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Foreign adoption a way to 'spread love around'

December 6, 2006, 0:00 2878 Author: Megan Kenny Hearts for Adoption, Morningside Ministries

"If I had the money, I'd do it again," said Susan Furiato, left, while playing with her daughter Mikala Yin Furiato, 2. Eight months ago, Furiato adopted the China-born infant. The pair now attend Baby Steps, a program by Helping People Succeed, Inc., at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Port St. Lucie.

SAM WOLFE sam.wolfe@scripps.com

A shaft of light cuts into the room where Eliana BeiLing Morales, 2, sits playing with a toy while attending the Baby Steps program, provided by Helping People Succeed Inc. at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Port St. Lucie. Eliana, who was born in China, was adopted by Esperanza Morales 16 months ago.

SAM WOLFE sam.wolfe@scripps.com

Morales holds Eliana at Baby Steps.

SAM WOLFE sam.wolfe@scripps.com

Torrie Franklin, 2, was born in Guatamala City. Three months ago, she was adopted by Doreen and David Franklin of Port St. Lucie.

megan.kenny@scripps.com

November 26, 2006

The babies were sick. It took thousands of dollars and permission from two governments to adopt them.

The Morales, Franklin and Furiato families spent a year unraveling red tape and watching helplessly as their daughters spent holidays and birthdays a world away.

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And they'd do it again.

"It's a blessing," said Esperanza Morales, who adopted her 2-year-old daughter, Eliana Bei Ling Morales, from the Yunnan province in China. "You love them even more because you've selected them."

Susan Furiato said she couldn't love her daughter, Mikala Yin Furiato, 2, more if she'd given birth to her.

"I look at her every day, and she takes my breath away," she said.

Furiato and Doreen Franklin, who adopted 2-year-old daughter Torrie from Guatemala, started the Hearts for Adoption Morningside Ministries in October for parents of adopted children, to help them through the arduous and heartbreaking process.

In honor of National Adoption Month, three families who moved mountains to adopt tell their stories:

THE MORALESES

Esperanza Morales, 44, said she always thought she'd adopt a baby from China. So when she and her husband, Edgardo, 45, discovered they couldn't have children, a foreign adoption was the obvious choice.

A year after the Port St. Lucie couple contacted an agency, Chinese Children Adoption International, and filed the paperwork with Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs, the only legal channel for Chinese adoptions, they received a picture of 4-month-old Eliana.

"The pictures didn't do her justice, but somehow we still fell in love," Esperanza Morales said.

Eliana was abandoned, like many Chinese baby girls because parents are limited to one child and often want boys. She was found a day or two after her birth, with her umbilical cord still attached, and was moved to an orphanage.

The Moraleses spent two weeks in China. The stay is required by law for parents to get medical clearance and immigration papers. Eliana had a cold, and was malnourished and dressed in rags. At 9 months old, she wasn't grabbing, sitting up or rolling over.

By the end of the two weeks, she went home to Port St. Lucie a healthy, normal baby. Now 2 years old, Eliana is bilingual, speaking Spanish and English, and has the frenetic pace reserved for toddlers.

"We're the lucky ones," Esperanza Morales said.

THE FRANKLINS

Neither Doreen Franklin, 48, nor her husband, David, 53, expected to adopt a baby from Guatemala.

"God led us there," she said.

They had a daughter, Bryanna, 11, whom they adopted stateside the day she was born in Boynton Beach. But adopting a child internationally was much different, Franklin said.

The Port St. Lucie couple was planning to adopt from Russia or the Ukraine, but the countries closed to adoptions. The Franklins had completed necessary paperwork when another agency suggested Guatemala.

Victoria "Torrie" Liz Lorraine Franklin was in foster care at the time and was born with cataracts. But the Franklins fell in love and decided to adopt her.

"We met her last September," Doreen Franklin said. "We saw her go by with her foster mother, and there was a twinge inside me. I knew she was ours."

It took 11 months to get through the adoption. In Guatemala, the birth mother has to sign away her parental rights four times. In the meantime, Torrie had a loving foster family, Franklin said.

Torrie had surgery for her eyes, and as soon as she was brought back to the United States three months ago, she was taken to a specialist in Miami, where her prognosis was good. Light shined through her scar-ridden left eye.

For now, she sports tiny, purple glasses. She's a little clumsy, but mostly a normal 2-year-old, Franklin said.

THE FURIATOS

Susan Furiato and her husband, Glenn, always knew there would be a Mikala in their lives.

Furiato, 35, had a difficult time giving birth to her son, Logan, now 10, so the couple knew then if they wanted another child, they'd have to adopt.

They decided to do a Chinese adoption, because the laws in China are absolute: you follow the rules, you get a baby.

After seeing Mikala Yin Furiato's picture among several sent by an adoption agency, the family decided immediately and unanimously, this was to be their newest addition.

"My heart jumped at her right away," Susan Furiato said. "I said to my son, 'Which one of these is going to be your sister?' and he picked her no hesitation. When (Glenn) saw the pictures, he picked her, no hesitation."

It took about a year, until they could travel from Port St. Lucie to the Hunan province in China to get Mikala. Mostly, United States immigration held them up, Susan Furiato said.

Mikala had a cleft lip, operated on while she was in China, and a cleft palate, for which she has a second surgery scheduled in December.

Furiato said watching a Halloween, a Christmas and Mikala's birthday pass while Mikala was still in China was like torture.

"I have been pregnant, delivered a child and adopted a daughter," she said. "Let me tell you, of the two of them (adoption) was harder."

That's why she co-founded a support group, to help other families going through it.

She said the family would adopt another baby from China "in a heartbeat" if it weren't for the expense.

"I never thought for a moment I wouldn't be able to spread my love around," she said.

***

What: Hearts for Adoption, Morningside Ministries.

When: Meetings monthly, except December. Next meeting is Jan. 6 for a family picnic. Time to be announced.

Where: Morningside Church, 2180 S.E. Morningside Blvd., Port St. Lucie.

For more info: Call Doreen Franklin, (772) 343-8370 or visit the group online at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HeartsforAdoption/.

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