She is four years old. Within minutes after her birth, her mother died. Ten months later, her father died. Altina’s nine other siblings went to the care of aunts, uncles and a grandparent. Nobody wanted Altina. They felt she was responsible for the death of her mother. So, they were ready to place her in foster care. Barely a toddler and Altina already experienced almost unimaginable loss and deprivation.
Dakari was born at full term but developed Cerebral Palsy (CP) due to perinatal asphyxia. During labor, my wife’s blood pressure dropped to dangerously low levels. After a series of unfortunate events including four surgeries, my wife and I lost our ability to produce any more children. We were ‘ok’ with that news considering all that had transpired and especially since I always wanted only one child. My wife wanted three. Watching Dakari interact with other kids has contributed to changing my mind on the number of children I would like to have. I believe where possible, a child should have at least one sibling. I can see many benefits to this family structure especially as a parent of a special needs child. Dakari is very determined to accomplish many things but even more so when he sees other kids doing those things. There are social benefits from having a sibling as well. There is the opportunity to develop respect, interact with and learn from others.
To expand our family, my wife and I decided that we will adopt (not many other options available to us). We told Dakari’s former nanny about our intentions and that was when she told us about a little girl called Altina. Our hearts were filled with empathy initially and then joy. We learned that Altina and Dakari’s birth was only two days apart. This news made us very excited and nervous all at the same time. That was two years ago and we have been faced with a few challenges.
Altina lives in Jamaica (West Indies) while we live in Bermuda. One of the adoption requirements is that we spend a total of six months with her prior to adopting her. We have been unable to do that primarily due to economic reasons. We have been taking care of her for the past two years while she stays with Dakari’s former nanny, who is very close with her family. We have never met Altina in person. We have spoken over the phone; family and friends have met her; and we have seen photos. We do have some concerns with this arrangement. Our main concern (and fear) is that the older she gets, the more difficult it will get to adopt her and integrate her into our family. So why aren’t we closer to adopting her than we are? One reason is that I tend to focus on the tremendous sacrifice it will take to meet the six month requirement. It will mean that either one of us or the entire family moves to Jamaica (my home) for that period. Realistically, it will be quite costly especially for Dakari (due to his developmental needs) for us to do that right now. It has not yet been communicated to Altina that she will be a part of our family. At this stage, I am not certain it is a good idea.
Soon, I will complete my graduate education as a Marriage and Family Counselor and will no doubt be counseling families on adoption. Truthfully, I feel stuck. I do feel a little embarrassed as well. I would really love to hear your thoughts on this situation especially if you have had experience with adoption. Including Altina as a part of our family will be a big step for us. It will bring me great joy to be this little girl’s father and to be the family that gives her a chance at experiencing love, being appreciated, and having someone completely committed to her. I am certain that she will have a lot to offer us as well especially our son.
Pete Saunders is a graduate student at Capella University. He also writes a weekly blog and conducts a weekly video interview on manhood at razorsanddiapers.com