Today I have the honor to introduce you to the most precious family. Shantel and Kent have opened up their home and hearts to share the love of the Lord with children that have been through such suffering and neglect. Shantel share’s their stories below.
From an early age I knew I wanted to work with drug addicted babies. I pictured myself as a teenager in a foreign country, working in an orphanage for little babies that were born addicted to drugs. What I didn’t know then, was that this dream born in my heart as a teenager would come to life many years later, but take on a different shape. Kent and I were married for little over a year, I felt led to talk to him about us adopting. At the time I was thinking children with developmental delay, maybe Down’s syndrome. We started the lengthy process of paperwork, home studies, physicals, getting all the small details in our home up to their required code, all the while searching for children’s photos on the website, adoptuskids. They say adoptions are not for the weak of heart, that is so very true.
While I had my ideas of who we should consider adopting the Lord had His ideas, we kept being matched with a little guy named Travis. It appeared from his photo he had more medical issues and I didn’t feel able to do that, so we kept saying no. Finally one day we knew he was to be our son. We knew if the Lord was calling us to parent him, He would give us the abilities to do it.
Travis was born at 1 pound 7 ounces, he has spastic cerebral palsy, he has severe epilepsy, shunted hydrocephalus, a feeding tube, and has had so many surgeries we have lost count after 38. He wasn’t expected to live very long, because of his medical issues, but he is doing very well currently. We have had to modify his daily activities because so many normal everyday items cause seizures in him. He is now 13 years old, however his functioning level is about 3-6 months of age.
We were matched with a little boy after adopting Travis, we couldn’t wait to bring this cute little man into our family, he was deaf, and had other medical issues. We had a date to pick him up, the foster family was saying their goodbyes at a family party, and I was at Gillette Childrens Hospital with Travis when I got the call that the adoption had fallen through. I was devastated, my heart was crushed and I couldn’t imagine our family without this little man in it.
The next day I received a phone call from our social worker that we had been selected for a little girl. Apprehensively we proceeded with the match all the while still grieving the loss of our little boy.
That little girl was Victoria, she was born early, weighing in just under 3 pounds. She was drug addicted as well. Victoria is a true miracle and a little fighter. She was born and left in a toilet stool, her biological mother was so strung out she didn’t know she was giving birth. Paramedics were called and assuming they were removing a pin infant corpse from the toilet, they were shocked when Victoria’s little leg moved slightly. The paramedics began working on her, and were able to revive her. Victoria’s medical records showed that she has cerebral palsy, seizures, shunted hydrocephalus, blind, deaf, would never walk or talk and most likely be on oxygen the rest of her life. Her foster parents reported a very huge change in Victoria about the time we were matched with her, she was taken off oxygen, she was able to have her feeding tube removed, she started walking and talking, I was able to share with them, she had parents praying for her daily and of course the Lord was touching her. Victoria now travels with us, and sings. We are able to share her story of hope to people everywhere we go.
Vonte was the next blessing to our home. He was also drug addicted, he weighed in at 1 pound 6 ounces. Vonte also has cerebral palsy, a feeding tube, diabetes insipidis, and autism. Vonte has been a Dudley from the moment he was wheeled into our home. He wanted a grandpa more than anything else in life, while he was still in his foster home, we would call and talk to each other almost daily. Vonte always was kind and very to the point, however he would get bored with talking to all of us and would quickly ask to talk to his Grandpa. Kent’s dad lived with us at the time, up till his death and Vonte and Grandpa were the best buddies. Vonte is a charmer and has the most amazing smile. I often say, he is the reason I smile everyday! Vonte was in a wheelchair 90% of the day, however after moving to our home, we began encouraging him, working with him in therapy and we have been able to get rid of the wheelchair. He had severe scoliosis and had to have an emergency surgery to correct the curvature, he smiled everyday through healing and is doing fantastic.
Kiah is our next addition. She was by far the smallest of our children, she weighed 15 ounces at birth! She was not only drug addicted but alcohol played a huge role in her biological mothers daily life. Kiah was in the same foster home as Vonte, I met her while I was down meeting Vonte and picking him up to bring him back to MN. Kiah struggles everyday of her life with fetal alcohol and severe autism. She rages and lashes out at herself and everyone else in her way. She has been the toughest adoption, however we know she was supposed to be in our family. We love this beautiful little girl very much and we rejoice with her during her good days. Some days you wonder if you have made a difference in her life, but you don’t have to wonder for very long, she will walk up to you and stand next to you, saying she loves you.
I thought we were done adopting after we got Kiah, those 4 came so quickly and we had a long break without anymore children. I started planning for our future, big vacations, a small cabin someday and so on…then came Jeffrey!
We were asked to adopt Jeffrey because nobody else would, he was born slightly premature weighing just under 5 pounds. He was on target to live a normal healthy life. At 8 months of age his biological mother did the unthinkable, she wrapped him in a blanket and suffocated him. Jeffrey wasn’t seen by medical professionals until the following evening. He has a lengthy list of medical issues resulting from the injury, he has a tracheostomy, a feeding tube, a baclofen pump, he has had a double hip surgery and is pain everyday from all the spasticity. Jeffrey is a miracle boy and we are so thankful he is in our life. He is able to smile and communicates with us batting his long eye lashes!
While meeting Jeffrey and being trained in on how to care for a child with as severe medical issues as he has, a team of Doctors, social workers and a guardian ad litem approached us and asked us to consider Jeffrey’s Foster sister, we quickly declined and felt we had enough on our plate at the time.
We met Raniyah later that week and quickly fell in love!
5 months after bringing Jeffrey home Raniyah came home as well. She is so fragile that Florida was not able to find anyway to transport her to us. Eventually we took off in our van down to get her, we took a nurse with us and we had set up our van to transport such a fragile child. Raniyah was born a healthy little shy girl. At 10 months of age she was left unattended in a bathtub and drown. The paramedics worked on her for 90 minutes and thankfully were able to bring her back. Raniyah has severe neurological damage and suffers daily with disautonomia, she has seizures, a tracheostomy, feeding tube and many other issues resulting from her trauma. She is the most beautiful little girl. I am blessed to call her my daughter.
Adopting is not easy, it isn’t always cute and pretty… It can be heartbreaking and frustrating. However I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The bible says in James 1:27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
I can plan all day long for the things I would want in life, for the things that might bring a moment of happiness and joy… However I have never felt more fulfilled in my life, saying “yes” to a child needing a home, and watching him or her learn to be part of a family, learn to be accepted and feel loved is priceless. There is no greater joy than being used by our Heavenly Father.
We pray for the biological parents of our children, they made poor choices, but sometimes those choices are made out of brokenness and it is so difficult to make right choices when we ourselves are broken.
Our family motto: only one life will soon be passed, only what’s done for Christ will last.
Kent & Shantel Dudley
(left to right) Shantel, Raniyah, Victoria, Jeffrey, Vonte, Travis, Kiah, Kent
Shantel and Dudley