Diane and Bernie Lierow had four sons, all grown up, from previous marriages, and a fifth together. But when the desire came to finally have a girl, they decided to resort to adopting an older child rather than try for a baby themselves. But at an event where they were meant to get to know prospective children, the pair found themselves attracted to the picture of one girl, who was absent, CBN.com reports in the video below. "She just looked like she needed us," the parents recall in a Pulitzer Prize-winning Tampa Bay Times report.
The girl in question was Danielle, the subject of a horrific case of child abuse. When she was found after a call to the police, she was 7 years old and weighed 46 pounds. Detective Mark Holste, who found the child, called it the worst case of abuse he had ever seen. Due to her terrible circumstances, the girl was diagnosed with "environmental autism," CBN.com reports, and would face severe disabilities all her life.
Despite all that, the Lierows persevered. "I think our confidence was built during the first few visits that we had at Danielle's school, where every time we came she would do something new that she hadn't done before," Diane told CBN.com. "The very first visit, she made real good eye contact with Bernie and actually reached out for him." Bernie recalled a dream he had where he was given the girl to take care of.
After a year and a half in a foster home, Danielle was allowed to go live with Diane and Bernie, at 9 years old, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Though she had already been cared for, she was still barely functional. But the parents were still encouraged by the progress she made, task by task. "Even though they seem like small, minuscule accomplishments, they really are huge to her, because she's already way beyond the expectations that any of the specialists had for her at the time that she was found," Diane tells CBN.com.
"You just love this child the way she is," Bernie adds. "Sometimes, I mean, it's a 24/7 thing, but there's always rewards."