Hooray for Adoption!
Guide for adopting families
Translation by Luiza Quental
Building a family is never a simple decision. It takes time, dedication, emotion, and maturity to be a mother and/or a father, to welcome a child with love and responsibility.
With adoption it is no different. There are many myths and untruths that complicate the meeting of those who wish to adopt and those who await adoption. Deciding to adopt and waiting the necessary time for the first hug can be frustrating or reflexive, it can be discouraging or emboldening, it can make one cry and laugh at the same time, but it is a necessary and valuable process for the maturing of the thousands of applicants.
The manual “Hooray for adoption” was created as a reception and formation tool to help future parents feel secure, embraced, and prepared for the arrival of their child, and, why not, children.
This is the beginning of an interesting journey of self-knowledge, which counts on the support of the system of children’s and teenagers’ rights and guarantees, the tutelage of justice and the real and virtual support of thousands os acting volunteers within a network of support for adoption in all of Brazil.
Come with us!
MAIS— Movement for Social Action and Innovation—acts in the production and dissemination of content and the development of methodologies and strategies for innovation in the areas of education, healthcare, and citizenship, promoting social inclusion. The movement encompasses several projects, including Movimento Down (Down Movement), Movimento Zika (Zika Movement), e Rede de Ativadores (Network of Activators).*
Eu não sabia como esses projetos costumam ser traduzidos então mantive o original e fiz uma tradução livre entre parêntesis, mas aí vai de como vocês costumam fazer.
MAIS is also a partner of eLaborando, a social laboratory with research and production on education and inclusive culture, which produces solutions like inclusive and accessible pedagogical materials for students with and without disabilities, and the project Changing the Narrative (Mudando a Narrativa), which focuses on storytelling of inclusive and accessible stories.
It is formed by an interdisciplinary team with experience in the formulation and implementation of intersectional public policy. The objective is to articulate, mobilize, and promote methodologies and innovative strategies that aim for practical solutions to challenges in education and social development.
The result can be examined for free in our portals and publications. Our network of partners is fundamental for the transformation of so many projects in reality. MAIS has the support of businesses, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and the participation of collaborators from many areas and human right activists.
A child is a child!
Maybe you’ve just started considering adoption, maybe you’ve been thinking about it for years. Maybe you’re looking to start a family, maybe you’re already a parent. Maybe you’ve just sent in your application, maybe your name is already on the National Adoption Registry (CNA) and you’re waiting to be called. Or maybe you’ve already adopted a child and want to repeat the dose, maybe you just want to know more about the incredible process of filiation through adoption. No matter what your story is, we believe the following information can be useful to you!
Adoption is an act of love. It is born from the desire of an encounter between different parts in the construction of a family. This family, although it doesn't share a blood relation, carries a parental relationship founded in the desire of this unique, life-long bond. Here you can find more information about adoption and understand how it all works.
Every adoption process is unique, just like the reasons that lead one to adopt. And though the main focus is the child, we want to take care that every parent is prepared for the joys and challenges of welcoming and educating a child received through adoption.
The Real Child
The National Adoption Registry shows a reality that must be changed. One on side, more that 40 thousand would-be parents apply to adopt. On the other, fewer than 9 thousand possible sons and daughters are in search for a family. Why then do we hear that the waiting list for adoption is so long? Why are child shelters still so full when there are so many willing to adopt?
It is true that every adoption process must be extremely careful and requires time to be concluded. But the main problem is that, when signing up at the CNA, most people indicate a highly restrictive profile, leaving out the real children that are in shelters— children older than 5 years old, black and brown children, children with disabilities and chronic diseases, and groups of siblings. These, in reality, are the children that need a caring and loving family most. Yet they are growing in institutions while there is so much love on the waiting list, awaiting the idealized child.
Our objective with this publication is to promote a reflection in those who wish to adopt and to promote more encounters between parents and children, between those that have love to give and those who need it. You will learn how the Active Search works, which brings together people who wish to adopt and children who need a home. The dream of becoming a parent through adoption could come sooner than you imagine.
“All children are adopted.
First they are born, then
adopted and integrated by the family.”
English pediatrician - 1896/1971
Love, knowledge, and the law
The organization Aconchego— support group for family and community relationships— defines adoption in the following manner:
The birth of a child by adoption, like the birth of a biological child, must be preceded by preparation and construction of parental feeling and knowledge. In this preparation, applicants for adoption should go through a long period of reflection about the expectations and motivations for the adoption and about one’s own emotional disposition to receive the child(ren) on its (their) way.
It is necessary to deconstruct myths and prejudices about abortion, as well as the deconstruction of the idealized child so that the real child can be born. Accepting the child or teenager with their own story, many times permeated by negligence and abandonment, is essential for the child to be born by adoption. Adoption is, principally, an act of love. Love that is born from a choice that is built daily, in day-to-day relations.
It is also a process guaranteed by law, which transfers the rights and respondibilities of the biological family to another family. Adoption is, therefore, a process based on love, knowledge, and the law.
Understanding the legal paperwork that envolve adoption with all of its bureaucratic and administrative affairs is fundamental for a conscious and responsible adoption, even if the gestation period for this child is superior than that of a biological one. Legitimizing filiation through law gives the child security and belonging in its new family. It is also the only way to protect the child or teenager’s rights in the adoption process.
-about Brazilian law-
Preparing for and Enabling Adoption
Every child needs a loving and caring family.
Since 2009, the Brazilian justice system requires that applicants be prepared during the adoption process. Every county offers its own process, which can be long or short. Do not underestimate the time dedicated to each phase, for this will be fundamental to support the arrival of your child.
If your county doesn't offer sufficient preparation, look for information on social media to better prepare for the wait and choice of a profile for adoption. During the process, it is possible to define a profile for the child or teenager to be adopted. In this moment, it is important to reflect about the child’s age, ethnicity, health conditions or disability and if you are open to groups of siblings.
“I like her just as she is.”
Defining the profile
In general, the life stories of girls and boys who await for a family are characterized by situations of vulnerability, violence, abandonment, sub-nutrition, drug use, among other situations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be your son or daughter.
Though most applicants prefer babies who are white and without a record of illness and/or disability, happily, each day, more and more people opt to adopt outside this majority profile, opening their hearts to older children, of different ethnicities, with some form of disability or chronic disease, or groups of siblings.
When we adopt, we are not ordering a child at the counter, we are proposing ourselves to know and love a person with a story and identity that is to be respected.
No matter the situation, having a child is never easy. Gestating is a complex process that involves hormones, idealizations and doubts during nine months. Adopting is a gestation without a due date, without the contribution of nature to form the tie between mother/father and child. It is a psychic and social construction that involves justice, family, support groups, information, and enormous anxiety about when and how the child will arrive.
It is very common for us to idealize our children. During gestation, we may imagine that he or she might have their grandfather’s eyes, their mother’s smile, their sister’s nose, the temperament of this or that relative and that they will be happy and realized in their adult lives. In adoption, we dream that our expectations will be met, including physical ones, even with the conscience that our genetics are completely different from that of the child to come.
Adoption is a different way for your child to arrive. We mothers and father must prepare ourselves to deal with frustration, fear, insecurity, disease, accidents, and the adversities of life. The ideal child does not exist. The arrival of a child, independent on how he/she arrives, his or her age or condition, is always an experience of renovation and acceptance, which requires of us availability, commitment, patience, and flexibility when faced with what is new and unexpected.
To adopt, it is not necessary to have a partner. Adoption is an egalitarian form of gestation, experienced and shared equally between both men and women. There are no phases, difficulties or privileges imposed by nature.
Monoparental adoption is when a single applicant integrally assumes parental rights over the child or teenager to be adopted. It is the form found by single, divorced, and widowed people of becoming mothers and fathers, independent of a relationship, marriage, or civil union with another.
We begin to love our child through day-to-day coexistence, which isn't summed up in the first contact. And so we begin to realize that love is gestated, adopted, and cultivated little by little, making space in our lives and in our hearts
With time, we come to understand that biological or adopted children, in whatever condition in life, are people that need to be loved, and for whom we are willing to do everything in our power to secure their happiness. We offer everything we have so that each child develops to their full capacity.
The adoption of older children isn’t as complex a process as it seems. They are boys and girls older than three years old, and that have already developed a conscience about their own story. In general, they long for a family, but need time and patience to build the future ties of attachment and trust and feel a part of a family. These children’s stories must be welcomed, giving them an opportunity of rewriting new paths, without dramatic ruptures or secrets.
In late adoption, normally, you won’t be changing diapers, and for some applicants this can be a positive factor. The child has already developed a certain amount of autonomy, they are owners of their own wants and will truly bond with someone who can offer security, affection, and stability. It is possible psychological aid may be needed to support the coexistence phase and to help deal with this initial stage of mutual recognition.
The adoption of a teenager is a mature process and depends more on what the person to be adopted wants. It is, however, a possible filiation and of great significance for the family that is formed.
If you opt to adopt a child of a different ethnicity than yours, you will have to confront, internally and externally, the nefarious culture of racism and prejudice entrenched in our society.
It is important to invest in frank dialogue with your extended family, restraining any form of discrimination, even if it seems like an “inoffensive joke”. Many times, it is necessary to confront and reeducate family members and friends about explicit prejudice or veiled discrimination through jokes and nicknames. Children are children, independent of the color of their skin or ethnicity. Any difficulty can be overcome with dialogue, information, and perseverance.
Adoption of groups of siblings
Groups of siblings are usually avoided by applicants for adoption, many times by fear of not being able to handle children of different ages and also because of financial reasons.
But, if you got pregnant of twins or triplets, wouldn’t the fear and need for support be similar?
Siblings form solid bonds when they are welcomed and adopting them together may be easier than separating them.
“Adopting isn’t about helping, it’s not about being nice and supportive.
There are many ways of helping children,
through emotional or financial sponsorship.”
Adoption of children with disabilities and chronic diseases
Though the hypothesis of adopting a child with a disability or churn disease may make you insecure, we may say, by first-hand experience, they will be a source of great joy for your family.
The majority of applicants, who usually don't opt to welcome a child with a disability or chronic disease when defining a profile, is shocked to learn of the possibility. We understand it is a difficult decision which can make your life take an unexpected turn, but we hope to aid you in this important decision.
In adoptions like these, it’s possible that sentiments of compassion and solidarity may be awakened. But sentiment alone cannot motivate an adoption. The applicants must be secure and informed about the conditions and the needs of the child of teenager to be adopted.
The wait for a child through adoption is a moment of tension and emotion por the parents and family. It isn’t surprising that, in this vulnerable state, the news that the child might have a disability or chronic disease may cause preoccupation.
In general, the doubts lie in what ways the disability or chronic disease may interfere, modify, or reverberate in our lives and that of the child in general. It is important to look for information about the peculiarities of the condition and medical care needed in each situation. This process will help identify the structure necessary for treatment, a network of support, and family and professional help to attend to the child’s needs.
For example, if you’re open to adopt a child with a vision disability, it’s important to meet similar families to identify practical aspects of day-to-day life; the schools, the forms of communication, the challenges of inclusion, and the life stories of people with visual impairment. Approaching associations or groups of families and professionals will help support your decision.
Making contact with real families will help demystify the condition and will help you understand generally what is necessary in each case. A world of possibilities opens itself, and the exchange with these families helps clear up many simple questions. It is necessary to see the child in his or her integrality, beyond their current health condition and disability.
“Lack of information is the worst thing at these times,
because the discomfort of the unknown
is what provokes unnecessary fears.”
Most common questions about children with disabilities
You may have a million questions and feel apprehensive before so much uncertainty. That happens with any child. We will answer some of the most common questions about children with disabilities, but, as was mentioned before, you can find a lot of information by talking to other families. Get close!
What will my child’s development be like?
Every child has their own developmental rate and it is impossible to determine what talents and limitations the child could have. Each individual is unique and a series of factors interfere in their growth: genetics, their prior history, if they received medical treatment, and whether they were stimulated in early infancy. Children with disability or chronic diseases may require more care, time, patience and availability from the parents, and, many times, more financial resources.
When it’s time to pick a school, should he/she go to regular or special school?
Many studies show that diversity in the classroom is positive for learning, life experience, and building a sense of citizenship for all students. Children with disabilities benefit from education in inclusive schools, alongside children without disabilities. And children without disabilities also have a lot to gain from sharing a classroom, early on, with students with disabilities.
They all have these rights guaranteed by the Constitution. No establishment (in Brazil) can refuse to enroll your son or daughter, or charge extra fees because they have a disability. This also counts for kindergarten, courses, sports, and religious classes, etc. Denying enrollment and opportunity so that a person with a disability can learn in equal conditions to others is discrimination and configures a criminal offense typified in the Brazilian Inclusion Law (LBI). The tools and adaptations necessary so that the student can learn and develop alongside other children their age must be provided by the school.
What will my child be like when he/she grows up?
Your child will grow up and become a beloved adult within your family, according to the interests and values that were passed on to him/her. Parents of children with disabilities often say that it is better to deal with the child you have now than worry about the teenager or adult you can only imagine. Difficult as it may be, try to dispel long-term thoughts and preoccupations. Concentrate on the present and what there is to be done now; don’t keep yourself from enjoying this phase that is so important for you and your child, which is childhood. Remember that much of your child’s condition in the future depends on what you do for him/her in the present. A life in the present, a future ahead.
The possibilities for our children have improved greatly in relation to the previous generation. Don’t base your ideas on out of date information or on the lives of older people that didn’t have the health conditions, stimuli, and opportunities of social inclusion that exist today.
Believing in your child’s capabilities is essential for his/her development and so that he/she conquers the highest level of autonomy. Don’t make the mistake of comparing your child’s development with that of typical children or other children with the same disability. Life is not a race. Try comparing his/her development only with his/her own past progress, and celebrate every small conquest. He/she is only competing with him/herself. We are here to say that it is worth it!
You are not alone.
Thousands of children are born with or acquire a disability or chronic disease every year in Brazil. There have been significant advances in the public health attendance and education. There are many associations that offer information and support, along with groups on Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and blogs. Take a look at some of the resources at the end of this publication. Look for information in your town, you might be surprised with the services offered.
“I would have liked to have contact with another family,
to know how the development would be, the expectations, etc…”
“Our children need all of us, but for that, we must, mother and father, be well.”
Don’t hide your feelings
We all react in different ways. We may be taken by the fear of not being able to deal with the disability, the disease, the age, or group of siblings; be it because of the financial situation, lack of time, or personal availability. Don’t be sacred of feeling impotence when faced with the challenges of the child’s life conditions. Feelings of rejection towards the child may also occur. It is natural and most people feel that way and realize later that they did not reject the child itself, but what is different in the child from the idealization. Don’t feel embarrassed or let the fact paralize you. Ask, look for information, know the reality of other families that have gone through similar experiences, and empower yourself.
It’s important to take into account that the life conditions of a child, biological or adoptive, can change through the years. Parents become stronger and prepare themselves to take on the adversities — and the joys— related to the health of their children, including in adult life.
Some parents get very insecure about considering the possibility of adopting a child with a disability or chronic disease. Our experience shows that there are a few phases applicants go through before, during, and/or after the adoption:
Denial is a reaction that sometimes occurs. When learning of the news that the child to be adopted has a disability or chronic disease, or something different than what was idealized. It’s common to think “I don’t want this, I can’t do this.” Afterwards, come the doubts: “can I do this?”, or “this child needs a more well-structured family than mine.” In the acceptance fase, little by little, you come to think “though my child has a disability/disease/difference, I can deal with it.”
Instead of “why me?”, you can start to ask yourself “why not me?”. Talk to your partner about your feelings. It will permit you to better elaborate what is happening and have the strength to understand your feelings and doubts.
If you are a single applicant, share your doubts and anguishes with your network, friends, and family. They will be fundamental to support you in the moments of insecurity and doubt.
Everyone reacts differently
Don’t presume your partner isn’t going through the same thing you are. Everyone has a different way of reacting to the situation. Talking about your feelings with professionals and close friends is a great way to unburden yourself. In the beginning, conflicting thoughts may be frequent.
When we try to predict the future we can wind up feeling apprehensive and discouraged. The important thing is to try and live one day at a time. Our tendency is to plan our lives and that of our families based on our current experiences. But society and science have greatly advanced and continue to progress rapidly, so your child’s possibilities in life will become better as time goes on.
Take care of yourself
Our own health is of vital importance. Every child’s arrival is accompanied by a complex mixture of reactions and new feelings that will begin to surface. Adoption processes are usually difficult and tiring, and it may be that the child comes with challenges different from those you imagined initially. It is important to expect good and bad days, and to let yourself cry if you need to. And, like all new parents, it is important to rest.
Do things you like. Eat your favorite food. Do research. Find information. The fear of the unknown can complicate things, raise doubts, but try to look only for the information that can help you in this moment. Don’t exaggerate. Permit yourself time to recuperate and process.
With the passage of time, your feelings start to change and things become easier. Get to know your child. Give them affection, feed them, take pictures. Reserve some time for yourself. Visit a calm place where you can simply forget about your problems for some time.
Talk to other parents. ANGAAD - Brazil’s National Association of Groups in Support for Adoption provides, on their website, the contact of various adoption support groups throughout the country. Find out if a similar association exists in your country. Send a message. Pick up the phone. The first time may be difficult, but it really helps to talk to someone who has been through the experience. Ignore useless comments, even if they come from people close to you.
Oxygen masks and our priorities
When we’re on a plane, the flights attendant says: “In the case of depressurization of the cabin, oxygen masks will fall from the compartment above you. First, put on your own oxygen mask, then help those around you.” The message is clear. In an emergency, you must first help yourself in order to help others.
Many times, we let our personal care fall into second place. We can always wait a little longer to go to the doctor, the dentist, to eat healthier, to exercise… and sometimes the situation is graver still. We put off basic personal care like brushing out teeth, taking a shower, or even taking the appropriate medication.
It seems like there is always someone more important than us— children, partners, work, causes… We don’t always recognize these symptoms because they can be subtle and not bother those around us— after all, everyone is being taken care of, except for you, right?
The worst is that we only take note of this unbalance when our motors start to have trouble getting started. Then, it is a collection of diagnoses— emotional stress, depression, panic syndrome, and even strokes, aneurysms, and heart attacks. So, take care: if we don't properly take care of ourselves, we won’t be ready for when the oxygen mask falls before us.
Talking about your feelings to the other siblings
As a mother or father, you are the most indicated to decide how much information is adequate and necessary to give to your other children, depending on their age, their level of comprehension, and curiosity. Don’t be afraid to tell the children as soon as possible. Speak to them honestly and openly. Adoption can’t be a secret.
They may not understand or remember all the information, so follow their rhythm. Answer the questions as they come up. You can clarify things like:
Brothers and sisters are very important to a child.
Your new sibling will be your companion, you will be able to play and have fun together.
Your new sibling will want to participate and do the same things you like to do.
You can teach them your favorite games and learn with them how to play new games, too.
It will be great to count on one another and to learn together.
Your new sibling will have a different story to tell, other biological parents, and a past you didn’t participate in, but which composes their individuality. Don’t deny this. Treat it with naturality.
Your new sibling is just as much a son/daughter of your parents and you are, they have the same rights and responsibilities.
Your sibling will grow up beside you as your friend and companion, forever.
We love you very much and we love your sibling(s) too. The arrival of this child doesn’t lessen the love we feel for you.
Your children will follow your example. If you treat the disability/chronic disease and the adoption as just an aspect of your son/daughter’s life, the other children will follow suit.
Sharing the news with family and friends may not be easy, depending on the worldview of the people around you. Only you know how and when it’s best to tell others about the adoption. In some cases, it is better to wait until you yourself have processed the news so that you will be able to deal the others’ reactions. Only you can decide how much of your son/daughter’s story you want to share with others and what words to use.
“As soon as we adopted, I sent an email to all my friends and family telling them my daughter had Down’s Syndrome, that she was beautiful, and that we were in love with her. It was the best way I found of telling everyone the news without leaving any doubts that we were receiving that child with open arms and that we hoped and expected them all to do the same.”
Most friends will react the way we signal we want them to. So, if you express tranquility, they will react with tranquility.
Sometimes, family, friends, and people you meet on the street will say offensive and insensitive things, almost always based on a lack of information. You can ignore these comments, or, when you feel more secure, take advantage of the situation to educate their mistaken views. People will follow your example if you’re honest, open, and positive in relation to the disability, chronic disease, or other difference.
Give family and friends copies of this book. When you go out with the child, you can’t be sure others will notice a difference. You can choose whether or not to mention it.
When my daughter was born, almost five years ago, it was one of the best moments of my life. After two miscarriages, the little girl we’d planned and waited for for so long was materialized— beautiful and cute, just as we’d imagined.
The rosy baby received top marks from the doctors — an Apgar score of 9 and 10! — and went straight to the room, without needing to go to the incubator. Installed in her crib next to my bed, I couldn’t stop looking at my daughter. I was radiant! That little child we’d dreamt of for so long had finally come to complete our family. There was nothing missing for me to be happy!
My happiness didn't last long. The pediatrician on duty came into the room. My daughter asleep in the crib next to me. And I, still with a smile stamped across my face, wanted to ask a quick question about my daughter’s appearance.
“Doctor, her eyes are a bit Down’s, aren’t they?”
I already knew the answer, of course they couldn’t be. Since I was 39 at the time and knew the possibility of having a child with Down’s Syndrome was greater, I’d done all the exams, including genetic ones, that all proved without a doubt that the daughter I was expecting didn’t have Down’s Syndrome. But no one told me that medicine isn’t math, and that medical errors occur. Because of all this, I wasn't prepared for the doctor’s answer:
“Yes, and there are several other signs,” she said.
It was then that my state of grace transformed into disgrace. The question that intrigues me is: where did that idealized child go, cute and healthy, that had become reality for a few hours and then transformed into the worst of nightmares?
She was still there, silent, sleeping before me, but, blinded by the tears of my own prejudice, I could no longer see her. Unfortunately, in that moment, I, who thought myself an informed, well-educated person, who didn’t discriminate against anyone, though my happiness and that of my family would end with the arrival of a child with an intellectual disability.
In the end I was able to see my daughter like any other child. It was only then that I realized that I was taught to be prejudiced in relation to intelectual disabilities. We aren’t born with prejudice. It is a socially acquired value. And when we receive a child with a disability it is fundamental that we recognize our own prejudices and get rid of them as quickly as possible.
“I wouldn’t change anything about my daughter”
Let your child win you over
Most parents get over this initial phase as the child begins to interact, smile, and play, winning over the entire family, little by little. Then, the parents start to forget the “label” imposed upon their child and get to know the child’s personality. The child will become an indispensable member of your family, a part of day-to-da life. Many parents start to say that they “wouldn’t change their child for anything in the world.” They begin to like seeing the child grow, learn, relate to others, and be adopted by the entire family. Many times, the parents discover qualities in themselves that they didn't think they possessed and that their friends and family didn’t know about.
Understanding arises. Life starts to arrange itself and assumes its own course. You will come to look at your son our daughter and see only a child in need of love and stimulation from the parents. A child full of potential that, given the right opportunities, will surely positively surprise people in the future. You will come to see only your daughter/son!
Three Hoorays for my son/daughter!
We are all different and react to the adoption of our sons/daughters in varied ways. Some of us face adopting a child with a disability, chronic disease, or other difference, with tranquility, probably because of prior information and/or first-hand knowledge around the topic.
Some of us were surprised with the possibility at first but quickly adapted and got used to the idea. Some of us went into despair and couldn’t believe in our ability to get through it. Some of us suffered greatly and plunged to rock bottom, afraid fo the unknown and the future. Some of us felt lost and powerless, not knowing where to begin. Some of us cried for help, and some of us stayed silent. What we all have in common is a child with a difference.
What we all probably agree on is that everything would be a lot better if our society had a more positive view of people with disabilities, chronic diseases, or other differences.
It would be better if schools had a more positive view on differences. It would be better if the rest of our families, friends, neighbors, and strangers had a more positive view of those they consider different from themselves. It would be better if all of us had a more positive view about disability, chronic disease, or any difference.
It is starting with how each of us views our children that society will change its view. You and I have an opportunity to live and learn and perceive that prejudice is old and senseless, that it doesn't lead to a better world. We have in our hands the opportunity to throw away everything negative we’ve heard about disabilities, chronic diseases, and differences in general, and look at the child that is with us as simply OUR DAUGHTER, OUR SON.
Three hoorays for my daughter! Three hoorays for my son!
DAUGHTER. SON. No labels. No judgment of value. No more or less. No price. No mediations.
Our child, so wanted and desired.
Our child, for whom we would do everything in our reach, to whom we will teach all that we know, who we’ll love beyond infinity, and for whom we’ll wish most profoundly that they are happier and more complete than we are ourselves.
Our child. With their smile, their tears, their dreams, their fears. Their limitations, their flaws, their qualities and difficulties. A child with their own characteristics.
Our child has characteristics different from the majority. Yes, our child was adopted older, has a disability, chronic disease, is from a different ethnicity. It is a part of who they are.
If we can look at our child as just our child, forgetting about majority and minority, forgetting about what others say, about the diagnostics, about the probabilities…if we can just feel our child as, simply, our child, our journey will be a learning experience.
“If they weren’t born from us, certainly, they were born for us…”
We spent an exact 9 months on the National Adoption Registry, months of unquiet, anxiety, and of course, why not, insecurity. My ex-husband and I had chosen a profile of children of up to 4 years old, that could have a disability or chronic disease, and that could belong to any ethnicity or gender. We waited for a child the way God thought should come to us, just as in a gestation you can’t choose eye color, hair color, if the child will have a disability, chronic disease or not. We just waited…
Until Maria Bernadete crossed our paths. She was a child of a year and nine months that didn’t speak and had a disability: dysplasia of the right hip. From that moment on I didn’t care about her limitations. All I knew was that I loved her viscerally, that she hadn’t been born from me, but that she had been born especially for me, and that I had been born to be the mother she’d waited so long for.
The disability that had scared off three other couples, who had denied to adopt her because of her physical condition, made me sure that she needed me and needed a lot of love and a lot of care. There, in front of me, was a being so small, already the victim of a prejudice so great. But to me, she was the personification of love.
In the beginning, it wasn’t easy. Exams and more exams, care and more care, and, the most important, love and more love. That was the secret: to love her unconditionally. The result was that in three months of our family’s day-to-day life she was already speaking and running around all over the place, as if the world of before that moment had never existed.
Today, Maria Bernadete (my Bel) is seven years old, beautiful inside and out, extremely bright, and leading a regular life, of course, at times, with greater challenges. Showing, with her notable intelligence, to the prejudiced part of society that she is perfect just as she is. After all, no one is identical to anyone, thankfully!!!!
Nina was a desired child. Since we started our story as a couple of equals, we thought about having children; I wanted three and Edu only one, two max. Her arrival is the product of a consensual adoption in which we didn’t know she would be a beautiful child with Down’s Syndrome, even the biological mother didn’t know.
When we arrived at the hospital to meet her there was already something strange in the air. I was approached by the nurses with the phrases: your daughter is beautiful, so cute…and in fact I was informed by the doctor of the suspicion of the syndrome. We went through the surprise of the diagnostic but, honestly, we weren’t shaken for more than a few moments.
We were marveled, our little one had finally arrived, with or without the syndrome, she was ours! Since that cold September morning, the care and preoccupations are slightly greater than they would have been if she didn’t have the trisomy. Indeed, there are many therapies, her diet is differentiated, but nothing that love and dedication can’t solve.
Our families accepted her in an extremely natural way, and society thinks it something of another world to adopt a child with Down’s Syndrome. But we don’t choose our children, so we didn’t choose, we didn’t idealize, we didn’t create an idea of perfection. She was simply born with Trisomy 21.
And our life has been like this: rushed, many therapies, sometimes reflexive about the future. But we live and live better after Nina. We haven’t stopped doing anything because of the Down’s Syndrome. Of course, we adjust practices and conducts so as to preserve her health. We always focus on what she does, what she can do, never on the potential limitations. We always believe in her potential. So, the message we want to leave is to live. Life if greater than everything.
Anesio and Eduardo, Nina’s fathers
Bianca was born to us at one year and eight months, after many refusals in Maranhão and the surrounding regions. Since I had called to inform our profile, the social worker remembered me and called me back. My husband didn’t even want to see the picture, he knew she was ours. Our time had come.
We crossed the country to meet our little girl, our princess, our treasure. Her picture shocked many people, but I saw my daughter there, a piece of me that waited to be loved and cared for. Bianca hadn’t had any sort of procedure, since she was born with a cleft lip and palate. She also had two crooked legs, Blount disease.
Today, my black princess is five years and six months old, she didn’t need any treatment for her legs, besides love, and is in the final phase of the correction of the cleft lip. She speaks perfectly and is very bright and loving. My best friend, my partner, my life!
My blue world came to us at 10 months old. A fragile boy, a lack of stimulation, a lack of life, a lost look in his eyes. He suffered a lot while still in the womb by the biological mother’s use of crack cocaine. He was born a speck of a child, with many respiratory problemas, and, since he wasn’t stimulated, his little body didn’t develop and his head grew and became disproportionate to his body.
But my heart told me he would overcome the world. That look from his first picture asked for a cuddle, love, and protection. Which is what he was and is given, beyond a lot of stimulation and care.
Today, at 4 years old, he’s a completely healthy and normal child!!! My superhero, my cheeky boy, my kiddo.
Mariana, mother of the most beautiful (rainbow) in the world
We had already built a long path before the arrival of our dear Bernardo. The desire to adopt had always been present in our hearts, and we had been participating in adoption support groups since 2010. In 2015, we decided to give entry to the paperwork and proceed with our authorization.
Adoption had always been a conscious decision. Since the beginning, we chose broad profiles, accepting siblings, and not restricting love to the color of the skin or the presence of more common diseases, like children who are HIV positive.
And then, at a certain point in our journey, we watched a talk given by a doctor who elucidated many issues about cerebral palsy. We did some research and found that it would be possible for us to adopt a child with said diagnostic. The most important thing was the access to up-to-date information; understanding the main characteristics of the pathology gave us the security we needed to decide.
It was then that, through Active Search, we met our prince, Bernardo, who charmed us with his beautiful smile. Since the first day we met him we assumed a parental position and tried to approach his world and show him he could have a family.
Bernardo was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which left his motor skills impaired. When we met him, he couldn’t sit down without support, spoke very little, cried a lot, and was taking neurological medication to contain the crying tantrums.
Well, after three months with us, we can say that Bernardo is another child. Today, at three and a half years, Bernardo is a chatterbox, the use of glasses has considerably helped his strabismus, with the intensification of physical therapies, his motor skills have ameliorated considerably, he doesn’t salivate anymore, can sit down without support, eats all kinds of food and all by himself, and is already taking off his own shoes. But the best of all: with all the love and care, the crying tantrums have all but stopped, and he doesn’t need take medication to control the tantrums anymore.
Bernardo has a routine similar to that of other children. He goes to kindergarten, which has helped his development enormously, he forms complete frases, tells stories, and loves to be daddy’s mini master chef. He likes cartoons and his favorite toy on the playground is the swings.
Of the future, we know we must sow the seeds now so that he can develop and reap good fruits later.
For future parents who consider special adoption, I recommend a lot of research about the pathology. With information, many of your fears and prejudices can be reduced and dissipated, and you will be able to open your heart to a kind of love that is impossible to dimension.
Marisa and André
Mari’s story started for us well before her arrival. We were already parents of three children; Gabriel and Nícolas, who were born from me, and Nina, who wasn’t born from me, but was certainly born for me; all three adopted in our hearts.
We didn’t feel we were able or prepared to care for a child with special needs; because of this, that was the only closed point in our adoption profile for Nina. After Nina’s arrival, I quickly resumed my work activities and was invited assume the care, as an educator, of a child with a disability (severe cerebral palsy and West Syndrome) at a social institution.
What followed was two years of a lot of learning, unlearning, and changes in paradigms, where this angel taught me I was capable of loving and caring for a special child. After she left, we decided to resume our plans of a new adoption, and in that moment we discovered that the fear had left and we no longer had any impediments or doubts as to adopting a child with a disability.
Our daughter arrived at 11 years old, she has cerebral palsy, hemiplegia, and an immense will to live, to love. We have an intense routine; physiotherapy, speech therapy, multidisciplinary treatment, resources room. She goes to regular school, has an adapted curriculum and a teaching aid to help her, besides the main teacher.
Because of the demand, we are catching up on 11 years without specific health care for her. We decided I would step away from work for a period, so that I can dedicate myself to the care of our 4 children and their needs. We are capable of overcoming our limitations and those of our children, finding in daily learning and in love the basis of our family’s structure.
I’m sure we have a star shining in the sky, happy and bright, looking over us.
Our children, our choices
Leandro and I chose to have three children. Each child came with its own time, its own way, its own age, its own story, and its own smiling eyes, which lit up when meeting our own for the first time.
Valentina came as a baby, in the summer of 2006. Straight from the womb, a strong baby received a brave name because she was predestined to teach her parents about the adventures of unconditional care, of fear, and of the battles of each day, one at a time.
Paulinho met us in the Fall of 2007, at three years old, needing a family to sing him to sleep and care for his health. He was alone, had leukemia, needed special care, and we decided that he could be our second child. We took our intentions to the justice system.
We went through months of intense discoveries, between caring for Valentina and Paulinho, fighting for his life, and receiving support from dear people at the Embrace (Abrace) organization, in Brasília. Paulinho left us, like an angel. Our little boy from Bahia taught us it was possible to love someone who hadn’t come from our own flesh, that though his life could change from one moment to the next, the love would remain, crystalized in our souls.
We mourned together and decided to continue with the process of adopting other children. Then, we came into contact with the adoption support group Aconchego. We needed to get close, and met a world of people who live to form families. The gestations of an adoption has an undefined time, it can be months, even years, and working on the waiting period is the ideal pre-natal care. At the meetings, in the round-table conversations, we learned that children don’t come from us, but become a part of us little by little.
We waited for two years, until one day, during the Spring of 2009, through a virtual message, we were invited to meet nine-month old Miguel. We crossed three states in a road-trip adventure to find him. With the protection of St. Michael the Archangel, he was baptized. His toothless smile, his slanted eyes, and his yummy smell made us fall in love with him at first sight. A tender love, bountiful, full of fear and insecurity about what was to come, but also, full of hope that we would be able to give him all he needed.
Miguel demanded specific care, curiosity, and perseverance in the face of the characteristics of Down’s Syndrome. But that was just a detail of his individuality. It is as if he was always ours. Our family, who had been apprehensive with his arrival, welcomed that cute little baby immediately. Everyone participates in his care in the way they can, with simplicity, affection, and patience.
The love came all at once, like a flood. It was impossible to resist his cheeky smile, his laugh, his mischief. Along with the Trisomy 21, we met a world of people that work and fight so that their children can have the same rights as anyone else: living in family, having access to health and education, loving, studying, playing, working, hiring and being hired, getting married, traveling, retiring, and being respected in their differences as a human being.
Miguel taught us that his first right is the time he takes o learn; he isn’t obliged to meet others’ expectations; he’s free, intelligent, stubborn, and resilient.
We felt our family wasn’t complete, there was one more to come. Valentina and Miguel were ready to adopt another brother or sister.
And so Arthur, the youngest, came to us at one year old and eating apples, during the winter of 2011. Arthur was predestined to be our son; my mother had prophesied since my teenage years: “you’ll still have an Artur,” in reference of my troublemaker of a brother.
Our Arthur, with TH, was a strong boy, full of life, owner of the most radiant smile i’d ever seen, and of vivid and curious eyes, was excited to meet all those rowdy new people. Valentina and Miguel were thrilled to squeeze, smell, and play with their new partner.
At home, he was crawling, eating by himself, and helping Miguel walk and have more autonomy. He showed his sister Valentina that the love of their parents was enough for three children. And he showed us all the perversity of racial prejudice and how cruel it is to be discriminated against because of the color of one’s skin, still in childhood.
Confronting prejudice is a constant task to guarantee our children's rights. We work, in our family, on a mediating attitude between confronting racism as a crime and educating racist people, and confronting any type of exclusion and elucidate society of the potentialities of people with Down’s Syndrome. It’s exhaustive and necessary, a delicate limit to overcome, that mixes thousands of feelings, like indignation, anger, shame, and hope. We feel our children’s pain like our own.
Arthur and Valentina keep learning, together and naturally; Miguel has his own rhythm when assimilating things. Both Arthur and Valentina support their brother in day-to-day activities, praising or correcting, demanding the same rights, sharing games, reprimands, hugs, and toys. The symbiosis between the three is incredible and we work so that they may grow up together as friends.
Today, they form an even rowdier troupe, that goes to the same school, filling the world with joy, laughter, and mischief. Reflecting about the diversity in our family, Valentina put her feelings and expectations to paper, publishing in 2016, the children’s book “My brothers have arrived.” This simple and colorful text showed us a perspective of adoption we hadn’t yet observed: the contrast between the idealized sibling and the real one, from the point of view of a sister, who also adopts.
What we know is that the three of them were desired, wanted, and waited for, not mattering their origin, but our choice, as parents, to transform them into our children. At once, there are three hugs, three kisses, three baths, three dinners, three stories, three smells, three cuddles, sixty nails, laughter, crying, dogs, cats, birds, all at once and all together, every day of our lives, forever.
Brasília, fall of 2018
Fabiana, Leandro, Valentina, Miguel, and Arthur
Alberto plainly satisfies our desire of paternity. Today he is thirteen and has been with us for two years. When we were authorized to adopt and included in the National Adoption Registry, we had established a different profile: two siblings of up to 5 years of age, without any specification as to gender or ethnicity, and with the possibility of treatable diseases. In our search, we came across Alberto. We decided to open ourselves up to the possibility of adopting an older child. And Alberto decided to open himself to us. We tried it out. And it was worth it.
No, it wasn’t love at first sight. We didn’t look at him and say “he’s our child”, nor did he look at us and say “they’re my parents.” But we built, as time went by these last two years, our relationship as fathers and son. Love is built. It’s about daily exercise. It requires commitment and sacrifice. It takes work. But it also brings many recompenses.
We aren’t heroes. We sought after adoption because of a lack of other options of having a family, and Alberto also invested in adoption because of a lack of other options. Today, in the day-to-day fight— with books, studies, football, mischief, punishments, discipline, limits, games, and inexhaustible doses of energy— there’s a knowing smile we exchange here and there, a side look that translates our complicity. Sometimes it lasts only seconds, but those are the moments that make it clear to us that it really is worth it. And a lot.
Not for a moment did we think: would it have been better had we waited for younger children? Alberto fills our lives fully and we like having a child at home that already has a will, a personality, and opinions. We are fully conscious today, through talking with other families, that the expectation that younger children are less traumatized doesn't necessarily proceed. The experience of abandonment— precisely in the moment in life in which we are the most vulnerable— is radical and that goes for babies and teenagers alike. The diference is that a teenager can express what he/she thinks and feels.
If we were given a new chance, we would do it all over again. And we’d root for the future to conspire in such a way that we’d find Alberto again, and vice versa.
Paulo, Gabi, and Carolina
The dream of maternity had always been a part of my life, and since I was a child the possibility of not being able to have biological children crossed my mind, but I’d quickly say, “if I can’t have my own, I’ll adopt.” And it turned out that thinking this way helped me to understand that it’s that simple. The road was hard; we spent 7 long years trying to conceive a biological child, even while having discussed as a couple the possibility of adopting in the future. After many treatments, abortions, exams, surgeries, etc, we said: enough! This isn’t the path, it’s not the only option.
So, we decided to initiate the process of authorization for adoption, and during the process of doing the paperwork we started researching the subject. We came across stories of adoption of older children and quickly understood we too could love and be parents to older children, and not necessarily have a baby at home. So, when we defined our profile, we said we’d accept two children from 0 to 10 years old. But, during the authorization process, we thought more about it, since we’d always dreamed of having three children, and thought: why not three at once? And so we altered our profile to accept three children.
So, we started to prepare ourselves to receive three children; the possibility of one or two had started to become distant: we wanted three now. And, only 28 days after our authorization came through, our trio arrived through Active Search. Our Paulo came at 8 years old, our Gabi at 5, and our Carolina at 4.
The adaptation period was difficult. The most challenging thing, in my opinion, is the change in routine; life changes dramatically in a short period of time. In the beginning, I felt my life was being taken away from me, I didn’t have time for anything. But, thank God, little by little, things started adjusting themselves, we were able to establish a new routine and rules for this new family that was just starting. And everything started settling down.
It’s been one year and nine months now, since their arrival. We’ve had, on this journey, many challenges, but also many victories, many laughs, many happy moments, and many obstacles overcome.
Adopting my three children at once was the best decision; they are companions, friends, and inseparable. Their adaptation was much easier because they were together, they had the security of one another, which strengthened them and helped the entire process.
Many people questioned about their age, since they are older…But to me, they’re my three babies to this day. Yes, I spoil them! I kiss them, hug them, pick them up; I do everything a mother crazily in love with her children can do.
I feel whole in my maternity. I want for nothing!
Viviane and Alexandre
We’d never had a desire to adopt a newborn…We dreamed of forming a family, in being able to give and receive love. When we started dating, I (Luciene) had already gone through an attempt to adopt, but for personal reasons had abandoned the idea.
One day, in the middle of a conversation, we touched the subject and saw that both of us had the same desire, so, as soon as we had the time, we went to the Forum and started the paperwork for a new process. Since that day and the day of the famous phone call there was an exact 9-month wait. Our profile was ample: 0 to 5 years old, we accepted children with treatable diseases, and we didn’t have a preference of gender or ethnicity.
We received a child of two years and seven months, she was black, and had an imprecise diagnosis of a mutated chromosome which turned out to be nothing more than a case of poorly treated bronchitis. Two years later, we decided to expand the family. We enlarged our profile to accept children of up to 7 years old, and, through Bridges of Love (Pontes do Amor, Active Search), in just one day we received a call informing us of a six-year-old child that fit our profile in another state. In two months, we were able to bring her home and we are very happy with this.
What we can say about our experience with adoption: adopting an older child has it’s challenges, the child comes with its own baggage, whatever it may be (being poorly treated, abuse, poverty, negligence…) Many times, the child doesn't want to be adopted because they hope to be reunited with their family, or because they’ve suffered so much they can’t receive or give love.
Our second daughter didn’t want us; she came to us with a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, was late in school, wasn’t alphabetized yet, and had no notion of caring for her things. She would rip up her schoolbooks, lose all her school material, wouldn’t accept affection, when she didn’t get her way she would pee in her clothes (just to irritate people). But love was able to rescue everything life had taken away from her. In two years, all of this changed. Today, she is in third grade, is a loving girl, affectionate, loves us and is fearful of losing one of her mothers, has affection for her little sister, and the two of them are partners in their arts. All we can say is that if they were not born from us, they were certainly born for us…
Andréa and Luciene
Gabriel arrived at two days old through a consensual adoption. The woman who conceived him decided to give away her fifth son as soon as he was born. Since she was a sex worker and drug user at 21, his was her only legal adoption.
Without hiding this reality from my son, I wrote a book, so that, when he got older, he could read and understand these two forms of love, that of the biological mother that decided to give him a better life, and that of the adoptive mother, who received him like a gift.
Apart from Gabriel, we already had two adult biological children: Gilberto, who is now 31, and Luiza, who is 28. In 2009, the judge of the Court of Children and Youth called, soliciting the work of the “welcoming families”, part of the Friends of Lucas Institute (Instituto Amigos de Lucas), which takes in children who had to leave their homes and that were to be placed in a shelter for children. When there wasn’t room in the shelter, a family would temporarily take them in until they were able to go back to their homes or until they got adopted.
Since, on that day, there was only one family available to welcome the two older children, a nine-year old girl and her five-year-old brother, my husband and I accepted taking in the two younger kids: a boy of three and his three-month-old sister.
These children had to leave their homes because of their parents’ drug abuse; fearing being killed by the drug trafficking, the parents ended up running away leaving their four children behind in a shack, dirty and hungry.
On that day, without knowing it, I ended up going from being the mother of three to a mother of five. The story we’ve lived since then had been one of fighting against a system that analyzes children like process numbers.
The children were taken from us (from the other family, as well), and for four months they stayed at a shelter, because of an error of the judiciary. After four months of fighting, we were able to bring them back to our home. And, after five years and four months we obtained our children’s birth certificates. Since their arrival, the four siblings have always been together, even though they were living in separate families.
What life separated, adoption brought together. In 2015, my youngest daughter, at six years old, was diagnosed with leukemia and since then we’d been fighting for the cure to come. Today she is cured and in monthly maintenance.
“She overcame hunger, abandonment, and cancer!”
“Because my family is the color of love!”
One day, my heart was moved because there was a little baby girl in a UTI and no one on the National Adoption Registry wanted her…alas. I didn’t think twice. Those that know me know the whole story. Even those that don’t know me know the story…Because that’s how love is: it makes us announce it in the cathedral bells.
Today I come back on a Sunday morning and the cathedral bells announce it, announce it even before 6 AM…They announce love, the availability of those that want to adopt, the innocence of love. And so, they come as well.
In August, on sibling day, I found out about an Active Search for a group of five siblings. My heart was touched and I wrote to the indicated district. A few days later, the response. A positive one, since the five siblings had already found a family. Next, a colleague announced a new Active Search for a group of six siblings. She didn’t treat me very well, I think maybe she thought I was just curious.
But, a beautiful student I’d recently met helped me out and little by little I found out the group of siblings was in Joinville, so I presented myself to the district. It was such a joy. Six siblings…four girls and two boys. I started the paperwork to adopt them; my heart was already with them. The lady at the district said: they’re so affectionate amongst themselves, and also with others… it’s such a joy you’ve found them. Because two of them were up for international adoption had you not come. I ran, we ran!
Life is such a hurry. I was already thinking about the school, about the quantity of lipstick and nail polish, I told my hairdresser: “In a few days there’ll be five of us here!” He said, “No!” I asked, “Why? Don’t you think it will work?” He responded, “What about Nina?! There’ll be six of you, not five!”
Well, to my infinite sadness, to this day I can’t get over it: when it was time for the psychosocial evaluation I went to see the girls at the Forum, as I affectionately call them, since they’re young enough to be my daughters. We are also professional colleagues. Anyway, the psychologist and social worker received me. They looked sad… I almost had a heart attack.
They told me the district had only sent four of the children’s profiles. They confirmed that the two younger children had already gone to international adoption. I still don't understand it. Jesus! How is it possible that in 15 days all of this happened? Especially since I have an official email saying that all six siblings were still awaiting adoption at the National Adoption Registry.
So, to make the story short. The social worker, a person I greatly admire, said to me: “Olinda, we have three options. We can evaluate your profile for the four children, we can let it go and not evaluate at all, and we can evaluate for the six children, even thought there are only four now. What do you want to do?” I said do her, “I don’t want to die, that is, if I die someday,” I joked. “The people in my family live very long and always die lucid. I don’t want to have the sensation that before life’s struggles I shrugged my shoulders and said, whatever. So, let’s evaluate all six! Evaluate seven! As many siblings as you can! And I’m going to keep on trying in Joinville as well.”
Who knew? Maybe there was still a chance the six of them could come to me. I kept thinking, how? The two younger children had been sent off to international adoption? Wouldn’t they send the older ones? Weren’t they the six siblings so united and so loving and so happy that I had arrived? What will I do with the lipstick? The nail polish? Would I be going to the hairdresser only with Nina? Won’t the kids miss their siblings? I love my siblings so much, it would be the worst sort of pain to be separated from them!
After I was evaluated, I called Joinville. Yet another sadness. The psychologist who had attended to my case told me, in a grave voice: “We only have four, are you interested in the four?” I said, “I want the six of them! Weren’t they do loving? Won’t they miss each other?” But there was no way out.
I was on my way back to Pinhais, where I had attended a mother and a teenager. Such a sad situation. It was a difficult conversation, my heart tightens thinking about it. The teenager wanted to commit suicide; he’d suffered abuse from extended family when he was younger. I went to see them, tried to help. But life is beautiful! As I was leaving, I looked at my cellphone and there was a message from Rosi Prigol, a dear friend that works in Active Search. And I’d already seen it in a Facebook group I participate in. Karol, a lovely young woman had announced it. That’s where it started. It hasn’t ended yet.
They aren’t home yet, but they already call me “mommy.” I’ve cried, i’ve had had lumps in my throat, I’ve taken deep breaths. If I could, I’d run over there today. But it’s a birth of six. Every birth is a journey, it takes work. I’m a midwife, I know this. My loves, the loves of my life. Today is Sunday and I announce them in the Cathedral bells. One girl and five boys. Whoops! One girl of 11 (Nina), and boys of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and a little girl of one year and four months. Our beautiful family, more complete than ever.
When we met, on holiday in the summer of 2004, in Florianópolis (SC), we couldn’t imagine that 11 years later there would be a third element, that would come to give new meaning to our days. It was in 2015 that he arrived: our son, Jeová.
As the years passed, thirteen years as a couple, we matured the idea of having a child. We wanted to take someone in to participate in our life, share everything we’d conquered until that point, including an enormous capacity of loving and being loved.
This desire to expand our family became stronger in 2011. Having had the opportunity to live in Africa for a year through the Brazilian Air Force (FAB); we even thought about adopting a child in Ivory Coast. But there, a meeting with a priest changed this idea. He asked us: “don’t you think there are children in Brazil to be adopted?”
When we returned to Brazil, a year later, we started doing the paperwork and attending the preparatory course given at the Court of Child and Youth Affairs in Brasilia, where we lived. We knew, then, from the bottom of our hearts, that our son was waiting for us here…
The story of Jeová, who is now 10 years old, isn’t very different from that of other children in shelters waiting for a family. However, the journey that led us to him started in a line at the airport, when I, André, was preparing to embark on a plane to Natal (RN). There was a woman in front of me; she was consoling and orienting someone on the telephone, who had just adopted three children. When she hung up, I thought to myself, it was not by chance that I was behind her. I told her mine and Gustavo’s story, that we wanted to adopt a child, and I discovered that she was the vice-president of the adoption support group Aconchego. At that time, living in Brasilia, everything fell into place and we started going to the group’s meetings, listening to the experiences of those who had already adopted and receiving orientation about everything involving adoption. We also hired a lawyer to help us in the authorization process through the Court of Child and Youth Affairs.
On this road, we made our civil union oficial in June 2014, with a small celebration in Porto Alegre. After that, we concluded the course at the Court of Child and Youth Affairs and were, finally, declared apt for adoption in January of 2015. After nine months on the National Adoption Registry, therefore in September of 2015, and already living in São José dos Campos (SP), our desire to receive our child started growing exponentially.
We thought about using the Active Search system, which facilitates the search for children and teenagers deemed of “difficult placement” (groups of siblings, children above 5 years old, children with disabilities, etc). We talked about it one day, and on the next, a psychologist from the Court of Child and Youth Affairs from Brasília, where we’d registered for adoption, called Gustavo’s telephone. She said she had a child that escaped from our profile a little, which was between 3 and 6 years old. We didn’t know the child’s name, nothing really, besides his age: 8 years old. We needed to reply “yes” or “no” to have more information. And, of course, the answer was yes. That night, we had a long talk with this psychologist, Rose, by telephone. She told us everything that was possible and permitted during this phase in the adoption. We soon decided to pack our things and go to Brasília.
On September 30th, we took an airplane straight to Brasília from São José dos Campos. On October first, early in the morning, we went to the Court of Child and Youth Affairs to know more about our son. We opened his archive and had access to all the information about Jeová. And, at the end of the visit, we met him through pictures. It was a moment of great emotion. Many tears flooded our eyes. It was as if we’d already known him.
Parallel to all of this, Jeová was already being prepared, at the shelter, for the fact that he would have two fathers, a fact that he always accepted with much naturality. On the next day, October 2nd of 2015, we went to meet him personally and the emotion took over. As he came into the room where we were awaiting him, at the Bezerra de Menezes home for children in Ceilândia, a satellite city of Brasília, he quickly gave us a hug and jumped on our laps and called us “daddy.” The psychologist asked him: “who are they?”, and he responded: “they’re my daddies!” He treated us like this from the very first moment we met him.
Jeová arrived in our lives in 2015. The connection that was established between us was very strong. Our first encounter was commented to exhaustion at the Children’s Court and even between the workers at the shelter, given the love and attachment that was developed. Since we weren’t in our town, and free of other commitments, we started frequenting and visiting Jeová every day. There wasn’t even one day in which we weren’t together. That facilitated and accelerated the adoption process in a way that had never happened in a late adoption at that shelter, from what they told us.
The shelter was situated in a place far away from where we were staying; we had to walk practically an hour to get there and another hour to get back. But we made these travels with a lot of joy and will.
In our meetings, we started showing him pictures and videos of his soon-to-be aunts and uncles, grandparents, and people close to the family so that he could start getting know them. From the moment we received the call, we knew that Jeová was supposed be with us. And that feeling started extending throughout both of our original families. Always coordinated and authorized by the social workers and psychologists at the shelter, we started, little by little, to take Jeová for day-trips outside of the shelter. One day, we went kite-flying at a nearby park, then we walked around the mall, we went to the zoo… On Gustavo’s birthday, October 13th, we went to a hotel and he stayed overnight with us of the first time. Until all the professionals who were following our case agreed that there was nothing else to be done or delayed.
So, the judge gave us provisional guard over Jeová on October 24, and we took Jeová with us definitively. It took 23 days for Jeová to leave the shelter and for a new family to form.
Prejudice and a new routine
Since our son arrived in our lives he hasn’t been through any situation of prejudice. Jeová is always very well received as a part of a homosexual family. He was quickly integrated by his aunts and uncles, grandparents, and our friends… Our routine has somewhat changed, but we try follow a rule that, we think, should be applied to all those who have children: we tried not to change our lives 100% because of Jeová. He arrived to complement and complete our lives, we included him in our routines. We include him in all we can do together, but he has many activities he does alone, like school, english lessons, football, sessions with his psychologist, etc. In the same way, we maintain our own routines.
In the same way, we maintain our own routines. One of Jeová’s favorite things to do is flying kites. About this, we remember, always with affection, that Gustavo, in 2007, the year in which Jeová was born and well before we ever thought about adopting a child, got a tattoo of a child flying a kite on his leg. At the time, when people asked him about the tattoo, he would say it was the son he was going to have someday… That story fascinated Jeová when we first told him about it, still in the shelter. He always pointed to Gustavo’s tattoo when someone came close and would say: “That’s me! My dad drew me before he even knew me!”
The shelter our son lived in before coming to us was very well organized and had excellent people working there. The children were taught to organize things and create a community environment. We want to maintain and stimulate that. Because of this, Jeová is a very organized child. We are very grateful for all of those who cared for Jeová before we were able to find him. We make sure to motivate Jeová not to forget his past, which was very difficult, and we also remind him of the people who took care of him before we arrived. On the other hand, we give him, every day, things he was deprived of during his first 8 years of life: love, affection, attention, and care.
“Son: we love you and are grateful you chose us to love and care for you.”
André and Gustavo
Institutional reception occurs as as protective, temporary, and exceptional measure for children and teenagers in situations of personal risk and/or social vulnerability. They are referred to a shelter by the Court of Children and Youth, and, in exceptional cases, by the Tutelary Council, as is mandated by the Child and Teenager’s Statute - ECA.
In my experience acting, for almost six years, as coordinator at a reception institution for these children, I understand the challenges that are posed for all collaborators involved in the care of the children and teenagers taken in, not only with respect to the rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution of 1988 and the ECA, but also in the respect of a systematization of affection and the values that are transmitted on a day-to-day basis based on dignity, respect, and love.
It is easy to notice the anguish brought by these institutionalized children and teenagers, not only by the history of negligence, but also by the severance of the family ties. Life in an institution becomes, therefore, a challenge. When we talk about guaranteeing rights, it is noticeable that what they crave most is having a family, be that the family of origin or a substitute family.
Besides that, unfortunately, even though the number of couples wanting to adopt is greater than the list of children deprived of a family, the indicators at the National Adoption Registry — CNA— show that these couples, in their majority, prefer children from 0 to 3 years old. However, most of the children available for adoption are older children and teenagers. And, with every child that leaves the shelter, the eyes of those that stay ask— when will it be my turn?
So, though institutional receptions should be a temporary situation, I’ve seen children become teenagers inside institutions, and sometimes they only leave the shelter when they turn 18. I’ve accompanied cases in which children were returned to the institution by couples who said they’d tried everything, done everything, but, unfortunately, it just didn’t work out. And, I confess, those are the hardest days, especially in relation to what can be said to that child or teenager to comfort them, since, once again, the experience of abandonment is repeated.
It is necessary, therefore, that districts offer, through the forensic team or with the constitution of adoption support groups, preparation and continuous technical accompaniment to couples who want to adopt before, during, and after the process of temporary guard to help reduce the rate of returning children to shelters, especially in cases of late adoption. It is necessary to understand that difficulties and challenges in day-to-day life will always exist, because human relations are constituted through learning processes, where love is the biggest evidence that it is possible to provide a different future for these children and teenagers that, for a period in their lives, had their rights violated.
Ana Paula Coelho Martins
The account of a judge
I am a judge in Farroupilha, RS. In April of 2015, I was surprised by a couple that adopted four siblings. Adoption is great. Children, wherever they come from, need to be adopted.
I saw two angels. Angels exist. Friday, at the Farroupilha forum, two angels sat before me. They wore regular clothes. They didn’t have wings. They were a couple. They’d come to adopt four children. They brought with them a boy of 12 and a girl of 8, who had come from the Casa Lar shelter. The girl of 3 and the baby boy of just one year, had stayed at the shelter. The four were siblings. The angel-man was sweating. He said he hadn’t been able to sleep. He looked as though he was in a birth room, watching his wife give birth to four babies. I felt that he might faint at any moment.
The angel-woman took the 8 year old girl onto her lap, as if giving birth to four children was the most natural thing in the world. And some don’t believe in miracles.
“Yes, we’re going to adopt all four,” they said.
“And you,” I asked the boy and girl, “do you want to be adopted by them?”
They both laughed.
“The first one to call me mommy,” started the woman, “was the one-year-old. He was glued to the fence and said: mommy!”
And, there they go: the four siblings and their guardian angels. The four of them are very darling children, each is brighter and more beautiful than the next. The oldest takes care of the others. The 8-year-old girl is sympathy personified. The three-year-old, with curly blond hair, hangs on to anyone’s hand as if she’ll never let go. The little one is called “Little Buddha”, because he is peace and happiness at the nursery.
Maybe a lemon won’t grow from a jaboticaba tree, but it’s possible for a flower to rise from the mud… that it is! The biological parents, arrested for drug trafficking, were deprived of their family power. And not even for that did those children stop being flowers. I don’t know if it will work out. All I know is that angels exist. Miracles exist. The boy and girl, before leaving my office, hugged me. I think they were happy. It makes me cry. It makes me emotional. This is what justifies being a judge. I’ll never forget it: on Friday, I saw two angels.
Mario Romano Maggioni
Adoption and HIV: Matters that should be debated nowadays
Adoption, for all who look from the outside, is a long, many times arduous process, which requires resilience. However, some stories of adoption escape the traditional script, and that is what I’ve come to share about my story, which, although different, should be the standard.
I came home at a little over one year old, I don’t remember anything consciously. My parents say that it was a party, because they were waiting for another child after my brother’s arrival. They found out that I loved to eat and say “tui tui.” Not long afterwards, my other brother arrived to complete the adoptive trio of the family nucleus. My first memories were always playing with them, be it at the pool, be it with our dogs.
I’m always asked about when my parents told me I was adopted, and, I think, that’s a question that will remained unanswered. In my perception, I always knew, and, more than that, I always knew it was a secondary factor in my life, so I never understood the importance given by some to the topic. Later, during my teenage years, I started to understand the desire a little better, but I never had it in me, not completely. The only curiosity I have about my biological parents is about my other biological siblings and about my disease.
Most people don’t ask about my health condition. Embarrassment, maybe. But the looks, those are inevitable and sometimes indiscreet, presupposing to know everything about my life because of a disease. HIV made me perceive from an early age that I was different both from people without HIV and from people that had AIDS. There were routine exames every three months, without fault, and all the family and financial support I could ask for to deal with the disease, that has the cruelty of intensely affecting those uninformed of their own condition, and those without access to the public healthcare system (SUS).
The occasions in which I think about HIV are probably the rare moments in which I think about my progenitors. I believe it is better to keep these thoughts to myself, sometimes we are too close to the reality to be able to have a rational analysis about the issue. Recently, I received the information that after 17 years, I would have to take medication against HIV. Though I have the capacity to think about this rationally, still today it is difficult to emotionally deal with the daily reminder of my limitations. It isn’t my intention here to advocate for the greater or smaller difficulty to deal with this disease or any other, only to show that dealing with HIV requires the patient to have an extremely strong emotional structure.
Moments of difficulty, besides these, are rare, though it is important to stress that, even with all the family support, there are still people who, outside of this circle, can be unpleasant. On this, I emphasize again the support I have at home and the naturalness of my day-to-day life with my parents and brothers.
The adaptation process that was presented to me since I was a child about the issues of adoption and HIV have molded me into a person that has conscience that these two factors are a part of my existence and always will be, but, more important than that is the fact that I am not reduced to these two characteristics. I am primarily Maria Estela Martinho Kieling, a person who has her family’s love and support, and who has her own ambitions. But I’m also Maria Estela Martinho Kieling, a person who has gone through adoption and who has HIV.
Both faces are a part of who I am with the same naturality and, knowing how to work with my limitations and my story has made me the person I am today, conscious of myself as a human being that deserved and deserves, like all people, affection and care.
To finalize, it is extremely important for me to emphasize two factors in plain 2018. First, that there are still vertical transmissions, and, second, but no less important, the cases of children that were adopted and later returned are still alarming. It isn’t up to me to judge individual cases, but it is up to me, as a member of this society, to bring light to these traces which, in the social imaginary, were left in the twentieth century, but still happen today.
Maria Estela Martinho Kieling
Relatives and Family
I always get emotional when I notice how much adoptive children come to look like their adoptive parents. No one can tell they were adopted: the same look, the same walk, the same way of spelling a breath. There is a DNA of tenderness more intense than the actual DNA. The traits change according to the love of a voice or the fit of a hug.
I don’t underestimate the strength of day-to-day coexistence. Family is built more on presence than on record. There are absent parents who will never be real parents, there are step-parents who are attentive and who will always be parents.
There is no such thing as a mother or father by decree, they represent successive achievements. There is no such thing as perpetual parents. Paternity and maternity signify favoritism, but it isn’t a match won by anticipation. It’s necessary to play every day, round by round. I’ve lost my children to distraction, I’ve regained their trust with insistence and effort. Family is one thing, being a relative is another. I identify a fundamental difference. Friends can be more like siblings than siblings, or more like mothers than mothers. Family comes from a spiritual bond, relatives are characterized by blood relations. The people I love most throughout my existence will be my family, even if they have nothing to do with my surname.
Family is the arrival, not the origin point. We discover our families in old age, not the crib. Family is affinity, not biological determination. Family is who was beside us during difficult times, when most people vanished. Family is a gang of survivors, of elected ones, who face the world from their trench and never switch sides.
Relatives, however, are fatalities, a question of luck or lack there of. We are born at their side, and they have a natural chance to become family, but not all take advantage of the fact. The genealogical tree is the beginning of the cycle, but never its height. It is important to stop, stay in touch with the branches, care for the foliage, nourish the roots: a job done by the genealogical birds in our lives, our real relatives and accomplices in secrets and challenges. Sharing a roof doesn’t guarantee proximity, what does is sharing a destiny.