Cindy is an underwater portrait photographer her husband, Al is a photojournalist.
On this Father's Day, their story of
transforming from couple to family allows us a rare look into a most
wonderful journey, as told by Cindy and photographed by both...
We are 5,000 miles away from home and about to
look into the eyes of our future. These eyes have seen things we
would not even want to imagine and yet they are full of hopes and
My husband Al and I wipe the snow off our shoes
as we are greeted at the door with heavy Polish accents -- "Dzien
dobry," good afternoon. Entering the apartment, we follow the foster
parents with anticipation and excitement.
Like a small child on a Christmas morning
trying to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus, a pair of eyes peeks
around the corner. With the coast clear, a second set of eyes peeks
out. On this day, it is not a glimpse of Santa they want, but rather
a peek at their new mommy and daddy!
The day was 18 months in the making for this
four- and seven-year-old brother and sister. They had patiently
watched time after time as the infant foster children in the same
foster home came and went to new "forever" homes. But on this day,
it was their turn.
One might think a four- or seven-year-old child
is very young, but if you're talking adoption, well, let's just say
you're almost over the hill. A photo album the kids brought home
Face it, for whatever reason, many people want
to adopt babies, not older kids who have already experienced the
"firsts." Their first smile, their first word, their first step.
Parents want to experience thoseKodak moments for themselves, not be
told about them.
But let me tell you, when a child, up for
adoption, looks into your eyes with a big smile, it goes beyond YOUR
needs and wants and it becomes theirs.
Their beginnings should have been very
different, but for some reason the family they were born into did
not think so. Their world was of gross neglect, spoiled food, filthy
living conditions, lice, no baths and no love.
To make things worse, Bartek was seldom taken
out of his crib. His sister told us stories of her sneaking food to
him and trying to take him out of his crib, but with no success.
When a concerned neighbor noticed that he was still in the crib at
age two, she called the police to intervene. It was that call that
changed their lives.
It must have been a frightening night when the
"Policja" (police) arrived and whisked them away with just the
clothes on their back, but really, that was all they had anyway.
They were placed in emergency foster care and
stayed there for almost two years. Emergency foster families are
specialists at taking children with extreme circumstances with
almost no notice. The children they take in are usually temporarily
traumatized by their parentless situation, and often function in
THE BLUE SWEATER
A normal start to a typical day for most two-
and six-year-olds is, "What toy should I play with first?" Well,
when you never even had a toy in the first place, that question is
not even an option.
At age two, Bartek received his first Teddy
bear. A little guy with a blue sweater from his new foster parents.
To this day, the blue sweater bear is his bear of choice to sleep
with every night. For his sister, though, she was excited to finally
have some nice new shoes. Her shoes in
When it comes time to start a family, there are
many choices. You can decide to give birth to one or even eight at a
time, like the Octomom Nadya Suleman did. Or you could bring a child
that is already on this planet that desperately needs a family into
your home. For us, that choice was clear.
Maybe, I am a baby shower casualty (one who
heard just one too many bloody stories about labor), or maybe it was
a choice of the heart. Whatever it was, there is a brother and
sister that are grateful a choice in their favor was made.
We attended community workshops in
Neither my husband nor I have Polish heritage.
Al's is Cuban and mine is mixed European. For us, that was not an
We discovered that
Foreign adoption is more expensive than
domestic, but we were comfortable with our decision.
To get us through the extra challenges, we
turned to Mimi Huminski, a consultant with Huminska's Anioly that
helps people adopt from
As in all adoptions, there was alot of
paperwork, social worker visits for home studies and it was good to
We even joined the Polish American Club and the
American Institute of Polish Culture and took Polish language
lessons to prepare us for cultural differences.
THE REALITY SHOW
When our plane landed in
We knew a handful of Polish words and the kids
knew even less than that of English, so it made communication, well
-- interesting to say the least. Talking with our hands became the
best way of communication and seemed like a fun game for the kids.
21 days, Lech, ourguide and translator with the team in
We had many doubts, and feared we could not
handle this great responsibility. As it turned out, Bartek did not
need rounds and rounds of medical attention.
All he needed
Being in a different country added to this
incredible adventure and made each day one of surprise and
enlightenment. Before we left the country, we went to a Polish court
to file all of the legal paperwork, and then we made a second trip
to pick up the children after a month-long waiting period.
Bartek and Angelika were relieved and thrilled
to see us return, and they were ready to start their new lives. The
funny thing is, because we felt like we had known them their entire
lives -- it just seemed like we were picking them up for summer
When we arrived in
Soon after, Angelika started school. She
especially had a difficult challenge not knowing any English and had
to catch up grade-wise. Through the support and understanding of
teachers, instructors, even a co-worker-turned-tutor, both of the
children are making incredible progress. It is comforting to know
that you don't have to go it alone.
April 24th was our six-year mark and they have
both come a long, long way. Troopers in a sense, they have
accomplished large goals and continue to excel and bloom. Their
unhappy beginnings are a faded memory, like a bad bus ride that you
forget once you arrive at your final destination.
Like a rescue mission with a happy ending, our adoption story is one and the same. And we marvel at how well it all has worked out.