Let’s just jump right in: My mom never did a traditional baby book for me, but she did keep every single piece of paper from her adoption journey in a binder for me. A few fun facts I learned:
• She started the adoption process in September of 1986. (I wouldn’t have even been born for another 1.5 years!) She sent in her international adoption application November 3, 1986.
• My mom originally wanted to end up adopting 2 kids eventually. It ended up being just me.
• March 16, 1987: her home study was forwarded to South America. (I will be born in a year)
• April 22, 1987: her home study was approved for the Latin American Program. Based on her preferences, she would probably be best suited for the El Salvador program. She has more paperwork to send in, and then it’ll take a month after that for the approval on that end.
• July 1987 she sends all her paperwork to El Salvador after her approval. Including power of attorney to Dr. Jose Manuel Pacas Castro.
•Then, there’s nothing for a year. Paperwork and applications expire.
•Then, there’s a paper dated July 22, 1988. It’s from Dr Pacas to Ana whom is a translator in all of this/adoption specialist of the Latin American Program. It reads, (translation) “Barbara Sophia Moreno is almost 4 months old, whom I previously inform you could be the referral for Ms. Cathy Houseman. The baby is very healthy. She is under the guardianship of the First Minor’s Court and her state of abandonment is being investigated by the authorities. At this time she is in the Hogar del Niño orphanage.”
• February 4, 1989: A letter from Dr Pacas to Ana reads: “As I previously promised you, enclosed you will find pictures of Barbara Sophia so you can send them to Ms. Houseman. As you can see some of the pictures were taken in September and others during the month of June of 1988. She is such a beautiful baby girl and very healthy she’s been receiving good care since she was born. I hope that by the month of May we have finalized and completed the adoption. I will keep you informed as much as possible regarding this case. I think Ms. Houseman will be very anxious to knogw more about her daughter.”
• February 16, 1989: (I’m 11 months old) there is a note in my mom’s handwriting, “Barbara Sophia – sending pictures. Do fingerprints. I-600A (blue form). Reapplying – referral of child already, might be traveling soon. Need updated bank and employment statement.”
• February 17, 1989: letter from Ana going a bit more in depth of my mom’s notes. Says Dr. Pacas’ assistant Clara has been visiting me, making sure I receive proper care. My mom also reapplies for everything on this date.
• March 1, 1989: Mom sent out additional paperwork and copies of letters
• March 28, 1989: (I’m 1 year old now!) A letter in my m0m’s handwriting is addressed to Ana, “Ana, Talked with Dr. Pacas Friday and everything is going well. Barbara Sophia is doing well and is very healthy. Travel still anticipated for May. When going to El Salvador, stay in residential area. Dr. Pacas’ assistant (Clara) was in an accident and is in the States for surgery and therapy. Lost finger of right hand. Therapy for arm and leg.”
And a letter to Clara, “Clara, I talked with Ana today and she told me about your accident. I am in the process of adopting Barbara Sophia and would like to thank you for everything you have done for her. Ana told me that you were visiting her quite often before your accident. I am quite anxious to see her and to see how big she is. Hope you will be home when it’s my time to travel because I would love to meet you.” AND GUESS WHAT CLARA’S LAST NAME IS!? AVILA!!! Isn’t that fucking crazy!?
• April 5, 1989: From Ana: “Greetings! Just a note to let you know that I spoke with Dr. Pacas and he informed that the adoption process could be finalized by the first week of May. …”
• April 19, 1989: note in my mom’s writing states, “Leaving on 26th – will be in El Salvador around the 9th of May. Apply for Visa through New Orleans office – need employment letter, bank statement, police letter, passport photos, $10 cashiers check – put rush on letter indicating travel end of the month.”
And this is where the ball gets dropped on the American end of things. Nothing comes back in time. According to a note dated April 28, 1989, “fingerprint cards were sent to the FBI on April 6th and takes four weeks to clear. If I hear nothing, contact again to trace.”
• May 12, 1989: everything finally gets sent out.
• June 15, 1989: She receives a Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (I-600).
• July 13 & 20, 1989: Fax transmittals to Ana from my Aunt Karen.
• July 14, 1989: to Mr. James Montgomery, District Director, Immigration & Naturalization Service reading, “Dear Mr. Montgomery: Please find enclosed Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative for filing in the above captioned file. Please also find enclosed additional copies of a letter dated February 17, 1989, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition and letter dated June 14, 1989 filed with your office months ago. Why is there a delay in processing this Petition? Please advise by calling my office as listed above.” Signed by Charles Silky, my mom’s boss at the time whom was a lawyer. Stapled to that letter was a hand written note that stated, “Approved & forwarded to San Salvador 7-14-89” with a stamp dated July 20, 1989.
A Notice of Favorable Determination concerning Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition stating the application has been forwarded to the American Embassy at San Salvador. On it states that it was filed on 3-27-89 and approved on 7-14-89.
• July 19, 1989: The Embassy sends my mom her packet she needs in order to travel and for me to be able to come back with her.
• August 2, 1989: A copy of an invoice from House of Travel Ltd indicates my mom and Chuck are going to leave Muskegon airport and traveling to Chicago/Midway on August 12. From Chicago they will be flying to Miami. The next day (13th) they will fly from Miami to San Salvador.
• August 3, 1989: A fax from Ana indicates that if my mom arrives on Sunday the 13th, she will be able to rest in the hotel and will be able to get me on Monday the 14th.
From there, there’s a few ticket stubs from the flight, and some colones, which was the currency used at that time. There’s also a note in Chuck’s writing, indicating the exchange rate between the dollar and colones. $1 colones = .16 cents! $100 USD is $625 colones!
She gets me on the 14th. They sign all the paperwork officially on the 15th. And I came home on the 16th of August, 1989.