For more information, please request a complete information packet at 724-506-1181


Our Adoption Story 

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 dreams. 

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. 

KODAK MOMENTS 

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 from Poland tells the story well. Photo after photo shows the many babies they witnessed being adopted, but Bartek and Angelika stayed and wondered why a new mommy and daddy were not showing up for them. 

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. 

SURVIVAL MODE 

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 survival mode. 

THE BLUE SWEATER BEAR 

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 Poland were "ugly and too small," she told us. 

BABY SHOWER CASUALTY 

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. 

CHOOSING POLAND 

We attended community workshops in Miami on various types of adoptions, including domestic vs. foreign. At one of the workshops, we met a couple of families that had successfully gone through the process of adopting from Poland. 

Neither my husband nor I have Polish heritage. Al's is Cuban and mine is mixed European. For us, that was not an issue. 

We discovered that Poland is a beautiful and diverse country, with a rich history and culture. Dramatic changes in government, infrastructure and tourism after the Cold War combined to make travel a pleasant and memorable experience. 

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 Poland. We used Intercountry Adoption Center, Inc. as our agency. The staff explained all the many steps we had to take. 

As in all adoptions, there was alot of paperwork, social worker visits for home studies and it was good to have patience. 

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 Poland to meet the kids for the first time, our lives felt as if we were becoming cast members in a reality TV show, but in a good way! Not even knowing what a play date really was, much less knowing how to speak Polish, we were about to embark on our own adventure. 

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.  

For  21 days, Lech, ourguide and translator with the team in Poland would meet with us. He answered our questions and addressed our concerns, including Bartek's condition. Since his biological parents left him in the crib too long, he could barely walk. He spoke in a whisper and did not swallow food very fast. Lech calmed our nerves. 

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 was love. 

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 camp. 

When we arrived in Miami, there were welcome signs and balloons that greeted us and made the kids feel special. They met their new grandma and loved their home-cooked meals. It was the perfect beginning to their new life. 

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.