Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Adoption: Part II

I have something in common with the person who left the above comment. For 13 years, I worked for Catholic Charities, a child welfare agency, in the Diocese of Peoria. I spent five of these years as a special needs adoption worker.

What does a special needs adoption worker do? Generally speaking, we work to find adoptive homes for children in the foster care system who have become available for adoption because their birth parents' parental rights have been terminated. In my experience, 85 percent of the time the existing foster parents wanted to adopt the child, which was a good thing. In the remaining situations, we worked to find homes to adopt children who were often older, part of a sibling group, or had some kind of special need (behavioral, medical, educational, etc.). As you might imagine, this could be a challenge. There are lots of people in the United States who want to adopt healthy white infants or toddlers. That isn't always the case for older children.

When people would call to inquire about adoption, they generally fell into two camps: people who were looking for a baby or young chilld (possibly these inquirers couldn't have any biological children) and those--far fewer--who were open to adopting older children or more than one. Again generally speaking, I think it's the first group of people who pursue international adoption. I wish there was more publicity around the children in the United States who are waiting for adoptive homes. After safety, permanance is the next priority in a child's living circumstance. Children who wait, whether they are in foster homes in the United States or orphanages in other countries, long for the permanence of a loving home and forever parents.

When people are thinking about adopting a child, it's important for them to realistically consider their motivations, skills, and the kind of child they think they are best able to parent. After they have done this, they should realize that the most important consideration is what will be best for the child. It's not so much about finding the perfect child for a family as it is finding a capable, loving family for a child. The child's, not the family's, needs must be foremost.

If this sounds arrogant, I don't mean it to be. I know from my work in child welfare that, for lots of reasons, my husband and I would not be good candidates for adopting an older child or more than one child. Which raises the question, "How did you decide to adopt your child?"

Like many ventures, it seemed as if Providence was leading the way. John and I hadn't even been married a year when we met the boy who would become our son. Prior to meeting him, we hadn't talked about adopting. As far as becoming biological parents, we were both older when we married and knew that having biological children wasn't too likely. John posed the question about adopting Luke shortly after I met him. We talked for several weeks about whether we would be good parents for this little boy. We had many strengths: financial resources, the maturity that age brings (this can also be a weakness), accepting immediate and extended families, appreciation and knowledge of Haiti, a strong faith foundation, and ultimately, the belief that God was calling us to be parents to this little boy. We knew that becoming parents would mean big and often challenging changes in our lives, especially as it pertained to our travel to Haiti and the other freedoms that being childless afforded us. However, in the end, it wasn't a difficult decision.

As I mentioned earlier, our son's biological family is not known to us. I don't think there is a day that goes by that I don't think of his mother and father--what they are like, what they are doing now, how they wonder about Luke. Luke is only five, but he understands that he was in another mommy's tummy--his Haitian mommy. I would love for Luke's Haitian parents to see him. and for him to know them. It is a big wish of mine that somehow, some way, we will meet Luke's Haitian family this side of eternity.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Adoption: Part I

I do work for the Dept. of Social Services..I think it should be difficult to adopt from foreign countries.. especially when there are neglected and needy children in the USA. I know the process can be difficult in either case. Best of luck. and thanks for bringing attention to need of Haiti.

The above comment was made in response to this post, detailing the burdensome process we went through to adopt our son from Haiti. I agree with the person who made the comment, that people wanting to adopt children from other countries or from the United States should be checked out thoroughly. Children--especially children who aren't living with their biological parents--are very vulnerable and their safety must be the first priority. The process also must ensure that the biological parents of these children weren't deceived or paid money to offer their children for adoption.

The United States has procedures in place to safeguard the integrity of the process. My husband and I had to be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check. Actually, we did this three times: in our home state of Illinois when we began the process; at the U.S. consulate in Port-au-Prince two months before this first set of fingerprints was going to expire; and a couple of months later in Miami after we discovered that the U.S. consulate in Haiti lost our fingerprint cards. We were also interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Port-au-Prince. Had our son's biological parents been known, they also would have been interviewed by USCIS to ensure that no fraud had been committed.

While the United States government wasn't blameless in delaying the adoption, most of the fault lies at the feet of the Haitian government. I won't bore you will all the stories of bureaucratic ineptitude. I cycled between being upset about the delays and what they meant for us and more importantly for all of the children who were waiting in orphanages (and all the children who were turned away from these orphanages because they were full) and stoicism, thinking about how difficult it must be for people in a poor, black country to see all these relatively wealthy white people swoop in and "take" their children.

I have something in common with the person who left the above comment. For 13 years, I worked for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Peoria. I spent five of these years as a special needs adoption worker. . . to be continued in the next post.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Note to People Who Have Left Comments

I used to receive e-mail alerts when someone left a comment on this blog. I changed my e-mail a couple of months ago and even though I changed it on my blog too, the alerts stopped coming. So I apologize to those of you who have left comments. I appreciate your reading my blog and that you take the time to leave a comment.

The comments are good, and they have provoked ideas for future posts. Stay tuned.

Thanks to everyone who reads LivefromHaiti.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I don't know anyone like my husband John. He perseveres to get expensive help in the United States for poor Haitians dying from heart defects and disease in Haiti. Actually, perseveres is putting it lightly. It's more like he's an inexorable force that can't be stopped (to be redundant about things). Miterlande is a poor Haitian girl who contracted strep throat, which went untreated and developed into rheumatic fever, seriously damaging her heart valves. She is only 16. She has no money, no contacts and lives in a country with little to no medical care for its poorer members. Poor people in the developing world who need heart surgery aren't showing up on very many people's radar. Think about the impossibility of Miterlande, who in material terms, has nothing coming to the United States for heart surgery.

But that's exactly what's happening for Miterlande. She and her sister visited John more than two years ago. He examined Miterande and sent her to get an echocardiogram in Port-au-Prince. He returned home with a videocassette of the echocardiogram. Over the past almost two years, due to family circumstances, John has probably spent less time in Haiti than he has since he started going in 1981--only three weeks total. I have to tell you, that when a person returns to the United States from Haiti, it is all too easy to forget about the Haitians who are hoping for your help. I know this because I have done it. And even when you don't forget, the obstacles to getting state-of-the-art surgical medical care for this poor person, who is hoping against hope, that you won't forget about her, that you will try, are beyond daunting. John doesn't forget and he isn't daunted. He sends out e-mails, calls people, cajoles health care providers. Time and time again, he convinces doctors and even more challengingly, medical centers to accept patients.

This time it was Miterlande who was the beneficiary of this effort and conscience. Dr. Bryan Foy and Provena St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Illinois have accepted Miterande. She is Haitian Hearts patient number 134. Not that we're counting or anything. Each one of these patients are precious and unique. They have God-given gifts that the world is deprived of when they die too soon. We rejoice with Miterlande and her family that she will get the opportunity--that should be, that is a right--to get the health care she badly needs.