is my daughter!
Despite her history of neglect God is still writing her story of hope. Despite her languishing as an orphan in fostercare, God has not left her but has brought her a family. And despite her label as “unadoptable” she is wanted and dearly loved.
Although, I would never wish another child to ever live through a story like Brittneys’ I do wish every child in her same plight had someone to rise up and say, “They are wanted and loved by God so we will adopt them as our own.”
God has lavished both Brittany and I with great grace and favor. To remind us of this on our toughest days yet to come, we have named her Anna, which means “full of grace and favor.” We welcomed Anna Brittany into our home on June 9th and we stood before a judge on September 11th at 11am (just two days before her 11th birthday) where this little girl became ours forever!
Posted by Shannon
10/22/2015 - Brittney was featured in an article for the FL Bar Foundation: Our Family in the News