Her sons are 2,000 miles away from her. She’s spent almost three years trying to bring them home, but her boys are trapped in the middle of a nightmarish swamp of red tape. She takes some comfort knowing they are in good hands at their orphanage, and she is grateful for the many people who are tackling the Herculean task of carrying the family through the Mexican adoption system. Nonetheless, she misses her sons and wants them in the States so they can be a full-time family.
“They are not orphans,” she emphatically says. “They HAVE a mom and dad who love them and who are trying to bring them home.”
During her fearful moments, she worries about them. She also worries about the children who are not being adopted and spend their entire lives in orphanages because their biological families were abusive, neglectful or didn’t have enough money to care for them. Headlines about the Mexican drug cartels send shivers down her spine because she knows how easy it would be for cartel thugs to recruit these vulnerable kids once they age out of the system.
Stephanie Frank is one of my lifelong friends, and I hear anguish in her voice every time she talks about her sons. She and her husband, John, met them seven years ago while serving as volunteers in Mexico. They had two biological sons of their own and were not interested in international adoption when they left for the trip; however, all of that changed when they met Enrique and his brothers at a church-supported orphanage. The boys, who are now teens, were left there 12 years ago and have had no contact with their biological parents.
The Franks fell in love with the brothers, and the boys found the Mama and Papi they so desperately wanted. They started the official adoption process in 2011. Stephanie and John, along with their U.S. sons, have made dozens of trips to Mexico over the years to spend time with the boys and wade through the red tape.
Like the Franks, many U.S. families trying to adopt children from Mexico face grueling waits due to the country’s weighty bureaucracy, no national policy on adoptions and an often-sluggish custody transfer process. The route becomes infinitely more complicated when prospective parents want to adopt a specific child. The process can be financially and emotionally bruising for some families like 8-year-old Adilene and her adoptive parents. The El Paso Times highlighted their story in 2011 and revealed how the parents had to give up their adoption plans after three years of international bureaucratic hell highlighted by $12,000 in travel expenses, translations and renewing annual home studies and immigration fees authorizing them to adopt Adilene. In the end, they had to say goodbye because the strain was just too much and the process never moved along. Adilene, now a teen, has remained in the Juarez orphanage.
The Franks endure the wait and refuse to give up, even though one of the boys is rapidly approaching adulthood. Despite her sadness, Stephanie is a lioness for her sons. She fights. She hopes. She prays.
Figures from the U.S. Department of State indicate that only 21 children from Mexico were adopted by Americans in 2013. It is my greatest prayer that those figures jump in 2014 to reflect that the Frank boys are now in the U.S.
I’ve talked with other parents like Stephanie and John who are also in the process of adopting children from Mexico. Their stories are sadly similar, but the perseverance of these American families is inspiring. They are not giving up because THEIR children need them. They refuse to let bureaucracy get in the way of family.
I look forward to the celebrations when these kids are finally home where they belong. Until then, I pray. A lot.
Pseudonyms have been used protect the identity of my friends and their sons in Mexico. They have legitimate fears that the children would be at risk if their real identities were known.
Please be in prayer for this family as they go through this difficult time apart.
Do you have a past, present or future adoption story or adoption prayer request you’d like to share? Please drop me a line in the comment section below.