By Kelly Shank –
Interestingly, when you have the chance to sit on our couch holding the most beautiful baby or run through the grass and listen to kids laugh as you chase them, there’s something that happens deep inside your soul. You start to see our kids as your own. They aren’t just another orphan. You know their names, what they like to do, and maybe a little bit about their story.
Visiting our home changes people and one of the most frequent questions we get is if our kids can be adopted. The short answer is yes, but only by Guatemalan families.
Believe me, we understand the desire to scoop up our kids and bring them home where we can love on them every day. Each of us at Forever Changed International can tell our own stories about the children we have bonded with and our struggle with the reality that we cannot bring them home with us. This is my story.
Kelly and Alejandra:
Probably because I had a 1 year old at home, I was drawn to the babies’ house during my first visit in 2011. Imagine 8 highchairs lined up along the living room wall and cribs filling the bedrooms. The dining room was a playroom at the time and someone always needed attention. In the midst of the toddlers was a little girl named Alejandra. She was the rambunctious one, always testing the limits and instigating trouble. Needless to say, we bonded quickly.
Even more so, Alejandra bonded with my husband. When he joined me the following year, the two became inseparable. The first hug my husband received would always be from Alejandra. When she spotted him, all things stopped, and she would run to give him a hug. The man who openly admits that he’s “not really into little kids” would scoop her up like one of his own. With her, our family felt complete. Even the Special Mothers noticed how much she loved my husband and their special bond.
By coincidence my husband and I were working at Dorie’s Promise on Alejandra’s fifth birthday. It was her birthday but the gift was ours as we sang and ate cake. Returning just a few months later I also witnessed Alejandra’s adoption story. On a sunny Sunday afternoon I met the lady who is now Alejandra’s adoptive mother and her biological brother who had been previously adopted. The following Friday morning I had the privilege of saying goodbye to the little girl I wanted to make my daughter as she left with her forever family.
God’s plan for Alejandra was not to take her away from Guatemala. Her story did not include having me as her mother. Instead, she was going to find her brother and a Guatemalan family who would love her. As I look back on the time we spent with Alejandra and the opportunities that God gave us to share in her life I understand that He was showing me how be a family to the orphaned children who will remain in Guatemala.
When Heather Radu started working in Guatemala our primary focus was facilitating adoptions with American families. More than 400 children found forever families through our efforts until international adoptions were halted in 2008.
The transition away from international adoptions gave us the opportunity to refocus how we serve the children in our home and the people of Guatemala. Although we pray each of our children will find a loving family, for many kids we become their family as they grow up in our home.
Just as you do for your children, we give each child opportunities that meet their unique gifts and needs. Some will attend trade schools or universities while others may be in our care long-term due to medical needs. Seeing them succeed is our goal.
In May 2016 the Guatemalan government announced that their priority is to develop a successful domestic adoption program within their country before they will consider reestablishing an international adoption program. Although some people may be disappointed by this decision, we see it as an opportunity for us to do important work.
We want to raise a generation of leaders who will bring about justice and change in Guatemala. We truly believe that the children currently living in our home have the ability to become successful teachers, lawyers, doctors, business owners, and so much more in Guatemala. By instilling faith, integrity, and intellect into our children as they mature we envision leaders coming of age who are able to impact change for all the people of Guatemala, especially children and families with backgrounds similar to their own.
Our children have the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty one child at a time through education, opportunity, and love!