Today, the day before Mother’s Day, is Birth Mothers’ Day. In the adoption “triad” of adoptive parents, the child, and birth mother, we acknowledge who is often the quietest of the three. To give up a child is a decision both intensely personal and emotional. After a 9-month (or longer) journey these women make the unselfish choice to send off the child with whom they’ve bonded, for a better life.
We have special permission to share with you a story about a case we recently worked on. It begins in Haiti with Dr. John Carroll’s Haitian Heartsprogram, which brings children in severe need of medical care to charitable U.S. hospitals that can provide the necessary treatment. He came upon Widnerlande, a little girl with a hole in her heart. The Today Show previously chronicled the medical part of her journey, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/Iy1v7o6vinU
What the Today show doesn’t cover is what became of the child next. Although the child’s mother cared for her as much as she could (if you watched the video, she’d hold their hearts together in an effort to keep it beating in Haiti), ultimately a return to Haiti would mean a return to the orphanage, because her mother could not provide adequate food and shelter for her. The best choice for her child would be a life in the United States – a difficult and supremely unselfish choice by a loving mother. But how would the child stay in the U.S.?
In fact, the child became connected with another remarkable story, that of the Malavolti family. A deeply Catholic family, they have now raised over 20 children, beginning with 8 Texas children at once in the 90′s. The story of that Texas birth mother of 8, who realized at a young age that she would die of cancer, is both tragic and wonderful for its intersection with the Malavoltis. We’ve scanned and uploaded the original Reader’s Digest article that you can read by clicking HERE (16 fast pages, very worth a read). The story was also covered by many international news outlets including Oprah, the Today Show, and the following links:
Thanks to the Malavoltis – or, as they would be sure to observe, by the grace of God – those children found a home in Illinois. Since then, they have added many more children, for whom they care in the house they built themselves, while they raise their own food, eat meals together, and pray daily. The Malavoltis have adopted other Haitian children who have undergone lifesaving medical procedures by Dr. Carroll too, with our Attorney Theresa Hardesty having helped them complete those adoptions in the past.
Back to Widnerlande, Theresa realized in late March that Widnerlande’s journey to the U.S. was about to be in jeopardy. This is because Haiti’s laws for international adoption were then changing in about one month (they have in fact changed as of April 1, 2014) – when Haiti joined the Hague Convention. We wrote a previous article about the climate of international adoption and Hague laws HERE. The change meant that the adoption would likely not be possible, or at a minimum, would be extremely difficult, costly, and time-consuming, involving many trips to Haiti by an adopting couple and potentially the sending of Widnerlande back to the orphanage.
Brainstorming the adoption plan, Rob Parker and Theresa Hardesty realized the time was scarily short: about 16 hours to spare, from the date of making plans in March, to complete every step. This calculation was based on the time it would take to:
1. Draft the adoption and get it to the Malavolti family for review and signature;
2. Complete a home study update for the Malavoltis;
3. Attempt to find the child’s mother in Haiti, for which Dr. Carroll was of immense help;
4. If she would not be found for consent, to make the appropriate steps for publishing in a newspaper to provide notice of the adoption;
5. Schedule and hold an interim hearing, appoint a guardian ad litem, and schedule the final adoption hearing if the other steps were able to occur, and make sure that everyone involved could show up to testify at the hearing.
All of this and more had to be accomplished in 30 days.
Everyone did their part, but it required the dedication of uniquely wonderful people like the Carrolls (Dr. Carroll’s wife did a major assist with the home study as well), the Malavolti family, and Theresa Hardesty. All offered their time and effort for free. And all involved would want to say that the moving parts and impossible timeframe required the will of God to make those efforts successful.
The case was completed without a single day to spare.
Today we honor these mothers’ choices: Magadalene in Haiti, and Bianca in Texas, from the two stories above. Their sacrifice blossoms in the Malavolti home.
Dr. Carroll continues his work, and you may support those efforts by following the link shown near the top of this article. Parker & Parker looks forward to assisting pro bono with more adoptions for Haitian Hearts children who need to find a home.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!