Parents creating culture of love around the globe for Down syndrome children

27 May 2009

By The Record

Volunteers promote international adoptions of Down syndrome babies.


Reece Roberts, 7, whose mother started Reece’s Rainbow. Photo: CNS.


By Paul Sanchez

Maryland-based organization is working against the trend of aborting
Down syndrome babies by placing those children from around the globe
with loving families in the United States.

Reece’s Rainbow ( assists couples in adopting
Down syndrome children from other countries. Founded in June 2006,
Reece’s Rainbow has already found families for more than 175 children
with Down syndrome from 32 countries around the world, including
Armenia, Haiti, Mexico, Ghana, Russia, Liberia, Vietnam and Korea.

An entirely volunteer organization, Reece’s Rainbow prides itself on
the fact that 100 percent of every dollar donated goes to the child,
family or fund designated by the donor.

For decades doctors have recommended an amniocentesis test for pregnant
women 35 and older because their age dictates a greater risk for
chromosomal defects. Because the test carries a slight chance of
miscarriage, it has not been routinely offered to younger women, who
end up giving birth to the majority of Down syndrome babies.

But a 2007 recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists encouraged doctors to offer a new screening procedure
to all pregnant women, regardless of age. A sonogram and two blood
tests in the first trimester now can detect the extra 21st chromosome
that causes Down syndrome.

An estimated 90 percent of all prenatal detections of Down syndrome are said to end in abortion.

Reece’s Rainbow is not an adoption agency, but a nonprofit, volunteer
organization that serves as a connecting point for Down syndrome
children and potential adoptive families. It focuses on saving the
lives of children who might otherwise face life, or death, in mental
institutions abroad.

The organization also works to help birth families who choose to keep
their children, and helps them begin their own Down syndrome
associations that fight for the rights and inclusion of special-needs
children in their own countries.

Reece’s Rainbow was founded by Andrea Roberts, who has a Down syndrome child named Reece who has changed her life.

"Yes, my son is the catalyst for Reece’s Rainbow. But I lean on my
belief that God has a specific purpose for everyone, and this is his
calling for me through Reece," Roberts said. "Not everyone gets such an
obvious call. I spent many years drifting through life, with no idea
where I was headed. I love to help others and my love for Reece fuels
my passion to defend and protect others like him."

Shelley Bedford and her husband have adopted two boys from two
different countries through Reece’s Rainbow. Their son, Xander, adopted
from Ukraine in August 2007, has Down syndrome and bilateral clubbed
feet. He has had major foot reconstruction surgery and is learning to
walk at age 5.

Their other son, Grifyn, also 5, was adopted from Serbia in April 2008.
Grifyn was the first child with Down syndrome to ever be adopted in
Serbia. Bedford now volunteers with Reece’s Rainbow to assist other
families who are adopting from Serbia.

The Bedfords live in Alabama where Shelley’s husband is in the U.S. Army.

"The most rewarding part is seeing the families meeting their new
children," Bedford said. "It is amazing to watch the journeys that
families go through and how God pulls it all together. It is an honor
to be a small part of helping unite children with their forever

Bedford said people were surprised when she and her husband announced they were adopting a Down syndrome child.

"No one understood why and they really didn’t understand what to
expect," she said. "Now they see our children and they realize that
they are just normal kids, with personalities, likes and dislikes like
everyone else. Our boys are loved and accepted by all of our family and

Roberts said she opposes abortion, as do many people active with
Reece’s Rainbow. However, Reece’s Rainbow does not take a stand on
abortion or prenatal testing because its primary focus is to assist
with adoptions and foster understanding and acceptance through example.

"I am sure that there are many members of our group who may have
varying viewpoints, but Reece’s Rainbow does not have a stated position
on abortion," Roberts said.

"Our group is open to anyone with a love for children and people with
Down syndrome. Discussions about such controversial things are
discouraged because we want to keep the focus on the life-saving
efforts of the ministry," she said.

Maureen Mulready, a Catholic from Liverpool, England, who has lived in
the United States for nearly 20 years, said she thinks Reece’s Rainbow
represents the ultimate pro-life expression and applauded the rescuing
of Down syndrome babies from lives in institutions where they would
likely be mistreated.

"If society does not show compassion for its most vulnerable members, then it is doomed for worse things," Mulready said.

"In my opinion, the fact that Reece’s Rainbow is helping to secure all
of these adoptions of Down syndrome kids conveys to others that these
children deserve the right to live just like other children," she said.
"They are spreading a pro-life message of compassion and acceptance."

More information about Reece’s Rainbow can be found at