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FEATURE| Is Adoption an Option? Portraits by The Nielsens Photography


Young girls dream of many things. We throw a roll of toilet paper on our heads and play wedding, bandage Snoopy’s boo-boo and play doctor, and stick the doll under our shirts and pretend to give birth. Well, we don’t all become doctors, and some of us have our children differently than we planned as well. Adoption can be one of those lanes on the highway of life that yield a mishmash of emotions, from honor, to fear, to pure raw exhilaration.


Once Keri and Michael Caridi decided to move forward with adoption, they made a call, filled out paperwork and went through the Home Study process. Shortly after, they received an e-mail with a sweet picture of a baby girl from Guatemala. “The second we saw her picture, we fell in love,” Keri says. At 6 months old, Olivia joined the Caridi family. Keri gave birth to daughter Ryan in November. “I love that we’re a blended family,” says Keri.


Julie Wolf, a therapist with Hope Counseling Clinic in Winter Garden (www.hopecounsel.com) and an adoptive mother, holds an enlightened (and educated) perspective on the subject. Regardless of uncertainty, she promises if your primary perspective is to be a parent, the flood of love that comes when you first hold your baby will wash away those doubts.


am i a candidate to adopt?


Your candidacy largely depends on one factor: Are you ready to share your life with a child? While many people incorrectly assume they need to fit a mold, Bart Mawoussi, a community advocate with Family Services of Metro Orlando (www.fsmetroorlando.org) and an adoptive dad, reminds potential parents that they aren’t required by the state to be “wealthy, married or young” to open their homes and hearts to a child.


heart gallery www.heartgallerycfl.org


(THROUGH FAMILY SERVICES OF METRO ORLANDO) The heart gallery is a great resource to the children of Central Florida who await adoption through the foster care system. The gallery is a place to see their beautiful faces and hear their stories, hopes and dreams. Since the gallery “opened” three years ago, more than 40 percent of the children featured have found their forever homes!


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If you’re on the fence and yearning to experience pregnancy and delivery, Wolf offers from her own experience, “Perhaps I’ll never get to experience what it feels like to be pregnant or deliver a baby, but many people will never experience how truly humbling and beautiful it is to have a young girl hand you her baby and tell you she trusts you to raise him better than she could and wants you to be his mom.” The bottom line, she says: “You don’t have to be perfect.” Basically, if you want to be a parent and envision your world as a mom or dad, take the first steps of the journey. As for that will-I-love-this-baby-as-much-as-I-would-if-it-were-my-own? question many of us carry, the simple answer is a resounding YES.


what type of adoption is right for my family?


There are many roads to take. You’ll have personal reasons for the one you choose. Here are some general guidelines to get you started on your path.


PLAYGROUND Spring 2011 PLAYGROUND Spring 2011


PRIVATE ADOPTION in the United States (called domestic adoption) means adopting from an agency or private organization. Many hopefuls yearn for coos and caas, resulting in lots of waiting families and yielding a process that may take an average of between 18 and 36 months. Here, typically the birth mother chooses the family she wants to raise her baby and decides whether to have an open, semi-open or closed adoption (truly closed adoptions are rare). In Florida, a birth mother signs the adoption paperwork after the baby is born, and cannot change her mind after 48 hours have passed. Get the wallets ready because private adoption can be expensive, ranging from $20,000 to $30,000. Don’t turn away just yet, though, since many agencies offer financing plans and the government gives a tax credit of around $12,000, helping to ease the financial obligation. (Why so expensive? Think lots of paperwork, its proper handling, and lawyers and courts to make everything legal.) There can be a bigger risk of money lost with a private adoption because birth moms do have the right to change their minds before the papers are signed.


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KERI AND MICHAEL CARIDI OLIVIA, 3 YEARS OLD (international adoption)


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