If you drive by the Sequeira family home in January, there will likely still be a Christmas tree lit in the window and a wreath on their door. It’s not that they are too lazy to take these decorations down—they just plan to celebrate Christmas again in January with a very special person. After two and a half years of paperwork and legal red tape, the Sequeiras will finally welcome home their newly adopted son, Luis.
“We’re not taking Christmas decorations down until he’s here. He’s going to have his first real Christmas,” laughs Nenette Sequeira.
The Salem, Oregon mom has good reason to laugh as she finally received the green light from the adoption court in Guatemala that she and her husband Chris can travel in January to pick up their new son.
A Long and Winding Road
While adopting in Guatemala is typically faster than adopting children from some other countries, the Sequeiras faced new legal challenges when trying to adopt Luis—stretching out the adoption process from a typical ten to twelve month period to two and a half years.
A new law was enacted in Guatemala a few years ago that requires any known living relative to sign paperwork releasing a child for adoption. This law seems reasonable, but in the case of Luis, it meant that he had to stay in an orphanage a mighty long time: six years. When the birth mother left him at the orphanage at ten months of age, before the law was enacted, she signed a document. That signature was then used a few years later when Luis was three, as proof that the boy had a living relative. Unfortunately, the Sequeiras’ agency, International Children’s Care of Vancouver, Washington, couldn’t get around that new law. In order for Nenette and Chris to adopt Luis, they had to find the birth mother and have her sign a release paper as the boy’s only living relative.
“We advertised on TV, newspapers, and radio shows in Guatemala for a year to find the birth mother and have her sign the papers. She never showed. Finally, this March, Luis was deemed abandoned and we could then adopt him,” explains Nenette.
But, as many people who have adopted children before them know, more red tape was inevitable. Since Chris and Nenette had filed their paperwork years before, it had now expired. So her dream of having Luis home by Christmas could not come true. She had to redo a home study and her fingerprints.
“Finally last September our papers went into the final adoption court and came out today! (Dec. 6, 2006) We will get a birth certificate with our names on it (for Luis) and we’ll get a passport sent to the embassy. From there, we’ll get a ‘pink slip’ from the embassy which has a date on it for us to appear in Guatemala to pick up Luis!” Nenette explains excitedly.
Since Nenette and Chris had adopted another child from China twelve years earlier, they know a bit about the lengthy adoption process. Part of the appeal with adopting a child from Guatemala is that it is a country you can adopt ‘by proxy’ meaning that the finalization of adoption occurs before you arrive to pick up your child. Three days is the amount of time it takes in the country, once approved, to be awarded your new child.
“I tell everyone that I’m kind of numb. Two and a half years is a long time to be pregnant with paperwork!” Nenette says.
Rolling Out the Welcome Mat
Everyone in the family is getting excited. Luis will soon have two big sisters and a big brother who are avidly looking forward to his arrival. Nenette and Chris have two biological children: Parker, 9 years, and Shasta, 7 years; as well as Jazmine, a 13-year-old girl they adopted from China when teaching English there in 1994.
“They are so excited about Luis coming. We told them tonight that the papers came in and they were all jumping up and down!”
Luis will sleep in a bunk bed with his new brother Parker and attend the same small private school as his siblings, where his dad teaches math and his mom is a substitute teacher.
“The hardest part is that he hardly speaks any English and we hardly speak any Spanish,” explains Nenette. Luckily, Luis will have a few bi-lingual classmates and teachers at his new school. And a new mom and dad who will frequent their Spanish-American dictionary at home.
“Hopefully, we’ll speak an international language! Some things, like being hungry or thirsty, will be easy to understand. Our agency told us that interestingly, many older children when adopted in America want to learn English and it’s like a door shuts—they are eager to leave their old life behind.”
As the Sequeiras know too well, often when one door closes, another one opens—especially in your heart.
“Luis was born of our hearts. Once we saw the referral picture and wrote letters (back and forth), we knew where he belongs. He’ll be a part of our family forever.”
Epilogue (December 19, 2006)
We got a phone call today (on my Birthday) that we are officially parents again! Luis Alfredo Sequeira will be in armsforever on Dec. 31, 2006!!!! We get to fly to Guatemala City Dec.30. We have an Embassy appointment Jan. 2. We willALL be flying home Jan. 4. We are all so excited!!!
This has almost been 3 years in the making. We started when Luis was 3, he is now 6. We have been on a roughroller coaster ride, but PTL, we are getting off of it now!!! Thank you all for your encouragement and prayers. It truly is aChristmas Miracle! Blessings to all and Happy Holidays!
Chris and Nenette Sequeira "Party of 6"