A baby girl named “Lea” was born in the spring of 1987 to a young couple in Haiti. Following the birth of their child, the mother became ill and died when the baby was five months old. The father was unable to care for his infant and earn a living so the maternal grandmother cared for the baby. Soon, Lea’s grandmother became frail and could not care for her grandaughter. Lea’s father who had remarried was forbidden by his new wife to take his daughter back into his home which is legal and customary in Haiti. Lea was placed in a Haitian foster home. In the foster home, Lea was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. A cut was made on her neck for her to “bleed out” the disease. Her father, though he was unable to care for Lea, did locate a Christian mission and he took her from the Haitian foster home to the mission which operated an orphanage for Haitian children.
Lea received good care, love and Christian training at the missionary and was especially attached to a woman named “Dorothy” who Lea called “Grandma Dottie.” Dorothy arranged an adoption of Lea by a family from California. At the age of 21/2, Lea came home to California with her new family. Soon, there was another infant in the home and at the age of 41/2, Lea became violent with occasional but dangerous temper tantrums and the family in California was afraid for their other children. As a result, Lea was placed in a foster home and her adoptive family “relinquished” her.
Lea’s foster parents were two women who doted on Lea and cherished her. Lea’s temper tantrums faded with the loving care of these two women. Grandma Dottie became aware of Lea’s relinquishment and foster care placement and acually visited California to assess Lea’s situation. Her Christian faith did not allow her to accept and support Lea’s placement in the home of a gay couple and she was not able to see that Lea’s stability and happiness was the most important issue. Ultimately, Grandma Dottie protested enough that Lea was removed from this foster home where she was flourishing. At the age of five, Lea lost her parents for the fourth time in her short life.
A group home was Lea’s family from the age of five to nine. A married couple who were caregivers at Lea’s group home became very attached to her and when they decided to move to another town and retire from their job as caregivers, they chose to adopt Lea and two other little girls from the group home. The caregivers final goal was to move to Australia with their three daughters. Something happened after Lea’s move from the group home to the caregivers home and at the age of 11, Lea was placed in my home as a foster child. Lea was a lovely, sweet and pretty little girl. She struggled with verbal communication but expressed herself very well with shy smiles, hugs and sometimes when she sensed I was struggling with too much work or stress, she gave me great comfort by silently helping, or just putting her hand on me.
Lea is a gentle, loving person and I have poignant memories of her laughing out loud at my silly jokes, holding her sleeping baby sister Nina and working hard late into the night on Christmas Eve to help make sure our Christmas morning was perfect.
After Lea had been with me for three years, I had made the commitment to adopt my youngest child Nina, not because I loved her more, but because she was young enough I had the power to protect her from the loss and pain my other daughters suffered. As Nina’s adoption grew closer, I thought about my relationships with my other children differently. I knew I had to act on my feelings when the social worker assigned to do the home study on our home and family for Nina’s adoption arrived would interview all of my children individually. Before we began the home study, I volunteered that I could not love or commit to any of my children more or less, I loved them all equally and I wanted to adopt Lea also. That day, she completed the home study and we used it for Lea and Nina’s adoption.
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