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National Adoption Month: St. Michael Family Finds Love with International Adoption

In Part Four of St. Michael Patch's series on adoption, Kendall and Debbie Bishop of St. Michael share how they grew their family.

Kendall and Debbie Bishop of St. Michael had always talked over their options.

“Adoption was part of the conversation from the beginning for us,” Kendall said.

“It wasn’t a last resort, it was always an option” Debbie said. The couple tried to have biological children for close to six years, including trying IVF twice. At one point, the couple’s fertility doctor told the Bishops about International Adoption Services and the possibility of adopting from Russia.

“We went to the seminar on adopting from Russia and left knowing it was not for us. But when we went to the informational meeting on Guatemalan adoption, a light went off,” Debbie said.

So in January 2005, the two began a tedious international adoption process which included fingerprinting, background checks, a mountain of paperwork and a home study.

“We had to put together information on our family, extended family and even friends to give to Guatemala for approval,” Debbie said.

She also points out a huge difference between the domestic and international adoption paperwork.

“The timing is a huge difference. Each piece of paperwork we did here had to be sent to Guatemala, translated, brought to court, re-translated and re-sent back to Minnesota,” she said.

On June 28, 2005 the couple received the call changing their lives forever. Their first son, Zachary, was born. The two flew to Guatemala and spent a week at a hotel with their new son.

“It was love at first sight,” Debbie said.

While all international adoptions are different, the Guatemalan process included DNA testing of both the child and the biological parents and three separate meetings between the birth mother and social services.

The new family was tested that first week. Away from the paperwork and tape, finding a routine in a hotel proved to be challenging.

“Nothing’s more interesting than washing bottles and figuring out sleep schedules in a hotel room in a foreign country,” she said laughing. “Oh, it was quite the experience,” Kendall agreed.

Because of the long process that includes a Guatemalan birth certificate and passport–eventually to be granted a United States birth certificate and passport–Kendall and Debbie returned home to Minnesota. They returned back to Guatemala at Zach’s three month and six month milestones. In Guatemala for Christmas 2005, they got their embassy date. As the calendar turned to Jan. 6, 2006, they brought their first son home.

Then, in an interesting and special turn of events before the couple even brought Zachary home they had received a call from their adoption coordinator that Zachary’s birth mom, Nivia, was expecting again. Would they be interested in adopting Zachary’s biological brother?

“At first it was like ‘Holy cats! This is way too soon,'” Kendall said. “After some thought that same day, I think we both came to the conclusion that this was cool and very rare for adoption.”

Because the couple was in the midst of their adoption some of their paperwork was already ready and still current, and it was able to be used for the second adoption.

“We had to re-do a couple documents but for the most part, we were ready,” Debbie said.

So in May 2006, the new family of three flew to Guatemala and awaited the news if Zachary would have a baby brother or sister at a nearby hotel. On May 6, 2006, Joshua was born. Zachary was a big brother at just 10 months old.

“It was very cool to be able to bring Zachary to Guatemala with us. We were just like any parents awaiting the news of both the babies gender and health,” Kendall said.

The family was able to again spend Joshua’s first week of life together in a Guatemalan hotel and then returned to bring him home at five months old.

On October 1, 2006, the family of four came home for good.

Now the family of four has two and is “happily complete.” Guatemala is no longer open for international adoption, which played a small part in the couple’s decision.

The family has plans to return to Guatemala down the road especially after their recent sponsorship of two same-aged brothers in Guatemala.

“We let the boys choose two buddies in Guatemala to sponsor through Common Hope, when we got the paperwork in the mail we found out the two are brothers.”

Eventually the family would like to bring the boys to meet their buddies and also learn more about their culture and country.

For those thinking about international adoption, Debbie said, “The process can be long but when you find your forever family, it’s worth it all. Every moment of waiting was worth it.”

“The journey we went on was as exciting and as fulfilling as having biological children,” Kendall said. “This experience and journey to parenthood was just as valuable and we’re glad to have had the unique cultural experience. It was an amazing way to grow our family.”

Meghan Gutzwiller November 22, 2011 at 08:12 PM
What a cool story!! Two children within 10 months must have brought so much joy-and busyness- to your lives...so happy for you!
Jacob Wheeler December 15, 2011 at 07:51 PM
To learn more about Guatemalan adoption, and both its beauties and controversies, please read my book, “Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl’s Journey through Adoption” (http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Between-Light-and-Shadow,674763.aspx): In Between Light and Shadow veteran journalist Jacob Wheeler puts a human face on the Guatemalan adoption industry, which has exploited, embraced, and sincerely sought to improve the lives of the Central American nation’s poorest children. Fourteen-year-old Ellie, abandoned at age seven and adopted by a middle-class family from Michigan, is at the center of this story. Wheeler re-creates the painful circumstances of Ellie’s abandonment, her adoption and Americanization, her search for her birth mother, and her joyous and haunting return to Guatemala, where she finds her teenage brothers—unleashing a bond that transcends language and national borders. Following Ellie’s journey, Wheeler peels back the layers of an adoption economy that some view as an unscrupulous baby-selling industry that manipulates impoverished indigenous Guatemalan women, and others herald as the only chance for poor children to have a better life. Through Ellie, Wheeler allows us to see what all this means in personal and practical terms—and to understand how well-intentioned and sometimes humanitarian first-world wealth can collide with the extreme poverty, despair, misogyny, racism, and violent history of Guatemala.

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