Here are two stories from one of the projects I work with :
*Mario Jose* is a four and half year old boy who has spent half of his young life institutionalized in a center because his mother disappeared in 2006 and his father is unknown. His great grandmother, who is 85 years old, had to look for outside help when her great granddaughter disappeared unexplainably. Being of advanced age and living in dire poverty, the grandmother placed Mario Jose in the center where he currently lives because she was unable to care for him. The center took Mario Jose as an act of charity, considering that they don’t usually work with orphans, but rather function as a feeding center.
The family history of Mario Jose is a tragic and violent one. His grandmother was killed at a young age, orphaning her daughter (Jose Mario’s mother). The great grandmother of the family believes that Jose Mario’s mother is also dead. While there are other extended family members, none of them have shown an interest in Jose Mario.
The priest who has been helping the family contacted the government in 2008 looking for help for Mario Jose, but he found no answer. Through word of mouth, he heard about our Permanency Center and came to visit us in February of 2009. Our team decided to investigate the case, making a visit to the center where Mario Jose lives and doing a psychological evaluation of him the same day. The lawyers and social workers took on his case, placing it before the judge for him to be declared abandoned, opening up the road to a permanent family.
Unfortunately, under Honduran law, Mario Jose can not be declared abandoned because he has several living relatives that could care for him. Our team worked with the social workers of the government to show that this was a special case that deserved a second chance. The judge has agreed to move forward, soliciting statements from the relatives that are not able or not willing to take care of Mario Jose. Through much detailed work and diligence, we have been able to have each one of the necessary family members come in and make their statement.
We now hope that with these statements given, the judge will declare Mario Jose abandoned and send his case to adoptions before he lives out another year of his life in a center.
*George* had been living in a center in Honduras since 2005 when he was 2 years old. He was abandoned at that age by his mother. His father, who is understood to be an alcoholic who lives on the street, has never been in the picture. This January, our staff visited the center where he lived with the intention of finding children like George: children who are in real need of an adoptive family but have become lost in the system. When we reviewed his case, we realized his situation and also saw that he had not had any kind of a family visit since early 2006. His case was also inactive in the court system.
Our team took the case on and has poured in time and resources over the last 10 months. Our staff have collaborated with IHNFA to do the psychological evaluations, social work investigations and legal steps. We have subsidized the medical tests and media publications necessary for moving the case forward. Our lawyer assigned to George’s case was diligent to not let details fall through the cracks and to always keep the case moving forward. Much like putting together a puzzle, we had to resolve many things in George’s file in order to see if he was legally adoptable. We needed to contact the mother, who was rumored to be dead. A lead opened when the director of another center contacted us after hearing and reading the media publications regarding George. George’s older sister (now 18) had been at this center and by locating her file at the court, we were able to follow a trail that led to information on the death of the mother so that we could get her certificate of death. She had died of AIDS in 2005.
In early October, the court declared George legally abandoned, opening up the path to adoption. This week or next his case will be officially assigned to the adoptions committee and there is already the possibility of one adoptive family who is looking for a boy in his age range. We hope that George is with his new family by the end of this year.
While we celebrate this beautiful gift for George and our successful intervention, we must also take a moment for a sober analysis of the situation. If our project had not been able to visit George’s center, how many more years would have passed before his case would have been noticed? Was it necessary that George live for 5 years in a center when he could have been adopted much earlier? How many other children are out their like George, waiting for someone to take notice of their case? How many more children will grow up in centers because it takes so long for cases to be processed? With out our financial intervention to pay for transportation for home visits, medical tests and publications, George would still be in the system, months or even years from being adopted.