Joe and Becky Roach always knew their family would be different. Both Joe, a criminal lawyer, and Becky, a NASA employee, are little people, born with a type of dwarfism.
Over the years, this Texas power couple has overcome many stereotypes and physical limitations, but nothing compared to the heartbreak they suffered early in their marriage.
In just three years, Joe and Becky buried three babies—one stillborn infant and two children who died shortly after birth. Despite their tragic losses, they still dreamed of being parents and began looking into adoption.
One day, Joe answered the phone and received an answer to their prayers. The voice on the other end told him about a dwarf child in the Philippines who had been abandoned by his birth mother. "He was strapped to a hospital bed for a good year, year and a half. His legs were Jell-O. There was no muscle tone at all, and they tried to sell him on the black market," Joe says. "God knows what the conditions were there."
Joe and Becky received a photo of the child via fax and were given 24 hours to decide whether to adopt him. "I said, 'This is meant to be,'" Joe says. The Roaches named their son Ross and showered him with love and attention.
Five months later, they got a call about a baby girl who was also born with dwarfism and given up for adoption. Without hesitation, Joe and Becky adopted the American girl and named her Sherry...but they didn't stop there.
When a third dwarf child, a boy from Taiwan, was put up for adoption, Joe and Becky welcomed him into their home. They named him Will. "We had no family, and suddenly we have three marvelous children," Joe says. "We are truly blessed."
In March 2003, Oprah met Joe, Becky and their three young children for the first time. Now, six years later, the Roach family continues to inspire.
Ross is 16 years old and learning to drive, while 14-year-old Sherry spends most of her time at the stable with her horse, Dallas. At just 12 years old, Will has already set himself apart as the social butterfly of the family. "I'm thankful for how proud my three kids make me," Joe says. "They've overcome so much, and yet they're good kids and good people."
Becky and Joe say they've always been honest with their children about their adoptions and diverse backgrounds. "We're all dwarfs, and we raise attention that way. But we also raise attention that we're all very diverse culturally," Joe says. "You see blended families being adopted, but this is like the super blender. We've got a little United Nations here."
Despite their differences, Becky says they're just like any other family. "There's so many things we're dealing with that it just seems normal," she says. "[The fact] that we're short or the fact they're adopted or the fact of the nationalities—not one of those things sticks out. It's just the mix."
After he graduates from high school, Ross says he wants to visit Sandy Swanson, the missionary who helped rescue him from a Filipino orphanage, and thank her in person. "I'm very grateful that she found me," he says. "And I'm grateful that my parents were able to adopt me."
Well, he doesn't have to wait any longer...because she's here! Sandy walks onstage and embraces Joe, Becky and Ross. "It's good to see you again," she says.
Joe says he and his family owe a lot to Sandy, a selfless woman who's worked with the Children's Shelter of Cebu for 30 years and placed nearly 1,000 children in loving homes. "Without Sandy, we wouldn't have Ross," Joe says. "What she's done in kids' lives is more than I can possibly put into words."
When she met Ross for the first time more than 14 years ago, she says she saw a little boy who wasn't being given a chance. "We wanted to make that happen," she says. "This is the kind of thing that just makes us be able to keep doing what we're doing...to be able to see the kids in families."
Ross' story has a happy ending, but Sandy says there are 70 children like him still waiting to be adopted at the Children's Shelter of Cebu in the Philippines. Find out more at CSCShelter.org.