Families look across the globe to adopt children

first_imgWhen orphaned sisters Armie, pronounced Ah-mee, now 5, and Jlatu, now 7, stepped off a plane in Los Angeles after a 36-hour flight three years ago, they were culture-shocked and ill. Their intestines were riddled with roughly a dozen parasites, and Jlatu had an eye condition that untreated could have left her blind. The girls are bouncy and blended into their new family, which includes Alison, 15, and Daniel 12. Their neighborhood pals include blended siblings in the Stewart household nearby. Kayla and Chad Stewart, both 37, had four biological children, all girls, before they adopted twins Matthew and Mark, now 6, from Liberia four years ago. “They were only 11 pounds (Matthew) and 18 pounds (Mark) when they came to us,” Kayla Stewart said. For comparison, she notes U.S. babies 2 months old weigh 11 pounds. “About a year-and-a-half after Matthew and Mark were with us – they told me to sit down first – the adoption agency called,” she continued. “One day they found out (the boys) had a brother and three weeks later they found out there were more.” That was two years ago, and those youngsters are now 9 and 7. Chad Stewart, a digital animator with Sony Pictures Imageworks in Culver City will travel to Liberia in the coming days to meet the boys’ biological father. `Missing pieces’ “My plan is to try to fill out the missing pieces of the story for my boys,” Chad Stewart said. “When they’re older, to try to give them some answers: what their mom was like – she died the day after the twins were born – what their dad is like, the history of when they were there, the events going on around them.” The record will be mainly audio, but Stewart will bring an MP3 recorder and a digital camera with some video capacity. He plans to write a book detailing the trip. An armful of vaccinations have prepared his body for the experience, but his mind is another matter. “The farthest I’ve been out of the country is Niagara Falls or Tijuana,” he said. According to the CIA World Factbook, Liberia was settled in the 1800s by slaves freed from the United States and experienced political upheaval, dictatorial rule, revolt and civil war. It notes the “security situation is still volatile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country remains sluggish.” At last, a brother The Paris daughters were escorted to America by a Liberian pastor who works for Angels Haven Outreach, the local nonprofit agency that assists with international adoptions. The Paris plan to travel to Uganda on April 28 to appear in court and handle the logistics for the safe passage of Jay – known as J.J. – a 31/2-year-old boy found abandoned on the road and taken to an orphanage when he was about 7 weeks old. “I’m excited about it,” Daniel Pari said. “I won’t be the only boy. I can teach him different things.” Alison chimed in, “(Yeah), how to make armpit noises!” Someday Jlatu and Armie can tell J.J. about how their dad died from cholera and their mom, unable to care for them, put them up for adoption. The two boys will share a bedroom, and the three girls share a room in the three-bedroom home. To emphasize the bonds of family life the Paris have simplified their schedule, eliminating cable TV service in favor of watching videos and DVDs and casting off sports and clubs, except for an after-school Bible study program at a local elementary school. Daniel’s favorite pastime is whittling, and the girls’ favorite is universal. “We’ll spend a whole Saturday just doing hair,” Cheryl, 40, said. Armie recalled life before Valencia, when she could not sleep over at her grandma’s house because the roof had so many holes. “It rained a lot,” she said. “We had to use buckets over our heads.” The girls saved their traveling outfits from Liberia, sewed by the great-grandmother. “Jlati’s fits me.” Adoptions controversy The cost of caring for the children over a lifetime is born by the adoptive families, but the cost to adopt the sisters was roughly $20,000. Ian Pari said the U.S. government provides a generous income tax credit for adoptive families but they must spend the money first. He likened the nine- to 12-month lead time before the kids arrived to viewing an ultrasound. “You have the photos but you don’t have the kid,” he said. The 3-year-old Vietnamese boy Jolie adopted this week from an orphanage will join her and Pitt’s other children, adoptees from Cambodia and Ethiopia and a biological daughter who’s nearly 1. Cheryl Pari said she’s concerned celebrity exposure brings international adoptions into controversy. “There are millions of children who have nowhere to go,” she said. “That anyone would step up and care for an orphan, I’m thankful for that.” Closer to home, an official at The Master’s College has his own international brood. “Our house is like the United Nations!” said Mark Tatlock, vice president for student life at the school. The couple has two biological children, boys 5 and 7, an adoptive daughter from China, 3, and they plan to adopt a boy and girl, an infant and 3-year-old, from Uganda. Three-year-old Paul is friends with J.J. At the small Christian liberal arts college, Tatlock teaches international ministries and missions and urban ministry, focusing on caring for at-risk children worldwide. “I believe God calls us to care for those children,” he said. The students followed the zigs and zags of the Tatlock’s adoption stories. Tatlock met the Paris about a year ago at a community seminar on adoption the Paris had organized. Tatlock said about five families at the college have adopted internationally and he knows nearly 30 families who’ve adopted children – mostly worldwide – in the past three years. The Pari family celebrates “Gotcha Day” every Aug. 19, to commemorate the arrivals of Jlatu and Armie. And Jlatu was counting the minutes on Thursday till her braces were removed. Asked the first forbidden food she will eat: “Gum!” The three years have been a blur for the family. “I remember we picked them up at the airport but sometimes I forget I didn’t give birth to them,” Cheryl said, after viewing the airport arrival tape. “People who’ve gone to Uganda and met Jay say he’s a Pari.” [email protected] (661) 257-5255 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Ian Pari, a senior traffic engineer for the city, and his wife, Cheryl, who home-schools the kids, are among a growing number of local couples who eschew a suburban manse brimming with goodies in favor of sharing their possessions and following religious beliefs that call for helping those less fortunate. “In the Old Testament, God talks about caring for orphans. There are a lot of orphans in the world,” Ian Pari, 44, said. “Through personal meditation and prayer … my reasons for not wanting to adopt – selfish reasons, I didn’t want my lifestyle to be impacted – once I put those thoughts aside, I thought `We have so much to share.”‘ Like many newlyweds, the couple talked 20 years ago about how many biological kids they desired: two. If they wanted more, they’d adopt someday. After becoming born-again Christians in the late 1990s and finding their kids were self-sufficient, their desire to adopt and the pool of prospective adoptees grew a lot larger. Some ask why an international adoption. “I have limited resources, have a certain income, my house is only so big, where are orphans in the greatest need?” Pari said. “Without question, it’s the continent of Africa.” SANTA CLARITA Heard the one about the traffic engineer who has no car? Punchline: Why? Because his wife needs the family minivan to cart around their two biological kids, two adopted daughters from war-torn Liberia and soon, in the remaining empty seat, an adopted son from Uganda. Huh? Shades of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Santa Clarita? No. last_img