Its becoming more and more like this. Adoptees are mere commodities and their natural parents breeders. Ugh When will it ever stop?
An editorial out of the Chicago Daily Herald:
Imagine the agony hundreds of suburban parents and would-be parents now are facing. Perhaps they have a child whom they have loved and made a home with for years. Perhaps they have some pictures of one, a name picked out and a nursery decorated and waiting.
But if their child came from, or is coming from, Guatemala or Vietnam, that bond now is threatened. The children, to whom they already have given their hearts, could be taken away.
That nightmare scenario is one hundreds in Illinois and thousands across America now face as reports of adoption fraud and corruption threaten to invalidate or stem U.S. adoptions from those countries.
Last week, Vietnam officials said they were stopping all U.S. adoptions after a U.S. Embassy report detailed accounts of hospitals there selling babies whose mothers couldn't pay their bills and corrupt brokers hunting for babies.
In Guatemala, hints of corruption long have been documented as that tiny nation rapidly rose to the top of the list as a source for international adoptions, behind only China. Problems and suspicions of fraud have been uncovered at one of Guatemala's most popular adoption agencies. Solicitor General Mario Gordillo told the Associated Press recently his office would have to invalidate adoptions and try to recover children in America if fraud is proven.
That situation could ultimately threaten 2,900 pending U.S. adoptions and an untold number already approved.
More than 5,500 children were adopted from Guatemala and Vietnam by American adults last year. It's not known how many families in the suburbs are threatened, but in the Daily Herald's "Finding Family" international adoption series 1½ years ago, it was reported that 168 children were adopted from Guatemala to Illinois just a few years ago. Since then, Vietnam has grown as a source for U.S. adoptions, with adoptions from there quadrupling in 2007, according to the Associated Press.
Our own series demonstrated that suburban adults adopt internationally for a variety of reasons. Often it's faster and, in some countries, more reliable. Certainly prospective parents often are motivated by knowing they can provide a much healthier, higher quality of life for children from many foreign countries.
When it works smoothly, it still can take months, untold heartache and somewhere between $10,000 and $30,000 to adopt internationally.
To have thousands of Americans now left in limbo wondering whether they'll ever get their children or whether they'll hear a knock on the door from some government official come to take their children away someday simply is not acceptable.
The U.S. Embassy uncovered the problems in Vietnam and concerns about Guatemala are well documented. So it must be U.S. government officials who lead now. They must work with the international community and Vietnam and Guatemalan officials to resolve the controversies and mend the broken adoption chain.
Our families, the very fabric of our communities, are counting on it.Excuse me again! Adoptees are not there for you.
Here is another one from The Washington Independent:
One consequence of the new restrictions on international adoption that we wrote about Wednesday will be longer waiting times for older children languishing in orphanages.
Here is one from the Arizona Capitol Times:
A proposal seeking to streamline the process of adopting children out of the state's foster care system was approved by the Legislature May 7. The legislation rode the support of lawmakers who have adopted or are in the process of adopting children.
The bill (S1411) passed by a vote of 25-3 in the Senate and 41-17 in the House. The next stop is the governor's desk.
The bill, authored by Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, would broaden the set of circumstances that can lead to the termination of parental rights, a complex and often emotional step in the adoption process.
Under the bill, parental rights can be severed if a child under the age of 3 years has received out-of-home care for at least six months and the parent has "substantially neglected or willfully refused" to remedy the situation that led to the child's removal from home, including refusal to participate in reunification services.
It also requires a court to hold a final hearing within 90 days after an adoption petition is received regarding a child less than 3 years old. Right now, such a hearing is required for children less than six months old.
The Legislature also passed an accompanying measure, S1442, which mandates the court to inform parents or guardians of their right to be heard in any proceeding relating to the child. It also directs the court to notify a relative identified as a possible guardian of the child about their right to be heard in any proceeding relating to the child.
Landrum Taylor and her husband are certified foster and adoptive parents and are in the process of formally adopting a child. The experience has led her to introduce the legislation, lamenting that the current process is long and laborious.
Frustrated by the process, many have opted to pursue private or international adoption, she said. Yet there are many children in the state's foster-care system waiting to be adopted, she said.
"It's a beginning step into the future for those children," she said of the legislation.
Landrum Taylor's core argument is that a child should not to have remain in limbo for a year or more.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Security has said it generally takes about 15 months from the time a child is placed under foster care before moves are made to sever a parental right.
Specific statutes govern the termination of parental rights. After "diligent efforts" to reunify a child in foster care with his or her biological family, DES can move to sever a parental right if the child has been in out-of-home placement for a cumulative period of at least nine months and the parent has willfully or neglectfully failed to remedy the situation.
DES can do the same if, after the child has been in foster care for at least 15 months, the parent has been "unable to remedy" the circumstances that led to the child's removal from home, and there is "substantial likelihood" the parent will not be able to exercise effective parental care and control in the near future.
Under the same laws, DES can move to sever a parental right more quickly than 15 months in specific situations, such as when the parent is unknown and cannot be located after three months.
Senate President Tim Bee, R-Tucson, whose family also adopted their newest member a few weeks ago, supported the legislation, noting that in their case, their adopted daughter was in the system for more than two years.
"This is long overdue," said Sen. Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park. "We have a lot of loving people waiting to adopt children out there and this is going to help them."
There were 9,902 children in out-of-home care in Arizona as of March 2006, according to DES. Nearly half of them were at least 9 years old.
More than 3,400 of the children were placed with relatives. Of the total number, about half had goals to return to their families. But some 2,300 wait for adoption.Why do these things need to be sped up? We are seeing more and more corruption in adoption. Is this a coverup? I am beginning to wonder
Onto the next story from the Los Angeles Times:
The Polish couple who adopted 4-year-old Abednego and renamed him Mikolaj say the procedure was fully legal, took six months and involved Polish diplomats who spoke with the birth parents. Rioba acknowledges that she signed papers but says she did not understand them.
Child protection experts say such tragic misunderstandings are common in a part of the world where adoption is a foreign concept. Criminals can exploit the gap between wealthy Westerners who genuinely want to help and poor Africans who want to do the best they can for their children.
Speaking in her Kenyan coastal village of mud huts, baby chickens scuttling between her feet, Rioba said she thought the couple was taking her son to Poland for schooling and would bring him to her on holidays.
"Instead of bringing him back, they said the child was theirs," she said, surrounded by relatives and friends who nodded sympathetically. She said that lawyer after lawyer declined to take her case, and that the one who did wanted $1,600. "I started paying but ran out of money so I had to give up," she said.
In an e-mail to the Associated Press, the Polish adoptive father said he was in e-mail contact with Rioba and her husband and had sometimes assisted them financially. But Rioba, who speaks poor English and has no phone or electricity, said that she and her husband quarreled over giving up the child and separated, and that she had not been told of any contact with her son. Repeated efforts to reach her husband by phone for comment were unsuccessful.
The Polish father, who declined further interview requests, requested anonymity to protect the boy's privacy. He said he took e-mails bearing Rioba's name at face value, without checking to see whether they were written by her. Rioba said she bore no ill will toward the Polish couple, instead blaming the relative who misled her about the process and who she suspects made money from it.
There's no word for adoption in Rioba's Swahili language. It is common for Africans to send orphaned or impoverished children to live with richer relatives, said Nairobi-based UNICEF expert Margie de Monchy, who has spent decades working on child protection issues. Unlike in adoptions, the child remains in regular contact with the parents.
Monchy said networks of traffickers were exploiting this confusion between African custom and Western concepts of adoption. With some families willing to pay as much as $30,000 for a Kenyan child, "it's calculated, it's organized and anecdotal evidence suggests it's increasing . . . throughout the region. It's getting worse and it's organized crime," Monchy said.
Monchy said celebrities such as Madonna may have unwittingly contributed to the problem by raising interest in African adoptions. The singer is adopting a Malawian boy whose mother died but whose father is living.
"Why did Madonna have to go for a child with a father? Why couldn't she support the father to take care of the son?" Monchy asked. "It shows the misunderstanding and disrespect for families on the other side of the world."
Madonna has said that she sees the adoption as "saving a life," and that more African orphans "need to be rescued" through adoption. The father has said in interviews that although he misses the boy, he is happy with the adoption as long as his son is well cared for.
There are no statistics on the number of families affected by the interest in African adoptions, but Monchy said anecdotal evidence showed that the problem of would-be saviors separating families was growing.
In October, six French aid workers were stopped in Chad with 103 children they said were Darfur orphans being taken to foster families in France. Most of the children were found to be Chadians with living parents or other adult care givers, and Chadian parents said they had been told the children were going to be enrolled in a new school in Chad, not taken out of the country.
The aid workers, from a group called Zoe's Ark, were convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to eight years in jail with hard labor by a Chadian court in December, a sentence that was commuted to eight years in jail when they were transferred to France under a judicial
Months later, the children involved were being cared for in a Chadian orphanage, their return to their families complicated in part because Zoe's Ark had not maintained records on them. Zoe's Ark officials said local intermediaries assured them the children were orphans.
In Liberia, which is slowly rebuilding itself after 15 years of civil war, child protection experts tell of families tricked into signing documents in a language they do not speak.
In one case, a father who discovered that he had unwittingly authorized the adoption of his children chased them to the airport, only to be held back by security guards, struggling helplessly as their plane took off. Other families placed their children in orphanages to be fed and protected from the war. When the fighting ended in 2003 and they returned to collect their children, they were gone.
The U.S. Embassy in Liberia can now request DNA tests to establish whether a person offering a child for adoption is a relative and not a trafficker. Many countries have introduced new guidelines to ensure parents understand the implications of adoption, or have ratified the 1993 Hague Convention, which lays out the criteria for adoption.
Yet many poorer countries lack centralized records, money to attract competent staff or even gasoline to take social workers on home visits.
In Kenya, the head of Children's Services, Ahmed Hussein, said new rules took effect in 2005 requiring parents to be given clear explanations about the meaning of adoption.
Nevertheless, his agency still sees several cases a year of parents unaware that they are giving up their children permanently. In such cases, the agency intervenes to stop the adoptions, he said.
The reforms are too late for Rioba, who weeps when she looks at pictures of her lost son.
Some mornings when she sits shucking corn into a plastic bucket between her feet, she looks at the muddy path leading into the village and imagines her boy walking home, tall and proud.
"Maybe he would talk Polish, walk like the Polish. . . . He's 9 now. I don't even know if he would remember me," she said.
And would she recognize him today? "Of course," she said simply. "I would never forget."
Associated Press writer Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.
Oh the entitlement is getting sicker and sicker. Something has just got to give. I am not an object to be bought and sold.
Here is yet another story that is floating out there. When oh when will these adoption agencies all be investigated.
Adoption agencies under fire
Nearly half the international adoption agencies in Colorado are losing money, five are at risk due to debt and one has generated so many complaints that state officials warned potential clients that they might want to look elsewhere for help with a foreign adoption.
Those findings, contained in a state audit of 22 licensed international adoption agencies, have prompted Human Services Department officials to propose new rules and policies they say are designed to protect prospective parents.
The recommendations come as the state attorney general's office is investigating five unidentified international adoption agencies.
Among the changes the department seeks are:
• Requiring licensed agencies to be bonded and carry appropriate liability insurance.
• Requiring agencies to provide full disclosure statements describing fees to prospective adoptive parents.
• Requiring the agencies to keep a certain amount of cash available.
In addition, the department wants to expand its oversight so it can monitor the business practices and financial health of adoption agencies operating here.
The changes "will benefit the children adopted internationally as well as prospective adoptive families," said Karen Beye, the department's executive director.
Liz McDonough, spokeswoman for the Human Services Department, said the changes do not require legislative approval but that many must be voted on by the State Board of Human Services.
Currently, the department doesn't expect that it will need more money or employees to implement the changes, McDonough said.
The department initiated the review after it received complaints about agencies that arrange international adoptions and after the arrest of Lisa Novak, director of the Claar Foundation, based in Boulder County.
Since June 2006, four international adoption agencies have closed in the state. In addition, the state temporarily suspended the license of one agency, Charitable St. Philomena, in March because it improperly completed adoptions, didn't have a qualified director and refused to allow the state to conduct inspections of its business operations. That agency has since corrected the problems and is again licensed, according to the audit.
McDonough said she did not know the exact number of complaints that sparked the investigation.
"It was not massive, but it was large enough to be concerning" and involved multiple agencies, she said.
Complaints against one agency were serious enough that in February, the state sent letters to five families it knew to be working with that agency.
The state wrote, in part: "This letter is to advise you that this department has received several complaints concerning Adopt a Miracle."
The letter, signed by Beye, included a list of other licensed international adoption agencies.
Adopt A Miracle, based in Lakewood, did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Several other agencies likewise did not return calls seeking comment.
The state had hoped to include a review of agency salaries in the audit, but eight of the 22 agencies did not disclose salary information.
Of the 14 agencies that did, the Claar Foundation reported paying the highest annual salary: $169,350.
Claar's director, Novak, has been charged with two counts of theft and one count of fraud, and the agency has closed. She was accused of taking thousands of dollars from prospective parents but never completing adoptions. A preliminary hearing is scheduled May 19 in Boulder.
Again another one:
New Rules and Economy Strain Adoption Agencies
Faced with a tightening of federal regulations governing foreign adoptions, and suffering from a downturn in business, international adoption agencies in the United States are finding themselves in financial straits and closing their doors in unprecedented numbers, experts say.
At least 15 percent of agencies that specialize in international adoptions have recently shut down, are expected to do so this year or will probably merge with other agencies to survive, according to the National Council for Adoption, an advocacy and education group in Virginia.
In some cases, the closings have come without warning, leaving people without the thousands of dollars in fees they paid to an agency or the child they had thought would finally be theirs.
They have also led to lawsuits and criminal investigations, as some struggling agencies have apparently turned to more desperate business practices to stay afloat.
“I don’t think anyone thought we’d see the number of closings that we have,” the adoption council’s vice president of training and agency services, Chuck Johnson, said. “We’ve heard of agencies still collecting fees from families and then announcing they’re going out of business the next week.”
For couples like Susan and Jim Paulson of Lafayette, Colo., what began as an aching desire to have another child turned quickly into a nightmare.
In 2006, with their son Quinn, 2, dying from a degenerative neurological disorder, the Paulsons decided to adopt a third child. Their first-born, a boy, now 6, would be lonely without his brother, they reasoned. And so would they.
After contacting Lisa Novak, the director, along with her husband, of the Claar Foundation, a Boulder adoption agency, the Paulsons paid roughly $11,000 in processing fees and waited for the arrival of a baby girl from Nepal.
But after the adoption collapsed amid political turmoil in Nepal last May, the Paulsons said they asked for some of their money back but never received a response from Ms. Novak. She was arrested on March 26 on charges of defrauding families of tens of thousands of dollars by promising adoptions but never completing them.
“It was devastating,” Ms. Paulson said. “We really trusted them.”
Ms. Novak’s lawyer, Lance Goff, said that there was no merit to the charges, and that the Paulsons knew the risks of adopting in Nepal and could have continued working with Claar to adopt a child in another country. Under their contract, he said, the Paulsons were not entitled to their money back.
“No adoption agency can guarantee a couple a child,” Mr. Goff said, adding that what agencies did was help couples “put together the paperwork so they can adopt, and there’s no evidence that the Claar Foundation breached that obligation to its clients.”
Mr. Goff added that prospective parents “need to have the fortitude and the flexibility to roll with the punches if they are committed to getting a child.”
The story of the Paulsons, and that of other people the Claar agency is accused of swindling, exemplifies a trend in a field that until recently operated largely free of federal regulation.
International adoptions in the United States fell to 19,613 children in the last fiscal year, from 22,884 in 2004, with one factor being red tape in countries like Russia and China making it more difficult for people to adopt there.
On April 25, the Vietnamese government announced it would stop processing new adoption applications from Americans after July 1, following a report by the United States Embassy in Hanoi that accused the adoption system there of widespread corruption. The Vietnamese government has denied the charges.
And in Guatemala, the government has placed a temporary one-month hold on pending adoptions as each case is reviewed because the system there has been plagued with corruption.
The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which went into effect in the United States on April 1, is also having an impact.
The convention requires that to become accredited, international adoption agencies must comply with uniform standards that include training for prospective parents, establishing staff qualifications and transparent bookkeeping. But the standards apply only to agencies that bring children to the United States from countries that agreed to abide by the convention, more than 70 in all.
“From what I’ve seen, it looks like some of those agencies have looked at the Hague standards and simply can’t meet them,” Kemy Monahan, who coordinates adoption compliance with the Hague Convention for the State Department, said of many of the agencies that have gone out of business recently.
Ms. Monahan and Mr. Johnson said they thought that the Hague regulations, intended to safeguard adoptions better, would eventually weed out agencies that operated on the fringes of the law.
That seems to be happening already in some places.
In Michigan, a district court judge recently barred the operators of Waiting Angels Adoption Services from participating in adoptions for nearly three years. The state attorney general’s office has also asked the judge to order the operators to refund $327,000 to prospective parents who paid the agency to facilitate adoptions of children from Guatemala that never took place, said a spokesman for the office, Matt Frendewey.
In Santa Barbara, Calif., the director of the Adoption International Program, Orson Mozes, was charged on April 1 with 62 felony counts of theft by false pretenses. Mr. Mozes, who has since disappeared, is accused of taking more than $1 million from families who paid to adopt children from Eastern Europe, adoptions that rarely happened, according to an arrest affidavit.
Reece and Amanda Heinrich of Holt, Mich., said they were out more than $14,000 after an adoption arranged through Waiting Angels fell apart. The Heinrichs, who are unable to have children of their own, fell in love with a baby boy from Guatemala after the agency showed them pictures and a video of him.
They named the baby Jamyson, but after waiting more than a year, the Heinrichs said, Waiting Angels told them there were complications with the birth mother and that Jamyson was no longer available for adoption. They were refused a refund, they said.
The couple have since adopted twins through a domestic agency, but the experience has left scars.
“I’d honestly rather get stabbed in the stomach than have to go through that again,” Mr. Heinrich said. “We were relying on somebody to help us create a family, and then to have our hearts ripped out. I considered Jamyson my son.”
In Colorado, on the heels of the police investigation into the Claar Foundation, the state Department of Human Services found, in a report released May 1, that 10 of 22 local international adoption agencies whose financial records they examined were losing money. As a result, Colorado will tighten its licensing standards to require that agencies maintain two months’ worth of operating costs in reserves and prohibit them from charging an entire adoption fee up front, said Liz McDonough, a department spokeswoman.
The Paulsons and others have filed lawsuits against Claar and its directors. This year, the Paulsons won a $5,000 judgment in small claims court from Ms. Novak, but Ms. Paulson said she had not received any money.
Mr. Goff, Ms. Novak’s lawyer, said Claar had no revenue because it was no longer operating. Ms. Novak is scheduled to appear in Boulder County Court on May 19.
The Paulsons said their experience had left them too traumatized and without enough money to try adopting again. The quilt they bought for a new daughter has been stashed away in a closet, a list of potential names discarded.
Worst of all, Quinn Paulson died on Feb. 5.
His older brother “kept asking when his new sister was coming home, that she would be able to play with him all the time,” Ms. Paulson said. “It feels really unfair.”
Here is another article with the sense of entitlement:
Pull to adopt' led to daughter
Ten-month-old Maya waits in a Vietnamese orphanage to go home to her new family as immigration paperwork is mired in red tape.
JUSTIN COOK The Roanoke Times
A dress that Heather purchased for Maya last Christmas now wouldn't fit the baby, whose adoption has become bogged down in paperwork and a changing international law.
Photos by JUSTIN COOK The Roanoke Times
Heather Pence, 30, cuts lilacs with her children Kristian, 6, and Morgan, 8.
"Prayer is what is getting us through," says Heather Pence, kissing her son Harrison, 3 in their Christiansburg home.
The Firebaughs took this family portrait on their first Mother's Day with Midora.
CHRISTIANSBURG -- Above the living room entertainment center, pictures of Heather Pence's kids hang on the wall. There's 8-year-old Morgan beside brothers Kristian, 6, and Harrison, 3 -- all with the same sandy hair and toothy smiles.
Then there's the baby. She stands out with her shock of black hair, bronze skin and dark eyes.
Her name is Maya. And Heather Pence doesn't know when -- or if -- she's coming home.
The picture is all Heather has, but it was all she needed to fall in love. For now, 10-month-old Maya waits in an orphanage in Vietnam, kept from her adoptive family by immigration paperwork.
The Pences were expecting to bring Maya home by the end of last year.
Now, the phone could ring anytime, telling them to come overseas for their baby, or informing them an adoption that began nearly two years ago has fallen through.
For Heather, these past months have shown others -- and herself -- the strength of a mother's love as she has fought, called legislators and shed tears.
Today, as mothers are celebrated, Heather said she thinks it will be a blessing to be with her children, but it will also feel like someone is missing.
"It's going to be a very hard Mother's Day," she said.
This morning, she will sit in church, watching moms stand during a "baby dedication," where parents vow to raise children in a godly manner. Heather and husband, Harry, already did the dedication with their three children. Last Mother's Day, as she watched, her mind drifted to Maya.
"Next Mother's Day," Heather thought, "we'll have a baby girl and be able to dedicate her."
When it comes time for this year's dedication, she told her husband, she may have to step outside the sanctuary.
A calling from God
Sept. 24, 2007:
"Her name will be Maya, meaning precious little one. ... Another meaning of her name is, a creative work of God. How appropriate is that for our baby. This whole journey has been exactly that."
As a coffee-fueled, full-time mom who home schools the kids, this 30-year-old preacher's daughter already had plenty to keep her busy. But now, Heather's days include keeping a blog, "The Pence family's journey," chronicling her efforts to bring Maya home.
Each day is full. She breezes through the house in jeans and bare feet with red-painted toes. The kitchen table is cluttered with the kids' school books, and she knows when toddler Harrison is trying to sneak into the kitchen window from outside by spotting his reflection in the clear cabinet doors.
Yet Heather said she felt expanding the family was something God led her to do.
The idea began in 2005, when Harry sold a piece of land. Next came the question of how to spend the money. He wanted to invest. She wanted a bigger house with a sunroom and a fireplace.
Heather began thinking about adoption at a Stephen Curtis Chapman concert. The Christian musician adopted a child from China and advocates the experience.
But it wasn't until she was in the kitchen one day making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that she was struck by a feeling -- a realization that the money should be used to adopt. Unlike a house, an adoption would last forever.
At first, 33-year-old Harry needed persuading. He's a Montgomery County Sheriff's Office deputy and the family's lone breadwinner. One more mouth to feed would only add to the pressure.
He started praying about adoption. She started researching.
Internationally, Vietnam was the only country for which they qualified. They did not meet China's high income requirements, and countries such as Guatemala have shut its doors to the U.S. In fact, an increasing number of families have turned to Vietnam. More than 1,200 Vietnamese children were adopted by Americans over the 18 months ending in March. Last year, adoptions jumped more than 400 percent from 2006.
In August 2006, the family started the process. They transferred their paperwork in March 2007 to a Portland agency with a shorter waiting list.
Heather was sure they would have a baby within a year.
The application was on its way to Vietnam in May 2007, and on Aug. 29, the family arrived home from church to good news. They learned via e-mail that they were matched with a 1-month-old girl.
Maya's picture and a referral came two months later. The family gathered around the computer. When they saw Maya for the first time, everybody cried.
The bad news
"I thought we would definitely have her by now, but I guess not. Things are not going as we had hoped, or planned. I would love to tell you that I am optimistic about things, but I can't. I am very discouraged, and I am preparing myself for the loss of our baby ..."
The phone call came the week of Thanksgiving.
"I have bad news," an adoption caseworker told Heather.
Maya's province was refusing to release a document needed to file her I-600 form -- immigration papers a child needs to get a visa and be allowed into the country.
Six other families at their Oregon agency are in the same situation.
They're caught up in a new adoption law that was implemented in November, just as the Pences got Maya's referral.
The law is meant to give U.S. Embassy workers in Vietnam more time to ensure that each adopted baby is truly an orphan. In fact, in late April, the embassy released a report saying Vietnamese hospitals sold babies whose mothers could not pay their bills and that brokers searched villages for infants.
Before the law, the Pences would have traveled to Vietnam within weeks of getting Maya's referral. They would have filed her I-600 overseas, waited a few weeks, then brought her home.
Now, the form is completed in the U.S. The time families must wait for the U.S. to approve each I-600 jumped from 10 to 90 days.
All these months later, the Pences are still waiting.
"I can't believe that you are 9 months old already, and I have never seen you or held you. I pray that I will be able to see your beautiful face, and hold you before your first birthday ..."
In November, a friend brought six bags full of baby clothes. Heather washed them and put them in a drawer. Now, the outfits are too small -- all are sized for a 3- to 6-month-old baby.
A room is set aside for the nursery. Heather won pink baby bedding on eBay. But she's waiting for good news before painting the room. It's hard walking in there, seeing all the unused baby goods.
Maya should have been home in December. Heather even bought her baby a Christmas dress -- silky pink and printed with black velvet roses. Now, the kids use the dress' fur-collared jacket for their dolls.
Heather has known about Maya for nine months. To lose her now would be like losing a baby she carried inside her.
She knows it's hard for others to understand how she can love a child she's never met. She knows if she were not living this life, she wouldn't understand, either.
She still home schools the kids as she waits, planned this summer's Disney vacation and is looking forward to June days at the pool. But now, it's nothing for her to call senators, the White House or the State Department, hoping someone can help get her baby.
Not a day goes by when Heather doesn't break down and cry -- usually it's in the shower, where the kids can't see her.
In public, it hurts to see babies Maya's age.
Now, going to the grocery store can take hours -- she almost always runs into people she knows, all asking about Maya.
Through all this, she has befriended a woman in Michigan whose baby is in the same orphanage. They talk every week, and Heather said she feels better.
She's part of a close congregation at Main Street Baptist and has friends there to lean on for support. One of them is Kathy Cook, a 47-year-old whom Heather's children call "Granny Cook."
She knows the waiting is miserable, that each holiday only gets harder, that it hurts Heather's heart when the kids ask, "Mommy, why don't you go get Maya?"
"Going through this adoption has definitely made her stronger," Cook said. "If she never gets Maya, she'll make it through that, too."
Heather already feels like Maya's mom. She's protective, worries about whether Maya is getting enough to eat, prays she's growing strong.
Like any mom, she knows parenthood may lead to selfless decisions. She knows one day, she might have to let Maya go, giving her a chance of being adopted by another family.
Still, Heather dreams of getting her baby, of looking into her deep brown eyes and saying, "I fought for you. I didn't quit."
No matter what happens, Heather has decided this: even if they lose Maya, her picture will stay on the living room wall.
Maya is part of the family. Always. Even if she never comes home.You people sicken me. The entitlement just reeks through almost every article. Shame on America.