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After long search, Fort Worth family adopts 2-year-old with special needs

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - 2/10/2020

Feb. 9--FORT WORTH -- Chelsea Guido always knew she wanted to adopt, even after she and her husband had three healthy children.

But there was a certain child they wanted: one with Down syndrome.

Chelsea has worked as a teacher for children with special needs, and they have a special place in her heart, she said.

"They are joyful, happy, loving people, but they're also really stubborn and spicy and I really like that. We're really drawn specifically to a kid with Down syndrome," Chelsea said.

Two years after starting the adoption process -- going to classes, background checks, visits at home -- Chelsea turned to God for help. The process to adopt usually takes six to nine months, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website, but Chelsea said it took longer for them because of their specific request.

"I was like, listen here, 'God, I've been really patient. I'm just going to be really honest. I want it to be a little girl ... and I want her to be like 0-3, somewhere in that range,' " she said.

The next day, the Fort Worth couple received an email from the adoption agency. Two girls needed a home. One of them was 2-year-old Lola.

When they saw her photo, they knew immediately they wanted to pursue her.

But Lola doesn't have Down syndrome.

She has Angelman syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes delayed development, intellectual disability, and problems with speech and balance.

Lola is expected to walk, maybe with assistance. She will have learning disabilities and, most likely, she will not communicate with typical language.

"But she might learn sign language, she will learn some words and she could use a tablet to communicate," Chelsea's husband, Daniel Guido, said.

For the Guidos, it was nothing they couldn't handle. Lola was already enrolled in speech and physical therapy, and they will continue to have the support of state agencies.

The couple paid for training and to get their home set up for the adoption, but otherwise adoption through the foster care system is free. All of Lola's specialists and therapy are covered for now.

The couple first met her in May 2019 during a visit with her foster family.

"If we didn't already know it, that really sealed the deal for us. We just instantly fell in love with her," Chelsea said.

The Guidos' three other children, Vince, 15, Rocco, 11 and Eliana, 6, took to Lola immediately as well.

Now, six months after Lola came home, they participate in her upbringing and therapy.

In a downstairs area at home, the Guidos set up a sensory space where Lola's therapists help her crawl, kneel and pull up to reach for things.

On Sundays, when the family is at home, Lola gets to play with her big sister in a sensory tunnel, cuddle with a brother on the swing, and get fed by another. Her parents -- officially as of Dec. 13, 2019 -- navigated around the bickering over who gets to spend time with her now.

As they settled down late one afternoon, Chelsea smiled from the kitchen as Daniel helped Lola stand up and try to walk.

"To me it's such a loving, caring thing to do because you're giving this child an opportunity for a better life," Chelsea said. "So I think adoption is super, super beautiful."

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