Nothing seems to stop little McKellan Yurcek from moving. The exuberant three-year-old toddler seems to always have a smile on his face, running all over the place, only stopping to give his family a hug. But it wasn’t always that way for ‘Little Mac,’ as his family calls him, who at 17 months of age was in foster care and could not sit up, let alone crawl or walk.
McKellan was given a permanent home Tuesday with Dr. James and Ann Yurcek, as the family who cared for him for the past 1.5 years adopted little Mac. The Yurceks now have an even dozen children in their family with the addition of McKellan.
The Grant County community has gotten to know the Yurceks since they moved to Lancaster four years ago. For those who may not be familiar with their story, chronicled in their book, Tiny Titan, Journey of Hope, here is a recap - about the time the Yurcek’s sixth child, Becca was being born, the family’s business was failing. To add to matters, Becca had been born with a severe form of Noonan Syndrome, which includes congenital heart defect, impaired blood clotting and learning problems. The family tumbled into poverty, but worked together, including delivering papers, to put James through medical school. Shortly after James took a position in Michigan, the family, in the spirit of giving back, adopted five siblings who had been separated in the foster care system who had special needs, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
With what they saw raising their children, the Yurceks became advocates for child welfare, from fighting for resources for children and families in need, to organizing programs like building backpacks full of school materials for needy families.
While advocating for children, each of their kids grew, graduated, and moved out of the house, leaving a void. With only Becca, now 23, and Detamara, 20, at home, the Yurceks felt like it may be time to add to their family once again by becoming foster parents of a special needs child.
“With the kids having grown up, we were bored,” reflected Ann on becoming advocates for child welfare. “We have learned so much…You go to yourself ‘what did I learn this for?”
They found that out when they first learned of McKellan. “Little Mac’s” mother was a chronic alcoholic and it left McKellan with the affects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, leaving him with learning disabilities, and severely stunting his growth. His birth mother had abandoned him and his birth father could not meet his complex needs. Still the Yurceks fell in love with McKellan when they met him.
“He was just tiny, and you just fell in love,” Ann recalled.
Unfortunately, bureaucracy slowed the process for the Yurceks to bring McKellan into their home. “I learned a lesson in patience,” Ann stated. Yet, despite McKellan’s placement in their home taking exactly one year from when they first met him, the Yurceks said they never got discouraged. “No matter how long it takes, we would have waited for him,” Ann said.
McKellan eventually came to live with the Yurceks in August 2011, when he was 17 months old. He had not grown much in that time, weighing just over 13 pounds and was unable to sit up. “He didn’t do a darn thing, and they didn’t think he would do a darn thing.”
He was supposed to get a feeding tube, but for some reason, never did, something Ann cannot believe did not happen. Instead, the Yurceks fed McKellan every other hour for 12 months, and McKellan responded. “It’s just amazing to watch him thrive,” Ann said.
McKellan instantly became a member of the family, and they just knew he would with them. James recalls playing some music and Ann brought McKellan over. “He was just bouncing to it, so I knew he would fit in.”
McKellan still has special needs, and he is taken to specialists and therapists weekly for development. While he has special needs, Ann said that with everything he has accomplished, it brings with it special rewards.
“Anything he does is just amazing, you celebrate all those milestones some parents take for granted.” She said that they learn every day from McKellan as well, especially his resilience. “They are tiny teachers….He has challenged my skills.”
On Tuesday morning, in front of Judge Craig Day, McKellan officially joined the Yurcek family as James and Ann adopted him.
“It’s without question that is in the best interests of the child,” Day said, approving the adoption as McKellan kissed Ann.
The Yurceks hope that McKellan will be able to teach others several lessons, about how special needs can bring with it special rewards, as well as what drinking while pregnant can do.
James said that he is relieved that McKellan is now officially a member of the family, meaning they can post photos on Facebook and have him in their home every day. “He’s worth it.”