Wednesday, September 20, 2006

One Family, Countless Joys

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The Binsfelds have a family of eight kids, five with special needs — a blend of birth, adoption and fate. Where some see a child with a disability, the Binsfelds see a gift.

Neal Binsfeld gives his nine-year-old adopted son Ben a kiss after Ben crawled up into his lap while sitting in the front yard of their home in Vandnais Heights on Sept. 14.
Neal Binsfeld gives his nine-year-old adopted son Ben a kiss after Ben crawled up into his lap while sitting in the front yard of their home in Vandnais Heights on Sept. 14.

On a sunny afternoon this week, the school bus delivered an explosion of energy to one yard of an otherwise sleepy block in Vadnais Heights.

Older kids tried to head up a game of basketball, an effort that eventually dissolved into a gigglefest. One child poked another, launching a crying jag. The family black Labrador, Coco, burst from the front door and made a beeline for a plate of cookies.

It is all perfectly ordinary, say Jeanne and Neal Binsfeld, whose family of eight children is a blend of birth, adoption and fate. Their clan includes children with spina bifida, fetal alcohol syndrome and chromosomal disorders.

The Binsfelds didn't adopt their children out of a sense of charity, but because they wanted a family. They want others to see children like theirs as a source of joy, not need.

"It's just the way the world should be," Neal Binsfeld said. "You have to take care of the kids."

The Binsfelds have become champions of adopting children who have special needs, a broad category that includes older teens whose chances of finding a family are fading.

But they did not set out to be serial adopters. They first went to an adoption agency about two decades ago because they thought they couldn't have biological children. It was by chance they saw a photograph of an infant Korean girl with spina bifida — a congenital spinal cord defect — on an agency bulletin board. They fell in love.

"It was like hearing your favorite song on the radio and knowing you love it instantly," said Jeanne Binsfeld, 49. "At that moment, we knew we were on a path for life."

They adopted Sarah and their family was started. As luck would have it, Jeanne Binsfeld soon found herself pregnant. All told, they have three biological children and five by adoption — so far. [snip] Pioneer Press

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