Prolife spotlight: St. Joseph’s House and Isaiah’s Promise offer support, respite, and joy to families of the disabled

Cubby LaHood used the term “D-day” for the day parents first hear their unborn child has a severe or fatal birth defect.  

“The baby is the same baby they conceived and were joyful about, but … the baby can become a stranger,” she said in a 2013 40 Days for Life address.

LaHood, who died in 2015, suffered the same crushing shock herself, when her baby Francis got a likely fatal prenatal diagnosis. Everyone offered the couple abortion — doctors, clergy, family, and friends. But she and her husband Dan decided that they would love and carry their son Francis as long as he lived.

 
The LaHoods firmly believed unborn children with severe or fatal diagnoses deserve to live. But they also came to understand that carrying such children to term, rather than resorting to abortion, can bring healing, strength, and even joy to the parents and family, and even to the rest of the community, whether the child dies before he is born, or if he goes on to live for several years. 
 
“Hope led to grace, grace led to faith, and faith led to peace,” she said. 
 
Cubby and Dan LaHood went on to found two organizations based in Maryland, to offer encouragement, resources, and tangible support to people with disabilities and their families. Isaiah’s House, founded in 1995, offers personal support for families carrying to term after a severe or fatal prenatal diagnosis.
 
“In seemingly the most hopeless and difficult of circumstances surrounding the birth of a child, a simple ‘yes’ to life reveals the presence of God, and the presence of love,” she said in a video called “Destined to Live Forever.”  
 
They believe that even a very short life has meaning and power. “[These parents] conceived a miracle, and that miracle deserves all the support that you can give it. It’s about more than you,” LaHood said. 
 
Pro-lifers are frequently accused of being merely pro-birth, of counseling parents to reject abortion, but then abandoning them after the delivery. The LaHoods’ mission refutes this accusation. The other organization they founded, St. Joseph’s House, offers daycare, summer camp, and after-school programs, and respite programs for families of children with disabilities.
This effort, too, sprung out of a personal experience. When Cubby LaHood was pregnant with her first child, she wanted to stay at home, so she decided to open a daycare. The first client she found had a disability, and word quickly spread that LaHood was willing to care for disabled children. 
The family soon made it their mission to make a true home for these children, and to counter “the eugenic impulse” of the world that wants to reject anyone deemed imperfect or useless. St. Joseph’s House is now run by the LaHood’s daughter, Natalie. 
 
Cubby LaHood didn’t believe her family was special. “We all have the capacity to give love,” said LaHood. “It can be done without support — we did it without support — but there’s no reason for it to be done that way.”
 
 The LaHoods do not minimize or sentimentalize the difficulty of carrying and caring for a child with disabilities.
 

“Nobody wants to go through the Passion,” said Dan LaHood “No one wants to go through the Garden of Gethsemane. But once you go through it, you find there’s the spirit of God. There’s resurrection. Not only there’s life, but it’s eternal, and it’s more than you could ever imagine; and you can experience it now.”

None of the hundreds of couples they’ve walked with have regretted their choice, the LaHoods said. 

“Even in this worst, most darkened, most rejected place, God is. Love is.”

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Image from this video:

Destined to Live Forever from Lumen Catechetical Consultants on Vimeo.

St. Joseph’s House

​Saintjosephshouse1983@gmail.com

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/saintjosephshouse/

Isaiah’s Promise

info@isaiahspromise.net

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IsaiahsPromise4915/

St. Joseph’s Place also runs Cafe St. Joe in , “part job skills training, part community builder, and part fundraiser.” The Cafe offers a specialty blend of coffee made by a roaster that employs adults with disabilities, and half the proceeds to go the cafe

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Previous volumes of Pro-life Spotlight:

We Dignify

Gadbois mission trip to Bulgarian orphanage

Mary’s Shelter in VA

China Little Flower

Immigrant Families Together

Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center

If you know or have worked with an organization that works to build a culture that cherishes human life, please drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com with “pro-life spotlight” in the title.

Pro-life spotlight #1: China Little Flower

As I mentioned last week, I’ll be regularly featuring groups who do the work the president described in his SOTU speech: groups that “work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life“and that “reaffirm a fundamental truth [that] — all children — born and unborn— are made in the holy image of God.”

One of my favorites for many years: China Little Flower. This charity started out with a couple who had met as exchange students in China. They started out simply helping a few orphaned babies, but soon realized there was a great need for a more organized effort. Because China’s culture and legal system is hostile toward children with disabilities, many families simply don’t have the money, the education, or the cultural support to raise a child with complex medical needs.

According to the BBC’s blog on disability:

The most widely used word for disability in Mandarin is canji, which literally means deficient/deformed and diseased.  … [M]any traditional, pejorative terms for disabled people are still in common currency: canfei (crippled and useless), yaba(mute), shazi (idiot) and xiazi (a derogatory term for blind people) can still be heard on the lips of many ordinary citizens of the People’s Republic.

The Chinese government may have relaxed its strict one-child policy, but the culture is not now more welcoming of disabled children. Instead, state propaganda encourages parents to produce healthy children for the good of the country. Women and girls and those considered “useless” are still treated as less than human. According to Leta Hong Fincher in a NYT opinion piece, when China relaxed its brutal one-child policy,

the government was only embarking on another grand experiment in population engineering: This time it was urging women — though only the right sort — to reproduce for China.

[…]

The government has unleashed in recent years a propaganda blitz on women it considers to be gao suzhi, or of “high quality.” “Make sure you don’t miss out on women’s best years for getting pregnant!” warn some headlines in state media. Those years supposedly are between the ages of 24 and 29, according to the government; beyond that, it says, beware birth defects.

Parents who are willing to raise their disabled kids have little cultural or financial support, and little education on how to care for them.

This important clarification from Kelly Mayfield, author of Mine In China: Your comprehensive guide to adopting from China:

“In many cases these parents have made a heartbreaking decision because they can’t afford the medical care the child needs. You can see some images of parents leaving their children at the Guangzhou baby hatch at this link. You have to have cash up front for heart surgery, cancer treatment, etc. There is no legal way to relinquish children in China, so they abandon them in hopes that the child will receive the necessary care when they’re in an orphanage or if they are adopted by another family. Some of the children are left with notes that say ‘Please don’t let my child die. We are poor and can’t afford the surgery.'”

China Little Flower’s mission:

Recognizing the beauty and dignity of each and every individual person, China Little Flower works to build a culture of life by reaching out to those who are rejected, abandoned, deemed as useless, and who have no voice. Whether by direct care, support, or education, we seek to show the value of each human life and build a culture that respects, protects, loves and serves life!

They provide hospice care for orphans, group educational foster care, special care for infants, and long-term care for severely disabled children.

Dew Drops will provide both a long term, enriching home environment for abandoned children, and also  a temporary home for families in need of support and specialized care, while they navigate the health care system. These families will benefit from financial, emotional and medical support in caring for their child during treatment, as well as ongoing support after they return home.  Our primary focus is on children born with complex heart defects.

Our Orphan Care Unit will provide specialized medical care as well as foster healthy emotional development for abandoned children:

  • Children ages 6 month to 5 years old born with complex congenital heart defects
    • Capacity of 30 beds
    • Every child will stay with us until (s)he is adopted
    • Employ full time ‘moms’ who are trained in trauma-informed care practices and who will provide continuous, 24 hour care. This helps abandoned children learn to form attachments and heal from the past trauma they have experienced.

In our Family Care Unit, in addition to specialized care, we also focus on educating families and advocating with them as they seek the best medical treatment for their child:

  • Children from disadvantaged families (targeting rural areas) born with complex heart defects
    • Capacity of up to 5 children/families at a time
    • Children will be accompanied by at least one parent/family member during their stay
You can make a one-time or recurring donation to support their work, and you can also support them through their donor-advised fund.
The founders, Brent and Serena Johnson, live in Beijing with their six children, and they donate their time and efforts to the organization. China Little Flower is a registered non-profit in the USA and received 501(c)(3) status in 2000. You can contact them at info@chinalittleflower.org or

China Little Flower
4388 Steinbeck Way
Ave Maria, FL 34142

Sign up for their monthly newsletter and follow them on Facebook, where they share photos of some the beautiful babies in their care.

chinalittleflower.org
littleflowerprojects.org
dewdropslittleflower.org

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If you know or have worked with an organization that works to build a culture that cherishes human life, please drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com with “prolife spotlight” in the title.

I’m also looking for a name for this feature! Pro-life Spotlight is okay, but it could be better. Suggestions welcome.

WONDER is sappy and predictable. Take your kids anyway.

When the dog died, I said to myself, “They are gonna run out of trowels if they keep on laying it on this thick.”

It’s not really a spoiler to reveal that the family dog dies halfway through “Wonder.” There can be no true spoilers in “Wonder,” possibly the most predictable movie ever put to film.

But that’s okay. It doesn’t set out to be Chekov. “Wonder”has a simple, specific goal in mind: to remind children (and adults) that kindness matters; that people are not always what they seem; that we all need mercy sometimes; and that strength and goodness ripple outward. And it achieves that goal.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.

Movie image: www.wonder.movie