A Minnesota couple who have adopted two children from opposite sides of the world said they originally planned to adopt healthy, typical children. “But,” says dad Ted, “sometimes reality, especially in the adoption world, throws you a curve that turns out even better than your dreams.” Ted and Jodi Aschoff have two adopted children who both have Down syndrome. Daughter Kayella was adopted from a Colombian orphanage in 2011, while son Leo was adopted from China in 2014. Kayella recently made headlines as the newest toddler model in Target’s lineup of children’s products. The adorable four-year-old is featured on Target’s training pants packaging. Like many vivacious children with Down syndrome, Kayella loves the camera.
According to The Mighty, Target’s decision to choose Kayella for the photo shoot came as a happy surprise:
In 2014 the Aschoffs responded to a Target casting call for child models. Kayella wasn’t chosen at the time, but when Jodi Aschoff followed up with the company months later, they asked her to bring Kayella again, according to ParkerMyles.com, a blog about Down syndrome. Kayella was chosen to be in the final group and brought in for a shoot in February. Then, in the end of September the family was told that Kayella’s photo would be used.
The Aschoffs believe that all children, regardless of whether or not they have special needs, deserve equal opportunities to pursue what they love. That’s why Jodi gave Kayella the opportunity to audition for Target modeling. Ted told the Children’s Home Society of Minnesota that increased acceptance of individuals with Down syndrome is something the world must still make strides to accomplish:
Our country’s understanding and acceptance of children with Down syndrome and other disabilities has come a long way from the days of secrecy and institutions. We now have an abundance of resources and assistance to help our children with special needs live their lives to the fullest potential. Unfortunately, this is not true in the rest of the world where there is still stigma and shame in having a child with Down syndrome. This is why special needs adoption, both domestically and internationally is so important. Without it, these children could be relegated to a difficult and frustrating life, wanting to flourish but not having the opportunity to do so.
While the United States has made strides to be more accommodating of children with special needs insofar as equal education and employment opportunities are concerned, medical discrimination still threatens their nascent Lives every day. Many preborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted every year in the United States simply because they are not expected to lead the same type of Life as their peers. Parents deserve resources and education to feel empowered to raise children with Down syndrome. Furthermore, the opportunity to place such children with loving adoptive families will continue to serve as a blessing to both children with special needs and their adoptive parents.