Reporter's notebook: Adoptive familiesby Cara Hetland, Minnesota Public Radio
Sioux Falls, S.D. — This story about adoption came about because most of the children I have talked with for this series are adopted. I am humbled by hearing stories from the parents who promise to care and love these children, and by the children themselves.
The Ortmans were the first family that agreed to be a part of this story. Leann and Shelby were home alone for the interview. The house was quiet and calm, and it was clear that Leann and Shelby needed to tell their story.
They talked with little prompting from me. Shelby is soft-spoken and shy. She doesn't have many friends. She loves to sing. It is clear she is encouraged often and has constant praise.
Leann is a take-charge woman who will not bow to defeat. Patience is her body armor and tenacity her sword. She will not lose the battle when it comes to Shelby. Leann told me she didn't care what label was put on Shelby -- she just wanted the tools to help her succeed. Failure is not an option.
Leann home-schools Shelby. Some days Shelby can remember her math facts and spelling words, and some days she can't. Leann defines success differently than with her other children who don't have FASD. She says multiplication facts were not a big deal when her other kids were in school. But with Shelby, when she gets them, Leann will dance for success.
Carson and Shannon Walker are friends of mine. We live in the same neighborhood and our children are in some of the same activities.
I innocently sent Carson an e-mail asking if he and Shannon were told anything about FASD when they adopted Ellie. Two minutes after I sent the e-mail, Carson called me and told me Ellie was just diagnosed on the spectrum of alcohol exposure.
When parents receive the news that something is wrong with their child, it isn't easy. Working through things is a process. There's shock and grief and personal education that needs to happen.
It's still early for Carson and Shannon, and I was surprised when they agreed to talk with me. They don't want Ellie to have much attention about this because for them, right now, it doesn't matter. It might explain some things in the future, but it will never be an excuse for any behavior.
Parenting a child with FASD has to be tailored to the child, and where he or she falls on the spectrum. I look forward to telling more stories as this series continues.