By Maria Wiering
HARFORD COUNTY – Brothers Aldrin and Win were living in a Filipino orphanage when they were invited to spend a month in the United States with a potential adoptive family.
They wanted to be adopted, said Win, now 9 – and they were. Mark and Kathy S. decided to make the boys a permanent part of their family after hosting them, and a year later, Aldrin and Win were reunited with the S. family, Catholics who requested their last name be withheld for privacy.
The summer program is sponsored by Catholic Charities of Baltimore. In its tenth year, the program has placed 112 children with adoptive families – 74 percent of its total participants. Children are often adopted by their host family, but other couples they meet during the program have also become adoptive parents.
The program began as an effort to encourage families to adopt older children, including sibling sets, said Ellen Warnock, Catholic Charities’ director of adoptions, a position she has held for 29 years. The children who participate are typically 9 to 14 years old; younger participants are usually part of a sibling group.
“It’s very easy to find a home for a toddler or an infant. It’s not easy to find a home for children who are 8, 9, 10 or older,” Warnock said. “We came up with the idea that if prospective adoptive families could meet older children in advance, and see if they were a good fit for them, then perhaps the number of older child adoptions would go up.”
Warnock regularly visits Filipino orphanages with a developmental specialist to select good summer program candidates. She also recruits adoption-minded families in Maryland and surrounding states to host the children.
Warnock is currently searching for nine to 10 families to host 18 children this summer.
Host families do not have to commit to adoption, but they are asked to cover the $3,000 participation cost per child they host.
Before the children arrive, families participate in classes that outline expectations and addresses potential challenges. Warnock advises families to maintain regular schedules and “keep their world small,” meaning no long family getaways.
“We want to see how they (the children) would do in a family, not on a vacation,” Warnock said.
The program attracts interest from a variety of couples, Warnock said. Some have raised other children and have experience with pre-teens and teens. Others are childless. Less often, they are like Mark and Kathleen, and have a younger child.
For the S. family, adoption was part of “the call within the Catholic community to be open to life,” Kathleen said. “It seems that (God) has led us along this path.”
Both host parents and the Filipino children evaluate if the relationship is a good fit for adoption, Warnock said. If it is, the process takes nine to 10 months, during which the children return to the Philippines. Adoption costs begin at $25,000 and increase depending on the number of children a couple adopts.
David and Linda Carmack participated in the program last year, and are in the process of adopting the 10-year-old girl they hosted. They have two older sons who were also adopted from the Philippines.
Parishioners of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Edgewater, the Carmacks had concerns about language barriers and whether or not their host child would be homesick or nervous. In the end, the month together was wonderful, Linda Carmack said.
The program “really gets you to experience these children and to understand the possibilities,” she said. “It’s not a big scary thing to welcome these children into your home.”
Catholic Charities does not try to sway families’ decision whether or not to adopt children they are hosting, Warnock said. For most families, the decision is clear during the program, she said.
Before signing up, couples considering the program should examine their motivation, Warnock said. Prospective parents should not want to “rescue” the child, but rather to be a good parent, she said.
“It might sound a little scary to think about (adopting) an older child, but it really has been a wonderful experience for people,” she said.
For more information about the summer adoption hosting program, contact Ellen Warnock at 410-659-4032.
Copyright (c) March 19, 2013 CatholicReview.org