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A Child is Born .. in Guatemala
Radice family

By Traci Radice

On February 8, 2000 our baby girl was born at 9:38 p.m. weighing 6 lbs. 8 oz. and measuring 19” long. We didn’t even know about her birth until mid-March, when we saw her picture and knew instantly that she was our daughter. The reason? Bianca was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

About 2 days after seeing her picture and falling in love with this beautiful baby, we accepted her referral. At that moment, she was 1.5 months old.

GuatemalaOne of the strongest reasons for our choice to adopt from Guatemala is that the majority of the babies are placed directly in private foster care from birth. Although there are some orphanages, they are privately owned rather than state-run and the level of care (both physical and emotional) the babies receive is higher than institutional orphanages. Some adoption agencies allow a potential family to accept a referral prior to being “paper ready” - meaning that the family has completed the paperwork (”dossier”) requirements and is ready to begin adoption proceedings - and some do not. The one that we worked with did. As soon as we accepted her referral, we began to move as fast as we could to get our dossier completed.

If you are familiar with the paperwork involved in an international adoption, you will understand why it took us 2 months to become “paper ready”. Each country has its own uniqueness to its dossier requirements. Guatemala’s dossier includes a state police clearance, a homestudy (which also includes an inspection by the County health department and fire marshal, medical reference letters, character reference letters and financial statements to name a few), marriage license (and any divorce decrees), birth certificates, letters that verify employment, tax returns for 3 years, copies of the passports of the adoptive parents-to-be, and about 6-10 photos of the house and family that the baby will be joining. Each document that is submitted to the Guatemalan Government must be notarized, certified by the County Courthouse, certified by the State Department and then authenticated by the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington, D.C.

I know what you are thinking because I thought it, too: (a) after everything we have been through it is ridiculous that we have to jump through another series of hoops to have a baby; and (b) why don’t fertile people have to go through this paperwork? Well, if you look at each step as a step toward your baby, the endless paperwork and disclosure of your personal secrets are a breeze.

I broke down our experience into three (3) trimesters. First trimester entailed the baby’s birth and we were matched as her parents and received her picture (kind of like a sonogram). Second trimester was the wait. Third trimester was the “nesting” and making things ready for when baby came home and our travel arrangements.

The general time frame for a Guatemalan adoption in 2000/2001 was 5-8 months from the date the dossier arrives in Guatemala, although I know some babies that came home at 3-4 months old. Our dossier arrived in Guatemala on or about May 15th. Those two months of scrambling to get everything accomplished were very stressful, and we couldn’t wait until everything was finished.

However, after the dossier arrived in Guatemala, we began the long wait. Waiting for a child, regardless of whether he comes to you biologically or through adoption, is very difficult. Some may say that 5-8 months is much better than a 10-month pregnancy. Maybe, but waiting helplessly while your child is growing older and learning new skills and growing a tooth, and sitting up for the first time, can be torture. If you work with a good agency that has strong contacts in Guatemala, you are afforded frequent updates on the child and that really helps the wait. My advice at this point is not to focus on what you missing but rather focus on the end result: you will be a parent! And when you become a parent, after waiting so long, you will have many firsts with that child. The first time he/she smiles at YOU is what really matters!

Bianca hugs her  toyIn April, we had sent a care package to Bianca. We sent clothes, a stuffed animal, diapers, a gift for her wonderful foster mother, and a few disposable cameras. Bianca’s foster mom, Esperanza (which, ironically, means “hope” in Spanish), took pictures of the baby for us, so we would have them for her baby book. Some cameras are mailed to the adoptive families during the long wait, however, some are just collected when you travel to bring home your child.

Unlike some other international adoption programs, Guatemala does not require a parent to travel to the country to visit the child first, however, many parents do. We chose to, as well. In August, we flew to Miami and on to Guatemala. I was a bundle of nerves! Bianca was 6.5 months old now - what was she like? Would she like us? Would she be afraid of us? These were just a few of the questions that were hounding our minds on our way there. We spent 2 full glorious days with our daughter and videotaped every moment with her. The rest of the trip consisted of sight-seeing and artifact buying, so that we would have some things from our daughter’s birth country. You may ask if it was hard to leave her there. Yes and no. We knew that this was just a “visit” and that it would not be much longer until “gotcha” day. “Gotcha” day is known to some international adoptive families as the day their child was placed in their arms.

We became Bianca’s legal parents on September 18th. With the Guatemalan program, a family can choose to send one parent to bring the child home or to have the child escorted. After waiting for the remainder of the adoption proceedings to conclude, such as the issuance of her new birth certificate naming us as her parents, we returned to Guatemala. Our “gotcha” day was October 23rd - a day I will never forget. At 8.5 months old, Bianca was our child. We had a daughter. No more childless days. No more lonely, tear-filled nights. It was our turn. Our wait was over.

During our five (5) year journey to build our family, I shed many tears. Upon beginning our adoption process with Guatemala, I began to feel happy again. I knew that Bianca would soon be our daughter, and I cannot express the happiness I was able to experience while we waited and prepared for her homecoming. The final step in the process was a visit to the American Embassy in Guatemala. They reviewed the entire file, passports, etc., and then a clerk said, “Congratulations, you can go home as a family”, I fell apart. I realized for the first time during the entire process that we were finally a family!

Traci and Biana share a book together.It is now the beginning of 2001, and we are approaching Bianca’s first birthday already. Although we have only been a family for two months, it feels as if we have always been together. In late November, she said “mama”, and I cried. Yes, Bianca, I am your mama…forever. Only when I am reminded of the adoption by someone else, do I think of her as “adopted”. She is my daughter. It doesn’t matter that she did not grow in my stomach. She grew in my heart, and I in hers.

Traci Radice describes her adoption of Bianca as "the smartest things I ever did." Traci is a Board Member of Resolve in Maryland. She can be reached at
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