By: Christa Melnyk Hines
Eighteen years ago, while living in Florida, friends and family gathered with Jim and Kathryn Barry to celebrate Jim’s 30th birthday. No one predicted that the evening would deliver a life-changing gift. In the midst of the revelries, they got the phone call they’d been waiting for, alerting them to the impending birth of the baby they were adopting.
“There was lots of screaming and yelling and happiness,” Kathryn says. The couple dropped everything and headed to the hospital to meet their new son.
After experiencing several miscarriages in an attempt to start a family, the Barrys chose to adopt through a local adoption agency. “We decided…that God had other plans for us,” Kathryn says. “It was a choice for us: we could keep trying,…but our philosophy was why spend money, when there are already children that are out there?”
When Jim and Kathryn arrived at the hospital, their son Chris had already been born. Sitting in a wheelchair, his birth mother, who they had met twice before, greeted the excited couple with a card and two balloons, one that said: “It’s a Boy” and another that said: “Happy Birthday.”
“I can remember feeling like she was okay with it. And 18 years later, it will still bring tears to my eyes. (Chris) was the greatest gift she could have ever given. Now as a mother, I realize how that was absolutely the hardest decision she could ever make. And, we’ve always let Chris know that,” Kathryn says.
The family’s adoption experience didn’t end there. Through Jim’s work for the federal government, the family eventually landed in Saipan, a U.S. Commonwealth in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific. “Chris was a great only child, but he really wanted a brother and we wanted to add to our family,” Kathryn says.
A year later, they adopted Michael, who they affectionately call “Bo,” a 10-year-old orphan from Cambodia.
Bo had lived in a family environment rather than an orphanage, making his transition to family life easier. Initially, the Barrys communicated with Bo, who spoke only his native Khmer, through an Oxford-English picture dictionary.
Sensitive to his feelings about his deceased parents, Kathryn and Jim reassured Bo that they weren’t there to replace his birth parents. “We have always explained to him that we are his parents on earth. And we know his parents are looking down on us, and we just hope they are as proud of their son as we are.”
Summer trips to the U.S., extensive international travel while living in Saipan and day-to-day island life, provided a relatively low-key transition for Bo, who quickly integrated into the western way of life.
These days, Jim continues to work for the government and Kathryn is a business consultant and a realtor. Chris and Bo are college students. In their free time, Chris, 19, loves to play basketball and Bo, 18, plays on the Men’s National Soccer Team for the Northern Mariana Islands in Saipan.
Adoption, says Kathryn, can make a significant difference in a child’s life, but the rewards for parents are immeasurable. “A lot of kids are out there and they need homes and they need the stability as any child needs, adopted or not adopted. For me, adoption has been an absolute blessing.”
Worldwide 17.9 million children have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets.
U.S. families adopted more than 9,000 children in 2011.
Source: U.S. State Department
Of the 400, 540 children in the U.S. foster care system, 115,000 are eligible for adoption. Nearly 40% will wait more than three years in foster care before being adopted.
Source: AFCARS Report, No. 19
KVC Health System
While there’s a huge need for adoptive families, there’s an even bigger need for adults to become foster parents. There are approximately 3,598 Nebraska children in foster care due to abuse, neglect or other family challenges. KVC Nebraska recruits, trains, licenses and supports foster families who provide a safe home, love and 24/7 support to these children and teens while their families resolve conflicts and learn healthy skills so the child can safely return home. Request free information and find out when the next training class is starting in your area. Visit www.kvcnebraska.org.
Christa Melnyk Hines is a freelance writer, who divides her time between writing and her busy family, which includes her husband, two active sons and a pair of playful puppies.