EL PASO - Many adoptive mothers will tell you their child grew in their heart. That was the case for one mother who saw our Wednesday's Child report on Rayshad and immediately knew he was her son.
WFAA's Cynthia Izaguirre traveled to El Paso for an update on the very special child who touched a lot of hearts.
One thing's for sure, there is never a dull moment at the Pfeil household, where there is entertainment, chaos and a lot of love. As the family grew, so did their desire to adopt, but not just any child.
"My middle sister is severely, profoundly retarded," Vern said. "And, so having had that experience growing up, it was a special experience for our family."
With his sister as the inspiration, the Pfeil's adopted a child with Down's syndrome. Katie fights back the tears when she talks about their journey to Rayshad.
"Usually, the foster families want to keep their Down's children because they're so loving, but we said we want a Down's and we'll get a Down's," she said. "And, so, I'm going to tear up again."
Last May, in our Wednesday's Child report, WFAA featured a 3-year-old boy with Down's syndrome named Rayshad. He had extremely neglectful parents who were on drugs and abandoned him. Even his case worker, Kindra, found it hard to talk about. She cried as she reflected on Rayshad's troubled case of neglect.
Kindra forwarded WFAA's Wednesday's Child report to the Pfeil's in El Paso.
"I just looked at the video and said, 'That's our son,'" said Katie, choked up with tears. "There he is. He's meant to be in our family and I will fight for him."
And fight she did. What is normally a two-year process ended up taking only six months due to the Pfeils' determination.
"From getting the paperwork in January to having him placed with us in July is unbelievable," Katie said. "You never hear stories like that. It really was meant to be."
Today, Ray, his new name, looks and sounds terrific.
"When we got him, he could probably speak 20 or 30 words, and now Katie has him working with colors and letters," Vern said. "He learns something new every day."
"He can scooter on the two wheel," Katie bragged. "He can scooter now by himself."
Surrounded by five brothers and sisters who also challenge him, Ray is growing exponentially.
"Our religion preaches family first and we believe in that," Vern said. "We've seen the benefits of practicing family first."
He and his wife Katie have five biological children.
Ray is also still doing the penguin walk he learned during our shoot last May.
"He remembers," Katie said. "He is very smart."
What started as a heartbreaking case is now the story of a 4 year-old boy who truly found his forever home.
"He's a part of our family, like we've had him since birth," Katie said. "There's been no animosity; there's been no anger, no jealousy. It's like we've always had Ray."
"I can't imagine life without him," said the proud adoptive mother.