October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month and New Directions, an organization that works to support individuals and families with Down syndrome is raising awareness.
The organization has over 200 members across South Dakota and neighboring states.
This Sunday, October 21, the organization will be sharing stories of adoption involving children with Down syndrome. The event will be held at Bethany Christian Services from 2-4pm. Childcare will also be provided.
Nathan and Megan Phillips are one of the families who will share their story this weekend.
The couple adopted their son Malachi from an orphanage in Serbia just two years ago. During the 15-month adoption process, the couple also became pregnant with their other son, Zadock.
Malachi has Down syndrome and because of his genetic disorder, they said he was basically isolated at the orphanage for the beginning of his life.
"Learning about their reality that every single day they lay in a crib, they cry and nobody comes," said Nathan of his son's early life.
His wife said the treatment of children with Down syndrome at orphanages all over the world inspired them to adopt.
"To hear about these kids, because they were born with an extra chromosome, they were just locked away for the rest of their lives," said Megan.
The Phillips witnessed first hand the vast number of children with Down syndrome living without a home. A child is born with Down syndrome once in every 691 births.
"These are human beings, they're just like us they just maybe learn things a little bit slower," said Nathan.
The Phillips say the last two years with their son has been the biggest blessing, but they admit it can be difficult.
"There were times when I would get so overwhelmed and I would call up friends and say oh, Malachi is doing this," Megan said.
As first time parents that need for connection with other families experiencing similar behaviors sparked the Phillips involvement with New Directions.
Chrisitie Bowar, an advocate for New Directions in Sioux Falls, said the program is there to support families and give them the resources and support network they need to best raise their children.
Megan said speaking with other parents helped her understand that many of Malachi's challenges weren't because of his experience at the orphanage or the fact that he has Down syndrome. Many of his behaviors were simply things every young child does and are just a normal part of the parenting experience.
The Phillips said their family and life might be a little different and it might be a little more difficult in some ways, but their son is well worth it.
"I know that everyday we go to bed thanking the lord for our kids because they're worth it," Megan said.
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