June 20, 2006

Troy's Intro

Wow! With all the chaos going on with PGN, I wondered if I should even write about our attempt at adopting our second child from Guatemala. I am hoping I can keep it fresh enough to make it interesting and/or informational to those who are in the beginning stages of the process, or those who are considering starting. As I have followed the recent hold-ups regarding cases clearing the political stranglehold going on with our wonderful PGN director, I realized there isn’t much to be said except for "this too shall pass." There is little that can be said or done to bring peace to those of you currently in PGN, but do hold on to the fact that your children WILL come home. And, when they do, all the animosity and frustration will magically disappear, and a feeling of great joy will replace what you are feeling at the moment. Many of us have been there and will testify to the relief felt once everyone is home safely. It truly is amazing!! And, keep in mind those attorneys with cases in PGN have a vested interest in them being signed off on. It is their lively-hood, and half of it is tied up until a case clears PGN. They will get something done!

Knowing full well that we may face a very similar situation, we still had no doubt that a second adoption from Guatemala was “in the cards” for our family. For us, it was a matter of recovering from the first before we could even begin to think about #2. Well, that time has come and our process just made its way to Guatemala via our dossier.
It is hard to explain how we arrived in this particular type of adoption, but maybe by explaining the adventure we experienced with #1, I will shed a little light on our approach to #2.

We, like many adoptive families, expected to go through the entire process with few “hitches.” We were incredibly naive!! Our #1 started in August of 2003 and we did not get our daughter home until February of 2005. And, when I refer to our process starting, I mean from when we accepted our referral. All of you are well aware of the paperwork nightmare that is the precursor to the “real nightmare!” Please understand that I am “tongue in cheek” with some of my comments, and I don’t want anyone to think that we are anything but blessed at this point. But, even with that being said, our first experience was a true nightmare from start to finish!!

When I think back, I chuckle sometimes at what we went through. It is difficult to believe that everything that happened actually happened to us and that it was not a compilation of several adoptions blended into one! We “survived,” and along the way we were educated in the ways of Guatemalan adoption. We also met some very interesting people along the way who helped us in understanding exactly what was going on in our particular case and others. Going from a family who really had not planned on visiting Guatemala prior to pick-up, to a family who fostered for nine continuous months, we learned many valuable lessons along the way.

I really want to create a picture of our current process, so I will try and not linger too long on what went right or wrong with our first. But, it was our first journey that led us to adopt independently from Guatemala for #2. The circumstances and events were central in helping us make our decision to go this route. It was because of our first adoption that we met Feliciano Carrillo, the individual who finished our first case. It was the working relationship and trust built that convinced us to go directly through him for #2. When I say “finished our first case,” that is exactly what I mean. We did not initially start our adoption with him, but through circumstances we were fortunate enough to be able to acquire his services when we needed them the most.

Our journey with #1 began to go sour when we could not get out of family court nor could we get DNA done. We had been “in the process” for nearly 8 months and we were “supposedly” still lost in family court. Hint: Don’t fall for the old statement “the social worker hasn’t typed the report yet.” That is “passing the buck” and simply intended to delay further questions. In addition to that, our DNA test had been scheduled three different times and each time the same result was achieved – NOTHING!! Not to mention we had recently received information that the attorney in charge of our case had been banned by the U.S. Embassy from conducting adoptions with the United States. In addition to this wonderful news, we were informed that because our case already had pre-approval, the Embassy would allow this attorney to complete any and all cases that had reached this point!! Grrrrrrrrrrreat!!!
After several months of “talk,” we decided to become more proactive and conduct a little research ourselves. We started with a visit during our Easter break in 2004 (Did I mention we are both teachers?) We spent a wonderful week with a little girl we believed to be our referral. We found out three weeks later that the little girl we held and loved and hovered over the entire week was NOT who we thought she was! She was a “replacement” for our legal referral. Why we didn’t recognize a difference still amazes us to this day, but honest to the heavens above, we did not know a thing. We hadn’t seen pictures of our referral for nearly two months prior to this, and we had always been told by others that “your child will look quite different in person.” Well, the heck of it was, she did not look all that different. Her hair was cut exactly like our last photos and she was of the same age, complexion, and size.

This visit set in motion events that would take us through all of 2004 and part of 2005. You see, because we didn’t recognize that a switch had occurred, our attorney fostered a nice little plan to falsify the adoption of this little girl in the name of our legal referral! Twisted? Yes indeed, but something this attorney was more than capable of doing. We found out later that our attorney had called our representatives in the states several times asking if the Webbs were happy with their child. Something the attorney had never done before!! Wonder why she would do this?? Well, we all know!!

The great thing about “trouble” is that it can usually be sensed when one is in the presence of it. A great gift Mother Nature has given to us all. We couldn’t “put our finger on it,” but we sensed there was something gravely wrong with our adoption. This “sense” prompted us to make immediate plans to return and foster until our case was complete. After all, we are teachers and we had all SUMMER to raise our daughter. Even though we had been promised our little girl would be home by July, we expected much worse – and worse is what we received. Hint: Never believe timeline promises!!

Returning to Illinois, we had already decided that I would return as soon as school was out and foster our daughter until my wife could come later. That plan was moved up two weeks after another promised DNA test came and went with nothing to report. I left school two weeks early in order to return to Guatemala and take care of our little girl. And, it is a good thing our plans changed because this return three weeks later resulted in me receiving a little girl in much different shape than our visit three weeks earlier. On May 10, 2004 I waited nine hours at a popular hotel for our little girl to be brought to me. After an incredibly stressful day, I was told by our attorney that our daughter was on “some medicine for a cold,” and the doctor recommended they wait until the following day to have her brought to me. What do you mean I can’t have her because she has a cold?? What nonsense is that??

Well, that “nonsense” came clear on May 11 when our beloved little girl was finally brought to me at our arranged meeting place. She was delivered by the same young lady who had picked her up at the end of our visit over Easter (Oh, did I mention there were no plans to pick our daughter up at the end of our Easter visit??). I don’t know if any of you have had an “out of body experience,” but the information we received at this drop-off sent our family into a world of total confusion!!

I had insisted that this lady stay so that I could talk with her about our daughter. I had summoned a very trustworthy translator at the time to talk for me, and the news translated was incredible. The news we received was that this little girl was not our legal referral and that the babies had been switched due to our visit. And, that our daughter had been in the hospital since the day before. Evidently, while I was patiently waiting for her the previous day, she was found to be in such poor health that she was taken directly to a hospital by this same brave young lady. She then showed us the I.V. marks over her body. She had five total marks, three on the top of one hand and one on each foot. Not to mention the needle mark where blood was drawn.
(Did I mention that our daughter was seriously ill?? She could barely hold her head up and she had a terrible sound coming from her lungs each time she would take a breath. She was extremely hot, dehydrated, and worn out to go along with the rest. And, she had a terrible skin infection on her arm that went from her knuckles to her elbow. Her arm was swollen to twice its normal size and skin was falling off as if she had been severely burned. All of this happened between our visit in April and this trip the first of May. Unbelievable!!!)

I could write a book on this mess, but it really is not the focus of this “blog.” However, it is important for eventually leading us to Hogar Nuevo Amanecer, Feliciano Carrillo, and independent adoption. To jump forward a bit, and leave out some horrid details in the process, we fostered this little “no name” girl for nearly three weeks before we were able to identify her. And, the most important question for us was whether or not she was legally adoptable. We had no indication of what her status was, so we were greatly concerned about more serious problems that may have existed. After all, if a person would “swap” babies and then try and adopt one of them through under false pretense, what else might they have done?

Deny, deny, deny was our attorney’s approach to a very heated final confrontation (Oh, I started referring to this attorney as Medusa, for obvious reasons). Once the dust cleared and all the information was out in the open, we were overjoyed to find out that our little girl was indeed adoptable. Not only this, but we discovered her true identity. Although her first 8 months were a mystery to everyone, we were all pleased we finally had some direction. More importantly, we were able to get custody out of the hands of Medusa and into the hands of Feliciano. We weren’t “out of the woods” yet, but at the very least, we could start moving forward with a “legal” adoption, something that was of the utmost importance to us all.

It should be noted that Feliciano accepted 14 cases from this banned attorney, and I am sure the majority of them were finished for only the second half of the attorney fee. I know it was in our case. I think it is important to “humanize” someone on the Guatemalan side, because many families go through the process and only know the name of their representative. It’s important to know that there are “real” people involved on a daily basis with these adoptions. Not only are they involved, but they are sincerely concerned and involved with the overall picture being painted about Guatemalan adoption. Yes, they earn a living from this process, but they are also people who have a tremendous love for the children and the adoptive families. Feliciano, along with many others, is one of these individuals.

After exhausting all available resources searching for our daughter’s birthmother to no avail, it was decided that abandonment was the only choice we had. We had been given the worst case scenario on abandonment, and we completely understood how long it could take, and we understood that at anytime a family member may have chosen to raise this little girl, which would end in a very abrupt fashion our attempt at adopting her. We just could not give up at this point. We had fought too hard to maintain custody of a little girl that was truly “lost” in the system. We felt we were in the best hands available for a situation such as ours, but there was tremendous uncertainty throughout the abandonment. There are many interesting details that took us through the next four months of abandonment, but for time’s sake I’ll bypass them for the moment. One of the most enlightening events during this time was meeting our daughter’s biological Grandmother. Having her blessing was a fantastic thing. I’ll talk about her later, as we were able to locate her on our most recent trip.

The legal adoption of our daughter started one year and three months after we accepted our referral. Now, we are not sure exactly how to assimilate all we experienced, because we’re not even sure when we went from one referral to another. And, it’s a little confusing when our stateside reps say we accepted a second referral from them, yet they had nothing to do with this particular infant being placed in our arms. As confused as we were, you can imagine how confused our families back home were. It took a year after we got home to convince my elderly Grandmother to stop showing a baby photo that was of the wrong child!! God bless her, but it was just too much for her to understand. We had sent out these elaborate riddles and puzzles to all our immediate family announcing our adoption. Then, to find out that the photos aren’t of the little girl we adopted was somewhat odd. We have some really nicely framed puzzles of a little girl we did not adopt, and we aren’t sure what to do with them. I think my parents still have it hanging on their wall. Maybe they don’t understand either!! 8) (There is another novel in regards to the little girl in the photos. We did attempt to adopt her as well, but our attempt was futile. We were able to find her and actually visited her for a couple hours. Her story is every bit as sad as any other story about a child caught in the middle.)

February 10, 2005 our adoption of Amaya Grace was complete. We returned home that day after a very long journey. We don’t celebrate that day however, we celebrate May 11 – the day we started raising the little girl that is the light of our lives. She was and has always been our daughter from the very first moment we held her.

None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for a handful of people, most notably Feliciano Carrillo. He didn’t have to take our case, nor did he have to work as diligently as he did with the abandonment and eventual adoption. There is nothing I admire more than watching a person step into a very difficult situation and do all they can to make the best of it. He never once gave us false hope. As a matter of fact he is notorious for giving worst case scenarios. He didn’t divulge all the problems he faced while handling our case, but I am well aware of threats that were made by Medusa right up until the week we returned home. And, I am happy to report those threats were “baseless.” Something I’ll discuss later.

On June 8th of this year we returned from Guatemala after a week long visit. We had a couple goals we wanted to accomplish on our visit, and we were lucky enough to do just that. We visited Hogar Nuevo Amanecer in Guatemala City and dropped off our dossier to Feliciano for our second adoption. Even though we knew there would likely not be a referral at that time, we felt it important to do this in person. And, I have to admit, it was much more relaxing not having someone in the middle. Since we had already put together two complete dossiers with #1 (our first expired), we felt very comfortable putting together this dossier for Feliciano. We had exchanged emails throughout the winter and were quite clear on what he required.

Along with friends of ours, we spent a couple hours touring Feliciano’s hogar and visiting the children there. It was quite pleasing to see his new facility and all the loving care that exists within it. The new hogar is less than a year old and is wall to wall with murals of Nemo and Whinnie the Pooh. It is bright and vibrant and has all the necessary accommodations for providing care to the children that live there. And, it is a family affair as Feliciano and his family live two-doors down from the hogar. His wife Sandra handles the day to day business and his daughter Cristel deals with translating the many questions he receives from inquiring adoptive families! Cristel’s Grandmother spends her nights in the hogar and prepares most of the food consumed there. Along with immediate family, there are a couple cousins that are involved as well.

After our visit, we were treated to a wonderful tour of Guatemala City. Feliciano and family drove us around the city pointing out many interesting landmarks along the way. We even got to experience traffic like no other along 6th Avenue in Zona 1 (I believe this is correct). With three children in the van under three years of age, we nearly exhausted our bag of “bribes.” And, after a question about PGN, we were treated to a visual of this infamous building. Since I had been there before and had actually been inside the building, I didn’t quite have the same interest as others. But, some in the van thought it worthy as an “inspirational” photo!! Thanks! 8)

Posted by Troy at 12:32 PM