In 2012, Courtney Giles and her husband Martin, adopted a baby boy whose start in life began as a micro preemie. Baby Marcus was born 16 weeks early, weighing just 1lb 80z. He spent 151 days in the NICU before being placed in foster care.
When Courtney and Martin adopted Marcus he was 14 months old and very tiny, weighing just under 14 pounds wearing 6-9 months clothes. The first time Courtney held Marcus she knew she was meant to be his mother. The bond both she and Martin felt with him was unlike any other. “It was cosmic. He instantly bonded with us both. It was like he fought all those days in the NICU just for us! He is a special gift. We call him Miracle Marcus.
The Giles family anticipated Marcus would have health needs associated with his early birth. At 22 months, he was diagnosed with developmental delays and autism. Hearing this for the first time, Courtney and Martin felt overwhelmed and scared. They had so many questions.
As part of his early intervention services, Marcus required multiple therapies. His weekly routine included Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Physical Therapy. During this time, Marcus was referred to Family Connection of South Carolina. Courtney first contacted Family Connection looking for information on healthcare systems, including Medicaid and TEFRA. “After speaking with the Family Connection’s Healthcare Connection Manager my mind was put at ease. I found out more about how to navigate the Medicaid program. “I learned about the various resource available to him and the differences in Medicaid managed care and fee for service Medicaid. I was also told about the services Marcus could receive as he got older—including Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Case Management.
As Marcus got older, Courtney reached out to Family Connection again for assistance with preparing for school and creating an Individual Education plan. “Again, Family Connections came through. They told me about organizations such as the South Carolina Autism Society’s Parent School Partnership. The also told me what to expect when meeting with the school’s IEP team and how my voice should be the loudest advocate for him.”
Courtney says Family Connection opened a door to a network of other parents who were facing the challenges of understanding a diagnosis their child has received and what that means for their family’s future. Working with a Support Parent from Family Connection helped her talk through her feelings and concerns and allowed her to ask questions in a safe and nurturing space.
Courtney’s Family Connection journey did not end with the support given for Marcus. In 2017 she went through training to become a Family Connection Support Parent herself. Since then she has helped dozens of families through different stages of their journeys. “Parents of children who are newly diagnosed often tell me they feel “numb.” You think the worst and hope for the best. Having someone to talk with is so important. Having another parent who can listen without judgment is sometimes all anyone needs. Sometimes parents seek advice, but mostly they just need to be heard. Additionally, it reminds me that Marcus’s diagnosis was not the end of the line for him—nor does it dash any plans for his future. It is just a speed bump. Sometimes sharing where you were and where you are now can give a family hope.”
Today Marcus is nine years old. Courtney and Martins’ family has grown since Marcus joined them. The Giles family now includes Maggie Grace, age six; Maddox, age four; and Caroline who is almost two years old.