By Dan Montgomery

Michael and Michelle Summerlin, of Newport News, knew they wanted to adopt. Sure, they had busy jobs and seven biological children, but they believed, strongly, that they could and should open their home to another child in need of a loving family.Gro

Still, they recognized the need for some limits.

“We started out thinking, ‘Little girl, no disabilities,’ ” Michelle recalls. “But the more we learned….”

Fast forward to today. The Summerlin family includes 5-year-old Koty Michael Summerlin. Koty has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He has multiple healthcare specialists, requires a broad array of therapies, special equipment, a special school and a lot of care and attention from his parents and his brothers and sisters.

Summerlin siblings young and old chip in cheerfully to play with Koty (and he is quick to smile in appreciation) and help out their parents at every turn. Koty’s medical needs don’t stop him from attending school or participating in family outings.

What changed?

“People think they know their limitations, but you are a lot more capable than you give yourself credit for,” Michael says.

The Summerlins learned just what they are capable of while spending time with the foster care and adoption experts at Lutheran Family Services of Virginia’s Tidewater office.

“We couldn’t have asked for better support and training,” Michelle says. “I felt like they were friends.”

And advisers, helpers and guides.

“It’s a circle,” Michael says, “and in the middle is a child.”

Still, adopting a child with special medical needs is not all hugs and giggles.

“I’m not going to lie – It’s not easy,” Michelle says. “But it’s so rewarding to help him get to his fullest potential in life. I’d adopt 10 more if I could.”

Learn more about our foster care and adoption programs here.