INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION – A TRAVEL STORY by Gundy Baty
When our adopted son Robert turned two in 1980, we started to think about adopting another child. We lived at that time on a dairy farm in Quebec, Canada. Talking to the social services we were told that no babies were available, only older kids who had lived in different foster homes and had a lot of problems. That was not what we had in mind; we wanted another baby.
They directed us to agencies in Bogotá, Colombia, where a program of international adoptions had been started to clear the city of hundreds of homeless children living on the streets, who were stealing food in the markets and all kind of goods they could sell. There was lots of drug related violence; it wasn't a safe city. We liked the idea to take a child out of that city and give him or her a better future.
We sent an application to one of the four agencies in Bogotá. They told us that there was a waiting list of about two years, explaining that every time there was an unwanted baby born, the next on the list would be contacted. We were asked for financial statements, income, photos, and a police report. So, we were very surprised two weeks later when we received a letter from that same agency that we should come as fast as possible as they had a one-year-old baby boy, who had not yet found adoptive parents because he was black. As we already had a black child they thought we might adopt little Diego.
We found a neighbor's kid to take care of our cows for a few days and excitedly flew to Colombia with little Robert.
We saw a lot of poverty and violence on our taxi ride to the agency, but there we found a very modern and elegant building with expensive furniture in an upscale neighborhood. The manager, a young lady looking more like a movie star in elegant outfit and expensive jewelry, treated us very nicely. We made an appointment for the next day to see the boy, Diego, and left for a pre-booked simple family pension run by a French ex-nun. There we met other couples with their just-days-old babies, people from France, Japan, and Sweden.
The next day an employee brought Diego to see us. He looked more like a three-year old child. He was tall and obese, couldn't walk or speak, and we found out that he was really two-years old. He showed no interest in us or little Robert. He just sat there staring in the air. We took him to a restaurant and as soon he saw food he became animated. In seconds, he had grabbed the food from our plates with his hands and shoved it all in. It was clear that something was not right with the little boy. Food seemed to be the only thing of interest to him; no toys, no songs or soft words, changed his empty look. We took him to two different pediatric clinics. Both the doctors told us they needed a lot of tests over several weeks to find out what was wrong with him. Both doctors shook their heads in disbelief as we told them we wanted to adopt Diego.
We had just emigrated to Canada a year earlier from France and had very little money and a big mortgage. We could not spend weeks in Colombia. My husband had to go back to his farm and our little Robert would not eat the unusual food we were served at the pension. Every day it was the same, a piece of leather-like hard meat with some greasy green bananas on the side. Robert just lived on milk and the bananas we bought in a supermarket. We had to make a decision very fast. My husband didn't want to stay any longer and didn't want to take Diego home. I was sick. I felt if we didn't take him, nobody would. But I also could not see how I could deal with such a handicapped child. The agency had lied to us. They also wanted money for the paperwork, doctor fees, and a private nurse to take care of Diego until the papers were ready. We should just come back in a few weeks when all was ready including a passport.
We said no. Then the nice manager turned very nasty telling us to never put foot in her agency again after all the help we had got from her, that we were too immature to adopt a child, and many more things I don't want to repeat. My heart was bleeding for that poor little boy who now had even less of a chance to be adopted. But we had to go back to Canada and we were feeling very depressed and sad.
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