heart breaking, tragic, with conflicting details, many unknowns and doubts...or all of the above.
Here is the story of two of our very first...
(Here a whole part of Bolivian culture could come in, about using the word “concubine” just as in Bible times, and how girls are encouraged to “get around” from a young age, and yet there’s the high risk they run with each new partner that their current children will not be accepted, and on and on…)
So after one month alone, their father went into child welfare offices and Casa de Amor was contacted. The children were just our second set of siblings ever, so we were thrilled with the adorable twosome.
Their father visited 1 or 2 Sundays a month (his one day off) for a couple of years. During that time he found out he has Chagas disease, an eventually terminal illness that some 60% of Bolivians are at risk of contracting from the bite of a bug that thrives in adobe structures and hay mattresses.
Then he disappeared. We tried to talk to him, calling him at his work, searching him out at home, questioning relatives. Finally we found out he had a new concubine…and she was pregnant. That explained his disappearance. It broke our hearts because we see the negative affects this has on his children, particularly Cora (he was never close to Ben, and Ben in fact has never brought him up) who always asks where her father is. Is he lost? Can he find me? Why doesn’t he come anymore? How do you answer a 4 or 5 year old who asks this?
One conversation particularly saddened me. I was just out and about with Cora and she announced, “Tia Jennifer, I know why my dad doesn’t come anymore. He is very busy working [our standard answer] because he is building a BIIIGGG house for me and Ben to go and live in.” Then she proceeded to describe how many rooms the house would have, where everyone would sleep, etc.
We have learned much from this case and use the story often with new parents whose kids enter our homes, or in conversations with child welfare or the court about following through with good parents. We always spoke very highly of Cora and Ben’s dad. The staff appreciated his willing help on Sundays, I always had a nice time chatting with him (even if his Spanish was a little funny because his first and main language was Quechua), and Cora looked forward with joy to his visits and cried when he left. But because we never pushed him to take steps to get his kids out, he ended up abandoning them. Granted, they were very young, and we wanted Cora to be safe, but we always wondered what we could have done better or differently. And now in any circumstance possible, where the parent is not an alcoholic or on the street, we do our best to avoid “losing” the mother and/or father.
We did have a meeting with their dad, his new concubine, and their chubby baby boy a few months ago. There the father promised that he would never deny his “flesh and blood” and that he is indeed still the father. I pointed out that being a father is much more than visiting your child…a couple of years ago. We carefully explained to them how they could stop the children from going to new adoptive parents, and they committed to go to the court with a lawyer the very next morning to halt adoption proceedings. I even half believed them, although we’ve been stood up time and time and time again with parents of the kids. They never went.
Now, enough about their sad past, and onto how the kids are! These two are perennial favorites with volunteers from any country, and more than one claims them as their children.
While living in the Baby Home, Cora loved on the babies constantly. We seriously didn’t want to transfer to CDA II because of the help we would lose with the babies! She was a first-rate cloth diaper folder from age 2 on! But we knew that she needed a different type of educational environment to continue to grow so at age 4 we passed her with 3 of her best friends from the Baby Home and she continued to thrive at CDA II. Now at age 5 1/2, Cora still loves playing “house” and mothering anyone younger than herself. She is very smart and a sharp observer of everything going on. During play time, Cora loves playing with dolls, coloring (which she is very good at), dancing with the other little girls, and games and educational toys. Now she is in kindergarten and is doing very well, often winning prizes from the teacher for good behavior.
A funny anecdote from Cora: One day in January I was making constant calls from both the house phone and my cell phone to coordinate things from their recent move into their new home. She started prancing around the room acting all girly, mimicking me talking on the phone. When I finished I told her she was completely silly and started to tickle her. She got a terrified look on her face and said “TIA!! You cannot tickle me!!” Of course I asked why not. She replied in all seriousness, as if her life depended on it, “Because, tía, when people tickle me I. can. not. breathe.” Oh. Ben, now 4, has a way of wrapping himself around the hearts of volunteers from around the world. Whereas his sister is the quieter, more mature one, he is a jabber box who keeps us in stitches with his antics, silly faces, funny phrases, and playful ways. His favorite things to do are play outside, swim, and learn phrases in new languages. I’ll never forget hearing him say his first words in the kitchen of the Baby Home, to a Scottish volunteer we had at the time.
Ben had to have a surgery just a couple weeks after Baby Alex (the last child I wrote on) and subsequent hormone injections. Now we are told he might need another surgery and he has a check up in a few weeks, but otherwise both have always been very hardy, healthy kids.
So that’s the [rather long] story of these two cuties, and I PRAY that their papers continue through the court system at a faster pace than they have been, and that they receive a wonderful loving family sooner rather than later. They will be a blessed addition to any family!
Pictures from top to bottom of post (oh there are SO VERY MANY of these two!! so I'm just picking the first few that jump out at me):
1) The two a couple days after their arrival
2)Ben taking his first steps
3) Cora trying to eat and sleep at the same time
4) Ben, January 2009 (picture by Brad Collins)
5) Cora, January 2009 (picture by Brad Collins)
*names have been changed
UPDATE: Help provide loving care for Cora & Ben for just $50/month through Casa de Amor's new child sponsorship program. Download THIS form to get started!