“We will never be left in “empty nests” – how are foster parents to 6 children with visual impairments

Joe and Karen Bartling was a native son when they decided to adopt their first child. Now have 6 pairs of blind adopted children from India, China and South Korea. They do not consider themselves heroes and understand that is safe to live in old age they do not have.

Photo: SWNS

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When Joe and Karen Bartling got married, they both wanted a big family. Their dream came true, but not the way they imagined.

After numerous failed pregnancies 30 years ago, he was the only blood child – Joel. Other attempts to have children no nothing and a couple thinking about adoption.

The first was a girl Hanna from South Korea, which is due to violations of fetal development was born without eyes. “We decided to do adoption and it so happened that the first child was blind,” says Karen.

In 1997, Joe and Karen moved the girl to the United States. “It took us a week to realize this baby is blind and it will never change,” says Karen. Hannah, now 23, in addition to blindness, she has a learning disability and, according to foster mother, she is small for her age.


Some time later, the pair turned social worker and asked if they would still take the child. He was looking for family for girls, whose parents were divorced. Unfortunately, the child had special needs that overwhelmed the capacity of the family. Joe and Karen are unable to adopt a child.

My future daughter she saw in the mailing

“It was a disaster. It took a long time before we could just talk about adoption. And then one day our mail was the publication of blind children,” says Karen.

There, under the title “Blind children need parents” the woman saw her future daughter Jessie. The girl was left in a hospital in South Korea blood mother. In 2002 Karen and Joe had adopted her. “Since then we began to contact agencies and social workers when they have blind kids,” says foster mom.


Then in 2004, the family had abi. She was born in India, the police found the girl crying in a dumpster. The girl has a rare genetic disorder Fraser syndrome, which in her eyes is damaged and covered with leather.

In the same year a family had a fourth child, David. The boy was born with cataracts in one eye and has abnormally small the second eye. Of his parents nothing is known, of the child found on the steps of government buildings in China. Bartling was his second family in the United States – the first foster parents decided that can’t take care of a blind child. Now David is 18, he is going to go to College and believes that will be able to live independently

Two years later, the family got Josie twelve-year-old Obed, who has a serious intellectual disability. And a few months later, the couple adopted the last child. It was Bethany, who was born at 28 weeks in Thailand and lost his sight due to retinopathy of prematurity.

Obed Jose in the hands of Karen

Although Joe and Karen with the kids on the street are often stare, and their restaurant bill sometimes pays strangers, Karen believes that they have “an ordinary family”. Hannah sings, abi loves to read books in Braille, Bethany talking with friends and David wants to go to College. “Wherever we go, we’re always looking at the surrounding. It’s not our fault, just we attract a lot of attention,” says Joe.

Abi, Hannah and David

“This life chose me”

All children in the family is self-sufficient and trying to help parents.

“I have to cook and do Laundry, but all the kids involved in housework – they make the bed and fulfill their responsibilities. We are a completely normal family,” says Karen.

Now both spouses are 60 years old. Karen admits that being a mother of 6 children with visual impairments without assistants is not easy. “The most difficult thing was that Jesse and Obed 100% dependent on me, I bathe them, brush their teeth, dress, feed, change diapers and change clothes, says Karen. In our age we see our friends retire, what they have in life there are pleasant events, which we lack, for example, they have grandchildren.”

Although the couple has a grandson from the eldest blood child, they realize that their old age will be different: “We will never be staying at the “empty nest” will never leave to retire. It is difficult, but this work brings reward”.

Joe and Karen do not consider myself a Saint or of the hero and clarifies that it is not chose a family – she chose them: “When we have a heavy day or some difficulty, people tell us “Well, you chose it.” I used to say, “yeah, you’re right, I chose this”. But the more I think, the more it seems to me that I did not make that choice. This life chose me.”

According to the materials Daily Mail, Six blind child

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