Ever Corkran is just like any other kid. He goes to school, plays with his friends and enjoys cartoons.
He has a loving mother, Pam, grandmother, Carolyn, and four adult siblings — three adopted and one fostered — all of whom have special needs.
However, unlike most kids, he is prone to stimming, or self-stimulatory, repetitive behavior and has difficulty communicating verbally and picking up on social cues.
Ever, 11, has autism and Down syndrome.
Five years ago, after losing his mother in a hit-and-run accident in Montgomery County, he lived with his brother for about three months and was later placed in foster care through The Arc Baltimore in Towson, an organization that supports those with developmental disabilities; he was fostered by Pam Corkran and Carolyn Post.
In July, he was adopted by Corkran and Post, officially becoming part of their family.
Corkran said the decision to adopt Ever was not difficult.
She had previously worked with the special needs community and decided to foster children with special needs after learning she could not have children of her own. After she and her husband divorced, she adopted her children — Dajah, Jamal, Donte and Ever.
Ashley Willis, clinical supervisor for the foster care program at The Arc Baltimore, who works closely with Corkran and Ever, described their relationship as “loving” and “supportive.”
“[Corkran] is very protective of Ever, but finds that balance of giving him the space to grow and explore, which I think is a very important [quality] that we sometimes don’t see when children have intellectual and developmental disabilities,” she said.
The main goal of the foster care program is to reunite children with their primary family, however, if a child is unable to return to his or her family, adoption becomes the goal, she said.
Typically, the program has two to three adoptions per year and currently has 22 children placed in foster care.
“We are always searching for new families to join our program and open their homes to a child in need,” she said.
Bridget Roth, director of foster care and family supports at The Arc Baltimore, said caregivers and parents of those with developmental and intellectual disabilities like autism experience increased challenges when it comes to meeting their child’s educational, medical and mental needs, which makes it harder to find families willing to adopt.
She said adopting a child with a developmental or intellectual disability decreases the youngster’s risk of being abused or neglected. It also “creates a sense of safety and family for [children],” she said.
“They [know] they are not going to be taken advantage of or have something happen to them because they have a permanent person in their life who is keeping an eye on them and that their needs are being met.”
When Ever was placed with Corkran, she was aware that he had Down syndrome, however, it was not until after he was placed under her care that she found out that he was autistic.
Autism is defined as a spectrum disorder that refers to a broad range of conditions involving social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. It affects about 1 in 54 children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before Ever’s diagnosis, Corkran noticed he would engage in unusual behavior, like banging his chin on his bed or on the table or bouncing on his bed uncontrollably.
Additionally, she said he had difficulty using his hands, and she would have to bathe and dress him.
Those behaviors aside, she focused on his happy disposition, which helped influence her decision to adopt him.
“He was so friendly and seemed to adjust very well in the household, and everybody really liked him and looked out for him,” said Corkran, who once owned a boutique but now dedicates her time to working with special needs children out of her home.
She recalled one summer in particular when she took Ever on his first trip to the beach.
After rinsing him off at the end of a day, Corkran said she had to chase after him when he took off again for the water.
“That was hilarious, he just wanted [to be] back in the water and back on the beach,” she said.
Since Ever’s arrival, Corkran, who has been licensed as a foster parent with The Arc Baltimore for about three decades, has seen improvements in his behavior and development.
Now, he can bathe and dress himself, make his bed and prepare his breakfast.
Still, since most schools are no longer meeting in person due to the coronavirus pandemic, she worries he will be left behind.
Ever is a sixth-grader at The William S. Baer School in Baltimore City, a public school that educates students with special needs, where he has been taking classes online and in-person twice a week.
“My concern is that if someone is not sitting right next to him, then he’s not really going to get everything that is being said, unless you make him focus on it,” Corkran said. “I think he misses out on a lot because of that.”
Post said she does not want people to underestimate Ever’s ability to learn.
“Even though he is a child that has Down syndrome, he is teachable, he is loving, and he is a very good child,” she said. “He’s a sweet, little boy and I’m so glad to have him be a part of our family as my grandson.”