Cleft Palate, International Adoption Clinic Elijah Cooper
Out of State
Tim and Tara Cooper of Hattiesburg, Mississippi flew more than 7,000 miles across the world to China to adopt their son, Elijah Li. Also parents to two young biological children, the Coopers initially expressed interest in foster care, but after attending a Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Los Angeles, California, the couple had a change of heart.
“I read Mary Beth Chapman’s book ‘Choosing to See,’ a book she talked about as a speaker at the Summit. I cannot tell you what God did in my heart with that book,” Tara said.
The Coopers prayed about their desire to adopt and contacted the agency that had assisted them with foster care. They learned there weren’t many babies to adopt in the United States at the time, but in China, several babies were in a need of a loving forever home. The Coopers wanted to adopt a healthy baby at first, but later felt inspired to adopt a child with health challenges.
“My heart was saying let’s take them all!” Tara said.
When the Coopers were matched with Elijah, the agency told them he had a cleft palate. It was then they contacted the International Adoption Clinic at Children’s of Alabama to evaluate their options. Doctors at the clinic later discovered Elijah experienced hearing problems due to an ear infection and fluid buildup. Elijah underwent surgery to correct his cleft palate, and will need more surgeries in the future.
“We sent Elijah’s file over to Dr. Jennifer Chambers. She looked over it and helped us understand how many surgeries he would need, anything that may be pending … Just anything we may not have understood, she clarified for us,” Tara said. “Dr. Chambers prepared us for all the different things that may be expected.”
Elijah was 9-days-old when the Coopers began what would be a two-year adoption process, beginning with the paperwork to bring Elijah to Mississippi. “We thought all of the paperwork and phone calls were the journey, but it really didn’t start until we got him home,” Tara said.
When they returned from China, the Coopers took Elijah to the International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham for a complete physical. They continue to bring him each year for annual developmental assessments. The staff guides Tim and Tara through the medical care he needs.
“They are so wonderful!” Tara exclaims. “They not only give us medical advice, but practical advice as well. I can email them day or night and they will respond. We really didn’t know how adoptive kids were different and they really help us through the practical daily stuff. These guys – their heart is for these children. They know that when you step into this world it’s hard.”
Tara continued, “He cried a lot in the first year. We know it was hard for him – a 2-year-old that doesn’t speak your language, having a hard time hearing you and probably has never seen a Caucasian. We quickly started using sign language to communicate with him.”
As for Elijah’s siblings, Simon and Annie, they adore their little brother. While they attend a private school, Elijah attends a special school to help him with his speech and hearing difficulties. “He has blossomed at the school. He is very gifted,” Tara said. “You can tell his mind is always thinking. You can tell he is always putting things together… He is very inquisitive and brilliant.”
Tara says that adoption has been hardest gift she has ever received, but also the greatest gift. “Several people say he is so lucky, but I say no, we are the lucky ones. He has definitely blessed us more than we have blessed him!”