The adoption process has been described as tumultuous, but those who successfully navigated the terrain to become parents said the emotional upheaval is worth it in the end.
Donna Pierce and her husband Deacon Robert Pierce have four adopted children, and Mrs. Pierce said she looks at all the trials associated with adoption as labor pains.
But even the longest labor story pales in comparison with the years long wait that precedes most adoptions. Part of the lengthy process is attributed to the growing popularity of adoption.
As more couples struggle with infertility, adoption is promoted as the loving option. Today, more than two million families are actively trying to adopt, according to government statistics.
And almost every couple who has been through the process has stories of red tape, long waits and adoptions that fell through.
“Adoptive parents go through the same pre-attachment as expectant parents do. There is heartache involved,” said Denise Hoppenhauer.
Hoppenhauer and her husband Michael, members of Prince of Peace Church in Taylors, adopted two girls through international channels.
Another couple, Elizabeth and Jim Driscoll from St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville, adopted three children, opting for the domestic/private route that allowed them to meet the birth mother.
And the Pierces ended up adopting through all three methods — private, through social services, and intercountry. She said each one had its own tribulations, but she saw God’s presence through it all.
“Hang on to God,” she said. “He’s going to carry you through it.”
When the families talk about the adoption process years later, they describe the anticipation and the great joy of holding their babies for the first time.
“I got to hold her [right after birth] and cry and cry and cry,” said Driscoll happily.
The emotional ups and downs left Hoppenhauer and Driscoll with a desire to help others in their same situation.
Hoppenhauer said there are four main factors couples should look at to help them decide which route to take: desired age, ethnicity, associated costs, and possible medical conditions. She explained that if families are open to older children or those with special needs, the wait could be shorter.
She started Adobaby, LLC, to help would-be parents with the international process, which can be costlier than domestic adoption because of the travel. Hoppenhauer said costs average $30,000 to $40,000 for private adoptions and about $60,000 for intercountry.
She added that overseas adoptions have declined since passage of the Hague Adoption Convention, dropping from about 22,991 in 2004 to 8,668 in 2012. (adoption.state.gov) She said red tape has grown more complicated and certain countries are no longer open to U.S. adoption.
Some couples who have been through the process are saddened that adoption has turned into such an expensive business, noting that families without financial means — but who still have plenty of love — are often left on the sidelines.
This is where Driscoll tries to help. A former teacher, she now helps people create portfolios and disperses them to public mediums, including brand new efforts on Facebook and Pinterest.
Since birth mothers choose the adoptive parents, Driscoll hopes her efforts will make the couples more visible and more likely to receive a phone call announcing happy baby news. She said waiting for the phone to ring — month after month, year after year — is a grueling process.
“There is a sense of disillusionment that goes with this journey,” she said. “It is up and down.”
She advises couples to pray about it every day, and find someone who’s been through it to be in their corner, adding that churches often have support groups.
“It was a rocky road, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade any of it,” Driscoll said. “We really do feel ‘God has hand-picked our children.”
The Hoppenhauers agree. Their children are now 13 and 16, and despite the red tape and delays in adopting them, all they see now are two great kids.
“We’d do it again if we were able,” she said.
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Bullying is hard for any child to deal with but it can be a major concern for those with special needs.
Often bullies will single out any kid who is “different” for some reason, and students dealing with physical disabilities, speech or hearing difficulties, autism, or other conditions can be easy targets.
However, there are ways parents and adults can deal with any situation before it gets out of hand.
Columbia-based catechist and author Jennifer Fitz addresses the issue bluntly.
“There should be no tolerance of mockery, teasing, bullying, or rudeness from any quarter,” Fitz said in a recent interview. “I’ve seen that attitude come from both students and adults, and you as a leader have to have no tolerance for it. You don’t have to be ugly about it, but you make it clear that we’re not going to treat people that way. I know that sounds very simplistic, but that’s how it needs to be.”
Many children who are picking on someone else will stop if they find out their parent, teacher or someone else they respect frowns on the behavior.
“Disdain is very powerful,” Fitz said. “If you show the bully that you don’t like what they are doing, it immediately shuts down their idea of being the person who is ‘better’ or in the ‘inner circle.’”
Adults can help kids with special needs feel comfortable by accepting them on their own terms and treating them with respect. Learn what the young person can and can’t do, she said, and then help them take part in activities with others as much as possible.
“The important thing is to teach kids to respect everyone,” Fitz said. “The fundamental message of Christianity is forgiveness and mercy, and the quest for virtue. You can draw on lessons from the Gospels, teach the Beatitudes, talk about the Christian virtues. If you’re being an authentic Christian, respect comes out naturally.”
Liz List knows the challenges firsthand. She is the mother of a special needs child and also leads the LAMBS program at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville. Through LAMBS, she organizes activities and religious instruction for children with a variety of special needs, ranging from autism to learning disabilities and sensory issues.
List said bullying can be avoided if children learn from the beginning how to accept and work with a peer with special needs. She suggests helping them find common ground, such as an activity, TV or movie character, or even a clothing style or color that they all like. Even something that simple can help break the ice.
She said it’s also important to explain the child’s situation to other kids in a way they can understand.
“I equate it to the fact that we all sometimes can’t do what we want to do,” List said. “You need to tell children that they need to accept the special needs child, respect them and remember that they can’t help it if, say, they have a difference in speech or their learning ability.”
List said as a parent, she’s learned to strike a balance when her child had difficulties with other kids. “Try to find a way to empower your child and give them a way to deal with the situation,” she said. “Let them know you’re always there for them. You don’t want to overpower the child. We as parents have always wanted to work as a team with teachers and others to make things right. The most important thing for the child to know, though, is they have a right not to be picked on.”
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When Sara first discovered Ask.fm, she thought it was a great social website.
She posted poems, song lyrics and observations and asked other anonymous users to comment, hoping for positive feedback. But soon she drew the attention of someone intent on bullying her, for whatever reason, and the hateful comments began.
At one point, the bully told Sara to “do the world a favor” and just kill herself.
This is the world of cyberbullying that is at our children’s fingertips.
Ask.fm, Kik, Omegle, Snapchat, Instagram … the list of social media sites is endless and teens are flocking to them because they are almost completely parent-free.
In an effort to be proactive about the issue, the diocese has sponsored numerous seminars to help schools understand cyberbullying. Beth Brewer, Ed.D., has spoken to principals and teachers several times, offering tips on how to educate themselves, their students and the parents.
School officials point out that Catholic schools are, by their nature, anti-bullying communities. They are institutions that teach respect, Gospel values of acceptance, and reaching out to those in need, said Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM, diocesan secretary for education and faith formation. They surround the day in prayer, and teach students every day to love their neighbor.
Experts said the most promising approach in bullying prevention involves the entire school community in creating a culture of respect — students, families, administrators, teachers, and staff, including bus drivers, nurses, and those in the cafeteria and front office.
Sister Pam said respect is strongly emphasized in diocesan schools, resulting in fewer problems, especially in regard to severe bullying.
But kids will be kids, and all schools must deal with instances of exclusion and teasing. Statistics show that traditional forms of bullying are still more common than cyberbullying, but the latter is more harmful and impactful because of how fast it spreads, the number of people it reaches, and its permanence (puresight.com/Cyberbullying).
Experts encourage parents and school officials to work together on all forms of bullying, because even though cyberbullying rarely happens at school, the effects of it can spill into the classrooms and hallways.
“Schools can no longer pretend that this isn’t happening,” Brewer advised in her lecture. “Schools can no longer remove themselves from ownership of this behavior.”
She encourages educators to create a culture of caring, to promote digital citizenship, and to have open communication about the issue.
Roseann Tracy, principal of Blessed Sacrament in Charleston, said they address the topic head-on in a variety of ways, such as writing and acting out skits where the children play all the roles: bully, victim, active bystander and passive bystander. She said it helps them understand the nuances and how they can respond.
Tracy also encourages parents to be proactive in checking their children’s electronic devices, and to know what social media sites they visit and monitor their interaction.
“I think it’s a parent’s responsibility to stay a step ahead of their children,” she said. “They do that with schoolwork, the same is true for technology.”
A good site for parents in need of quick education is www.bewebsmart.com. It recently featured facts about a site called Omegle, whose tag line is “Talk to strangers!”
Then there’s Snapchat, which teens love because they can take a picture of anything and it will be deleted 1-10 seconds later, giving the illusion of safety. But people can screenshot the image, or use SnapHack, which saves it without the sender knowing.
Brewer cautions users against the false security of “delete.” Metadata trails are always left behind, she said, which means a deleted image can be traced and recovered.
The potential for embarrassing photos spread around school is huge.
Brewer said in addition to monitoring technology, parents and educators must be aware of how to report bullying and how to stop it.
South Carolina has state laws and government policies against harassment, intimidation, or bullying, starting with S.C. Code Ann. § 59-63-110. It states:
• Keep evidence of cyberbullying. Record the dates, times, and descriptions of instances when cyberbullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, emails, and text messages.
• Block the user.
• Use evidence to report cyberbullying to web and cell phone providers and school officials.
• Cyberbullying becomes a crime and should be reported to law enforcement if it involves threats of violence, sexually explicit messages or photos, photos of someone in a place where she would expect privacy, or stalking and hate crimes.
For more information, visit www.stopbullying.gov.
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By Simone Orendain | Catholic News Service
MANILA, Philippines —The devastation brought on by Super Typhoon Haiyan is on a scale so big it is "unimaginable," said Jesuit Father Edwin Gariguez, head of Caritas in the Philippines.
"This is beyond our capacity," Father Gariguez told Catholic News Service by phone from Cebu province Nov. 13. "That's the reason why we have our Caritas network with us now."
The head of Caritas Philippines and his counterparts from the Netherlands and Germany, as well as the communications staff of Caritas Internationalis, were on their way to Leyte, one of the provinces that bore the brunt of Haiyan's first lashing on the central islands of the country. The plan was to appraise the needs on the ground and make contact with the various dioceses that have been affected.
Father Gariguez said the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services was doing the same kind of work ahead of a mid-November meeting with aid agencies and local parish priests to be hosted by Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu. When the typhoon hit Nov. 8, the CRS country representative to the Philippines, Joe Curry, was already in Bohol dealing with relief from the Oct. 15 earthquake, so CRS was able to get its assessment teams to Leyte Nov. 10.
With about 600,000 people displaced by the storm, the task of getting aid to Filipinos posed a challenge in terms of coordination and the logistics.
International aid started began arriving the week of Nov. 10, while local relief began immediately after the typhoon hit.
But five days after the storm cut a path of damage that obliterated as many as 90 percent of the houses in some areas, there were still stories of people not receiving anything.
Adelyn Manos was one of those. At the entrance of the Villiamor Air Base in Manila, she took cover from the rain under at a tarp-covered shuttle stop.
She had just arrived via military plane from Tacloban, a city in Leyte that some are calling "ground zero" because of the decimation there from a 15-foot storm surge brought on by Haiyan. It left bodies strewn about in its wake.
"I came with them, my three children and a companion," said the 35-year-old Manos, carrying her 3-year-old daughter. "And my other child, she died because the water went up so high ... she was not even buried because there are no coffins there."
Her 8-year-old son said: "The water was so high. It was so high," as he put his arm up to indicate the flood's depth.
Manos said she decided to come to Manila because none of the food packs being distributed had made their way to her neighborhood. Her husband was living in Manila for work, but he did not even know she had arrived because her cellphone got clogged with water. Reporters helped her contact her husband and were trying to arrange for a ride.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Nov. 13 he expected the death toll to be around 2,500 — lower than initially predicted. That morning, the government put the death toll at 1,833; of those, 1,300 were in Leyte.
The same day, Rene Almendras, the president's Cabinet secretary, said all national roads leading to the island provinces of Leyte, Samar to the east and nearby Biliran were open and passable. Provincial bus service also was back online, and airports had been opened. At least two of those would be hubs for receiving relief goods.
But the government was still dealing with the enormity of the tasks at hand. In one case, the sheer volume of the goods arriving made it necessary for peace and order officers originally assigned to clearing operations to be baggers of care packages. Bodies continued to turn up, and Almendras said some locations did not have enough body bags.
Jesuit Brother James Lee, head of the Church That Serves the Nation, the social justice arm of the Philippine Jesuit province, said Nov. 12 that hungry Filipinos were blocking aid trucks, demanding food to let them pass. He said his organization's relief efforts would involve coordinating to make sure the food arrived safely at its destination.
Taking the massive need and the work to meet it into account, Father Gariguez said, "As a church this is part of our ministry ... we are doing this as part of our mission: to help the poor and the vulnerable. So we are really happy to be of help and to contribute whatever we can to ease the life of our people who are really very much burdened by this disaster."
Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
PHOTO: A woman holds a rosary as she waits to board a military evacuation flight from the typhoon-battered city of Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 13. Hundreds of thousands of people in Leyte province had been displaced by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the worst storms to hit land. (CNS photo/Edgar Su, Reuters)
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