It was in Honduras in the summer of 1988 and Schwan remembers the clothes – a dirty tee-shirt and a diaper – his 10-day-old son was wearing and the feeling of instant love for the child he and his wife Debbie had just adopted.
The Schwans, who now live in Gypsum, wanted a family but had been unable to have children. A chance encounter with a couple who had adopted children from Columbia, led the Schwans to Los Ninos, a Houston-based adoption agency. With the agency’s help, the Schwans began to navigate the maze of international adoption and eventually were led to Nolan, now 15, and later to daughter Kelsie, now 12.
“I wanted a child so bad… They brought Nolan in and I smiled and cried. The minute he was put in my arms, there was no going back,” said Debbie.
After 10 days with Nolan, Honduran law required the Schwans to leave him with a foster family for another four months. As with all Honduran adoptions, public announcements are run for 90 days to see if any family member will claim the child. The wife of the Honduran president must also sign the adoption papers; and a court must approve the transfer of custody. During the separation, the Schwans paid for Nolan’s care, sending him clothes, diapers and formula, and called for weekly progress reports.
“I had to leave him with strangers … I was anxious to get him home,” recalled Debbie. Adding to her stress was the fear anyone could have claimed him.
But shortly after the holidays, they brought their son home. Once back in Texas where the family resided at the time, they settled into their new lives. After several years, they boarded a plane for La Paz, Bolivia, to adopt another child, Kelsie, who was then 7-weeks-old.
This time the adoption process was smoother.
“Her court appearance was a one-hour deal and she was turned over to us by her foster and birth mothers,” said Joe. Kelsie was bundled in every bit of clothing she owned. The Schwans had to unwrap several layers to get down to where she was.
“I remember her looking up at me and making cooing sounds. It was pretty special,” said Joe, who added that while the trip home was rough, he had his little girl and that was all that counted.
A special delivery
Figures from the U.S. Department of State sow nearly 21,000 babies from other countries were adopted by U.S. families in 2002. The numbers for domestic adoptions are unknown because states are not required to report them.
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Foundation estimates that the cost can range from $2,500 to $30,000 for domestic adoptions and between $7,000 and $25,000 for an international adoption. Adoption costs can increase if the case requires additional paper or legal work including birth parent and delivery expenses, foster care and medical care. To help offset the expense, families can qualify for special loans and grants and tax credits while some employers even offer adoption-assistance programs.
In addition to the costs, families adopting have a sizable amount of paperwork to complete from both the U.S. and the countries of adoption, including tax and financial statements, letters of recommendation, background clearances and physician’s’ reports.
“There is a lot of paperwork, but it never got to the point of too much,” said Cindy Callicrate of Eagle.
“Responsibility to the world’
After 16 years of marriage, the Callicrates decided that adoption was the best way for them to fulfill their desire for a child.
“It was our responsibility to the world to adopt. We adopted to enhance our family,” said Bob, who added that the number of unwanted children in the world was one of the main factors in their decision.
Working with Maine Adoption Placement Services, the Callicrates opted for a domestic adoption through the agency’s “My Choice” program, which allows the adopting family and the birth mother to go through the process together. The couple also expressed a desire to adopt a biracial child, giving them more choices.
After completing the required classes and background checks, the Callicrates, like all adopting families, settled in for the wait. They didn’t have to wait long.
The couple soon got a call from a Florida agency that worked with the Maine Adoption Placement Services program. The Callicrates were told that there was a baby for them if they wanted him.
“Mac was already born. We got the call on Monday and we had him by Friday,” said Bob of his son Mackenzie, who is now four-and-a-half. “The most amazing thing was we’d never seen this child and we already felt connected to him. It was a strange and wonderful sensation.”
The couple recalls the first time they held 8-day-old Mackenzie in the hospital. While feeding his son for the first time, Bob said, he feared the child would break. Cindy was worried about Mackenzie’s socks being too tight.
“The mothering thing kicked right in,” she said. “I remember thinking “What have we done?’ and it was exciting and scary. It was a really cool experience.”
Today, Mackenzie attends the Brush Creek preschool and has developed an appreciation for classical music and, with the help of his parents, a sense of himself.
“I see Mac as a child of the world…,” said Bob of his son’s African-American, Irish and Italian heritage. The couple has talked to their son about his adoption, skin color and other aspects of his life in an effort to show him that it is the differences in people that make them unique and special.
“Difference is not a negative. Everyone is different and so far it hasn’t been a problem,” said Cindy.
Playing the waiting game
Randy and KT Wyrick tried for more than a decade to have another child and were finally convinced by daughter Morgan, 12, to give adoption a try.
“We have a wonderful family and we want more of it,” said Randy, who is the assistant managing editor of the Vail Daily.
The Wyricks are also working with Maine Adoption Placement Services and after more than a year of paperwork and patience, they are waiting for the final OK to fly to Nepal to meet their newest family member, a 4-year-old boy.
Agreeing that diapers and midnight feedings were not something they wanted, they opted to adopt an older child. According to the Adoption Institute, children over the age of five make up only 11 percent of international adoptions. The fact that they are adopting a boy is also unusual because nearly 70 percent of international adoptees are girls.
The decision to adopt a boy was made for them. Because they already have Morgan, Nepalese law requires the adoption of a child of the opposite sex. Although assured of their son’s good health, because of Nepalese law, the Wyricks do not know what their son looks like or even his name. But that doesn’t seem to matter.
“We feel like this is the one. This is our child and essentially you do everything you can to bring your child home. When I first see him, I’m going to laugh and cry. I’m going to be a mess,” said Randy.
For Morgan, the excitement is building. While she is looking forward to having a sibling, there have also been some fears. Her parents have worked to assure her that they are not going to “dump” her for the new sibling and have included her in every aspect of the adoption process.
Morgan’s biggest worry at the moment is the language challenge and, when he adjusts to life in America, her brother getting into her stuff.
“I am going to be a nice sister though. I want to be a sibling that rocks,” said Morgan.
Randy and KT are also preparing themselves for the emotional climax of their adoption experience.
“There is an adjustment period, like marriage. You’re going to bang into each other once in a while, but we’ll be fine. I’m sure of it,” said Randy.
KT is rehearsing for the day her son asks why they chose him.
“I love this child already and when he asks why we chose (him), I’m going to be able to say we would go to the other side of the Earth to get you,” said KT.
This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.
The following is a list of some adoption resources available including Web sites, books and other information for adoptive families or families interested in adoption. The U.S. Department of State, which oversees all aspects of adoption, urges careful research on the background of any adoption agency or agent.
– The U.S. Department of State home page:
This site offers information about international adoption, including common questions and required paperwork, links to accredited adoption agencies and web sites, statistical information and legislative news. The department can also be contacted at 202-312-9700.
– The Adoption Institute:
The site offers research information including the most recent statistics, information about adoption costs and tax credits, and links to various databases.
– The National Adoption Clearinghouse:
Prospective parents can search for information about domestic and international agencies and lawyers, state licensing, support groups and publications.
– The Adoption Agency Guide:
This site, founded by a victim of a failed international adoption, assists and supports families in choosing a legitimate and licensed adoption agency.
– The Adoption Resource Book by Lois Gilman, offers information on various adoption issues including alternatives, legalities, financing, and stories of adoption successes.
– How to Adopt Internationally: A Guide for Agency-Directed and Independent Adoptions by Jan Nelson Erichsen and Heino Erichsen, offers easy-to-follow steps through every phase of international adoption and is the most up-to-date guide available.
Local and Colorado resources:
– Local Support Group: An informal network of families organize casual social events, play dates and offers support to adoptive and potential adoptive families. For more information call Debra Swain at 926-2629.
– Colorado Heritage Camps: This organization offers cultural camps for adoptive families including Chinese, Latin American, African American and Russian. Log onto http://www.heritagecamps.org for more information.
– The State of Colorado Department of Social Services: The State’s adoption specialist can help refer families to various agencies, programs and adoption services. The department can also provide information about adoption agency and agent licensing.