For most sixty-year-olds they only thing they are thinking of is retirement, vacation, grandkids but most are not adopting 6 blind children. Joe and Karen Bartling of Oakton, Virginia always dreamed of having a big family but after having their son Joel now 30 the family struggled to conceive naturally. The couple deiced to try adoption and had heard about a baby that been abandoned in a South Korean orphanage. The couple who was eager to help decided to adopt a two-year-old, named Hannah, who was born with no eyes due to a developmental disorder.
The Bartlings also adopted David, 18, Bethan, 18, Jesse, 17 and Obed, 12 all the kids are completely blind. Karen who was once a flight attendant said, “We decided to adopt and the first one just happened to be blind.” The couple has said that it took them a little while to come to terms with that fact that Hannah was blind and that would never change, but the family has decided to take it one day at a time. Besides being blind, Hannah also has a processing disability and learning disability and even though she’s 23 she acts a lot younger than her age.
The couple were approached by a social worked a year later about a little girl whose parents were divorcing, they jumped at the chance but the adoption was never finalized. The couple realized that the little girl’s needs were far beyond what they were capable of doing caring for. “It was devastating. We waited many more years before we could even discuss adoption again.”
Their next child Jesse came to them after Karen saw a publication in their mailbox on blind children. “I leafed through and there was Jesse’s picture with the words, ‘Parents needed for a blind child.’ The almighty sent her our way.” After adopting Jesse, the couple became the go-to couple for blind children. The other kids also have a lot of medical issues, Abi, 17, they adopted in 2004 after police found her screaming and crying in a trash can. She has a rare genetic condition called Fraser Syndrome, which caused her eyes to be malformed and covered by skin.
David who is now 18 came to the family after another family in the US had decided that they could not handle a blind child. David was born with cataracts in one eye and has an abnormally small another eye due to microphthalmia. And in 2006 Obed Josiah who suffers from cerebral palsy and has a severe intellectual disability. A few months later they adopted their sixth child Bethany, who is now 18 and is blind due to Retinopathy of Prematurity after being born at 28 weeks in Thailand.
The Bartlings say they are a normal family who spends time together and attend their kid’s social activities. Two of the children Jesse and Obed required 24/7 care but the other kids all have things they love to do, Hannah loves singing, Abi likes to read books in Braille, Bethany loves socializing with her friends and David has big dreams of someday attending college. It may not always be easy the family says but they wouldn’t change it for anything. “We never imagined this would happen. I never in my wildest dreams imagined we would be in a lifestyle with special needs young adults.”