Friday, October 12, 2012

Some news from Inter-country (finally!)

I have been meaning to write this blog for a while but have been caught up in a flurry of meetings, happy and sad events, reunions and mounds of files!

So, perhaps i'll begin by introducing myself. In May I received my Bachelor of Arts degree from Austin College, with majors in international relations and french. And yes, I am fully aware that Spanish is more practical in Texas. I have always felt a deep connection to giving back and work in the non-profit sector and have been an avid volunteer throughout my academic career. I have also always felt like there were so many global places to see and explore, my small home town could'nt contain my desire to travel and discover.

While my immediate family has lived in the Ft. Worth area for some time now, extended relatives are a long roadtrip away in northern Indiana. It is here, in Colt and Fighting Irish country, that three of my cousins became family through the loving decision made by each of their birthmothers.

All of these things combined, as well as a search for non-profits in the metroplex and the much appreciated help of Mary in HR, led me to my internship in the inter-country adoption department of the Ft. Worth campus at Gladney.

In the past two and a half months I feel like I have gained so much invaluable knowledge that has made me reflect, has made me grateful, and has left me continually impressed by the dedication of the caseworkers and the entire team that it takes to run the center smoothly. I'm sure this holds true in every department, but especially so in inter-country, the motto seems to be expect the unexpected. From the twists and turns experienced by the prospective adoptive parents during homestudies, dossier submission, USCIS approval, referral acceptance and travel arrangements, to financial realities that force us to confront the limits of a boundless desire to give more and do more. Perseverence is critical, as is a close relationship between team members and the ability to lighten the mood.  The process of inter-country adoption is involved, lengthy, and uncertain. I have developed so much respect for the patience and determination of the families choosing this path. You can see how committed everyone here is when a cubicle is full of smiling and "awwwww"-ing staff gather around a skype screen to see the placement of a cherub cheeked Colombian baby.

Due to the obvious limitations of inter-country, I was very interested to have the opportunity to shadow a domestic birthmother caseworker and see this facet of adoption. I'll preface this recap by saying that it was an unexpectedly emotionally gruelling day.  I found myself teary on the way home and teary now remembering it. On this particular day, two birthmothers had scheduled supervised visits with their little ones who were in transitional care while awaiting the finalization of their paperwork and placements. The first birthmother arrived with a small gift and entered the visiting room calmly. Her little one was swaddled comfortably in a blanket, just his petite head and dark combed over hair visible from his cocoon. The two spent a quiet couple hours together before it was time for a quick diaper change and goodbye for the day. Maybe I am biased because this is the first and only visit I have witnessed, but the unwavering strength, maturity and selflessness shown by this particular birthmother was truly commendable. You could feel the immense love she had for her little one and I was reassured that through her choice to place for adoption, both mother and child will continue to live the most fulfilling and rich lives imagineable.

So in conclusion, (if you have made it this far!), I feel so lucky to be a part of this team for the short time that I am. I have been so welcomed here, from breakfast with the President Mr. Frank Garrott, to inclusion on meetings and conference calls. This work is by no means easy, but it is undoubtedly necessary. Seeing the celebration on referral and placement days reminds everyone of the hope that carries us through the ups and downs of building families. Congrats Gladney on 125 years and best wishes for the next, I am glad to have been a (small) part of it.

Katie Heath

Intern in Inter-country adoption