Hidden Angels: American Families Saving Children With Down Syndrome


And it was never there," Kecia said. "We would come home at night and, you know, get up, get on our laptop and sit in bed and look through all these pictures of the babies and nothing stood out."

And then one day, when Kris was at work and Kecia was on the computer at home, she clicked on Kareen's picture. It was one she had seen before, but this time something pulled at her.

"When I came in and we sat down and started talking, she, I mean she just burst into tears," Kris said. "Basically just said, 'I think I found our daughter.'"

Kris admitted he was hesitant at first. The couple, each born into families of six children, had wanted a big family but had never considered adoption.

Then they learned that Kareen, a month away from her fourth birthday at the time, was already scheduled to be transferred to an adult mental institution.

And with Kecia going full steam ahead and Kris more cautiously optimistic, they turned to their three girls and told them they'd like to bring home a little girl from Ukraine.

From that point forward it was a family effort. Kecia and Kris saved every penny and held yard sales and other fund-raisers to pay for the $30,000 adoption.

The girls -- Kyra, 9, Adrie, 6, and Bree -- made bookmarks and manned lemonade stands. And perhaps the biggest sacrifice for three children, they dumped out their jar of coins they'd been saving for a family trip to Disneyland.

Why the Coxes would choose to bring a second special needs child into their family is a question they get asked often.

"It's not new to us. You know we've learned you know what raising a child with special needs is," Kris said. "And it's wonderful. It's not something to be feared. "

"We have more challenges because we have two children with special needs, but I also look at it as we also get double the blessings and the good things that come from having a child with special needs," Kecia said.

Bree, she said, has brought the family "pure happiness. And joy."

"And she just is unconditionally kind and loving and she's been teaching all of us how to do that," she said.

'She's Not Orphan Anymore'
In the wee hours of the morning in May, Kris and Kecia kissed their bleary-eyed daughters goodbye and , tears streaming down Kecia's face, drove away from their tidy Utah home, head to the airport, bound for Ukraine.

It would be 32 days before they returned.

On a hot spring afternoon, just days after they arrived in Ukraine, Kris and Kecia piled into a van and headed toward the orphanage. Kecia stared out the window and clutched a stuffed dog her daughters sent with her for Kareen.

Kris threw up and promptly blamed motion sickness, despite an obvious look of anxiety washed across his face.

But when the van pulled through the front gates and up to a large, multi-story white building, he leaned forward.

"Just ready," he said. "It's been a long time coming."

When the couple walked in, they were ushered into a large room with toys on a table and a large mural on the wall.

And then Kareen was brought in, carried by a nurse, her shortly hair carefully styled with tiny white rosettes.

"Priviet," Kecia said to the little girl – "Hello" in Russian. She reached out to touch her daughter for the first time.

Kareen regarded her new visitors carefully. She dutifully played with the rings on a stacking toy and looked through a bag of toys Kecia and Kris brought from Utah, immediately zeroing in on a toy cell phone.

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