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Remarkable family provides forever home to child with profound special needs

April 11, 2012

The Vaughn family officially grew by one member on Monday, April 9, when they adopted 7-year-old Keona (center). Keona was a victim of shaken baby syndrome when she was 3 months old. She was left severely developmentally disabled and faces a lifetime of therapeutic needs.

Wendi C. Thomas, a columnist for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, recently wrote about the adoption of Keona, a 7-year-old with truly special needs who was in Youth Villages’ foster care program. Youth Villages’ success depends on people like Mark and Debbie Vaughn whose unconditional love makes a real difference in the lives of children like Keona.

All adoptions are admirable but this one is remarkable: Keona was shaken when she was 3 months old and was left severely developmentally delayed. She can barely see or hear and can’t walk. When she came into foster care, she was dropped off in a flimsy umbrella stroller. Her muscles were so contracted that her body was as stiff as a board.

Giving birth to a sick child is one thing; choosing to care for one is another.

The Vaughns have done both. On Valentine’s Day in 2006, their son Caleb, born nearly three months’ premature, died at 16 months old.

After that, taking in a child who will require therapy for life didn’t seem quite so daunting.

– Wendi C. Thomas, The Commercial Appeal

Read the full column at

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