November is National Adoption Month. In celebration, Upbring is sharing the story of the Carlin family, one of our most recent adoptions.

Cameron and Joanna Carlin did something exceptional in May 2022 when they adopted their daughter Hailyn. They leveraged their family’s personal experience to help a child with special needs find health, safety and stability—and a forever home.

The Journey Begins
Cameron and Joanna have maintained close ties with Little People of America (LPA) ever since their biological daughter Haddie, who has achondroplasia dwarfism—the most common type of dwarfism—was six months old. The couple let the LPA know they were interested in fostering-to-adopt a second child with dwarfism.

Three days before Christmas 2020, the LPA’s adoption coordinator phoned Joanna and Cameron to tell them about a baby girl with dwarfism who needed a foster home. The couple were eventually referred to Upbring Foster In Texas to help them become licensed to foster a child with primary medical needs.

“Little” Defined
Dwarfism, or short stature, is a rare genetic condition resulting in short arms, legs and fingers, and a disproportionately large head. The most common type of dwarfism affects about 1 in 25,000 children, according to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, and many of them experience delays in motor development such as sitting, crawling and walking. 

After completing their foster-to-adopt licensing requirements, Joanna and Cameron brought Hailyn into their home 10 days before her first birthday, on July 8, 2021. The couple live in Hutto, TX, northeast of Austin.

“We had a wonderful family service worker who guided us through the whole process and made sure we were up to date on everything,” says Joanna, who worked as a child life specialist for 14 years. Cameron is director of human resources for a downtown Austin hotel.

“They thought it was amazing that we got to have another little person in our family,” recalls Joanna about the other Carlin children: Haddie, 10; Hannah,7; and Holden, 6. “From the first day we brought her home, they wanted to know how soon we would adopt Hailyn and make her their sister.”

Hailyn officially became part of the Carlin family on May 18, 2022. The older Carlin children even made a court appearance during the adoption ceremony. They told the attorney they would love their little sister forever.

When it came to naming the newest member of the family, not just any name would do. “If she’s our sister, she has to have an H name,” insisted the siblings. Hailyn it was!

Slowly but Surely
Joanna and Cameron felt they had a specific skill set to help Hailyn face the challenges that come with dwarfism and succeed in life. They made sure she had the right doctors, speech and physical therapists, as well as at-home nursing care to help with her daily needs.

In the beginning, Hailyn could only roll over and lift her head a bit, and she required a G-tube that provided nutrients directly into her stomach. Once that was removed, Cameron was able to feed her and put her to sleep at night. “I had this unique bonding with her early on that solidified our relationship,” Cameron recalls. “She’s my little sweetheart.”

Today, Hailyn can almost walk on her own, and she’s playing and climbing more. “She’s a two-year-old that wants to be very independent, which is fun to see,” says Joanna.

“It’s amazing how humans can respond and change over such a short period of time,” reflects Cameron. “A lot of that is a testament to my wife and nurses who worked with her every day.”

A Look Ahead
Joanna and Cameron say they might consider fostering-to-adopt again when their kids are older. For now, the family of six wants to grow, spend time together and create traditions and memories. 

On their vacation this past summer, Cameron and Joanna introduced Hailyn to members of her extended family who were glad to finally meet her. To celebrate her adoption, the couple surprised the kids with a trip to the Kalahari waterpark near Austin, courtesy of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Austin, which blessed the family with a $1,000 gift certificate to the park. Hailyn picked out her own stuffed safari animal. “I think she knows she’s part of the family and that she gets to have her own things,” says Cameron. “You see that more as she’s getting older.”

While the Carlins’ foster-to-adopt story is unlike any, it is also like many: With the help of Upbring and other caring people, another special child now has a home, “where she knows she’s safe, and is loved and wanted,” says Joanna.

Want to adopt in Texas?
Like all of Upbring’s adoption programs, Foster In Texas works diligently to provide nurturing forever homes for the children we serve. Learn more about foster-to-adoption in Texas here.

Keep up with what's happening in your community.