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News: Top Stories

Couple Adopts 6 Kids Who Are Blind and Have Special Needs

Inside Edition logo Inside Edition 7/15/2018 JOHANNA LI
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Meet the Bartlings, a Virginia family of six blind kids and a loving couple who was happy to adopt all of them into their family.

“We’re just a normal, run-of-the mill family,” said dad Joe Bartling, 60, in an interview with SWNS.

He and his wife Karen live in Oakton with their six kids, Hannah, 23, David, 18, Bethany, 18, Jesse, 17, Abi, 17 and Obed, 12.

Joe explained the bunch is all expected to pitch in around the home.

“I have to cook the meals and do the laundry, but they all just get involved – they all make their beds and do their own chores,” he explained. “For me, it’s just, ‘Make sure everybody gets food and is on the right bus at the right time.’”

The exception is Jesse and Obed, who require round-the-clock care and need help bathing, grooming, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, changing their diapers, and getting dressed.

He explained their journey to a big family began 30 years ago, when after having a biological son, they struggled with conceiving despite failed attempts at IVF.

That’s when they heard about Hannah, who was just two years old when she was abandoned in an orphanage in South Korea. Hannah was born without eyes due to a developmental disorder.

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“As soon as the first picture of Hannah came across we were like, ‘Oh my goodness.’” Karen said. “It took us about a week or so to wrap our brains around the fact she was blind and that would never change. It was one day at a time.”

Several years later, they adopted Jesse, who was abandoned by her birth mother in a South Korea orphanage because of her severe learning disability.

Two years later, they adopted Abi, who was crying when police found her abandoned in a park’s trash can in India. Abi has Fraser syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that caused her eyes to be malformed and her eyelids to be fused shut, along with other conditions.

They adopted David in the same year, a baby once abandoned on the steps of a government building in China due to his microphthalmia, a condition that causes him to have abnormally small and malformed eyes.

Obed Josiah, who has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, and Bethany, who is blind due to being born prematurely, joined the family within months of each other.

Joe and Karen, who also have adult children in their 30s and even a grandson, said they understand having younger kids with disabilities will mean they will never retire or have a home without kids.

“It’s challenging but rewarding,” Joe said. “We never imagined this would happen - I never in my wildest dreams imagined we would be in a lifestyle with special needs young adults.”

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