Front featured photo: Robert Meeker with his adopted daughter, Carys.
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When Robert and Amy Meeker took eight-year-old Kaitlyn into their home in October last year, they knew she was going to require special care.
The couple had agreed to adopt the Chinese girl from Starfish Children’s Services two years before despite being told she had spina bifida and developmental disorders.
But when Kaitlyn, who now goes by the name Carys, arrived at their Dallas home, the parents quickly discovered that the spinal condition was the least of their little girl’s worries.
After a year of medical exams and tests, doctors found that Carys is also blind, deaf, suffers from cerebral palsy, hepatitis C, scoliosis and hydrocephalus, known as ‘water on the brain’.
The girl also has severe epilepsy which causes her to have a seizure every two hours, both during the day and at night, that doctors said will likely require brain surgery to treat, according to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan, and seen by Dailymail.com,
Extensive deformities in her brain means she has the mental age of an eight-month-old, with little ability to progress beyond that.
Carys also has a deformed palate and rotted teeth, which was so severe it required surgery to fix, and screams loudly at night, meaning she needs to sleep away from the rest of the family.
She also engages in ‘self-harm’, according to the lawsuit, and will rub her forearm across the top or back of her head almost constantly unless stopped from doing so.
While the exact reason for her doing this is still unknown, unless constantly monitored she will continue the practice until her arms and scalp bleed, and also wears away the hair on her head.
The Meekers say they have a history of raising children, having one biological daughter, and have agreed to adopt two Chinese children in the past with developmental difficulties.
However, they say they would never have agreed to adopt Carys if they had know the full extent of her disabilities, as they are not equipped to care for a child with her needs.
The Meekers say Carys should have been placed with an ‘end of life’ family, which in the adoption world means a family that were willing to care and bury a dying infant.
Medical professionals, who are still assessing Carys, have told the family she will have a severely shortened lifespan, but have not yet been able to give an exact duration.
The lawsuit says Starfish senior staff ‘engaged in extreme and outrageous behavior and intentionally or recklessly caused emotional distress, mental trauma and bodily harm’ to the Meekers and Carys.
The family’s ordeal began in May 2013 when Robert and Amy found Carys’ profile on the Starfish website, and said they were interested in adopting her.
After receiving what they thought was a full medical history for Carys, Amy flew out to China in October 2013 in order to see the girl, then aged five, in a foster home.
During her half-hour with Carys, Amy said she noticed the developmental difficulties and spina bifida, but says she was deliberately left unaware of the dozens of additional conditions Carys had.
Back in the United States, the pair decided to adopt Carys and finalized their adoption letter. Two years later, in October 2015, Robert was sent to pick her up at an airport in China.
However, the lawsuit says, from the moment he arrived he knew something wasn’t right.
Carys was handed to him along with two large bottles of medication, with all the labels in Chinese, and officials refused to explain what it was for.
Despite the confusion, Robert took the girl back home to Texas before he says he began emailing Starfish senior staff asking for Carys’ full medical history, which he says he was denied.
Robert and Amy say it took 11 months of doctor visits, exams and tests to uncover the true extent of Carys’ suffering, costing them a total of $500,000.
After deciding to contact an attorney, lawyers subsequently discovered that Starfish staff appeared to have known about Carys’ condition, but deliberately hid it from the Meekers in an attempt to get her adopted.
In email exchanges between Starfish board member Patrick McLaughlin and various members of staff, her condition is discussed at length while employees say they are concerned the Meeker family have not been made aware of the girl’s medical history.
In one email, sent in September 2013, McLaughlin criticizes a staff member for discussing Carys’ condition, saying: ‘To me it is as if you want to erect a billboard on the highway with [her] picture with the words “adoptive family beware this child is really screwed and you better think twice before you take her back home.”
‘The adoptive mother is not new to the world of special needs kids and I anticipate she is coming prepared for the unknown… Your role now is to smile, nod and clap when appropriate if asked about [Carys].
‘The kid was born with enough millstones around her neck. Lets not add another stone in the form of “buyers remorse” by the adoptive family.
‘You are an advocate for [Carys]. You are not an advocate for the parents at this point in the process. For better or worse Starfish has done its job and the family takes over accordingly.’
Staff also repeatedly exchanged concerned messages about Carys not receiving appropriate care, the fact that her epilepsy went untreated for several years, and trips to the hospital for malnutrition.
Employees also repeated their concerns that the Meekers were not being told enough about her medical condition to make a balanced decision about her care.
The lawsuit says Starfish’s ‘representations were materially false as they were laughably incomplete.’
It adds: ‘Starfish deliberately chose to shield this information from the Meekers until it was too late, placing Carys into a medically precarious situation and the Meekers into an impossible one.’
Despite all the difficulties with Carys, the Meekers say they are not seeking to reverse the adoption, since Carys is now in their care and they love her.
However, the suit does claim for damages covering the girl’s medical costs, which are estimated to total ‘several million dollars’ over the remaining years of her life.