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Crossing Countries to Create Families

September 22, 2006, 0:00 3015 Author: Elizabeth Pose www.longbeachcomber.com

Domestic adoption has been an option for childless couples for many years. Since the 1950s international adoptions have been increasing due to a reduction of children available for adoption here in the United States.

If someone is serious about adopting, the information on the Internet can be overwhelming. Where does one even go to find out about international adoption?

Conveniently Long Beach has one such agency headquartered on the Eastside, Bal Jagat - Children’s World Inc. Founded by executive director Hemlata Momaya, it is a nonprofit inter-country adoption agency licensed in 1983. Hemlata recently moved here after being headquartered in Chatsworth for 23 years. “I have been visiting Long Beach a lot since my daughter lives here and I love the city.

This is a more centralized location since we serve Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Diego and Riverside counties.”

She received her master's in social work, while her daughter and assistant executive director, Mausami, has a degree as a licensed clinical social worker. “I was a professional social worker in India and worked with orphans in the interest of children’s welfare,” said Hemlata, who started the agency because “there are children from many countries that have no opportunity for a dignified life and I wanted to do something to help.”

Although it seems like adopting children from another country is the “in” thing to do, especially for celebrities, the two think just the opposite. “I think it just brought it to the forefront,” said Mausami.

Hemlata believes that people have an admiration for and are inspired by actress Angelina Jolie, who has adopted international children, a boy from Cambodia and a girl from Ethiopia. “She is for children’s welfare and does a lot for them around the world. Mausami thinks that single women might look up to Jolie and think ‘if she can do it, so can I.’”

But celebrity or not, the adoption process is the same for everyone. “We’ve done thousands of adoptions,” said Mausami. It’s a process that’s not easy and involves a lot of paperwork.

The adoption process can cost anywhere from $20-$30,000, which includes travel to and from the country, lawyers, transportation, the adoption fee among other expenses. “It doesn’t go to just one person,” said Hemlata. Fortunately there is a $10,000 tax credit to help offset the cost of the adoption. Loans and other forms of financial aid are available.

The whole process can take up to a year until the child comes home with the new parents. The applicants are screened on a case-by-case basis. “Everyone is on the same level,” said Hemlata. The agency does home studies to make sure that prospective adopters have a stable home life, are qualified to raise a foreign child, and go through a long checklist of policies to make sure that the child and parents are a perfect fit.

According to Hemlata, it takes a lot for someone to take a child that looks different from the adoptive parents and puts the child in another social environment. “Those people do it for the children as opposed to doing it for themselves,” she said.

The agency deals with orphaned, legally abandoned children from countries like China, India, Ukraine and Guatemala. China is the number one country where children are adopted, according to Hemlata, followed by Russia and Guatemala. Children are often available from these countries because of poverty and socio-political issues.

In India single parenthood for women is looked down upon. In China they have a one-child rule and many of those given up are girls. “These issues are out of the parents’/mothers’ hands. They give up their children so their children can have a better life. The mother took care of herself while pregnant. I think that means something,” said Mausami.

The adoptive parents choose the country that they would like to adopt from and if they are having trouble choosing the agency will help in making that decision. Children are in fact not chosen by the prospective parents, but by the host country based on pictures, interviews and other criteria.

“We had one client tell us that the two adoptive children were such a great match with the couple that they couldn’t have done it better themselves,” said Mausami. “Our success rate is 100 percent. No one has come back to tell us that they don’t want the child.”

Baj Jagat donates much of their money to orphanages in countries they work with. “We’ve donated items such as refrigerators, washers and dryers and baby items directly to the orphanages.

The agency’s Copii Lumii Foundation also opened the first Montessori school in Bucharest, Romania. “It’s the first Montessori program in Romania,” said Mausami. The school was built for underprivileged chuildren in the community and those of a Bucharest orphanage.

‘There are children here and in other countries,” said Mausami. “As long as you have an open heart you can always be a parent.”

For more information on international adoption, call Bal Jagat at (562) 597-5029 or visit www.baljagat.org

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