A very dear friend of mine had a desire to be a mother. The more traditional ways of giving birth weren't working. But her desire was so strong that she made the commitment to adopt. That was almost five years ago.
I remember quite clearly the process, the paperwork, fingerprinting, social worker visits and letters of recommendation that she had to endure just to be considered a candidate. It seemed incongruous to me that in a world where in some states you can go into a retail store, buy a gun on a moment's notice and go on a shooting spree, that wanting to rescue an orphaned child from a life in an institution could be so cumbersome. But that is the system. And for a mother in search of her child, there is no price to big to pay.
In early 2007 she got word from the orphanage in Guatemala that they had a child for her. A little girl who had been abandoned at birth and had just turned two. I remember the look on her face as she told me, the joy as she discussed the arrangements she had made to go and meet her. My eyes filled and I could barely talk. I knew in that moment she had found her daughter. She had given birth.
It sounded so easy. After almost a year of filling out tedious paperwork, waiting anxiously to be approved, in just one month she was a mother with a daughter.
But it wasn't. International adoptions, glamorized by celebrities leave out the reality of the ordinary citizen.
As all this was happening a lot was changing politically in Guatemala. The year went on. Every time she thought she might get to bring Nicole home, something happened to delay it. On January 1, 2008 almost a full year later, the Guatemalan government took over a private adoption system and changed the rules. There were at that time 5000 in process adoptions, all of which were supposed to be grandfathered in.
It still wasn't done. In fact it had gotten harder. It took eleven more months, endless determination, a series of coincidences and some divine intervention for her to get her daughter out and home to New York. Nicole had just turned four. Almost two full years more of living in an institution when she shouldn't have had to. The picture below shows Nicole still in the orphanage holding a white bowl and a stuffed animal in the other.
Their story is one of the easier and happier ones. There are still 900 children living in Guatemalan government run orphanages separated from their parents. 900 children who have met their mothers and fathers, who recognize them as such, parents who love those children as only parents can, who sit and wait and pray to be together. Two of those children are the boys in this photograph, Gerson and Elviz, biological brothers when they were 5 and 3. They are now 7 and 5.
The Guatemala 900 has issued a Mother's Day Plea and invites you to sign this petition that will be presented to the First Ladies of the US and Guatemala to take immediate steps and get these children home. Please take a moment to help and please pass this on so others might as well.
I look at Nicole, who a year and a half later is a happy, well adjusted child living in a warm, safe home with plenty to eat, a mother who could not love her more if she did give physical birth to her and a wonderful life to look forward to. Those 900 children, girls and boys like Gerson and Elviz deserve the same.
Online petition - Guatemala 900 Mother's Day Plea