Around the world, countless children are in foster care and orphanages, waiting to find their forever homes. Too often, children who are legally up for adoption will remain in care until they age out and are left to navigate the adult world without any family at their side. This seemed like it might be the case for a little girl named Alba, who was born with Down syndrome and rejected by both her mother and 20 families. But Luca Trapanese, an Italian man, took Alba in and adopted her when she was just 13 days old back in 2017.
Trapanese, who is gay, decided to share his adoption journey in a book that he published in 2018, explaining the way that his story has shattered stereotypes and is changing the way that people look at families. This is especially true, as adopting children is usually very complicated for single and homosexual parents in Italy.
Trapanese was no stranger to special needs since he had experience working in care centers, where he helped those struggling with issues just like Alba, according to The Daily Mail. Despite understanding the tremendous responsibility that comes along with raising a child with Down syndrome, Trapanese wasn’t worried about Alba’s diagnosis and was convinced that they would make the perfect family. Trapanese points out that having children has been one of his lifelong dreams, and we’re sure that Alba is happy that he decided to pursue that goal.
Just look at the vast array of pictures that Trapanese shares on his social media accounts, and it looks like he and little Alba share a close bond and have a lot of fun together! From eating out together to snuggling, the dad and daughter certainly do appreciate one another’s company.
According to The Independent, Trapanese adopted Alba in 2017, shortly after he had separated from his boyfriend. It was with that boyfriend that Trapanese had established his charity, which was founded to help people with disabilities.
In an interview with the BBC, Trapanese explained that when he applied for adoption as a single gay man, he was told that he would “only be given a child with an illness, a severe disability or with behavioral problems.”
“I was absolutely OK with that,” Trapanese added.
Despite the rather discriminatory adoption practices that he encountered, Trapanese received some good news. He had been matched with a little girl who had been abandoned by her mother.
“When I first held her in my arms, I was overcome with joy,” Trapanese said of Alba. “I felt she was my daughter straight away.”
Trapanese is adamant that he doesn’t see Alba’s Down syndrome diagnosis as a disability.
“Someone asked me, ‘But if you had a magic wand, would you heal her?’ as if it were a disease. But in reality, Down syndrome is not a disease but a way of being,” Trapanese told Good Morning America (GMA) in December 2020.
“I say, ‘No, because otherwise she wouldn’t be Alba,’” he added.
Down syndrome is one of the most common genetic disorders worldwide. According to a 2010 study by the Department of Pediatrics in the Netherlands, an estimated 1 in 1,000 babies born each year worldwide is born with Down syndrome. In the U.S., the National Drown Syndrome Society (NDSS) states that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 700 babies born each year is diagnosed with the syndrome.
The exact cause of this genetic disorder is not yet known. As far as science knows today, Down syndrome is not a hereditary disorder. Almost all Down syndrome children are born to parents possessing the usual amount of chromosomes, and only 1% of known cases have been passed down from one parent.
While Down syndrome cannot be cured with today’s medicine, it is not an insurmountable problem. Children born with it experience physical and mental growth delays, developing more slowly than a healthy child would.
Trapanese told GMA that he hopes to raise awareness about Down syndrome.
“… It is necessary today to educate people that Alba, and people like Alba, need to be considered as people equal to others.”
Since Trapanese’s adoption story broke in 2017, the world has watched Alba grow up on Instagram. In one of his posts, Trapanese uploaded a photo of Alba that shows the 4-year-old as she writes a letter to Santa Clause.
“Have you written your letter to Santa Claus?” Trapanese writes alongside the photo in Italian, adding that he and Alba plan to welcome him with “hot herbal tea.”
Trapanese currently has more than 494,000 followers on Instagram, where fans are eager to watch as Alba grows up alongside her loving father.
In the U.S., 40% of children with Down syndrome who attend high school graduate or go on to graduate. Many people with Down syndrome go on to hold down steady jobs and live independently, although most of them still require help managing their finances.