Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Family Prays, Waits To Adopt Children From Haiti

By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published March 18, 2004

As they follow the news closely on how the civil unrest is resolved in Haiti, Melissa and Jack Madden pray and anxiously await the safe arrival of the two children they are adopting from the impoverished Caribbean island nation.

But the waiting time is now unknown, as their agency One World Adoptions in Buford has been unable to send their papers to Haiti because Haitian Social Services that handles the country’s adoptions has closed indefinitely.

“We’re just waiting and praying and hoping things quiet down,” said Melissa. “We look at their pictures and feel they’re waiting for us. I feel it’s a matter of time, and they will be a part of our family.”

The Maddens, members of St. Matthew’s Church, Tyrone, have four biological children and a daughter, Tess, adopted from China in 2002. After experiencing the blessings of adopting Tess, now 3, Melissa began doing research on adding another baby to the cradle. She learned of the tremendous poverty for orphans and parents forced to give them up in Haiti, where about 80 percent live in abject poverty, 47 percent are illiterate and more than two-thirds of the labor force lack formal jobs. While there are countless pictures of cute orphans on the Internet, she explained that “every once and a while you hit on one you feel like is your child.”

So they filed the adoption papers for a 2-month-old baby girl last August at a Port-au-Prince orphanage, with an expectation to receive her within six to 12 months.

Jack, an elementary school teacher at a multi-cultural school, latched onto the idea and later came home with the proposal, “What do you think about adopting a boy too?”

“I was like, ‘great’—I like a lot of kids,” said Melissa. “That’s what I want to be when I grow up is a mom. I love all my kids.”

As they discerned the decision they learned they had to act fast in December as the orphanage had to close where the boy they picked out from an adoption Web site, now 9 months old, was living.

Children without adoptive families were being moved to undisclosed locations. Both children are now in a Port-au-Prince orphanage run by an American couple.

The Maddens and the executive director of One World Adoptions, Susan Secor, worry that as the new President Boniface Alexandre tries to establish peace after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was driven out of office Feb. 29 and exiled, restoring adoption processing will be low on the priority list. On March 8 tens of thousands marched in Port-au-Prince to celebrate the fall of Aristide, and at least four demonstrators and a foreign journalist were killed and over 30 wounded.

“If they can’t get control over the general population, they’re not going to be worrying about adoptions,” said Melissa.

Said Secor, “Nobody is in charge of adoptions right now.”

The director said that at the two Port-au-Prince orphanages she’s working with, staff members avoid going outside because of the looting, violence and protests and are running out of supplies. One facility with 90 children they’re working with now has to pay $2,000 a week instead of $1,000 for food because prices have gone up due to blockage of distribution routes.

“They’re not going to be able to last too long at this rate, so we’re trying to get some (financial) donations down there,” she said.

She reflected on the sadness of the situation, as “the need is so great” in Haiti compared to the other seven countries her agency works with for adoptions. “Haiti is a country with 8 million people, and many of them are starving. It’s such a desperate situation,” she said. While adopting from other poor countries gives a child a better life, “families who adopt from Haiti are literally saving a child’s life.”

“Haiti is an extremely, extremely poor country, and it really is not in these children’s best interest now to be kept down there. I think if there ever was a time that our government was going to allow humanitarian visas for children … that now would really be the time to let these children come over here and, maybe continue the adoption process, but let them come over here and be taken care of and out of that danger,” she said in an interview for WXIA-TV.

The Maddens both feel that adopting internationally is a calling from God, which reaps many blessings despite the financial sacrifice. Having always thought about it, Melissa was further encouraged to adopt Tess from China after meeting a cousin’s adopted daughter from Vietnam and seeing how she interacted with the relative’s biological children. “It was kind of seeing it in real life, seeing the camaraderie the kids can have with each other, not being blood related, was a great thing and made me feel more confident going ahead with adoption,” she said. “We really felt God was calling us to adopt a baby … We spent a year praying about it.”

They have a “Brady Bunch” style set-up in their home, with the girls in one large room and the boys in another. And they take Tess to Chinese cultural activities with the South Siders with Chinese Children group and plan to find ways to expose their Haitian children to their heritage.

“It’s a sacrifice in some ways, but I think it’s well worth it. Especially with adopting, it’s a chance to give them what everybody deserves, a family with support and love,” Melissa continued. “It’s definitely a sacrifice. We budget and made the decision to adopt children rather than have expensive material things right now, to put our mind on adoption and whatever it takes to do it.”

Jack said that the children have always been enthusiastic about adopting and are eager to welcome their Haitian siblings. “Not only will it change the life of the children we’re adopting, but it will change our lives for the better as well.”

Jack said they have already begun saving money for the future—and praying the Hope Scholarship stays around. “I have faith things will work out. Who knows if the Hope Scholarship will be there by the time they’re ready for college.”

Waiting for the children “has been difficult, but prayer has helped, my faith in God and Jesus Christ, just praying and having the support from the parish at St. Matthew’s.”

While adopting in Haiti may be a Band-Aid solution as far as addressing the problem of poverty, Melissa knows it’s right for her family, and could never turn her back now on their Haitian babies. “For these kids it means the world. It means a life because they have no future. There’s nothing for them. There’s no jobs, education if you don’t have money. We just pray a lot they start up with adoptions again.”