Adopting a Child with Vision Impairment: 8 Things to Consider

March 23, 2015 Family Found, Family Stories, retinoblastoma, Sensory System, vision issues, vision loss 6 Comments

December 11, 2011 in Fujian was cool, damp and grey. We were waiting in a conference room at the hotel with another couple from the US. This wasn’t the first time we’d done this. We had waited in similar rooms four times prior to this; however, this time was very different. Long after, we would finally admit to each other that we both were thinking the same thing…. RUN!

It wasn’t the fear of special needs. We had done that several times before. It wasn’t adoption jitters, either. We had been through all of that and considered ourselves prepared, confident, and experienced. We had prayed and had faith that He was part of this and our decision to adopt this child was the right one.

So what was it about this child that made us so uncomfortable? It was this specific condition. I think we all have a fear of it and find it almost impossible to imagine what life would be like with it. Even with all of our research and discussions with other parents of children with similar conditions, we were still apprehensive. Joshua was three and a half years old. Before he was two years old he had both eyes removed due to retinal blastoma – a fast growing cancer of the eye – and was completely blind.


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Neither of us had any experience with visual impairments. We didn’t know anyone who was blind or who had blind children. To us, it was all unknown. We kept asking ourselves if we were capable of raising a child with a VI (visual impairment). What would he require? Could we provide what he needs? Looking back, we now realize that fears were based on our ignorance of visual impairment. Our assumptions of what it was had created within our minds the worst possible scenario, which was far removed from the realities of the condition. What propelled us forward was our faith that God had placed this child in our lives and He is not a God of fear but of redemption.

Regardless of what we did, Joshua would still have this condition and nothing we could do would change that. It may have been easier for us had we not followed through, but it wouldn’t have changed that reality for Joshua.

So there we were, waited with two other nervous parents, and suddenly he was there. It was obvious he was afraid and that he had been crying, although he tried to cover it. Within moments we knew we had done the right thing. All our fears and anxiety were gone and all we could focus on was loving this precious child who had just become one less.

As with any adoption, the first few hours, days, weeks, etc… can be challenging. It’s all about learning the steps to that dance of bonding and attachment; the adjustment of learning how the other thinks and acts and how it all fits together. Life in a family is dramatically different than life in an institution, and figuring that out requires commitment and patience on both sides, regardless of any other special challenge the child may bring along with them.

It was no different with Joshua. Those first few days confirmed what we should have already known, and that was that Joshua had been learning how to live with VI long before we even considered it. We were the ones who had to catch up to where he was developmentally. He was capable of doing pretty much anything any other four year old can do. We simply had to figure out what things he would rely on us for and what things he could do himself.


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Neither of us had any experience with visual impairments. We didn’t know anyone who was blind or who had blind children. To us, it was all unknown. We kept asking ourselves if we were capable of raising a child with a VI (visual impairment). What would he require? Could we provide what he needs? Looking back, we now realize that fears were based on our ignorance of visual impairment. Our assumptions of what it was had created within our minds the worst possible scenario, which was far removed from the realities of the condition. What propelled us forward was our faith that God had placed this child in our lives and He is not a God of fear but of redemption.

Regardless of what we did, Joshua would still have this condition and nothing we could do would change that. It may have been easier for us had we not followed through, but it wouldn’t have changed that reality for Joshua.


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The reality is that adopting a child with VI sounds much more intimidating than it actually is. Consider also that there is little opportunity in their home country for the visually impaired. When provided with the proper support, tools and opportunity, these children have the same potential for achievement as do any others. They have the same hopes, and dreams as we all do. They need the same things that any child needs, and given that they will likely exceed your expectations.

If you are considering a child with visual impairment, I can offer a few things you may want to consider:

1. You don’t need any special accommodations in your home, however, they do bump into things, and toys or furniture out of place can provide some stumbling obstacles. We had a wrought iron stair rail that we covered with some soft pipe insulation to provide a little cushion if he bumped into it.

2. You don’t have to send him away to a special school for the blind. You will not have to learn Braille, however, it’s pretty handy if you do.

3. Life will pretty much go on as usual, only you may do things just a bit differently. From conversations with other parents of VI children, their visual impairment is not the first thing we think of when we attempt to describe them.

4. With the available technology and training today, it really is more of an inconvenience than a handicap. I know it’s difficult for sighted people to grasp that, since we depend upon our vision for so much of what we do in life. We now know many people who have many varied professions from typical blue to white collar jobs and most with college degrees. The true disabilities these children have are those other people attempt to place on them.

5. You will learn patience as, at times, you need to move just a bit more slowly. You will take notice of steps and bumps and other potential obstacles. You will stop and allow your child to smell, touch, and listen. This provides you the same opportunity, by the way. You will cherish holding his hand, his all-enveloping hugs and extras kisses on your cheek. You will indulge his myriad questions about what something is, how it looks or how it works, or what that new sound is. Trust me, you will delight in those things as you watch him embrace his world rather than from it. And whether they realize it or not, your children, extended family, and friends will do many of these things too – and they will be the better for it.

6. Contrary to what most sighted people believe, the blind actually see, only in ways that we find difficult to comprehend. They live in a world of sounds and smells which are all colors within their minds. They create light all around them. It’s an even greater joy to see His light shining through them.

7. Depending on the child’s visual impairment, there may be medical requirements or specialists you will want on your team. Be sure to do as much research as you can and consult with specialists in order to be prepared when you bring your child home.

8. Life in an institutional setting is less than ideal for children with VI. We have seen firsthand the effect of that setting and what it can do to a child with VI. The longer they are in that environment, the more they withdraw from the world around them, and the more difficult it becomes for them to overcome that start in life and the unique challenges that a visual impairment presents.

Please consider opening your hearts and homes to one of these precious waiting children. They are waiting for families, and they need them so very much.

— guest post by Roy and Lori Cross

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Gordon, age two, was born blind and abandoned at 10 months of age. He is in good health and has made good developmental progress. Gordon walks, understands directions, and likes to be outside for a walk in a stroller.


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He is described as a gentle boy with a ready smile. He likes to play with a music box, rattle and an electric car.

You can see more pictures as well as a video of Gordon here. For more information contact Linda Perilstein at Cradle of Hope.

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Julia has been matched with her forever family!

Julia just turned two. She was born with congenital aniridia (an ocular problem which has left her blind) and abandoned in a children’s hospital a few days after birth. Julia has made good developmental progress: she can walk alone, loves to be outdoors, and has excellent hearing.


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Julia is described as cute and obedient. Her speech is developing nicely and she is in good health. For more information contact Linda Perilstein at Cradle of Hope.



6 responses to “Adopting a Child with Vision Impairment: 8 Things to Consider”

  1. Sandy says:

    Having also adopted a blind child with no significant experience about blindness, I can agree with everything in this article. Adjusting to blindness was not difficult for our family and there are lots of resources and support for famiies of blind children once you start looking.

  2. Michelle says:

    What sort of checkups are required after the chemo is finished for that type of cancer? I keep praying that it will work for us to adopt a child on Rainbow Kids with this same condition….

    • Roy Cross says:

      Michelle, Joshua goes for a yearly checkup to scan for any cancer. So far, that is all we have had to do.

  3. Rachel says:

    Thank you for sharing!!! I had never really considered adopting a blind child until I met a beautiful little nine-year-old girl. Her parents had just adopted her and they brought her over to see me. As soon as she held my hand in hers it was all over! (:
    Since I can’t adopt yet I wrote a book about a little blind girl who gets adopted. And in my researching for the book I found that beautiful world of sounds, smells, and texture that you shared about.
    Of course the book only made me want to adopt all the more! 😀 But until that day I’ll keep advocating for these precious hidden treasures!!!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thanks especially for point no. 8. We’re experiencing that with our son now. He’s severely sight impaired, and that, coupled with a very quiet personality, made being in an orphanage especially hard for him. Honestly, his “real” SN is the lingering effects of institutional life. The VI is almost a non-issue.

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