National Down Syndrome Adoption Network

All Children Deserve The Safety And Security Of A Loving Home.

In 1981, Robin and David Steele visited a children’s home in Cincinnati and fell in love with a little girl named Martha. After initially being told Martha was not available for adoption because she w as born with Down syndrome, the Steeles persisted — both adopting Martha and establishing the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network (NDSAN) so no other child with Down syndrome would ever be considered “unadoptable.”

This article was published in the award-winning Down Syndrome World™ magazine. Become a member to read all the articles and get future issues delivered to your door!

A program of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati (DSAGC), NDSAN is a free registry (not an adoption agency) that connects birth and adoptive families across the U.S. The Steeles — who eventually adopted four more children with Down syndrome and six other children who are differently-abled — recently stepped back from the organization but are still committed supporters. Since 2010, NDSAN has been under the capable leadership of Stephanie Thompson, who spent the previous 11 years working for DSAGC.

When birth parents call NDSAN, Thompson answers their questions and provides educational resources about raising children with Down syndrome to help allay any fears that might accompany the diagnosis. If they decide to give a child up for adoption, she helps them develop a birth plan.

Families interested in adopting a child with Down syndrome can contact NDSAN after completing a home study. Thompson then searches NDSAN’s database for children who might be a good fit. Children with Down syndrome often have unique medical and developmental needs, and it is important that the family be a good fit for the child and vice versa. Thompson also helps get an adoption agency involved, if necessary, and continues to provide support after a child joins his or her new family.

“I can empathize with both adoptive and birth parents,” said Thompson, who has a 25-year-old son with Down syndrome. “I know how it feels to get a diagnosis of Down syndrome, and through that connection, birth parents feel comfortable asking me questions. If they want to make an adoption plan, I have a wonderful relationship with all of the adoptive families on our registry, whom I’m helping as well. It means the world to me these folks feel called to adopt a child with Down syndrome.”

“When we first learned of our son’s condition, we felt that there was little choice for us,” one family wrote in a letter to Thompson. “We may have made a very different decision if it w as not for your organization.”


Thompson wants everyone involved in the adoption process to have the most up-to-date information about Down syndrome, and that includes medical professionals. NDSAN publishes booklets for healthcare providers so they can educate patients about all their options.

“If termination is talked about, we want adoption talked about as well,” she said.

She’s also reaching out to Down syndrome organizations that can help spread the word to members about both adoption and the many foster children with Down syndrome in their areas looking for forever homes.

“This can be a very emotional job,” Thompson said.

“But I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Each year, the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network is contacted by approximately 125 expectant families, birth families, and agencies and helps 40 children find their adoptive families.

The article was published in Down Syndrome World™ magazine. Become a member to read the whole magazine and get future magazines delivered to your door!

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