I was privileged to be a part of a panel discussion talking about adoption.

No Limits – National Adoption Month – November 15, 2012 MP3
November is national adoption month and No Limits will discuss adoptions in Indiana with our guests – Jill Budnick with The Villages, Indiana Youth Institute President and CEO Bill Stanczykiewicz, and Gil Michelini of Fishers – author of Daddy Come and Get Me.

 

I was able to speak about adoption on WIBC-FM radio this morning. Here is the link to the story and a copy of it as well.

http://www.wibc.com/news/story.aspx?ID=1808425

 

Fishers Dad Celebrates Adoption

By Mike Corbin – mcorbin@wibc.com | @WIBC_MikeCorbin
11/5/2012


Gil Michelini and his daughter(Provided photo)

A Hamilton County dad says there are 144,000 children in American foster care who are seeking good homes.

Gil Michelini of Fishers is among those recognizing National Adoption Awareness Month this month. Michelini and his wife adopted their youngest daughter from Guatamala ten years ago. Michelini wrote a book called, “Daddy Come & Get Me” about their experience.

Michelini says there are millions of adoptable kids all over the world. National Adoption Awareness Month began in 1976. Michelini says they felt they were called to adopt their daughter. He says the process took 20 months, but was worth it. He says international adoption remains a challenge. He says the Guatamalan government closed their international adoptions in 2008.

Here in America, Michelini says adoption is fairly simple, but still requires patience. Michelini says there are too many children who are growing up without homes and that’s why folks should care about worldwide adoption. He says his daughter is now 12 years old and is doing well.

 

As my way of celebrating National Adoption Month, I offer these posts on the basics of adoption and orphan care.

 

Welcome to National Adoption Month

112th Congress House of Representatives Resolution for National Adoption Month

What is Orphan Care?

Proactive Orphan Care

Why I’m Not Celebrating Orphan Sunday Today

Public Orphan Care – Foster Care (Part 1)

Public Orphan Care – Foster Care (Part 2)

Private Adoptions (Part 1)

Private Adoptions (Part 2)

How UNICEF Is Screwing Up International Adoption

Investing Your Talents in Orphan Care

Sometimes, Adoptions Don’t Work Out

What The Hague Is This Convention?

When Is Parenting Selfish?

 

Book Reviews

“Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches” by Russell Moore

“I Don’t Have Your Eyes” by Carrie Kitze

“Love in the Driest Season” by Neely Tucker

“Mamalita” by Jessica O’Dwyer

 

 

Daddy, Come & Get Me  Chapter 10 — Port of Entry

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” ~ Albert Einstein

Last month (July of 2000), Dale Snyder—my boss’ boss—called me to his office.

Sara Palmas, one of the marketing managers, was also there. He handed me a conference agenda and a corporate credit card. “I want you to go with Sara to a conference in New York next month. When you get back, let me know what you think about data warehousing for the Blackjack project.”

“Okay…but I’ve never heard of data warehousing, and, I’ll be honest, I’m not real excited about going to New York.”

“Good, have fun then.” Dale went back to work.

Sara stood up, put her arm on my shoulder, “Come on, I’ll fill you in.”

By the grace of God, and the Boy Scouts of America, I’ve been to 37 of the states. I have a long list of places I still want to see and a short list of places I wouldn’t be upset if I missed. New York City is in the short list. It’s not from a bad experience but mostly from what I’ve seen on TV and movies that has given me an apathetic feeling about New York.

§ § §

Doña Carmen is up early preparing to attend Mass on the Feast of the Assumption. Dolores comes into the living area in full pregnancy-waddle.

Doña Carmen almost spits her coffee out. “Oh my God, the baby dropped during the night.”

They share a laugh, a sigh, and a moment of consternation. This pregnancy will end soon and they both know that is when the real challenges will begin.

§ § §

It’s August 31 and I’m waking up to my fourth morning in New York City. The conference has been interesting, but I’m really amazed at how much I’ve enjoyed New York City. It’s like when I lived in Milwaukee and discovered how much I love sauerkraut. All those years I had missed out on a great food. All those years I said I would never visit New York City, and now I’m having a great time. I feel more comfortable in the Times Square area than I have felt in the hundreds of times I have been in downtown Chicago.

I talked to Fran from Broadway last night. I promise that I will bring her here in 2003 for our fifteenth anniversary. She loves the theatre. Her little-girl dream was to star on Broadway, but she’s never been here to see a show.

§ § §

The morning sun of August 31 has not yet broken in Guatemala City. Dolores wakes up wet. Her water has broken. She cleans up as much as she can and then wakes Doña Carmen. “My baby is going to be born today; will you drive me to the hospital?”

“I cannot leave the children. Let me go next door and get Don Roberto.” A contraction starts as Doña Carmen leaves.

Don Roberto, though a grandfather, drives to Hospital General San Juan de Dios like a first-time father. Dolores has the window open yelling out during the contractions. She scares a newspaper boy who is preparing for morning sales.

At the hospital, Don Roberto escorts Dolores to the door where the staff takes her, gets her checked in, and settles her into the maternity ward.

§ § §

I’ve had enough of the conference and my brain is full of data warehousing. Sara went home last night leaving me alone among six million souls.

Since Monday, I’ve seen Times Square, Chinatown, Central Park, and in little Italy I ate the best Italian food of my life. However, I still have one thing to do before going home tomorrow: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

§ § §

A contraction ends and Dolores stares at the ceiling. It is the same ceiling she stared at before. She looks over to the bed she was in the last time. There is a young woman there with her mamá. The woman looks so young, just like Dolores was when Josué, her oldest, was born.

There are eight other women in the room with her, all in various stages of childbirth. Just a few moments ago, she heard the sound that makes all the pain disappear: a baby’s first breath and scream.

She looks over to where the newest baby is, and the father is standing by the bed. There is no one with Dolores this time. She wonders if she made the right choice not telling the birth father. A contraction takes her breath away. A nurse comes to her as it is ending and checks her. She is ten centimeters. The doctor is called.

§ § §

It’s a pleasant, cloudless, morning. I’m on the bow of the Liberty Island ferry. I’ve been on boats in Chicago’s harbor, but it was never this busy. We stay on course while JetSkis, WaveRunners, and small boats move around us.

The statue is more magnificent than I could’ve ever imagined. We come around the front to see the view the immigrants had when coming into the harbor. I’ve seen this on TV and in movies many times, but to see it in person gives me the chills.

The ferry docks, and I climb as high as I can into the statue. I’m too late to go up in the crown so I settle for the view from the pedestal.

The twin towers of the World Trade Center dominate the skyline. I chuckle trying to imagine King Kong standing on top of them. There’s a couple near me talking about eating lunch at the Window on the World restaurant in the Trade Center. That sounds like a place I’ll need to take Fran when we come back in 2003.

I make my way down to the exhibits in the pedestal. There’s a section with reproductions of various letters immigrants wrote about their first impression of the “Lady of the Harbor”. A soundtrack of actors reading some of those letters plays in the background.

Without any warning, I’m overwhelmed with emotion. Tears stream down my face and I have a lump in my throat.

Like any red-blooded American, I’ve known of this statue most of my life. But until today, I realize all I had was head-knowledge. I never understood this statue. She’s known around the world as a symbol of liberty and freedom. She’s welcomed millions on their search for streets paved with the gold of freedom. She’s the representation of everything good about the United States.

Speaking through the recordings are those who’ve come before me describing how she made them feel welcomed and gave them hope. I’m feeling an incredible sense of gratitude for them. They are the ones who built this country, fought her wars, persevered in the hard times, and established our traditions to celebrate the good times. I’m grateful for all they did to make this country great and how the fruit of their work is given to me as a birthright.

From behind, I hear voices and giggling. A group is coming through the exhibits. I move to the corner to hide my face. Glancing at my watch, it’s 11:40am

§ § §

The baby’s head crowns. The doctor tells Dolores to push once more and out comes a girl. He does a quick inspection of this tiny human and then places her into the cloth the nurse is holding. She wraps the child and hands her to her mother.

“Isabel.” Dolores calls her child. “Oh, sweet Isabel Cynthia.”

Isabel latches on for her first post-birth meal. For that moment, nothing else matters to Dolores. God has blessed her with another healthy child. She wonders what life will bring for this little girl as she strokes her black hair.

The nurse records the time of birth: 31 August 2000, 10:40am.

 

 

Today — 21 Jun 2012 — is the twelfth anniversary of the death of Bob “Big Mo” Amore, Fran’s Dad.

Though the incident only garners a paragraph in Daddy, Come & Get Me (page 19), his death affects the entire story for Fran.

While he died six weeks before Gemma was born, this man of faith was interceding for us throughout the adoption process.

Every once in a while, I have a sense of him and trust that he still interceding as I learn how to raise my daughters and love their mother — his youngest daughter.

 

To my fellow adoptive dads on Dad’s Day weekend

“What is an Adoptive Father?” by Jane F. Murphy

An Adoptive father is the one who signs the countless forms, writes the many checks, and patiently listens to his wife’s stories about the latest adoption rumors.

An Adoptive father goes to work and worries about adoption fees, pre-existing insurance and the bully down the street who calls his child a name.

An Adoptive father drives a truck, works on Wall Street, or supervises a factory, and shyly, but proudly shows off his new daughter’s picture to his co-workers and friends.

An Adoptive father knows he is black, brown, white or yellow, he has an Italian, Greek, Irish or Polish name, and still eagerly waits for the compliment that his Thai son is just like his “dad”.

An Adoptive father experiences the conception, labor and birth of adoption only to privately wipe his tears; step aside, and watch as his wife is handed their child to hold, for the first time.

An Adoptive father is many things. He is often forgotten, overlooked, never written about or seldom praised, and yet without him; where would our children be?

 
I would like to let you know about a book my friend Carol Lozier, LCSW just published. I think we adoptive parents focus first on how the adoption will affect us, and then we think about how it will affect our child. Carol writes this practical guide from her first-hand experience working with adoptive families. Growing up fully aware of where you came from is hard enough; growing up with many questions about your heritage must be difficult. Carol offers us her professional insight to help our children.
 

Unlike in the USA where Mother’s Day is tied to day rather than a date, May 10 is always Mother’s Day in Guatemala.

Ten years ago today, we were eight days from meeting Gemma and I was almost two weeks from learning about an incredible woman who had given birth to Gemma and then made the agonizing decision to place her for adoption.

I started writing Daddy, Come & Get Me to be only my story but as I work through the manuscript, the book told me there needed to be another perspective. Using various reliable sources, I wrote Gemma’s birthmother’s story. As a gift to all Guatemalan birthmothers who story will never be known, I am posting chapter 25 from the book.

The chapter below from  Daddy, Come & Get Me tells the story of when Dolores brings Isabel (we changed her name to Gemma when we adopted her) to the adoption agency. The only person named in the chapter you would not know is Doña Carmen. She is Dolores’ employer and landlord.

Chapter 25:  La Historia de una Madre – Parte 8

The bus ride with Isabel to the adoption agency seemed like the shortest one Dolores had ever been on. The walk from the bus stop to the front door of the agency seems like the steepest hill Dolores has ever taken. The front door seemed to be the heaviest door Dolores ever tried to open. She feels like she is going to throw up at any moment. Maria Cruz is the woman Dolores talked with on the phone. She greets them as they enter and then leads to a large room where other children of various ages are playing. There are three other women herding in this area. They women introduce Isabel to the other children and the toys. When she is comfortable enough, Maria directs Dolores to a table on the side of the room.“Señora, tell me everything that led you to come here today.” While Dolores tells the story, Maria asks several questions and takes notes.When Dolores is done, Maria sets down her pen and says, “Based on everything you have said, I suggest that Isabel be placed into foster care. That will help you with your employment situation, and it will help Isabel become accustomed to you not being around.” Maria pauses for a reaction.

Dolores nods.

Maria asks, “Are you okay with this?”

Dolores’ face shows no emotion. “I need to be. This is for Isabel, not me.”

Maria pulls out a form. “This form says that I have informed you that you maintain full parental rights of Isabel until the completion of the adoption process. Even though Isabel will not be living with you, you are her parent. You have the right to end this adoption at any point. We will contact you for three more signatures that you agree this is what you want to do. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

Maria hands Dolores the form and points to where she is to sign. She signs the form and pushes it back to Maria. She signs in the witness blank.

Maria pulls out an application. “Now I need to complete this application.”

In between the questions from Maria, Dolores looks at Isabel. Occasionally, they lock eyes. Isabel seems to know something is happening that will change her life. She is not playing with the other children, but she is not fussing, either. It is as if she has turned off all her emotions. Dolores smiles because she feels like she is looking into a mirror.

Maria asks more questions and makes comments while completing the application. Her sincerity and compassion surprises Dolores. She thought the people here would not be as friendly or understanding.

“Señora Cruz, how long will Isabel stay in Guatemala?”

“No, it can be as short as a couple of months. It mostly depends on the country she is going to.”

“Where could she go?”

“We work with agencies in Western Europe and theUnited States. It depends on who responds to the referral. Do you have a preference?”

Dolores smiles for the first time. “No, just someplace where she will be loved.”

“We will make sure of that.”

Maria pulls out a calendar and searches for a date. “Now, we need to schedule a date when you will bring Isabel back to relinquish her to our custody. Would the morning of July 10 work for you?”

Dolores vacantly nods her head. “That is fine. Whatever works best for you.”

“Here is my card. Call me with any questions. Also, if you change your mind between now and the tenth, just call me and we will tear up all the paperwork. That is no problem.”

They finish, Dolores picks up Isabel, and they leave. On the bus ride back to the Recinos’ home, Dolores holds Isabel tight wondering in what castle this princess will live. It doesn’t matter, as long as it is a place where she will be happy and loved. With that, the stoic face falls off and the tears flow.

It is July 9 and Dolores has just put Isabel to bed. Doña Carmen asked, “Are you ready?”

Dolores takes a deep breath, “Much more than I thought I would be. There is nothing in Guatemala for Isabel.”

Doña Carmen looks puzzled.

“When I left my other children with family, I knew that’s where they belonged. Nothing is more important than family. In this last week, I have come to understand that Isabel’s family is not inGuatemala. She came to the world here, but this is not where she belongs.”

“But she will always be your daughter.”

Dolores slowly shakes her head for a few moments while looking down as if there is a portal on the floor where she can see the life Isabel is going to have.

“Yes, but I will not be the one she calls mamá.”

She reaches out and squeezes Doña Carmen’s forearm, smiles quickly, and then goes to bed.

It is the next morning and the mood is somber at the Recinos’ household. Isabel is the only one who doesn’t know why. The children ready themselves for a day with their mom. They are crying as they say goodbye to Isabel. Doña Carmen squeezes Dolores’ hands as if doing so will stop the tears. The Recinos leave. Dolores gathers Isabel’s things and leaves for their last bus ride together.

Sitting in the middle of the semi-full bus, Isabel is on Dolores’ lap upright and watching everything with great interest. Isabel is Dolores’ focus. She has her nose buried in Isabel’s hair, breathing in her smell. She is holding tight to her baby. Not understanding, Isabel is squirming to get away.

Maria meets them just inside the door. She leads them to an office where there are more forms to complete. “This form transfers custody of Isabel to us during the adoption procedure. As we discussed, you have the right to terminate this at any time. Please be sure you read it before signing it.”

Dolores takes the form. She tries to sign it but Isabel keeps reaching for the pen. Maria reaches for Isabel but she pulls back and crawls up Dolores. Maria sits back and waits.

Dolores has closed her eyes and is holding Isabel tight. After a few moments, she calms down. Much to Isabel’s surprise, Dolores set her down. She grabs Dolores’ dress and pulls herself up screaming.

Dolores signs the form without reading.

“This is a Birth Registration that we are required to have. Thank you, I see you brought the original from the hospital.”

Maria is transferring the information while Dolores picks Isabel back up and holds her tight. Isabel holds Dolores tighter.

Maria finishes and then slides the document toward Dolores. “This is the last one to sign.” Isabel has no interest in the pen this time.

With the forms complete, they go into another office. Another of the agency staff is there. “This is Señorita Claudia Barrientos; she will be taking pictures that we will send to the agencies.”

Claudia says, “Señora, could you stand here and Señora Cruz…you know where to stand. Now, could you both hold Isabel?”

Dolores turns Isabel around toward Claudia. Maria moves in closer with one hand on Dolores’ arm and the other holding Isabel’s hand. Isabel shows no emotion and stares at the ground.

Click.

Dolores notices a girl standing next to Claudia. Maria says, “Mercedes is one of our clients. She is an orphan awaiting the completion of her adoption to the United States. Are you here for your visit?”

“Yes, Señora Cruz. Tomorrow is my birthday.”

Claudia says, “It is? How old will you be?”

“Ten.”

“Happy Birthday,” Maria tells Mercedes and then turns to Dolores, “Each month, our foster children come in with their foster family, usually the mother, for a check-in. We make sure everything is going well and get measurements to send to the adoptive families.” Maria directs her attention back to Mercedes. “Mercedes, come and say hello to Isabel.”

Mercedes tries to talk with Isabel but she continues to look at the ground. While Dolores and Maria are trying to coax Isabel to talk with Mercedes, Mercedes makes a few adjustments to Isabel’s dress and hair.

Maria says, “Mercedes, Isabel is having a big day. You remember the first day you came here. Could you step back so Señorita Barrientos can take the picture?”

Mercedes walks behind Maria. Claudia steps forward to take a closer photograph and does not notice that Mercedes is in the background.

Click.

Maria smiles and nods to Dolores. “Are you ready?”

Dolores bites down on her lip. She stands for a moment longer and then moves Isabel closer to Maria. Maria now supports all of Isabel’s weight, but Dolores still holds on. She closes her eyes for a moment. Tears start. She pulls her arms back. Isabel looks back at Dolores. They lock eyes. Isabel reaches toward Dolores. They hold hands for a moment. Dolores pulls Isabel’s hand to her lips and kisses. She whispers, “I love you, Isabel. I love you.”

She holds Isabel’s little hand as tightly as she can without hurting her. Then, she lets go and walks out of the room.

Isabel cries. Maria pulls her close. Claudia and other staff members tend to Dolores.

Moments later, the door closes behind Dolores and she’s on the sidewalk in front of the agency, alone.

She looks back at the building. Tears streak down both sides of her solemn face; she does not bother to wipe them away. Tears of anger, of sadness, of loneliness, of failure, of hope, of joy.

She is oblivious to the people walking by her.

In moments, she wipes the tears from her face. She takes a deep breath and walks to the bus stop.

 

The Dad of Divas (DoD) has selected Gil Michelini as the 123rd Dad in the Limelight. DoD started these posts to share stories of living the life of a dad while juggling our other responsibilities.

Said Michelini, “It is a great honor to share the limelight with these 122 other men who have made the choice to be dads rather than fathers.”

 

 

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