Human Interest

Boy with Down syndrome adopted from Serbia ‘completes our family,’ say parents of six

For Matt and Sarah Effhauser, adoption wasn’t necessarily the life they had pictured. The Effhausers had five children, and what many would call the “perfect” family as it was. Then, the words of a family priest changed everything: “What is going to be the thing in your life that defines you, your ‘yes?’”

For Sarah, her “yes” was the desire to adopt a child with Down syndrome from outside the U.S. For Matt, the answer wasn’t quite so clear.

“We already had five incredible children, whom we loved with all our hearts,” Matt explained. “And growing up in the 80s and 90s — where the culture emphasized having ‘healthy’ children and a ‘perfect’ family — I felt unprepared to embrace the responsibilities of adoption, much less the adoption of a child with a so-called ‘disability.’”

But Sarah’s conviction was strong and persistent, so Matt began praying. “Today, I know my mindset at the time was deeply flawed. The truth is that I was letting my fear overcome me.” Over time, he came to the same conviction as Sarah: they were going to begin the adoption process.

Over the next year, the pandemic, job shifts, and financial changes made the process less smooth than they had hoped, but they remained faithful to the call they felt God placed on their hearts. With the help of the adoption foundation, Bree’s Gift, and a strong community of emotional and financial support, the Effhausers finally met their beautiful little boy, Rex Stefan, who was born in Serbia.

“Rex completes our family. It feels as if he has always been there, just another one of our incredible children who adds such light to our home. He has made our ‘perfect’ family more perfect than we could ever have imagined,” Matt commented. “How beautiful it was to be with him as he, wide-eyed, experienced many of his ‘firsts’: riding in a car, going for a walk down busy city streets, trying new foods, and meeting his siblings, who surprised him in the airport upon arriving back at home.”

Countless adoptive parents have experienced this same joy when bringing children into their family.

Megan — the adoptive mother of Ami, a little girl from India who also has Down syndrome — expressed this joy in October 2022, saying, “[Ami] is smart, has the biggest heart, and rocks an extra chromosome. She was a missing piece to our family puzzle and we are so grateful to have spent one full year together. … We could have missed this.”

Adoption opens doors for families to know more love than they thought possible, and a chance for children who’ve been abandoned due to disabilities to know what it’s like to have a loving family.

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