‘Momma, I ‘dopted now!’ My son was bitten, strangled, and starved. He had 15 broken bones.’: Couple adopt Shaken Baby Syndrome survivor, ‘he was always ours, now we have the papers to say so’

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“My son was born on a Native American reservation in Montana back in October 2016. He was born and was just like any other baby. At five months old, he was rushed to the emergency room because something was not right. Once he arrived, it was determined that either his biological mother or father had shaken him. He had bleeding on both sides of his brain and both of his eyes had hemorrhaged. He was flown to Salt Lake City Children’s hospital to be stabilized and undergo surgery. He had a ventriculoperitoneal shunt placed to drain the blood and fluid from around his brain. This runs internally from the middle of his brain all the way down his right side into an open cavity near his stomach. He will have this shunt for rest of his life.

Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins
Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins

Once he was stabilized, he went to live with a biological aunt, her boyfriends, and her children. He lived with them from the time he was five months old until he was nine months old. In that time he was bit, strangled, starved, and had fifteen broken bones. His cousin was the one who spoke out to someone she trusted that he was being hurt. No one would have known if it wasn’t for her. She is his angel, and we still have contact with her. I often look back and think about how strong they both were. She was helping care for a baby when she was only nine, and her speaking out broke apart her family. Her only concern was that he was safe. She gave him a blanket and stuffed animal that he uses to this day. He was removed from that home and placed in foster care. At that time, he was ten months old. He only weighed about eight pounds and could only pull himself across the floor with one arm. His foster placement decided they could not keep him since his case was moving toward adoption, so that is when he came to live with us.

Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins
Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins
Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins

He was eleven months old when he came into our home. We always joke that we got him in a parking lot, because we met his old foster mother in a hospital parking lot to switch him into our care. That day my husband and I took him out to lunch since we had drove four hours to get him, and had a four hour drive back home. This started our journey of having a child in our home that did not look like us. At lunch a group of elderly ladies told us how cute he was, but asked us how we got his skin so dark. This was just the first of many looks and comments that we would get. We did not care, and just joked that we left him in the oven too long. We were just happy to be able to give this child a safe and loving home.

Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins

Doctor’s appointments started right away. We took him to a pediatrician to get an idea of where to begin. She had him evaluated to see how far behind he was. At a year old, he was functioning the same as a three or four month old. That same month, we made our first trip to the Denver Children’s hospital. He had to see an ophthalmologist to determine how much damage was done to his eye during the abuse. All they could tell us at that time was his eyes were near sighted and we had to monitor him every three months, and that he would probably end up losing his vision. He then spent five hours in the Non-accidental Brain Injury Care Clinic going through a variety of exams, tests, and evaluations. It was determined that he was severely delayed. We were told that he may not walk, probably wouldn’t be able to talk, and would probably have to be spoon fed for the rest of his life. We had to begin physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, enroll him in child care for socialization, and return to Denver for visits every three months for monitoring. As parents, this was awful to hear. We spent the rest of the trip and flight home replaying those appointments over and over again.

Once we returned home, his long journey began. We had three different therapies every week, a development specialist visiting every few weeks, social workers always checking in and visiting, and the rest of our lives to juggle. He had a low immune system due to his lack of development, which lead to a lot of illnesses. He has had to have two sets of ear tubes due to chronic ear infections. Without them, he cannot hear out of his right ear. He also had to have his adenoids removed due to difficulty breathing. Luckily, it all paid off. At fourteen months, he began to fully crawl, and by sixteen months he could walk. He was not great at it, but he could do it. He began saying simple words at fifteen months, and by two he could put two words together. He is now three and not delayed in any areas. He does still have speech therapy to work on the social aspect of language and his pronunciation, and physical therapy to fine tune his skills. He also has play therapy to work on age-appropriate social skills.

Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins
Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins

The adoption process was not easy. We had adopted our daughter through foster care two months after our son came into our home. Our son’s adoption took much longer and was more intensive. Since he is Native American, we had to show that all effort had been made to reunite him with family or members of his tribe. Luckily, his parents did not try to contact or work their parenting plan in any way. We had to rule out family, which meant letters had to be sent to every family member to see if they would take him in. The only family that even made contact was his biological mother’s adoptive mother. Once she found out he had been with us a year, she wanted him to stay with us. We still have contact with them, and they have his baby sister! We see them as much as possible.

After all efforts were made, we were able to file the petition to terminate his parental rights. The parents did show up to court, but did not contest the ruling, and that day he became eligible for adoption. We then had the chance to review the file. I cannot erase reading the terrible things that were done to him. It was there in black and white. All I could think was that there was a point where they almost sent him back home. I was horrified at what he had been through, but elated with how far her had come. We started preparing him for his adoption day.

It took two months after termination to be able to adopt him. We drove 7 hours to the tribal court in order to do it. On August 6, 2019, he officially became part of our family. It was a huge relief that things were final. I remember tearing up as soon as the judge said everything was done. All my son said was, ‘I dopted now.’ Since then, not much has changed. He was already part of our family; we just now have the legal paper that says so.

Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins

Kain is a perfect little boy. He is everything you think of when you picture a son. He loves to play trucks, and dinosaurs, and to build things. He loves being a big brother to our biological son who is almost one. They play so well together and he is always asking if he is alright. He tried to help feed him his bottle and will pick up toys for him all day. He also loves to play with his sister. They play dress up and he comes down the stairs to ask if he is beautiful.

Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins
Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins

We are still dealing with the struggles of what the future may hold. He will probably have many doctors’ appointments throughout his life. He has to get MRIs frequently to monitor his progress of recovery. Currently, he only has one spot that has not recovered from his injury. This will impact his executive function skills such as problem solving, sequencing, organization, and critical thinking. He will always be in and out of therapies in order to meet his developmental milestones. He will probably need special education services in order to be successful in school. He will never be able to play contact sports due to his shunt. We will always worry about him any time he hits his head. All of this is stuff that we will have to deal with everyday, but we truly wouldn’t have it any other way. He has beat every goal we have set for him, and we know he will do great things.”

Courtesy of Hayley Munroe Blevins

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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hayley Munroe Blevins. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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