Bridport family waiting for news about planned Hatian adoption
BRIDPORT — When Annette Franklin heard about last week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, her first thoughts flew to the orphanage in the hills above Petionville and the little girl, just 2 years old, she held in her arms last summer.
The girl’s name is Gedeleine, and the 2-year-old is one of 160 orphans at God’s Littlest Angels, an independent, nondenominational orphanage in poverty-stricken Haiti. Since December of 2008, Annette and Tim Franklin, and their four children, have been looking forward to welcoming the child into their Bridport home.
Now, an already uncertain adoption process has become more confusing still, as the family waits to hear if Gedeleine might qualify for a humanitarian visa that would allow her to come to the United States immediately. Meanwhile, in Haiti, the orphanage that has been home to the little girl for most of her young life is struggling to get by on dwindling supplies of clean water and fuel.
“It’s almost like Haiti chose us,” Annette said, looking back on the years of reflection that pointed her family toward Gedeleine.
It started when the family was drawn to a special needs child from Haiti. But when that child tragically died in late 2008, a Vergennes adoption worker for Bethany Christian Services matched the family with Gedeleine. By December, the family had their referral in hand — a document that marks the beginning of the lengthy adoption process.
“It sounds cliché,” Annette said, “but we have a lot to offer a child. Personally we felt like God was leading us to do that.”
So, last June, Annette and Tim, who serves as the pastor of the Bridport Congregational Church, were on a plane bound for Haiti to meet the newest member of their family.
Stepping off the plane, Annette said, the Franklins were hit by a wave of heat, and then came the shock of just how different, and chaotic, everything was.
“It was overwhelming,” Annette said. The streets were packed with people, and the roads were made up of crumbling concrete.
When they reached the orphanage for the first time, the nurses brought Gedeleine to the couple almost immediately. Within 15 minutes, the little girl had fallen asleep in Annette’s arms. Over the next two days the couple was delighted to see how the little girl warmed to them, but Annette said her heart was heavy knowing that she’d have to leave without bringing Gedeleine home.
Before the earthquake hit, the Franklins had hoped the adoption would be finalized sometime in the next six months. Now, they expect that their paperwork is lost in the rubble in Port-au-Prince. For the time being, they don’t know when they’ll be able to bring Gedeleine to the United States.
They’re relieved, though, that God’s Littlest Children is still standing. Luckily, the orphanage escaped any major structural damage, though for two nights after the disaster the children and their caretakers slept outside.
“The aftershocks just kept coming,” Annette said. “It was really traumatic for the children and the workers.”
The orphanage’s leaders are also worried, because they’re running out of fresh, clean water, and the orphanage is perilously low on the diesel fuel that powers its generators. Those generators keep running one of the only neonatal units for orphans in the country.
In Bridport, the Franklins are just hoping for the best. They’re trying to find out what the orphanage needs most, and are helping donate to a container shipment that will go by boat to Haiti soon. Their daughter Bethany is organizing fund-raising efforts at Middlebury Union High School, and hopes to plan a benefit concert in the next few weeks.
After seeing how poor the country was in June, and knowing how much Haitians already had to struggle in their everyday existence, Annette said that her reaction as news of the earthquake sank in was one of “shock and sorrow.”
She hopes that Gedeleine’s adoption will be expedited, both so the little girl can finally come home, and so that the aid workers at her orphanage can turn their attention to the many, many children orphaned in the earthquake.
“We just really want people to be aware of what’s happening there,” Annette said. “I really have been so impressed and moved by the reaction of our country so far. It’s encouraging.”